Spotify vs Apple Music vs Tidal: 13 best music streaming services in 2022

From major services to genre-specific ones and more, these are the streaming services you’ll want to know about in 2022.

Best Music Streaming Services 2022

While CDs, vinyl and cassettes have found themselves a small but passionate audience, the way most people listen to music today is via a streaming service.

Despite intense competition in the streaming market, there are key differences that set major platforms apart. In this guide, we’ll examine and compare these differences and also introduce you to some lesser-known services that you should also know about.

What does kilobits-per-second mean?

Unless explicitly stated, most streaming services will deal out lossy file formats such as MP3 and AAC. Because digital audio is data, most platforms are concerned with bit-rate: the measurement of data amount transmitted each second. You’ll notice that some services in this guide boast lossless audio streaming, which mostly refers to CD-quality playback.

In general, it’s safe to assume that a higher bit-rate will equate to better audio quality, though your listening device itself – headphones, earbuds or speakers – definitely shouldn’t be overlooked. For example, cheap earbuds may not reproduce the complete frequency range that a CD-quality file can offer. If you want to experience high-quality audio at its best, then a proper speaker setup or high-end headphones are warranted.

The best music streaming services in 2022 at a glance:

  • Spotify
  • Apple Music
  • YouTube Music
  • Amazon Music HD
  • Tidal
  • Audius
  • Idagio
  • Deezer
  • Audiomack
  • Jazzed
  • Qobuz
  • SoundCloud
  • Bandcamp

Spotify

Spotify Press Image
Image: Spotify

Spotify is currently the world’s most popular music streaming app boasts 70 million tracks, 2.2 million podcast titles, and 345 million users worldwide.

Spotify Connect – the service’s protocol for connecting to third-party devices – makes it even more accessible, allowing it to connect to various products, from wireless speakers to gaming consoles and more.

There’s also a social aspect to the platform, where you can choose to share what you’re listening to in real-time, assemble playlists with others and follow artists you like. Pricing, meanwhile, is relatively affordable: a single premium account costs $/£10 monthly, while a family plan for up to five users costs $/£15.

The streaming giant announced in February 2021 that it would provide a new service dubbed Hi-Fi, but it is yet to come to fruition. With this delay, it is falling behind the race to lossless streaming, with Apple Music, Tidal and Amazon Music HD taking the lead.

Spotify has come under scrutiny in the music industry in the last couple of years. The royalty rates paid to artists are among the lowest in the market and the money seldom goes directly to the artist. While in 2021 Spotify paid out a record $7 billion in royalties, it also announced a new service for artists that prioritises your music in recommendations – if you accept less royalties. US Congress has also expressed concerns about the tool.

  • Price: $10 a month, Free version available
  • Platforms: Windows, macOS, iOS, Android
  • Audio Fidelity: Up to 320kbps
  • Other Features: Spotify Connect (Wi-Fi), Bluetooth

Learn more about Spotify here.

Apple Music

Apple Music

The announcement of Lossless audio streaming for Apple Music was a long time coming – but what surprised most was that it would arrive at no additional charge. Since June 2021, subscribers can now enjoy 75 million tracks at the original recording quality submitted to Apple by artists and labels. And it’s still $9.99 a month.

Additionally, Dolby Atmos support has come to the service, and now thousands of tracks are available in Spatial Audio with Dolby Atmos.

If you already own a variety of Apple products, staying the course with Apple Music might be the best way to go. Its integration with iPhone, Apple Watch, Homepod and more lets you transfer audio between devices easily for a seamless listening experience. Plus, it’s also configured to communicate with Siri.

Apple Music also hosts exclusive content such as the Apple Music 1, Apple Music Hits and Apple Music Country radio stations. That could be reason enough for some Android users to jump on board with the Google Play store’s version of the app.

  • Price: $/£10 a month, three-month trial available
  • Platforms: Windows (Web), macOS, iOS, Android
  • Audio Fidelity: Up to 256kbps AAC (Lossless coming June 2021)
  • Other Features: Exclusive content (Apple Music 1, Apple Music Hits and Apple Music Country)

Learn more about Apple Music here.

YouTube Music

YouTube Music Mobile App
Image: Droidfoto / Alamy Stock Photo

Some of YouTube Music’s handiest features have to do with search. Stuck with an earworm you just can’t put a name to? Search by humming the tune. Maybe you only caught the last phrase from that chorus – then, search by lyric. Or, simply ask the AI-driven search engine for a song that matches your mood.

Similar to how Apple Music plays nicely with Apple products, YouTube Music integrates well with Google devices. As far as content goes, it’s up there with its competitors, offering a catalogue that’s 60 million songs strong.

There’s also a solid deal for YouTube Premium that includes YouTube Music for $/£12 a month. With Premium, you also gain access to ad-free video streaming and the option of background audio-only playback.

  • Price: $/£10 a month, or $/12 a month with YouTube Premium
  • Platforms: Android, iOS, Web
  • Audio Fidelity: Up to 256 kbps AAC
  • Other features: Background audio-only playback for videos with YouTube Premium

Learn more about Youtube Music here.

Amazon Music HD

Amazon Music
Image: Amazon Music

Some are calling it a reaction to Apple Music’s introduction of lossless audio streaming at no additional charge: Amazon Music Unlimited subscribers now have access to Amazon Music HD for the same subscription fee.

That means that for $9.99 (or $7.99 if you’re a Prime member) a month, you get access to over 70 million tracks in high-quality, lossless audio. Previously, that was once $14.99 monthly.
Plus, with an Unlimited account, Amazon also offers an expanding library of 3D Audio tracks – that includes music mixed in Dolby Atmos and Sony 360 Reality Audio.

  • Price: $9.99 ($7.99 for Prime members)
  • Platforms: Android, iOS, Web, Alexa-enabled Echo devices (second-gen)
  • Audio Fidelity: HD: 16-bit/44.1kHz (850 kbps FLAC) ; Ultra HD: Up to 24-bit/192kHz (3730 kbps FLAC)
  • Other features: 3D audio catalogue offered

Find out more about Amazon Music HD here.

Tidal

Tidal Contributor and History Mix
Image: Tidal

Tidal is best known for its HiFi tier, which offers a variety of higher-quality listening options than most competitors, albeit at a higher price.

Most content is available in lossless, CD-quality audio. What sets Tidal apart right now is Tidal Masters, included with a Tidal HiFi subscription. Masters go a step further to offer music at 24-bit/192kHz quality. Tidal Masters also offers immersive formats such as Sony’s 360 Reality Audio and Dolby Atmos. If you’re interested in the Masters format, you will need a separate DAC and wired headphones/speakers, or AptX HD-enabled wireless headphones to take advantage of it.

A subscription to Tidal HiFi is comparatively expensive, setting you back $20 a month for an account. However, this includes access to Tidal’s 360 Reality Audio, which, according to Tidal’s website, “is an immersive experience using Sony’s spatial audio technology to map out sound at any point or distance from your ears.”

  • Tidal Premium: £9.99 and HiFi: £19.99
  • Platforms: Android, iOS, Web
  • Audio Fidelity: Premium: 320kbps AAC; Tidal HiFi: 16-bit/44.1kHz FLAC, Tidal Masters: 24-bit/ 192kHz MQA
  • Other features: Exclusive artist content, 360 Reality Audio and Dolby Atmos support

Learn more about Tidal here.

Audius

Audius
Audius

Audius is a unique streaming service that operates on the blockchain, making it a decentralised platform. As a growing communal digital space, Audius’ main goal is to put control in the hands of musicians. Artists possess full ownership of their uploaded music and can decide how to monetise it on Audius. On the platform are high-profile artists such as Disclosure, Deadmau5, REZZ, and RAC.

Another exciting feature in Audius is the NFT section, which allows users to display a store of purchasable digital art alongside their music. As an ever-growing company, Audius is passionate about rewarding anyone who contributes to the success of its platform, and lets users earn $AUDIO when they create popular playlists or upload songs.

In our January 2022 cover feature, CEO of Audius Roneil Rumburg, told us: “If you are running a playlist on Audius that garners a bunch of listens, then your act of curating that content is increasing the value of the Audius network. You should be rewarded proportionately by the network for that value you’ve created.”

He went on to say: “If our company shuts down tomorrow, all of this would keep working so long as the artists that are using Audius want it to keep working.”

“There is now no limit to how much music can be distributed and the marginal cost of reproducing music is near zero […] the economics of the industry haven’t caught up to that reality.”

  • Price: Free to join, some content only accessible for $AUDIO token holders
  • Platforms: Android, iOS, Web
  • Audio quality: 320kbps
  • Other features: peer-to-peer sales, gamified rewards program with AUDIO token reward structure, decentralized governance structure

Find out more about Audius here.

Idagio

Idagio

With a sole focus on classical music, Idagio’s features offer fans a way to dig deeper into the canon of recorded classical music. You’re able to sort by conductor, ensembles or even specific soloists, and explore 13 different playlists by moods. There are also playlists specially curated by well-known artists.

Idagio also solves a major gripe classical fans have encountered on more mainstream services: the issue of metadata. Classical, like any genre, has its own glossary of descriptors – periods, sub-genres, ensemble sizes and more – which are particularly useful for search. The problem is that, on most major services, these terms get bunched up under “classical”, making it impossible for knowledgeable fans to search in-depth.

Not only are Idagio’s features centred to the classical genre, but so are the brand’s business practices. The service states that it chooses to pay artists by the second rather than by play counts – which makes sense, considering most classical recordings are much lengthier than your average pop tune.

The service’s premium tier is priced at $10 / £8 a month and offers recordings at CD-quality (16-bit/44.1kHz). On the free version of Idagio, you can stream at 192 kbps.

  • Price: $10 a month, Free version available
  • Platforms: Windows, macOS, Android, iOS
  • Audio quality: Free: 192kbps MP3 on desktop, 160kbps AAC on iOS, 192kbps AAC on Android; Premium: 16-bit/44.1kHz FLAC
  • Other features: Proper classical meta tags, Moods playlists, Artist-curated playlists

Discover more about Idagio here.

Deezer

Deezer

Deezer boasts seven million paid listeners on its streaming platform and 53 million tracks, with plans to grow even more going forward. While paying for the service is an option, similarly to Spotify, listeners can choose to choose to periodically hear adverts in between tracks. It also offer CD-quality audio as part of its HiFi package.

Deezer’s Flow tool is its secret weapon: it’s a clever algorithm that recognises a user’s favourite artists, their location and time of day and suggests carefully curated tracks (eek!). Arguably one of the most intuitive recommendation engines among streaming platforms, Flow could put Deezer in good stead to keep itself afloat as one of the biggest streaming platforms alongside Spotify, Apple Music, Amazon Music and Tidal.

  • Price: Premium: $10 per month, HiFi: $15 per month
  • Platforms: iOS, Android, Web
  • Audio quality: Standard: 128kbps, High Quality: 320 kbps, HiFi: 1141 kbps
  • Other features: SongCatcher (song identifier), Deezer notification for artists’ new releases, family-friendly ‘anti-cuss’ feature

Find out more about Deezer here.

Audiomack

Audiomack

Audiomack is a fast-growing music streaming and discovery service that’s been likened to SoundCloud. The service allows creators to upload an unlimited number of tracks at no charge.

Hip-hop, R&B and Afropop are some of the most popular genres among the service’s reported 17 million active monthly users. Audiomack is also especially popular in Africa thanks to licensing deals with Warner Music and the revered Nigerian label Chocolate City. This makes the platform a great way to discover emerging artists from the African music scene.

In March 2021, Audiomack also inked a deal with DistroKid, the online self-distribution service which helps artists cross-upload their work onto many streaming platforms at a time.

Audiomack’s premium subscription offers ad-free 320kbps streaming, stepping up the bit-rate of the free version’s 160kbps.

  • Price: $5.99/month for ad-free, Free version available
  • Platforms: Web, iOS, Android
  • Audio quality: Free: 160kbps, Premium: 320kpbs

Learn more about Audiomack here.

Jazzed

jazzed hero

Jazzed is dedicated to serving the patrons of its namesake genre, being just as excellent for beginners and connoisseurs alike to get lost in musical discovery.

The platform’s “carefully curated catalogue” of over 10 million songs has been assembled by lovers of the craft. It also doesn’t stop at just audio, either. You’ll also find documentaries and concerts to watch, editorial features to read and more.

Audio Channels – playlists curated to specific styles – range from bebop to avant-garde, spiritual and more. Some are also focused on new artists working the scene today.

For now, Jazzed is only available in the UK. Premium, which will offer lossless streaming and let you create your own playlists, is still marked as “coming soon”. But in the meantime, Jazzed+ is being offered at just £6 monthly.

  • Price: £6/month, Free version available
  • Platforms: Web, iOS, Android
  • Audio quality: 160kbps AAC+
  • Other features: Over 1,000 videos on-demand, editorial features

Check out Jazzed here.

Qobuz

Qobuz

Qobuz targets itself at the knowledgeable listener with an ear for quality, providing “artist-approved sound”, according to its homepage. While the audio comes in lossless formats such as FLAC, the prices arrive satisfyingly lower than its rivals, TIDAL, Amazon Music HD and Apple Music at just £15 a month for Hi-Fi audio quality.

With a vast catalogue of music old and new, ubiquitous and rare, users can easily seek out, stream, and purchase tracks. Plus, the streaming platform offers lovely add-ons such as authentic liner notes along with each artists’ release.

Qobuz’ GUI is well-designed, intuitive and features an abundance of editorial content, including interviews with upcoming and established artists. It may just be the perfect solution for anyone who cares deeply about the music their days are soundracked by.

  • Price: Studio Premiere: £10.83 per month or Studio Sublime: £15 per month
  • Platforms: iOS, Android & Web
  • Audio quality: FLAC 24-Bit up to 192 kHz
  • Other features:
  • Receive liner notes in PDF form
  • Sublime package includes discounts on Hi-Res purchases

Find out more about Qobuz here.

SoundCloud

soundcloud
Image: Alexander Pohl / NurPhoto via Getty Images

It’s been 15 years since SoundCloud first launched, and the music-sharing site has managed to shape the face of music, becoming home to genres such as SoundCloud rap and paving the way for the likes of Lil Yachty and Uzi Vert. With a strong focus on its independent creator community, SoundCloud makes it easy for artists to upload new tracks and for listeners to tune in.

On 1 April 2021, SoundCloud rolled out its fan-powered payment model, becoming the first household name in streaming ever to do so. Some have viewed this as a more ethical way of handling royalties, as it ensures subscription money goes to the creators that fans are listening to.

SoundCloud now boasts over 76 million registered users and over 175 million active monthly listeners. Premium plans for listeners include Go ($6) and Go+ ($10). Both offer ad-free and offline listening, but the latter also includes exclusive artist content.

There are also premium tiers for creators. Repost lets you quickly distribute tracks to all major music services. In contrast, SoundCloud Pro Unlimited ($12/month) enables you to upload an unlimited number of tracks and take advantage of the upcoming fan-direct payment model.

  • Price: Go: $6, Go+: $10, Repost: $2.50/month, Pro Unlimited: $12/month
  • Platforms: Web, iOS, Android
  • Audio quality: 256kbps AAC

Learn more about Soundcloud here.

Bandcamp

Bandcamp Live
Image: Bandcamp

Bandcamp has built itself a supportive community and a respectable catalogue that deserves mention. For indie artists, there’s the draw of setting up a storefront for just your music and merch, not to mention setting your own prices.

From a listener’s perspective, the Bandcamp experience is akin to being in a vast indie record store with an endless sea of new music waiting to be discovered. You get to amass a virtual record collection knowing that what you spend benefits the artists you enjoy. Plus, there are also regular editorial features on new, exciting and esoteric records from around the globe.

In terms of streaming, Bandcamp introduced in February 2022 the ability to queue songs and albums. Plus, with Epic Games, creators of Fortnite, having now acquired Bandcamp, there looks to be a potential shift towards developing the website and app to make them more user-friendly.

When it comes to publishing music on Bandcamp, Bandcamp’s Pro membership is geared towards more prominent creators – allowing you to access deeper stats on your listeners, create private streams, upload videos and other content in batches and more. With a free membership, however, you’re still going to be able to upload an unlimited number of tracks.

  • Price: Free, $10 for Bandcamp Pro
  • Platforms: Web, iOS, Android
  • Audio quality: 128kbps MP3 streaming, Purchased: Lossless downloads, 256kbps streaming

Interested? Check out Bandcamp here.

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