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Best Music Streaming Service of 2024

The competition between Spotify, Apple Music, YouTube Music and others is hotter than ever. Here are the best streaming services.

Updated Feb. 22, 2024 1:36 p.m. PT

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Written by  Ty Pendlebury
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Ty Pendlebury Editor
Ty Pendlebury is a journalism graduate of RMIT Melbourne, and has worked at CNET since 2006. He lives in New York City where he writes about streaming and home audio.
Expertise Ty has worked for radio, print, and online publications, and has been writing about home entertainment since 2004. He majored in Cinema Studies when studying at RMIT. He is an avid record collector and streaming music enthusiast. Credentials
  • Ty was nominated for Best New Journalist at the Australian IT Journalism awards, but he has only ever won one thing. As a youth, he was awarded a free session for the photography studio at a local supermarket.
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See at Spotify
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Best music streaming service overall
Spotify
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See at Apple
AirPods pro Apple Music
Best alternative to Spotify
Apple Music
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See at Qobuz
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Best for audiophiles
Qobuz
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See at Tidal
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Best for rock and urban fans
Tidal
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See at Amazon
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Best for Prime members
Amazon Music Unlimited
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See at YouTube Music
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Best for Android users
YouTube Music
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Today's music streaming services offer a world of exploration and convenience, giving you access to your favorite artists easily and quickly. Sound quality is even better than ever, too, with some of the best services including spatial Dolby Atmos audio and lossless for free. We've tested all the major services and compared all the relevant features, along with a full price breakdown. Which should you subscribe to? Let's break it down.

What is the best music streaming service overall?

When choosing a music streaming service, it's a close race between Spotify Premium and Apple Music. Both cost around $11 a month and boast extensive catalogs, so competition is tough. But there is a clear winner. Spotify is the best streaming service for most people. It offers the best mix of features, including great community features such as Spotify Wrapped, plus the excellent Spotify Connect for streaming to all your devices. Spotify also offers the best free tier: Without paying a dime or providing a credit card number, you can listen to millions of tunes and even stream to Wi-Fi devices.

For Apple device users, the excellent Apple Music is hot on Spotify's tail with the potential for better sound due its the inclusion of lossless and spatial music. Though the company has made strides in recent years, a few bricks of the walled garden remain, and it's not as recommendable to Android or PC users. Spotify is still a better choice for users of both iOS and Android. Lastly, if you're an audiophile -- or simply love music -- then Qobuz offers excellent sound quality at a realistic price. Plus, it also offers a hi-res download store.

Read more: Apple Music vs. Spotify: Comparing the Top Music Streaming Services

Best music streaming services of 2024

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See at Spotify

Best music streaming service overall

Spotify

Spotify is a pioneer in music streaming and is arguably the best-known service. It offers a number of curated music discovery services, including its Discover Weekly playlist, and is constantly implementing new ones, such as 375,000 free audiobooks, an AI DJ, and podcasts.

While it may not have lossless (yet), Spotify is great if you're seeking a solid all-around service, especially one which lets you make, browse and share playlists for any occasion.

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See at Apple

Best alternative to Spotify

Apple Music

At the same price as Spotify, Apple Music is still able to offer a lot for the money, including 100 million tracks and both iOS and Android compatibility. The service runs second to Spotify in terms of subscribers, but surpasses its rival in one key respect. Yes, it has hi-res lossless, spatial audio albums, plus a new classical music app at no extra charge.

While it makes the most sense if you're an Apple user, Music is an option if you're listening on a PC, or have invested in smart speakers, including those from Google. If you own an Apple HomePodMini or Nest device you can summon Apple Music tracks with your voice. There are also a ton of curated playlists, many handcrafted by musicians and tastemakers, though it lacks the robust sharing options (or some of the cool add-ons) available to Spotify. 

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See at Qobuz

Best for audiophiles

Qobuz

Qobuz's streaming service offers a wealth of music in hi-res, and you don't need a special hardware decoder to listen to it (unlike competitor Tidal). The service offers two plans -- Studio Premier ($13 monthly or $130 yearly) and the $180 annual Sublime Plus. Uniquely, the service offers its own hi-res download store, and if you sign up for Sublime you get a discount on purchases.

At 100 million tracks, Qobuz's streaming catalog rivals Tidal's and Spotify's in number, and based on our tests its catalog of more obscure artists is now pretty impressive. Excellent sound quality at a decent price? Qobuz is our favorite service for serious music lovers.

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Top services compared


Amazon Music UnlimitedApple MusicQobuzSpotifyTidalYouTube Music
Monthly fee Prime members: $10, £10, $13; Non-Prime members: $11, £11, AU$12; Echo-only service: Free, AU$6$11, £11, AU$13; Voice $5, £5, AU$6Studio: $13, £13, AU$20; Sublime (per year): $180, £180, AU$250 $11, £11, AU$12HiFi: $11, £11, AU$12; HiFi Plus: $20, £20, AU$24$14, £12, AU$12
Free option? Yes, with adsNoNoYes, with adsYesYes, with ads
Free trial period 90 days30 days to 3 months30 days30 days3 months30 days
Music library size 100 millionOver 100 millionOver 100 millionOver 100 millionOver 100 million100 million
Maximum bit rate 256Kbps, 3,730Kbps (HD)256Kbps, 1,152 Kbps (HD estimated)6,971Kbps320Kbps1,411Kbps256Kbps
Family plan? Yes, $17, £17, AU$19 for max 6Yes, $15, £15, AU$18 for max 6Yes, $22, £22, AU$30Yes $17 per month, max 6Yes, HiFi: $15, £15, AU$18 HiFi Plus: $20, £20, AU$24 max 6Yes, $17, £15, AU$18 per month for max 6
Student discount YesYes, Price varies by countryNoYes, $6, £5 with Hulu and ShowtimeStudent HiFi: $5, Student HiFi plus: $10 (US only)Yes, $5
US military discount NoNoNoNoYesNo
Offline listening Mobile and desktopMobile and desktopMobile and desktopMobile and desktopMobilePremium, mobile only
Radio stations YesYesNoYesNoYes
Podcasts YesNoNoYesYesYes
Music videos NoYesNoYesYesYes
Music locker functionality NoYesNoNoNoYes
See at Tidal

Best for rock and urban fans

Tidal

After becoming partly owned by Jack Dorsey's Block, Tidal introduced one very important changes: namely that it now has a free tier called, naturally, Tidal Free. The company also offers the $11 Tidal HiFi plan, which includes lossless playback, and the premium $20 Tidal HiFi Plus tier. It's worth noting that most of the current hi-res catalog is in the proprietary MQA format, though the service also now offers hi-res FLAC as well. 

Until recently, the service justified its higher prices with the Direct Artist Payouts program, which paid your top streamed artist each month a 10% cut of your subscription fee, but that was scrapped. Meanwhile, Qobuz may not have Tidal's Atmos library but it has caught up by promising a cheaper price and recent improvements in its catalog. Even so, if you're an audiophile, a fan of urban music or a mix of both, then Tidal still holds plenty of appeal. 

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See at Amazon

Best for Prime members

Amazon Music Unlimited

Amazon Prime Music comes "free" as part of a Prime membership, but users can choose to upgrade to Music Unlimited. At $10 for Prime members, or $11 if you don't have Prime, Unlimited offers an expanded catalog as well as over 1,000 "spatial" remixes. These 360 audio mixes can be played on Dolby Atmos soundbars, Android or iOS devices and the Amazon Echo Studio. In terms of usability, the Music Unlimited interface is also more powerful than before with playlists, genres and podcasts all accessible from the main page.

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See at YouTube Music

Best for Android users

YouTube Music

YouTube Music is the successor to Google Play Music, and if you sign up for the ad-free YouTube Premium at $14 per month, you get YouTube Music for free. The good news is that YouTube Music is a mostly impressive service (the lower bit rate of 256kbps is mildly annoying), but Google has retained the predecessor's music locker system enabling users to upload new tracks. In even better news, YouTube Music offers a clean interface plus 100 million tracks to choose from. Instead of playlists, YouTube Music offers well-curated radio stations that play endlessly and are updated often. The added ability to make playlists out of YouTube music clips also makes it a worthy option. If you have a HomePod, you can also now set it to YouTube Music by default.

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We also tested

  • Deezer: French stalwart Deezer has been operating in the States since 2016, and it has a lot to offer, including a free tier (mobile only) and 90 million tracks. It has more subscribers than some others on this list, thanks in part to its previous affiliation with Cricket Wireless. The main Premium plan is $10 a month, but users are also able to upgrade to a lossless version (CD quality) for $15 a month. Deezer also offers a couple of unique features including being the first service enabling users to upload their catalogs from competitors at no extra charge. See at Deezer.
  • Napster: Popular music streaming service Rhapsody relaunched as Napster in 2016. It offers 110 million tracks including lossless for $11 a month. The service is fine, though it lacks the killer features of the best here -- e.g. podcasts, simplified streaming, community features. Competition is stiff, and Spotify and Apple are a better value. See at Napster.
  • Pandora Premium: Still one of the most popular streaming radio services in the US, Pandora also offers the a la carte Premium ($10 a month) and no-ads Plus ($5 a month). The result is more flexibility than most competitors, and Premium has gained plenty more subscribers in recent years, even if the service is not keeping up in terms of overall catalog size. Sadly, its audio quality is among the lowest available, even on the Premium subscription (192Kbps), and it doesn't really offer enough of an incentive for an upgrade from its highly popular free tier. See at Pandora.

Factors to consider

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James Martin/CNET

The principal thing you'll need to weigh up is your monthly cost. Until recently, prices were stable at around $10 a month, but Apple MusicAmazon Music Unlimited, Tidal, YouTube Music and Spotify have all hiked rates to $11. At the other end of the spectrum, Tidal is the most expensive at $20 a month. 

While your subscription fee can give you access to a number of features -- including classical musickaraoke, podcasts and audiobooks -- what it can also do is unlock higher-quality audio. Sound quality is also an important consideration, and services such as Apple Music and Amazon Music Unlimited offer lossless and Dolby Atmos music at no extra charge. Meanwhile, Spotify is still stuck at relatively low 320kbps, and a planned lossless Supremium tier is MIA -- though it's still rumored to appear in 2024. 

If you like to buy your own digital music, Apple Music and YouTube Music are the only services to offer a digital locker to store your own library of songs.

How we chose

We've checked out the big names, including SpotifyApple MusicAmazon Music and YouTube Music, as well as smaller ones such as TidalQobuz, Napster, Deezer and Pandora Premium, to see how each platform stacks up for your subscription dollar. Most of the services feature music catalogs of around 100 million tracks, and are supported by a host of different devices. 

Given that all of the services basically have the same libraries, we evaluated each one based on: 

  • Ease of use.
  • Cost.
  • Features.
  • Sound quality.

While Spotify offers objectively the "worst" quality based on numbers alone, most people won't notice a difference, especially on phones or Bluetooth speakers. The biggest boons for Spotify users are the service's ubiquity, community features and ability to easily pair with other devices.

Apple also gets high marks due to its suitability for iOS and Mac users, as well as the ability to listen to higher-quality streams at no extra cost. If the service was more yielding to PC users and smart home fans, Apple Music would easily become the service we would recommend. In short, Spotify is better for users of almost any phone, smart device or computer.

Music streaming FAQs

How do I listen to free music?

Most of the streaming music services offer free tiers -- including Spotify, Pandora, Amazon and YouTube -- but they do come with a number of caveats. Firstly, these are usually playlist services, in that you pick a song and the rest of the tunes auto-generate -- you can't pick exactly what you want to play. The other potential downside is that they come with ads, and sometimes it's the same ad for every break.

How do you transfer your library between services?

Without contracts it's pretty easy to cancel one service and start with another. That said, swapping between music services isn't as straightforward as swapping between movie locker services using Movies Anywhere for example. If you don't want to have to rebuild your playlists and library from scratch when you switch, you have two main options -- a music locker service such as YouTube Music (but this implies you have a library of ripped or bought MP3s), or a library import tool such as Soundiiz. The latter is a service that lets you import the songs from each of your music services and transfer them, and while there's a $4.50 monthly charge, you can always cancel once you've converted your library. Recently, Deezer has offered the ability for new users to convert their libraries from other services for free (via another service called Tune My Music). 

Do I need spatial or Atmos audio?

The short answer is "no" and the long answer is "sort of, maybe." Stereo music has been around since the '50s and its worldwide catalog simply crushes the handful of Atmos audio tracks by comparison. Apple may rave about how "magical" spatial music is, but unless you have an expensive Dolby Atmos system, you may not be able to hear the differences anyway.

In our own tests, we've found that a well-mixed Atmos track on a dedicated setup can be fun. It's like a rollercoaster -- enjoyable, but you wouldn't want to use it as your sole form of transport. By comparison, using a pair of compatible AirPods we found the tracking to be laggy when attempting to move our heads around. On the other hand, spatial audio does make sense if you're watching a movie because you're not moving your head that much. The music industry tries unsuccessfully to push surround music every 20 years or so -- Quadraphonic in the 1970s, DVD-Audio in the 2000s -- but good old stereo will never go out of favor.

Which music streaming service has the biggest catalog?

At the time of writing, all of the services are able to offer at least 100 million tracks each, But that's not the end of the story: The number of songs offered by a music service used to be the main differentiator, but as always, it's quality over quantity that counts -- and particularly if you're looking for more obscure tracks. Depending on your favorite genre, some of the services may offer a better catalog for under-the-radar (Spotify), indie (Apple) or hip-hop artists (Tidal). Users who are less ambitious about expanding their musical taste should be satisfied with the catalogs that all the services offer. 

Which services include music lockers?

Amazon was one of the first services to offer uploading your MP3 collection into the cloud, but this was officially discontinued in 2018. Meanwhile, both the Apple and YouTube services allow you to combine your personal music collection with the streaming catalog, though tagging and organization can be a time-consuming challenge (your myriad live Phish tracks won't organize themselves). Still, if you've invested money in digital music over the years, those two services offer a patch to continue enjoying that music online.