Spotify, Apple Music, Tidal, Soundcloud, and other music streaming platforms grant instant access to vast libraries of music covering every genre imaginable. If you have any interest in music, you’re probably going to spend a lot of online time on these services. But is your broadband fast enough to stream?
The good news is that it doesn’t take much bandwidth to handle audio. In general, a minimum broadband speed of 1Mb is enough for music streaming. As such, any home broadband service - from the cheapest ADSL deals to hyperfast fibre - will be able to stream music. Mobile broadband is also quick enough, though you may find that mobile connections struggle in some situations, especially if you only have a weak 3G signal.
However, you do also need to allow enough bandwidth for other tasks. Although music streaming does not need fast broadband, you could have problems if the connection is slow and you are trying to do several things at once. Sharing broadband with other people will also have a huge impact.
If the connection is too slow then you’ll experience buffering, where the audio will pause playback until it’s downloaded enough data to continue. But music apps do allow you to adjust the quality (or bitrate) of the audio so you can continue streaming even on slower connections. Many apps will also offer different settings for Wi-Fi and mobile data and automatically adjust as you move between networks.
To find out more about the requirements of specific services, read on below.
(We are going to be talking bits and bytes here; if you’re not familiar with what that means our introductory guide to bits and bytes can get you up to speed).
What broadband speed do I need for Spotify?
Spotify requires different minimum speeds depending on the quality settings. This table shows how much bandwidth Spotify uses at various quality settings for the web player and desktop or mobile apps.
|Spotify Free||Spotify Premium|
Very high: 320Kbps
Any home broadband connection will be able to handle even the highest quality stream. However, mobile data may sometimes struggle with high or very high quality if the signal strength is weak or unstable.
What broadband speed do I need for Apple Music?
Apple Music works a little differently to most other music platforms: it always streams at 256Kbps.
You don’t need superfast broadband to use it, but you might run into problems with slower mobile data connections.
What broadband speed do I need for TIDAL?
TIDAL aims to set itself apart from the competition by delivering higher quality audio. It offers the following quality settings:
- Master (MQA): 3,000Kbps
- HiFi: 1,441Kbps
- High: 320Kbps
- Normal: 96Kbps
Those with slower ADSL or mobile data connections might encounter buffering with the MQA or HiFi settings. To use those, TIDAL recommends a minimum speed of 1.5Mb-2Mb.
What broadband speed do I need for other music streaming services?
The bitrates and speeds shown for the services above will be broadly similar for all music streaming services.
The majority of music streaming services will work with any home broadband connection, and most mobile broadband, too. If you do find there is frequent buffering then dropping the quality setting will usually resolve the issue.
How much data does music streaming use?
This table shows - approximately - how much data is downloaded every minute and every hour for the highest quality settings on Spotify, Apple Music, and TIDAL.
|Spotify (Very High)||Apple Music||TIDAL (MQA)|
Music streaming does not use much data compared to video streaming, but it can add up if you’re listening all day. It should not be a big problem on home broadband as most deals are unlimited, but mobile broadband and mobile phone contracts can have relatively small data caps. You will have to keep an eye on data usage, and maybe switch to Wi-Fi hotspots when you’re out and about to help stay under the limit.