The Top 10 Streaming Music Apps for the iPad

You already have you iPad nearby, why not listen to your favorite tunes

You don't need to load your iPad up with a lot of music to have listening options. The App Store offers everything from streaming radio stations from the Internet to creating your own radio station, and the great part is that many of these apps are free to download and enjoy. Most have a subscription plan to remove ads, but many are still quite functional if you never pay a dime.

This list is dedicated to listening to music. Want to play music? Check out the best iPad apps for musicians.

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Pandora Radio

Pandora Radio app for iPad
What We Like
  • Rich database with a great recommendation engine.

  • Balance of free and paid tiers.

  • Pandora is included in some entertainment platforms.

What We Don't Like
  • Reduced interest because of Spotify and Apple Music.

  • Focus on radio station formats, rather than defined playlists.

While this list isn't ordered from best to worst, it's hard not to start with Pandora Radio. This app allows you to create a personalized radio station by choosing an artist or song. Pandora Radio will utilize their extensive database to pick out similar music, and the great part is that this database is based on the actual music, not just what other songs and bands fans of that particular artist also like. And if you want to add variety to your station, you can add more artists or songs to it.

Pandora is supported by ads. You can get an ad-free version by subscribing to Pandora One, which also offers higher quality audio.

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Apple Music

Apple Music app icon
What We Like
  • Part of Apple's hardware and software product line.

  • Generous free trial.

  • Excellent depth of catalog.

What We Don't Like
  • Recommendation engine isn't as solid as Spotify.

  • Hard to use if you're not familiar with Apple products.

You don't need to download an app from the App Store to stream music to your iPad. Apple's first attempt at streaming (iTunes Radio) was a bit shaky, but after buying Beats, Apple stepped up its game and built Apple Music on the foundation of Beats Radio. In addition to the standard fare of streaming music for a subscription and creating custom radio stations based on your favorite artist or song, Apple Music streams Beats 1, an actual radio station. 

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Spotify app icon
What We Like
  • Large library, curated playlists.

  • Free and paid subscriptions.

  • APIs work across apps.

What We Don't Like
  • Kludgy interface.

  • Some metadata isn't easily available.

Spotify is like Pandora Radio with even more features. Not only can you create your own custom radio station based on an artist or song, but you can also search for specific music to stream and make your own playlists. Spotify has a number of genre-based radio stations built into it, and by connecting to Facebook, you can share these playlists with your friends.

However, Spotify does require a hefty subscription to continue listening after the free trial runs out. The interface isn't quite as slick as it could be, and some of the recommendations are quite spotty. But considering you can play both personalized radio stations and playlists with specific music, you may find the subscription is a great way to save money on buying music.

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What We Like
  • Terrestrial radio, through the internet.

  • Basic radio-station approach to personalized playlists.

  • No subscriptions.

What We Don't Like
  • Interface on mobile devices shows its age.

  • Works with radio networks formally affiliated with iHeartMedia.

As its name suggests, ​iHeartRadio focuses on the radio. "Real" radio. With more than 1,500 live radio stations including rock, country, pop, hip-hop, talk radio, news radio, and sports radio, you name it, it's there. You can listen to radio stations near you or your favorite genre in cities around the country. Like Pandora and Spotify, you can also create a personalized station based on an artist or song, but the real bonus of iHeartRadio is access to real radio stations and the lack of any type of subscription requirement.

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LiveXLive app icon
What We Like
  • Reasonable, multi-tier price points for the subscription service.

  • Follow public playlists to discover new music.

What We Don't Like
  • Tries to do a bit of everything, but doesn't excel in any of them.

  • Less opportunity for natural discovery outside of someone else's recommendation.

LiveXLive bought out free radio service Slacker Radio to create its premium platform. It's similar to Pandora, with hundreds of finely curated custom radio stations. You'll find a bit of everything here, and each station has dozens of artists programmed into it. LiveXLive offers live radio stations and goes beyond music with live events and original programs. You can also personalize your own listening experience with custom stations and playlists, but the real bonus in this app are the handcrafted stations.

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TuneIn Radio

TuneIn Radio logo
What We Like
  • Robust set of terrestrial radio stations.

  • Sports-related content.

  • Up-to-the-minute news.

What We Don't Like
  • Curated playlists can be hit-or-miss.

  • Interface is rather basic.

Easily one of the best apps for streaming radio stations across the country, TuneIn Radio is perfect for those who don't need to customize a radio station or simply as a companion to Pandora. TuneIn Radio has a simple interface that is easy to start using. One nice aspect is the ability to glimpse what is playing on the radio station — the song title and artist are displayed below the radio station. And TuneIn Radio packs in 70,000 stations, so you'll have plenty of choices.

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Shazam app icon
What We Like
  • Integrates well with Apple Music and Spotify.

  • Great for identifying a song currently playing.

What We Don't Like
  • Not a music curation platform.

  • Focuses on identifying music that is playing within earshot.

Shazam is a music discovery app without streaming music. Instead, this app listens to the music around you and identifies it, so if you hear a really cool song while drinking your morning coffee at the local cafe, you can find out the name and artist. It also has an always-listening mode that constantly checks for nearby music.

You can also add songs you've discovered through Shazam directly to your Apple Music and Spotify playlists.

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Soundcloud app icon
What We Like
  • Huge catalog, with user-contributed content.

  • Great for emerging talent not yet signed by labels.

What We Don't Like
  • Pricey subscription model.

  • Tools to search the massive catalog aren't up to the task.

SoundCloud is quickly taking over as the lesser-known musician's playground. It's a great way to upload your music and have it heard, and for those who love hidden gems, it will give you an experience, unlike the one you'll have on Pandora Radio, Apple Music or Spotify. But it is not all about discovering new talent. There are plenty of well-known artists using the service. SoundCloud has also become a favorite way to share music online.

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Tidal app icon
What We Like
  • Curated by experts and by the artists.

  • Includes videos.

  • Emphasis on audio quality.

What We Don't Like
  • Hi-Fi offering is more than twice the price of the competitors.

  • Relatively modest catalog compared to other services.

Tidal's claim to fame is its high-fidelity sound quality. Labeled a "lossless audio experience," Tidal streams CD-quality music without compromise. However, this hi-fi stream will cost you more than most other subscription services. Tidal does offer a cheaper "premium" subscription, but this fee abandons the main feature that sets Tidal apart. Still, for those who want the absolute best music experience, the extra money may be worth it.

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YouTube Music

YouTube Music
What We Like
  • Clean app design.

  • Powered by YouTube, a Google company.

What We Don't Like
  • YouTube's stats aren't transparent.

  • Few value-added features, like human curation.

  • Must pay to listen to apps while your device is locked or another app is open.

Video site YouTube expanded into exclusively delivering tunes with its YouTube Music app. Like the base site and accompanying app, Music delivers suggestions based on what you've watched and lets you curate playlists based on your interests.

YouTube Music has both free and premium tiers, and the differences may be enough to send you to another service. Unless you pay a monthly fee, the app has to be open and active for you to use it. You can't play songs in the background, for example, or while your iPad is locked. Since most other services support this functionality, even at the free level, YouTube Music may not be your first choice.

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