The Best Online Music Streaming Services for 2022

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At a glance, the streaming music field is saturated with seemingly similar services and interchangeable functions. Fire up an app, press play, and enjoy some tunes. Sounds simple, right?

However, a deeper dive reveals that many of the highest-rated streaming music apps include a wide range of features that distinguish them from one another. As a result, selecting the best streaming music service is more challenging than you’d think. We’ve tested the category’s notable names to help you narrow down your choices with our top picks.


Apple Music

Best for Apple Device Integration

4.5 Outstanding

Why We Picked It

Featuring lossless audio, Dolby Atmos support, a 75-million song catalog, radio stations, Siri compatibility, Hi-Res Audio, lyrics, and playlists, Apple Music offers excellent bang for your buck. Plus, its 24/7 music video channel aims to be a contemporary spin on MTV.

Who It’s For

Music buffs who favor Apple’s ecosystem. Apple Music is compatible with Apple TV, CarPlay, iPad, iPhone, and Mac, so if you own an Apple device, you can easily zone out to your favorite tracks.

PROS

  • Features more than 100 million tracks
  • Cool video playlists
  • 24/7 Apple Music radio stations
  • 24/7 Apple Music TV video channel
  • Family plan
  • Rich Hi-Res Audio and Dolby Atmos sound
  • Lyrics

CONS

  • No free version
  • Limited non-music content
  • Lossless audio not available on all platforms

LiveXLive

Best for Curated Channels

4.0 Excellent

Why We Picked It

The late, great Slacker Radio was absorbed by LiveXLive, a steaming music service that combines the former’s curated radio listening with the latter’s shows and live performances. As a result, LiveXLive features a deep well of quality listening material, which includes informative DJs, numerous podcasts, comedy stations, and concert streams.

Who It’s For

Hardcore music fans will dig LiveXLive. Unlike its many streaming music rivals, LiveXLive focuses on the live music experience. So, if your favorite band is coming to town, you can purchase tickets to see a show in person or enjoy the show via live stream.

PROS

  • Excellently curated channels and playlists
  • Lets you purchase tickets for in-person or streamed concerts
  • A deep video well
  • Informative DJs
  • Optional news updates
  • Many podcasts

CONS

  • Cumbersome interface
  • Lacks Hi-Res Audio
  • No family plan
  • Lacks lyrics

Spotify

Best for Podcasts

4.5 Outstanding

Why We Picked It

Despite fierce competition from other feature-rich streaming services, Spotify remains the king of the steaming music hill. This comes courtesy of a robust musical catalog, podcasts, collaborative playlists, and a stacked Student plan that includes Hulu and Showtime.

Who It’s For

Spotify hits all the right notes for a streaming music service, but its deep podcast selection elevates the service to a true top-shelf product. An Oral History of: The Office, The Bill Simmons Podcast, and How to Save a Planet are just three of the company’s cool, exclusive shows. If you’re a podcast devourer, this is the streaming service for you.

PROS

  • Cool, collaborative playlists and Group Session options
  • Optional desktop app that lets you play locally stored audio files
  • Premium accounts let you hear select albums before they’re released
  • Robust Student plan features Hulu and Showtime
  • Podcasts
  • Free version

CONS

  • Lacks Hi-Res Audio
  • No lyrics in web or desktop apps

SiriusXM Internet Radio

Best for Satellite Radio

4.5 Outstanding

Why We Picked It

By combining live radio, in-studio artist sessions, traditional streaming audio, and the ability to rewind streams, SiriusXM whipped up a recipe for success that few rivals can replicate. An extremely generous three-month trial lets you explore the service’s offerings before shelling out cash.

Who It’s For

SiriusXM is the perfect service for radio lovers who want to peruse sports, lifestyles, politics, and news shows between musical bangers. There’s a comforting nostalgia that comes from surfing channels on the radio, and SiriusXM brings that old-school charm to your vehicle or mobile device.

PROS

  • Massive content encompassing live and curated channels
  • Large buffer lets you pause and rewind content
  • High-profile exclusive broadcasts
  • Video shows
  • Generous three-month free trial
  • Useful TuneStart and alert systems

CONS

  • Lacks a free tier
  • Content is segregated depending on hardware
  • No true family plan

Read Our SiriusXM Internet Radio Review

Amazon Music Unlimited

Best for Amazon Device Integration

4.0 Excellent

Why We Picked It

Amazon is an online giant in both the e-commerce and digital streaming fields. It’s no surprise then that Amazon Music Unlimited offers a feature-packed listening experience that has earned the company a spot among the best in the field, with its 75 million-song catalog, Hi-Res Audio, and podcast library.

Who It’s For

People who are part of the Amazon ecosystem. You can stream crisp audio via a smartphone app, web browser, or numerous Amazon devices, including the Echo and Fire TV.

PROS

  • Large music and video library
  • Cool, scrolling lyrics
  • Tight integration with Amazon device family
  • HD and Ultra HD audio tiers
  • Podcasts
  • Free tier
  • Lengthy 90-day free trial

CONS

  • Lacks live radio
  • Trifling discount for Prime subscribers

Deezer

Best for MP3 Uploads

4.0 Excellent

Why We Picked It

The music streaming industry is a particularly competitive field, so Deezer, which entered the scene in 2016, has stiff competition. Still, Deezer is a well-rounded package that offers music, live radio, and podcasts, as well as a few interesting perks to make the service worth your while.

Who It’s For

People who buy music. One of Deezer’s most interesting features is its ability to import MP3 files. You can’t do it on mobile devices, but if you have your favorite music files saved on a computer, you can upload them to your account via Deezer’s website. Then you can stream those MP3 files from anywhere.

PROS

  • Useful, free tier on mobile
  • Good crop of original content, including video
  • Live radio
  • Lyrics
  • Podcasts
  • Lets you upload MP3 files on the desktop

CONS

  • Free tier on PC is limited to 30-second snippets
  • Mobile apps lack MP3-upload compatibility
  • Can’t rewind live radio streams
  • Lacks Hi-Res Audio

Read Our Deezer Review

Qobuz

Best for Hi-Res Audio

4.0 Excellent

Why We Picked It

It’s natural to expect expansive streaming listening catalogs from the services mentioned here, but Qobuz shakes things up by letting your buy music, too. In addition, you get a huge music at the highest resolution available, curated playlists, and an attractive user interface.

Who It’s For

A massive catalog isn’t always enough. For audiophiles, sound quality can make or break a service. Qobuz offers its subscribers the Hi-Res Audio that complement their expensive, high-fidelity cans.

PROS

  • High-quality lossless and studio-quality audio streaming
  • Huge catalog with new releases and old
  • Both streaming and purchasing available
  • Includes liner notes in PDF form
  • Interviews, guest playlists, and background articles
  • Well-designed apps for all platforms

CONS

  • No free account level
  • Lacks social components
  • No live stations or podcasts
  • Lacks smart speaker support

YouTube Music

Best for Former Google Play Music Subscribers

4.0 Excellent

Why We Picked It

From Google Play Music’s ashes rose YouTube Music, a service with a fantastic blend of customized playlists, search-by-lyrics functionality, and official studio releases. What’s more, as an extension of YouTube’s massive entertainment branch, there is an eclectic selection of unique music, including community uploads and video game soundtracks.

Who It’s For

YouTube is a tremendously popular platform, so hopping on to YouTube Music for your listening entertainment is no real stretch. Likewise, former Google Play Music fans should find plenty of similarities (and a lot to love) between YouTube Music and the now-defunct service.

PROS

  • Lets you easily switch between audio and music videos
  • Cool location- and time-based playlists
  • Can search for songs by lyrics
  • Collaborative playlists
  • Family and Student plans
  • Free version

CONS

  • Doesn’t offer much non-music programming
  • Lacks Hi-Res Audio

Read Our YouTube Music Review

Idagio

Best for Live, Classical Music Concerts

Why We Picked It

Theres no shortage of streaming music services that highlight trending music and popular tracks. When it comes to classical music, however, many services fall short, especially in how they list/sort classic music. Idagio, a notable exception, offers a large catalog of high-quality classical music, as well as live-streamed concerts and interviews.

Who It’s For

Classical music fans. Sure, there are plenty of music streaming services with classical tunes in their catalogs, but Idagio has the genre-specific tools you need to find the music you want.

PROS

  • Fine sound quality
  • Large music selection, with recent releases
  • Useful categorization and search tools
  • Live concert options
  • Exclusive recording content

CONS

  • Lacks background info on performers
  • No podcasts
  • Doesn’t include Hi-Res Audio streams
  • No similar music auto-play feature for desktop

iHeartRadio

Best for Terrestrial Radio

Why We Picked It

iHeartRadio has been around since 2008, blending terrestrial radio, curated artist channels, and podcasts to create a music destination with mass appeal. The service also features podcasts and music-related news pieces.

Who It’s For

Listeners with an affinity for terrestrial radio will love iHeartRadio’s robust musical catalog and quality audio streams that let you to access music, talk, and sports content from cities across the country.

PROS

  • Many live and curated artist streams
  • Podcasts
  • Informative news articles and event listings
  • Lyrics
  • Free plan
  • Optional family plan

CONS

  • iHeartRadio Plus plan lacks a web version
  • Limited listening options for free users
  • Unable to rewind live radio
  • Lacks video and Hi-Res Audio tracks

Read Our iHeartRadio Review

Pandora

Best for Free Listening

Why We Picked It

Pandora may no longer be the face of the streaming music industry, but it has a several cool features that make it a worthwhile service. Playlists, album commentary, artist tour info, and apps for nearly every popular platform keep Pandora relevant.

Who It’s For

People who don’t want to spend a dime. Pandora’s many features deliver an entertaining listening experience, and they’re incredibly easy to explore thanks to the service’s free tier.

PROS

  • Free plan
  • Podcasts
  • Lyrics
  • Pandora Stories offers insightful album commentary
  • Displays artist tour and ticket information
  • Optional student, military, and family plans

CONS

  • Intrusive listening requirement with free tier
  • Playlist creation walled behind Premium tier
  • Website occasionally slow to load
  • Interface lacks visual cohesiveness
  • Lacks Hi-Res Audio tracks

Read Our Pandora Review

Buying Guide: The Best Online Music Streaming Services for 2022


Streaming music genres


(Credit: PCMag)

The Best Music Streaming Quality

Most streaming music services have some base-level commonality, such as letting you create customizable channels, but a handful stand out from the very crowded pack due to their unique feature sets. For example, Amazon Music Unlimited, Primephonic, Qobuz, and Tidal pride themselves on sound quality, delivering premium Hi-Res Audio tunes that feature uncompressed audio that surpasses your typical music stream. Considering that most online music services’ streams are in the compressed 128Kbps to 320Kbps range, this trend is impressive. You’ll need audiophile-quality headphones or top-notch speakers to truly appreciate the musical richness.


The Best Free Music Streaming Services

Some services, such as LiveXLive and Spotify, have free options that let you try before you subscribe, while others, such as Apple Music, are strictly premium experiences (typically starting at the $10-per-month mark). Many services have lyrics, too, so you can sing along, word-for-word, with your favorite song. In addition, family plans, a relatively recent industry feature, let up to six household members sign up for a shared premium account for $14.99 per month, depending on the service.

There are many differences between the free and paid streaming music tiers in most services. Free accounts typically limit your ability to skip songs to just six per hour, and they feed you ads in either audio or video form. The free tiers are for more casual listeners or people who don’t find it worth spending a dime on music. Premium accounts, however, offer unlimited song skips, on-demand playback, and other goodies. The for-pay levels of service are aimed at customers who really want to explore the depths of what a streaming music service offers.

In addition, each of the reviewed services offers mobile apps, so you needn’t be tied to your PC to enjoy tunes. A valuable feature that you’ll find in these services’ mobile apps is the ability to cache music for offline playback, a feature generally reserved for premium subscribers. This is a technological godsend for commuters or folks who are frequently in locations that have spotty signal coverage.

You’ll find even greater streaming audio diversity should you dig deeper into the space. LiveXLive, for example, differentiates itself with Stories, a hosted program that features interesting tales, ranging from love to horror. Tidal sells concert and sports tickets and has an expert editorial staff that produces feature-length articles. Amazon Music Unlimited lets you upload your own audio files and stream them along with the songs in the company’s catalog. Most services have a robust selection of comedy albums. Video game music is yet another trendy audial avenue to explore, and many of these services feature an extensive collection of game soundtracks to add to your playlist. There’s a lot of content to explore beyond simple music.


Album art


(Credit: PCMag)

Which Streaming Service Has the Best Music?

Unfortunately, all isn’t swell in this musical wild west. Thanks to—you guessed it—money, some platforms have either gained or lost content. Taylor Swift, Prince, and other artists have seen their catalogs vanish from streaming platforms (and later reappear) due to low royalties. The issue of artist compensation has always dogged the recording industry, and it hasn’t disappeared with the advent of streaming music—quite the contrary, in fact.

Tidal aimed to stand out from the crowd, as a platform built on the idea of properly paying artists. It was also the only service to host Prince’s catalog for a hot minute (though that’s no longer the case). In some cases, you’re unable to play particular songs on demand; those tracks are only available within the scope of a themed channel. Content restrictions and missing artists and tracks are still a problem in the space, though—Swift notwithstanding—the situation has improved markedly in recent years. And Google sent yet another service to the graveyard when it replaced Google Play Music with YouTube Music.

Trying to figure out where things live and how you’re able to access them can prove quite vexing to the uninitiated. It’s one of the entertainment challenges that we face in the digital age.

Recommended by Our Editors


The Right Music Streaming Service for You

Thankfully, you don’t need to wade through the numerous services to find the one that best suits your listening needs. PCMag has reviewed both popular and niche streaming music services to separate the musical wheat from the auditory chaff. Whether you’re curious about a particular service, or just want to know how Spotify stacks up to Tidal, take a look at the reviews above or the chart below to discover what streaming music services are best suited to your listening tastes.

If you’re curious about why certain streaming music services aren’t featured in this story, here’s the skinny. It’s very likely they’ve been surpassed by the 10 superior services highlighted here, absorbed by a rival, or gone out of business. For example, AOL Radio is no more, and Rdio sold its tech to Pandora. We expect to see more shakeouts in the space in the next few years, as there are so many players providing broadly similar services.

If you’re concerned about streaming your favorite tunes over, say, a Starbucks Wi-Fi signal, you need to get yourself a VPN. A virtual private network safeguards your mobile devices from snoopers and, depending on the location of the VPN server, may let you access music licensed to other regions. Using a VPN to get around licensing restrictions probably violates Spotify’s terms of service, though, so tread carefully.

Mike Williams contributed to this article.

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