My Top 5 Music Download Hacks

03/23/2017 08:07 pm ET Updated Apr 15, 2017

If the title of this post got you excited, you’re probably a prolific music consumer like me – and you’re probably also broke. For us dyed-in-the-wool audiophiles, songs are like oxygen, but paying for them is a tough ask when it’s hard enough to cover rent much less afford the real essentials in life - like, you know, beer and stuff. The truth is, not all torrent sites and MP3 rip apps are created equal. In a world where the crème de la crème of free music downloaders are frequently getting shut down, keeping up with the latest music hacks is a Sisyphean effort. So to make life easier for us stingy ones, I’ve compiled a list of the top 5 most reliable free music download services out there, most of which offer offline play. Enjoy and spread the word!

Trebel is hands down the best music download app out there. You can get the app for iPhone, and there is an Android version available in beta too. The deal is this: After you install Trebel, you sign in and can search for music or browse from their curated lists. When you find a song you like, you tap on it, hit the “Download for Free” button, then BOOM! In a few seconds the song is on your device. Best part? Well, there are a few. For one, it downloads actual versions of songs (not covers or remixes like a lot of the Soundcloud apps do). You can even download full albums, such as Drake’s Views and The Weeknd’s Starboy, for free and can play most of the songs without an internet connection. I emailed them to ask why only some songs worked offline and it turns out they’re actually working with artists to offer the songs legally, so the other songs should be playable without Wi-Fi soon. All in all, it’s a super easy app to use and the ads aren’t annoying at all. If Trebel deserves a knock it’s in its song selection, which is to say it excels in the hip hop and pop departments but could stand to build its catalog in other genres. Once this is done, which they say should happen soon, Trebel will be untouchable. Score: 9.5/10.

This isn’t an MP3 downloader in the traditional sense, but I included it on this list because it’s still a valuable service in ways that aren’t entirely obvious. Unlike Trebel, which is optimized for mobile devices, Audio Archive comprises a huge library of free MP3 files – around 2 million to be more specific. Maybe you won’t find the latest Drake album in their catalog, but you will find live recordings and other rare, cool audio clips that are difficult to get. The download process is literally as simple as tapping a file and importing it to your computer. No viruses, no annoying ads, no nonsense. Oh, and before I forget, you can also find non-music related downloads on the site too (radio programs, book readings, newscasts, stuff like that). Score: 8/10.

In the world of free music download apps, Hamado probably most resembles what you’re using to seeing on the app store. I won’t call this the best downloader on my list, but I’ll acknowledge that its best feature is its polished interface and ease of use. For the most part, Hamado acts as an importer of music stored on other cloud services. Really this just means that finding new music can be tricky, but if you try hard enough, you’ll stumble across some gems. The downside? Since the app draws from Soundcloud, there are lots of covers and remixes. But the good news is the ad load is much lower than what I’ve come across on comparable services. It’s no Trebel, to be sure, but it’s as reliable for offline play as any free download app you’ll find out around. Score: 6/10.

Why isn’t SoundClick more popular? I have no idea. But it definitely should be. For starters, it’s a social service where you can sign up to be a member and contribute files to the community. Personally, even though I don’t use it to download a ton of music (I use Trebel the most), I dig the communal element. I should point out that some MP3s you have to pay for, but a substantial portion of their library is gratis. The site’s been around since 1997 (crazy, right?) which means it’s had a lot of time to amass a huge number of free songs. I’ll be honest, a lot of the music isn’t really my taste, but if you dig deep enough through their 5 million full length tracks, you’re bound to find something worthy of your listening time. Score: 6.5/10.

There are two main features of this app. The first is the Soundcloud API hookup which lets users look up songs from Soundcloud and import them to the app. I’ve been able to successfully get two dozen or so songs on my phone this way, most recently a remix of the latest Justin Timberlake ditty “I Can’t Stop The Feeling.” The good news is the offline functionality works great. You can always test this by putting your phone in Airplane mode, which I’ve done many times without any problems. Like other apps, this one cleanly lets you pull music from Google Drive, Dropbox, and One Drive. Is it a “true” free music download experience in this sense? Not quite. But for what it is, the app holds its own. Score: 7/10.

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