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Featured Review: A Look at Music Streaming Service Deezer

October 16, 2015 - Written By Tom Dawson

With the launch of Apple Music, Jay-Z purchasing the oddball TIDAL and Spotify still crushing everything else, the world of music streaming has certainly gotten a little more interesting. One player that not many people will have heard of is Deezer. A music streaming service based in Paris, but with offices all over the world – including London and San Francisco – and over 6 Million subscribers in 180 different countries. Available online, on iOS and Android Deezer offers up features beyond their 35 Million+ tracks. Our UK readers can now tune in to TalkSport through the same app and there are 30,000+ radio stations as well as the ability to download and listen to 20,000+ podcasts. All through the same service. I’ve been taking a look at the overall service from Deezer, so let me introduce you to Deezer.

One Service, Everywhere

Spotify has got this sort of thing down to a fine art, but I was immediately surprised by what Deezer offers. For testing, I primarily used their online web app, the Mac app and of course the Android app (which I’ll go in to more detail of, naturally). A quick note on the Mac app, I was impressed to see an iTunes import option, adding all of the songs and artists in my massive iTunes library to my Deezer recommendations and favorites, which essentially set my music free, if you like. The web app is nice and easy to use, and as Deezer streams in MP3 format, it works on any platform out there with little hassle. Deezer features a similar, and familiar interface no matter where you use it. There’s a sort of Material Design look to this, but for the most part Deezer carves out its own look, and keeps things familiar across every platform out there.

The Android app is a pleasantly simple, yet approachable design. There’s a sort of “feed” that offers up new mixes chosen for you, sports offerings and more. This is also where new album releases from your favorite artists (achieved by pressing a little heart on their page) will be recommended to you. The more you use the Deezer app, the smarter it will become, and the mixes and playlists recommended to you will become more targeted to you.

There’s everything you could want here in the Android app really, including some highlights like the ability to download whatever you want to your device for offline listening. Deezer might be a jack of all trades, but the Android app gets music right, for the most part. As you’ll see in the smorgasbord of screenshots below, there’s a great library view that allows users to sift through their library as they would an offline music app, which is a nice touch, but unfortunately the player view itself can feel a little cluttered. It’s not as neat as it could be, but it gets the job done.

Flow

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A headlining feature of Deezer is Flow, a brutally simple and refreshing approach to just hitting the play button. In a nutshell, Flow is just a way of creating an on-the-spot mix no matter where or what you’re doing. Flow works the same on any of the supported platforms you’re using, and you can skip a track, like or dislike a song. The refreshing part about this is that when you hit the dislike button, Deezer immediately skips to the next track and vows never to play it in Flow again. Exactly the way it should be.

I really like Flow, and as someone that has a disturbingly broad appreciation for different genres, I was impressed at the variety it throws up. I’m not naive enough to see through this smart machine however, and I can see what tracks it serves up. Flow is only really as good as an artist’s hits. For instance, I like Ellie Goulding’s music right now, but I’m not a full-album listening convert, and so Flow is nice because the Goulding tracks it does throw up are all of her best hits. Genius.

Flow has its limits however, and this hinges on the amount of artists you have favorited, to get the most out of Flow, you need to have a lot of artists added to your library, otherwise you’ll end up recycling the same sort of songs over and over. As I say, Flow is brutally simple and that’s both its biggest strength and weakness. It is so refreshing to just let music play without a care in the world, but if you don’t put in the effort then Flow won’t be as much fun as it could be.

Subscriptions and Selection

Considering that all of these different services – Deezer included – feature free trails galore these days, jumping ship is no problem. Sticking with a service, paying the same each month is the problem for a lot of people. Thankfully, Deezer is one of the more flexible streaming services out there. There’s a free model, which allows users to get unlimited music by using only Flow and Mixes, and they can only get Deezer picks through the website. There are ads and no downloading available in the mobile app. The Premium+ subscription (which I used to evaluate Deezer) comes in at £9.99 a month or $9.99 a month in US. This allows full access to everything Deezer has to offer including downloads and the ability to import all of your MP3s, too. Sadly, there’s no family plan here, which gives a +1 to both Google and Spotify in a big way when it comes to pricing.

The overall selection of tracks here is broad, and impressive. Out of my personal tastes I found only a few gaps, including Metallica, but name a modern service that ‘Tallica have embraced instead? All of the modern tracks are here, and there’s a deep, impressive back catalog of pretty much every artist that’s included. It might not tick everyone’s boxes, but it certainly ticked the majority of mine, and admirably so.

Verdict

So, is Deezer any good? Well, yes it’s very good in fact, but the problem with music is that everything is objective and people are creatures of habit. I normally use TIDAL day-in-, day-out for my music streaming and I happily swallow the high price tag, because I have decent hardware to take advantage of it, and listening to music is important to me. So, for me Deezer didn’t quite sound as full and realised as the songs from TIDAL did, but it’s a whole lot more fun. There’s no Flow feature in TIDAL, no integration of podcasts (another interest of mine) and it’s easier to manage your Deezer library and of course downloading the 320kbps MP3 files will save on space vs TIDAL. What about your more run of the mill offerings though, like Spotify and Google Play Music?

It seems to me that Deezer has a ways to go before it can truly match those two. Google’s playlist creation is pretty great, but then Spotify has them both blown out of the water with great curation and recommendation through tools like Taste Rewind and more. Where Deezer excels however, is where it counts; the music. Many of the tracks that modern listeners would expect to see are all accounted for, and they sound quite good. If you want a service that has all the tunes you know and love, then Deezer won’t let you down, and while Flow and Hear This need a little work, Deezer brings with it Podcasts and sports radio as well, so there is some added value here, too.

Ultimately, this sort of thing comes down to personal preference, but Deezer is without a doubt an excellent option that you should definitely look into if you’re fed up with Spotify or want to try something new. For those interested, you can try out Deezer here.