Most of us now stream our music, from Spotify, Apple Music, Deezer, Tidal, or something else entirely, and the reasons are obvious: you pay one subscription and get to listen to almost any song out there.

Still, there are lots of music streaming services out there and though they may seem similar, they're not all created equal. Some offer discounted family plans, some deliver high-quality lossless audio, some offer Hi-Res, some throw in podcasts, some include music videos, and some even let you upload your own music files to keep in the same library.

So, to help you make the right decision we’ve put together this handy guide which explains what they have to offer and how they compare.

These are the best music streaming services of 2021:


Spotify Premium

  • Huge selection of music
  • Shareable Playlists
  • Podcasts 
  • Up to 320kbps 

Spotify has become synonymous with music streaming, as the company has gone from strength to strength over the past few years and established itself as the world’s most popular service, boasting over 350 million active users.

This popularity is aided by the various tiers on offer. There’s a free version that’s ad-supported, but which still gives you access to the 70-odd million songs on the platform. If you want offline listening on your phone then the Premium subscription is the way to go, while students benefit from their own tier that offers Premium at half price.

As is now the norm, a family subscription is available which consists of six premium accounts, while Duo covers a couple. Various Premium plans recently got a price hike.

Here's the full range:

  • Free (ad-supported)
  • Student Premium: £5.99 / $4.99
  • Premium: £9.99 / $9.99
  • Duo: £12.99/$12.99
  • Family: £14.99 / $15.99
  • Lossless: Spotify HiFi coming 2021

As we’ve already mentioned, there’s a huge selection of music available, and this is accompanied by playlists Spotify creates based on your listening habits, called Discover Weekly. There’s also Release Radar and Time Capsule that highlight new and classic tracks that the service thinks you’ll enjoy, plus radio stations built around certain songs and artists.

There's also plenty of podcasts to choose from, and there are also a splattering of music documentaries and live performance videos. Add to this the social element that allows you to share directly playlists with friends, while also being able to see what they’re currently listening to, and it’s a potent mix for discovering and enjoying new music.

Get Spotify

Apple Music

Apple Music

  • Exclusive albums
  • iTunes library integration
  • Beats 1 radio
  • Up to Hi-Res quality

Apple may have entered the streaming market a bit later than some of its competitors, but that hasn’t stopped it recently taking the top slot in the US as the most used service. There’s an obvious link with iPhones, iPads, and Macs, but Apple Music is also available on Android and PCs, making it an option no matter which hardware you prefer.

A catalogue of over 50 million songs gives it an advantage over the likes of Spotify and Google Play Music in terms of choice, and just like those services Apple Music offers custom playlists each week created around the songs you listen to regularly. There are also playlists generated by the tracks your friends are enjoying, plus numerous top 100 charts from all around the world.

A number of exclusives are offered, such as live performances, special sessions, and interviews with popular and emerging artists. This is accompanied by the Beats 1 radio station that has live shows with DJs such as Zane Lowe, and a large selection of other stations that cover specific genres. Music videos are also available, so you can turn your iPad or iPhone into MTV, plus the service integrates your existing iTunes library into search results, so you can easily include them in playlists.

In terms of quality, Apple Music now offers lossless (CD quality) and Hi-Res quality streaming as standard, as well as Dolby Atmos. That's impressive but there are some caveats such as the fact many of its devices, even the AirPods Max, don't support listening in this quality.

Apple Music has come a long way in a short time, making it an excellent all-rounder for music, radio, and video content. Best of all there’s a free three-month trial so you can explore its features without spending any money.

The Voice plan is a new addition and only allows control using Siri. However, you still get access to the full library. Here are the paid options (monthly pricing):

  • Voice: £4.99 / $4.99
  • Student: £4.99 / $4.99
  • Individual: £9.99 / $9.99
  • Family: £14.99 / $14.99

Get Apple Music

Amazon Prime Music Unlimited

Amazon Prime Music Unlimited

  • 2 million songs free with Amazon Prime
  • Hands-free listening with Alexa-powered devices
  • Single device plan for Echo or Fire TV
  • Up to Hi-Res

If you are already an Amazon Prime member then you’ll have access to Amazon Prime Music as part of your subscription. This entitles you to a couple of million tracks that are ad-free and can be downloaded to your device for offline listening. Should this not be enough, then Prime Music Unlimited boosts this to over 70 million songs for an additional monthly fee.

Whichever Unlimited tier you choose, you’ll find the standard features of playlists, themed ‘radio stations’, recommendations based on your listening habits, and ad-free offline listening on your smartphone or tablet. Due to Amazon also making its own Alexa-powered devices, you have the ability to use the music service hands-free simply by asking Alexa to play certain albums, match your current mood, or find a song based on some lyrics you remember.

At the time of writing, Amazon Music Unlimited is available with a free three-month trial, so that will give you plenty of time to see if it’s the one for you. In addition, US users can also bag six months of Disney+ for free during Black Friday week. 

Amazon Music HD was previously the higher tier to get lossless (CD quality) streaming and even Hi-Res, which Amazon calls Ultra HD, although limited to 7 million songs at this level. However, along with Apple, this is now part of the Unlimited plans at no extra cost.

One unique tier on offer is for a Single Device. This is limited to the Amazon Echo and Fire TV family, but if you just want to listen to music at your work desk or home then it’s a nice addition for £3.99 / $3.99 per month. Here are other options for listening:

  • Amazon Prime Music included in the £7.99 / $7.99 Prime membership
  • Unlimited plans:
  • Single Device: £3.99 / $3.99 per month
  • Student: £4.99 / $4.99 per month
  • Individual: £7.99 / $7.99 per month (£9.99 / $9.99 for non-Prime members)
  • Family: £14.99 / $14.99 per month

Get Amazon Music Unlimited



  • 73+ million tracks
  • Flow
  • Lossless quality

French company Deezer has been around since 2007 and has grown itself into a service, going by all the figures provided, with the largest music catalogue in the business at over 73 million tracks. Alongside the copious albums, EPs, and singles, there is also a good selection of podcasts, live radio stations, and specially recorded Deezer Sessions by artists such as Jade Bird, Dua Lipa, and The Streets.

The Flow feature is a continuous shuffle mode with tracks chosen to match the tunes you listen to most, and Deezer states that the more you use the service the more it will learn how to hone the selections to your taste.

As you’d expect, there are the regular tiers of Free, Premium, Family, and Student. The Premium plan supplies the music at lossless CD-quality FLAC (16 bit/44.1kHz) so that you can play it through your desktop or sound-system and hear its full glory.

Then there’s the option to pay annually for Premium, reducing the cost by around £30/$30. Here are all the options:

  • Free (ad-supported)
  • Student (Premium): £4.99 / $4.99
  • Premium: £11.99 / $9.99
  • Family: £17.99 / $14.99
  • Annual Premium Plan: £107.91 / $99.90

Fitbit users, at least those with Ionic and Versa devices, will also be glad to hear that Deezer works on their trackers, making those long runs more enjoyable, and the service also has its own SongCatcher technology that works like Shazam to identify whatever tunes you’re hearing. The firm has also added offline listening on the Apple Watch, something Spotify users are still waiting for.

A free ad-supported, tier allows you to sample all that Deezer has to offer, and we think you’ll discover that it’s quite a lot.

Get Deezer

YouTube Music Premium

YouTube Music Premium

  • Wide range of music videos
  • Links to your YouTube library
  • Exclusive live performances
  • Up to 256kbps

Google’s newest platform is YouTube Music Premium, which combines a classic music streaming service with a large selection of music videos. There’s the expected range of playlists and new releases, plus the added features of being able to listen to YouTube in the background, no ads, and offline listening.

While you might expect something with YouTube in the title to be a video-only service, you’re able to turn off the visuals and revert all content to audio instead. This saves not only battery life and data on mobile devices, but also means you can put together an impressive collection of live, rare, and official versions of songs that you wouldn’t get on another platform.

A free tier allows you take access all content, but these are interrupted by ads, can’t be downloaded, and require your screen to be on to hear them. Moving up to the Premium level removes these restrictions, and there are the now-standard levels for students, individuals, and families. All of these come with a one-month free trial, so you can give the YouTube Music Premium a proper test run to see how it stacks up against the competition.

The downside is that streaming is limited to just 256kbps even if you get one of the paid tiers. This is one of the lowest around and not even MP3 quality.

These are the monthly plan costs:

  • Free
  • Student: £4.99 / $4.99
  • Individual: £9.99 / $9.99
  • Family: £14.99 / $14.99

Get YouTube Music Premium



  • 70 million tracks
  • Up to Hi-Res quality FLAC
  • Master Quality Authenticated
  • Dolby Atmos & Sony 360RA

Tidal has come a long way since its flashy celebrity-endorsed re-launch in March 2015. Gimmicks aside, the service has established itself as a solid option in the music streaming market and has a number of benefits.

A huge library of audio and videos aside, the lure of Tidal really comes when you look at the more premium tiers. The Standard memebrship provides the more savvy listener with lossless HiFi (high fidelity) quality sound starting with FLAC, a CD-quality streaming format.

It means lossless content that is uncompressed, unlike the inferior MP3. Meanwhile, the Hi-Fi Plus tier offers other benefits such as Sony 360 Reality Audio, Dolby Atmos Music, and the ability to see how your streaming has translated into revenue for an artist. 

Something which might seal the deal is Master Quality Authenticated audio which in Tidal's words "a way of compressing digital music without limitations to deliver guaranteed master-quality sound" allowing users to "hear music just as it was recorded in the studio."

Just note that this isn't available for the whole library and can be hard to find, but there are "millions of tracks across all genres" with more added weekly.

As well as the typical apps for Android and iOS, Tidal is supported on a huge range of audio products including Sonos, Naim, Denon, Devialet along with streaming devices such as Apple TV and even various cars.

Tidal also supports Dolby Atmos and Sony 360 Reality Audio. The main caveat here is that Qobuz (below) offers high-quality streaming for a lower price. That said, US subscribers can take advantage of a free tier. 

These are the subscription tiers and prices per month:

  • Free (ad-supported, up to 160 kbps, US only)
  • Premium: £9.99 / $9.99
  • HiFi: £19.99 / $19.99
  • Family Premium: £14.99 / $14.99
  • Family HiFi: £29.99 / $29.99
  • Student Premium: £4.99 / $4.99
  • Student HiFi: £9.99 / $9.99
  • Military/Community Heroes Premium: $5.99 (US only)
  • Military/Community Heroes HiFi: $11.99 (US only)

Get Tidal



  • Up to Hi-Res quality
  • Option to purchase albums
  • 70 million tracks, 424,000+ better than CD quality

Qobuz offers lossless music streaming, with a choice of two subscriptions. The Studio Premier plan includes all of its 70 million tracks in FLAC format (CD quality) as well as 424,000 albums in Hi-Res (better than CD quality). The other is called Sublime + and also includes discounts on album purchases if you wish to buy an album outright.

Unlike some other streaming services, for example, Tidal, Qobuz streams all their music in the FLAC open standard format, which is lossless and can be played on every audio capable device - be it a computer, mobile device and many hi-fi stereo systems - though you'll need compatible audio gear to make the most of the Hi-Res tracks.

The interface is clean, modern, and simple, and all high-resolution albums have a gold Hi-Res Audio logo next to them with the bitrate displayed. The Qobuz library does cater more towards jazz, world and classical music though, so may not suit every taste, and one omission is the lack of algorithm-driven radio stations or playlists.

Another standout feature is the buy option. Yes, Amazon does let you buy music - but only as a compressed MP3. Qobuz sells albums and tracks in CD and Hi-res quality. They're DRM-free and can be downloaded and played on any device, and you get to keep them forever, even if you stop using the service. Prices start from £7.99 for CD quality, and £11.99 and up for Hi-Res downloads - or less if you subscribe to the Sublime + plan.

There's a one-month free trial for Studio Premier, though no trial period for Sublime+.

  • Studio Premier: £12.99/$12.99 per month or £129.99/$129.99 per year
  • Sublime+: £15/$15 per month or £179.99/$179.99 per year

Get Qobuz

Written by Dominik Tomaszewski

What should I look for in a music streaming service?

It’s fair to say that there has been a fair amount of standardisation in the music streaming landscape over the past few years. When you sign up for one, you can expect a large range of music (both new and old), various playlists that gather together related songs, and recommendations based on your listening preferences.

Many services now include podcasts, and some even have videos too, with YouTube Music Premium being the most advanced in that particular area. 

If a service has a free tier, such as Spotify, Deezer, or Amazon Music, then these will usually be quite restrictive, with offline listening disabled, ads played between tracks, and, in some cases, a reduced selection of music. Most offer individual plans for around £10/$10 per month and Family plans that cost £15/$15. The latter can be particularly good value as it usually includes six individual premium accounts, albeit ones that need the members to live in the same household.

Some services, like Tidal and Qobuz, also offer higher quality audio files for audiophiles, with lossless tunes in CD quality or Hi-Res. This is great if you have the gear (and the know-how) to appreciate it, though most people will be happy enough with standard MP3 (320kbps).

There’s not really a ‘best’ service, as that particular accolade depends on what you like to listen to and how much you’ll use the additional features. But, with all of the ones listed featuring free trials of their Premium offerings, we recommend trying one after the other to see which one fits your lifestyle and music needs.

It's also worth checking out subscriptions during flash sales, such as Black Friday, as you may be able to bag a discount on an account. 

For other subscription-based entertainment, read our roundups of the best movie & TV streaming services and best game streaming services.