TIDAL, Pandora, Idagio, Deezer… they might sound like fabric softeners but they are in fact just a handful of the rising number of music streaming platforms and services to be courting our attention (and our cash). Some offer all kinds of music, others are specifically classical. But which should you be checking out? Here’s our guide…
Which are the best music streaming platforms for all tastes?
If you have broad tastes and only want to stump up for a single music streaming service, there’s plenty of choice. The music on offer, sound quality and costs are pretty much the same…
Cost: Free or £9.99 per month (Premium)
Probably the most familiar name in the streaming arena, Sweden-based Spotify is a one-stop space for all the music you can think of. You can even enjoy it for free, if you’re prepared to have adverts interrupt your listening. The offering is very broad and the search function is much improved, so if you know what you’re looking for, you’ll likely find it quickly.
Cost: Free or EUR 9.99 per month (Premium)
France’s answer to Spotify, Deezer offers both free and premium services. It’s easy to set up and the layout is perhaps a little cleaner and less fussy than Spotify. You can easily tailor the selection to your tastes and, like the other big players, the classical offering is broad. Major labels are all accounted for and new releases easy to find.
Cost: Free or £9.99 per month (Premium)
Google’s take on music streaming, with an emphasis on playlists and mood. But there’s no need to be put off by it’s millennial vibe or, indeed, its rather no-frills appearance. The search functionality is as intuitive as Spotify’s, and the offering just as broad. Type in ‘Beethoven’ and you’ll be met with playlists and essentials, but if you know who or what you want to find, it’ll find it – even if you spell it wrong.
Cost: £9.99 per month
Not to be confused with iTunes (Apple’s music management software), Apple Music is pretty much the go-to for Apple afficionados. Like Spotify and Deezer, it offers a huge amount of music, playlists and podcasts. The search function is a little less intuitive than Spotify’s, so you absolutely have to spell everything correctly. The way albums are listed or attributed can be a little haphazard, too. If you’re searching by composer, it’s likely you won’t see everything by that composer if the album or track is attributed to an orchestra or soloist.
Cost: £9.99 per month (£7.99 for Amazon Prime members)
Like Apple, Amazon has been offering a digital music platform for years and today it offers varying levels of service. If you’re a member of Amazon Prime (which, for a monthly cost, gives you access to on-demand film and TV shows, plus free delivery on Amazon shopping) you can also get Prime Music. This is a scaled-down service, with ads. If you want much more choice, and no ads, there’s Amazon Music Unlimited. Much like Spotify and Apple Music, it offers a broad range of genres.
Cost: Free or $4.99 (Plus), $9.99 (Premium)
Currently only available in the US, Pandora offers three packages. The free radio player works much like Spotify, with the paid-for versions removing ads and (in the case of Premium) allowing unlimited offline listening (essentially what Apple Music allows, ie. downloading albums/tracks/playlists onto your device). It’s being sold as an intuitive service, which will suggest listening based on traits and habits it recognises… so a bit like Netflix? ‘You may also like…’
Which music streaming platforms give you the best sound and hi-resolution audio?
If you’re a rather more discerning audiophile and the highest-quality listening experience matters – we’re picturing you in your padded ‘listening room’, or in your favourite chair wearing a VERY expensive set of headphones – then here are some platforms that offer broad choice and super sound.
Cost: from £9.99 per month
Okay, so TIDAL is actually just like the main players when it comes to the offering, choice and experience on the whole. However, it offers three levels of audio quality experience: Standard (AAC, like Apple and alike), HiFi (CD quality) and Master (Hi-Res). Of course, the better the quality, the more you pay per month – £19.99 for the ‘Master’ subscription.
Cost: from £14.99 per month
Another French platform, Qobuz sets itself apart by only offering high-resolution audio – hence the higher cost. Like the other platforms it’s a multi-genre service, plus it creates its own editorial content. It also offers hi-resolution downloads, which subscribers can access at a discounted rate if they sign up for the ‘Studio Sublime’ package (£20.83 per month)… But why would you feel the need to do that, if you can access great quality streams for less money?
Which are the best streaming platforms for classical music?
So, you only want to listen to classical music? And you want that music to be of fantastic audio quality? Well there are at least two platforms you need to know about…
Cost: from £9.99 per month (Premium)
This service sells itself as having ‘the definitive catalogue’, and the offer is really broad, with new titles being added all the time, from labels big and small. There’s no free option, beyond a 14-day trial, but for £9.99 you get access to everything there is, with mp3 sound quality. If you want to stump up £14.99 per month, you get the same content but in hi-resolution audio. The search functionality is top-notch and, like Idagio (below), it’s designed for the needs of the classical listener. Also it offers additional materials, like album booklets, educational and artist podcasts. Great value for money.
Cost: Free or EUR 9.99 per month (Premium+)
This service takes the Spotify/Deezer/YouTube model, but focuses totally on classical music. So, for free – but with ads – you can search, play and build a listening library that takes full advantage of Idagio’s expertly curated selection. When you part with your cash each month, you get access to higher (CD/lossless) quality audio, no ads, offline play and better mobile connectivity. Very much worth a look if classical is all you listen to, but if you want a little extra detail, such as booklets, podcasts and alike, this isn’t currently for you.
About Michael Beek
Michael is the Reviews Editor of BBC Music Magazine. He joined the team in May 2018, following ten years as a freelance film music journalist and fifteen years at St George’s Bristol – where he was everything from Box Office Supervisor to the venue’s Content & Engagement Manager.
Michael specialises in film and television music and was the Editor of Music from the Movies.com. He has written for the BBC Proms, BBC Concert Orchestra, Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Royal Albert Hall, Hollywood in Vienna and Silva Screen Records. Also a presenter, Michael has hosted concerts and live events for Bristol Film Festival and St George’s Bristol, plus Debbie Wiseman’s ‘Music and Words from Wolf Hall’ at venues across the UK.