Find an alternative to Spotify, Apple Music and Tidal. Enjoy lossless hi-fi streaming, immersive 3D audio, podcasts and more with these overlooked apps.
Looking for an alternative streaming app outside of the “Big Three?”
Spotify, Apple Music and Tidal are streaming services, as indicated by their current popularity, but the future of streaming audio is anything but certain. Each has its pros and cons. Details like lossless vs lossy audio quality, podcast availability, editorial playlists, personalized recommendations and exclusive content offerings make each worthy of your streaming dollar. But if you’re, say, an audiophile and a podcast lover, finding the content you want to hear (and in the fidelity at which you want to hear it) often means subscribing to several apps. Until now.
Though overlooked, these streaming services—Deezer, Qobuz and Amazon Music—offer unrivaled quality when it comes to features like lossless FLAC streaming, 24-bit downloads, exclusive album reviews, higher artist royalty payments and a lot more.
Keep reading to discover your next favorite streaming service.
Deezer—An Alternative to Spotify Hi-Fi?
Spotify users impatiently waiting for the announced (but still unreleased) “HiFi” tier might consider switching to Deezer. For $14.99 per month, Deezer HiFi includes more than 36 million songs in lossless 16-Bit/44.1 kHz FLAC—compared to the zero lossless tracks currently available on Spotify.
Deezer’s bright and cheerful user interface might upset eyes that are accustomed to browsing in “dark mode,” but it really is quite helpful for discovering new music once you adjust. Functionality-wise, Deezer and Spotify are similar with only a few key differences.
Taking the place of Spotify’s “Discover Weekly'' playlists is “Flow,” Deezer’s never-ending DJ mix that adapts to your listening preferences in real time. Both services also offer a selection of curated playlists, as well as the ability to create your own. However, some Deezer users have reported that adding certain songs to playlists crashes the app. Not to worry, though, as the issue is isolated to specific users and Deezer offers a free 30-day trial to try playlisting for yourself.
And then there are artist royalties. On March 15, 2021, artists and other music industry workers staged protests in 31 cities to demonstrate against, among other grievances, Spotify’s royalty payout of $0.0038 per stream, an amount requiring artists to accrue over 650,000 streams per band member per month to earn the equivalent of $15/hour. At $0.0057 per stream, Deezer doesn’t meet artists’ demands of a penny per stream, but it does offer the highest royalty rate of any streaming service.
Qobuz—All Lossless Audio, All the Time
Get those oscilloscopes ready. For audiophiles who simply can’t abide lo-res streaming, Qobuz offers a library of over 80 million songs with a minimum fidelity of 16-bit/44.1 kHz lossless. That’s in addition to a select library of hi-res 24-bit/192 kHz tracks available for streaming or download in your choice of lossless format(s)—WAV, AIFF, ALAC and FLAC.
Though the sound quality is impeccable, Qobuz’s lossless-only policy has a few minor drawbacks. First, lossless audio files are huge. Users can download files to listen offline, but listeners with extensive collections can expect to dedicate several gigabytes to music storage. Hey, it’s still easier to carry than vinyl. Also, streaming lossless audio without unlimited data can rack up a whopper of a phone bill, so if you plan to listen on the move, consider upgrading your phone plan. That said, listening on Wi-Fi solves all of these problems.
If you know what you like and want a streaming app to leave you alone with your music, Qoboz is for you. Where other apps will distract you with podcast ads, the Qobuz user interface is all about the music. It includes standard search features by Artist, Track, Release, etc., plus news and album reviews, interviews, audiophile equipment resources, exclusive longform music journalism and more.
Amazon Music HD—Prime FLACs and Podcasts To-Go
You really can have it all. Fans of both kinds of streaming audio—music and podcasts—can enjoy their favorite podcasts and lossless music (plus free shipping for Prime members) with Amazon Music HD. If you’re a “True Crime” and “Top Albums” kind of listener with a preference for high fidelity, Amazon’s streaming platform has over 75 million songs and an extensive podcast library waiting for you to press play.
As a bonus, owners of Amazon’s Echo Studio smartspeaker can experience immersive, room-filling 3D audio with a selection of Dolby Atmos and Sony 360 Reality Audio tracks. Just ask Alexa.
Instead of being limited to a specific number of channels, like stereo or 5.1 surround sound, 3D audio enables artists and producers to work with realistic audio objects that can move freely in any direction. Instruments and studio effects like reverb can now envelop the listener from above, below and all around to create the most immersive listening experience outside of live music. But Amazon unfortunately restricts 3D audio access to Echo Studio owners only, turning a potential selling point into just a cool perk for smartspeaker owners. Listeners wanting to experience spatial audio without hardware restrictions should consider another service, like Tidal or Apple Music.
Although Amazon’s spatial audio hardware exclusivity is a bummer, the combination of streaming FLAC audio and podcasts (including Amazon exclusives) makes the online shopping monolith’s app a worthy alternative to the elusive Spotify HiFi.
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