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Best Free Music Apps: Welcome to What Hi-Fi’s review of the best free music apps you can get in 2022.
The Best Music Apps For Android
Millions of songs in the palm of your hand, no storage hassles, and you don’t have to pay – that’s the promise of the best free music apps. The only tricky part is deciding which streaming service is most worth your time. But don’t worry, we’re here to help.
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Most of the major music streaming services have free tiers, except for Tidal (if you’re not lucky enough to live in the US), Qobuz and Apple Music, and free services essentially contain ads and have limited functionality and audio quality than their paid ones—for stablemates, they’re still pretty exciting.
Keep your ear to the ground, and you’ll often find deals for one, two, three, or six months of free (or nearly free) on some streaming service’s paid tiers to try out sonic goods before you buy.
We’ll always push you toward better quality streams (for which you’ll pay), but if you’re only an occasional listener, even free music streaming services make more sense than paying for something you won’t use.
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The well-known free streaming service is also one of the best — and certainly one of the friendliest. If you don’t want to pay you’ll have to put up with ads and you’ll also have to listen to a lot of playlists in shuffle mode, but there’s still a lot to like: good sound quality, almost 90 million songs, offline listening, bags of podcasts, new features coming every day, and it all works on almost any device. If you want free music streaming, Spotify may be your first port of call.
You may not know this, but if you have Amazon Prime (opens in a new tab) then you can access Amazon’s entry-level music streaming service. That’s right, as well as free one-day delivery and Amazon Prime Video, Amazon Prime entitles you to Amazon Prime Music, which gives you over 2 million songs to stream on-demand at no extra cost. And the best bit? They are ad-free.
As you’d expect, the selection is pretty mainstream and the sound quality won’t blow you away, but Prime customers can’t really complain. And if you’re not happy, you can always reach for Amazon Music Unlimited, which costs £9.99/$9.99 a month (or £7.99/$7.99 with Prime) and now includes HD (opens in a new tab), its hi-res tier, for free!
Deezer’s free tier means you have to experience ads and the track quality is only 128kbps. The mobile app for this range is also a little limited, but not as much as its rivals. However, when it comes to what to listen to, there’s a mass of choice (an impressive 90m-strong catalog) and the layout is easy to navigate. There are also plenty of podcasts and other non-musical content to get your ears around. A great choice for anyone looking beyond just music. If you sign-up for the full service, you can also enjoy CD-quality (though not hi-res) audio.
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YouTube is not just for videos. Launched back in 2015, YouTube Music is the latest addition to Spotify et al. And, like Spotify, it offers a free tier. Sure, there are ads as you’d expect, but not as many as you’d fear.
Extras like downloading for offline listening are pay-only, so you’re limited to streaming the service, but there’s a substantial catalog to choose from, the layout is nice and clean, and its selection of music videos is, of course, unbeatable. Worth a listen.
It’s not a pure music streaming service – the focus is on radio stations, so consider addressing your music that way. It offers a range of stations such as some BBC Radio, NPR, All India Radio and C-SPAN, as well as news from CNN and Fox News and several podcasts. There are also local and genre-specific radio stations to choose from, so there should be something for everyone. The radio has a wide selection of apps, one of the best we’ve seen.
BBC Sounds has taken the place of the Beeb’s iPlayer radio app, and it seems like a good decision. As well as the usual BBC radio stations you can listen to live or on-demand (Radio 1, Radio 4, 1Xtra, etc.), it brings together all kinds of podcasts, music mixes, live sets and more.
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You can search by genre, download and listen on the go, and continue listening wherever you left off on another device. The app has some teething problems, but blossoms into a suitably rich and slick home for the BBC’s excellent audio output.
Soundcloud is known as the home of emerging artists, so if you want to check out acts and predict which bands are going to make it big, this is the place to do it. The free tier offers over 120 million tracks, mixes, podcasts and more, although we can’t guarantee every quality (which is a problem with ‘up-and-coming’ artists).
You can also connect with friends and artists directly on the platform, create playlists and get curated tracklists based on your taste. The downside is that, like many free services, you have to put up with ads.
In the US? Lucky US customers can now get access to the service’s first ever free plan, called (unsurprisingly) ‘Tidal Free’, which offers full library streams of 80 million tracks at 160kbps with “limited interruptions”. It launched in November 2021, and at the time of writing, we haven’t reviewed the dedicated free plan yet.
Spotify App Google Play
For anyone who doesn’t reside in the states, the fee still applies. The ‘Tidal Premium’ tier (£9.99, $9.99, AU$11.99 per month), which offers 320kbps quality, has now been rebranded as ‘Tidal HiFi’ and gives you up to 1411 kbps (ie CD quality), plus offline capabilities and features like Tidal Connect for the same monthly price. Access. Tidal’s basic family series also saw the same increase in standard bit rate streams.
The top tier, formerly ‘Tidal HiFi’, is now called ‘Tidal HiFi Plus’ and costs £19.99 ($19.99, AU$23.99) per month. It offers audio quality up to 9216 kbps (ie Hi-Res) by supporting Tidal Masters via Master Quality Authenticated (MQA) technology. This is also the tier you need to subscribe to to listen to immersive music in Dolby Atmos MusicandSony 360 Audio.
This new subscription model puts Tidal’s CD-quality offering in line with competition from Amazon and Apple, though its hi-res streaming is at a premium that may put some off. There’s no doubt that Tidal has added appeal to audiophiles to its HiFi Plus range, and will still appeal to those with MQA-supporting hardware.
We have state-of-the-art testing facilities in London and Bath, where our team of experienced, in-house reviewers test the majority of hi-fi and AV kit that passes through our doors.
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Of course, with streaming services, a dedicated listening device isn’t always necessary, but we make sure to test each streaming platform using a variety of portable and home products (and different headphones) using iOS, Android, and desktop apps. Important in our review process is comparing each service to the best in its price and class.
It’s all about benchmarking, so we keep our award-winners close by to enable unbiased comparisons between new services and what we know are the best performers in the category.
We’re always unbiased and do our best to make sure we hear the best of each offering, so we try plenty of different types of music and give each service extensive listening time. It’s not just about sound quality, of course. If a service has unique and notable features (including smart skills, playlist curation, or the option to suggest your favorite acts) we make sure as part of our testing to trial the claims made by its makers.
All review judgments were agreed by the entire team rather than the individual reviewer to eliminate any personal bias and ensure we were as thorough as possible. There is no input from PR companies or our sales team when it comes to the judgments or star ratings in our reviews.
Best Free Music Player Apps For Android
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Becky Watt is a full-time staff writer at Hi-Fi. From March 2019. Before getting her MA in Journalism in 2018, she had a 20-year career as a professional dancer and aerialist as well as freelance work as an arts critic – any love of dance is intertwined with a love of music. Becky has contributed in the past
When not writing, she dances, spins, and drinks
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