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We compare the two most popular music streaming services; Spotify and Apple Music, to see which one hits the right notes with our speakers.
There are a growing number of music services out there, all fighting to give a seamless music experience. We compare the two most popular music streaming services; Spotify and Apple Music, to see which one hits the right notes with our speakers, is good value for money, and gives you the best overall music streaming experience.
With 75 million subscribers, it’s no surprise that Spotify is the first music service that comes to mind when deciding which music service to go for. Launched in 2008, Spotify has been a market leader despite several competitors entering the market.
Spotify’s interface is very polished and friendly. It’s easy to find music, discover other playlists and create your own but we prefer the simplicity of Apple Music. Both services have their own unique looks, Apple Music supports a much lighter overall look and feel whereas Spotify embraces the dark background with white text. We found Spotify’s interface to be a bit cluttered and took a bit of getting used to.
One of the biggest factors to consider when comparing streaming services is the size of their libraries and the quality of music. With over 30-million songs under its belt, there is bound to be something for everyone on Spotify.
One feature that really stands out for us is the ‘discover music’ feature on Spotify. It has a wide range of playlists that are updated with new songs every week and it also has a vast collection of playlists curated by outsiders. Not only that, you can also ‘Discover’ your own music on a weekly basis. Spotify uses algorithms to make suggestions that it thinks you’ll like based on your own taste as well as those of people with similar taste to yours. In our experience, these work very well as it’s a great way of discovering new music.
With a plethora of songs at your fingertips, Spotify even lets you download music offline, which is great, especially if you're someone who commutes on the underground, travels in rural areas or simply doesn't want to constantly use your mobile data for streaming.
Spotify's Connect feature is also invaluable, especially if you want to use a wireless speaker, but you must have a Premium subscription to use it.
Digital music is often compressed to save on file size and data usage, with a ‘bitrate’ often quoted. For music, a bitrate is usually quoted in ‘kbps’ and the higher the number, the better quality of audio. Spotify offers three tiers of streaming quality or bitrate; normal (96kbps), high (160kbps) and exteme (320kbps). Only the latter two are available on desktop. In our testing, the quality of the streaming even on the lowest quality is passable and when it comes to mobile many may prefer to opt for the lower streaming quality options to save on data.
Some services offer ‘lossless’ quality, which means there will be no quality lost when the file is compressed. We compared Spotify’s highest ‘extreme’ quality setting to a lossless service and discovered that while we could hear a difference between the two, it won't make a big difference in everyday life.
Spotify offers both a free and a paid version of its service.
The free version grants you access to over 30 million songs, allows you to create and listen to playlists and albums and you can also access Spotify’s curated playlists and music recommendations. Being a free service though it does have some drawbacks; you'll get an advert every few songs, it restricts you from choosing an individual track from an album and the amount of times you can ‘skip’ is limited.
Its paid service will set you back £9.99 per month in the UK, but allows you total freedom to skip a track or play individual songs from an album. You’ll also never hear an ad and can access Spotify’s ‘extreme’ audio quality.
Having launched in 2015, Apple Music joined the music streaming market after relying on the iTunes download store for many years. With so many people buying iPhones and moving into Apple's ecosystem, it's a genuine contender for Spotify's No.1 crown.
If you’re an avid Apple user, you’ll really like the overall layout. It’s clean, easy to navigate, has a big focus on visuals and feels very similar to other iOS applications. Apple Music got a big usability upgrade with its recent roll out of iOS 10 and is even more streamlined than before. One of the biggest changes Apple Music now boasts is that your library is now the home page on the music app. This means all your music can be accessed on the first screen and you can easily select from Playlists, artists, albums, songs and downloaded music. The new interface hides the less popular elements like ‘Connect’. We find the upgrade extremely inviting and simple to use.
With the recent introduction of iOS 10, Apple Music now has five tabs/features comprising of Library, For You, Browse, Radio, and Search. All pretty self-explanatory and very simple to use. We’ve been using Apple music for over two weeks now and the more you use it, the more it gets to know your tastes, recommending new albums and playlists suggestions in the ‘For You’ section.
One of the unique features that really impressed us is ‘Misfire’. It’s a mix of Twitter, Instagram and SoundCloud where musicians post exclusive content including raw demos. We can really see this taking off in the coming years even though it’s not become mainstream as of yet.
Another unique feature Apple provides is Beats Radio, a 24/7 internet radio service led by ex-Radio 1 DJ Zane Lowe and a roster of other well-known names.
Apple Music uses a bitrate of 256kbps, and despite some differences on paper, it ends up sounding about the same as Spotify. In our audio test where we played the same tracks through our own BAR A70 on both streaming services and Apple Music performed as well as Spotify - there was very little audible difference in sound quality.
Where Apple Music falls down more noticeably is in stability and playback. Buffering is slower than Spotify's when streaming over data (you have the option to reduce quality in this instance, but Spotify seems to find it easier), and tracks will skip if they were only partly buffered before your connection dropped out.
Apple gives you a three month trial with its service, but will set you back £9.99 a month in the UK thereafter. With this however, you get access to over 40 million songs, high quality streaming and pretty much everything else you get with Spotify.
Both platforms have their unique features and genuinely provide a seamless user experience. There are subtle differences between the two services so we’d say it’s down to preference. For us, Spotify has an enviable lead when it comes to music streaming and one of its strongest selling points is its cross device compatibility and support.
We found the song quality between the two services really difficult to choose between. We tested the same songs on both platforms and they both sounded very, very similar, both playing at maximum quality when the comparison was made.
If you value sound quality over all else, then we’d recommend using a lossless streaming service over Spotify and Apple Music. You will notice a difference, but if you're an average listener, the quality of Spotify and Apple Music should be more than enough.