Spotify, Apple Music, Tidal, Amazon Music, Google Play Music, Pandora, Deezer and SiriusXM all come with access to over 30 million songs. Deezer and Tidal have the largest libraries with over 50 million, but Spotify has far more subscribers in part due to its broader compatibility with devices.
Only Tidal and Deezer offer lossless uncompressed audio. Pandora delivers the lowest resolution at 192Kbpb, while Apple Music and Amazon Music cap out at 256Kbps. The rest can stream at 320Kbps.
Pro tip: Spotify does not stream at 320Kbps as a default. You’ll need to change quality to ‘Very high’ and ensure ‘Normalize volume’ is turned off (normalization reduces dynamic range on certain tracks by compressing them.)
Pandora is the king of recommendation algorithms. The others all come with curated playlists updated on at least a weekly basis. Slacker Radio has particularly well-curated stations and playlists. Spotify shines with shareable user-built playlists, but their recommendations often lock you into a genre. Apple Music promotes more cross-genre exploration and has more obscure and live tracks to stumble upon.
Pro tip: In Pandora you can view every song you’ve ever liked by channel (even in the free version.) You can then create an IFTTT recipe that automatically adds these songs to a playlist on Spotify.
Tidal offers some great long-form editorial pieces, while Slacker and SiriusXM include live talk and sports channels. Most streaming services now include podcasts, though in our opinion Spotify navigates them most intuitively. (Apple Music doesn’t directly include them, but iTunes – which integrates tightly – does.) Amazon Music is the weakest in this category, though Prime Membership does come with podcasts and audiobooks.
While Amazon Music won’t let you upload your own audio files, Apple Music, Google Play Music and Spotify will. Apple Music is particularly smooth at integrating your local without uploading them thanks to their iTunes integration. If you do upload them, iTunes Match is a great way to clean up your meta-data. For those outside of the Apple ecosystem, Media Monkey is a solid tool to make sure your songs are properly tagged and the right album art is downloaded.
Pro tip: Lossless collections stored on a computer need the right DAC (digital-to-audio converter) to send the full file to your speaker system. Audioquest’s DragonFly USB DAC is the best solution we’ve found for under $100.
Sonos has the most powerful interface for managing multiple streaming services for two reasons:
- Cross-platform search: Its single search bar will show relevant results from all your services in real time.
- Playlists: Sonos lets you combine tracks from your local library and various streaming services onto a single playlist.
You can also stream directly to a Sonos speaker from within the Spotify App, and more recently from within Apple Music.
A growing number of smart speakers are integrating Google Assistant and Alexa, both of which integrate tightly with their own music services (Google Play Music and Amazon Music.) They also support specific commands on Spotify.
Spotify offers its own (very capable) voice control feature in its App. Finally, Siri (and therefore HomePod) works beautifully with Apple Music, but not with Spotify.
Sonos is also adept at handling and switching between multiple inputs. Putting on a record will automatically trigger Sonos to switch to the correct input (unless you’re currently streaming, in which case you can manually switch inputs from the App.) You will also be able to listen to your records from every wirelessly connected Sonos speaker in your home.
Bonus: As of this month Sonos now lets you set max volumes by speaker, allowing you to hand over controls to guests without fear of upsetting your neighbors.
Get in touch with us and we’ll be happy to help.