Apr 13, 2011
Imagine for a minute that you’re at a party. An amazing song you’ve never heard before comes on the radio, and you set out to find out who sings it. You ask the guy next to you, but he can’t hear you because the music is too loud. You ask the girl on the other side of you, but she’s had one too many drinks, and just keeps repeating “I know, this song’s like, amazing!”. Desperate to learn who performs your new favorite song, you try to make your way closer to the radio in hopes that someone over there might have the answers you seek. Without warning, the song comes to an end, and your hopes of learning who was responsible for that masterpiece die right then and there. If only you had an app on your phone that could tell you what song was playing.
There are actually two apps that do just that; SoundHound, and Shazam. Both apps cost $5, and both claim to be able to identify a wide variety of songs under a wide variety of conditions. So, which of these two apps is worthy of your money? We’ve designed several tests to determine which app does a better job of telling you what song you’re listening to.
Each test was done using two Motorola Droids, one running SoundHound, and the other running Shazam. During each test, both phones were held the same distance from the source of the music, and endured the same environmental conditions. Just for clarity’s sake, both apps were able to identify popular songs under ideal conditions (little background noise) just fine. These tests were designed to really push these apps to their limits. Without further ado, let the battle begin!
The Convenience Store Test
We wanted to test out both apps at a wild party, but unfortunately, we just weren’t cool enough to get invited to any, so we did the next best thing – we tested both apps in a convenience store. Think about it – the environmental conditions are very similar to those at a party. There are a lot of people talking amongst themselves, and they do a great job of drowning out the music. This test was a tie. Both apps were able to identify Aretha Franklin’s Respect, as well as Bryan Adams’ Summer of ’69.
Obscure Music Test
We Wanted to see which app had a more extensive library, so we pulled out a few songs that we thought might be obscure enough to confuse these apps. The five songs used for this test were as follows:
Mental by Eels
Take Your Medicine by Cloud Cult
El Capitan by OPM
Walk the Walk by Poe
Lemon Water by Guttermouth
Both apps were able to accurately identify each artist and song.
Results: SoundHound Wins
We wanted to see whether each app would be able to identify not only the song, but which artist was performing it. We picked five cover songs to see if we could trip up either of these apps. The covers we chose were as follows:
All Along the Watchtower by Bear McCreary
Dancing Days by Stone Temple Pilots
You Really Got Me by Eve6
99 Red Balloons by Goldfinger
B****** Ain’t S*** by Ben Folds Five
Both apps were able to identify both the artist, and song correctly for 99 Red Balloons, and B****** Ain’t S***, however, Shazam failed to identify the other three. Soundhound got them all, no problem.
Results: Shazam Wins
Songs sound very different when performed acoustically, and we wanted to find out if these apps could recognize the difference. So, we gathered up the following acoustic tracks to see if SoundHound and Shazam could tell the difference between the unplugged version, and the original.
Ironic by Alanis Morissette
Freak on a Leash by Korn
My Hero by Foo Fighters
Dearly Beloved by Bad Religion
Miss World by Hole
Both apps were able to correctly identify the unplugged versions of Ironic and Dearly Beloved. Soundhound correctly identified the other three songs, but didn’t recognize that the version being played was the acoustic version. Shazam was correct on both song, and version for My Hero, and Freak on a Leash, but completely failed to identify Miss World. This category was a victory for Shazam, but only a slight one.
Songs From The Internet
The internet has provided some truly unique music over the years, so we figured we’d see if Shazam and SoundHound could identify some of our favorite songs from the internet. Here’s what we picked:
Friday by Rebecca Black
Peanut Butter Jelly Time
Shazam was able to identify Friday, while soundHound wasn’t. SoundHound was able to identify Peanut Butter Jelly Time, while Shazam wasn’t. Neither of them could identify Amazing Horse.
Songs From Soundtracks
Results: SoundHound Wins
Some surprisingly good music has come from TV and movie soundtracks over the years, and we thought it would be fun to find out if either of these apps could correctly identify some of our favorite soundtrack songs. Here’s what we used:
ATHF Theme Remix by SchoolyD (ATHF Movie Soundtrack)
Elephant Love Medley by Nichole Kidman and Ewan McGregor (Moulin Rouge soundtrack)
I’ll Never Tell (Buffy the Musical)
Both apps were able to identify I’ll Never Tell, and Elephant Love Medley, but only SoundHound was able to identify the ATHF theme.
Results: SoundHound Wins
The real challenge for both Shazam and SoundHound is whether or not they can figure out what’s being sung by a regular person with no musical talent. So, Android Rundown’s very own Michael Kurz, and a female volunteer who chose to remain nameless each sung the following songs:
Nine in the Afternoon by Fallout Boy
Smile by Lilly Allen
Shazam completely failed this test, while SoundHound was able to accurately detect both voices singing both songs.
The Winner: SoundHound
Shazam isn’t faulty or broken by any stretch of the imagination, but SoundHound was just able to accurately identify more music. If you already own Shazam, you probably don’t need to spend the extra five bucks on SoundHound, but if you don’t have either app, SoundHound is the one to get, hands down.