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What's the Best Music Streaming Service?

The days of owning physical media are slowly fading away. It started with streaming a limited number of movies on Netflix or purchasing a new release from iTunes® service, but slowly more and more services have popped up offering a wide range of digital media that we can enjoy whenever we want and wherever we want. Carrying a CD around to listen to your favorite tunes simply doesn’t make sense anymore.

But, with so many options out there, how do you know that you’re picking the right one for your lifestyle and budget?


Spotify first launched in 2009 but didn’t pick up momentum until 2011. Spotify’s library of music is pretty large and includes major recording artists from the past and present at roughly 30 million tracks available to stream. Spotify’s sound quality varies based on the track. The higher an audio file’s bitrate, the better it will sound. Spotify’s audio streams at 160 kb/s but you can turn the audio to stream at 320 kb/s if you feel that it improves the quality. With standard audio equipment, there really should be no reason that the audio doesn’t sound good. 

Spotify offers three pricing tiers to fit subscribers’ lifestyles and budgets including a free option that has a few limitations.

  • Spotify Free - Using Spotify’s free option means that you will experience ads every few songs and you will find that some songs are blocked. Users are also limited in their control over the content, meaning they can’t always skip a song they don’t want to hear or create an offline playlist.
  • Spotify Premium - The Premium option gives users full access to the catalog and control over their personal listening. With the Premium option, create unlimited playlists, listen without interruptions, and skip songs you aren’t enjoying. Spotify Premium subscribers get all of this for $10 a month.
  • Spotify Family - Spotify Family gives users everything that is available in the Premium account but for up to 5 subscribers for one low payment. Each subscriber will have their own Spotify account that is separate from the other members of the plan. The Spotify Family plan is $14.99 a month.

Apple Music®

Apple Music debuted in 2015 and has seen incredible growth since. Unlike Spotify, Apple Music doesn’t offer a free tier. Instead, it offers a three-month trial membership to new members to test the platform out before paying. Apple Music and Spotify both have a large catalog of music but some artists are more inclined to stream their music on Apple than Spotify (ahem, Taylor Swift).

Apple Music currently streams at 256 kb/s with plans to launch a high-quality streaming service soon. Similar to Spotify, with standard audio equipment, even the most trained ears won’t be able to tell the difference.

Apple Music offers three pricing tiers.

  • Regular Plan - At $9.99 a month, this plan offers everything that Spotify’s Premium plan does - unlimited playlists, ad-free listening, and access to curated playlists.
  • Family Plan - The Apple Music family plan is the same price as Spotify’s family plan ($14.99) but allows up to 6 people to be under the plan.
  • Student - Apple Music offers a discount for students (it’s validated, so you can’t try and trick them) and it only lasts for 48 months; at that point, you are enrolled in the regular plan. Student plans are $4.99 a month.

Google Play Music®

Google Play Music was first announced and launched in 2011 after a six-month, invitation-only beta. Google Play Music is similar to Apple Music and Spotify, the catalog is large and a mix of old and new tunes. The price is competitive and the audio is of good quality.

Unlike Apple Music and Spotify, Google Play Music only offers two pricing tiers for their users to select from. When you sign up for Google Play Music, you also get access to YouTube Red®, where you can stream high-res videos without ads.

  • Free - Google Play Music’s free subscription is similar to Spotify’s in that all users will be limited on how they engage with their platform - blocked songs, ads, and limits on the ability to skip tracks.
  • Paid - Google Play Music’s paid option features ad-free listening, unlimited playlists, access to YouTube Red. Google Play Music’s paid option is $9.99 a month.

The Verdict?

It is hard to come to a final choice as the stand out platform here. These three services are all relatively the same and around the same price point so coming out with a clear winner, is not possible. Each platform offers quality sound, a large catalog of music in various categories, curated playlists to introduce you to new music, and pricing options to fit your budget. If you’re a family that has multiple users, it makes sense to go with Spotify or Apple Music’s family plans.

Spotify’s interface is easy to use and while their catalog is large it lacks the support of some big stars. Apple Music may have Taylor Swift but it lacks a free option so no matter what, you are giving up at least some money to use their service. Google Play Music may have a free option but it doesn’t offer the flexibility of a family plan.

In the end, we must say that there is no wrong answer here. Consider your budget, your needs, and how you intend to use the platform to find the one that works for you. No matter which one you choose, you will be satisfied with your choice and will hopefully be listening to good music as you drive, workout and relax.

Should you experience any trouble with using these services on your Apple® devices, don’t hesitate to visit your local Experimac store to have your tech checked out by our highly-trained staff. At Experimac, you will never need an appointment and you will always experience the best customer service in the industry.