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The world of classical music exists almost entirely separate from every other genre of music. It is, in every sense of the word, exceptional. You are not going to hear, for instance, Beethoven’s 5th symphony playing on pop radio stations. Just like you will never hear Justin Bieber performing at the symphony hall.
These two worlds seldom coincide. And if they do, it is only if an orchestra puts on a special classical arrangement of popular songs. Even so, these performances don’t tend to draw out fans of the top 40 radio so much as they do music theory students and instructors, fellow musicians, and curious composers.
Which is why it only makes sense for there to be a streaming service dedicated solely to classical music. The majority of audio streaming services available are not ideal when it comes to discovering new classical pieces or finding a comprehensive library of the best performances of the works that we know and love. They are just not designed to accommodate the unique archiving structures that classical music demands.
One song, for example, especially if it is a particularly beloved movement of a sonata or a symphony, is likely to have hundreds of different recorded performances of it out there. A Chopin nocturne, for instance, has been reimagined by countless different pianists, and each interpretation, each performance of it, offers myriad subtle differences.
Every musician, every conductor, has his or her own way of interpreting the music, the dynamics, the expressions of a piece, as well as his or her own personal style of playing. Therefore, true fans and students of classical music need a streaming service that makes perusing all of these versions of their favorite pieces as simple and as easy as possible.
If you love classical music, perhaps you have experienced firsthand the frustration that can accompany attempting to find a specific recording of a given piece. Streaming services that focus more on pop music – such as Spotify, Tidal, Apple Music, etc. – unfortunately, do not tend to make browsing for specific performers, conductors, or symphonic performances of a piece very easy. They just aren’t designed for that sort of archiving, as they are more centered around searching for a particular artist or new song release.
However, fans of classical music, rejoice. Today I will introduce you to a streaming service made for and by people who love and understand classical. Meet Primephonic.
Primephonic was developed in 2014 in response to the very issues that I just mentioned regarding playing and finding high-quality classical music on the most popular music streaming apps. In the beginning, it was presented as a way to easily find and strictly download classical music files. There were, at first anyway, no streaming capabilities built into the service.
In May of 2016, however, Primephonic was acquired by Sony Classical and in June of the following year (2017), Primephonic reintroduced itself as a full streaming platform in the United States and the United Kingdom. Today, as of the time of this review, Primephonic offers streaming and downloading of over 10,000 titles, and streaming quality of 16-bit FLAC (standard CD quality). 10,000 unique titles, by the way, amounts to about 3 million individual tracks when you take into account the multiple recording factor.
The idea for the site and subsequent apps was conceived by a team of six musicologists. And a legion of classical music students is responsible for archiving, categorizing, and cataloging all of the songs that are available on the service.
The main objective of Primephonic, according to Wikipedia, is to master the richness of the metadata of classical music pieces, which is not the case on generalist sites like Spotify or Deezer where the experience of searching for classical music is tenuous or even incoherent. On Primephonic, all pages dedicated to works or artists provide complete information and suggestions based on the similarities between metadata.”
Finally, thanks to Primephonic, a credible authority on streaming and downloading classical music the right way has been born.
Each site itself (primephonic.com), the app, and the web player are all expertly designed. All formats of Primephonic are, in my opinion, very easy on the eye. It has an elegant (dare I say classy?) aesthetic. Opting for a minimalistic look, Primephonic can easily compete with the big players in the music streaming space – in fact, some might even prefer the sleek look and feel of Primephonic over the somewhat comparatively clunky designs of, say, Apple Music or Spotify.
On top of that, the search function is marvelous. And it is clearly built specifically for the unique archiving concerns of classical music. Finally, there is an app that allows you to easily and conveniently find an exact piece, composer, conductor, performer, or performance without having to go through potential hours of cross-referencing and research. Primephonic allows you to delve fully into the world of classical music, all from your smartphone, tablet, or desktop computer.
Plus, the Discover section of the app is perfect. Primephonic learns what you will like based on your listening habits and, accordingly, shines a light on particular classical works, composers, and performances that you will be sure to enjoy. This is easily one of the most user-friendly music streaming services available on the market.
As I mentioned before, Primephonic offers nearly 3 million individual pieces. And seeing as the apps student staff of classical musicians is always working on adding new titles and performances to the database, Primephonic’s massive catalog of classical music is perpetually growing, evolving, and becoming more efficient.
Pair this with the fact that Primephonic offers the best in cutting edge audio quality, and you have the makings for the one and only source of classical music that you will ever need. Why dig through cluttered and messy libraries of subpar classical music recordings on Spotify or Apple Music when you can have an expertly curated collection of compositions at your fingertips any time of the day or night with the Primephonic app?
Desktop and Mobile Experience
Once again, Primephonic’s design is optimized, visually appealing, and super user-friendly. Both the web and app version of this streaming service is top of the line, simple, and effective at providing a convenient catalog of the highest-quality classical recordings in the world.
Pricing and Plans
Primephonic offers a two-tiered subscription. There is Primephonic Premium and Primephonic Platinum. As far as pricing is concerned, this setup (and pricing) is reminiscent of Tidal’s.
Premium is going to run you $9.99 per month (or take advantage of a discount when you prepay for a whole year at $99.99). This is, more or less, the standard music streaming service price point. And for your ten bucks a month, you get full access to Primephonic’s library of 2.8 million recordings (and counting), smart search, new releases weekly, exclusive classical music podcasts and interviews with top artists, and daily recommendations hand-selected by classical music experts.
Then there is the Platinum option, which, of course, offers you all of that … and then some. Actually, the major difference between Premium and Platinum here is – again, much like Tidal – in the sound quality. Primephonic Platinum offers streaming and downloading qualities of lossless 24-bit FLAC; whereas Premium only streams 320 kbps MP3 files. If you are a true classical music buff (and maybe even bordering on picky audiophile), Premium will run you $19.99 per month (or $149.99 for a full year commitment).
Suggestions that I Have for Primephonic
Honestly, I don’t have any suggestions for Primephonic. This is one of those rare services that set out to do something and has managed to do so, as far as I can see, with nearly perfect execution. I suppose the only gripe that I have with it if I had to pick one, would be the price point of the Platinum plan.
$20 is a bit more than I would ever want to spend on any streaming service per month, let alone one that only provides one genre of music. Oh, and the introduction of video streaming would also be a welcomed addition. It would just be the icing on the cake if you could also watch exclusive recordings of world-class musicians performing classical pieces.
All in all, classical music or otherwise, Primephonic is one of the best audio streaming services on the market. The fact that it is hand-crafted by classical music students and professionals makes it a truly unique service – one that is extremely effective and worth looking into. If you love classical music, this is the streaming service you deserve.