- Good choice of packages
- HiFi tier sounds better than the average
- Huge catalogue of songs
- Lossless audio is expensive and not available on mobile
- Mobile app prone to buffering
- Sparse design
- Algorithms are hit-and-miss
- Review Price: £20/month
- On-demand music streaming of over 50 million songs
- Apps for desktop, iOS and Android
- Three separate pricing tiers
- Lossless audio available
What is Deezer?
Despite being one of Spotify’s oldest rivals, Deezer still flies a little under the radar compared with big-name alternatives from Apple and co. But with a bigger library than Spotify and a pricing tier to suit every budget, should you give it a closer look?
Alongside the restricted, ad-supported free option there are two paid ones: Premium and HiFi. They remove the ads, up the sound quality and allow you to save your favourite songs for offline listening. We’ll touch on all three here, but the main focus is on the paid options.
Deezer – Usability and design
The last thing you want with a streaming service is for it to be overly complicated, which Tidal can sometimes be. But Deezer’s desktop app goes too far in the opposite direction. It feels rather sterile and lifeless, almost as if it’s not finished. To be fair, it is still in beta, but it’s hard to see it drastically changing.
The web-based version is helped slightly by the fact that it displays the artwork of whatever’s currently playing in the bottom corner and the Deezer logo in the top left, but there’s still too much white space. Things feel less sparse on the mobile app, which is available for iOS and Android, although the ‘now playing’ screen is perhaps a bit on the busy side.
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Navigation is simple enough though, with Home, Browse/Explore (they’re called different things on desktop and web/mobile for some reason) and Hear This menus listed on the left-hand side, with the My Music section underneath. The mobile app also has a dedicated button along the bottom of the screen that takes you directly to Deezer’s Flow mode – more on that later.
Browse/Explore is where you’ll find all of the playlists and podcasts Deezer has to offer, while Hear This is a regularly refreshed selection of personalised recommendations that includes both albums and playlists. My Music is where you go to quickly access anything you’ve favourited. Pretty simple.
The one really irritating thing about Deezer’s mobile app is that it doesn’t remember where you left off listening to an album if you don’t use it for a few hours. So when you’re exploring new stuff, it can be easy to lose your place in an album.
Deezer – Catalogue and sound quality
Deezer has over 53 million tracks in its catalogue, putting it comfortably ahead of every other streaming service out there, except possibly YouTube Music, where you can access any old bedroom wannabe’s back catalogue of Fleetwood Mac covers.
Is it massively noticeable? Not really, although it does have more Jay-Z on offer than Spotify (but not as much as Tidal, natch). Considering Deezer is available in more than 180 countries, that probably explains the extra music on offer. In comparison, you can get Spotify in 65 countries, while Apple Music is available in more than 100.
Depending on which package you subscribe to, Deezer has up to three different quality settings: Standard (free), Better (£10 a month) and HiFi (£20 a month). The bitrate is explicitly listed as 128kbps for freeloaders (which is all you deserve), 320kbps for those willing to stump up a tenner a month, and 1411kbps for those splashing out the full £20.
As long as you’re using the desktop app, it’s fairly difficult to find anything that’s not available in the highest quality on offer, making it a viable alternative to Tidal. Although while there’s noticeably more body and detail to the sound, I’m not convinced it sounds twice as good as its lossy rivals, which it should do if you’re being charged twice the price.
The biggest problem is that the lossless audio isn’t available on mobile or the web-based player. So for a significant portion of your listening time, you’ll be paying £20 for something that would usually only cost you half of that.
Drop the quality down to the 320kbps you get with the £10-a-month tier and it sounds a touch better than Spotify – but not quite as good as Apple Music. Where Tidal trumps Deezer is with the hi-res audio on offer, even if the selection is limited.
Deezer – Discovery and curation
Deezer has tonnes of playlists divided up by genre and mood, although they suffer from having very generic names, which can make choosing one over the other something of a guessing game.
The service has human curators putting together many of its playlists. The specific individual is even credited on each one, so while you can’t argue with what’s included on most of them, they don’t tend to throw up many surprises.
The personalised recommendations in the Hear This section are certainly less obvious and the choices aren’t bad, although they lack a bit of variation when it comes to genre. The one recommendation in my list that came from a Deezer staffer was Skepta’s Konnichiwa, an album that was released two years ago and won the Mercury Music Prize. Hardly a hidden gem.
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Throughout the various apps, but particularly on mobile, Deezer is keen to push something called Flow – a collection of 40-track playlists generated from your listening history. The main one is made up of songs Deezer is pretty sure you already like, but the others, subtitled either Inspired By or Discover, are designed to introduce you to new music.
A Flow playlist inspired by Jon Hopkins was full of Squarepusher, Boards of Canada, Nils Frahm and Aphex Twin, which are hardly likely to be unknown to someone who likes Jon Hopkins. But there were also lesser-known artists included, such as Grouper and Windsor for the Derby.
Another, inspired by my love of Outkast and The Pharcyde, was less successful, with songs by Olly Murs, LMFAO and Bowling for Soup among Slum Village, Pete Rock and Gang Starr causing me to question the sanity of Deezer’s algorithms.
The Discover playlist is a more general selection of songs that Deezer thinks you’ll like. It’s been pretty much spot-on in my time using it. It’s just that I already know 95% of them. Seriously, who’s never heard Gangsta’s Paradise?
Not a bad attempt, then, but not a total success either.
Deezer – Connectivity
As you’d expect from the mobile app, the iOS version supports AirPlay and Chromecast output, while the Android version works only with the latter. Connecting it to a compatible speaker is just a couple of taps away.
There’s also a Deezer skill available for Amazon’s Echo, which means you can use your account on your voice-controlled speaker. Although unlike Spotify Connect, you can’t control music playback through the mobile app, should you want to keep your mouth shut.
Deezer also works with Google Home and a load of hi-fi kit, including Sonos and some B&O and Samsung speakers. A few of them, including Google Home, even support Deezer’s higher-quality lossless streaming. Although considering it’s one of the weaker-sounding smart speakers available, that seems like a bit of a waste.
There are also Deezer apps available for most major TV brands, the Xbox One and various set-top boxes. It’s also available on in-car systems, including Android Auto, Apple CarPlay and those that come pre-installed from a number of manufacturers, such as BMW and Mini.
Deezer – Extras
Alongside a fairly comprehensive selection of popular podcasts, Deezer also offers access to live radio. It includes most major commercial stations and the BBC, so you don’t need a separate app if you’re a fan of the wireless. But it doesn’t offer any info on recently played songs, like some online radio apps do.
You also get exclusive football content from Manchester United and FC Barcelona. Although the latter only provides playlists, some curated by the players, so you can easily find out that Lionel Messi’s music taste doesn’t quite match up to his ability on the pitch.
Manchester United, however, also uploads manager José Mourinho’s press conferences. But if you’re in the market for something that dreary from Manchester, you could always just listen to the last Morrissey album.
A lot of songs also allow you to display the lyrics as you play them, which means you could even turn Deezer into a rudimentary karaoke app. Just make sure to check whether your fellow bus passengers mind before you start belting out Come On Eileen.
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Why buy a Deezer subscription?
While Deezer doesn’t really do anything wrong, there’s nothing about its Premium offering to make you choose it over Spotify orApple Music. Discovery features aren’t as good, the apps are uninspiring and the sound quality is nothing to write home about.
Its lossless audio certainly sounds pretty good, but it’s too restricted. So if you’re willing to pay £20 a month to stream higher-quality music, your money would be much better off going to Tidal, where the curation is better, lossless tracks are available on all platforms, and there’s a selection of high-res audio on top.
Flexible and perfectly functional, but Deezer lacks the wow factor needed to stand out.