The Music Recognition Battle: Shazam vs. Sound Hound

Have you ever wondered what the name of the song playing in the restaurant was? Or what about that commercial with with the song you just can’t get out of your head? With today’s music recognition apps, you can easily find out the title and artist with nothing more than a few taps on your smartphone. The only thing you need to figure out is which app is right for you, and that’s exactly what this post is all about. So let’s start with a quick “about” on each of these apps.



  • Price – Free app (limited to 5 songs a month – Paid version allows unlimited)
  • Released May 26, 2011
  • Current version is
  • 3.5 Star rating based on 163 customer reviews
  • More information – Marketplace

Sound Hound

  • Price – Free app
  • Released March 11, 2011
  • Current version is
  • 4.5 Star rating based on 174 customer reviews
  • More information – Marketplace

Ready, Set, Listen!

With this kind of app, load time becomes a big factor. If it takes too long to start the app, there is a good chance you’re going to miss your chance to tag a song. It doesn’t matter how accurate the app is at recognizing a song if it can’t load in time to capture it. I did some tests in the Mobile Jaw labs, and both Shazam and Sound Hound managed to launch in just under 8 seconds – tested on the Samsung Focus S. That’s a pretty respectable time for launching an application. When it comes to real world tests, I have had faster response with Shazam than Sound Hound. I’m not sure if this is related to network connectivity or what. But in the wild, I find Sound Hound takes considerably longer from the point of launch, until you can tap on the button and it starts to listen. Shazam has been pretty consistent in this department, regardless of where I launched the app.

Winner: Shazam


Query Speed

Now that you have the app up and running, it’s time to see who’s faster at recognizing a song. For this, I’ve set both phones on the local WiFi, after all I don’t want any connectivity issues. The devices are sitting beside one another, and are equal distances from the speaker. In test after test, Shazam routinely returned a match before Sound Hound. Shazam averaged out to 12 seconds, while Sound Hound came in at 21 seconds. That’s the total time from when I started the search until the results were displayed on the screen. I did notice that Shazam has 2 very clear steps – listening and searching. Sound Hound seems to combine these two in some way. Typically with Sound Hound the searching screen would not be seen. I get the feeling that it’s automatically uploading the stream and searching while it’s still listening. Most searches on Sound Hound would go from Listening directly to the results. It still takes Sound Hound longer, but I get the impression they are taking a longer sample to ensure accuracy. While the amount of time between Shazam and the Sound Hound results varied, their position didn’t. From launch, to query, to results, Shazam is hands down the fastest sound recognition app.

Winner: Shazam



Of course, these apps are only as good as their ability to get the right match for what you’re listening too. In all my tests, both Sound Hound and Shazam got the artist and title correct. The only time I saw any sort or failed message was when the song ended or there was too much noise and the app didn’t get enough of the audio to find a match. In that case, they didn’t return incorrect data, just an error about being unable to hear the song or unable to locate a match.

Winner: Tie – Sound Hound & Shazam


Where To Go From Here

With the basic functionality out of the way, it’s time to look at the extra’s that each application brings to the table. The first big extra is the amount of searches allowed. Sound Hound is ad supported and as a result, you can do an unlimited amount of searches. Shazam, is not ad supported. This means the free version is limited to just 5 searches in a month. If you need more than 5, you have to wait until next month, or buy Shazam Encore for $5.99 from the marketplace. :(

Both applications show you a list of recently tagged music and both applications provide links directly from a tagged song to search the marketplace for that song. Allowing you to identify and then quickly purchase that track. As well, both applications provide author bio and lyrics for the tagged song.

Sound Hound takes it a step further with their Share button and Similar Artists button. Tapping Share allows you to share on Facebook, Twitter, or even over email and SMS. Tapping on the Similar Artists brings up a list of artists with similar vocal styles. It’s a very handy way to share

Winner: Sound Hound









Shazam comes across the finish with 2 wins and a tie, while Sound Hound finishes with 1 win and a tie. If it was just up to the numbers I would recommend Shazam. However, that lone win for Sound Hound was a pretty big win. It’s the extra’s that really make this app the best in my opinion. Sharing with friends or simply being able to email it to myself so I can remember to look up that artist at a later point in time. It’s a huge piece of functionality that can’t be overlooked. Further, Sound Hound is the best price of all – Free, while Shazam is limited to just 5 tags a month. For many, that may be enough. But that one time you need a little more and you’re out of luck. By the time you find out that you’ve used up all 5 tags, and download Sound Hound, you may have missed your chance.

If you’re the occasional user, and want the fastest solution, then go with Shazam. Just be careful that you may not be able to tag if you’ve used up your 5 free for that month.

If you’re more interested in sharing, not worried about speed, and want unlimited tags then you should go with Sound Hound. For me, it’s Sound Hound and I’m enjoying every tag. :)

About Mike Temporale

Mike Temporale has written 614 posts on Mobile Jaw..

Mike Temporale grew up fascinated by computers since an early age. His first hands on with a computer came when he was 7 years old and a travelling lab of Commodore PET computers made a stop at his school. Hooked on the new world these devices offered, he took any chance possible to get in front of a computer. When Compaq launched the iPaq 3600, he was hooked again. This time on a whole new world of mobile computing. Today, Mike spends his day helping clients deploy and manage their mobile device around the world. From installing custom software, to locking and securing data, and everything in between. He is also the Editor in Chief at Mobile Jaw - a site focused on today's mobile world.

  • Alberto Silva

    Hi Mike,
    What about the Bing Music similar feature, how does it compare to these two services? Even if Bing Music is not supported here in Portugal, I can use it with my UK Live ID, and find it pretty quick to get to listen the music (unlock device, search key, hit the busic button) and also seems to have a broader world music database when compared toShazam. I have to install Sound Hound to give it a try :)

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  • Mike Temporale

    Hi Alberto,

    The Bing tool is very very basic. All it does it pull up the artist / track information and shows a thumbnail of the album cover. At the bottom, you have a button to Marketplace or Close. That’s pretty much it. 

    Sound Hound and even Shazam offer so much more. Sharing, lyrics, discography, etc.. Bing does offer a really fast launch time, which is pretty awesome. But it needs more than just a link to the marketplace. 

  • MarkG

    You forgot to mention that SoundHound is able to recognise songs by your singing or humming them.