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Amazon launches Amazon Music HD lossless streaming service










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Have audiophile music streaming platforms given Amazon Music a road-map to improve their #3 position as one of the top three music streaming giants?

RALEIGH, NC (PTA) — Amazon launched a new tier for their popular music streaming platform today, called Amazon Music HD. This new Hi-Res music streaming tier is priced at $12.99 per month USD for Amazon Prime members, and $14.99 for non-Prime members. The new Amazon Music HD tier can be added to an existing Amazon Music subscription (individual or family plan) for an additional $5 per month USD. The new Hi-Res streaming platform is eligible for a 90-day-free-trial at launch, and includes both streaming and download options in HD.

Amazon Music HD provides its users access to over 50 Million songs in HD, which is designated as CD quality 16-bit / 44.1kHz FLAC. Additionally, included are “millions more” tracks available in Ultra HD designated as 24-bit / up to 192 kHz FLAC.

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The move to higher-resolution audio at additional cost, has been something we audiophiles have predicted with the maturation of music-streaming and growth of wide-spread internet data. The choice Amazon has made to use the HD and Ultra HD nomenclature for their new streaming tier will definitely help the masses comprehend the idea of a what Hi-Res music streaming service is.

This move by Amazon is a first among the “big three” players in the music streaming industry. Services like Apple Music and Spotify, who make up the uppermost two of the “big three” may follow suit if this move by Amazon changes their rank among the big three in number of subscriptions, and the cost of doing so makes sense for their existing infrastructure. Admittedly, Amazon has the largest existing infrastructure and diversity, that it’s almost surprising they haven’t done this sooner, as the risk in the Music HD tier will have little effect on Amazon’s bottom line even if it does flop.

Existing streaming platforms such Tidal and Qobuz have grown to be the major players in the hi-res music-streaming marketplace. Catering to audiophile crowds more effectively as that is (and has been) seen as their dedicated market. The question then becomes, will Amazon Music HD lure audiophiles away from Tidal and Qobuz for the convenience and lower cost factors, or will audiophiles continue to subscribe to Tidal and Qobuz as the platforms will likely continue to better serve the audiophile community and support audiophile culture overall. Specifically Qobuz, as the company’s participation as a show sponsor to most of the major audiophile audio shows such as the Rocky Mountain Audio Fest, Axpona – Audio Expo North America, Capital Audiofest, the Florida Audio ExpoThe Home Entertainment Show, and HeadFi‘s own Can Jam has not gone unnoticed.

Does the existence of a mass-market Hi-Res music streaming platform mean that Amazon Music HD might find itself in new partnerships with audiophile component manufacturers? Could this even mean that Amazon as a retailer would also invest in becoming the go-to retailer for newcomers seeking out more capable audio playback devices like Digital-to-Analog Converters, Amplifiers, Speakers, etc? Again — only time will tell.

UPDATE: I reached out to Qobuz’ own David Solomon and Dan Mackta for thoughts on the move by Amazon to enter the Hi-Res streaming market with their own Music HD service, and their thoughts were almost entirely aligned with my own.

“The increased awareness of higher resolution music streaming will rise all ships. It’s only a matter of cost-based decision making by the subscribers of all platforms as to how it will all play out. In the end, hi-res streaming was an eventuality that required no crystal ball to see, and will be a marked improvement to the culture of music as a whole.” [paraphrased]










7 Comments on Amazon launches Amazon Music HD lossless streaming service

  1. After spending more time poking about and downloading the Amazon music app, I’m still puzzled regarding how they’re handling the launch.

    The “help” section in the app is buried in the pull-down under your name. If you click it, it takes you back to Amazon’s website. If you put “HD” in the help search box, only *one* result comes up, and it’s less than helpful. It’s essentially an elevator pitch.

    Nowhere on the site or app can I find any details about how to get the most out of HD and “Ultra HD” — i.e. run it through a decent DAC. Obviously, most DAC owners are going to know how to do so, but how does Amazon expect newcomers to high-res to fully appreciate improved sound if they’re playing it via a phone or laptop?

    The app itself — at least on mac0S — is buggy. Multiple icons running in the dock, with one of them “not responding” and requesting a force-quit. Often, when I click on a stream, I get a error message saying that I’m running the app on more than one device and need to upgrade to another plan to do so. Then when I click again, the message goes away.

    Little or no outreach to new customers unfamiliar with the technology. No features on Amazon’s main page to alert streaming music consumers of better-quality options. An app that’s not ready.

    This isn’t the way to roll out a new feature.

  2. The only thing I can’t figure out after signing up for this is how to differentiate whether or not I got regular redbook FLAC, “hi-res” FLAC, which albums are which, and how you know you’re not streaming just the regular compressed stuff. I was already a Prime Music member, and followed the links pretty faithfully, and spent about 90 minutes on the Mac last night trying to figure it out without success. Perhaps just a little buggy at the launch but if anyone figures this out I’ll be following along.

  3. The move to higher-resolution audio at additional cost, has been something WE audiophiles have predicted…

  4. The move to higher-resolution audio at additional cost, has been something WE audiophiles have predicted…

  5. Hmm … this may change everything, at least for me. I’ve been thinking of picking up Tidal or Qobuz. I currently pay monthly for the Amazon Unlimited music service. I assume that I can get this high rez for an additional $5/month. I’ve been playing Amazon music on my laptop and connecting to the AUX input on my AVR with an analog cable.

    I just picked up this Amazon high res plan and am now playing on my laptop, sounds good at least via the tiny speakers. Next, to connect to my audio system. Should I continue to use an analog cable from my laptop, or connect digitally via a USB cable to the PS Audio Stellar Gain DAC/pre-amp that I have?

    • Wishing you a pleasant journey with high-res streaming; please use the USB out to the PS Audio, as it will allow the conversation itself to occur in the much more capable PS Audio unit. On even a remotely decent stereo, you should be able to hear a tremendous improvement.

  6. Hmm … this may change everything, at least for me. I’ve been thinking of picking up Tidal or Qobuz. I currently pay monthly for the Amazon Unlimited music service. I assume that I can get this high rez for an additional $5/month. I’ve been playing Amazon music on my laptop and connecting to the AUX input on my AVR with an analog cable.

    If I pick up this Amazon high res plan, should I continue to use an analog cable from my computer to the AVR, or connect digitally via a USB cable to the PS Audio DAC that I have?

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