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Amazon enters the HQ streaming game
By Marcus Gilmer2019-09-17 15:25:31 UTC
Tired of being the third or fourth option when it comes to music streaming, Amazon upped its game with Amazon Music HD.
According to Amazon, starting Tuesday, Amazon Music HD will have over 50 million songs in what it considers High Definition: “a bit depth of 16 bits and a sample rate of 44.1kHz,” which is CD quality.
It will also have “millions” more in what it calls Ultra HD, with “a bit depth of 24 bits and a sample rate up to 192 kHz.” That’s considered better than CD quality.
Amazon isn’t the first to offer premium music streaming. Tidal’s HiFi delivers music in 16 bits/44.1kHz, and it offers a “Masters” series, which it says sounds as crisp and clear as the music’s master recordings (24 bits/96kHz). Spotify has flirted with similar options but doesn’t offer anything that high quality.
If Amazon has an advantage over Tidal, it’s the price. Tidal’s HiFi tier costs $19.99 a month while Amazon HD is offering new subscriptions at $12.99/month for Prime members and $14.99/month for Amazon customers. If you’re already an Amazon Music subscriber, you can add the HD service to your existing account for an added $5 per month. There’s also a 90-day free trial in case you want to test the waters.
So far, the Ultra HD service only includes a handful of albums, such as Taylor Swift’s Lover and Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue, but playlists feature songs from Elvis Presley, Willie Nelson, Lady Gaga, Ariana Grande, and others.
All in all, Amazon’s foray into ultra high-quality music streaming has a lot to offer, especially with that generous free trial period.
But there are two big caveats. First of all, the ability to actually hear the difference depends on your equipment. Not all speakers and headphones are good enough to fully take advantage of Amazon Music HD and Tidal HiFi. If you own a Sonos speaker, you’re good! But if you listen to most of your music on run-of-the-mill Apple Earbuds, you won’t get that premium experience.
And that brings us to the other big caveat: it’s all personal preference. At this point, the big music streaming services offer quality streaming at their regular price tiers. For instance, Spotify offers streaming to premium users at up 320 Kb/s, which is pretty damn good. Amazon and Apple Music are similar. So similar, in fact, that unless you’re a hardcore audiophile, you may not notice much of a difference.
In the end, there’s only one way to figure it out: try it for yourself and see. If nothing else, it’s good to have even more options out there for listeners to choose from.