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SoundHound vs. Shazam: Which music identification service should you use?

Here at iMore, we love listening to music. From classic rock to techno, we enjoy it all, but we can't possibly know every song on the radio. That's when we use a music identification service to get that info. In that market, SoundHound and Shazam are the two most well-known music id'ing apps. But which one is better?

While SoundHound and Shazam both do the same basic thing, there are also strengths and weaknesses to both. We'll go into further detail below.

Let's break it down

soundhound listen

On the surface, SoundHound and Shazam have one big feature in common: they'll identify songs for you, giving you detail like who sings it and what the song is called. Both of them do that pretty fast, too. So, why would you pick one over the other? It's simple: one is more robust with features, and the other is more simple to use.

SoundHoundShazam
CostFree with ads, separate premium versionFree
Interface and designRobust with featuresSimple
Streaming musicApple Music and SpotifyApple Music and Spotify
Live LyricsYesNo
Can hum/sing lyricsYesNo
Can search by typeYesYes
Music discoveryYesYes
Auto IDNoYes
Tagged historyYesYes
Bookmark tagged songsYesNo
Can add songs to playlistsYesNo
Additional content to unlockNoYes
Siri integrationNoYes

Chances are you've heard of Shazam even before reading this article. It's definitely not surprising, as it's been around for a long time, is more publicly advertised, and it's even built into iOS with Siri integration. It's simple to use, and the Auto Shazam feature is super useful, since it stays on even in the background. It will identify any songs that it hears for you without requiring your input.

You can get some exclusive content that can only be obtained by scanning a special Shazam code with your camera. Also, it's good for social music discovery with the Snapchat-like cards that are sure to appeal to the younger crowd, and you have the option to browse by charts as well. You can check out your full Shazam history too, and Shazam even generates playlists of similar songs that you can listen to within the app.

shazam listen

However, we still prefer to use SoundHound for song identification for several reasons. The biggest reason is the fact that you could hum or sing into SoundHound and (hopefully) get some results, while Shazam must hear the actual song that you want to identify. SoundHound's implementation is especially useful when you have a song that's just stuck in your head (and it won't leave, no matter how hard you try) and you want to know more about it. Granted, it is still hit or miss though, since I got a lot of misses (I'm assuming because I'm a terrible singer). Still, I find it better to have that option available to you at least, which is strangely absent from Shazam.

Another reason to go with SoundHound is all of the other cool features it has. Once it identifies a song that you're listening to, you'll get the result immediately, and it also comes with Live Lyrics if it's a song with lyrics. This is cool because you can see what point you are at in the song, and hey, feel free to start singing along! The lyrics will be right in front of your face, so you can pretend to know what you're singing.

soundhound history

SoundHound is also great for music discovery. It highlights Charts nicely, so they aren't hidden behind some Snapchat stories-like nonsense. You can see the hottest and most popular tags right now, even by genre. And while you can browse your entire tagged song history, SoundHound allows you to bookmark your favorites so you can reference them quickly at a later time. There's even offline support, so you can save a search for later, or even try it again if you couldn't get a match the first time.

Since you can integrate Apple Music or Spotify with SoundHound (and Shazam as well), SoundHound can automatically add your identified songs into a playlist in your streaming music app of choice. This is useful if you want to listen to all of those tagged songs later, or even ask SoundHound to play some music you want to listen to. Shazam doesn't seem to have the ability to add music to your Apple Music or Spotify playlists, but it does use your streaming music account to play back songs within the app.

Like we said earlier, there are definitely strengths and weaknesses to both services. However, we prefer SoundHound due to the number of robust features that it has, which we think make our music life a little bit better. While I keep both around, I turn to SoundHound first, especially if there's a song that's stuck in my head that I want to know more about.

Christine Chan
Senior Editor

Christine Romero-Chan has been writing about technology, specifically Apple, for over a decade at a variety of websites. She is currently the iMore lead on all things iPhone, and has been using Apple’s smartphone since the original iPhone back in 2007. While her main speciality is the iPhone, she also covers Apple Watch, iPad, and Mac when needed.

When she isn’t writing about Apple, Christine can often be found at Disneyland in Anaheim, California, as she is a passholder and obsessed with all things Disney, especially Star Wars. Christine also enjoys coffee, food, photography, mechanical keyboards, and spending as much time with her new daughter as possible.