What is the best app for identifying songs?

Song identification apps have become increasingly popular in recent years as handy tools for quickly identifying songs. Just by holding up your smartphone and capturing a short sample of a song, song ID apps can listen to the audio and provide information about the song title, artist, album, and more in seconds. For music lovers, these apps are an easy way to satisfy curiosity about an unknown song heard on the radio, TV, or in a public place. Song ID apps draw from extensive databases of songs that have been submitted by users and copyright holders to identify the vast majority of commercially released tracks. The leading apps in this space like Shazam and SoundHound boast catalogs with tens of millions of songs. Beyond just putting a name to catchy tunes, song ID apps can also provide lyrics, music videos, and links to stream or purchase songs. This utility and convenience has led to these apps accumulating hundreds of millions of users worldwide. With their popularity and capabilities improving all the time, song identification apps have become indispensable modern tools for music discovery.

History of Song Identification Technology

The origins of audio fingerprinting technology date back to the 1990s. In 1996, Avery Li-Chun Wang, a student at Stanford University, developed an early audio identification system as part of his PhD dissertation. His system analyzed small segments of audio and converted them into digital fingerprints or hashes. By matching the fingerprints against a database, the system could identify songs and other audio recordings. Wang went on to co-found Shazam Entertainment in 1999 and served as the company’s Chief Technology Officer.

In the early 2000s, Shazam launched one of the first consumer song identification services based on Wang’s fingerprinting technology. Users could dial a phone number and hold their phone up to identify a song. In 2002, Shazam launched its first version as a downloadable app for early Java phones. Later Shazam launched mobile apps for iOS, Android, and other platforms, allowing users to easily identify songs.

Around the same time in the early 2000s, companies like Gracenote and MusicBrainz also began applying audio fingerprinting for music identification. In 2000, Cantametrix filed a patent for a “system and method for audio content navigation”, outlining an early song identification system. These pioneers paved the way for audio recognition to become a standard feature in music apps.

How Song ID Apps Work

Song identification apps like Shazam, SoundHound, Musixmatch, and TrackID all rely on audio fingerprinting technology to recognize songs. This technology analyzes unique audio signatures within a song to create a digital fingerprint that can be matched against a database of known song fingerprints.

When you use a song ID app and hold your phone’s microphone near a song, the app takes a short sample of the song, typically between 5 to 10 seconds. It then creates a spectrogram, which is a visual representation of the audio frequencies in the sample over time. This spectrogram is processed to extract the most distinct and identifying features, which are hashed to create a compact audio fingerprint.

This fingerprint contains key details about the exact pitches and relative volume of notes at specific times in the sample. It disregards ambient or noisy sounds. The app queries its database of millions of song fingerprints, quickly finds an exact or very close match, and returns the metadata associated with that fingerprint like song title, artist name, album, etc.

The speed and accuracy of modern song ID apps is incredible. While the underlying concept of audio fingerprinting has been around for decades, increased computing power and machine learning algorithms have made the technology highly robust and able to handle distortion or background noise. Apps can now recognize a song in just 1-2 seconds of sampling in most cases.

Top 5 Song Identification Apps

There are several excellent song identification apps available for iOS and Android devices. Here are 5 of the top options to consider:


Shazam (App Store, Google Play) is one of the first and most well-known song identification apps. It can identify music playing from TV shows, radio, streaming services, and more. Shazam creates shareable tagging results and provides extra content like video clips, lyrics, and streaming links. The app is free with optional upgrades.


SoundHound (App Store, Google Play) competes closely with Shazam in speed and accuracy of song recognition. Key features include identifying songs when offline, connecting to Spotify and other services, and lyrics display. The basic app is free with a paid upgrade option.


Musixmatch (App Store, Google Play) integrates a song ID feature along with its main offering of song lyrics. It can ID tracks from short samples and provides lyrics synchronization. The app has both free and paid tiers available.


TrackID (App Store, Google Play) by Sony has capabilities to identify songs, TV shows, and movies. It draws results from a large media database. The app presents song info, artist biographies, and YouTube results. TrackID is free to download.


Genius (App Store, Google Play) is a lyrics app that also includes music and TV show recognition. It finds matches from brief audio samples and shows synced lyrics with additional song facts and backstories. Genius has a free version with premium subscription options.


With over 300 million monthly active users worldwide, Shazam is the most widely used song identification app (Music Business Worldwide, Musically). Originally launched in 2002, Shazam was acquired by Apple in 2018. The app can identify songs by listening to just a short sample of audio. Some key features of Shazam include:

  • Ability to identify songs playing on the radio, TV, film, or public spaces.
  • Creating shareable tags of identified songs.
  • Viewing lyrics of identified songs.
  • Listening to full songs in Apple Music or Spotify.
  • Creating playlists from identified songs.

Pros of Shazam include its large music database, fast and accurate song recognition, and integration with streaming services. Potential downsides are its limitation to Apple devices and the fact that some artists opt out of having their songs included.

2. SoundHound

With over 100 million downloads, SoundHound offers a key alternative to Shazam. Launched in 2005, SoundHound can identify music, tv shows, and more by listening through the device’s microphone. Key features include recognizing singing or humming, “history” to view previously identified songs, and “PlayLive” to discover related YouTube videos.

Compared to Shazam, SoundHound offers a simpler, cleaner interface according to some users. The app stays in memory less than Shazam, which helps performance. SoundHound also claims to have the world’s fastest music recognition. However, some users report Shazam having a larger database and find it identifies obscure songs better in certain cases.


Musixmatch is an Italian app first released in 2010 that integrates song lyrics. It has over 50 million monthly active users who sync lyrics in real time to streaming music from services like Spotify, Apple Music, and Pandora (Source). Musixmatch obtains licensing deals with music labels to display song lyrics legally.

Some key features of Musixmatch include:

  • Sync lyrics in real-time to music playing
  • View lyrics translations in multiple languages
  • Add lyrics for missing songs
  • Save and share lyrics on social media

Pros of Musixmatch are that it has lyrics for millions of songs with accuracy ratings and translations. Cons are that the free version has ads and limited skips.


TrackID is a song identification app developed by Sony Mobile Communications (https://alternativeto.net/software/trackid/about/). It was one of the first song ID apps available when it launched in 2003.

As an entry from a major technology company like Sony, TrackID offers robust music recognition capabilities. The app can identify songs playing on the radio, on TV, or in the environment just by listening through the phone’s microphone. It matches the song against an extensive database of over 30 million tracks.

Key features of TrackID include:

  • Real-time song recognition from ambient sound
  • Ability to view lyrics, artist info, playlists, and more
  • Integration with streaming services to play full songs
  • Offline mode for identifying songs without an internet connection

Pros of TrackID include its reliability at detecting songs accurately and quickly even in noisy environments. The integration with YouTube, Spotify, and other streaming services makes it easy to find and play identified songs. TrackID also has a clean, user-friendly interface.

Downsides are that the free version contains ads, and some users report inaccurate song matches at times (https://www.mouthshut.com/product-reviews/Track-ID-reviews-925758336). The app requires granting microphone permissions which raises privacy concerns for some. TrackID is also only available on Android devices.


Genius focuses on providing lyrics and annotations for songs from an extensive catalog. Founded in 2009, Genius (formerly known as Rap Genius) has evolved into the world’s largest database for song lyrics and musical knowledge (Source).

Some key features of the Genius app include:

  • Search for lyrics using song titles, artists, albums, or lyrics
  • View annotated explanations of lyrics
  • Save and organize your favorite songs
  • View song facts like writers, producers, and recording details
  • Discover new music and read bios of artists

The Genius app makes it easy to find lyrics for both popular and obscure songs. The annotations from the Genius community provide unique insight into the meaning behind lyrics. However, the app lacks some of the more robust ID features of Shazam or SoundHound. But for lyric lovers, Genius is a top choice.


After reviewing the top song identification apps, SoundHound stands out as the best overall choice for quickly and accurately identifying songs. Its advanced audio fingerprinting technology enables it to recognize a diverse repertoire of over 40 million songs. SoundHound also has unique features like the ability to identify songs just by singing or humming them.

While Shazam may have more name recognition, SoundHound consistently delivers superior results in side-by-side tests of song recognition speed and accuracy. SoundHound’s clean, intuitive interface makes it a breeze to use. And its Lyric Play feature sets it apart by letting you view synced song lyrics in real-time as you listen. If you’re looking for the best app to quickly identify music, SoundHound is the top choice.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *