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Music streaming service reviews

Last updated: 02 February 2017

Online music streaming for computers and smartphones has made many CD collections obsolete. These services are a music lover's dream, putting millions of songs in your pocket or on your PC. But the market has changed. Just three of the 10 options from our 2013 test are still around, and although a few new players have emerged, the numbers aren't what they used to be. What's left, and how are things different? 

  • New to the concept of music streaming? Check out our buying guide to learn how it works.
  • There are a number of offer TV streaming companies that offer a similar service on the same devices (computer, smartphone, games console etc).
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We review seven popular music streaming services on computer and mobile platforms. Our detailed test reveals which services:

  • offer the best sound quality
  • consume the least data on mobile platforms
  • are the easiest to use
  • support a broad range of additional audio devices.

Our interactive comparison tool also helps you find which services have explicit content filters, family-friendly settings, videos and offline access. Our Recommended list will help you see quickly which models come out on top.

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List of brands we tested in this review.

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Per month. Standard/default subscription. All services on test include a free trial period.

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Audio quality score

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Assessed on PC using each service’s default (non hi-fi) setting, by a panel of experts. Automatic quality adjustment was used when services did not offer custom quality settings.

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Test results

Data consumption – standard/auto quality (MB)

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Assessed the level of data consumed by a one-hour playlist at standard, high and highest quality offered by the service, in addition to the automatic settings. This playlist was played three times to create an average rate of data consumption. Auto quality adjustment was used if no other options were available. Bitrate can increase and decrease depending on internet connection speed and quality.

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Data consumption – high quality (MB)

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Assessed the level of data consumed by a one-hour playlist at standard, high and highest quality offered by the service, in addition to the automatic settings. This playlist was played three times to create an average rate of data consumption.

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Specifications

Hi-fi grade audio

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Does the service offer hi-fi (lossless CD quality) audio streaming. Requires separate hi-fi account which incurs a higher monthly cost. Deezer Sonos only.

Features

Explicit content filter

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Identifies tracks with explicit content and blocks or replaces them with "clean versions." Google Play Music: Blocks explicit content in radio mode.

Family subscription plan

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Provides individual accounts and group discounts for relatives living at the same address.

Upload your own music

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Spotify: Can't upload your own songs to Spotify's servers, but Spotify will sync your local music to its library, if it has those songs in its database. If it doesn’t have them, you can sync them to a mobile device if you are on the same network as your computer. Google Play Music Uploaded songs are usually replaced by versions in Google’s database (e.g. radio edits). User must manually replace any songs they feel are incorrect using the 'Fix incorrect match' option Microsoft Groove MusicUploaded songs can be set to replace Groove's own version of those songs; FLAC files are not supported; feature requires OneDrive account.

Included in this review

Members-only access
  • Recommended
  • Overall score
  • Ease of use score
  • Audio quality score
  • Data consumption – standard/auto quality (MB)
  • Data consumption – high quality (MB)
  • Good points
  • Bad points
  • Brand
  • Subscription tier
  • Price (month)
  • Free version
  • Windows
  • OS X
  • Web browser-based
  • iOS
  • Android
  • Other platforms
  • Quality settings (Wi-Fi)
  • Quality settings (mobile data)
  • Hi-fi grade audio
  • Offline mode (desktop)
  • Offline mode mobile
  • Explicit content filter
  • Child-friendly mode
  • Videos
  • Family subscription plan
  • Upload your own music
  • Import iTunes playlists
  • Simultaneous devices
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