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What to Listen to on Your Whole Home Audio System

Comparing the Most Popular Streaming Music Services

What to Listen to on Your Whole Home Audio System

We live in a world of almost limitless content. In cable TV, an old joke was, "we have 300 channels, and there's nothing to watch." You'd be hard-pressed to make that joke today with the wonderful world of streaming content so readily available to us. With Netflix, Amazon Prime, HBO, Apple TV+, Disney+, and so many more, it's difficult to think about not finding something you want to watch.

But this blog is about audio, not video! And the amount and range of music we can call up with a few flicks on a touchscreen are equally amazing. Today’s streaming music services boast 40 million-plus tracks of recorded music available in an instant, whether it’s from 60 years ago or today’s top hits. It’s equally difficult to imagine not being able to find some music you like to listen to on a streaming service.

You might be wondering, what's the difference in streaming services? Isn't the music library much the same? The short answer is yes. But the way you find that music, and how you interact with it is different. Some folks feel very strongly about their preference for Spotify over Apple Music or vice-versa.

So which service should you use on your whole-home audio system in Atlanta? GHT Group isn't here to tell you which one is best – that's up to you. The good news is that all the ones we'll discuss here work with whole-home audio systems we recommend like Control4.

Read on for a brief overview of five of the most popular streaming services to see which ones are for you.

SEE ALSO: Upgrade to the Luxury of Whole Home Audio with Control4

 

Pandora

Pandora can be thought of as the grandfather of music streaming services. It started as a website in 2005, before the modern smartphone era. It remains remarkably simple to get started with, as you can feed it an artist name or an album and generate a custom radio station of nearly endless songs. You train the system by signaling thumbs up and thumbs down on tracks, which helps Pandora narrow down your musical preferences. The best way to experience Pandora is through the paid tiers; Plus, Premium and Premium Family, which eliminates pesky ads. The highest tier allows for the best music quality, downloads to your device for offline listening (not really necessary on a whole-home system but a nice option for travel), and shared custom playlists. Pandora's main strengths are its simplicity and near ubiquity, available on all types of smart devices, cars, and audio systems. It is like a custom radio experience, and with its recent acquisition by Sirius XM Radio, it is likely to continue that way.

Amazon Music

If you are an Amazon Prime member, the basic Amazon Music service comes free. It does not have 40 million tracks, which is reserved for Amazon Music Unlimited at an additional cost. Nonetheless, Amazon Music sports a relatively clean and straightforward interface, naturally works well with Alexa voice control, and offers reasonable music streaming quality. Amazon Music Unlimited increased the library size to the levels provided by the two other streaming giants coming up, Apple and Spotify, and it adds unlimited skips and the ability to listen to anything you want in the library however you want.  Amazon is a force in artificial intelligence with all that they do in e-commerce and content. Look for them to continue to improve the quality of the music service with that technology. Just recently, they announced Amazon Music HD, a lossless and high-resolution upgrade to Music Unlimited. Also, look for them to integrate this service with a wide variety of audio solutions, just like they've done with Alexa in home automation.

Spotify

Spotify is the big gun in streaming music, starting in Sweden and sweeping the world with its intuitive and social-network friendly service. Today it boasts over 125 million paid subscribers, a vast music catalog of over 50 million songs, and excellent music discovery algorithms. The casual user might find it a little harder to get started with it, as it takes a bit more work to dial it in for your tastes. Once done, it is very rewarding, often introducing you to music you didn't know existed or could possibly like. Spotify is deeply embedded in the audio world ecosystem. Its Spotify Connect capability makes it easy to cast your music from your smart device to many high-end audio systems, turning your phone into a remote control and taking it out of the streaming loop. Because, you know, sometimes you have to make calls on them. Another Spotify advantage is that it has apps on most major platforms, like IOS, Android, Roku, Amazon Fire TV, and Apple TV, making it easy to use on practically any system. 

Apple Music

Apple became the world's largest music seller years ago on the strength of iTunes, the iPod, and the iPhone. When music consumption shifted to streaming, they did not jump in early but did in 2015. Current estimates have Apple at over 70 million subscribers worldwide. Apple boasts the most extensive catalog in streaming with an estimated 60 million tracks and continues to evolve its interface to make music discovery and access easier. Apple Music is deeply integrated across all their devices, working on iPhone, iPad, Mac, Watch, Apple TV, and is the only music service supported on the HomePod smart speaker. Its native integration into all Apple devices might make it the best fit for an all-Apple household, but other services offer better cross-platform compatibility. On Control4, Apple Music works over Airplay2, which is one way Apple pursues its cross-platform compatibility. Airplay2 is widely available on a variety of high-end audio systems, AV receivers, and now TVs from Samsung, Sony, and more.

Tidal

Tidal is taking a different road to streaming - it looks to offer a different experience and higher quality audio. They have a vast library of CD-quality lossless music, a step up from the compressed music provided by the other popular services. Is it a difference you can hear? On the right equipment, absolutely. If your whole house listening is done at background volume levels, you might not notice the difference. Tidal's interface and music discovery technology aren't quite as refined as that of Apple and Spotify, but it's elegant and continues to improve. If you want even better music quality, Tidal is one of the very few services to offer high-resolution streaming, although other services like Deezer, Amazon Music HD and Qobuz are hot on Tidal’s heels. Control4’s new OS 3 system now supports MQA, the format that Tidal uses for high-resolution tracks, so you can enjoy a richer level of audio in your whole home system.  If you are a stickler for audio quality, Tidal might be the one for you.

 

Now that you know a bit more about your streaming options for whole-home audio, can we build a system for you?  Contact us here or click the chatbox below to connect with one of our audio experts. We look forward to working with you!

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