While Spotify might be recognised as one of the first streaming services to hit the mainstream, the brains behind French company Deezer were actually working on the idea as much as two years earlier.
But it took two years after its official launch in 2007 for it to sign deals with all the major labels, meaning its catalogue was limited until the end of 2009.
It was only then that its expansion into a streaming service to be reckoned with really began.
With availability in 182 countries, its reach is huge, and more than triple that of its nearest competitor Spotify, which is available in 55.
Its platform availability is similarly extensive, and you’d struggle to find a device it’s not available on rather than one it is.
The experience across web and app is largely the same, and all versions we tested were well designed and easy to use and navigate.
We did find the ‘Hear This’ tab that offers up useful playlist and album suggestions is, however, nowhere to be found on the iPad app though, which is a shame, and makes new music discovery more difficult on Apple’s tab.
It’s an odd omission too, since it appears in the iPhone app and on both Android versions too.
We found most other features were available across the board though – including extensive genre filters; a section for chart lists and new releases; and one for radio stations.
Albums and artists can be favourited for quick access later and playlists easily built on the fly too.
Like Spotify, Deezer offers third party apps, as well as a handful of its own, that can be used within the app.
Some of our favourites include Deezer Sessions, videos of exclusive live music sessions; Deezer By… showcasing playlists and track suggestions from artists and Deezer editors around the world; and Spotizr, an app that replicates your Spotify playlists in Deezer.
It's probably not got quite the breadth or quality of apps that Spotify has just yet, but it’s still certainly worth a look, with numbers growing all the time.
Currently numbering 30,000,000 tracks, Deezer’s huge catalogue exceeds Spotify’s by a cool 10 million and is currently the largest of any available streaming service.
At the time of testing it carried nine of our 10 chosen sample tracks.
Apps and platforms
Platform support is hard to fault, with apps available for Android, iOS, Windows Phone, BlackBerry and Symbian.
You’ll find it on most smart TV services, AV equipment from Sonos, Logitech and Jambox, Xbox 360s and in BMWs, Minis and Parrot in-car systems.
A desktop app is available for Windows 8, or you can listen through your web browser instead.
More after the break
Social features on Deezer are a big part of the service, and you’re able to find friends on the service by linking up your Twitter, Facebook and Google + accounts.
You are also able to search manually to find people, but that’s a lengthy process and hooking up your social networks is a much quicker, easier method.
Once you’ve found all the people you want to follow, you can visit their profile to see their favourite artists, albums, most played tracks and playlists.
Similar to the social bar in Spotify, you can also see when friends are online and receive notifications of what they’re listening to.
This information appears on the right hand side, but can always be hidden if you prefer.
And in case you were still not quite sure whether Deezer and Spotify have been keeping a close eye on each other, Deezer also offers the ability to add local tracks by uploading them into the ‘My MP3s’ section.
This has to be done via the web app first, but they are then synced immediately for playback across all your other devices. Handy stuff.
Deezer offers 320kbps playback to Premium users and, perhaps unsurprisingly, its performance is very similar to its Big Green Rival.
Critical ears will hear that a similarly hard edge is evident on more transparent equipment, sounding just a touch harsh compared to the likes of Sony Music Unlimited and Napster, which have a softer character.
Detail levels are decent, but that harder edge could become irksome if you’re using more unforgiving kit.
A Premium subscription for ad-free streaming and offline playback costs £9.99/month, but a special offer puts it at £4.99 for the first six months to help snatch subscribers from its competitors.
Other options include a web-only subscription at £4.99/month and the free Discovery option – unlimited ad-supported playback for 12 months, stripped back to two hours per month after the year is up.
It’s hard not to look at Deezer and compare it with Spotify. Their features are so similar that, in many ways, there’s very little to separate them.
But while Spotify’s exclusives are hard to ignore, Deezer does have the edge over its competition when it comes to interface – and that’s important too.
Its clever half price Premium subscription offer could well be the key to pulling in any users sitting on the fence.
Catalogue: 30 million
Bitrate: up to 320kbps
File format: MP3
Mobile platforms: Android, Blackberry, iOS, Symbian, Windows Phone/8
Desktop app: No
Tablet optimised: Android, iOS, Windows 8
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