November 3, 2010 | by Andrew Kameka
The days of hearing something on the radio or over the in-store speaker and not knowing its name are over. Thanks to audio recognition technology, it’s possible to hold your phone up and discover the artist name, song title, album it appeared on, and even provide tools to readily acquire it. We live in a time where you can tag a song and own within a minute or two.
But which app is the best? The two most recognized apps for music identification are Shazam and SoundHound. Virtually every Best Android Apps list I’ve seen has included Shazam, but can the more recent SoundHound perform well enough to unseat Shazam as the go-to music search app?
Let’s explore and compare the strengths and weaknesses of each app.
Shazam was King of the Hill because it was the only game in town. Its song library has grown considerably over the past two years, making it stronger at pinning songs faster and more frequently. There is a free version and the premium “Encore” version that adds tag charts, tour info, and videos to browse results. There is a free, limited version and a premium, unlimited version for $4.72.
The plucky upstart also has a free model, which limits users to 5 results per month, and a paid version that unlocks all of its features. It can listen to a song and return results about music, but it has the added bonus of giving users a chance to sign or hum a song and get results. This method is not as accurate as hearing the music, but it’s a great feature if you remember the melody. There is a free, limited version and a premium, unlimited version for $4.99.
Which is Best?
I’ve personally found that SoundHound is the better among these two apps. The most obvious benefit of using SoundHound is that you can search for songs without hearing the music. However, even the song vs. song identifying aspect feels superior. While testing results in a grocery store, it took Shazam two tries to identify The Fray’s “Look After You” while SoundHound recognized the song after 10 seconds of its first attempt. Other attempts revealed similar results, leading me to believe that SoundHound is a better service.
If you’ve already purchased Shazam Encore, I say stick with it; the difference between the two isn’t worth spending another $5 given that you’re unlikely to use either that often. But if you frequently find yourself looking to name that tune, SoundHound is the way to go.