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Choosing The Music Streaming Service That Will Be Music To Your Ears

Sep 25, 2018, 7:03 PM | Updated: 7:04 pm
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We are buying more streamed audio than CDs, vinyl and even MP3 downloads according to ratings firm, Nielsen. So, KSL looked into six popular music streaming services to find out which one will be music to our ears.

University of Utah student Enée Tiolu says it has been a decade since she has bought an actual CD album.

“Everything is streamed,” Tiolu said. She is an Apple Music subscriber.

“I already have an iPhone, so I figured it would be more convenient for me if I go with Apple Music.”

Olivia Lee is also a University of Utah student, but she streams her music from Spotify.

“It’s more diverse and I can follow my friends and see what they’re listening to for good song recommendations,” said Lee.

That is the same reason why fellow student Isaac Reese uses Spotify.

“You can find a lot of obscure artists. You have the ease of creating playlists and downloading, streaming and listening to new music.”

SONG CATALOGS

With over 35 million songs, Spotify’s catalog seems huge. But, competitors Amazon Music and Google Play offer more. Both claim to have at least 40 million songs. Apple Music says it has 50 million tracks but Tidal bests them all with 58 million.

The other service we looked at is Pandora Premium, which claims to have tens-of-millions of tracks.

OFFLINE AVAILABILITY

“I download all my favorite playlists so I have them anywhere,” said U. student, Annie Bonebrake.

Every service we looked at has offline listening, but some are more generous than others.

Spotify lets users stash up to 10,000 songs offline. Google Play’s cap stands at 50,000 tunes while Apple’s limit is 100,000. Amazon Music appears to be the most generous.  Its site says users can download as many tracks as they like.

Both Pandora Premium and Tidal both also allow users to download music for offline listening, though we could not confirm the number of tracks. Tidal has one caveat. Only users of its mobile app will be able to download.

SOUND QUALITY

Each service did list the audio bitrate used to encode its streams. Bitrate, (measured in kilobytes per second) is the amount of data transmitted per second and generally speaking, the higher the bitrate the better quality sound a listener should expect.

Pandora Premium offers a 192 kbps, while Amazon Music and Apple Music offers 256 kbps streams. Spotify, Tidal and Google Play offer the highest quality bitrates at 320 kbps.

Many audio experts say at that range from 192 kbps to 320 kbps, the ears on some casual listeners may not pick up on much difference between those rates. Plus, quality may also hinge on several factors like the audio file format and other factors.

If you are an audiophile, you may consider opting for Tidal’s HiFi service.  The cost is $10 more a month, but it delivers a CD quality bitrate.

PRICING

“I’m not a picky person so I’ll do whatever,” explained Tiolu. “So, price is where it’s at.”

But, pricing gets a little tricky with the six popular services we looked into because, well, they were all at the same price: $9.99 a month. You heard right. Apple Music, Spotify, Pandora Premium, Tidal, Google Play and Amazon Music all have a $9.99 per month individual plan.

Each service also offers a family plan of up to five or six people at $14.99 per month.

And nearly all have the same student rate of $4.99 a month with the exceptions of Google Play and Pandora Premium.

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Choosing The Music Streaming Service That Will Be Music To Your Ears