Welcome to Part 2 of our Adventures in Streaming series. In Part 1, ListenUp Vice President and audiophile Phil Murray talked about his longtime love of vinyl and how he had nevertheless embraced the convenience — and, in some cases, quality — of streaming. Today we’ll be focusing on some of the popular streaming music services and what they have to offer.
Here’s a great overview from Consumer Reports, including pricing and pros and cons for the following services:
Amazon Music Unlimited & Prime Music
Google Play Music and YouTube Music
This article from PC Magazine expands the scope a bit to cover SiriusXM Internet Radio, Deezer and iHeartRadio, as well as those listed above. This chart from the PC Mag piece provides some useful info on the various services:
The number of songs available from each site sometimes fluctuates as contracts are signed with various artists and labels. The libraries for most of the music services discussed here are upwards of 30 million tracks.
As you can see from the chart above, the sound quality from the different sites is all over the map. The iHeart Radio comes in at an anemic 128KKpbs (Kilobits per second), substantially less than CD quality; Pandora streams at 192Kbps, and Google Play, Slacker and Spotify all come in at 320Kbps, which is still not even up to CD-quality. If you’re just streaming to small speakers for background music, these services will probably fill the bill, but if you a have a high-performance system you’ll probably want to step up to a service offering a higher bit rate.
TIDAL offers a Standard plan at 320kbps, and a HiFi plan with CD-quality lossless streaming. For home systems, TIDAL also has a large number of files in the hi-res MQA format, which allows for the highest quality streaming experience. Deezer also has Standard (328Kbps) and HiFi (CD quality) levels.
The new kid on the block
A new streaming service is also on its way. Here’s what our Phil Murray had to say about it in our latest Source Book:
“Qobuz, a music service capable of streaming millions of albums in hi-res audio, will soon be introduced in the U.S. (it’s a French company that’s previously just been available in Europe). Thanks to our friend David Solomon, who has worked with several ListenUp manufacturers and is now the lead evangelist for
Qobuz, I’ve been able to listen to a trial version. Simply put, Qobuz is amazing. I’m thrilled with the number of albums available in hi-res audio, and the sound quality is top notch. I’ve had no issues streaming hi-res files — no drop outs at all, just a seamless listening experience.
“Qobuz also has an easy-to-use GUI and a great smart phone App. And Qobuz actually includes album credits and even reviews and background information about the album! I can’t wait for the official introduction of Qobuz — it’s going to change a lot of audiophile perceptions about streaming music.”