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For Google Home's best music setup, do these steps right away with Apple Music, Spotify and more

Your Google Nest smart speaker can play almost any song ever recorded, but first you have to tell it which service to use -- now including Apple Music.

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Google teased a significant amount of additional bass and overall better sound out of the Nest Mini smart speaker, released last year.

Juan Garzon/CNET

Google Home is quite the digital chameleon -- it can become a speakerphone, a game center, an audiobook library or a smart home hub, and it can change in and out of those things and more with just a word. But hands-down, the most popular form Google Home takes for most people is that of a limitless jukebox with a nearly infinite song library. Google Home can play practically any and every song you've ever wanted to hear -- and can pipe it all throughout your entire house -- with but one limitation: the music service or services you link to it.

Connecting your music subscriptions to Google Home might seem like a simple task, but it's one that far too many people put off until "later" in the rush to set up their smart speaker. Do that, though, and your speaker might not play the exact music you ask for, especially if you're already paying for a streaming service like Spotify or Pandora. And if you've avoided having to choose a default music service because you use Apple Music, which hadn't been supported, now you have no excuse -- as of December, Google Home now officially supports Apple Music, too.

Whether you already have a Google Home or Nest speaker, or you're setting one up for the first time, taking five minutes to make a few simple adjustments can mean the difference between limited access to the music you love and an almost unlimited world of musical possibilities. 

Here's how to figure out which plans will give you the best music experience on your Google Home or Google Nest smart speaker, as well as how to set them up so they work seamlessly.

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Spotify is the most popular music streaming service worldwide and is compatible with Google Home and Nest smart speakers.

Angela Lang/CNET

Here's how to find the settings menu you'll need

If you don't link the music services you use to the Google Home app, you'll wind up jamming to a generic YouTube Music account with limited playback options and annoying ads. Same even if you do link a different paid service but leave YouTube Music as the default.

Any time you request a song, artist, genre or station without identifying which service you want to use, Google Home will automatically try to play your request from your default service first, so you'll want to use the best one you've got.

Here's how to link your music services to Google Home:

1. Open the Google Home app and tap on the Settings button.

2. In the bottom half of the list, tap Music (for Sirius XM, tap Radio).

3. Find the services you use and tap the link icon (the chain link icon to the right of each service).

4. On the screen that pops up, tap Link Account.

5. Enter your username and password for the service you're linking to and tap Log In.

Once you've linked all your services, simply tap the circle to the right of the one you want to use as your default. (Note that SiriusXM cannot be set as a default since it's a broadcast service.) You can also choose No default, but with so many free services available, why would you?

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Google Home added Apple Music compatibility in December 2020.

Angela Lang/CNET

You can link up to 6 music services, but only 5 can be made default

In all, there are six music subscription services you can link to your Google Home account, all but one of which -- SiriusXM radio -- can be set as your default. Three of the available services -- Spotify, YouTube Music and Pandora -- offer free tiers that allow you to personalize your listening experience (playlists, favorites, etc.) but force you to suffer through audio advertisements instead of charging you a monthly fee. There's another tradeoff for using one of the free services, too: You can't choose specific songs to play, only "stations" built around requested songs.

Otherwise, the paid options are all more or less equal to one another with regard to their music libraries and other features, but with a few little ancillary differences that may sway you one way or another (for example, YouTube Music Premium also cancels ads when you watch YouTube videos).

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Pandora was one of the first music streaming services offering custom-crafted radio stations but has since evolved into an on-demand service similar to Spotify.

Angela Lang/CNET

Here are your six Google Home music service options:

  • Spotify continues to hold the top spot on CNET's list of best music streaming services, in part because it has the most versatile free tier. That said, if you're thinking of coughing up $10 a month for Spotify Premium, consider YouTube Premium instead for the bonus of ad-free YouTube videos.
  • Apple Music was relatively late to the music subscription party, arriving almost four years after Spotify debuted in the US. Still, Apple Music caught on fast, and now has an estimated 72 million subscribers worldwide (compared to Spotify's 130 million) with access to as vast a music library as any other top-shelf service.
  • YouTube Music is a relative newcomer, but its library is just as robust as any of the others. As a huge bonus, the $10-a-month YouTube Premium plan not only cuts the commercials out of your music but gets rid of ads on YouTube videos as well.
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SiriusXM regularly offers huge discounts on Nest Hub smart displays with an included six-month subscription to the radio service.

SiriusXM

Now that you've got your music situation on Google Home squared away, we recommend taking your listening experience to the next level with Google Home's new media controls. Want to put a timer on your music playback? Use Google Home's new scheduling feature to set a time limit. And to get the most out of your smart speakers, make sure you've downloaded all the different apps you'll need for Google Home.