The 5 best music streaming services you can subscribe to in 2021

Summary List Placement

  • Music streaming services give you access to millions of songs for a monthly subscription fee.
  • Spotify is the best service for most people thanks to its big selection, features, and free plan.

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

Music listening has come a long way over the past few decades. Gone are the days when you had to buy CDs, vinyl records, or cassette tapes. You don’t even have to buy digital downloads anymore. These days, you can simply sign up to a music streaming service and have on-demand access to all the music you’ll ever need on a device that sits in your pocket.

Of course, there are quite a few music streaming services out there, and they’re all a little different. Because of that, it can be hard to find the service that’s perfect for your needs.

When deciding which streaming service to get, it’s worth considering a few things. For starters, you’ll want to make sure that there’s an app for your chosen streaming platform on every device you use for music listening. You’ll also want to consider things like streaming audio quality and support for extra features, like digital assistants, music videos, lyrics, playlist sharing, and more.

Still figuring out which music streaming service is for you? We’ve done the research and testing so you don’t have to. 

Here are the best music streaming services:

The best music service overall

Spotify has a ton of music and audio content, along with a free streaming option and support for a range of devices.

Pros: Huge library of songs, app support on many devices, audio quality is good enough for most listeners, free option, collaborative playlists, group listening

Cons: No live content, no lossless audio option yet (coming soon)

Looking for a music streaming service that has a huge range of songs and is compatible with all your devices? Spotify is the way to go. Spotify is the original big music streaming service, and it has apps for all major platforms — including iOS, Android, and your preferred web browser. 

One of the best things about Spotify is that you can try it out without having to subscribe. There’s a free, ad-based version of Spotify that you can use for as long as you like. The service also has podcasts and video content, plus it streams music in up to a 320Kbps resolution, which should be good enough for the majority of listeners.

If that quality isn’t to your liking, however, Spotify does plan to introduce a lossless audio option later this year. The company announced Spotify HiFi, a CD-quality listening format, in February 2021. The service will roll out HiFi as an upgrade option to its Premium users, but Spotify hasn’t specified a launch date or price yet. 

The ad-free version of Spotify starts at $10 a month for one account. There’s also a Duo plan that supports two accounts for $13 a month, and a Family plan that includes support for up to six accounts for $15 a month. Students can sign up for a discounted $5 a month plan as well. The student plan even comes with Hulu and access to Showtime.

New subscribers to the Spotify Individual, Student, Duo, or Family plans can currently receive a one-month free trial period. 

For a detailed rundown of how Spotify stacks up to one of our other top picks, Amazon Music, check out our full comparison of both services.

The best music service for Apple devices

Apple Music works beautifully on Apple devices, plus there’s an app for it across a range of platforms, including Android.

Pros: Huge selection of content, live radio, excellent integration with Apple devices, curated playlists, three-month trial

Cons: No free version, no lossless audio option

If you use an iPhone and other Apple products, then it’s worth considering Apple Music. Apple Music integrates well with Apple’s hardware and software, plus it’s well-designed and works with your existing library of iTunes music. Not only that, but Apple Music has a collection of 70 million songs, which is absolutely massive.

One of the best things about Apple Music is that it integrates with Siri and the Apple Watch perfectly, plus it can be played on a HomePod without issue. In other words, if you have other Apple devices, then Apple Music is probably the service to go for.

Apple Music has a nice selection of content, too. Apart from on-demand songs, the service also offers the Apple Music 1 radio station and some exclusive music.

Though Apple Music was initially missing a web browser option, Apple now allows subscribers to use the service through internet browsers on computers and laptops without having to install a separate app. 

If you want to tap into what your friends are listening to, Apple Music also offers curated playlists for that, as well as other playlists for new music, personal favorites, and more.

Apple Music starts at $10 per month for one account. A Family plan with support for six people is available for $15 per month, and a discounted Student plan is available for $5 per month. New members can receive a free three-month trial. That’s two months longer than the trial period that Spotify currently offers for its comparable plans.

Unlike Spotify, however, Apple Music does not offer a free version with ads, so you will need to subscribe to enjoy the service’s selection of songs. 

The best music service for audiophiles

Tidal is available on a range of platforms, plus it offers much better audio quality than the majority of other music streaming services out there.

Pros: Excellent audio quality with lossless playback, available on a range of platforms, exclusive content, includes music videos

Cons: No free version, missing some features, HiFi plan is expensive

Tidal is a little different from other music streaming services in that it’s targeted toward those who want a higher resolution audio experience — and as such, it provides excellent sound performance. 

While Tidal offers a Premium plan that uses the same 320Kbps bitrate that services like Spotify use, Tidal also has a HiFi plan that steps things up to a whopping 1,411Kbps in the lossless FLAC format. This means that you get to listen to music in full CD quality exactly as it was meant to be heard. The HiFi plan also includes Tidal Masters, a feature with songs at a bitrate between 2304 and 9216Kbps.  

Tidal is also known for streaming some notable exclusive content. Albums like Jay-Z’s “4:44” and Kanye West’s “The Life of Pablo” were first launched on Tidal, and the service will likely get other exclusive launches in the future. There are also music videos and other behind-the-scenes content, too.

On the downside, Tidal is missing some features that other services offer, like Spotify’s group listening sessions, and there’s no free version. The HiFi plan also costs more than most competing platforms. 

Tidal Premium starts at $10 a month for one account, and there’s a Family plan for $15 a month with support for six people. Tidal HiFi steps the price up to $20 a month for one account, or $30 for the Family plan with support for six people. A Student Premium option is also available for $5 a month, along with a Student HiFi plan for $10 a month. A 30-day trial is available for new members who sign up for a regularly priced plan.

When it comes to other lossless music streaming options, Tidal has some tough competition from Amazon’s Music HD plan. This service offers similar high resolution audio for a more affordable price of $15 a month. If you have Amazon Prime, you can save $2 per month on the service. Unlike Tidal, however, Amazon Music HD doesn’t include videos. Music HD is also available on fewer devices and it lacks the exclusive releases that Tidal features.

Check out our full review of Tidal here

The best music service for Amazon Prime members

Amazon Music Unlimited integrates perfectly with Alexa and offers discounts for Prime subscribers or Echo owners.

Pros: Discounts for Amazon Prime and Echo customers, good music library selection, Alexa integration

Cons: No content other than music

If you’re an Amazon Prime subscriber, you might want to save a few bucks and go for Amazon’s music subscription service, Amazon Music Unlimited.

Prime subscribers already get access to Prime Music with their membership, but if you want a more comprehensive streaming service, then it’s worth stepping things up to Music Unlimited, which offers a bigger library of songs.

Music Unlimited is available on a range of platforms, including iOS, Android, and the web. The service is tightly integrated with Amazon’s Alexa, so if you have an Echo or other Alexa product, it’ll work perfectly.

If you use other Amazon products, you might get a bit of a deal, too. Amazon Music Unlimited normally costs $10 a month, but Amazon Prime subscribers can pay a discounted monthly fee of just $8 a month or an annual fee of $79 a year. Prime members can also choose a Family plan with support for six people for $15 a month or an annual plan cost of $149 a year. If you just want to stream music on one Amazon device, like an Echo Dot, you have the option for an even cheaper plan at just $4 a month.

New members can receive a free 30-day trial of Music Unlimited. After the trial, your subscription will automatically continue for the regular monthly price unless you decide to cancel. 

When it comes to audio quality, Music Unlimited streams at 256Kbps. Amazon doesn’t detail exactly how many tracks are included on Music Unlimited, but the company boasts a collection of “over 70 million songs.” Music Unlimited doesn’t offer any non-music content, but apart from that, it’s a pretty great service for those plugged into the Amazon ecosystem.

For those who want lossless audio playback, Amazon also offers its Music HD service with support for high resolution audio playback. Amazon Music HD is available for a regular price of $15 a month or a Prime member discounted price of just $13 a month.

For a detailed rundown of how Amazon Music stacks up to our top pick, Spotify, check out our full comparison of both services.

Check out our full review of Amazon Music Unlimited here

The best music service for Android users

YouTube Music has a decent library of songs, plus it integrates very well with Google’s other apps and services, including Google Assistant. 

Pros: Interesting playlists, good integration with Google services, free version available

Cons: Doesn’t integrate with Alexa, no lossless audio option

YouTube Music is the way to go if you’re really plugged into Google’s ecosystem of products. In other words, if you have an Android phone and want your music streaming service to integrate well with Google Assistant, then YouTube Music is a convenient option.

YouTube Music isn’t only available for Android devices. It’s also available on iOS and on the web, so you should be able to access the service wherever you are. The platform is smart, so you’ll get interesting location-based playlists and the ability to search for songs based on lyrics.

Of course, YouTube Music isn’t perfect, but Google has been working on making it better. The app doesn’t really integrate with other voice assistants like Alexa, so if you have an Echo you’ll be stuck with playing music through the Bluetooth connection on your phone. With that said, the service does now support Siri. 

Like Spotify, YouTube Music offers a free, ad-supported version that you can try out first. The Premium plan without ads is $10 a month for one account. There’s also a discounted Student plan for $5 a month, and a Family plan with support for six people for $15 a month. All of the plans include a one-month free trial.

YouTube Music is also included as part of a YouTube Premium plan for $12 a month. YouTube Premium includes exclusive video content and ad-free video playback. Since this option is only $2 more than YouTube Music Premium is on its own, it’s a better value for music fans who also like to watch YouTube videos.

What is HiFi music?

Most music streaming services offer base plans that feature songs presented with “lossy” compression. This means that some of the original audio recording’s quality is being sacrificed to make the file smaller and easier to stream. In other words, standard streaming audio isn’t equal to the quality you’d hear on an actual CD.

Though this loss in quality is actually hard to notice for the average listener, most audiophiles demand “lossless” music that preserves the full range of the original track. This is where “HiFi” music streaming comes in.

Different platforms brand their lossless audio plans under different names, including HiFi, HD Music, and Hi-Res Music. Though there are some differences between them, they all generally refer to streaming audio tracks that are presented in at least CD-quality. 

Tidal and Amazon Music HD are some of the most popular services with lossless audio options, making them a better fit for listeners who want the very best quality. Spotify will also add a CD-quality plan later this year. 

On the downside, lossless audio streaming requires more bandwidth so you’ll need a fast internet connection and big data plan. To take full advantage of the audio quality benefits you’ll also need a nice pair of headphones and a dedicated digital-to-analog converter.

You can learn more about lossless audio formats in our guide to HD audio.

Check out our other related buying guides

If you’re signing up for a music streaming service, chances are you’ll need a reliable media player or smartphone to access the app, along with a nice pair of speakers or headphones to actually listen to your favorite tracks on.

With that in mind, we’ve highlighted some of our other buying guides for streaming players, mobile devices, headphones, and speakers that are sure to come in handy for anyone who wants to stream music.  


Related posts