After hosting multiple Headphone Connect meetups and talking to multiple audiophiles from some of the top cities in India, it is safe to say that most users have started to shift or better yet, have already shifted to streaming service apps instead of downloading music locally. Well, all thanks to a widespread and affordable Internet connection (God bless Jio!) now available across the country.
With most media consumption happening whilst one’s on the move, it only adds to the appeal to switch to music streaming. India offers a host of home grown music services like Wynk Music, JioSaavn or Gaana. These music services have been around for quite some time making it a tough choice. Not because all of them are awesome, most of them have multiple drawbacks too. This was until foreign players entered the game. With Apple Music, Spotify, TIDAL, Qobuz, Amazon Prime Music, and YouTube Music (erstwhile, Google Play Music). Indian audiophiles now have a choice of streaming from close to 15 different streaming services.
Before I put forward my opinion, I would like to build my credibility a little. I’ve been a paid subscriber of Apple Music, Amazon Prime Music and YouTube Music for an extended period of time (close to 2 years now). I’ve extensively used JioSaavn and Wynk Music as they came in free with my carrier SIM card too. I’ve got Spotify albeit the free service connected onto my smart home devices for a little over 3 years now.
Now, an average audiophile will look out for a few things while choosing a streaming service.
- A wide database of music
- Highest quality for seamless, lossless streaming experience
- Customised, tailor-made playlists on the basis of current music choices
- Easy recommendations
- An easy UI for great UX
A de facto option for most Apple users, the Apple Music library is unmatched. With over 10 million songs available to stream, Apple Music is clearly a popular choice amongst audiophiles. With the introduction of ALAC in 2021, Apple Music now offers a lossless music experience making it all the more appealing.
Apple developed its own lossless audio compression technology called Apple Lossless Audio Codec (ALAC). In addition to AAC, the entire Apple Music catalogue is now also encoded using ALAC in resolutions ranging from 16-bit/44.1 kHz (CD Quality) up to 24-bit/192 kHz. Moreover, this tier was introduced to Apple Music on Android too.
With ease of access to a wide library, Hi-Resolution music streaming at no extra cost and an affordable price point, Apple Music has become one of the most popular streaming choices amongst Indian audiophiles.
Talk to any Spotify user, and they’ll rave on about the kind of personalisation the app provides. When it comes to playlists, Spotify is the king. Although Spotify doesn’t offer a lossless tier at the moment, music streams at a standard 320 kbps bitrate. This is good enough for most users, a deal breaker for most audiophiles however.
Possibly the most expensive streaming service of the lot, TIDAL introduced the world to Hi-Res Music. At a time when audiophiles would rip CDs and carry decks loaded with FLAC files, TIDAL was a breath of fresh air. Albeit a limited database and limited access, TIDAL was the go-to app for Audiophiles around the world until Apple Music launched its own lossless tier.
Although TIDAL was never officially launched in India, here’s a guide on how to download and use TIDAL in India.
Amazon Prime Music
It comes as an add-on with your Amazon Prime bundle. With possibly the most complex UI of the lot, Prime Music has emerged as one of the widely used streaming services for most music listeners. Amazon is yet to introduce Music Unlimited, its paid Hi-Res Music tier in India. This includes Amazon Music HD. Music HD offers more than 50 million HD songs in CD quality. In addition, you can stream millions of songs in Ultra HD i.e up to 24 bits/192 kHz. However, this is not available in India.
YouTube Music emerged as a great streaming service for users who wanted music beyond artist albums. Boasting a library strength of over 7 Crore songs, YouTube Music offers albums, singles, live performances, videos, curated playlists and early-access to specific artists’ music. However, music streams at 256 kbps which is inferior to that of Spotify (320kbps). This isn’t a problem however, if you're using mid- to low-tier audio gear.
There’s clearly no single winner in this, although Apple is clearly ahead of its competition. Till Spotify increases their song base and introduces a Hi-Res, high bitrate tier (which we hear is in the works!) Apple seems like a great choice for the discerning music listener and the Indian audiophile, alike.
Too Long; Didn't Read
Pay for a bit more and go for both Apple Music and Spotify. You won’t need anything else.