Stream Music Throughout Your House
Which Music Streaming Service is The Best For You?
Our music consumption habits have always changed with technology. The venerable vinyl record is still with us, and is, in fact, enjoying a nostalgic resurgence. Vinyl gave way to the convenience and resilience of digital CDs, and they are still with us too. Today, the most convenient way of accessing a vast library of music and listening to it anywhere – in our cars, our portable devices, and our homes – is music streaming over the Internet.
The old Apple iPod slogan of 30,000 songs in your pocket has given way to 40 million songs in the cloud that you can hear anytime, anywhere - as long as you have an Internet connection. As we know, several popular music services that offer the capability of hearing your favorite tunes on demand. But are they all just different peas in the same pod?
The short answer is yes, and no. If you are looking to invest in a whole-house music system in Portland, you might want to know a little more detail about the most popular streaming services. While all of them can be easily used in your system, the more you use and customize a particular service the more useful it will be to you.
With that in mind, let’s do a brief roundup of five of the most popular services and some of their features and wrinkles.
Pandora is the pioneer in music streaming, launching as a website in 2005. It is straightforward to use, requiring only an artist name or album to create a custom radio station that provides hours of music listening. Signaling thumbs up or down on tracks and skipping helps the service customize the station and learn more about your musical tastes. Pandora is still free if you don’t mind listening to ads, and there are quite a few of them in the free tier. Pandora has two paid tiers; Plus and Premium. Plus removes ads, allows unlimited skips, and increases the streaming bitrate for better sound quality. Premium is their answer to services like Spotify, building on the features of Plus with a more extensive music library, offline capability, custom playlists, and the ability to listen to any song or album on demand. Pandora’s strengths are its simplicity, usability with a wide variety of devices, and integration into systems from our partners such as Integra and Control4, making it easy to use in a whole house system.
Spotify is the biggest music streaming service in the world with the most subscribers. While it can also be enjoyed for free with ads, it has the most paying members as well. Paying for the service removes ads, unlocks premium features, and allows for the highest tier of streaming quality. Spotify boasts a broad and deep music library and feature set. It has most music that you’d want to listen to, excellent music discovery and recommendation, good audio quality, and compatibility with many devices, whole house systems, and audio components. If there’s a downside, it may be that it’s a bit more complicated for the casual user, and takes more work to get it optimized for your tastes.
Apple Music recently passed the 40 million subscriber mark and continues to grow quickly. The service is unabashedly geared to Apple users, and if you are all in on Apple devices, like iPads, iPhones, Apple Watch, and Macintosh computers, it might be the best choice for you. It matches Spotify with the size of the library and many other features and sometimes has exclusive music releases. It also has live DJ radio (Beats1) and works from all Apple devices including the latest Apple TV. One of its main advantages is its deep integration with Apple products like the standard music app on iPhones and iPads, and of course the ubiquitous iTunes on a computer. Being an Apple product, it is not natively integrated into many other systems; however, Apple’s Airplay and Airplay2 technologies are licensed to audio companies and device makers, which is a wireless method of taking music from any app on Apple devices into audio systems. If you’re an Apple fan, it may be the right service for you, and we can integrate it into a whole home system that works for you.
Amazon Music is a great service for people that subscribe to Amazon Prime shopping. For members, the base level of the service is free. While it is not as extensive in features and library size as Spotify or Apple Music, it provides a Pandora-like simplicity with good quality streams without ads. A step up to Amazon Music Unlimited increases the library to the levels of Spotify and Apple and adds similar features. One of the best advantages of Amazon Music is its native integration with Alexa. You could tell Alexa to “play Ed Sheeran,” and Alexa will immediately start playing his music. We could show you how to integrate Alexa with your whole house music system to enable easy voice control. Alexa voice control also can work with Spotify.
Tidal’s claim to fame is a higher quality of streaming – lossless. All streaming services currently compress music to some extent to save on bandwidth costs. Depending on the bitrate of the stream and the format the service uses, you might hear the differences. Tidal streams at uncompressed CD quality, and over the right equipment, you really can hear the difference. The library is about as extensive as those from Apple and Spotify, but the music discovery and recommendation is not yet on par with the leaders like Spotify. Tidal is also more expensive than the others due to the lossless streaming, but if audio quality is your most important criteria, it could be the best choice for you. Another plus is that Tidal continues to gain traction and is integrated into a variety of audio components and whole-home systems.
While there are choices, the good news is you don’t have to pick just one - you can use multiple services if you want. And we at Room Service can show you how to integrate your choices seamlessly into a whole-house music system that works for you in Portland – even outdoors. To learn more, give us a call or fill out our contact form for a no-obligation consultation with our home audio experts.