The first of two French music streaming services, Paris-based Deezer is also one of the oldest, dating back to 2007. The service is offered (in what is a fairly familiar model) as a free-to-listen lower quality and premium pay streaming service that costs £10 per month, ditches the advertising and raises the quality to 320kbps MP3. There is a 30-day free trial running at the time of writing and promotional offers with other companies are available. Your subscription buys you access to a claimed 35 million tracks as well as support across a number of platforms (see boxout).
Functionality includes playlist creation and offline storage and there are also recommended new albums and artists plus playlists collated by Deezer. After installing the desktop app (in Beta form for Mac users), the first reaction likely to be elicited from most users is “where’s the rest of it?”. Once installed, Deezer is never more than an upturned rectangle of information, making it is the smallest of the desktop apps and the hardest to use. Certain things you almost take for granted on other apps like elapsed and remaining timings are absent unless you hover over the playback bar.
The search function is also fairly unsophisticated with search results being affected by misspelling and spacing errors. The gap between what Deezer considers to be an album and a single track is also fairly elastic, making it harder to search through its extensive library. On the plus side, signing up to the service is pretty self explanatory and site security is good. The desktop app has no trouble playing back via the dedicated driver for the NAD C 510 and playback times with streamed material are usefully quick.
The listening panel finds Deezer to be a bit of a mixed bag. There are consistently positive comments for the soundstage and stereo imaging, which manages to convey the scale of the larger pieces of test material like Daft Punk’s Tron: Legacy effectively and present a meaningfully accurate presentation of the orchestra. Praisefor the bass response is rather less forthcoming, however, with Tron and the Scratch Massive collaboration with Jimmy Somerville Take Me There lacking both definition and impact compared with some rivals. Another issue that is mentioned by all three listeners is sibilance.
Of all the services here, Deezer seems to be the one most likely to tip over into harshness at higher volume levels. All three members of the panel feel it sounds a little strained with the Punch Brother piece and the cymbals of the Little Feat recording are scratchy and thin. This tends to undo some of the good work it manages to do in producing a meaningful soundstage. Hearing to Deezer in isolation does back up these comments.
Listening to material on both the test system and via headphones, there is a strong sense that the mastering and EQ of the service is geared towards headphone listening on the sort of cans supplied at lower cost where there is often a degree of roll off at the frequency extremes. On a more positive note, there is very consistent level matching across the tracks we try and once you acclimatise to its sound, it proves very litenable in isolation. The biggest issue for Deezer is that when you are comparing with to other services at the same price, there aren’t really any compelling arguments why you would choose it over better-sounding and integrated desktop rivals
Keep it simple
As well as the desktop version (for PC and Mac), Deezer has smartphone operating systems covered with iOS, Android, Windows and Blackberry all having dedicated apps. Further integration is a little less extensive, however, with dedicated integration on Sonos (where apparently a dedicated lossless version of Deezer is due to break cover soon), BMW in-car systems and some smart TVs.
There is nothing equivalent to Spotify Connect, however, and this means that most audio systems will connect via USB, AirPlay or Bluetooth. A quick test of the iOS for iPad and Android apps for phone shows smooth operation and is fairly consistent in operation with their desktop brethren. Equally, nothing really stands out as being truly exceptional about Deezer’s software, but this means that there is no design for design’s sake making it harder to use than it needs to be.