Best Music Streaming Service of 2023

Today’s music streaming services offer a world of exploration and convenience, giving you access to your favorite artists easily and quickly. While some audiophiles may have scoffed at the quality of streamed music in the past, an increasing number of the best music streaming services include spatial Dolby Atmos audio and lossless for free. Besides that, there are numerous bonus features competing for your attention such as classical musickaraoke, podcasts and audiobooks.

Luckily, a lot of the services enable you to stream from multiple devices and offer music catalogs with around 100 million tracks. When weighing your options, the main thing to consider is your monthly cost. Until recently, prices were stable at around $10 a month, but Apple MusicAmazon Music Unlimited, YouTube Music and now Spotify have experienced rate hikes. 

spotify app on a phone and a pair of headphones against a striped green background

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So many streaming services, so little time to do all the legwork to find the best one. I’ve checked out the big names, including Spotify, Apple MusicAmazon Music and YouTube Music, as well as smaller ones such as Tidal, Qobuz, Deezer and Pandora Premium, to see how each platform stacks up for your subscription dollar. It’s worth noting that, in this roundup, I’ve purposely left out services that can only play music in a radio format (such as basic Pandora and UnRadio) and that don’t allow you to select your own songs. 

So which music streaming services offer the best combination of price, sound quality and library size? Read on for an in-depth look at each of the services and a feature comparison, along with a full price breakdown in the chart at the bottom of the page. 

And if you want the TL;DR, these are the top three.

Read more: Apple Music vs. Spotify: Comparing the Top Music Streaming Services


Angela Lang/CNET

Spotify is a pioneer in music streaming and is arguably the best-known service. It offers a number of curated music discovery services, including its Discover Weekly playlist, and is constantly implementing new ones, such as Stations and an AI DJ. The service has also ramped up its nonmusic content with a push toward podcasts, which indirectly led to folk-rock icon Neil Young removing his music from the service.

AirPods pro Apple Music

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Despite a small price increase in 2022, Apple Music is still able to offer a lot for the money, including 100 million tracks and boasting both iOS and Android compatibility. The service runs second to Spotify in terms of subscribers, but surpasses its rival in one key respect. Yes, it has hi-res lossless, spatial audio albums, plus a new classical music app at no extra charge.


Qobuz/Screenshot by Ty Pendlebury/CNET

Qobuz is able to offer hi-res audio streams, but unlike main rival Tidal you don’t need a hardware MQA decoder to listen to them. These songs can sound great on an Android phone or a high-end music system, so it’s much more flexible. Qobuz may not offer Dolby Atmos music, but the selection of ‘immersive’ songs on other services isn’t that impressive anyway.

Top services compared

Amazon Music Unlimited Apple Music Qobuz Spotify Tidal YouTube Music
Monthly fee Prime members: $9, £9, $12 Non-Prime members: $11, £11, AU$12; Echo-only service: Free, AU$6 $11, £11, AU$13; Voice $5, £5, AU$6 Studio: $13, £13, AU$20; Sublime (per year): $180, £180, AU$250  $11, £10, AU$12 HiFi: $10, £10, AU$12; HiFi Plus: $20, £20, AU$24 $14, £12, AU$12
Free option? Yes, with ads No No Yes, with ads Yes Yes, with ads
Free trial period 30 days 30 days to 3 months 30 days 30 days 3 months 30 days
Music library size 100 million Over 100 million Over 100 million Over 100 million Over 100 million Over 60 million
Maximum bit rate 256Kbps, 3,730Kbps (HD) 256Kbps, 1,152 Kbps (HD estimated) 6,971Kbps 320Kbps 1,411Kbps 256Kbps
Family plan? Yes, $17, £17, AU$19 for max 6 Yes, $15, £15, AU$18 for max 6 Yes, $22, £22, AU$30 Yes $17 per month, max 6 Yes, HiFi: $15, £15, AU$18 HiFi Plus: $20, £20, AU$24 max 6 Yes, $17, £15, AU$18 per month for max 6
Student discount Yes Yes, Price varies by country No Yes, $6, £5 with Hulu and Showtime Student HiFi: $5, Student HiFi plus: $10 (US only) Yes, $5
US military discount No No No No Yes No
Offline listening Mobile and desktop Mobile and desktop Mobile and desktop Mobile and desktop Mobile Premium, mobile only
Radio stations Yes Yes No Yes No Yes
Podcasts Yes No No Yes Yes Yes
Music videos No Yes No Yes Yes Yes
Music locker functionality No Yes No No No Yes

Also worth considering


Sarah Tew/CNET

Now partly owned by Jack Dorsey’s Block, Tidal has introduced some important changes recently: namely that it now has a free tier called, naturally, Tidal Free. The company also offers the $10 Tidal HiFi plan, which includes lossless playback, and the premium $20 Tidal HiFi Plus tier. It’s worth noting that all of the current hi-res catalog is in the proprietary MQA format, but according to CEO Jesse Dorogusker the service will soon offer hi-res FLAC as well.


Screenshot by Ty Pendlebury/CNET

Amazon Prime Music comes “free” as part of a Prime membership, but users can choose to upgrade to Music Unlimited. At $9 for Prime members, or $11 if you don’t have Prime, Unlimited offers an expanded catalog as well as over 1,000 “spatial” remixes. These 360 audio mixes can be played on Dolby Atmos soundbars, Android or iOS devices and the Amazon Echo Studio. In terms of usability, the Music Unlimited interface is also more powerful than before with playlists, genres and podcasts all accessible from the main page.

We also tested


YouTube/Screenshot by Ty Pendlebury/CNET
  • YouTube Music: YouTube Music is the successor to Google Play Music, and if you sign up for the ad-free YouTube Premium at $14 per month, you get YouTube Music for free. The good news is that YouTube Music is a mostly impressive service (the lower bit-rate of 256Kbps is mildly annoying), but Google has retained the predecessor’s music locker system enabling users to upload new tracks. In even better news, YouTube Music offers a clean interface plus over 60 million tracks to choose from. Instead of playlists, YouTube Music offers well-curated radio stations that play endlessly and are updated often. The added ability to make playlists out of YouTube music clips also makes it a worthy option. See it at YouTube Music.
  • Deezer: French stalwart Deezer has been operating in the States since 2016, and it has a lot to offer, including a free tier (mobile only) and 90 million tracks. It has more subscribers than some others on this list, thanks in part to its previous affiliation with Cricket Wireless. The main Premium plan is $10 a month, but users are also able to upgrade to a lossless version (CD quality) for $15 a month. Deezer also offers a couple of unique features including being the first service enabling users to upload their catalogs from competitors at no extra charge. See it at Deezer.
  • Pandora Premium: Still one of the most popular streaming radio services in the US, Pandora also offers the a la carte Premium ($10 a month) and no-ads Plus ($5 a month). The result is more flexibility than most competitors, and Premium has gained plenty more subscribers in recent years, even if the service is not keeping up in terms of overall catalog size. Sadly, its audio quality is among the lowest available, even on the Premium subscription (192Kbps), and it doesn’t really offer enough of an incentive for an upgrade from its highly popular free tier. See it at Pandora.

Music streaming FAQs

How do you transfer your library between services?

Without contracts it’s pretty easy to cancel one service and start with another. That said, swapping between music services isn’t as straightforward as swapping between movie locker services using Movies Anywhere for example. If you don’t want to have to rebuild your playlists and library from scratch when you switch, you have two main options — a music locker service such as YouTube Music (but this implies you have a library of ripped or bought MP3s), or a library import tool such as Soundiiz. The latter is a service that lets you import the songs from each of your music services and transfer them, and while there’s a $4.50 monthly charge, you can always cancel once you’ve converted your library. Recently, Deezer has offered the ability for new users to convert their libraries from other services for free (via another service called Tune My Music). 

Do I need spatial or Atmos audio?

The short answer is “no” and the long answer is “sort of, maybe.” Stereo music has been around since the ’50s and its worldwide catalog simply crushes the handful of Atmos audio tracks by comparison. Apple may rave about how “magical” spatial music is, but unless you have an expensive Dolby Atmos system, you may not be able to hear the differences anyway.
In our own tests, we’ve found that a well-mixed Atmos track on a dedicated setup can be fun — it’s like a rollercoaster, it’s enjoyable but you wouldn’t want to use it as your sole form of transport. By comparison, using a pair of compatible AirPods we found the tracking to be laggy when attempting to move our heads around. On the other hand, spatial audio does make sense if you’re watching a movie because you’re not moving your head that much. The music industry tries unsuccessfully to push surround music every 20 years or so — Quadraphonic in the 1970s, DVD-Audio in the 2000s — but good old stereo will never go out of favor.

Which music streaming service has the biggest catalog?

At the time of writing, Apple Music and Amazon Music Unlimited have the largest catalogs with 100 million tracks each, followed by Spotify with 82 million. But that’s not the end of the story: The number of songs offered by a music service used to be the main differentiator, but as always, it’s quality over quantity that counts — and particularly if you’re looking for more obscure tracks. Depending on your favorite genre, some of the services may offer a better catalog for under-the-radar (Spotify), indie (Apple) or hip-hop artists (Tidal). Users who are less ambitious about expanding their musical taste should be satisfied with the catalogs that all the services offer. 

Which services include music lockers?

Amazon was one of the first services to offer uploading your MP3 collection into the cloud, but this was officially discontinued in 2018. Meanwhile, both the Apple and YouTube services allow you to combine your personal music collection with the streaming catalog, though tagging and organization can be a time-consuming challenge (your myriad live Phish tracks won’t organize themselves). Still, if you’ve invested money in digital music over the years, those two services offer a patch to continue enjoying that music online.