Deezer

Streaming with Linux: Deezer

This is a series that surveys popular streaming services from a Linux perspective. We are not reviewing any of the streaming services themselves although we may make subjective comments along the way.

Deezer is a French online music streaming service. It allows users to listen to music content from record labels, as well as podcasts on various devices online or offline. The service offers 90 million tracks, 160,000 podcast titles, and in excess of 32,000 radio stations. The breadth of its content means it’s broadly comparable to the material available with Spotify and Amazon Music Unlimited. Like its rivals, there is a free plan and various paid subscriptions. Deezer offers lossless FLAC files at 16-bit/44.1 KHz, which is significantly higher than the bitrate offered by Spotify. Like Spotify, Deezer offers some exclusive content.

There is a desktop app available for Linux. We installed it from the Arch User Repository. This isn’t a native application (it’s Electron-based).

Deezer in action
Click image for full size (shown with light theme)

The first thing to note is that the application looks very good. We are impressed with the user interface. A lot of thought has gone into the design. It’s well organized with the huge library accessible from ‘Explore’. Listeners are greeted with a summary of music genres and categories on the app. They are well organized with different types of material separated. Deezer’s ‘Charts’ section shows the most popular songs from many countries. It also shows the most streamed albums and playlists.

All the things you’d expect are there. You can skip songs, like songs, add songs to a queue, change the playback mode, and more. There’s downloads and good playlist support. We can also view the lyrics of a song.

Deezer
Click image for full size

Besides lossless playback, we can listen to songs at either 128 kbps or 320 kbps. And there’s a dark mode.

Gapless playback is available only on mobile, iOS, Android devices. Sadly the desktop version under Linux doesn’t support gapless playback. To say that’s a disappointment is a massive understatement. The fly in the ointment is that Spotify offers this essential feature.

The software used to have the odd crash particularly when creating playlists under certain situations. Thankfully these gremlins appear to have been ironed out.

Summary

Do we recommend Deezer from a Linux perspective? The short answer is a firm “no”.

We consider that gapless playback is one of the most basic features that a streaming service should offer by default. Yet Deezer’s client doesn’t offer this functionality. Even Deezer’s support for lossless FLAC files doesn’t make up for the absence of gapless playback.

If you hate Electron based apps, you’re going to be disappointed as the software relies on Electron (version 13).

In our view, Electron is a very heavy framework (Ed: read massively bloated) for a music application. Electron-based applications are often difficult to package because of the vast array of bundled libraries. From an end-user perspective, Electron is a mess because it uses large amounts of memory with multiple Electron applications running multiple processes not sharing libraries. There are so many things to dislike about Electron.

The wonderful ps_mem utility reports that Deezer’s Electron based app uses around 540MB of RAM. That’s less than Spotify’s client but it’s still bloated for a music app.

We’d definitely urge Deezer to develop an actual native application with support for gapless playback. With their resources, this shouldn’t really be unfeasible. There are mature toolkits that work under multiple operating systems.


Third-Party Clients

There are third-party clients available such as Deezer Player Unofficial. This is another ghastly Electron-based app which has been abandoned, so we recommend giving that one a wide berth.

Another Electron-based client is Deezer Enhanced. This open source software (MIT licensed) offers gapless playback support. Super! It’s in an early stage of development but the project has added a few other useful features.

We marveled at the awesome command-line based Spotify third-party clients. We didn’t find anything comparable for Deezer. There’s dzr but it didn’t work on our systems.


All articles in this series:

Streaming with Linux
Amazon Music UnlimitedMusic subscription service with 90 million song catalogue
MyuziBills itself as a Spotify alternative for Linux
SpotifyPioneer in music streaming and still the best-known service
DeezerStreaming service serving up FLAC files
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