A woman on a sofa wearing headphones to listen to music streaming.
Photo: Richard Drury/Getty Images

The best music streaming services have a lot in common. Most offer about 70 million songs for around $10 per month. But some services try to appeal to people with specific interests, and the companies continually roll out new features in a fight for consumers’ attention. 

In fact, the music streaming services detailed below provide a great example of how competition is good for consumers. Apple recently announced its entire library would soon be available for streaming in lossless high fidelity. Just one day later, Amazon made its hi-fi streaming service a free benefit of its basic tier, and Spotify had already announced that lossless streaming would arrive by the end of the year. 

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On the other hand, regular streaming quality will probably satisfy most listeners. You need great equipment to hear the differences between high-quality audio and totally uncompressed lossless files. Additionally, those files are bigger, and they can eat up your cellphone data.  

Meanwhile, older players such as SiriusXM have revamped their services, and our list includes two platforms for fans of classical music. Most music streaming services offer an unpaid trial period. Many also offer a free tier; check out Consumer Reports’ guide to free music streaming for details.

Here, we’ve laid out what sets each streaming service apart. Scroll through, or click the links below to jump to the details on a particular service.

Amazon Music Unlimited & Prime Music

Price: Prime Music is included with Amazon Prime, Amazon’s paid subscription service that costs $13 per month or $119 per year. It has a library of 2 million songs.

Amazon Music Unlimited costs $8 per month for Prime members, $10 per month for non-Prime members. There’s a free three-month trial and a discounted family plan. You can also get a special rate of $4 per month if you sign up for the Single Device Plan via an eligible Amazon Echo device.

You can also access free, ad-supported playlists and stations by asking an Alexa smart assistant to play music.

Who it’s best for: Amazon Prime members, and anyone looking for a bargain.

Pros: Both are ad-free, on-demand services, and if you already have a Prime subscription, Amazon Music Unlimited is the best deal you can get. Unlimited has over 75 million songs, curated playlists, podcasts, and personalized stations. That entire library can now be streamed in lossless high-definition, and 7 million tracks are available in 24-bit “Ultra HD.” That makes it the cheapest high-definition service right now, with or without a Prime account.

Cons: Amazon Music Unlimited doesn’t seem quite as effective in making recommendations as many of its competitors, Spotify in particular. And while you don’t have to pay for Prime Music, its 2 million songs amount to a thin selection compared with what you get from other streaming services.

Apple Music

Price: Individuals pay $10 per month; the service costs $15 for up to six family members. Apple Music also has a discounted rate of $5 for students. There is no free tier, but you can get a three-month free trial. 

Who it’s best for: Consumers who already have large iTunes libraries or who are otherwise committed to the Apple ecosystem.

Pros: Apple Music has a library of 75 million songs that can be accessed on Apple, Windows, and Android devices. Human curators create a variety of themed playlists that help users discover new music. It also has a novel feature that lets you search for songs using lyrics.

Apple says you’ll be able to stream the entire library in lossless high-definition by the end of the year, while 20 million songs are available in high-def for now. Some content also works with Dolby Atmos surround sound if you have a compatible device.

Cons: The desktop app for Windows computers is a little clunky. However, you can now listen to Apple Music in a browser for a more streamlined experience.

If you have a Google Home smart speaker, you won’t be able to listen to Apple Music directly from the device. However, you can set up Apple Music on a smartphone or computer and stream music to the speaker over Bluetooth.


Price: Idagio is a classical music streaming service that costs $10 per month. There’s a free two-week trial period so that you can try the service before you commit. Students can get 50 percent off, and Idagio also has a free ad-supported tier.

For $30 per month, you get access to Idagio’s exclusive online concerts, which sometimes feature leading performers.

Both paid tiers let you stream music in lossless high definition.

Who it’s best for: Like Primephonic, described below, Idagio is meant for fans of classical music.

Pros: Idagio is designed to suit the idiosyncrasies of the genre. It can be hard to find your favorite recording of a beloved Rachmaninov concerto on more mainstream services, even though they might work perfectly well for tracking down that fifth official remix of “Old Town Road.” On Idagio, the search tools handle the naming conventions of classical tracks with ease.

Idagio also has a number of browsing tools, such as curated playlists and the option to sort by various instruments. Idagio lets you choose to stream high-quality audio files at no extra charge.

Cons: Idagio doesn’t have music that falls outside the realm of classical music, so you’re out of luck if you like a little Springsteen with your Stravinsky.


Price: Streaming radio is free with ads or $4 per month without ads. For $10, you also get access to an on-demand music library. There’s a student discount but no trial period for the paid service.

Who it’s best for: LiveXLive—formerly known as Slacker Radio—is similar to Pandora, and best for people who prefer a more laid-back listening experience and aren’t picky about exactly which song comes next. The service also focuses on streaming live performances, so subscribers may get access to streams from concerts where the service is a partner.

Pros: Access to a variety of stations, including ABC News and ESPN Radio, in addition to the usual music genres.

Cons: LiveXLive is geared toward listening to stations, not streaming tracks on demand. The app is a bit difficult to navigate, and the website can be a challenge as well.


Price: The streaming radio feature is free with ads. For $5 per month, you listen to streaming radio without ads, or specific songs with ads. The $10-per-month tier gets you access to the entire service ad-free. A $15 family plan is also available. Pandora offers free trial periods for the paid plans, and discounts for students and members of the military.

Who it’s best for: Paid subscribers can stream specific tracks, as they can on any other service, but Pandora works best for those who want tailored recommendations and the kind of hands-off listening experience you get with a live radio station. You don’t need to scroll through lists of songs or do a lot of searches—you just sit back and listen to what the service picks for you.

Pros: It’s easy to get started. Tell Pandora which artist you want to hear and it creates a channel with selections from that artist and others with similar styles; you can tweak the channel to match your tastes. Apps are available for most major platforms, including web browsers, Android and iOS smartphones, and most smart speakers.

Cons: Pandora’s maximum audio quality isn’t as high as that of some of its competitors.


Price: Primephonic, a classical music service, charges two different rates depending on audio quality: $10 per month for compressed files (320-Kbps MP3s) or $15 per month for higher-quality files (lossless 24-bit FLACs). The service offers a free 14-day trial and discounts if you pay for a whole year.

Who it’s best for: Classical music die-hards. Like Idagio, listed above, Primephonic makes it easy to dig up your favorite classical tracks, whether you want to search by composer, performers, or other factors, such as recording date. Services such as Apple Music and Spotify have plenty of classical music, but it’s much harder to find and organize specific recordings.

Pros: Primephonic is simple and intuitive. New albums are added frequently, and there’s a variety of playlists, some curated by well-known artists. Primephonic puts a particular focus on new releases and more obscure artists and labels, which is a nice bonus for listeners who are always hunting for something new. The optional high-quality streaming package will be attractive to many users as well.

Cons: Primephonic won’t work as your only source for music if you want anything other than classical. The service has apps for mobile devices, but there’s no desktop app, so you’ll need to open a web browser to listen on a computer. And audiophiles may be put off by the extra money required to access Primephonic’s lossless audio streaming when its chief competitor, Idagio, doesn’t charge for it. The sound quality of the basic package should be more than enough for most users, however.

SiriusXM Select and SiriusXM Premier

Price: SiriusXM is best known for its satellite radio service for cars, but it also has cheaper packages that let users listen through an app or a web browser.

The packages SiriusXM offers change frequently. The Select package costs $10 per month and gives you access to up to 50 channels of your choosing, including comedy, sports, talk radio, on-demand shows, and commercial-free music with skippable tracks. For $13 per month, you can upgrade to the Premier package, which gets you hundreds more channels and access to two Howard Stern channels.

There are free trials, discounted rates for the first year, and family plans.

Who it’s best for: Consumers who like terrestrial radio stations but want more options and a commercial-free experience with the option of skipping tracks. SiriusXM is also the only game in town for Howard Stern fans.

Pros: SiriusXM has a wide variety of options that will probably be a significant upgrade over your local radio stations. And if you have good cell service on your commute, plus an unlimited data plan, you could stream to your car stereo from your phone. You’ll get cheaper access to the same content offered in the company’s satellite radio packages.  

Cons: You have to call customer service to end your subscription, which was a convoluted, time-consuming process when we tried it. Choosing a package is also surprisingly complicated. When you factor in the satellite radio tiers, new users need to pick from numerous subscription choices with a confusing variety of offerings, optional add-ons, and hidden fees. The SiriusXM app and web interface can also be more difficult to navigate than those of most competitors.


Price: Users can stream music free with ads via desktop and web apps. The Premium tier, which costs $10 per month for individuals or $15 for up to six family members, grants ad-free on-demand access to Spotify’s library of 70 million tracks and 2.6 million podcasts. Students pay a discounted rate of $5 and get free access to Hulu (with commercials) and Showtime. A 30-day trial period is available.

Who it’s best for: Consumers who want to hear plenty of music on a variety of devices. The free tier is also one of the better options for users who don’t mind ads and want to listen to songs on demand. Spotify is also famous for its effective recommendation algorithm.

Spotify has doubled down on podcasts as well. The service is host to a variety of exclusive content, including shows from the likes of Barack Obama and Joe Rogan.

Pros: Spotify combines a large library of popular songs with a series of robust playlists. These playlists are often geared toward specific activities and genres, helping consumers find music for specific situations, such as the gym or long car trips. Podcasts and other original programming are also available. If you’re a student who also wants a TV streaming service, bundling with Hulu could save you money as well.

Spotify works with a variety of connected devices, including the Sonos One and Google Home Max smart speakers, as well as the Sony PlayStation 4 game console. Desktop apps are available for macOS and Windows, and mobile apps are available for Android and iOS.

Cons: On a smartphone, users can stream playlists and stations free with ads, but on-demand song selection is limited to a small selection of tracks. You can’t connect Spotify directly from the Apple HomePod, though you can connect your phone to the smart speaker over Bluetooth and play Spotify that way.

For now, Spotify doesn’t have an option for lossless streaming, but the company says high-quality audio is coming “later this year.”


Price: Tidal has many tiers. It starts at $10 per month for standard audio quality; $20 per month unlocks high-resolution audio. Discounted plans for families, students, and members of the military are available. The service offers a free one-month trial.

Who it’s best for: Music lovers who want high-quality audio (including high-res audio) and offline listening. The service is also great for hip-hop and R&B fans; its offerings are particularly comprehensive, including some exclusive material.

Pros: Tidal offers CD-quality and high-res audio (via HiFi, its top-tier service). Tidal’s library features 70 million songs and hundreds of thousands of videos.

Cons: $20 per month is steep, especially when lossless streaming doesn’t cost extra with the Amazon and Apple services. You also might not be able to hear the difference with the high-quality files if you don’t have excellent audio equipment. And even if you feel high-quality audio files are worth the price of admission, they can use up small cellular data plans pretty quickly.

YouTube Music

Price: YouTube Music is free with ads. YouTube Music Premium, which is ad-free, costs $10 per month, or $15 per month for families. A free three-month trial is available. Discounts are available for students. People with a Google smart speaker can access free ad-supported playlists and stations without signing up by asking their device to play music.

Adding some potential confusion, there’s a separate service called YouTube Premium, which costs $12 per month. It includes the same music streaming service plus ad-free videos and some original video content.

Who it’s best for: First and foremost, people with a large collection of their own audio files. YouTube Music is also a good option for heavy Google users and those who spend a lot of time listening to music or watching videos on YouTube. YouTube Music is also one of the few free options for listening to songs on demand.

Pros: What sets YouTube Music apart is the ability to upload up to 100,000 of your own audio files to stream from the cloud. You don’t have to pay anything to use this feature.

YouTube Music Premium gives you access to a library of 70 million songs, personalized playlists, and music videos. Location-based playlists will even suggest songs—think high-tempo music at the gym—at appropriate times.

Cons: On the free tier of YouTube Music, you can’t lock your phone screen or switch over to another app or the music stops— unless you’re listening to music you uploaded yourself. YouTube Music and YouTube Premium are also accessed via separate apps, which could be cumbersome for some users.

How to Listen

Whichever service you choose, you’ll have a better time with your music if you play it on equipment that sounds great. Here are a few of the best-rated headphones and speakers from CR’s ratings.

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1MORE E1001 Triple Driver

Price: $70

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Jabra Move Style Edition

Price: $70

Sound quality
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Edifier S1000DB

Price: $350

Sound quality
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JBL Flip 4

Price: $80

Sound quality
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