I’ve been hard on Shazam. But SoundHound is better.


Shazam is good, but SoundHound is better!

I’ve never been a fan of Shazam, the music identification app, that ‘listens’ to a few seconds of a song, and then tells you the name of the artist, title and other info on the song.

As an early adopter of the app, I was greatly disappointed by the number of times that Shazam crashed, didn’t or couldn’t identify the song I was listening to.

It’s hit/miss ratio was like 1 in 4.

And to me, that sucked!

What made it worse was the fact that Shazam was everywhere!

Despite it’s poor performance, folks were acting like it was the best thing since sliced bread.

And then I found SoundHound.

SoundHound is another music identification app, that works just like Shazam.

Press the SoundHound button, it starts listening to a music stream, and then identifies the song you’re listening to.

The big difference was that SoundHound almost always identified the songs I was listening to.

When I found SoundHound, I ditched Shazam, and haven’t looked back since.

However, last weekend (or was it the weekend before last?) I watched several Super Bowl ads with the Shazam logo, and I blasted Shazam in one of my post-Super Bowl posts.

But since it had been some time since I actually used the app, I thought that I might have been a bit harsh, and that Shazam deserved a re-do.

So I re-installed the app on my iPhone and gave it a whirl (again).

I decided that I’d do a side-by-side comparison between SoundHound (my new favorite music id app) and Shazam.

To make things interesting, I selected radio stations at random (from whatever I have programmed on the boom box in the kitchen) and held up my iPhone using both Shazam and SoundHound.

In each instance, I wanted to see which app found the song first (assuming they both found the song), and what information they returned when they did.

I listened to The Motto, by Drake featuring Lil Wayne on Hot 97 FM, Il Andante con motto, by the Slovak Philharmonic on 88.3 FM WBGO, One of those Days, by Whitney Houston on 98.7 Kiss FM, How Will I Know, by Whitney Houston on 107.5 WBLS (Whitney stays on rotation these days), and Levels by Avicii on 103.5 KTU.

Afterwards, I listened to Little Child Runnin Wild, by Curtis Mayfield on the Superfly album, to test how long each app took to capture the info from the same starting point.

In my testing (and to my surprise) Shazam was able to locate and identify every song except one.

Shazam mis-identified The Motto as the remix version by Jeremih (featuring Drake) although it was the standard version.

In every single instance, SoundHound returned information faster than Shazam.

This was the case regardless of which app I tested first, the song or volume (I tested the apps at both high and low volumes).

Both apps returned the majority of album artwork, although Shazam failed to provide artwork for two titles.

While Shazam did okay in my non-scientific head to head song identification comparison, there were a few areas in which SoundHound was unmatched.

The first is that in addition to listening to an actual song, SoundHound can identify a song if you sing or hum a few bars of the song (this worked well when I sang ‘Who The Cap Fits’ by Bob Marley).

SoundHound's results include the streaming lyrics right on the page.

A second is the streaming lyrics that are displayed right in the interface, and following along with the song in real time.

There are other little things that I like about SoundHound over Shazam, but I was pleasantly surprised by how much Shazam worked on this trial (versus how it worked when I originally copped it).

I did a little survey on the internet to see how other folks feel about the whole Shazam vs. SoundHound debate.

While Shazam clearly has the better marketing behind it, the universal unofficial opinion among users is that SoundHound is the better of the two.

But don’t take my word for it.

Take them both for a spin and tell me what you think!

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10 Comments

Filed under apps, iPhone, mobile, opinion, technology

10 responses to “I’ve been hard on Shazam. But SoundHound is better.

  1. Soundhound is a shitty app..
    It takes an eternity to start up and by the time it’s done loading most of the time the song already finished, or is near the end.

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  2. Mark

    I stumbled upon this article, and have to agree with Amanda. I tried SoundHound for around 8 deathcore/heavy metal/death metal tracks, and Shazam couldn’t identify a SINGLE one without a portion of the lyrics, and outright couldn’t handle 3 of them. SoundHound got them all in 2 tries are less, and only 2 of the songs required that. For this genre, SoundHound is BY FAR the way to go!

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    • Mark, there is definitely something to which app works better for which musical genre you’re trying to tag. I note that I’m usually able to tag things on Top-40 radio fairly quickly with Shazam, but if it’s something on a Jazz, or alternative station, SoundHound works better.

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      • Exactly the same here. If it’s a popular title, Shazam gets it in a split second and SoundHound takes several seconds (like 5 to 10 times more). But Shazam fails a lot on alternative, jazz and classical music whereas SoundHound, although not being spot on those every time, does a much better job.

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  3. Amanda

    Well, something happened to Shazam in the last couple of weeks! I was happily tagging songs for the past 6 months and now it can’t seem to tag hardly anything correctly (tested it on Pandora so I already know the title and album). You should retest it. I’m about to give up on it. Googled “Shazam sucks” and found your article and follow up. Do you know anything I don’t? So disappointed…

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    • Amanda, there have been a number of updates to both platforms, but I can’t explain why Shazam’s recognition functionality would degrade after an update. Shazam works really well for contemporary music, but not so much for more obscure titles. And the reverse is also true. SoundHound doesn’t perform well with lots of contemporary genres, but does well with more obscure stuff. In my opinion, they should both work the same, since I’d imagine that the databases from which they are drawing from (should) contain the same content. Maybe?

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  4. Do you still feel that way?

    The reason I’m asking is because I feel that SoundHound has very recently gotten so much worse that I’d have to call it broken.

    SoundHound was the first music recognition app I discovered, and I’ve been using it for about 2 years, being very happy with its recognition quota. Recently I’ve been having more trouble, but initially I didn’t think much of it, blaming it on my rather obscure musical tasted (although SoundHound always surprised me by recognising a lot of underdogs).

    About 2 weeks ago, when I was having trouble identifying tracks at a club, a friend told me to go ahead and try Shazam. That evening I kept trying both apps on the same tracks. I ended up with 23 tags on Shazam and 2 tags on SoundHound. I guess I tried about 25 tracks, which would mean >90% for Shazam and <10% for SoundHound.

    If you go to the Apple App Store or the Google Play Store now, you can see that most of the reviews for SoundHound that were submitted in the last month say that the app doesn't recognise tracks anymore. So I guess I'm not the only one who has now had to switch to Shazam because SoundHound simply doesn't work anymore.

    A bug? A change in the algorithm? Or perhaps even some legally enforced change? (The music industry never ceases to amaze with me how creatively and fervently they use the legal system to find new ways to screw their customers. So if I discover anything shitty to do with music, the major labels are among my first suspects.)

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    • Daniel, thanks for your input. Yes. I would have to say that I’ve since had to change my position. Shazam has been really much better at identifying tracks than SoundHound. In fact, it’s become my go-to recognition app for music.

      Most of the time, I’m trying to find something contemporary, which is where Shazam really shines. I haven’t looked for anything obscure recently, do I’m not sure how they would stack up on that front. But if I need to know the name of something on the radio or at the club, Shazam is much handier nowadays.

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      • It does really well on obscure stuff too. Shazam has so far found everything from 60s Cuban Boogaloo to 80s Nigerian Funk to 00s Austrian Minimal Techno for me. So the scope seems fantastic.

        One thing that Shazam can’t do though is SoundHound’s search by singing or humming. I tried that once (very quietly and in a private room, heh) and it worked well. I don’t know if that’s as badly affected as the direct search.

        What’s surprising is that it isn’t (just) that Shazam got better, but that SoundHound got noticeably worse. Usually people *improve* their apps. Whatever they changed, it must have been accidental or imposed.

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  5. stefan

    Firstly i totally agree with you on shazam. If i want to try and identify a remixed song on shazam its doesn’t show what type of remix it is even though i know the remix. I don’t know if its maby because of the android version of shazam because its shows the remix on blackberries shazam so as nokia etc. So i have no idea whats the reason foe that????

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