Which is the best music streaming service for you?

An image of what spotify looks like on a range of different devices

Image Credit: Spotify

(Image credit: Spotify)

In many ways, Spotify was the service that ushered in the modern age of music streaming. It was the first to offer its service completely free through an ad-supported option, and this ended up acting as a gateway drug to music streaming for many people.

Since its launch, Spotify has also added a raft of new features to improve the experience. You can download music for offline listening, there are auto-generated Discover Weekly playlists as well as a number of different Daily Mix playlists to choose from. 

Then there are also occasional cool new features too, like the Your Time Capsule playlist, which takes you on a nostalgic tour of the music you likely enjoyed in your teens – most of ours were 100% spot on! 

Spotify might not have the highest music quality or the exclusives that some of the other big music streaming services do. However, the streaming platform offers one of the most polished services out there, which explains why the music king has more than 100 million premium users – double that of rival Apple Music.

Price

Spotify usually offers two tiers of its streaming service, but it's had an update recently to throw in some other deals too. 

The most popular option is Spotify Premium, which costs $9.99 (£9.99 / AU$11.99) per month. For that price you can play any song, listen to tracks offline, listen without any ads, skip an unlimited amount of times and listen to a higher level of music quality. 

There are also family and student pricing options. If you're a student you can get access to a 50% discount, and Spotify has also recently introduced a family option, allowing up to six users to enjoy the benefits of Premium for just $14.99 (£14.99 / AU$17.99). 

There are also added deals on the family and student pricing that bring you popular mindfulness meditation app Headspace too for $9.99 (£9.99 / AU$11.99)  a month for both, which then bumps up to $14.99 (£14.99 / AU$17.99) after three months. 

For comparison's sake, Spotify's premium tier is equivalent to Apple Music, Deezer and Tidal's lower quality price point. 30 day free trials are available.

Exclusives

Spotify's weakest area is its exclusives, and is more commonly in the news for artists abandoning its service rather than securing exclusives. In the past Taylor Swift, Beyonce, Kanye West, Jay-Z, Prince and Radiohead have all withheld albums from the streaming service, with many of them citing the low rates of royalties Spotify pays as the reason why.

With a library totalling more than 40 million tracks you're unlikely to be unable to find something to listen to on Spotify, but the omission of some of the biggest albums of recent years is unfortunate.

Spotify has attempted to bolster its selection of exclusives by recording exclusive 'Spotify Sessions' with various bands, which normally amount to nice alternative recordings of songs, but it's not the same as an exclusive album or two.

User Interface and experience

When it comes to user interfaces, Spotify takes some beating, especially on mobile. Its recent iOS, which removed the 'hamburger' menu in favour of a row of options at the bottom of the app makes it easy to switch between different sections of the service, and we love being able to quickly add tracks to the play queue by simply swiping them to the side.

It's also very easy to find the music you want to listen to in Spotify thanks to its intuitive search functionality which corrects minor spelling mistakes. It also means that while on mobile you don't have to bother adding any random apostrophes into obscure song titles to get them to appear.

Spotify's Connect feature is invaluable if you want to use a wireless speaker. Many don't support the better sounding Bluetooth AptX or AirPlay and so if you want to play music from another streaming service you're forced to rely on standard-quality Bluetooth.

Check out the difference between Bluetooth, AptX and AirPlay

It's hard to fault Spotify's user interface. It's polished, clean and very easy to use.

Spotify

Image Credit: Spotify

Music quality

Spotify offers three tiers of streaming quality. On desktop you have a choice of either 160kbps or 320kbps, while on mobile Spotify offers a third lower option of 96kbps for those with slower internet connections.

For reference, a lossless music file taken from a CD has a bitrate of 1,411.2 kbps. In comparison even 320 kbps seems very low.

Spotify doesn't offer the highest resolution of music out there (that accolade goes to Tidal) but the compression it uses isn't exactly unlistenable, and when it comes to mobile many may prefer to opt for the lower file sizes to save on data.

Naturally sound quality is a very personal preference however, so it's up to you to decide whether to settle for Spotify's sound quality.

Curation

Spotify's curation biggest strength lies in Its 'Discover Weekly' feature, which looks at your existing music preferences and compiles a playlist of similar music which it then presents to you at the beginning of the week.

Discover Weekly might not hit 100% of the time, but the size of the playlist generated each week means there's normally at least one or two tracks worth listening to.

Spotify has also generated dozens of custom playlists, covering themes as diverse as music from specific decades, genre playlists, and playlists pulled from the soundtracks of various films.

But by far Spotify's biggest asset when it comes to curation is the sheer amount of people using the service, which has generated a large amount of data for Spotify to pull from. Visiting any artist's page can immediately show you the tracks they're most famous for, which is helpful when you're getting into a band for the first time.

This data also means that looking through a band's 'related artists' section normally throws up a good couple of selections of other bands to listen to.

It's a minor point but one that you miss quickly when you're on a streaming service with a smaller number of listeners. Top tracks aren't quite as accurate, and related artists are a little more hit and miss.

One to go with if...

You want maximum compatibility thanks to Spotify Connect, an easy-to-use interface thanks to its fantastic apps and web-based experience, as well as the personal playlists provided by Discover weekly.