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I have tried the free and premium versions of pretty much every single popular music app over the last two decades. I used Spotify when it first came out in the United States circa 2011 because it was groundbreaking at the time, really the first “legal Napster” that came along way later than it should have due to the stubborn dinosaurs in the music industry.
I then switched to Google Play Music (rip) because it had a slightly better selection and recommendation engine, but the latter was still pretty terrible. GPM was eventually rolled into YouTube Music.
I then tried and switched to Amazon Music HD (reviewed here) the moment it came out – it was included with Prime at a discount, it featured HD quality lossless audio that none of the other apps had, and it had its own recommendation engine that I was eager to try since anything better than terrible would be an improvement on what existed so far.
I then tried YouTube Music Premium (they offer a free 1 month trial) and eventually switched over and have been using it for the last two years or so. After that time, I can definitely say that I think YouTube Music Premium is currently the best overall music app. Here’s why:
Major selling point #1 – You can add/download any YouTube video to your library
This is definitely the main reason I started and continue to use this app. I love obscure live recordings and random covers, and the fact that you can add any YouTube video to your library makes YouTube Music’s selection the largest by far. Like that garage band cover of REO Speedwagon with only 7,000 views? Like a Gangnam Style Linkin Park mashup remix album? Sure, throw it into your jogging playlist, and download it too with premium if you want to listen to it offline.
What’s also great is that if you like a song on the regular YouTube interface it will sync with your “liked” playlist on YouTube Music, which you can set to auto-download with premium:
Major selling point #2 – the best new music recommendation engine by far (so far)
Everyone likes finding new music, but it’s never been the easiest thing to do. Pandora took off circa 2008 and broke ground on a music recommendation engine, then Spotify made one, then Google Play, then Amazon, but in my experience? They have all been pretty bad: too many repeats, nothing new really, and even playing songs I’d previously thumbs downed. Amazon’s recommendation engine seemed slightly better than the rest when it came out, and I had hopes it would continue to improve, but it hasn’t seemed to since I last used it. Maybe a music recommendation engine is much harder thing to crack programmatically than I realize, but until YouTube I was largely disappointed with any I’d tried.
It’s no secret that Google does search the best, and since they bought YouTube, their music recommendation engine is not only the best by far, it’s also seemed to continue to appreciably improve over time. YouTube Music makes use of it in a variety of neat ways.
The “My Supermix” is a perpetually updating playlist that’s based on your overall library – it sprinkles in new songs with one’s you already liked and added, and I’ve found a lot of new music with it. There’s also a radio function that can start from pretty much anything, top 100 playlists and such, user-made playlists, mood mixes, and on and on.
Major selling point #3 – it does (almost) everything better than the rest
From the desktop app, to the phone app, to the browser app, and on and on… YouTube Music has the best and fastest user interface that I’ve used. There were a few significant flaws with lack of sorting options within the library when it first came out, but those have since been added in.
The only major thing that YouTube Music Premium lacks that Amazon Music HD has is the HiFi lossless files – and that’s still a good reason to use Amazon Music HD – but unless you’re running HiFi equipment I’d doubt most people would be able to tell a difference. Also, the HD files are massive and not really practical for portable use in the way that most people want and need these days.
Minor selling point #4 – it works with the Transpose plugin
Transpose is a neat plugin that I really like, use a lot, and recommend (reviewed here) – it allows you to easily change the pitch and tempo of a song as well as clip and loop segments of a song. The plugin only works with the desktop browser app of YouTube Music on Chrome, but it’s a great feature nonetheless.
So again, and in conclusion, YouTube Music is currently the best overall music app in my opinion. It’s free with ads, or you can do a free 1 month trial of the premium version.