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The 3 Best Music Recognition Apps to Accurately Find Songs by Tune

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Shazam is the most well-known music recognition app, but is it the best? Join us as we put Shazam up against two song finding competitors: SoundHound and Musixmatch.

We’ll start with a brief overview of each app, followed by several rounds of increasingly difficult music identification challenges. At the end of the contest, we should know which is the best music recognition app to identify songs. May the best app win!

The Best Features in Each Song Identifier App

First, let’s look at the biggest features that each “name that tune” app offers.

Shazam

Based on popularity alone, Shazam is the app to beat in this showdown. The app features a simple interface. Upon opening it, tap its iconic logo button to start listening for music to identify.

Every song you tag is collected in the My Music panel below, which lets you access a ton of information about the music. You can listen to a sample, share it with others, open it in Spotify or Apple Music, watch the music video, see related music, and find other tracks from that artist.

Use the Search panel at the top-right to look up anything you like, where you can access the same page as if you had identified the song with Shazam. As you use the app, you’ll find a Playlists For You section with music the service recommends. Tap the Settings gear to connect your Apple Music or Spotify accounts and tweak a few preferences.

Read more: How Does Shazam Recognize Music Accurately?

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Notably, the app offers the Auto Shazam feature, which constantly listens for music and IDs it even when you don’t have the app open. To activate this, press and hold the Shazam logo.

If you’re offline, Shazam will save what it hears, then find a match when you’re back online. Apple has owned Shazam since September 2018, and the app has been ad-free on both Android and iPhone since then. Shazam is well-integrated into iOS, with shortcuts like Siri commands and a Control Center entry.

Download: Shazam for Android | iOS (Free)

SoundHound

When you’re looking for an app that identifies songs, SoundHound is likely the first competitor to Shazam you’ll find. Its main feature set is similar, but it offers a few differences that make it worth a look.

Similar to Shazam, SoundHound features a big button on its homepage to start tagging music. SoundHound makes a big deal out of its support for voice controls. Saying “Hey SoundHound” allows you to search for music, navigate the app, start identifying songs, and more. The company even offers a standalone Hound voice assistant app, though there’s not much reason to use it compared to Google Assistant or Siri.

Along the top of the app, you can tap a genre to explore the hottest music or use the Search bar to find songs, artists, and albums. When you open a song, you’ll find that SoundHound also features its own music player. This can play samples (or full songs via premium music services) you’ve tagged, as well as popular tracks from the charts.


After tagging a song, you’re able to purchase it, add it to your favorites, read the lyrics, or see what album the song came from.

Interestingly, SoundHound also supports singing or humming music to identify it. Since other apps don’t do this, we won’t test this feature here. SoundHound is supported by ads and offers an upgrade to SoundHound Infinite if you want to remove them.

Download: Soundhound for Android | iOS (Free)

Download: SoundHound Infinite for Android ($5.99) | iOS ($6.99)

Musixmatch

Our final song identifier app, Musixmatch, is paired up with Spotify to provide lyrics. Musixmatch is also a standalone app that recognizes songs, with a heavy focus on lyrics.

On the Home tab, you can browse the latest releases and top charts. On the Play tab, you can connect your Apple Music, Spotify, or Amazon Music account to listen along to tracks in your library with their lyrics.

Using the Contribute tab, you can help other users by adding lyrics for songs that don’t have any yet, syncing lyrics to the music, or even translating lyrics to another language.

Read more: The Top Sites to Find Song Lyrics Online

The music identification portion, which is what we’ll test here, is under the Identify tab and works just like Shazam and SoundHound. You can access past songs using the History link at the top-right, or use the Search tab to look up anything without tagging it.

Once you tag a song, the lyrics will immediately start playing. As a cool benefit, you can show the lyrics translated into another language right below the original words. This is a clever way to practice learning a language.

Musixmatch’s premium plan is $3/month and provides a few benefits, like letting you save lyrics for offline use and enjoying word-by-word lyric syncing. Because of the app’s nature, it won’t work when used offline, so you can’t save tagged music for later like Shazam does.


Due to its unique lyrics angle, Musixmatch is worth keeping around even if you normally use Shazam or SoundHound. Of course, we’ll only compare the app’s ability to correctly identify songs in this battle.

Download: Musixmatch for Android | iOS (Free, subscription available)

Song Recognition Apps: Summary

If you’re picking a song ID app based on looks and features alone, it’s not a clear-cut decision. Shazam is clean and doesn’t feature any ads, while SoundHound has the unique option to hum or sing. Meanwhile, Musixmatch also has a fresh, modern look with the best lyrical support of the three.

We think Shazam is a great overall choice, but you should give SoundHound a try to see if it’s better for your needs. As mentioned, Musixmatch makes a great sidekick to either of them due to its excellent lyric features.

While there are other apps like Shazam on Google Play and the App Store, these are the three best choices. Sony shuttered its TrackID service, and other apps such as MusicID haven’t seen updates in years. There’s little point in testing them when they’re not in active development.

Music Recognition App Battle: The Rules

Now it’s time to move onto the fun part: pitting these song recognition apps against each other. This showdown consists of three rounds, each containing two songs.

Since these apps are used to popular music, we don’t want to give them any easy tasks. We’ll start with songs that aren’t well-known before moving onto music that few people have ever heard.

I performed the testing on an iPhone 11 by playing music from Spotify on my computer’s speakers. To simulate a typical use case, each track will start at the one-minute mark. We’ll note how long it takes each app to ID the song.

Each app can take two attempts to identify the song. An app will receive a 15-second penalty for each attempt it fails. And because accuracy is vital for music recognition apps, a 20-second penalty will apply to incorrect identifications.

Round One: Moderate Difficulty

Let’s start off with two tracks that you won’t hear on the radio, but which have their own niches. Both of these songs have under 15,000 plays on Spotify.

Track 1: Deephearted by The Difference on What the Heart Needs (2015)

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  • Shazam: Identified the track in 10 seconds.
  • SoundHound: Failed both attempts (30-second penalty).
  • Musixmatch: Identified the track in 6 seconds.

Track 2: Ritual by White Heart on Inside (1995)

  • Shazam: Identified the song in 10 seconds.
  • SoundHound: Failed both attempts (30-second penalty).
  • Musixmatch: Identified the song in 8 seconds.

After one round, SoundHound is already in trouble with two failures. Shazam identified both tracks, but Musixmatch did so in record speed. We’ll see if it can keep that lead up in the tougher rounds.

Round One Winner: Musixmatch

Round Two: Hard Difficulty

Next, we move into some tracks from the depths of Spotify. Both these songs have under 1,000 plays on the service.

Track 3: Useless Numbers by minusbaby on BIAS (2011)

  • Shazam: Identified the song in 10 seconds.
  • SoundHound: Failed both attempts (30-second penalty).
  • Musixmatch: Identified the song in 16 seconds.

Track 4: Early Morning Soft Shoe by Mundell Lowe on Guitar Player (1977)

  • Shazam: Identified the song in 10 seconds.
  • SoundHound: Identified the song in 14 seconds.
  • Musixmatch: Identified the song in 6 seconds.

Shazam somehow managed to take exactly 10 seconds for all four tracks so far. And while SoundHound finally got one, it’s pretty much out of the race now. Musixmatch is doing well, but how will it fare against Shazam with the most obscure tracks of all?

Let’s move on to the third and final round.

Round Two Winner: Shazam

Round Three: Extreme Difficulty

For the final round, we want music that almost nobody has heard. For this, we’ll use Forgotify, a service to discover songs that have zero plays on Spotify. This is perfect music for challenging the music recognition apps.

Track 5: Rollin’ by Nathan Billingsley on Dying to Please You (2007)

  • Shazam: Identified the song in 12 seconds.
  • SoundHound: Failed both attempts (30-second penalty).
  • Musixmatch: Identified the song in 5 seconds.

Track 6: Get So Many Pains by Neon Hearts on Ball & Chain (1978)

  • Shazam: Identified the song in 10 seconds.
  • SoundHound: Failed both attempts (30-second penalty).
  • Musixmatch: Identified the song in 11 seconds.

Musixmatch finished strong, while Shazam remained consistent. SoundHound turned out to be really disappointing in this competition.

Round Three Winner: Musixmatch

And the Winner of the Best Song Finder App Is…

SoundHound comes in a distant third, as it correctly identified only one track out of six. For every other song, it failed to identify the music on both tries. With these 150 seconds of penalties, SoundHound finishes with a time of 164 seconds.

The other two fared much better. Shazam correctly identified every song in 10 seconds, except for one track that took 12 seconds. Tallying up its time, Shazam took a total of 62 seconds to ID all songs.

That leaves us with Musixmatch. In all but two instances, the app identified music in under 10 seconds, putting it on a better average pace than Shazam. Its total time was 52 seconds.

This means that the best song recognition app is Musixmatch!

Musixmatch was impressive here. Like Shazam, it didn’t make any mistakes. And in most cases, it recognized songs in less time than Shazam took. You can thus have confidence in Musixmatch as a great app to both display lyrics and identify music.

Which Music Identifier App Do You Prefer?

Were you surprised by these results? Shazam’s reputation precedes it, so Musixmatch must have worked hard to make its recognition system better. Unless you prefer something in Shazam’s interface, or don’t like that Musixmatch pushes a premium version, Musixmatch could even replace Shazam for you.

Meanwhile, keep in mind that these music recognition apps are just one way to identify songs stuck in your head. There are other ways if they can’t help.


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