Spotify vs Amazon Music - which is better? The expert guide to choosing which is best for you
In the battle of Spotify vs Amazon Music, let this expert guide to each one help you decide which way to go
Spotify vs Amazon Music - the clash of the streaming titans. For years, the first and last word in music was Spotify, but now the answer is a bit less obvious as the Swedish company’s rivals have come on in leaps and bounds. In fact, you could argue that there’s not actually much between each one any more.
Both Spotify and Amazon Music offer millions of tracks on demand, apps for almost every device and competitive pricing — at least compared to the days when you had to buy any album you wanted to listen to. So which is better? Here’s some things to consider to help you decide whether Spotify or Amazon Music is right for you.
Spotify vs Amazon Music: Pricing
First of all, both Spotify and Amazon offer some streaming for the impossible-to-beat price of ‘free’. Of course, these come with big caveats designed to get you to upgrade to a subscription model.
For both, this means less say over the track you’re listening to (even if you can pick the artist or genre), capped audio quality, a limited number of skips and frequent ad breaks. Spotify does, however, win the battle of the freemium offerings on account of including its entire library in the mix, while Amazon Music Free only includes a selection.
The restrictions are irritating on both, and you’ll likely be looking at the ad-free paid options soon enough. And the main offerings are priced the same: both Spotify Premium and Amazon Music Unlimited cost $9.99 per month (half price for students), with $14.99 per month family plans allowing for up to six people to share a monthly fee.
However, Amazon is a bit more flexible here. For starters, if you’re a member of Amazon Prime, the price of Music Unlimited automatically drops to $7.99 per month or $79.99 per year (~$6.67 per month.)
Prime members also get an ad-free service called Amazon Prime Music included in their subscription free of charge: it doesn’t have the library of Unlimited, but it may be enough for casual listeners.
This Prime-included plan doesn’t work with Amazon’s Echo smart speakers, which requires an Unlimited account, but Amazon does have a cheap alternative: for $3.99 per month, you can get an Echo-only subscription. Note that this only works on a single device, and it can’t be transferred, so if you have an Echo in every room, you’ll want a full Unlimited subscription regardless.
While Spotify can’t compete with all that, it does offer a rather neat option for couples called Spotify Duo. That’s $12.99 a month for couples that live together, and not only grants each a Premium subscription, but curates a charming shared playlist of each partner’s favorite tracks.
Spotify vs Amazon Music: Libraries
While Amazon Music Free and Prime have pretty small libraries (“2 million hand-curated songs” according to the company), Amazon Music Unlimited builds on this considerably with 90 million tracks.
Spotify is a bit more opaque about the size of its library, but back in February 2021, the company boasted of a library containing “more than 70 million tracks.”
That sounds like a clear win for Amazon, but numbers don’t tell the full story: those 20 million tracks could be so obscure that nobody listens for all we know. Plus, 60,000 songs are apparently added to Spotify every day, which could well mean the company has closed the gap in the intervening year.
All we can say is that there don’t seem to be any real black spots in either — unless you’re a big fan of Neil Young and Joni Mitchell, who recently left Spotify in protest against the company’s podcast moderation policy.
Spotify vs Amazon Music: Sound quality
While the free tiers of both Spotify and Amazon Music limit the sound quality, the paid offerings up this significantly.
Amazon Music Unlimited not only offers lossless CD-quality audio to “double the bitrate of standard definition streaming services”, but also offers Ultra High Definition audio for “over 7 million” of its songs. This provides “more than 10 times the bitrate of standard definition streaming services” and up to 24 bit, 192kHz audio helping you capture “the nuance of the studio recording” (if your audio setup is good enough!).
For now, Spotify Premium is the clear loser here, as it only allows streaming at a maximum of 320kbps, but plans to change this are afoot with Spotify HiFi. Promised since February 2021, the upgrade will allow CD-quality lossless audio, which is just what audiophiles have been hoping for. At the time of writing, no release date is confirmed, however.
Spotify vs Amazon Music: Connectivity
For most people, either will be fine as all the main bases are covered for both Spotify and Amazon Music. You can download apps for PC, Mac, Android or iPhone, and both can be played via Amazon’s own Echo smart speaker via voice.
But if your needs are a little more unusual, then Spotify is the clear winner here thanks to its native app on myriad other devices from Xbox to smart TV, and built-in support for Nest Home smart speakers. It also has a killer feature in the form of Spotify Connect, which allows you to control what is playing on any installation of Spotify from any other. In other words, you can easily hand off audio from your phone to your smart speaker, but continue controlling it from your handset.
If your home is filled with Echo smart speakers, you may still prefer Amazon Music Unlimited though, as the voice commands are slightly more flexible.
Spotify vs Amazon Music: Other things to consider
If you’re seriously into your podcasts, then Spotify is the better option. The company has invested a lot of money on the medium, buying up the likes of Gimlet, Parcast, The Ringer and — controversially — The Joe Rogan Experience. This has a flipside for those uninterested in podcasts, as the UI persistently tries to get you to try them with no way to opt out, but it’s something that Amazon’s comparatively small range can’t compete with.
Otherwise, the differences between the two are pretty minor. Both let you create and share playlists, and both have a built-in recommendation engine to help you discover new music, though Spotify’s ‘Discover Weekly’ playlist is the most elegant way of expanding horizons that we’ve seen to date.
Both also provide offline listening, letting you download tracks before you leave the house to save on your phone’s data plan.
Spotify vs Amazon Music: Verdict
Awkwardly, there’s no clear winner in the battle between Spotify and Amazon Music. The former wins out on connectivity, musical discovery and for podcast addicts, but the latter offers better sound quality (for now) and a cheaper price for Amazon Prime subscribers.
Fortunately, the generous catalogue size of both means that most will likely be happy with either one’s library, so making a decision based on the small differences above needn’t result in reduced musical horizons.
Given both services offer a one-month free trial, you’re best off trying both to see which one works best for you.
Freelance contributor Alan has been writing about tech for over a decade, covering phones, drones and everything in between. Previously Deputy Editor of tech site Alphr, his words are found all over the web and in the occasional magazine too. He often writes for T3 and Tom's Guide. When not weighing up the pros and cons of the latest smartwatch, you'll probably find him tackling his ever-growing games backlog. Or, more likely, playing Spelunky for the millionth time.
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