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Which Music Streaming Service Has the Best Audio Quality?

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Tidal HiFi Plus has the best sound quality, followed by Amazon Music Unlimited and Apple Music’s lossless audio.

There are plenty of music streaming services to choose from, but not all are created equal. Sound quality is one area where they can differ drastically. So which one sounds best? Let’s find out.

In general, streaming music over the internet means it won’t sound as good as physical media or local audio files. High quality audio requires more data. However, there are some services that offer high-quality music streaming.

What Do All These Numbers Mean?

As you read this article, you will notice that several different units are used. The main ones are “kbps” (kilobits/second), plus there are “bits” and “kHz” (kilohertz). Here’s what you need to know.

  • kbps: The “bitrate” of the audio file. It is a concept similar to video resolution; the higher the number, the better it sounds. Kbps is mostly used as a measure for normal, compressed audio files.
  • 24bit: Bit depth of lossless file types (AAC, ALAC, FLAC, MQA, etc.) and uncompressed file types (WAV). This measures the dynamic range of the file. The higher the number, the greater the depth. You can listen more quietly without losing details.
  • kHz: This measures the sampling rate for lossy, lossless, and uncompressed file types. Essentially, it tells you how many sound samples are taken per second. No higher numbers Always better, but usually a good sign.

RELATED: What is Lossless Audio?

Tidal HiFi Plus: 9216 kbps

Tide logo.

Tidal hit the scene in 2014 and was one of the first streaming services to put a big emphasis on sound quality. If you care about sound quality, it is still one of the best services.

It has three Tidal layers, two of which offer high-quality sound. The “Tidal HiFi” plan is best for most people. It delivers audio up to CD quality equivalent to 1411 kbps. A step above is the “Tidal HiFi Plus” plan, which adds “Tidal Masters” lossless audio output up to 24bit/192kHz, 9216 kbps. Supports Tidal, AAC, ALAC, FLAC, MQA.

That extra high quality comes at a price—Tidal HiFi Plus is $19.99 a month.

Amazon Music Unlimited: 3730 kbps

amazon music logo

A more affordable option for high-quality audio is Amazon Music Unlimited. It’s $10 or $9 a month if you’re a Prime subscriber. Prime Unlimited uses FLAC for high resolution audio up to 24bit/192kHz. Look for tracks labeled “Ultra HD” for the best possible quality.

Most high-resolution tracks are labeled “High Definition” with up to 1411 kbps. One advantage of Music Unlimited over others is that the desktop app can play high quality audio at up to 3730 kbps. You are not limited to just your phone.

Apple Music (Lossless): 1411 kbps

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Apple Music is a sleeper choice if you’re looking for high-quality audio that isn’t too expensive. Lossless audio can be enabled on the standard $10 per month plan. Apple uses its proprietary codec (ALAC) and AAC for CD quality streams.

There are some caveats if you want the best possible audio quality from Apple Music. First, the desktop app is limited to only 256 kbps. Second, lossless audio only works over wired headphones. If you meet the requirements, you will enjoy 24bit/192kHz quality.

What about Spotify HiFi?

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You may have noticed that one of the biggest names in music streaming has yet to be named. Spotify Premium’s highest audio quality settings only go up to 320 kbps. But in early 2021, the company announced “Spotify HiFi”.

As of October 2022, Spotify HiFi is still not released. When it does, Spotify claims it will “transmit music in CD quality, lossless audio format to your device and Spotify Connect-enabled speakers.” This usually means 1411 kbps and 24bit/192kHz.

Spotify did not share whether this would be included for Premium subscribers or if it would require a new plan. Regardless, the leader in streaming music lags behind in this area.

RELATED: How to Get the Most Out of Spotify Premium

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