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Streaming Music Services: How Do They Compare?

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Cloud music services store millions of songs on a network of secure servers, and let you access those songs using a variety of Internet-connected devices, such as home theater receivers, car stereos, and TVs. You can play your favorite tunes, and also discover new artists, songs, and genres. And it's all available instantly — without filling the memory of your computer, phone, or tablet. The chart below compares key features of a number of today's most popular cloud music services.

(UPDATE: Beats Music is a new streaming service that launched in January. Beats Electronics purchased MOG and used the service as a foundation to build Beats Music. MOG will shut down on April 15. While the MOG infrastructure is evident in Beats Music, there is a completely new user interface and process for curating music. We have added Beats Music to our streaming music list below.)

Beats Music

Listening options
On-demand
Playlists created by a staff of curators
Subscription options
Free: 7-Day trial
$9.99/month
$14.99/month "family plan" with AT&T wireless service; up to 5 accounts on one plan
Sound quality
Up to 320 kbps
Catalog size
20 million songs
Device compatibility*
Mobile: iPhone®, iPod touch®, Android phones and tablets; coming soon to Windows phones
Home: Sonos®, Apple AirPlay® enabled devices, Desktop computer and more
Key pros & cons
Learns your musical tastes and makes suggestions based on your song selection and supplied information, including your mood and favorite artists/genres. Offline listening mode available for mobile. No ads, which also means no free listening option.

Spotify

Listening options
On-demand
Internet Radio
Subscription options
Free: Unlimited listening with ads, shuffle-mode only on mobile
Premium: $9.99/month ; adds offline mode, mobile access, higher sound quality, exclusive content, and streaming to some home A/V devices
Sound quality
Up to 160 kbps (with Free and Unlimited subscriptions)
Up to 320 kbps (with Premium subscription, via desktop or iPhone)
Catalog size
20 million songs
Device compatibility*
Mobile: iPhone®, iPod touch®, Android, Windows Phone 7, Palm, Symbian
Home: Sonos®Logitech Squeezebox™Onkyo receivers, and more
Key pros & cons
Offline listening mode makes it easy to listen on the go (with Premium subscription)

Pandora® Internet Radio

Listening options
Internet Radio
Subscription options
Free: Listen on your computer or compatible device
Pandora One: $36/year; no ads, higher-quality audio, listen via desktop application
Sound quality
Up to 192 kbps with Pandora One subscription
Catalog size
1 million songs
Device compatibility*
Mobile: iPhone®, iPod touch®, Android, BlackBerry, Palm Pre
Home: Sonos®Logitech Squeezebox™, Roku; LG, Sony, Panasonic, and Samsung home theater gear
Key pros & cons
Popular option for music discovery

Rdio

Listening options
On-demand
Subscription options
Free: Listen on your computer; no ads; usage limit based on listening habits
Web:  $4.99/month; unlimited web streaming from your computer
Unlimited: $9.99/month; adds unlimited mobile streaming, including offline listening
Unlimited family: $17.99/month; two unlimited subscriptions
Sound quality
CD-quality sound via high-speed Internet connection; lower bitrates via 3G phone network
Catalog size
20 million songs
Device compatibility*
Mobile: iPhone®, iPod touch®, iPad®, Windows™ Phone 7, Android, BlackBerry
Home: Sonos®Apple TV® (with an iPhone, iPod, or iPad that has the Rdio app installed), Roku
Key pros & cons
Offline listening mode makes it easy to listen on the go (with Unlimited subscription)

SiriusXM

Listening options
Internet Radio
Satellite
Some On-Demand programming
Subscription options
Internet only: $14.49/month
Many satellite packages available. Add to existing subscription for $3.49/month
Sound quality
Up to 128 kbps
Catalog size
70+ commercial-free music channels, 24/7.
News and Entertainment channels, including Howard Stern
Every MLB and NFL game broadcast live. NBA and NHL live games. All NASCAR races.
Device compatibility*
Home: Sonos®, Logitech Squeezebox™, Onkyo receivers, Yamaha receivers, Pioneer receivers and more
Mobile: iPad®, iPhone®, iPod touch®, Android phones and tablets, BlackBerry and many after-market car receivers
Car: Built-in to most brands of cars and trucks, available via many after-market car receivers
Key pros & cons
Exclusive programming. Available coast-to-coast without data plan. Record, pause, rewind capability of broadcast content.

Last.fm

Listening options
Internet Radio
On-demand feature using Spotify's catalogue
Subscription options
Free: Download Last.fm's "Scrobbler" to listen on your computer
Subscription: $3/month; no ads, mobile access
Sound quality
Up to 128 kbps
Catalog size
700 million songs
Device compatibility*
Mobile: iPhone, iPod touch®, Android, Windows Mobile 7, HP TouchPad
Home: Sonos®, Logitech Squeezebox™, Xbox 360 (with Xbox LIVE Gold account), Onkyo receivers, and more
Key pros & cons
Provides music recommendation based on what you listen to on Last.fm, iTunes®, Spotify, MOG, Rdio, and more

Rhapsody

Listening options
On-demand
Internet Radio
Subscription options
Free: 14-day trial
Premier: $9.99/month; access on 1 mobile device, online streaming on your computer, unlimited home audio listening
Premier Plus: $14.99/month; adds access on 3 mobile devices
Sound quality
Up to 160 kbps streaming; 256 kbps for purchased MP3s
Catalog size
14 million songs
Device compatibility*
Mobile: iPhone®, iPod touch®, Android, BlackBerry, Windows Phone 7, Barnes & Noble NOOK, Amazon Kindle Fire
Home: Sonos®Logitech Squeezebox™; Denon, Onkyo, Sony, and Marantz receivers, and more
Key pros & cons
Offline listening mode makes it easy to listen on the go

* Listening on mobile or home A/V devices often requires a paid subscription; see music service site for details.
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