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Buying Guide

The best music streaming services (2024)

Discover the best music streaming services to stream and discover new music. From Spotify to Tidal, find the right service for your needs.

Various music streaming service logos.
Image: KnowTechie

The days of physical media are slowly coming to a close. Of course, whenever someone makes that statement, another piece of physical media makes an astounding comeback.

Vinyl is still a hot commodity, and cassette tapes have a niche audience. But for the most part, just like their video counterparts, music streaming services have become the dominant source of music consumption.

While we should always support independent artists (listen, then buy if you like it), streaming allows users to discover more music than they would otherwise.

Again, we should pay for what we like and buy albums, but that’s neither here nor there concerning this list.

Once you’ve picked out some great headphones, it’s time to dive into the best music streaming services. And there are more than you think.

Best Overall
Best for iOS Users
Best for Android Users
Best for the Artists
Best for Hi-Res
Best for Radio
Best for buying CDs too
Best for discovering the world
  • 4.5
  • Starts at $10.83
Best for underground sounds
Best connection to our past
Best Overall
Best for iOS Users
4.5
$10.99 per month
Best for Android Users
4.2
$10.99 per month
Best for the Artists
Best for Hi-Res
Best for Radio
3.9
From $4.99 per month
Best for buying CDs too
Best for discovering the world
4.5
Starts at $10.83
Best for underground sounds
4.1
Free, or from $4.99 per month
Best connection to our past

Find the best music streaming service for you

Spotify

In this image, Spotify is being used to listen to music by artist R K. Full Text: Spotify R K
Image: KnowTechie

The free version of Spotify is riddled with ads, but it’s still the best source for organizing the music you want to listen to in handy playlists.

This is all limited, though, unless you spring for a subscription, which is worth it. You get access to millions of songs and podcasts from almost any artist you can think of.

Spotify also works across the web, Android, iOS, and desktop, which makes it easy to transition from the car to the house.

The quality is as you would expect when Wi-Fi streaming from a service through Bluetooth to a device. Naturally, there’s some track degradation, but it’s hard to notice.

Spotify is a one-stop shop for all music and podcasts, regardless of your device preference.

Best Overall
Spotify Premium Spotify Premium
4.5
$10.99 per month
One streaming service has become a dominant force in delivering music to our ears. That's Spotify, which encompasses music, podcasts, and one of the best recommendation algorithms in the business.
What we liked: Free access
Works on mobile and desktop
Track downloads
Tons of podcasts
What we didn't like: Limited track skips on free plan
KnowTechie is supported by its audience, so if you buy something through our links, we may get a small share of the sale.

Apple Music

This image is showing Apple Music's radio station's schedule of recently played music and upcoming shows, as well as a library of music available for listeners to browse.
Image: Knowtechie

Apple Music has become the premier spot for exclusive podcasts. And it even works on Android if that’s your thing.

But one of the most interesting points about Apple Music is it’s one of the few music streaming services that has lossless and hi-res tracks. What this means is that the bitrate is higher, so you get a better quality sound.

Naturally, Apple Music requires a subscription if you want any semblance of control over your library and the removal of ads.

But at least you can test it first to see if it’s got that one obscure artist you like. Overall, Apple Music is a solid music streaming service that only appeals to Apple users. Try it free for 30 days to see if it’s for you

Best for iOS users
Apple Music Apple Music
4.5
$10.99 per month

Apple Music offers an extensive library of over 70 million songs. Its user-friendly interface, curated playlists, and exclusive content provide a comprehensive music streaming experience. However, it lacks a free tier, unlike some competitors.

What we liked: Works with Android too
Lossless available
Hi-Res available
Offers downloads
Apple-specific podcasts
What we didn't like: Windows app is lackluster
KnowTechie is supported by its audience, so if you buy something through our links, we may get a small share of the sale.

YouTube Music

youtube music logo with blurred background
Image: KnowTechie

If you have an Android phone and your MP3 files on that phone, then you know YouTube Music. As it replaced Google Music, it’s the best way to play your tracks because it’s one of the only ways.

But it also meshes with YouTube standard, so you can listen to the videos you have bookmarked, and create tons of playlists, for free.

There is a subscription service that offers downloads, offline listening, no ads, and the ability to listen with the screen off (if you are watching videos).

But honestly, YouTube Music is great for playing your downloaded tracks because if you have Android, you have little choice. So you may as well discover some new music along the way.

Best for Android Users
YouTube Music YouTube Music
4.2
$10.99 per month

YouTube Music offers a comprehensive music streaming service, complete with a vast library of songs, albums, and playlists. Its user-friendly interface and personalized recommendations make it a strong contender in the digital music scene.

What we liked: Works best on Android
Free access
Suggested playlists
Helps organize your music
What we didn't like: Needed for playing local files
KnowTechie is supported by its audience, so if you buy something through our links, we may get a small share of the sale.

Bandcamp

bandcamp logo on a purple background
Image: KnowTechie

One of the criticisms of most music streaming services is the pittance paid to artists, but not so with Bandcamp. Bandcamp favors the artists using its platform.

One way it does this is with Bandcamp Fridays, in which the artist gets 100% of the proceeds from a sale. Bandcamp encourages users to purchase rather than endlessly stream.

This is done by giving users a certain amount of free listens to a particular album and then encouraging them to purchase it. But if you are an audiophile, that’s a good thing because Bandcamp offers FLAC (lossless) downloads.

Sure, you can download MP3 as well, but FLAC gives you great depth of sound and quality. Bandcamp is also a great place to discover independent artists from around the world.

Best for the Artists
Bandcamp Bandcamp
4.0

No other music service gives more back to artists than this one.

What we liked: Bandcamp Fridays
Artist friendly
Easy discovery
Mostly free
FLAC downloads
What we didn't like: Can be confusing to navigate
KnowTechie is supported by its audience, so if you buy something through our links, we may get a small share of the sale.

Tidal

tidal app on android device
Image: KnowTechie

Even if you’ve never used Tidal, you’ve heard of it due to its regular ownership changes. However, one thing has remained consistent with the service and that’s its commitment to delivering the highest quality music files possible.

While not a source for podcasts, it’s the premiere source for hi-res audio.

While there is a standard, low-resoption for listening, Tidal puts its lossless options at the top of the stack and designed its delivery system to prioritize high-quality listening.

If you have things marked with Dolby surround or Sonos speakers all over the house, then you’ll want lossless listening. Tidal makes sure you’ll get it.

Best for Hi-Res
TIDAL - High Fidelity Music Streaming TIDAL - High Fidelity Music Streaming
4.0

Tidal is a music streaming service known for its high-quality audio and exclusive content. It offers a vast library of songs and videos, curated playlists, and artist-led experiences, making it a solid choice for discerning music enthusiasts.

What we liked: High-Fidelity Sound Quality: Tidal offers lossless audio, delivering music to your ears the way the artists intended, which is a rarity among streaming services.
What we didn't like: Plans are expensive, especially for high-res audio
KnowTechie is supported by its audience, so if you buy something through our links, we may get a small share of the sale.

iHeart

iheart logo and text on a purple background
Image: KnowTechie

While terrestrial radio hasn’t wholly disappeared (yet), iHeart (formerly iHeartRadio) is helping bridge the divide between radio and streaming.

With iHeart, you can listen to your favorite local radio station wherever you are. There is some sort of comfort in being able to tune into your favorite local radio station thousands of miles from home.

Mostly free, iHeart does offer a plus and all-access subscription plan. These plans offer add-ons like no skip limit, songs on demand, playlists, and replay.

But even the free version is no slouch. You have access to tons of radio stations nationwide, and bunches of podcasts. iHeart is keeping radio alive through streaming.

Best for Radio
iHeart Radio iHeart Radio
3.9
From $4.99 per month

Radio isn't dead, it's just moved to streaming.

What we liked: Commercial free radio
Free option
Available on mobile devices
Good source for podcasts
What we didn't like: Substantially higher subscription costs if sign up through your mobile device
KnowTechie is supported by its audience, so if you buy something through our links, we may get a small share of the sale.

Amazon Music

amazon music app
Image: KnowTechie

The one downside to Amazon Music is that you can’t stream all that much without a premium subscription. One or two tracks per album is about all you’ll get.

And Amazon isn’t the best place to discover new music either. That sounds like negatives, but Amazon Music is still one of the best places to purchase new music.

Sampling tracks from an artist’s new album is a great way to lead into purchasing that album. After all, that’s what we’re supposed to be doing.

CDs are still a thing; Vinyl is still hot, so it’s not outrageous to consider adding them to your collection. Plus, Amazon Music offers digital download purchases as well.

Best for buying CDs too
Amazon Music Amazon Music
4.0
$10.99 per month for Unlimited

Amazon Music offers a vast library of songs and podcasts, with various subscription plans to cater to different user needs. Its interface is user-friendly, and sound quality is commendable, making it a solid choice for music streaming.

What we liked: High-Resolution Audio: Amazon Music HD offers lossless audio, a feature not available on Spotify and only recently introduced to Apple Music.
Alexa Integration: Amazon Music seamlessly integrates with Amazon's Alexa devices, offering a hands-free and personalized listening experience.
Cost-Effective: Amazon Prime members can access Amazon Music at no extra cost, making it a more economical choice for Prime subscribers.
Exclusive Content: Amazon Music often features live performances and exclusive tracks from various artists, enhancing its content variety.
What we didn't like: No live radio
KnowTechie is supported by its audience, so if you buy something through our links, we may get a small share of the sale.

Qobuz

qobuz music streaming service review
Image: KnowTechie

French-based Qobuz stands out for its collection of artists from around the world that you’ve never heard of.

Through its magazine’s in-depth articles, reviews, and interviews, Qobuz makes it easy to discover new artists and interesting music outside the top 40 you’re used to.

Qobuz is a subscription service, though it has a free trial. But with that subscription you get lossless and hi-res listening, downloads, and access to its magazine.

This is where Qobuz shines, as it digs into the music we love, or the music we’re yet to discover and enjoy.

Best for discovering the world
Qobuz Qobuz
4.5
Starts at $10.83

Qobuz is a music streaming service that provides a unique and high-quality audio experience for audiophile listeners. With a vast library of tracks in lossless audio quality, Qobuz sets itself apart from other popular music streaming services.

What we liked: Unique blend of international artists
Tons of reviews and interviews
Lossless quality with subscription
Downloads available
What we didn't like: No Dolby Atmos options
Podcasts are nowhere to be found
KnowTechie is supported by its audience, so if you buy something through our links, we may get a small share of the sale.

Soundcloud

soundcloud contract update
Image: Paper

Soundcloud serves two purposes in this age of digital streaming. It’s great for discovering independent artists, as almost anyone can upload and share music to the platform.

And it’s great for free listening to these artists, as well as mainstream music as well. A subscription service offers downloads, ad-free listening, and remixing with select DJ apps.

This is the streaming platform you want to check out if you aren’t sure what you are looking for and don’t mind digging through the chaff for a bit.

There’s a lot of random stuff on Soundcloud, as anyone can upload it to the platform. In this, you’ll find a lot of wild and wonderful music, and a lot of weird sounds as well.

Soundcloud has also been a launch pad for many artists, thanks to listener support and its smooth interaction with social media platforms.

Best for underground sounds
SoundCloud SoundCloud
4.1
From $4.99 per month

To get into the grimy depths of music, you'll need to let go of your inhibitions and just stream. The killer feature here is that you can upload your own music, and use it to springboard your career.

What we liked: Great for discovery
Offers downloads through subscription
You can upload too
Available on most devices
Build playlists
What we didn't like: Low storage space for free plans
KnowTechie is supported by its audience, so if you buy something through our links, we may get a small share of the sale.

Napster

blue napster logo on a purple background
Image: KnowTechie

Napster is part of our collective music streaming history. You can’t deny the former file-sharing network’s impact on the current music streaming standard.

Back in the 90s as a peer-to-peer (P2P) network, Napster kicked off something that would revolutionize how we consume music. While it’s no longer a P2P service, it still boasts over 110 million tracks and moderately high-quality streaming.

But it’s not the best out there, but it’s there. There’s something to be said for its longevity, but Napster has been through a lot over the years.

Lawsuits, shutdowns, ownership changes, and you won’t find any Metallica on the platform. The subscription service offers hi-res listening, though very few FLAC quality files are available.

Napster still exists, but it’s not the Napster you grew up with.

Best connection to our past
Napster: Music From Every Angle Napster: Music From Every Angle
3.8
$10.99 per month

Yes, Napster is still around and has millions of tracks. It's now legit, and as far removed from the virus-infested P2P filesharing service that existed in the 90s.

What we liked: Track downloads
Works on most devices
Diverse track listing
Music videos
What we didn't like: Not for Metallica fans
KnowTechie is supported by its audience, so if you buy something through our links, we may get a small share of the sale.

The best way to stream and discover new music

Streaming music has become the new standard for how we consume new media. While you could just purchase CDs blind, you aren’t going to do that.

You want a taste before you purchase. But purchasing is the end goal, even with paying a subscription fee. If we don’t support the artists, we won’t get the music. They have to be able to make a living.

So no matter what streaming service you choose, be sure to purchase some tracks from your favorite artists so they’ll make more music.

Have any thoughts on this? Drop us a line below in the comments, or carry the discussion to our Twitter or Facebook.

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A tech writer on the internet for over 15 years for outlets such as Forbes, Wired, TNW, and others, Curtis is exhausted, burnt out and happy to just write buying guides and the occasional review for KnowTechie, the best tech blog your mom never told you about. Ephemeral existence for ephemeral times. Please send pitches and grainy pictures of the inside of your elbow to kevin@knowtechie.com

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