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?
We review seven popular music streaming services on computer and mobile platforms. Our detailed test reveals which services:
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.
List of brands we tested in this review.
Per month. Standard/default subscription. All services on test include a free trial period.
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We recommend services with an overall score of 75% or more.
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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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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.
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.
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.
Identifies tracks with explicit content and blocks or replaces them with "clean versions." Google Play Music: Blocks explicit content in radio mode.
Provides individual accounts and group discounts for relatives living at the same address.
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.