The 6 best music streaming services of 2019

Our top picks for standout streaming services making a sonic impact worldwide.

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Music streaming services have changed the way we consume music. And with millions of songs at your fingertips, choosing the right service all comes down to your budget, musical tastes and device preferences.

How we picked our services

To compile our list of top streaming services, we looked at a variety of factors. Not only did we compare services by library size, audio quality and price, but we also took a look at the unique perks and drawbacks that distinguish each service from the rest of the pack.

The best music streaming services

Spotify

This global audio streaming service was first launched in Sweden in 2008. Today, Spotify is one of the most popular streaming services on the market with over 232 million active users and 50 million free audio tracks in its library.

Price
  • Spotify: Free
  • Spotify Premium (Individual): $9.99 monthly
  • Spotify Premium (Family): $14.99 monthly
  • Spotify Premium (Student): $4.99 monthly
Audio quality
  • 320kbps
Library size
  • Over 50 million tracks
Device limit
  • Spotify Free: 1
  • Spotify Premium (Individual): 1
  • Spotify Premium (Student): 1
  • Spotify Premium (Family): 6
Free trial length
  • 3 months

Pros

  • Free. Spotify offers tiers of access, but with its free service you can access its entire collection.
  • Offline listening. If you’ve got a Premium account, you can build and sync playlists to your device for offline listening.
  • Extensive library. Spotify boasts a comprehensive music library of over 50 million songs.

Cons

  • Ads. With free streaming, occasional ads will interrupt your listening.
  • Limited streaming. Unless you opt for a Spotify Premium Family account, you can only stream to one device at a time.
  • Subpar sound quality. Spotify’s 320kbps sound quality may not satisfy the ears of audiophiles.

Best for: Those who want a straightforward, free, user-friendly service with a comprehensive library.

Tidal


Tidal’s artist-oriented platform is co-owned by Jay Z, Beyoncé and a slew of other A-list musicians. Focused on superior sound quality and original video series, Tidal is now available in 53 markets worldwide with a catalog of over 60 million songs and 250,000 videos.

Price
  • Tidal Premium: $9.99 monthly
    • Student: $4.99 monthly
    • Military: $5.99 monthly
    • First Responder: $5.99 monthly
    • Family: $14.99 monthly
  • Tidal Hi-Fi: $19.99 monthly
    • Student: $9.99 monthly
    • Military: $11.99 monthly
    • First Responder: $11.99 monthly
    • Family: $29.99 monthly
Audio quality
  • Tidal Premium: 320 kbps
    kbps
  • Tidal Hi-Fi: 1411 kbps
    kbps
Library size
  • Over 60 million tracks
Device limit
  • Tidal Premium: 1
  • HiFi: 1
  • Student: 1
  • Military: 1
  • First Responder: 1
  • Tidal Family: 6
Free trial length
  • 30 days

Pros

  • Superior quality. Of the streaming services featured on this list, Tidal’s audio quality is unmatched.
  • Artist-centric. Tidal markets itself as an artist-oriented streaming service co-owned by musicians interested in fostering a more intimate artist-fan connection.
  • Exclusive content. Through Tidal, you gain access to exclusive songs, albums and videos from established performers and under-the-radar indie artists alike.

Cons

  • $9.99 monthly. Unlike other major streaming services on the market, Tidal doesn’t offer a free service tier.
  • No lyrics. If you don’t know the song by heart and want to sing along, you may be disappointed with Tidal’s lack of a lyrics feature.
  • Data consumption. Streaming Tidal’s high-quality audio files may come at the price of your mobile data.

Best for: Users seeking high-fidelity sound who find the monthly price tag acceptable.

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Apple Music



Apple Inc. has come a long way from the first generation iPod. Since the launch of Apple Music in 2015, this worldwide streaming service features curated playlists and over 50 million ad-free songs for both iOS and Android devices.

Price
  • Student plan: $4.99 monthly
  • Individual: $9.99 monthly
  • Family: $14.99 monthly
Audio quality
  • 320 kbps
Library size
  • Over 50 million
    tracks
Device limit
  • Individual and Student plan: Access on multiple devices, one at a time
  • Family: 6
Free trial length
  • 3 months

Pros

  • Combined iTunes library. Apple Music seamlessly integrates your existing iTunes library with music you don’t own, offering a holistic listening experience.
  • Intuitive music suggestions. Expand your aural horizons when Apple’s algorithms match you with editor curated playlists.
  • Apple integration. Apple Music is compatible with iPhones, the Apple Watch and Apple HomePods.

Cons

  • $9.99 monthly. While it offers a free three-month trial period, you’ll be looking at $9.99 monthly if you want to keep the service.
  • Limited Android offerings. The Apple Music app is available on Android but doesn’t run as well as its iOS counterpart and won’t sync to other Android devices, like the Google Home.
  • Mediocre sound quality. Apple Music’s standard 256 kbps lags behind Spotify’s 320kbps and doesn’t come close to Tidal’s impressive 1411 kbps offering.

Best for: Apple-oriented users who want to integrate their music streaming across multiple devices.

YouTube Music


YouTube Music joined the streaming service ranks in 2015. Today this in-depth streaming service offers a music library of 30 million
songs with the added bonus of exclusive video content, offline play and personalized music and video recommendations.

Price
  • YouTube Music: Free
  • YouTube Music Premium: $11.99
  • Premium family plan: $14.99
  • Premium for students: $4.99
Audio quality
  • 128 kbps
Library size
  • Over 30 million
    tracks
Device limit
  • Premium Family Plan: Available for up to 5 additional family members
Free trial length
  • 30 days

Pros

  • Free service. If you don’t mind ads between tracks, YouTube Music’s ad-supported free service offers access to its entire audio and video catalog.
  • Premium features. Bump your subscription to the Premium service tier for ad-free music, offline listening, an audio-only mode and streaming even when your screen is turned off.
  • Location-based playlists. YouTube’s recommendation algorithms are among the best, with playlist suggestions designed for gym workouts, café study sessions and more.

Cons

  • Unreliable sound quality. YouTube Music’s library includes content from both official and unofficial creators, which means high-quality sound isn’t guaranteed.
  • Limited library. Compared to the 50 to 60 million tracks of its streaming service counterparts, YouTube Music’s library is limited.
  • Cost for background listening. Be prepared to upgrade to YouTube Premium if you’re interested in offline or background listening.

Best for: Those looking for a video-focused streaming service that are happy paying a monthly fee for premium perks.

Google Play Music

Part personal library, part streaming service and part storage locker, Google Play Music offers an integrated service compatible across Android and iOS devices.

Price
  • Paid subscription: $9.99 monthly
  • Family plan: $14.99 monthly
Audio quality
  • 320 kbps
Library size
  • Over 35 million
    tracks
Device limit
  • Family: up to 6 devices
Free trial length
  • 30 days

Pros

  • Free service tier. With both free and paid service tiers, Google Play Music offers a variety of features to satisfy all listeners.
  • Upload your collection. Keep all your music in one place by adding your personal collection to Google Play Music’s online catalog.
  • Online music locker. Safely upload and store up to 50,000 songs in a free online music locker.

Cons

  • Uncertain future. Google developers have made mention of replacing Google Play Music with YouTube Music as Google’s default streaming app.
  • Limited library. Google Play’s 35 million song library isn’t on par with Tidal’s 60-million song catalog.
  • Clunky interface. Some users complain that using Google Play’s desktop Music Manager is confusing and frustrating.

Best for: Google fans who want to mesh their personal library and take advantage of online storage.

Amazon Music Unlimited


Featuring Android, iOS, Echo, Dot and Sonos One compatibility, the Amazon Music Unlimited streaming service offers an attractive package for Amazon Prime users coupled with high-fidelity sound updates.

Price
  • Student Plan: $0.99
  • Single-Device Plan: $3.99
  • Individual Plan: $14.99
    • Prime members: $7.99
  • Family Plan: $14.99
Audio quality
  • 256 kbps
Library size
  • Over 50 million
    tracks
Device limit
  • Single-Device Plan: Stream on 1 dedicated device only
  • Individual Plan: Stream music from any device, limited to 1 device at a time
  • Family Plan: Stream on up to 6 devices at a time
Free trial length
  • 30 days

Pros

  • Alexa product sync. If you’ve got an Echo, Dot or Sonos One speaker, you’ll be pleased to discover Amazon Music Unlimited is compatible with Alexa.
  • Discounts for Amazon users. Prime members only pay $7.99 monthly and Amazon Echo and Dot owners only pay $3.99 monthly.
  • Amazon Music HD. For audiophiles seeking Tidal-level sound quality, Amazon’s HD upgrade offers streams at 850 kbps.

Cons

  • No free-service tier. You can try the service free for 30 days
    but prepare to pay $9.99 a month onwards.
  • Music-only service. Unlike Tidal and YouTube Music, Amazon’s offerings are strictly limited to music.
  • No music storage. While the service used to boast an MP3 storage service, Amazon ditched its cloud library as of March 2008.

Best for: Alexa-oriented users or Amazon Prime members who want synchronized hands-free listening.

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How do I find the best music streaming service for me?

Competition heats up as new streaming services pop up on the market. Consider the following before deciding how you want to stream your music:

  • Price. Are you willing to pay for a streaming service monthly? A few extra dollars a month may net you a better service or subscription with access to high-quality music, comprehensive libraries and practical listening perks.
  • Library size. Do you have mainstream musical tastes or do you prefer obscure indie tunes? A streaming service’s library size may impact your ability to find music you like.
  • Sound quality. For most, the standard sound quality offered by Spotify and Apple Music will suffice. But audiophiles may prefer the high resolution offerings of Tidal and Amazon Music HD — with the sound equipment to do it justice.
  • Device limitations. If your whole family wants in on the streaming action, consider whether the service you’re interested in offers family plans that accommodate multiple devices.
  • Offline listening. If you want to disconnect from the Internet and access music — say, while you’re on the go and want to save your mobile data — find a service that offers offline listening.
  • Compatibility. Not only should your streaming service be compatible with your mobile device, but consider whether it can sync to other devices around your home, like the Amazon Echo, the Sonos One or the Apple HomePod.

Bottom line

Selecting a music streaming service can be a big commitment — especially if you plan to integrate your existing music library. But take your time in exploring what each service has to offer to find the service that fits your musical tastes, personal budget and lifestyle.

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