Update: Apple Music announced lossless music capabilities, so we have added the service to the HiFi options 07/01/2021 (MM/DD)
Before we discuss having a good pair of headphones, not everything is about headphones, it’s also about the music service that you decide to use.
One caviar, there are two categories;  the extremely popular Apps, and  those that offer the best music quality.
Let’s start by introducing a few aspects which will help us understand this topic.
Define: Quality music
Most people play music without knowing that all the mainstream music services offer very average (poor) quality music which improves music online streaming bandwidth consumption but sacrifices, quality-wise, the song that you’re streaming.
This may not sound negative, but let me explain; artists and Producer invest a lot of time to produce music that you would like; depending on the genre of music, this may be more true than for some others; so, when music is compressed you’ll hear a sub-optimal version of that song in which most cases it suppresses many high, mid, low frequencies ranges that give some interesting “flavors” and uniqueness to the song. All of this goes out of the board in most mainstream music services (list at the end of the post).
Sound frequencies (lows, mids, highs)
To help you understand how “good” (or more accurately, HiFi, Lossless, Master, or Studio Level music) sounds like listen/watch the next video; use headphones, even crappy headphones work for this experiment:
After listening/watching the above video you should be able to understand what the most common frequencies sound like and the reason audiophiles listen to music with inexpensive headphones (even more expensive than the ones we discuss in the previous article, for example, the Sennheiser HE-1 $59.000,00), in dedicated music devices (like the FiiO Music Player) and a tiny selection of music apps (list below).
Before we go on with the list, I highly advise you to subscribe for the 1-month trial that all the below high-quality music apps offer; if you’re fortunate enough to pair it with a good pair of headphones, the experience will be richer; anyway, here are some options:
HiFi Quality Music Services
- Amazon Music HD | Highest Quality Streaming Audio
- HDtracks | You can hear the difference. Listen on the go in master studio quality.
- Masters | TIDAL
Mainstream Music Apps
aka. Compressed Music
There are a few mainstream good apps, however, I choose the three that I consider more popular. One thing to know is that not everything is about sound quality, and people will prefer the features the next options offer.
Some reasons these apps are popular are because they integrate very well with your computer, phone, and smart home devices; they are compatible with a lot of devices, their social features for creating shared playlists are fantastic, and people like this.
Anyway, I consider the next options deserve no introduction, let's jump straight to the list:
Disclaimer: YouTube Music is part of YouTube Premium membership. So, the above link will take you to YouTube Premium portal.
Let me end it with some general recommendations:
- Use headphones, preferably wired; it doesn’t matter much for the mainstream options, however, HiFi options will bring a richer experience.
- Most of the HiFi options offer Average Music and HiFi, Lossless plan offerings.
- For HiFi: change the default download/streaming quality settings to always HiFi.
- Data consumption with HiFi audio is higher than the compressed counterpart, so if you have limited data plans be sure to download HiFi only while connected to Wi-Fi and stream compressed music (some services allow you to select different download and streaming music qualities).