Music Search Group Test Title Image

Most people will have heard of music search apps – apps like Shazam – and a lot of you probably use them on your own device. But how many of you have just stuck with the first app you found, without wondering if there are any that might work better for you out on the market?

The release of Google’s new Sound Search Widget has prompted us here at JGM Software to do some testing in the name of science (sadly, the non-explodey kind of science), and to deliver our verdict on the best music search app available today. We tested Shazam, SoundHound and the Sound Search Widget with 10 tracks, ranging from the well known and popular to rather obscure, and from a few different genres over a number of different categories.

Shazam and SoundHound are both available on the Play Store, but the Sound Search Widget is currently only available in the US. With a little casual root wizardry, it’s simple to get the widget working on your phone as long as you’re in a country with access to Google’s Play Music Store.

We’ll be testing the apps using a Google Nexus S handset, placed between a pair of high quality speakers to ensure the best chance of getting a decent recording. The tracks we’ll be using are:

  • K-Pop: Gangnam Style by PSY
  • Rap: In Da Club by 50 cent
  • New Release: My Life by 50 Cent
  • Classical: Protectors of the Earth by Two Steps From Hell
  • Drum and Bass: Feel the Love by Rudimental
  • Slightly Obscure: Gortoz a ran – J’attends (Blackhawk Down) by Denez Prigent
  • Soundtrack: Battle for New York (MW3 Soundtrack) by Brian Tyler
  • Hip Hop: Let It Roll by Flo Rida
  • Indie: Wandering by Radical Face
  • Electronic: In the House, In a Heartbeat by John Murphy

Accuracy

In this category, we see whether the apps can actually identify the tracks correctly.

First Attempt Accuracy Graph

Google Sound Search Widget

In this test, the Google Sound Search Widget identified all of the tracks correctly.

Shazam

With Shazam, all the tracks were identified apart from In the House, In a Heartbeat, which required two attempts to identify.

SoundHound

Oh dear SoundHound. SoundHound only managed to identify 8 out of the ten tracks, with 50 Cent’s My Life and the excerpt from Modern Warfare 3 proving too difficult. It also identified In the House, In a Heartbeat as Don Abandons Alice, which to be fair is a very very similar track. It’s basically a remix speeded up a bit, so I’ll give it that.

Speed

Next, we recorded how long it took the apps to return a track name. We started playing the track, then started our stopwatch at the same time as pressing the app’s home screen widget to identify a track, seeing as we figured this would be the most common way people search for a track – something comes on the radio and you want to know what it is quickly, for example.

Average Speed Graph

Google Sound Search Widget

Google’s offering was remarkably speedy, taking on average just 8 seconds to identify a track. Gangnam Style was the quickest here, taking just 4 seconds, and  Protectors of the Earth was the longest, taking 15 seconds.

Shazam

Shazam was only slightly behind the Google widget, with an average time of 9.1 seconds to ID a track. Its quickest was Rudimental’s Feel the Love, at 6 seconds, and its longest wait was 12 seconds for Wandering by Radical Face. Despite being second, its still impressive.

SoundHound

Sadly SoundHound loses out again here, being the slowest of the bunch with an average of 14.4 seconds to return track info. Its fastest was 12 seconds, the same as Shazam’s slowest, and it took over 17 seconds on a number of occasions. However, part of the reason for the slowdown here is that SoundHound, unlike the other apps, takes between 2 and 4 seconds to initialize and start sampling after you use the widget. Take this into account, and its identification timings are still respectable.

Widget and App

In this section we look at the app’s widget and its other functionality

Google Sound Search Widget

The Sound Search Widget is simple – a single button will record a sample and the identify it for you. Nothing else. It will display the album art, song name and artist name, and when you press that it will take you to Google Play to purchase the track. Nothing special, but it does what it says on the tin and it does it fast.

Google Sound Search WidgetShazam

Shazam’s widget is a bit jazzier and seems to display songs that other users are searching for on it…not very useful. Shazam WidgetAfter it identifies a track, it displays the album art along with track details, some sharing options and a link to buy it from Amazon MP3.

Shazam Main appSoundHound

SoundHound’s widget is a lot more subdued and could easily be mistaken for a homescreen icon – handy if you want to keep a consistent look or design to your homescreens. It also takes up just a quarter of the space of the other app’s widgets.

SoundHound homescreen widgetOnce the track has been identified, information is presented in a neat Holo themed layout, with sharing and purchasing options like Shazam. A neat feature is the scrolling box that displays lyrics in real time to the music. Handy and impressive.

SoundHound main app displaying music results

Summary

Google Sound Search Widget

The Good: Simple, very fast, links directly to Play Store

Not So Good: Lacking in features compared to the other apps.

Shazam

The Good: The app is reasonably fast and has a high success rate.

The Not So Good: The widget is a bit odd, and the apps UI is dated compared to newer Holo-themed apps.

SoundHound

The Good: Feature rich, Holo UI meets Android Design guidelines.

The Not So Good: Can be slow, doesn’t always identify your tracks first time, or even at all.

Whilst all the apps are impressive, my personal favourite is Google Sound Search Widget – purely because it’s fast and simple. I like its integration with the Play Store and its lack of adverts or a large, complex UI to slow things down. On the subject of adverts; the free versions of Shazam and SoundHound were used in these tests – paid versions are available with no ads. For those of you who like to purchase music from other places, or have a more feature rich experience, the other apps might be preferable. At least now you know the pros and cons of each!