I have been a devout Spotify listener for years. All the music and podcasts I need are there, it’s what my friends use, and I couldn’t possibly deal with the FOMO of not having a fancy Spotify Wrapped with my top artists to post on my social feeds at the end of each year. to post. But then I listened to one of my favorite albums in Spatial Audio from Apple Music, and for a few minutes my world changed. Had I been missing something all this time?
To answer that 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 major advantages over Spotify and other popular competitors, they just weren’t enough for me to make the switch permanent. This is why.
A few weeks ago, while testing the AirPods Max, I decided to fire up Apple Music to see how the company’s immersive 360-degree Spatial Audio technology held up on the high-end headphones. I was quietly bobbing my head to Turnstile’s “Glow On”—an album I’ve listened to dozens of times—when the soaring anthemic chorus of the blistering punk song “Endless” suddenly hit me like a truck.
Spatial Audio not only followed my head movements – holding each instrument in a fixed place as if I were at a live concert – it also emphasized vocal harmonies and small background instruments that I never noticed when listening on Spotify. I quickly became obsessed with figuring out which of my favorite albums had been mixed in Dolby Atmos for immersive spatial listening, and loved listening to everything from chill indie to explosive hard rock from a new perspective.
Of course, you’ll need supported Apple headphones (such as the AirPods Pro, AirPods Max, AirPods 3, or Beats Fit Pro) to take advantage of this benefit. I’ve found Spatial Audio to make a much bigger difference on the over-ear AirPods Max than on earbuds like the Beats Fit Pro, but the effect is still impressive no matter 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 don’t get the same immersive head-tracked experience.
Even if you’re not part of the AirPods army, Apple Music still has one major advantage over Spotify: high-resolution lossless 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. Additionally, select records are available as Apple Digital Masters, which Apple says deliver the “highest quality audio possible.”
All of this means that Apple Music should sound better than Spotify to many listeners, although your mileage may vary. You have to wear wired headphones to take advantage of the benefits of lossless audio, and even then you need a pretty discerning ear to notice the differences. That said, I found that most of the songs sounded louder and clearer on Apple Music compared to Spotify, even when I mainly listened on wireless earbuds while using an iPhone.
Lossless audio will eventually come to Spotify via Spotify HiFi, but when is not yet clear. Rival app Tidal is known for its Hi-Fi listening support that starts in the $10-per-month subscription, although you’ll have to pay a pricey $20 per month to access formats like Dolby Atmos and Master Quality audio – two things that be available on Apple Music from the beginning. Tidal’s $20 HiFi Plus plan offers a wider general range of audio formats (including Sony 360 Reality Audio for those on Sony headphones and mega-high quality 9216 kpbs tracks), but for those with a somewhat critical ear, Apple Music offers a lot for the money.
While I find Spotify much easier to navigate than Apple Music (why more later), the Apple Music app has lots of little touches that make my inner music geek happy. Certain album pages feature animated illustrations 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 catalog, you’ll also see links to all the Apple Music Radio shows they’ve featured in. As someone who loves to geek out about their favorite bands, I was delighted to find a full song-by-song breakdown on the album page of Julien Baker’s “Little Oblivions,” or discover a recent radio interview that featured Turnstile in their new dossier.
Speaking of which, Apple Music Radio is one of the best features of the service. You’ll get live radio shows from top industry personalities such as Zane Lowe and Ebro, and there’s also no shortage of on-demand interviews to discover 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 himself) are enough to get me checked in every 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 especially beneficial if you get an Apple One bundle, which gives you Apple Music, Apple TV+, Apple Arcade, and iCloud+ with 50GB of storage for $14.99. If you own an Apple device and plan to use the company’s various subscription services, don’t worry.
Apple Music and Spotify’s family plans are generally similar, allowing up to six users to share an account for $15 to $16 per month. But if you want more than just music for your money, Apple now has the best deal.
This is the biggest reason I couldn’t wait to get back to Spotify after a few weeks of Apple Music: the latter just doesn’t feel very comfortable to navigate. While Apple Music has all the music I need, complete with some clever recommendations and curated playlists based on my listening history, it makes it harder for me to actually find all those things. While Spotify’s homepage shows me my six most recent albums/playlists and still leaves room for recommendations and new releases, Apple Music offers a lot of wasted space, with huge blocks of artwork that require me to scroll a lot before I find what I’m looking for. Doing everything from finding a new release playlist to just hitting the “Like” button on a song just feels more cumbersome in Apple’s app.
Music and podcasts in one place
I listen to music and podcasts quite equally, 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’d much rather have a one-stop shop for all my listening needs. Spotify does a great job of surfacing new releases for both music and podcasts, while making it easy to jump back to shows I’m listening to, while Apple Music listeners have to look elsewhere. Since the Apple Music and Apple Podcast apps look and feel almost identical, I wonder why they weren’t merged into one.
Perhaps the most important thing that keeps me on Spotify is the fact that almost all my friends use it. I like being able to see what my friends are listening to while I’m on the desktop app, and pretty much always when someone sends me a song it’s a Spotify link. More importantly, I have some collaborative playlists with friends that we all add songs to all the time to show each other new things. That’s something you just can’t do on Apple Music.
Spotify also has some cool algorithmic features like Blend, which automatically creates a shared playlist between you and another person based on your individual listening habits. I think the recommendation engine is the best out there, and I’ve found some of my favorite artists through both my Discover Weekly playlist and the artist radio that plays automatically every time you complete an album.
Finally, I’m just way too attached to my Spotify Wrapped, a year-end roundup of a user’s top 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 quite as popular — and do you really want to be the only person on your social feed with the off-brand version? It might be a minor vanity, but as someone who is a geek for their music listening stats, Wrapped is one of the many cool social tools that keep me jamming on Spotify.
I’ve loved my time with Apple Music, and for many people — especially those with Apple headphones or those with discerning ears — it’s arguably the best music service out there. It offers better sound quality for the same price, and extras like Spatial Audio and the various live radio stations are pretty good. It’s also very good value, especially if you get it bundled 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 with 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.
I personally can live with a slightly lower sound quality in exchange for a convenient, clean interface and an ecosystem I’m already deeply invested in. Plus, it’s only a matter of time before Spotify HiFi gets here. I’ll probably still go to Apple Music every now and then to listen to a new album in Spatial Audio or have a radio interview with an artist I like, but when it comes to everyday listening, Spotify is officially back in. rotation. After all, I couldn’t possibly screw up my listening stats before Wrapped season.
|Music library||Over 90 million songs||Over 82 million songs|
|Hi-Res/Lossless audio||Yes||Not yet|
|Main 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|