Despite some companies falling by the wayside in recent years, streaming music services are still a dime a dozen. There are purely music-focused companies, such as LiveXLive Powered by Slacker Radio and Spotify vying for your ear alongside tech giants like Amazon, Apple, and Google. As a result, a streaming music service has to be really good to stand out from the pack. Enter French company Deezer, which slid into the US market in 2016. The service doesn’t do anything revolutionary, but its blend of traditional streaming music, live radio, podcasts, and exclusive content makes Deezer worth your consideration.
Platforms and Plans
Deezer is available for damn near every platform. You can download it as a macOS or Windows desktop app, access it via a web browser, or check it out using an Xbox One, Roku, smart speaker, smart tv, or smartwatch. Deezer is available for Android Auto and other car tech, too. You can sign up using a Google or Facebook account, or you can create a dedicated Deezer account from scratch.
Deezer’s pricing falls in line with what’s offered by competing services. Deezer Free is an ad-supported plan designed for mobile devices. If you listen to Deezer Free on, say, your phone, you can enjoy a wide variety of playlists. If you listen to Deezer Free on non-mobile devices, you’ll only hear 30-second song snippets. Overall, Deezer Free limits skips, has no offline mode, partial lyrics, and has 128kbps, compressed MP3 streams.
Next up the ladder is the ad-free Deezer Premium, which costs $9.99 per month or a discounted $119 per year. It grants unlimited listening on all devices, unlimited song skips, full lyrics, and offline listening. Like Apple Music, Spotify, and a few other music services, Deezer also offers a $14.99-per-month family plan that blesses six people with Deezer Premium access. A $4.99 student plan is available for college students. In terms of audio quality, Deezer Premium serves up 320kbps, compressed MP3 streams.
Deezer delivers CD-quality (16-bit, 1,411kbps), lossless FLAC streams via its $19.99 HiFi plan. Some HiFi tracks support 360 Reality Audio. That said, Deezer doesn’t offer Hi-Res Audio music, like Amazon Music Unlimited, Primephonic, Qobuz, or Tidal (a PCMag Editors’ Choice for streaming music services).
By default, Deezer’s mobile apps (available for Android, Blackberry, iOS, Windows Phone, and other platforms) stream audio at a lowly 128Kbps over Wi-Fi and data connections. That said, you can bump the sound quality up to 320kbps, but if you do, look for a Wi-Fi signal; that bitrate could potentially chew through your data plan (especially if you sign up for the HiFi plan).
The Android app, which I spent some time listening to, has a cool notification system that alerts you to important music happenings. When I logged into Deezer for Android, the notifications section contained alerts about the Santana (Legacy Edition) album and my subscription information.
Unfortunately, Deezer’s mobile apps don’t let you upload or stream your own MP3 files. That’s a feature found in the web and desktop app versions.
If you’ve used LiveXLive Powered by Slacker Radio or Spotify, two PCMag Editors’ Choice winners, you know roughly what to expect from Deezer. You get a panel-driven interface that lets you explore music by genre (Rock, Soul & Funk, Pop, and so on) or playlist (Acoustic Soul, Blues Women, Rock Workout, and the like). Both categories are populated by a mix of songs from the genres you select when you set up your account.
Deezer has sections that let you listen to the most popular tracks in different countries (Brazil, India), as well as themed stations (The ’70s, French New Music Scene), platform-exclusive content (Gerardo Ortiz, Sharlene), and more than 40,000 podcasts (The Daily, This Week in Tech).
The coolest original content lives in Deezer Sessions, which are EPs recorded in front of a live audience. Some of the artists who’ve participated in Deezer Sessions include George Ezra and Dua Lipa. Deezer Sessions recalls MTV Unplugged, and you can either listen to the music in audio form or watch the performances in video form. Deezer would do well to expand its original content; that’s an area where LiveXLive Powered by Slacker Radio excels, with its video streams, Slacker Stories, Artist DNA, and I Am The DJ channels (among others).
The Hear This section highlights content that’s freshly added to the service and relevant to your interests. They’re tailored to your tastes, too. I was happy to see the “new” Jimi Hendrix Both Sides of the Sky album release, for example. You can add albums, songs, and playlists to your favorites list (which Deezer dubs My Music) or share them with others.
Like iHeartRadio, Deezer has a significant number of live radio stations—more than 80, in fact. These include jazz, news, pop, and decade-centric tunes from around the globe. Naturally, due to the nature of live radio, you can’t skip tracks. That said, I wish Deezer had the ability to rewind live radio—a powerful feature found in SiriusXM Internet Radio, an Editors’ Choice for streaming music services.
The Listening Party
I fired up Beck’s Modern Guilt on both the desktop and mobile sides, and enjoyed the classic album while listening through a pair of headphones. Like Deezer’s live radio streams, the default curated streams sounded a bit tinny. Naturally, Deezer HiFi has much better audio quality than the base streams; its sound is on par with the excellent Tidal HiFi. With Deezer HiFi, there’s greater audio richness, especially if you listen while using quality headphones. The Dirtbombs’ Ultraglide In Black sounded extremely fresh and lively. The extra audio data makes a difference.
Another feature, Flow, factors your various liked/banned songs, albums, and playlists to form a personal soundtrack. Flow contains your favorites, as well as recommended music that Deezer’s algorithm determines to be a good fit. My Flow stream contained many funk, alt rock, classic rock, and 1980s-era tracks—very on-brand for yours truly. Flow isn’t radically different than other services’ recommendation channels, but it gets the job done.
Worth Your Ear
Deezer is all about streaming music, live radio, and podcasts. It may not have as many fun or informative extras that competitors offer, but the service, with a sweet combination of international music, MP3 compatibility, lyrics, and other features, is a very attractive offering. If you want a streaming music service with those educational or fun features, check out our Editors’ Choices, LiveX Live Powered By Slacker Radio, SiriusXM Internet Radio, Spotify, or Tidal