Best free music apps 2024: free music on Android and iPhone

Spotify SCREENSHOT
(Image credit: What Hi-Fi?)

Despite a revival in physical media,  most of us still use music streaming services when we want the convenience of millions of tunes on the go. Most operate on a subscription basis, charging monthly rates for access to their respective libraries, as well as offering tiers which may give higher quality, a larger roster of services and/or multiple-user access. 

The problem is that such prices only continue to rise no matter which paid tier you choose. Little wonder many aren't keen to pay for such privileges, instead opting for the free versions of these respective apps in a bid to make a sneaky saving. Millions of songs, no storage woes and no bills either– that's what the best free music platforms are offering.

While the proliferation of music apps has provided users with greater choice, distinguishing between them can be tough. Spotify is currently the top dog for free platforms, but it's far from the only service around, or the only one to offer an unpaid tier. The picture is only made more complex by each free platform giving and restricting different things.

When you spend a big chunk of your week testing hi-fi, you tend to become au fait with the range of music streaming platforms on offer. For the smart consumer, these are the best services that will give you quite a few notes without charging you a penny. 

Written by
Harry McKerrell headshot
Written by
Harry McKerrell

Harry is a staff writer who has listened to and reviewed dozens of products - be they wireless speakers, over-ear headphones or portable MP3 players- during his time at What Hi-Fi?. His ever-growing first-hand experience with streaming services and platforms of all types makes him ideally placed to give you the inside track on which to pick and which to avoid.

The quick list

You can see a quick breakdown of all the free streaming services on this list with a summary of what they’re best at and why we think they’re worth checking out. If you need more detail, just click the photo of a product to go to the in-depth entry.

The best free streaming services in 2024

Why you can trust What Hi-Fi? Our expert team reviews products in dedicated test rooms, to help you make the best choice for your budget. Find out more about how we test.

Below, you'll find our picks of the best free music services available. Every platform has been tested by our team of experts to ensure it delivers exactly what you need, so you can trust our buying advice. 

Best free music app overall

Spotify desktop screenshot

Spotify is the biggest name in the game right now, bringing a vast catalogue of music to millions of users worldwide. (Image credit: What Hi-FI?)
Still the best for free content, though there's plenty of competition around.

Specifications

Quality of free tier: Up to 160kbps
Library size: 100 million+ songs
Platforms: iOS and Android apps, desktop app, web player, smart TV apps, connected speaker support, cars

Reasons to buy

+
Plenty of ways to find new music
+
Easy to use
+
Works on lots of platforms

Reasons to avoid

-
Other rivals sound better 
-
No lossless audio
-
Little specific song selection in free tier 

The best-known free streaming service is also one of the finest– and certainly one of the most sociable. You will have to put up with irksome ads if you don't want to pay and you'll also have to listen to most playlists on shuffle mode rather than being able to pick the specific track that you want to hear at a given moment, but there's still plenty to like: decent sound quality, over 100 million songs, offline listening, bags of podcasts, new features arriving daily and compatibility with almost any device imaginable. 

It's not the easiest to get the hang of as a novice, but once you're in, Spotify's user interface is actually rather good, and certainly provides you with access to the platform's broad plethora of abilities without too much fuss. If you want free music streaming, Spotify will probably be your first port of call.

If you do want to pay, by the way, you'll be charged from £11/$11/AU$13 for a standard Premium account, although other plans, such as a Family Plan, are available.

Read the full Spotify review

Best free music app for Prime users

Amazon Music playlist screenshot

If you already have Amazon Prime, Amazon Music's free tier grants you access to more than 2 million tracks. (Image credit: What Hi-FI?)
An easy-to-use, extensive alternative to Spotify that's perfect for Prime subscribers.

Specifications

Quality of free tier: 256kbps
Library size: 2 million
Platforms: iOS and Android apps, desktop app, web player, connected speaker support, cars

Reasons to buy

+
2 million songs for free
+
No adverts
+
Works with Alexa

Reasons to avoid

-
Only free to Prime subscribers
-
Limited library 

You might not know it, but if you have Amazon Prime then you can access Amazon's entry-level music streaming service right now. That's right, as well as free one-day delivery and Amazon Prime Video, Amazon Prime entitles you to Amazon Music, which gives you over two million songs to stream on-demand at no additional cost. And the best bit? They're ad-free.

As you would expect, the selection is pretty mainstream, and the sound quality isn't going to blow you away, but Prime customers can't really complain. And if you're not happy, you can always step up to Amazon Music Unlimited, which costs £10/$10  (or £9/$9 with Prime) a month and now includes HD, its hi-res tier, for no extra cost.

There is, we would point out, also a tier titled Amazon Music Free which doesn't require a Prime Membership but does give you access to music, podcasts, curated playlists and stations, although you'll have to contend with ads and a lack of offline playback. 

Read the full Amazon Music review

Best free music app for versatility

Deezer screenshot

Deezer isn't necessarily the mainstream choice, but it's served well by a large catalogue and a clean, likeable user interface. (Image credit: Deezer)
An extensive catalogue and a funky redesign make Deezer a compelling alternative.

Specifications

Quality of free tier: 128kbps
Library size: 90 million+
Platforms: iOS and Android apps, desktop app, web player

Reasons to buy

+
Lots of choice
+
Good podcasts
+
Striking revamped layout 
+
Wide support across product

Reasons to avoid

-
Not great for discovery

Deezer is usually seen as the 'other' service when compared with the more mainstream quadrumvirate of Spotify, Tidal, Apple Music and Amazon Music, but that's not necessarily a reason to skip over it without thought. It isn't quite at the level of its rivals right now, but it is notable for being one of the first music streaming services around, as well as one of the earliest adopters of 360 Reality Audio

Deezer's free tier means you have to suffer ads, and the track quality is only 128kbps. The mobile app for this tier is also a little limited, though no more so than any of its rivals. However, when it comes to what to listen to, there's masses of choice (an impressive 90m-strong catalogue), and the layout is pleasingly simple to navigate. There are also lots of podcasts and other non-music content to get your ears into, making Deezer a strong choice for anyone looking beyond just music.

The Deezer you think you know might not actually be how the service is these days. Recently, the French platform enjoyed a massive redesign and rebranding, revamping the layout and altering the brand's identity with a bold purple colour scheme and brand new logo. We haven't had much time to play around with the new iteration, but initial reactions from both customers and critics seem to have been positive, and we're certainly keen on the endless curated "Flow" playlist feature. Watch this space for our updated review and impressions in due course.  

If you do sign up for the paid Deezer Premium service, you can enjoy FLAC 16-bit CD quality audio, but you'll have to pay £12/month ($12) for a Premium plan account. If you're going unpaid, simply subscribe to Deezer Free to listen with ads and a slightly more restricted service.

Read the full Deezer review

Best free music app for videos

YouTube music homepage screenshot

If you like music videos, the free version of YouTube Music is probably your best bet. (Image credit: What Hi-FI?)
The video-sharing giant's free music streaming service is great for video lovers.

Specifications

Quality of free tier: 128kbps
Library size: 70 million+
Platforms: iOS and Android apps, web player

Reasons to buy

+
Uncluttered interface
+
Plenty of rareties
+
Lots of videos

Reasons to avoid

-
Iffy sound quality
-
Discovery could be improved
-
Streams too compressed

Yes, it's strange to think, but YouTube isn't just for videos. Launched back in 2015, YouTube Music is the video-sharing site's attempt to take on Spotify et al. for the music streaming crown, and just like Spotify, it too offers a free tier. Sure, there are adverts as you would expect, but not as many as you might fear from a platform that for a time became the only reason half of us installed ad-blockers on our internet browsers. 

Extras such as downloading for offline listening are pay-only (non-students will pay around £12/$14/AU$15 a month), so you're limited to streaming the service's selection, but there's a considerable catalogue to choose from, the layout is nice and clean, and its selection of music videos is, of course, unrivalled. 

If you love music videos, YouTube Music is the one to check out.

Read the full YouTube Music review

Best free music app for global radio

TuneIn Radio page

More into radio? TuneIn offers a nice alternative to the classic streaming format. (Image credit: What Hi-FI?)

5. TuneIn Radio

If you love radio, tune in to TuneIn. You won't be disappointed.

Specifications

Quality of free tier: N/A
Library size: 10,000 radio stations, 5.7 million podcasts
Platforms: iOS and Android apps, web player, smart speakers, cars, wearables, smart TVs, games consoles

Reasons to buy

+
Wide spread of content
+
Big name stations

Reasons to avoid

-
Not music-focussed

If you're looking for something a bit different, TuneIn Radio might be a little more up your street. This isn't a pure music streaming service – rather the focus is on radio stations, so think of it as getting your music fix that way, as well as all of the appeal that comes from the traditional radio format. 

TuneIn offers a range of stations, including BBC Radio, NPR, All India Radio and C-SPAN, as well as news from the likes of CNN and Fox News and a host of podcasts. There are even local and genre-specific radio stations to choose from, so there should be something for everyone. 

For those who want to pay full price, TuneIn will offer (on top of its free content) access to more than 100K ad-free audiobooks, comprehensive radio sport coverage and a further 100+ commercial-free music stations. 

Featuring a wide choice of radio apps, this is the best we've come across for services of its kind.

Best free music app for podcasts

BBC Sounds homepage screenshot

BBC Sounds gives you everything you'd expect from the Beeb: quality, mainstream appeal that's completely free for everyone. (Image credit: What Hi-FI?)

6. BBC Sounds

The BBC's dedicated listening hub has a massive array of diverse, high-quality content.

Specifications

Quality of free tier: 48-320kbps
Library size: N/A
Platforms: iOS and Android apps, web player, internet radios, smart speakers, Virgin Media, YouView

Reasons to buy

+
Diverse content
+
Excellent radio stations
+
Useful features

Reasons to avoid

-
Buggy
-
Not music-centric

BBC Sounds took the place of the Beeb's iPlayer Radio app, a decision that feels utterly vindicated. As well as the usual BBC radio stations (Radio 1, Radio 4, 1Xtra, etc.) which you can listen to live or on-demand, it brings together all sorts of podcasts, music mixes, live sets and more. There are hundreds of podcasts, loads of exclusive content, even free audiobooks, not to mention curated playlists, TV soundtracks and more. History, comedy, science, sport; there's a vast array of high-quality content just waiting to be discovered, free for anyone to use, anytime.

You can search by genre, and then download and listen on-the-go, as well as being able to continue listening where you left off on another device. The app has experienced some teething issues and will occasionally bug out on you, but the platform as a whole has blossomed into a suitably rich and slick home for the BBC's excellent audio output. As the kids say, don't sleep on BBC Sounds.

Best free music app for new music

SoundCloud homepage screenshot

For years now, SoundCloud has been the place to discover new music from unsigned or emerging artists. (Image credit: What Hi-FI?)

7. SoundCloud

If you want to discover the industry's finest up-and-comers, check out SoundCloud.

Specifications

Quality of free tier: 64kbps
Library size: 200 million
Platforms: iOS and Android apps, web player

Reasons to buy

+
Great for emerging artists
+
120 million+ tracks
+
Great UI

Reasons to avoid

-
Some annoying pop-ups

SoundCloud is known as the home of emerging artists, so if you want to check out new acts and predict which bands are going to make it big, this is the place to do it. Post Malone and Lizzo started their respective careers on SoundCloud, so you can very much take that however you see fit. The free tier offers over 120 million tracks, mixes, podcasts and more, though we can't vouch for the quality of each (that's the trouble with 'up-and-coming' artists).

The upside is you can connect with friends and even the artists directly on the platform, make playlists, and get curated tracklists based on your taste. The downside is that, like many free services, you do have to put up with adverts.

SoundCloud is more of an alternative choice, but there's obviously nothing stopping you from using it as a place to discover offbeat offerings while also making use of a more traditional service as you do so. Still, if you are truly tired of the mainstream, perhaps it's time to take a trip to SoundCloud.

Best free music app for hi-res music

Tidal desktop app view

Our favourite streaming service, but you'll only get a free version if you're in the US. (Image credit: Apple / Tidal)
What Hi-Fi? Awards winner. The best streaming service now has a free tier in the US

Specifications

Quality of free tier: 160kbps
Library size: 100 million+ tracks
Platforms: PC, desktop, iOS and Android apps, Apple and Android TV apps, Apple CarPlay, Roon, Tidal Connect

Reasons to buy

+
Great sound quality
+
Hi-res Tidal Masters
+
Intuitive and expansive

Reasons to avoid

-
Hi-res tier undercut by Amazon, Apple
-
Free version available in US only

In the US? Lucky you. US customers can now gain access to the service’s first-ever free plan, called (unsurprisingly) ‘Tidal Free’, which offers streams of the complete Tidal library at 160kbps with “limited interruptions”. 

For anyone not domiciled in the States, a fee is still involved. The 'Tidal Premium' tier (£10.99, $10.99, AU$11.99 per month) that offered 320kbps quality has now been rebranded as ‘Tidal HiFi’ and gets you audio at up to 1411 kbps (i.e. CD quality), as well as offline capabilities and access to features such as Tidal Connect, for that same monthly price. Tidal’s basic Family Tier has also seen the same increase in standard bit rate streams.

The top tier, formerly ‘Tidal HiFi’, is now known as ‘Tidal HiFi Plus’ and remains £19.99 ($19.99, AU$23.99) per month. It brings audio quality up to 9216 kbps (i.e. hi-res) by supporting Tidal Masters via Master Quality Authenticated (MQA) technology, although things are slightly up in the air thanks to MQA recently going into administration. It is also the tier you have to subscribe to in order to listen to immersive music in Dolby Atmos Music and Sony 360 Audio.

This new subscription model puts Tidal's CD-quality offering more in line with the competition from Amazon and Apple, although its hi-res streaming remains at a premium that might put some people off. That said, Tidal has ensured its HiFi Plus tier has extra appeal for audiophiles and, besides, will no doubt still appeal to those with MQA-supporting hardware.

Read the full Tidal review

How to choose the best free music app for you

Most major music streaming services have a free tier, barring Tidal (unless you're lucky enough to live in the US), Qobuz and Apple Music, and while free services inevitably include adverts and have more limited functionality and audio quality than their paid-for stablemates, they're still pretty tempting. 

Keep your ear to the ground and you'll often find one, two, three, or even six-month free (or almost free) deals on certain streaming service's paid-for tiers too, to try the sonic goods before you buy. Just remember when your trial starts and finishes, as most will automatically renew and become paid memberships once they end, rather than simply terminating automatically and leaving you back where you started.

We would always nudge you towards better quality streams (for which you'll pay a fee), but if you're only an occasional listener (or on a very strict budget), free music streaming services also make more sense than paying for something you barely use. 

We've rounded up the best free options around so you can see which suits you. 

How we test free music apps

We have state-of-the-art testing facilities in London and Reading, where our team of experienced, in-house reviewers test the majority of hi-fi and AV kit that passes through our door.

Of course, where streaming services are concerned, a dedicated listening facility isn't always necessary, but we make sure to test each streaming platform using a variety of portable and home products (and various headphones), using iOS, Android and desktop apps. What is important in our reviewing process is that each service is compared to the best in its price and class. What Hi-Fi? is all about comparative testing, so we keep our Award-winners nearby to enable unbiased comparisons between new services and ones we know to have performed highly in the category.

We are always impartial and do our best to make sure we're hearing every proposition at its very best, so we'll try plenty of different types of music and give each service extensive listening time. It's not just about sound quality, of course. If a service has unique and noteworthy features (including smart skills, playlist curation or the option to tip your favourite acts) we'll ensure part of our testing involves trialling the claims made by its makers. 

All review verdicts are agreed upon by the entire team, rather than an individual reviewer, to eliminate any personal preference and to make sure we're being as thorough as possible. There's no input from PR companies or our sales team when it comes to the verdicts or star ratings in our reviews. 

MORE: 

Happy to pay? These are the best music streaming services

More interested in classical? Here's everything you need to know about Apple Music Classical

Want the best hi-quality streaming? Read our Tidal review

Harry McKerrell
Staff writer

Harry McKerrell is a staff writer at What Hi-Fi?. He studied law and history at university before working as a freelance journalist covering TV and gaming for numerous platforms both online and in print. When not at work he can be found playing hockey, practising the piano or forcing himself to go long-distance running.

  • SmaugTheDragon
    There is a mistake in this article, SoundCloud has an official app for Android.
    Reply
  • Mr. C Nation
    Assuming the correction above is correct, here's another: "Amazon has decided against matching Spotify’s free tier " Wrong. I listen to Amz for free every night. It goes like this :-

    "Alexa - play me 'Blue in Green' by Miles Davis."

    Alexa then gives a lecture on not playing specific tracks unless one has a sub and makes an offer, which I decline " ....but here's a station similar to 'Blue In Green' by Miles Davis' "
    And up will come 'Freddie Freeloader' ! I kid you not. That is what happened a few nights ago. The irony was not lost on me. It was followed by almost all the rest of 'Kind of Blue', without me asking.

    The other night I asked for 'Mama Roux' by Dr John. Alexa claimed not to know this track, so I asked for 'I WalK On Gilded Splinters' instead. I got the lecture about the sub and would I like to sign up - family m/ship £14.99 - no mention of the single device £3.99 sub. Naturally I declined this so she offered to play 'something similar' which happened to be ..... 'Mama Roux'!

    I find that the track she refused to play first off will come up two or three tracks into the free playlist that follows the "... here's a station similar to .." spiel. The trick is to ask for a track that you don't necessarily want to hear at that moment but is tightly aligned to the category/theme/playlist of what you do want to hear. So you may not want to hear 'Girl From Ipanema' But up will come 'Desafinado', the track one did want to hear. A playlist of bossa/Stan Getz will follow.

    And this, every night, for free. If something comes up which you really can't be doing with, you shut Alexa up and start again. Of course, you're in the hands of the Amz library structure but you are not going to get 'Hey Joe' by Jimi followed by 'When The Saints Go Marching In' by Louis Armstrong.
    Reply
  • whatnext
    I don`t use paid music apps I have Internet radios scattered around the house where you can get thousands of free music stations some with no ads and others with very few ads, over in less than 30 seconds. But when I think of it they aren't really ads at all like you get on youtube and tv.
    Reply
  • jonlg_uk
    All those platforms listed force you to listen to annoying ads, the only platform i know that doesn't is moodplaylist.com however even that has its limitations.
    Reply
  • baxterbos
    What Hi-Fi? said:
    All the free music and radio streaming apps you need for listening on your Android or iPhone.

    Best free music apps: free music on Android and iPhone : Read more
    The BluePlayer app on iPhone is pretty good for music listening.
    Reply