At the dawn of the new millennium, with the advent of the MP3 format, the first fast connections and p2p, the crisis of the recording industry was finally outlined. At the turn of the 2000s, CDs were expensive: 15-20 euros, and often more, and the spread of illegal downloads was inevitable.
By now, everyone or almost everyone knows Spotify or other music streaming services, many use them and many subscribe. The growth of subscribers of various services boasts remarkable numbers: +26% in the second half of 2021.
Streaming offers great benefits, most notably the ability to always have our favorite music with us, but many other services are also available to users, and it can often take a long time to choose the service that best suits our needs.
If you do not have any special requirements for music, then it is likely that you will be quite satisfied with the use of free versions of music streaming services.
The world’s most famous and popular free music streaming services are Spotify, Deezer and Youtube Music. These three services offer free music listening with ads that are sometimes quite annoying. The sound quality of the files is quite poor, and, frankly, you can quite limit their use to casual listening through a smartphone.
But if you’re looking for something serious to listen to through a Hi-Fi system, a PC connected to a USB DAC, then in this case, experts strongly recommend ditching free music streaming services. If you have a smartphone with a Hi-Res DAC or a portable digital player, it’s best to use a quality streaming service like Amazon Music HD.
If you’re the kind of person who has a decent HiFi system or good quality headphones and you’re looking for a good compromise between streaming convenience and reasonable sound quality at a reasonable price, Amazon Music HD wins by far. If you don’t like hi-res streaming, you can opt for 320kbps mp3 streaming from Deezer or Ogg Vorbis streaming from Spotify.
If you don’t really care about sound quality and listen to music mainly through cheap mobile phone headphones or directly from its low-quality speaker, then the choice is determined by other factors. In fact, it is in this segment that the largest selection of streaming services, which are all more or less equal. Finally, there’s Spotify, which doesn’t shine with sound quality or individual features, but “lives off the income” thanks to the popularity it has gained over the years of the explosive growth of the music streaming market around the world.
The main weak point of free music streaming for those who really appreciate music and have adequate means to listen to it properly is the sound quality. The vast majority of music streaming services offer poor audio quality, reaching 320 kbps at best in lossy formats. This is really too little to be able to fully enjoy the music as it was conceived by its authors and processed by mixing specialists.