I’ve been an avid Spotify listener for years. All the music and podcasts I need are there, they’re used by my friends, and I couldn’t possibly cope with the FOMO of not having a snazzy Spotify Wrapped with my top artists to share on my social at the end of each year to post feeds. But then I was listening to one of my favorite albums in Spatial Audio from Apple Music and for a few minutes my world changed. Did I miss something all this time?
To answer this question, I’ve made Apple Music my primary music streaming app for the better part of a few weeks. But while Apple’s audio service has many great advantages over Spotify and other popular competitors, they just weren’t enough for me to make the switch permanently. Here’s why.
While reviewing the AirPods Max a few weeks ago, I decided to launch Apple Music to see how the company’s immersive 360-degree spatial audio technology holds up on the high-end headphones. I was bobbing my head calmly to Turnstile’s “Glow On” — an album I’ve heard dozens of times — when suddenly the soaring, anthemic chorus of the red-hot punk song “Endless” hit me like a truck.
Not only did Spatial Audio track my head movements — keeping each instrument in a fixed location as if I were at a live concert — it also highlighted vocal harmonies and small background instruments that I never noticed when listening to Spotify. I quickly became obsessed with finding out which of my favorite albums were mixed in Dolby Atmos for immersive spatial listening, and had a blast hearing everything from chilled indie to explosive hard rock from a new perspective.
Of course, you’ll need a supported pair of Apple headphones (like AirPods Pro, AirPods Max, AirPods 3, or Beats Fit Pro) to take advantage of this. I’ve found that spatial audio makes a much bigger difference on the over-ear AirPods Max than on earbuds like the Beats Fit Pro, but the effect is still impressive regardless of what you’re wearing. The speakers on newer Mac models like the 24-inch iMac and 14-inch MacBook Pro also support spatial audio, but you won’t get quite the same immersive head-tracking experience.
Even if you’re not part of the AirPods army, Apple Music has another major advantage over Spotify: lossless and high-resolution audio. Lossless audio essentially avoids much of the data loss that occurs when songs are compressed from their original source, giving you CD-quality sound from a digital file. Certain Apple Music albums even offer Hi-Res Lossless, an even richer audio resolution that brings you much closer to studio quality. In addition, select records are available as Apple Digital Masters, which Apple says deliver the “highest possible audio quality.”
This all means that Apple Music should sound better than Spotify for many listeners, although your mileage may vary. You’ll need to wear wired headphones to take advantage of lossless audio, and even then you’ll need a fairly discerning ear to notice the differences. That said, even when I mostly listen to wireless earbuds while using an iPhone, I found that most songs on Apple Music sounded louder and brighter compared to Spotify.
Lossless Audio is finally coming to Spotify via Spotify HiFi, but there’s no clear word on when yet. Rival app Tidal is known for its Hi-Fi listening support, which starts in its $10-a-month plan, though you’ll have to pay a pricy $20-a-month to access formats like Dolby Atmos and Master Quality Audio — two Things that are available on Apple Music from the start. Tidal’s $20 HiFi Plus plan offers a wider range of audio formats overall (including Sony 360 Reality Audio for Sony headphones and mega-quality 9216kpbs tracks), but for those with a slightly discerning ear, Apple Music offers a lot for the money.
While I find Spotify a lot easier to navigate than Apple Music (more on that later), the Apple Music app has plenty of little touches that make my inner music nerd happy. Certain album pages feature animated graphics, and some are even accompanied by a full article that offers a deeper dive into the music straight from the artist. When you browse an artist’s catalogue, you’ll also see links to any Apple Music Radio shows that have featured them. As someone who loves finding out about their favorite bands, I was delighted to find a full track-by-track breakdown on the album page of Julien Baker’s Little Oblivions, or to discover a recent radio interview that featured Turnstile in her new record dipped.
Speaking of which, Apple Music Radio is one of the best features of the service. You’ll get live radio broadcasts from top industry figures like Zane Lowe and Ebro, as well as plenty of on-demand interviews from artists big and small. I haven’t delved too deeply into the app’s radio offerings, but shows like After School Radio (featuring Blink 182’s Mark Hoppus) are enough to get me checked in at least once in a while. Spotify offers auto-generated radio stations based on specific artists and genres, as well as pre-recorded podcasts with songs mixed in, but it doesn’t quite have the same type of live content — or the same big names.
Apple Music starts at $9.99 per month, which is pretty standard for a music streaming service. But it’s an especially good value if you get an Apple One bundle, which gets you Apple Music, Apple TV+, Apple Arcade, and iCloud+ with 50GB of storage for $14.99. If you own an Apple device and want to take advantage of the company’s various subscription services, it’s a no-brainer.
Apple Music’s and Spotify’s family plans are generally comparable, allowing up to six users to share an account for $15 to $16 a month. But if you want more bang for your buck than just music, Apple has the best deal right now.
Here’s the main reason I couldn’t wait to get back to Spotify after a few weeks of Apple Music: the latter just doesn’t feel that great. While Apple Music has all the music I need, complete with some smart recommendations and curated playlists based on my listening history, it makes it harder for me to actually find all of those things. While Spotify’s homepage shows me my six most recent albums/playlists while still leaving room for recommendations and new releases, Apple Music presents a lot of wasted space with huge image blocks that require a lot of scrolling before I get to what I’m looking for. Doing everything from finding a new release playlist to simply hitting the Like button on a song just feels more awkward in Apple’s app.
Music and podcasts in one place
I listen to music and podcasts in equal parts, and Spotify is the only app of the two that offers both in one place. I know some people like to keep the two separate — and have other podcast apps they swear by — but I much prefer having a one-stop shop for all my listening needs. Spotify does a great job of showing new releases for music and podcasts, and making it easy to get back to shows I’m listening to while Apple Music listeners have to look elsewhere. Considering the Apple Music and Apple Podcast apps look and feel almost identical, I can’t help but wonder why they haven’t rolled into one.
Perhaps the biggest thing that keeps me on Spotify is the fact that almost all of my friends use it. I love being able to see what my friends are listening to on the desktop app, and pretty much every time someone sends me a song, it’s a Spotify link. More importantly, I have a series of collaborative playlists with friends that we’re all constantly adding songs to to show each other new stuff. That’s something you just can’t do with Apple Music.
Spotify also has a bunch of cool algorithmic features like Blend that automatically create a shared playlist between you and someone else based on your individual listening habits. I find its recommendation engine to be the best out there and have found some of my favorite artists through both my Discover Weekly playlist and Artist Radio, which auto-plays every time you finish an album.
Finally, I’m just way too attached to my Spotify Wrapped, which is a year-end roundup of a user’s best artists, songs, and genres that you’ve probably seen all over your Instagram Stories at the end of each year. Apple offers a similar annual review in the form of Apple Music Relay, but it’s not as popular — and do you really want to be the only person on your social feed using the off-brand version? It might be a bit of vanity, but as someone who’s a geek for their music listening stats, Wrapped is one of several cool social tools that get me jamming on Spotify.
I’ve enjoyed my time with Apple Music, and for many people – especially those with Apple headphones or people with a discerning ear – it might be the best music service out there. It offers better audio quality for the same price, and extras like spatial audio and its various live radio stations are pretty awesome. It’s also very good value for money, especially when you bundle it with an Apple One subscription.
But after weeks of testing, the novelty of listening to an album in Dolby Atmos or reading a few extra liner notes has worn off. I just want an app that has all the music and podcasts I need in one place, and Spotify continues to give me just that, in addition to some great recommendations and social features.
Personally, I can live with slightly lower audio quality in exchange for a useful, clean interface and an ecosystem that I’m already heavily invested in. Plus, it’s only a matter of time before Spotify HiFi is here. I’ll probably still stop by Apple Music every now and then to try out a new album in spatial audio or catch a radio interview with an artist I like, but when it comes to daily listening, Spotify is officially back on the rotation. After all, there was no way I could ruin my listening stats ahead of the Wrapped season.
|music collection||More than 90 million songs||More than 82 million songs|
|Hi-Res/Lossless audio||Yes||not yet|
|Button Supported Devices||iOS, Android, Mac, Windows, HomePod, CarPlay||iOS, Android, Mac, Windows, Playstation, Xbox|
|family plans||6 users for $14.99 per month||6 users for $15.99 per month; 2 users for $12.99 per month|