Review: Deezer

ExtraDay_6_RVB
Image courtesy of Deezer

This is my review of the Deezer music streaming service, based on my experience of using the service for nearly a year. 

These are my personal opinions based on my own experience, using my own setup.

How much does it cost?

As with most music streaming services, it’s possible to use Deezer free-of-charge if you are prepared to accept a limited service. To get the full service, you’ll need to pay up, although the paid options are slightly confusing since the highest level service is restricted only to Sonos users.

Deezer Free

Deezer’s free subscription plan provides unlimited music on computers and tablets but the service on mobile devices is restricted to the Flow and Mix functions only. Music is not accessible offline and the sound quality is restricted to standard. The free service also features advertisements.

Deezer Premium+

This service, currently priced at £9.99/month in the UK, adds unlimited music on mobile devices, removes advertisements and enables you to listen to music offline. The maximum sound quality is also upgraded to a High Quality service. A 30-day free trial is available.

Deezer Elite

For reasons best known to Deezer, this top-end service is only available to Sonos users, and surprisingly there is very little information available on the Deezer website other than some special instructions hidden away on a support page. The Elite service further upgrades the sound quality to the lossless FLAC high-definition format. This service is more expensive at £14.99/month, although if you’re prepared to sign up for a year you can get this for £119.88/year which works out the same as a Premium+ account. A 30-day free trial is available.

A big word of warning on this though. That discounted annual rate is only valid for the first year and if you don’t actively cancel the service, after a year Deezer will double the cost and will take nearly £240 from your bank account without telling you first (indeed, it won’t even tell you afterwards – you’ll find out for yourself when you see your bank statement). It’s not great customer service.

How can I access it?

Deezer scores well here, with excellent cross-platform support. It’s accessible in all of the ways you would hope including from Macs and PCs, mobile devices and tablets (with support for Apple, Android and Blackberry devices at present). You can also use Deezer through certain models of Smart TV or using a Roku box or Chromecast, or similar device. Various HiFi streaming devices also support Deezer including Sonos, Philips and Logitech Squeezebox systems to name but a few. And if you are lucky enough to have an Apple CarPlay or Android Auto car stereo, you’ll be pleased to know that Deezer works with those systems as well as a few other manufacturer-specific devices.

What does it do well?

Deezer has a comprehensive music library boasting over 40 million tracks. I’ve rarely failed to find what I’ve been looking for when searching, although in common with other streaming services, you won’t find Taylor Swift’s later material here.

One of the most impressive and distinctive features is Deezer’s Flow function. Based on your listening history, Flow is like an in-built radio station which plays songs you’ve liked or play listed together with suggested tunes which Deezer thinks you’ll like. It’s a feature I’ve used a lot, whenever I’ve wanted to hear some tunes but can’t decide which playlist or album to play. It has rarely played tunes that I wouldn’t want to hear.

Mixes are Deezer’s “radio” feature, playing a series of tracks based upon a certain genre or artist. What makes Deezer’s offering slightly different is that, like the Flow feature, it mixes in tracks already in your library or on your playlists as well as new tracks, giving it a very personalised feel.

One of the features which Deezer has implemented better than some of its competitors is the ability to import your own MP3s. The fact is that even the excellent music libraries provided by the likes of Deezer and Spotify will have gaps, either because the artist isn’t into streaming yet or because your taste is very obscure! Deezer allows you to upload your own MP3s into a special area of your account. Once you’ve done that, the track becomes available to play, for you, through Deezer on any platform. So you can have Taylor Swift’s Shake It Off in your playlist, you can. It’s much easier to use and much more flexible than the Local Files feature on Spotify.

Sound quality is good with the Premium level subscription streaming in 320kbps, the same quality as the equivalent level on Spotify. Where it excels is with the Elite level subscription which provides most tracks in the lossless FLAC format at 1,411kbps, way above the level available in Spotify and on a par with the likes of Tidal. There’s some debate to be had about the extent to which you’ll notice the difference, but on the right equipment it should provide some of the best audio sound available from a streaming service. Of course, with Elite being offered exclusively to Sonos users, that’s not much good to you if your equipment is made by anyone else.

Another area where Deezer outperforms Spotify is on its treatment of duplicate songs on playlists. Spotify does now at least warn you when you try to add a track to a playlist when that track is already on that list, at least on the iPhone and Mac apps. Sonos users will find that Spotify will happily allow you to add a track to a playlist numerous times without any warning at all using that platform. By contrast, Deezer simply doesn’t let you add duplicates – even on Sonos – and if you drag a load of tracks into a playlist, it will only add those which aren’t already on the list.

Finally – and this may particularly appeal to disgruntled long-term Spotify users – it knows how to handle favourites properly! Any track can be marked as a favourite and will always show up as such, whether in the iPhone app or on Sonos. It isn’t “just another playlist” as it has been downgraded to become on Spotify.

What’s not so good?

The area where Deezer doesn’t perform so well for me is music discovery and in particular in terms of the curated playlists available. It does have a selection of playlists available, within a fairly wide range of genres, but for me it doesn’t compare well to the wealth of constantly updated playlists on Spotify.

Another frustration is the lack of a Queue function on the iPhone app. Whilst Spotify allows you to queue any number of tracks from a range of playlists, Deezer lacks that function completely, so you’ll find you have to listen to one playlist/album at a time. This isn’t a problem on Sonos, which has its own built in queue system, but it is a limitation of the mobile app.

Conclusion

Overall, I’ve found Deezer to be an excellent music service which I have really enjoyed using for the last year. I’ve recently switched back to Spotify, primarily because I much prefer the playlists available on that service, and also I’ve been very unimpressed by the payment policy for the reasons set out above, but it was a very difficult call for me. There are Deezer features that I will genuinely miss – Flow in particular – but also the fact that it handles some of the basics, like duplicates and favourites so much better than Spotify in my view.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s