YouTube Music Review | PCMag

The streaming music space is filled with companies struggling for your auditory attention. An extension of Google’s entertainment arm, YouTube Music stands out from competing services by combining customized playlists, search by lyrics, official studio releases, and community uploads. It’s a great mix, but if you’re already using one of our Editors’ Choice picks like LiveXLive, SiriusXM Internet Radio, Spotify, or Tidal, it probably won’t make you commit to a subscription. Still, YouTube Music stands out against these impressive competitors, and if you sign up for YouTube Premium, of which this service is a part, you’ll enjoy an all-round entertainment package.

YouTube Music’s Plans

Google and its subsidiaries have a long and rich history of confusingly rebranding new products (see Google Allo, Duo, Hangouts, and Messenger) and/or services similar to existing ones (see Google Apps for Your Domain, Google Apps for Apps). Works, G Suite, Google Docs, Sheets & Slides, and Google Drive). This approach is now being applied to the company’s music arm, with Google Play disappearing. This isn’t YouTube’s first batch in music either: remember YouTube’s Music Keys and the original YouTube Red? However, YouTube Music is the company’s most focused and complete music service to date.

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You can enjoy YouTube Music directly in your browser or via a downloadable mobile app. The service is free to use, with ads interspersed between the tracks. It’s a good option if you’re curious to try it. Ads aren’t ideal, of course, but they’re usually short and you can skip as many tracks as you want during your sessions. Most other services, including LiveXLive and SiriusXM Internet Radio, limit your hourly song skips for music and comedy channels. A $9.99 monthly subscription to YouTube Music Premium lets you eliminate ads. This subscription also lets you download tracks for offline listening on mobile devices and even offers an offline shuffle, an automatically downloaded playlist based on your listening preferences. In this context, YouTube Music Premium stands out from the competition. Please note that with LiveXLive’s unique $3.99 per month Plus plan, you can listen ad-free and cheaper elsewhere.

Like Spotify, Tidal, and many other paid music streaming services, YouTube Music has a family plan. This option gives six people access to YouTube Music’s catalog and premium features for $14.99 per month. It also offers a student discount for $4.99. Also included is YouTube Music Premium as part of the package if you subscribe to YouTube Premium, the company’s $11.99-per-month ad-free entertainment network. Now you have something to do in between cobra kai sections.

Data-Driven Recommendations

The YouTube Music homepage has three main sections: Home, Explore, and Library. The homepage is where you’ll find recommended content (we’ll explain later). Discover is where trending songs, live performances and deep cuts live. The library contains your favorite songs, your favorite albums, your listening history and created playlists. For example, we’re happy to see our regular old YouTube holiday playlist migrated here. The homepage is well designed, easy to navigate and attractive.

Climbing Ladders

YouTube Music leverages mountains of user data from Google to provide customized experiences; At least that’s the goal. For example, if you’re at an airport, YouTube Music should offer soothing tunes for the stressful flight experience. If you’re at the gym, YouTube Music should feed your heart-pounding beats and riffs.

In our tests, YouTube Music detected the time of day and our location and presented us with suitable playlists. For example, he suggested listening to the energy-boosting “Classic Rock Party” and “’90s Hip Hop Party” playlists early in the morning. Over the course of the evening, YouTube Music suggested a few “Commute” playlists with Rock, Hip-Hop, and Classic drive tunes for fun. Even the weather plays a role; YouTube Music Premium detected a clear sky in New York, resulting in the “Feel Good Favorites” playlist.

If you’re okay with replacing your personal data with personalized playlists, this is a really slick experience, albeit a bit sober. Definitely a more personalized experience than other music services offer.

YouTube Music has another great feature: lyrics-based searches. You can type “Tested to become MC and didn’t fail” in the search box, hit enter, and as a result, the “Rock Box” of RUN-DMC is listed correctly. However, the same search returned Olivia Newton-John’s “Physical” for some inexplicable reason. Still, it’s a great little tool to use when all you know about a song is a few lyrics. On the subject, YouTube Music includes lyrics for the official music, which is a great feature to use for debunking or singing along with Snow’s “Informer.”

The interface of YouTube Music

YouTube Music Listening Experience

Of course, YouTube Music also recommends songs, albums, and playlists based on songs you’ve liked or listened to in the past. While researching The Offspring for a project, our YouTube Music stream was flooded with Korn, Limp Bizkit, and other suburban, agro-rock tracks. The algorithm works regardless of taste.

In terms of sound quality, streaming music sounds good. Neither the YouTube Music app nor the web version show audio quality features, but a quick look at the service’s Help page provides answers. Music tracks are streamed in Low, Normal, and High qualities carrying bitrates of 48kbps AAC, 128kbps AAC, and 256kbps AAC, respectively. High quality is only available to Premium users. Naturally, the bitrate drops if you stream music over a weak connection. The average music listener with a good pair of headphones will melt into a world of big beats, soft vibrations and hard rock. However, there is no Hi-Res Audio in the service. Audiophiles with more discerning ears may want to check out Amazon Music Unlimited, Apple Music, Qobuz or Tidal for premium quality sound.

Unfortunately, YouTube Music does nothing more than music and comedy. In the last few years, music streaming services have expanded to offer non-music content such as news and weather updates (LiveXLive), podcasts (Deezer, Spotify), editorial (Tidal), concert charts (iHeartRadio), or live radio streams. (SiriusXM Internet Radio). However, YouTube Music includes collaborative playlists, so you can share and organize playlists with your friends. Hopefully, your friendship can withstand the inevitable “You’ll Never Give Up” additions to your favorite playlist.

YouTube Music plays Motoi Sakuraba

Video Jukebox

Naturally, there are lots of videos on YouTube Music. For example, if you search for Flatbush Zombies, the results page has a special video section where you can view official music videos as well as content uploaded from the community. Most music streaming services only offer official music videos, but YouTube Music offers you official content as well as karaoke tracks, bedroom covers, and music uploaded from random users. If you love navigating YouTube rabbit holes, you’ll dig into the lack of curation.

Still, we understand that someone doesn’t like this open-door approach to video content. If only official music videos will do, for hair removal, take a look at Tidal and enjoy the powerful selection of videos in its curated library.

YouTube Music Mobile Apps

Alongside the easily accessible browser-based version, YouTube Music is available on Android and iOS platforms. We spent a lot of time trying the iOS version on our iPhone.

The app is similar to the desktop version in that it has a simple, attractive, grid-based interface that puts playlists front and center. With Music Premium, you can download playlists and let the app play in the background while you play with other apps. The Explore section is a great way to see what’s new and hot in the music world, as well as enjoy live performances and deep cuts. The app version also includes lyrics for official tracks, so you can easily make music by clicking Lyrics located between the Up Next and Related tabs. We did not encounter any crashes or freezes during my hours of listening.

Beyond Simple Web Videos

Google’s music initiative may not match the unique features of the competition, but location- and time-based playlists, search by lyrics, and no skipping restrictions are the highlights. Incredible covers and fan remixes, along with incredible songs from movies, video games and the music industry as a whole, make the transition to YouTube Music easy and natural. If you don’t like podcasts or Hi-Res Audio, YouTube Music is for you.

pros

  • Allows you to easily switch between audio and music videos

  • Great location and time based playlists

  • Can search by lyrics

  • Collaborative playlists

  • Family and Student plans

  • free version

Underline

YouTube Music leverages Google’s huge database of knowledge to deliver a rich streaming service packed with official songs, covers, fan uploads, and lots of features for easy listening.

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