Walk through the halls of any company, and you'll more than likely hear music playing. Music is an outstanding means of keeping stress at bay and, for some, keeping concentration sharp. No matter if you're chained to a desk or on-the-go, your music will come from one of two sources: a personal library or a streaming source.
The two most popular sources of streaming audio are Spotify and Pandora. They both offer a great service, but their products aren't always up to snuff for the inner audiophile. However, there’s a new player on the block that's threatening to take down the kings of streaming audio. That player is Beats Music.
Beats Music clearly comes from the same man behind the popular (but rarely “audiophile approved”) Beats Headphones. The streaming service perfectly matches the attitude and look of the headphones — it’s hip, clean, and really fun to use.
But how does it stack up? Is it truly the streaming client to take over as your favorite source of tunes? Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of Beats Music.
Here are a few areas where Beats Music excels:
- One of the best streaming audio interfaces available
- Evolves to your music tastes (starting with an “initiation” to learn your favorite genres — Figure A)
- Tracks every day listening habits
- Streams higher quality audio than competition
- Album/artist prioritization
- Streams at 320 Kbps bit rate (the highest possible for streaming)
- More than 20 million songs
- Free streaming trial (seven days)
Beats Music running on a Verizon-branded Motorola Moto X.
Here are some areas where Beats Music isn't so great:
- A bit invasive in its interrogation
- Cost: $9.99 (USD)/month (but that’s very fair, considering the amount of music available)
- Data usage (you’ll use a LOT of your data plan because of the high bit rate)
- When your trial is almost up, the warning gets in the way of enjoying the interface
- Mobile interface (Figure B) much more intuitive than desktop (browser-based) interface
The Beats Music interface as seen on a Verizon-branded HTC One Max.
Clearly, there's one con that stands out well above the others — data usage. Because of the high bit rate, you’re going to eat through data like the drummer from The Outfield goes through snare heads. If you use Beats Music through Wi-Fi, it’s not a problem — but if you listen to just a couple of albums a day, you’re going to wind up with sticker shock when your bill arrives. Yes, the sound of that 320 Kbps is glorious (you should easily notice a difference in sound between Beats Music and Spotify), but for those with limited data plans (and little access to Wi-Fi), Beats Music may not be for you.
The other downfall of the 320 Kbps bit rate is that it can get lost if you’re just listening to music through the tinny speakers of your smartphone. Plug in a solid pair of cans (such as my favorite Audio Technica ATH-M50s) and the sound is absolutely glorious (well beyond that of Spotify or Pandora). This is the first streaming music service that nears CD quality sound. Period.
Could Beats Music take over as the number one streaming music service? The answer isn't as simple as it might seem. If you're an audiophile who wants the highest quality of sound in a streaming service, then the answer is “Yes.” If, on the other hand, you care more about keeping your data plan in check and less about the quality of sound of streaming music, then the answer is “No.”
For me, the answer is simple — I will always pick quality of sound. Beats Music is far and away the best sounding streaming service on the market. If you’re willing to pay the monthly charge (they also have a 5-user family plan for $14.99 (USD)/month) and seek out Wi-Fi as often as possible, then Beats Music should be a no-brainer.
Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website jackwallen.com.