Deezer’s roots in the streaming industry go right back to the very beginning. Although Spotify is often credited with being one of the first streaming services, Deezer was on the scene as much as a year earlier.
However, a very limited catalogue initially held it back from making a huge impression.
But now available in 182 countries, its reach is huge, and its platform range is similarly extensive – you’ll struggle to find a device for which it isn’t available.
Using a laptop, via the web or a desktop app, is by far the best way to use Deezer. Although the mobile apps are easy enough to navigate once you know the layout, they lack a little inspiration.
They appear not to have been designed with the mobile user in mind – albums appear as long lists with small cover art, rather than the big picture-led user interfaces of its competitors.
Parts of the tablet app are very fiddly, and those which aren’t are rather dull and tend to feature a lot of unnecessary white space.
Feature-wise, Deezer is a strong competitor for Spotify, especially in the way it works hard at helping you find new music. One of its recent features is ‘Flow’, presented as the first thing you see on the homepage.
The idea is to let Deezer do the hard work by picking songs it thinks you’ll like from its catalogue based on your previous listening habits.
There are buttons to dismiss tracks you don’t like (which also help it learn further) but we actually found it to be pretty good in its selections.
Elsewhere, you have the Hear This tab, which picks out new curated content and reasonably accurate “if you liked that, then try this” suggestions. There are also New Releases and Top Playlists tabs, both handily filterable by genre and lastly Mixes, which are genre and mood-based radio stations.
Songs, albums, playlists and mixes can all be favourited for easy access and your own MP3s can be uploaded via the web app for access across platforms.
While Spotify has quietly ditched third-party apps, Deezer continues to offer them, as well as a handful of its own, all of which can be used within the service.
Our favourites include Deezer Sessions, offering exclusive videos of live music sessions, and Spotizr, a helpful app that replicates your Spotify playlists in Deezer.
More after the break
Like Spotify, Deezer still offers an ad-supported free tier at 128kbps. This offers unlimited listening on web or tablet, but restricts mobile use to the Flow feature and Mixes only. There’s no offline listening, so you’ll want to go steady if you have a data allowance.
For £9.99 per month, users can get access to the ad-free Premium+, with 320kbps playback and offline listening, or for £14.99, Sonos users only can sign up to Deezer Elite for everything Premium+ offers, plus 16-bit/44.1kHz FLAC playback through their Sonos kit.
A little specific, perhaps, but it does offer Sonos users the cheapest option for CD-quality streaming currently available. We’re hopeful to see Elite extended to regular web and mobile use very soon.
As for performance, Deezer offers a similar sound to its big green rival. Critical ears will hear that 320kbps streams have a similarly hard edge when played through unforgiving kit, but in practice this will go largely unnoticed.
Detail levels are good and timing is tight, but you’ll hear a much more open, dynamic and punchy presentation if you upgrade to Elite through a Sonos speaker.
For a while now, Deezer and Spotify have stood shoulder to shoulder in terms of features, catalogue and performance. Even with the introduction of Elite, not much has changed. It’s nice to have the option, but it’s currently too restricted to tip the balance in Deezer’s favour.
However, Spotify’s refreshed interface has left Deezer trailing, and while we applaud the introduction of Elite, more attention needs to be placed on the user experience.
Until then, it’s hard not to fancy other rival services more.
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