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Finding out what song is playing 4 Ways To Find Out The Name Of That Elusive Song 4 Ways To Find Out The Name Of That Elusive Song Read More nearby is a simple matter of opening an app on your smartphone – but which service is best? We put Shazam, SoundHound & MusicID to the test.

In 2011 we looked at Shazam vs. SoundHound: Looking For The Perfect Song Identifier Shazam vs. SoundHound: Looking For The Perfect Song Identifier Read More two big names, Shazam and SoundHound Shazam vs. SoundHound: Looking For The Perfect Song Identifier Shazam vs. SoundHound: Looking For The Perfect Song Identifier Read More . Last year, Yaara put five of these Android apps head-to-head 5 Android Music Recognition Apps Compared: Which Got the Most Songs Right? 5 Android Music Recognition Apps Compared: Which Got the Most Songs Right? We tested five music identification apps so that you don't have to. Which came out on top? Read More to see which could identify the most songs correctly. With technology things change at lightning speed, and since then, Shazam has become almost a household name; it’s even going to be integrated into Siri as a new feature in iOS 8 What's New In iOS 8? What's New In iOS 8? After last year's big iOS 7 redesign, you'd expect a muted iOS 8 announcement at this year's Worldwide Developer Conference – but you'd be wrong. Read More .

With this in mind, it’s time for a showdown. We’ve put Shazam up against two other music recognition apps in a multi-round battle to see which comes out on top. While this review focuses on the iOS apps, the results should remain the same regardless of platform.

The Apps

Shazam

Shazam, the reigning champion, has been around in its current form since 2008, when Apple launched the App Store. The concept hasn’t changed since we last covered it Discover New Music & What It's Actually Called With Shazam [Android & iOS] Discover New Music & What It's Actually Called With Shazam [Android & iOS] Music is one of the great forces that can bring people from all walks of life together. Most of us love at least one genre of music, and we tend to get along with those... Read More . Shazam uses a dead-simple interface: simply click the big blue button on the main screen to identify any music playing around you; this is called “tagging.” If you don’t have a data connection, Shazam will save your tag and attempt to identify it when you reconnect.

01-Shazam-Button

Once you have tagged a song you are able to view all sorts of information about it. You can play a sample of the song, which is useful for reviewing your tags later. An iTunes button will let you jump right to the store so you can purchase the song. Alternatively, if you have an account with Spotify, Rdio Spotify vs. Rdio: A Complete Comparison Spotify vs. Rdio: A Complete Comparison I recently cancelled my Spotify Premium membership after a year of uninterrupted monthly payments to the company. This decision came about when I accidentally signed up for 14-days of free Rdio Unlimited. Quite frankly, I... Read More , or Beats Music and their respective apps installed, you can open the song (if available) using these apps.

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Aside from purchasing music, you can also follow the lyrics The Top 5 Sites to Find Song Lyrics Online The Top 5 Sites to Find Song Lyrics Online Read More in real-time, see related acts, read the artist bio and view their discography, share with others, and watch the song’s music video. There’s not much more you could do with a single track!

02-Shazam-Tagged-Options

One quirk that kept popping up for me is that the album year seemed to be wrong on a couple of songs. Not a huge deal, but it was enough to notice the inaccuracy. It could be due to the fact that most songs are re-released multiple times on compilation albums and the like.

Shazam is a social service. You can see what your friends are listening to and view the most-tagged tracks if you sign in with Facebook, but it isn’t required.

03-Shazam-Social

Believe it or not, Shazam can identify more than just music Think Shazam Only Identifies Music? Think Again [iPhone] Think Shazam Only Identifies Music? Think Again [iPhone] More often that not, the creator of an app is content to sit back and enjoy the success and not evolve. That's fine in some situations, but it's really fantastic when an app creator is... Read More and can tell you what TV show is playing in the background. This won’t be included in the test since other apps don’t have this function, but it’s a cool novelty. The usefulness seems fairly limited, as there’s lot more music in the world than TV series, but it’s there.

I quickly tested the feature with random YouTube clips of Blue Bloods and The Big Bang Theory, two well-known series, and Shazam was stumped. Perhaps you’ll have better luck.

Rounding out Shazam’s feature set is the always-on listening feature, which you have to explicitly enable. When it’s on, Shazam will constantly listen to your surroundings even if the app is minimized, with tags appearing as notifications. Privacy-conscious users may be nervous about this feature, though the company has expressed their respect for privacy in response to the function. It only lasts for a few hours at a time before you need to re-enable it.

04-Auto-Shazam

Shazam is available on a variety of platforms, including its brand new Mac app, which Matt recently took for a spin What's That Song? Shazam Finally Hits The Mac App Store What's That Song? Shazam Finally Hits The Mac App Store Music identification app Shazam has finally made its way to the Mac, allowing you to easily identify the music playing around you without reaching your your phone. Read More . You can also get the app for iPhone and iPadAndroid, Windows Phone, and Windows 8. They’re all free to download and use as much as you like. Shazam Encore ($7) is the company’s advert-free product, but doesn’t include any extra features. Compared to the other apps on this list, the only feature it doesn’t boast is the ability to search by text.

SoundHound

SoundHound is another well-known music identification app. It offers a similar package to Shazam, so let’s quickly go over the differences.

SoundHound features the same type of homescreen with a big button used for identification. Like Shazam, if you’re offline and tag a song, it’s added to your pending searches to look up later. While Shazam does this automatically and sends you a notification, SoundHound requires you open the app and choose to identify it, which is a bit tedious.

05-SoundHound-Main

After a song is tagged you’ll see a few options, but not as many as Shazam provides. You can play a sample of the track, listen to it with Rdio or Spotify, share it, follow the lyrics, or go to iTunes. Artist info, videos, and the albums that your song have appeared on are given, but you won’t find upcoming shows or related artists.

SoundHound is still great SoundHound: The Ultimate Song Identification App [iPhone] SoundHound: The Ultimate Song Identification App [iPhone] SoundHound for iPhone is an app that is perfect for finding the titles to your favorite songs on the radio, lyrics to the existing tunes in your library, and new music that you may have... Read More without these few features, but you don’t really need to see related artists immediately as you tag a track. The app also features top charts, and they’re essentially identical to those found in Shazam

06-SoundHound-Tag

In terms of unique features, SoundHound can identify songs that you hum or sing. Again, since the other two don’t allow for this, it won’t be included in the test, but it’s an interesting curiosity that you can show off to friends or use when you have a tune stuck in your head.

I hummed Johnny Cash’s “Ring Of Fire” and “Billie Jean” by Michael Jackson, which SoundHound got right. I didn’t want to embarrass myself by singing, so I tested that feature with a small-time YouTube acapella video, and it successfully identified the song.

If you just want to find out more about an artist 10 Music Search Engines To Discover Cool Music, Musicians & Great Bands 10 Music Search Engines To Discover Cool Music, Musicians & Great Bands Read More or album, you can search for anything inside the app – great if you don’t want to sing or you only know the artist name. SoundHound provides live scrolling lyrics when you tag a song, and it also has the unique ability to show you lyrics for any song on your device. Simply open the app, start playing a track just like you would in your Music app, and you’ll see lyrics slide by on the screen.

SoundHound has a paid version called SoundHound Infinite ($7). This removes the adverts, but doesn’t provide anything else for your cash. Interestingly, SoundHound also has a third option, called Hound. It’s a stripped-down version of the main app; only allowing you to type or speak the names of artists, albums, or songs to find more information. It hasn’t been updated since 2011 and SoundHound includes the same functionality, so there’s little reason to bother with Hound.

SoundHound is available for iPhone and iPadAndroid (our review Sing Into SoundHound To Find The Tune You're Looking For [Android] Sing Into SoundHound To Find The Tune You're Looking For [Android] When you're listening to a great song and want to know what it is, which app do you turn to? For many, it's Shazam. However, there's another up-and-coming app that's available universally and seems to... Read More ), Windows Phone, and BlackBerry, which Shazam doesn’t support.

MusicID

MusicID is our final competitor, and it’s the least well-known of the three. It offers a similar suite of features to the others: a dead-simple main screen with a big button for identification, currently popular tracks, and the ability to review what you’ve tagged. MusicID also allows you to search by text, a feature that Shazam lacks.

08-MusicID-Main-Search

After tagging a song you will see the standard options including related songs, YouTube videos 10 Different Ways to Browse, Watch & Enjoy YouTube Videos 10 Different Ways to Browse, Watch & Enjoy YouTube Videos Read More , and the lyrics. Unlike Shazam and SoundHound, however, you won’t be able to follow the lyrics in real-time. You can listen to a sample of the tagged song, share it via social networks or messaging, and link to it on iTunes, but you won’t find any Spotify or Rdio integration in MusicID.

09-MusicID-Tag

This app is the most lacklustre of the three. It has a cleaner look than SoundHound, but is missing features like real-time lyrics and integration with other streaming apps. There’s no paid version of MusicID, and its only other exclusive feature was spotted on what appears to be an outdated version of its website.

10-MusicID-Old-Site

Apparently AT&T and Virgin Mobile customers can dial #43, hold their phone up to music and be texted the song information. Since I don’t have either of these carriers (and the service costs $1 a pop), I couldn’t test this feature and due to the site’s age it may not be supported anymore anyway.

MusicID simply does not function if you don’t have a data connection. You can’t save tags for later, so the app is essentially useless if you’re not online iPod Touch : 10 Cool Productivity Apps For Offline Use iPod Touch : 10 Cool Productivity Apps For Offline Use Read More . This could be a problem if you’re in an area with no service, or if you have an iPod Touch or iPad you use for a special purpose 11 Unique Uses For The iPad That You've Probably Never Thought Of Before 11 Unique Uses For The iPad That You've Probably Never Thought Of Before The iPad is awesome. It’s great for games, it’s excellent for productivity, it can be used for sketching, taking notes, reading books and articles or as entertainment for children. All of these are pretty straightforward... Read More .

11-No-Connection-MusicID

MusicID is available on iPhone and iPad or Android if you want to use it for some reason.

Summary

Based on iOS apps alone, Shazam is a winner thanks to its sleek interface and the speed at which it identifies music. SoundHound is still solid; its only drawback is its slightly antiquated interface, but the singing and humming feature is a nice bonus. SoundHound is the best choice if you need text search, singing support, or you’re the hipster that doesn’t want to use Shazam.

I wouldn’t recommend MusicID at all, frankly. The complete absence of online support and lack of integration with streaming apps makes it the least attractive option. However, this test is about identification, so let’s put these apps through their paces.

The Rules

To ensure fair testing, each app was put under the same conditions. All music was played from Spotify using my TV speakers at the same volume, and the iPod was left in the same position. I also started the tagging of each track at one minute running time.

Three rounds of two songs each were used to test the apps. It’s a piece of cake to identify mainstream pop songs you’d hear on the radio, so I started with a medium-difficulty tier, then cranked up the challenge, and finally used some extremely obscure music for the last round. May the best app win!

Round 1 – Medium

Track 1: Turkish Delight by 2nd Chapter of Acts on The Roar of Love (1980)

  • Shazam: Identified the track in 5 seconds.
  • SoundHound: Identified the track in 14 seconds.
  • MusicID: Failed three attempts.

Track 2: Just Hangin’ Out by Damien Carter on Birdemic EP (2011) – a movie that’s so bad it’s good. Movies That Suck: 5 Very Bad Films You Probably Need To See [Stuff to Watch] Movies That Suck: 5 Very Bad Films You Probably Need To See [Stuff to Watch] Call me odd (plenty of people have), but sometimes you just can’t beat a genuinely awful movie. Sure, there’s a reason bad cinema gets blasted by critics and fans alike, but occasionally a film is... Read More

  • Shazam: Identified the song in 11 seconds.
  • SoundHound: Identified the song in 7 seconds.
  • MusicID: Failed to identify the song within 3 attempts.

Shazam wins this round by a small margin of 5 seconds, but SoundHound still did well. MusicID couldn’t find either track – that’s not promising for the tougher rounds.

Winner: Shazam

Round 2 – Hard

Track 3: Snakes & Hawks by The Hawks (Of Holy Rosary) on What Team Am I On? (2014)

  • Shazam: Identified the song in 10 seconds.
  • SoundHound: Identified the song in 13 seconds.
  • MusicID: Failed to identify the track in 3 attempts.

Track 4: Farewell by My Cardboard Spaceship Adventure on Farewell (2012)

  • Shazam: Failed all 3 attempts.
  • SoundHound: Could not identify in 3 attempts.
  • MusicID: Failed once again.

Both of these tracks had less than a thousand plays on Spotify, so I assumed they’d be tough to catch but not unheard of. One song wasn’t too bad, but the other was too much, apparently. MusicID didn’t get either once again.

Shazam wins the round by 3 seconds.

Winner: Shazam

Round 3 – Extremely Obscure

For the final round, we want music out of left field to really push the apps. Since I’m not an expert in unheard-of music, I used Forgotify, a service that lets you listen to tracks on Spotify that have never been played Forgotify Helps You Discover Unloved Music On Spotify Forgotify Helps You Discover Unloved Music On Spotify Spotify has 20 million tracks sitting there waiting to be found and loved. This is where Forgotify enters into the equation. It dedicates itself to delivering the undiscovered tracks no one has yet played on... Read More before. Seeing as nobody has ever listened to these songs, they must be ambiguous. I took the first two tracks it gave, figuring that if they were in another language, that would just be a bonus.

Track 5: Gönlüm Nice Bir by Muazzez Abaci on Yasemen (1986)

  • Shazam: Identified the song in 12 seconds.
  • SoundHound: Identified the song in 13 seconds.
  • MusicID: Failed after 3 attempts.

Track 6: Ayrilik Yine by Mustafa Üstünel on Sevgilim Almanyali (1988)

  • Shazam: Identified the track in 12 seconds.
  • SoundHound: Missed the first attempt, but successfully identified in 22 seconds the second time.
  • MusicID: No surprise here: failure.

It’s odd; the songs that should be the hardest to spot were identified by both of the big contenders. That was a surprise to me. It’s evident that MusicID is trash, as it couldn’t identify a single song.

Shazam wins the round by a total of 11 seconds and one attempt.

Winner: Shazam

The Winner: Shazam!

Though Shazam and SoundHound were nearly equal throughout the contest, the final track stumped SoundHound once, so it couldn’t be awarded a tie. Combined with the above commentary on the app itself, Shazam has rightfully earned its place as the music identification app you should have installed on your phone, as well as the one powering Siri in iOS 8.

All three apps are available on Android, as well as Google’s own Sound Search widget, which lets you buy tagged tracks on Google Play. We’ve covered it Identify That Song With Google’s Sound Search Widget For Android [Updates] Identify That Song With Google’s Sound Search Widget For Android [Updates] There are quite a few song identification services for all our 'tip of the tongue' recall moments. Now, Google has launched its own Song Search widget that may just help you answer – damn, what... Read More if you need more information.

Did these results surprise you? Which other obscure tracks could I have used? Do you use a different music ID app? Tell us in the comments!

  1. Alex Tjahjana
    July 24, 2016 at 3:40 pm

    Hi Ben,my results are the opposite. Shazam fail most of the time, while SoundHound almost always success to identify any tracks I threw at them - with lyrics in English, Spanish, Bahasa, Malay, French, and some other languages. I used to use Shazam, but since mid 2014 I use SoundHound instead. So I'm sorry if I found that your result is very doubtful; though I'm agree that other similar apps are nowhere near SoundHound or Shazam - at least, at the time of me writing this comment.

  2. Salazryl
    July 13, 2016 at 7:05 am

    This is so biased..

    • Ben Stegner
      July 16, 2016 at 4:33 pm

      How is this biased? I picked random music and put three apps to the test, statistically finding the best one. In fact, I used to have SoundHound on my phone, but after writing this, I switched to Shazam since I found it to be statistically better.

  3. Sharpyuki
    June 3, 2016 at 8:51 am

    i think there should be another player here called musixmatch, they provide live lyrics and also the music recognition is powered by ACRCloud

  4. kukekkk
    February 15, 2016 at 3:18 am

    The champion of MIREX2015 in audio fingerprinting algorithm competition, ACRCloud, and it provides audio recognition web service SDKs and APIs, which is easy to integrate, also supports singing and humming. So, there's nothing difficult to do audio recognition now.

  5. Sheila
    January 22, 2016 at 7:39 pm

    Do these apps work with a live band, where it is not the original artist performing?

    • Ben Stegner
      January 23, 2016 at 3:57 pm

      Shazam is meant to only identify recorded music. SoundHound is supposed to recognize humming or a non-band person singing, so it may work with live music. Give it a try next time you can!

  6. Gabriel Queiroz
    July 29, 2015 at 1:19 am

    I live in Brazil and SoundHound does a far better job in identifying songs that are not sung in English.I don't know whether it's the algorithm or the database.If the song it's not in the mainstream my go to guy is definitely SoundHound...

  7. Radovan Imcic
    July 15, 2015 at 7:57 am

    I wanted To identify a song "eyes on you [rock metal remix] by margaux, and Shazam couldn't manage To identify it, it wrongly identified 3 different songs but not the good one, so i was pissed and then I downloaded soundhound and this app made a correct identification of the song. So in my opinion soundhound definitely wins the contest

  8. BuddyB
    April 23, 2015 at 3:54 am

    Hey, thanks for the information, but why are you just stopping at comparing song recognition? How about all the other features - for example...How do the different apps compare when you want to download/buy/stream songs? I HATE that Shazam requires 3 different programs for me to buy all the songs that I tagged at the end of the month. It's tedious to open Shazam, then Facebook, and then I-tunes just to buy my list of songs. Also, does one app provide better features for managing your tags (sorry I keep mentioning Shazam - it's the only one I use..but on Shazam..I have to one by one delete each tag. OR, maybe I don't want to delete the tags, but I'd like to at least know which tags I've purchased or not). Anyways, I'm hoping you'll include some of these features if you do another comparison. Thanks!

    • Ben S
      April 27, 2015 at 5:38 pm

      Hey Buddy, when I did this piece I wanted to focus solely on the music recognition, though you're right that other features certainly supplement that. I don't think I'll be doing another comparison of these apps anytime soon, but I do try to include other info on the apps before the showdown. I have to cut it off at some point or the article is thousands of words!

      Thanks for your suggestion, though. I'll keep it in mind next time I do a similar round-up.

  9. CZ
    April 19, 2015 at 6:23 pm

    2nd most important feature to me is : The date the song was released. Sound Hound had that feature for a few months, but nowhere anymore, that I can find.

    • Ben S
      April 27, 2015 at 5:37 pm

      I'm pretty sure Shazam has the year. Is that not enough for you?

  10. Chris Campbell
    October 31, 2014 at 2:45 pm

    It really comes down to how many "sonic fingerprints" each of the services has in their database to search for a match to what the app "heard". If this information is available somewhere, it might be helpful to add to this topic for comparison.

  11. Sandy Coulter
    September 16, 2014 at 2:45 pm

    I haven't tried anything more and I was hoping someone with experience could save me the trouble. As it is, Sounhound is so slow to open and run that the song often ends before I can even try it. Some of these old songs are very short.

    • Ben S
      September 16, 2014 at 3:16 pm

      Unfortunately if the best apps can't do it, lesser-known ones probably aren't going to work well for you either. I can only recommend trying Shazam or Google, like I said.

  12. Sandy Coulter
    September 16, 2014 at 1:46 am

    I enjoy listening to the UK 1940's Radio Station online: 1940sukradio.co.uk which plays mostly American music from the 1920s, 30s and 40s. Often, the song playing is not identified by the website. Some is so obscure so that neither TrackID nor SoundHound (my apps of choice) can ID them. I would be grateful if someone can show me an app that is more successful than these are at identifying these very old songs mainly from the 20s and 30s. The music from the 40s is far more recognizable to these apps.

    • Ben S
      September 16, 2014 at 2:22 pm

      If none of these three apps does the job, I'm sorry to say you're probably not going to find one that does. Have you tried Shazam, Google Sound Search, or Googling the lyrics?

  13. Bob Marley
    September 14, 2014 at 6:57 pm

    Ttpod or some other id app would have been a better choice than music id.

    • Ben S
      September 14, 2014 at 7:02 pm

      I didn't want to have too many apps, or the article would have been even longer. But I'll remember that one for the future. Thank you!

  14. language defender
    September 13, 2014 at 10:46 pm

    I think the author should try Dictionary.com and find out what "ambiguous" really means.

    • Ben S
      September 14, 2014 at 4:51 am

      I'd say I understand what it means just fine:

      "of doubtful or uncertain nature; difficult to comprehend, distinguish, or classify"

      "lacking clearness or definiteness; obscure; indistinct"

      The opposite of ambiguous would be explicit or certain. So ambiguous music is a song that you're not sure about right away when you hear it. Did you know every track used?

  15. Peter
    September 13, 2014 at 11:41 am

    I find Shazam works great on my Mac, but in the car it often fails to find a song playing on the radio.

    • Ben S
      September 14, 2014 at 4:48 am

      Does it really? I would assume that anything on the radio would be fairly easy. That's interesting to me. What kind of music are you identifying on your Mac?

  16. Dina
    September 13, 2014 at 10:34 am

    I use TrackId. I would like to see a comparison between TrackId and Shazaam and if Shazaam requires more app permissions.

  17. wolfster
    September 13, 2014 at 8:46 am

    What I am missing from Shazam is to sync the tags between devices. I use whatever device I got in hand at a time and in the end I have to remember which device I used to tag with....

    Also, I have Spotify, but Shazam won´t give me the option to play a Song in Spotify.
    If I were to delete Shazam and re-install, I would lose all my tags from at least 3 years due to the lack of a sync feature...

    Hopefully this will be fixed at some point!

    • Ben S
      September 14, 2014 at 4:46 am

      Can't you sync tags between devices if you sign up for an account?

      That's odd that Spotify doesn't work in Shazam for you. Is that for every song or just some?

      You should submit your issues to them!

    • wolfster
      September 14, 2014 at 5:30 pm

      This is for every song in Shazam. Don't know what's going on there ...

      As for an account, at least with iOS there is no way to login with an account, so sadly no, there is no way to sync tags.

      I'll try the support, maybe they can help

    • Ben S
      September 14, 2014 at 7:02 pm

      That's odd. I haven't heard of that issue, but I hope they can work things out for you.

  18. John S
    September 13, 2014 at 5:10 am

    I use Musicxmatch on Android. It has Spotify/deezer/rdio live music integration (It works with them) and can identify songs pretty well. It has several different features that you can discover by yourself.

    • Ben S
      September 14, 2014 at 4:44 am

      I've never used that one! Sounds like a neat alternative; I'll have to give it a look sometime.

  19. Felipe Tst
    September 12, 2014 at 7:21 pm

    "Shazam: Identified the song in 11 seconds.
    SoundHound: Identified the song in 7 seconds.
    MusicID: Failed to identify the song within 3 attempts.

    Shazam wins this round by a small margin of 5 seconds, but SoundHound still did well. MusicID couldn’t find either track – that’s not promising for the tougher rounds.

    Winner: Shazam"

    ???????????????

    • Ben S
      September 13, 2014 at 12:18 am

      I apologize if this was unclear.

      Shazam took 5 seconds on the first track and 11 seconds on the second track, a total of 16 seconds for the Medium round.

      SoundHound took 14 seconds on the first track and 7 seconds on the second, a total of 21 seconds for Medium.

      21-16 = 5, so Shazam was ahead by 5 seconds at this point.

    • d2
      September 13, 2014 at 12:22 am

      Dear Sir did you really read the article? That round has 2 songs, not one.

  20. Ananmay S
    September 12, 2014 at 4:09 pm

    You should have used the listen to Music feature in Google Now as well!

    • Ben S
      September 12, 2014 at 5:57 pm

      Ananmay,

      I didn't even think about the fact that the Google app for iOS would have this built in too (I'm an Android guy) but when I tried it just now it didn't seem to work. I tried "What's this song?" and it just pulled up search results.

      I believe this is only a feature in the Android app, at least for now.

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