Save and convert songs
iTunes and Google Play Music aren’t the only sources of music online – all kinds of websites and services offer songs to download free.
But what’s the best way to get it? Should you go for a torrent app for finding FLAC files, or would you have more success grabbing audio from YouTube clips? Whatever your preference, you’ll find the free music downloader that’s right for you right here.
As ever, we need to stress the importance of copyright: you should only download music if you have the express permission of the copyright holder, or the music is in the public domain.
Even huge uncompressed audio files are no trouble when you use a torrent client to download music
Torrent distribution is brilliant for transmitting large files, and that’s why it’s the favoured tool of the high-res audio crowd: high quality FLAC files, uncompressed WAV or AIFF files or the new generation of studio quality masters can be massive, and there’s nothing more frustrating than a huge file that’s taking forever to download.
Bittorrent downloads from multiple hosts simultaneously, making it a very fast and robust way to get hold of music. There are several really good Bittorrent clients for PC, but we think qBIttorrent is the most flexible: it covers most of the bases without being difficult to use or too demanding of your PC.
Download here: qBittorrent
2. Freemake YouTube to MP3 Boom
A streamlined music downloader that puts all the tools you need in a single neat package
Don’t worry, the app is a lot less clunky than the name. Freemake’s music downloader is designed specifically for getting music from YouTube, and it automatically downloads MP3s in the highest possible quality – 320Kbps – if available. You can use it as a YouTube search engine, enabling you to find music from the comfort of your desktop without having to invoke your web browser, or you can paste a YouTube address into it to start a download.
There aren’t any fancy swarming features like you’ll find with torrent downloads, but as a cheap and cheerful way to get YouTube audio, Boom is hard to beat.
Download here: Freemake YouTube to MP3 Boom
Enjoy faster downloads and get the best sound quality – but be aware of the limits
If your YouTube requirements are a little more complex, check out MP3Jam. This free music downloader has multi-threaded file downloads, which means it can download from multiple sources simultaneously, and it can run multiple downloads at the same time too. It tries to find the highest quality – up to 320Kbps – and there’s a useful hashtag search you can use to find music of particular genres. There’s a built-in music player too.
The only downside is that the free app is deliberately limited in the hope you’ll buy a one-day or lifetime subscription. If you don’t, you can only download five tracks every 25 minutes and you can’t download full albums.
Download here: MP3Jam
4. Lacey: Free Music and Video Downloader
A well designed music downloader with automatic MP3 transcoding and search result filtering
It’s not too pretty and some of the blurb on third-party download sites is out of date – a few of the music services it used to connect to are long gone – but Lacey: Free Music and Video Downloader enables you to search for free and legal music from sites such as Bandcamp and SoundCloud, as well as download from the likes of Baidu and YouTube if you have the copyright holder’s permission.
It looks rather like Windows Explorer, and it’s packed with useful features including automatic transcoding to MP3 (especially handy for videos where you just want the audio), automatic downloading of cover art and easy filtering of search results.
Download here: Lacey: Free Music and Video Downloader
An old-school peer-to-peer client that searches multiple sources for the tracks you want
Remember how peer-to-peer networks changed the way people found music? They’re still doing their thing, and while the likes of Napster and LimeWire are long gone, you can still kick it old-school with FrostWire.
It connects to multiple torrent trackers and cloud-based download sites to help you find exactly what you’re looking for, and it includes a music player and music library manager to keep your music organised.
It feels like a modern take on the old P2P apps, and is really simple and effective.
Download here: Frostwire
A breeze to use, packed with features for both beginners and seasoned music downloaders
BitLord’s main appeal is its ease of use. It includes both a music downloader and a media player, eliminating the need to find a suitable one yourself. It can handle comments so you can see if a torrent is a good idea to download, and it supports Apple’s AirPlay so that your Windows PC can send video to an Apple TV. The most recent update in November added support for many more file formats, so you’re unlikely to encounter a file that BitLord can’t handle.
BitLord will appeal to power users too, with support for multi-tracker and auto-managed torrents.
Download here: BitLord
A powerful music downloader that searches all the biggest torrent sources for songs
Where Bitlord claims to be the easiest torrent client for new users, Vuze claims to be the most powerful.
It comes in two flavors, Leap and Vuze – the former being a super-stripped-back version for simple downloading, and the latter being the all-singing, all dancing option for power users. There’s a third, paid-for option called Vuze+ that adds integrated anti-virus protection and DVD burning.
The main draw here is the metasearch, which takes your query and checks all the major torrent sites to find suitable results. If you’ve ever spent forever trying multiple sites for the tunes you want, you’ll see the appeal of that immediately.
Download here: Vuze
Download music on your own terms with Deluge – a totally flexible torrent client
Here’s one for the power users: Deluge is a free, cross-platform Bittorrent client that’s expandable via a massive library of plugins. There are plugins to monitor network activity, to delete partial files left after cancellation, to rename multiple files to keep your library nice and tidy, to schedule downloads for times when your connection isn’t so congested and much more.
It can integrate with Firefox or Chrome, and because no two users will go for the same selection of plugins it’s the most personal downloading app around.
Download here: Deluge
9. Transmission-Qt Win
A minimalist torrent client that’s as straightforward as they come – ideal for easy music downloads
Transmission-Qt Win is the Windows version of Transmission, one of the best and most reliable torrent downloaders on the Mac. It’s simple enough for absolute beginners, but with options for setting upload and download speed limits, using magnet links, port forwarding and encryption and the ability to prioritize files and block specific IP addresses there’s lots here for power users too.
The only real negative is a known performance issue with really, really big downloads, but as we’re talking terabytes rather than gigabytes that’s not going to be a problem when you’re downloading music.
Download here: Transmission-Qt Win
An unofficial client for Soundnode that puts your favorite tunes on your Windows desktop
We’re bending the rules a little bit here because Soundnode connects to SoundCloud, which streams music rather than downloading it, but we think that’s okay because the app itself is so good. It’s exactly the kind of app you’d have thought SoundCloud would build itself – which is funny, because it only exists because SoundCloud killed its own desktop app some time ago.
Soundnode enables you to stream music, browse playlists and share songs with others and it effectively makes SoundCloud feel like Spotify. It’s a little buggy – it’s an ongoing project – but it’s already very impressive.
Download here: Soundnode