What is Amazon Music HD?

Amazon Music HD is a subscription service which offers listeners a massive library from which they can stream all their favourite music with outstanding audio quality.

Until recently, Amazon Music, Spotify and Apple Music have all been in close competition, with similarly-sized music libraries and comparable audio quality.

And since hi-res streaming services like Qobuz and Tidal have gained popularity for their vast hi-res libraries, Amazon Music HD offers a new and exciting alternative.

Boasting of fifty-million tracks in CD quality, Amazon Music HD sets to push the boundaries even further with thousands of its tracks available in ultra HD.

How Does Amazon Music HD Compare to Rival Services?

As the technology sector is obsessed with bettering our TV picture, especially since 4k has now superseded HD, why have we continued to overlook sound quality?

While many will glaze over the technical terms, hi-res audio naturally carries a much higher bit-rate and subsequently packs much more detail.

To put the effect of audio file compression into perspective, imagine taking your favourite book and re-writing it with only the bare essentials of the main plot.

The result is a story which you still recognise, but with all the little details that the author included to keep us engrossed now deleted.

Detail always makes for a more immersive experience, and without it, we may fail to see the bigger picture as intended. The same applies to audio compression, where elements of sound data are discarded by an algorithm to make file sizes smaller.

Resulting sound quality often lacks real clarity, and stereo imaging can often be compromised to sound narrower. Spotify streams in MP3 at 320 kbps (kilobits-per-second), and Apple Music's AAC format only gives 256 Kbps.

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By stark contrast, Amazon HD quotes 16-bit/850 Kbps for CD-quality sound and 24-bit/3730 Kbps for Ultra HD, trouncing the sound quality offered by the service's main competitors.

To ensure such large audio files stream without any latency or buffering issues, Amazon Music HD has encoded their hi-res content into FLAC files.

FLAC, which stands for Free Lossless Audio Codec, compresses audio file sizes without sacrificing sound quality.

This codec is widely adopted by most hi-res streaming services, such as Qobuz, because it is versatile and supported by many brands of smart speakers.

And now that our internet speeds are faster and our chosen players are smarter than ever, hi-res audio is ready for everyone to enjoy!

Who Can Stream Amazon Music HD?

Access is not limited to those who have bought exclusively into Amazon's smart devices, such as the Firestick and the Amazon Echo. Amazon Music HD is ready for streaming to many compatible smart speakers and players.

Several manufacturers of smart speakers have announced that their products are fully equipped for Amazon HD, casting any owner's aspersions of doubt firmly aside.

Owners of Sonos speakers will be pleased to know that their devices fully support FLAC so that Amazon Music HD will stream with no issues.

However, with no confirmed hi-res playback support as of yet, Ultra HD streams may be downscaled to CD-quality when played through Sonos devices, which is all most people need.

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But with Bluesound smart speakers promising the ability to playback hi-res music, even their baby Pulse Flex 2i is ready to unleash the quality of Ultra HD.

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And for those who own audio components from prestigious brands like Arcam, Marantz and Onkyo, Amazon Music HD is ready to bring hi-res to the Hi-Fi.

Also, mobile devices with Apple iOS 11 and above will be compatible, as will Android devices running Lollipop or newer, for hi-res music playback on the go.

What IS Dolby Atmos on Amazon Music HD?

Amazon Music HD is the first music streaming service to bring Dolby Atmos audio to its subscribers.

The Dolby Atmos codec was initially designed for cinemas to show movies with a more accurate surround sound field, offering pinpoint placement of effects for a more immersive experience.

Realising that Dolby Atmos adds a new dimension to their mixes, artists and recording engineers are turning to the codec for that extra depth of realism in the presentation of their music.

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Currently offering a collection of fifty Atmos-encoded songs, Dolby is discussing plans with major record labels to implement the technology into both new recordings and artists' back catalogues.

While Amazon Music HD offers a platform to stream Dolby Atmos-encoded songs from, listeners will still need a receiver or smart speaker equipped with a Dolby Atmos decoder to play them.

But for streaming regular stereo and mono recordings from Amazon Music HD, any compatible smart speaker or device will work, as discussed previously in Who Can Stream Amazon Music HD?

How Much Will it Cost Me?

Compared to Qobuz and Tidals' subscription fee of £19.99 each per month, Amazon Music HD is ready to be streamed to your smart speakers for £14.99 per month.

Existing customers of Amazon Prime will benefit the most, with streaming from Amazon Music HD priced at £12.99 per month.

A Family Plan is also available for multi-device playback and only costs £19.99 each month. However, Amazon's 90-day trial offers a temporary free version for listeners to sample the HD service for themselves.

What Do We Think?

At Smart Home Sounds, we love our music to sound as best as it possibly can. And given that there are numerous hi-res streaming services now available, picking the best one is down to a matter of preference.

Qobuz and Tidal sound excellent, as do the hi-res options available to stream from Deezer. But where Amazon Music HD will be popular is that it undercuts its rivals by price and has a superb sound library to match.

If you are using a player or smart speaker capable of hi-res, then certainly Amazon Music HD should be an exciting upgrade from standard-definition audio sources.

Like all the streaming platforms giving free options to trial their services, where is the harm in seeing if Amazon Music HD fulfils your expectations too?


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