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SoundHound vs. Shazam: Which music identification service should you use?

Which is better: SoundHound or Shazam?

When you're out at a bar or in the car and a song comes on, but you don't know who sings it, where do you turn? This is especially prudent if you happen to love the song and want to have it to listen to all the time.

Shazam gets top billing for music identification services because its developers marketed the hell out of it, and it took off. Have your heard of SoundHound? It's another music identification service that has about half the downloads of Shazam, but it's a diamond in the rough and worth your consideration.

But which one's better? It all depends on what you want it for.

As a pure music identification service

First and foremost, Shazam and SoundHound are there to identify whatever song is playing in your immediate environment. SoundHound is much better at discerning songs, and it does so with the most satisfying flourishes.

When I first downloaded SoundHound years ago, I had a song stuck in my head for days, but I didn't know any words nor did I know the artist. I had heard about Shazam, and, at my wit's end, decided to download it. I "sang" into it with gibberish words to see if it could come up with the song. Every single time it came back with "We didn't get that; try again."

It was driving me nuts, so I researched other services and found SoundHound. I figured I'd give these apps another go, so away I went singing gibberish to SoundHound. Before I could tap done, it came back with a list of three results. Two were same song — a studio version and a live version. I checked them out. YUP. FOUND.

SoundHound is vastly superior to Shazam when it comes to song identification. It's better able to pick songs out in a noisy environment (even in a bowling alley!), and it'll even give you the specific version of a certain song. I was listening to a live track once and SoundHound even came up with the specific concert. Shazam still doesn't handle live versions of songs very well, and it has trouble in noisier environments.

If you're looking for pure music identification prowess, then go with SoundHound. Hands-down.

The social aspect

As with all apps, Shazam has developed a social side, and with its recent Snapchat-like update, it's now more of a social platform than song identifier (and rightly so, because it's barely the latter).

When Shazam identifies a song, it then connects you to multiple related platforms, so you can watch YouTube videos, get lyrics, preview songs in Apple Music, add them to Rdio and Spotify playlists, find Pandora radio stations based on the artist, and more. You can even see what certain celebrities are Shazaming.

Shazam also has other interesting gimmicks, where you can take photos of the Shazam logo in various places to hear certain exclusive songs by artists.

All that being said, SoundHound easily connects to your Spotify account, and it has Apple Music integration to let you find and play songs quickly and easily. It als features an embedded YouTube players so you can watch music videos and listen to songs for free. So really all SoundHound lacks is the gimmicky stuff Shazam has, like the celebrity connections and the Snapchatty interface. And some people love that stuff, so if that's your angle, check out Shazam.

But if you just want to be able to play the tunes your discover in your Spotify or Apple Music playlists, then SoundHound is still winning. Shazam's kind of just the "sellout" version.

Which should you use? SoundHound

From a pure "it just works" perspective, SoundHound is the winner. The app simply does exactly what it's supposed to do, and where Shazam fails, SoundHound strongly prevails. You can hum to SoundHound; you can sing gibberish; you can be in a louder environment, and you'll still get results. Don't get me wrong; it doesn't work every time, but it does work much better than Shazam.

If you like the social side of things: discovering music by photographing the Shazam logo at certain businesses, seeing what celebrities are listening to, and receiving your own curated "mix" (based on artists you choose), then Shazam wins.

As far as Spotify, Apple Music, and YouTube integration are concerned, these apps are relative equals, though SoundHound's hands-free "Ok Hound", which lets you control the app and add songs to Spotify and Apple Music hands-free notches it forward a bit.

All in all, SoundHound does its job better than Shazam, and if an app's going to take up space on your phone, it might as well be a good one.

Which do you use?

Let us know in the comments below.

SoundHound — Everything you need to know!

Want to know more about SoundHound? Here's everything you need to know!

SoundHound is a music identification app that can tell you all about a song, whether it listens to music playing near you or you're humming a tune you just can't get out of your head. It also comes with a built-in virtual assistant called Hound, which can make identifying and playing music in the app even easier.

Here's everything you need to know about SoundHound.

What's new with SoundHound?

In its most recent update, version 7.5, SoundHound added more integration with Apple Music. Though it was one of the first third-party apps to work with Apple's music streaming service back in 2015, SoundHound 7.5 takes it to the next level with support for automatic Apple Music playlist creation based on your SoundHound history.

Additionally, you can now play items from Apple Music hands-free in SoundHound using the built-in virtual assistant, Hound. You can also now stream full songs while taking advantage of LiveLyrics, which let you jump to different points in a song by double-tapping a section of the lyrics.

What is SoundHound?

SoundHound focuses on music discovery and can listen to music around you and identify it. But SoundHound goes a step further than the likes of Shazam with its identification. In addition to recorded music, you can also sing and hum into SoundHound yourself in order to get answers about that unshakable tune in your head.

What else does SoundHound do to help me find new music?

You can search for artists, songs, and lyrics, scroll down on the app's main screen to see top music videos, and check out top charts, and view your history to see what songs you've searched for or identified. You can also find weekly featured songs, videos, artists, and albums, and, in a unique discovery spin, artists born on that particular day.

SoundHound also offers a different take on social music discovery, showing what people near you are listening to at any given time with the Music Map.

How does SoundHound work with music services like Apple Music?

You can connect SoundHound to your Apple Music account. Subscribers can have the app automatically build a playlist based on their SoundHound history, to be continually updated the more you discover. Spotify and Pandora users can also connect to the app to listen to songs and playlists from those services.

You can also allow SoundHound to access your iPhone or iPad's music library and play songs directly from your playlists.

If you'd still rather buy your music, SoundHound also lets you purchase songs and albums from iTunes

You mentioned LiveLyrics before. What are they?

LiveLyrics show up with each song you play in SoundHound, and make listening and following along with lyrics a bit more of an interactive experience. LiveLyrics move in real time as the song plays, highlighting the relevant words.

You can expand LiveLyrics to take up the whole screen to make reading them easier (for instance, if you want to sing along). You can also tap around the LiveLyrics to jump to different points in the song without needing to scrub through the playback bar.

And what was that about a virtual assistant? Like Siri?

Back in 2015, SoundHound launched Hound, a Siri-like, voice-controlled virtual assistant. While initially available as a standalone app, Hound is now also a part of the SoundHound apps. You can use Hound to play a song from Apple Music, access SoundHound's playlists, or perform a search. And of course, you can also use Hound to tell the app to start listening to the music around you.

All you need to do to start Hound is say "Ok Hound". The company has put a lot of work into Hound's responsiveness, and the assistant activates right away.

Does SoundHound cost anything?

SoundHound actually comes in two versions; both are universal apps for the iPhone and iPad. The first is available for free, though an in-app purchase of $6.99 removes the app's ads and offers extra features.

The SoundHound Premium app is fully-featured and offers no in-app purchase; Instead, the app is available on the App Store for $6.99.

Both apps are kept up-to-date, and version 7.5 launched for both on the same day.

Questions?

Be sure to let us know in the comments if you have any other questions about SoundHound.

Spotify — Everything you need to know right now!

Have an unquenchable thirst for music? Spotify can help you out.

Download now

Spotify is one of the most popular streaming services in the world. According to Business Insider by way of Edison Research, it's the second most popular audio streaming service next to Pandora. It pretty much has it all, from the biggest artists of today and yesteryear to the indie artists that only your cool cousin Chaz has heard of.

Here's everything you need to know about Spotify!

What is Spotify?

It's quite simply a music streaming library. Think of it like your music library on your phone or computer, but instead of being physically stored on your device, it's in an online repository, so you need an internet connection to access it. It features streaming radio stations, as well as millions of songs by many thousands of artists. Heard this one song one time 10 years ago? Chances are you'll be able to find it on Spotify.

Just how many songs are in Spotify's library?

There are over 30 million songs in the Spotify library. That's one song for every second of every day for almost a year (347 days).

Is it free???

Ostensibly, yes. Streaming on Spotify is absolutely free, but there are certain features that you miss out on. You can skip tracks, but only a certain number. After that, you're stuck listening to the song that's playing for a certain period of time. You'll also hear ads between tracks and have some other on-demand limitations.

A paid subscription is $9.99 per month, which gives you total access to everything Spotify has to offer, including offline listening and Spotify Connect, which lets you use your Spotify app as a remote to play Spotify on supported devices.

Are there family and student rates?

Yup. The family rate is $14.99 per month, and up to 6 users can enjoy full access to Spotify, including their own playlists, which follow you if you choose to upgrade.

The student rate is $4.99 per month; you just need to prove you're a student with your student number. Your account will revert to a regular Premium account after 12 months, which is how Spotify keeps tabs on who's still a student and who's just milking their account. The student rate is available in only 34 countries.

I live in (insert country here). Can I use Spotify?

Spotify is available in over 60 countries. You can check with Spotify to find it if it's available for you.

Which devices support Spotify?

Spotify works on just about any device within reason. Here are all the Apple devices that Spotify supports:

  • iPhone 4s or newer running iOS 8 or higher
  • iPad 2 or newer running iOS 8 or higher
  • iPod Touch 5th generation or newer running iOS 8 or higher
  • Mac running OS X 10.9 or newer

Each device must have a minimum of 100MB of free space.

How does it compare to the other big music streaming services?

As far as all the other music streaming services are concerned, Spotify is a BIG deal. It has over 100 million active monthly users and over 50 million paying subscribers as of March, 2017.

Let's take a closer look:

Spotify Apple Music Google Play Music Amazon Prime Music Pandora
Free trial period 30 days 3 months 30 days 30 days (with Prime membership) 30 days for Premium, 7 days for Plus
Price $9.99/month ($14.99 for family up to 6 people) $9.99/month ($14.99 for family up to 6 people) $9.99 ($14.99 for family up to 6 people) Comes with Prime membership ($99/year), $7.99/month for Unlimited Pandora Premium: $4.99/month, $54.89/year Pandora Plus: $9.99/month, $109.89/year
Library size ~ 30 million songs ~ 40 million songs ~ 40 million songs ~ 2 million (may differ depending on location), ~ 40 million (Unlimited) ~ 40 million
Number of countries supported Over 60 Over 110 Over 60 See Amazon Australia, New Zealand, U.S.A.

Should I subscribe to Spotify?

If you're not married to the whole Apple ecosystem, then absolutely. Its autoplay features and Daily Mixes and Discover Weekly playlists are wonderful and if you love discovering new music or just listening to other albums from artists you love, then I can't say enough great things about it. Plus, it has a fantastic desktop app for Mac and PC that works with your keyboard playback controls.

Learn more

Questions?

Got a question about Spotify? Sound off in the comments below.

Pandora Premium — Everything you need to know right now!

Pandora's officially entered the music subscription game. Here's everything you need to know about Pandora Premium.

Pandora was one of the first companies out there for streaming music: The service used its Music Genome Project and smart licensing to quickly become a huge name in recommending great music to listen to throughout the work day.

But the company was hindered by a small catalog of songs and growing unrest from customers who wanted to stream what they wanted, when they wanted, rather than the internet radio experience.

After Pandora bought Rdio in late 2015, rumors swirled that the company planned to open a subscription-based on-demand service, and at last the fruit of the company's labors is here in the form of Pandora Premium.

What is Pandora Premium?

Premium is Pandora's newest subscription option: Rather than replace the regular Pandora experience or $4.99 ad-free Pandora Plus, Premium is additive; it takes everything from Plus, and drops a 40+ million song catalog atop everything else.

I want more details: What's the difference between Plus and Premium?

The $4.99/month Pandora Plus subscription is essentially an ad-free version of Pandora's automated radio stations. In addition to no ads, you'll get unlimited skips and replays, the ability to create personalized stations, higher-quality audio, and a way to listen to offline stations.

In contrast, the $9.99/month Premium is a direct competitor with Apple Music, Spotify, Google Play Music, and the like: It not only includes all of Pandora Plus's features, but it also lets you create playlists with unlimited skips and replays and search through Pandora's 40+ million song catalog to play or download anything you want locally to your device.

How do I sign up?

If you already have a Pandora.com account, signing up is easy — just log in to your account on the web or mobile, and select the Upgrade tab.

Signups are currently open to everyone in the U.S., New Zealand, and Australia, but there's a catch: Pandora Premium currently only works on mobile devices like Apple's iPhone, iPad, or Android. Visit Pandora.com, and you'll be reduced to the Pandora Plus feature set.

You might think it makes more sense to sign up on mobile, but there's a second catch: Because Pandora has to pay a share of each subscription to Apple when purchased through the App Store, Premium is $12.99/month on iOS, and just $9.99/month via the web or Android.

My suggestion? Sign up for Premium's free one-month trial on your smartphone or tablet; if you like the service, cancel your App Store subscription and re-subscribe on the web, then log in with your account on your iOS or Android device.

Sign up for Pandora Premium

You mentioned free trial?

Yes! Premium currently offers a 1 month free trial on iOS and Android, after which you'll be billed monthly.

How do I avoid being charged if I just want to play with the free trial?

You can do this immediately after signing up for a free trial so that you don't get billed at the higher $12.99 rate; here's how.

Does Pandora offer a family plan?

Not at this time, likely because Pandora Premium is currently only available on mobile devices. We'll have to wait and see if the company plans to release a family option later down the road.

If I don't want Premium but still want to use Pandora, what other options do I have?

  • Plain 'ol Pandora, Free: This is the Pandora we've known and loved for years — ad-supported algorithmic radio stations. Pick an artist, and you can create a radio station around them that plays songs from them and other artists like them; that station can be further customized by giving songs likes and dislikes.
  • Pandora Plus, $4.99: Pandora's low-end subscription service; Plus removes all ads and lets you listen offline on mobile.

What countries can I use Pandora Premium in?

Currently, only the U.S., Australia, and New Zealand have Premium as an option. (Sorry, Canada and the U.K.)

Which devices support Pandora Premium?

Currently, Premium is limited to your iPhone, iPad, or Android device; if you play Pandora on your Mac, PC, Amazon device, or Roku, you'll be limited to Pandora Plus's features.

What differentiates Pandora Premium from every other streaming service?

Currently, Premium's main draw is the data behind its Music Genome Project — some people have been Pandora users for over a decade at this point, and that translates into a lot of information about what you like and dislike about your music.

When you sign up for the service, you automatically get a playlist that collects every song you've ever liked over the course of your Pandora listening time; in addition, it uses those likes to suggest new artists and stations you might enjoy. 
You can continue to create algorithmic stations, as always, but one of Premium's cooler new features is automatic playlist completion: When you create a new playlist using a few songs, Pandora can automatically fill the rest of the playlist with similar music. It's akin to Apple's "play more like this" Genius feature on Siri or Spotify's Daily Mixes, but slightly easier to use in practice. And when you finish your playlist, Pandora will keep the music playing by building an algorithmic radio station with similar characteristics.

You can even share these playlists, though only Pandora Premium subscribers will be able to play them.

How does it compare to other streaming services?

In many ways, Premium has a long road ahead to catch up with the likes of Apple Music and Spotify:

  • It's lacking any way to play music on your Mac or PC
  • You can't upload your computer's personal song library to mix in with Premium's collection
  • It's only available in three countries
  • Aside from the Music Genome Project's data, there isn't any "killer" feature that differentiates Premium from the other streaming services

Pandora seems to be banking on the trust of its longtime subscriber base — hooking them and others who know the Pandora name and don't want to fiddle with other streaming services might be the key to make up these omissions. There's also no discounting the reliability of the automated engine powering Pandora: The Music Genome Project has some of the best algorithmic suggestions in the streaming game, and pairing that with a full 40 million song catalog could be a huge attraction for potential subscribers.

Here's our general feature comparison, if you're curious how Pandora stacks up.

Spotify Apple Music Google Play Music Amazon Prime Music Pandora
Free trial period 30 days 3 months 30 days 30 days (with Prime membership) 30 days for Premium, 7 days for Plus
Price $9.99/month ($14.99 for family up to 6 people) $9.99/month ($14.99 for family up to 6 people) $9.99 ($14.99 for family up to 6 people) Comes with Prime membership ($99/year), $7.99/month for Unlimited Pandora Premium: $4.99/month, $54.89/year Pandora Plus: $9.99/month, $109.89/year
Library size ~ 30 million songs ~ 40 million songs ~ 40 million songs ~ 2 million (may differ depending on location), ~ 40 million (Unlimited) ~ 40 million
Number of countries supported Over 60 Over 110 Over 60 See Amazon Australia, New Zealand, U.S.A.

Should I subscribe to Pandora Premium?

If you're curious about a music streaming service that pairs the excellence of the Music Genome Project with a simple, easy-to-use iOS or Android app, Premium might be worth a shot.

If you're looking for a more complex streaming service that lets you pair songs with your existing music library, or you prefer human-created playlists, Apple Music and Spotify might be more up your alley.

Learn more

Questions?


Any other questions about Pandora Premium? Let us know in the comments.

Facebook will let you play songs from Spotify and Apple Music inside Messenger

Facebook Messenger is getting into the music-sharing game, thanks to Spotify and Apple Music.

Facebook has announced that Spotify and Apple Music will both be integrated into Messenger, allowing users to share playable links to songs, albums, and playlists directly in-app. This integration is part of Facebook’s new Chat Extensions for its Messenger Platform, first unveiled at the F8 developer conference.

According to Spotify, users will be able to search the catalog from the Messenger app, which will also surface their recently played music. Once a song link in shared, recipients will be able to play a 30-second clip. They will have to go to the main Spotify app to listen to the full song.

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