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

Shazam is the best-known music recognition app, but is it the best? Join us as we put Shazam up against two 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 Finder App

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


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

The Discover panel shows news from the music world, including new releases. You can also search for music here to hear previews or add songs to your favorites. The Shazam Charts show you what others are scanning with the app.

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

You can also tap the Settings gear on this page to connect your social accounts and tweak a few preferences. Notably, Shazam has the Auto Shazam feature, which constantly listens for music and IDs it even when you don’t have the app open.

If you’re offline, Shazam will save what it hears and find a match when you’re back online. The app also features Visual Shazam to scan special tags with your camera for additional goodies.

Apple has owned Shazam since September 2018, and the app has been ad-free on Android and iOS since then. For some reason, though, you can still buy the “ad-free” Shazam Encore for $3 on iOS.

Download: Shazam for Android | iOS (Free)


When you look for an app that identifies songs, SoundHound is probably 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 orange button on its homepage to start tagging. SoundHound also makes a big deal out of its support for voice controls. Saying “OK, Hound” allows you to tag music and use other features of the app hands-free. The company even offers a standalone Hound voice assistant app, but there’s not much reason to use it compared to Google Assistant or Siri.

On the Charts tab, you’ll find that SoundHound also features its own music player. This can play samples (or full songs via YouTube or Spotify Premium) you’ve tagged, as well as popular tracks from the charts. After tagging a song, you’re able to purchase it with various services, 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. 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 ($6) | iOS ($7)

Musixmatch Lyrics

Our final song identifier app, Musixmatch, used to be paired up with Spotify to provide lyrics. While the two are no longer connected, Musixmatch is another app that recognizes songs as well.

Because Musixmatch is more of a lyrics app than a music ID app, it doesn’t focus on popular charts like the others (though it does show new releases). Instead, you can play music from your local library (or Spotify) through the app to see music lyrics. You’ll also see them when tagging a song.

The app also has a floating lyrics feature, which lets you see lyrics in real-time as you listen to music. In addition to this, if you create an account, you can contribute to lyrics for your favorite songs.

Musixmatch’s premium plan is $3/month and provides a few benefits like letting you save lyrics for offline use, as well as removing the annoying ads. 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 App Summary

If you’re picking an 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 humming and singing feature.

We think Shazam is the best overall choice, but give SoundHound a try to see if it’s right for your needs. As mentioned, Musixmatch makes a great sidekick to either of them.

While there are other apps like Shazam on Google Play on the App Store, these are the three best choices. Sony shuttered its Track ID service a while back, and other apps such as Music ID 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 apps against each other. This showdown consists of three rounds containing two songs each.

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

I performed the testing on my Pixel 3 by playing music from Spotify. 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 10-second penalty for each attempt it fails. And because accuracy is vital for music recognition apps, a 15-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 10,000 plays on Spotify.

Track 1: Alone Tonight by Kiros on A Single Strand (2008)

  • Shazam: Identified the track in 10 seconds.
  • SoundHound: Identified the track in 16 seconds.
  • Musixmatch: Identified the track in six seconds.

Track 2: Did She Ask About Me by Ronnie McDowell on American Music (1989)

  • Shazam: Identified the song in 11 seconds.
  • SoundHound: Failed both attempts (20 second penalty).
  • Musixmatch: Identified the song in four seconds.

After one round, SoundHound is already in trouble with two misses. Shazam identified both tracks, but Musixmatch did it 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: Forgotten Planet by RushJet1 on Out There (2017)

Track 4: See Me Through by Orange Is In on Come and Take It (2007)

  • Shazam: Identified the song in 11 seconds.
  • SoundHound: Failed both attempts (20 second penalty).
  • Musixmatch: Identified the song in 13 seconds.

The chiptune track definitely proved difficult for all three apps, with only one attempt out of six succeeding at identifying the song. SoundHound is pretty much out of the race now, but could Shazam catch up to Musixmatch? Let’s move on to the third and final round.

Round Two Winner: Musixmatch

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: Aroosi by Nader on Khat Va Neshoon (1988)

  • Shazam: Identified the song in 10 seconds.
  • SoundHound: Failed both attempts (20 second penalty).
  • Musixmatch: Failed both attempts (20 second penalty).

Track 6: Liten Suite I Gammel Stil: Andante Cantabile by Barratt-Dues Juniororkester on Asheim/ Kraggerud/ Grieg/ Hellstenius (1999)

  • Shazam: Identified the song in 11 seconds.
  • SoundHound: Failed both attempts (20 second penalty).
  • Musixmatch: Identified the song in four seconds.

Musixmatch had a rare stumble here, while Shazam remained consistent. SoundHound turned out to be really disappointing in this competition.

Round Three Winner: Shazam

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. On every other attempt it failed to identify the music, including one incorrect ID. With these 105 seconds of penalties, SoundHound finishes with a time of 121 seconds.

The other two fared much better. Shazam consistently identified songs in around 10 seconds, except for track 4 where it gave two different incorrect IDs. Tallying up its time, Shazam took 53 seconds to ID the songs. Adding the 30 penalty seconds gives us 83 seconds total for Shazam.

That leaves us with just Musixmatch. While the app stumbled a bit more than Shazam did, its overall time to ID was faster. Its total time was 33 seconds; adding penalties of 35 seconds means that Musixmatch finishes with a score of 68 seconds.

This means that the best song recognition app is Musixmatch!

The choice is clear on this one. Not only was Musixmatch the only app to identify track 3, but it consistently recognized songs in half the time that 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? In the past, Shazam has come out on top, so Musixmatch must have been hard at work recently making its recognition system better. It’s a shame that the app has annoying ads, so if you don’t want to put up with them, Shazam is still a great choice.

If these tracks have got you wishing for fresh tunes, take a look at some ways to discover new music you will love.

Read the full article: The 3 Best Music Recognition Apps to Find Songs by Their Tune

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