Amazon Music HD launches with high quality, lossless audio

Amazon Music today announced the launch of Amazon Music HD, a new tier of premium quality music with more than 50 million songs in High Definition, and millions of songs in Ultra High Definition, the highest quality streaming audio available. At $12.99/month for Prime members and $14.99/month for Amazon customers, or an additional $5/month for current subscribers (Individual or Family Plan), Amazon Music HD makes high quality, lossless audio accessible to all music fans. Amazon Music HD is now available to stream in the US, UK, Germany, and Japan. New subscribers to Amazon Music can receive a 90-day free trial, and current subscribers can try Amazon Music HD at no additional cost for 90 days at

“We spoke with many artists while developing Amazon Music HD, who were excited about the potential for fans to be able to stream their favorite music, and hear it as it was originally recorded,” said Steve Boom, VP of Amazon Music, in a statement. “From rock to hip-hop to classical and pop, we believe listening to music at this level of sound will make customers fall in love again with their favorite music and artists. As we usher in a new listening experience for our customers and the industry, we’re combining the convenience of streaming with all of the emotion, power, clarity and nuance of the original recordings.”

Amazon Music HD will always offer customers the best quality recording available for streaming, providing an unparalleled listening experience. Legendary albums including Fleetwood Mac’s Rumors and Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue become revelatory new experiences, almost as if the listener is sitting in on these storied studio sessions. Songs like Kendrick Lamar’s “Alright” and St. Vincent’s “Digital Witness”, are also now available in Ultra HD, revealing nuances that were once flattened in files compressed for digital streaming.

“Earth will be changed forever when Amazon introduces high quality streaming to the masses,” said rock icon Neil Young, in a statement. “This will be the biggest thing to happen in music since the introduction of digital audio 40 years ago.”

Amazon Music HD offers customers more than 50 million lossless HD songs, with a bit depth of 16 bits and a sample rate of 44.1kHz (CD quality). In addition, customers can stream millions more songs in Ultra HD (better than CD quality), with a bit depth of 24 bits and a sample rate up to 192 kHz.

Amazon Music HD will play the highest quality audio the customer’s device and network conditions will support, and is compatible with a wide variety of devices, including desktop, mobile (iOS & Android), select Echo devices, Fire TV, and Fire Tablets. Amazon Music HD is also compatible with many third-party devices, including most products from Denon and Marantz with HEOS Built-in, Polk Audio, Definitive Technology, Sonos, McIntosh, Sennheiser, and many more.

More info:

Source: Amazon

MacDailyNews Take: Pono for the masses.

But, will the masses pay $14.99 per month when Apple Music coasts just $9.99/mo. ($4.99/mo. for students)? With history as our guide: No. Some will, but not many. However, this may just what it takes for Apple to offer an Audiophile tier for Apple Music, so this is good news for everyone. Good competition is good!


    1. Being able to encode in ALAC and play back in ALAC or FLAC is important and hopefully never will be dropped. But Apple not supporting the sales of tracks or albums in ALAC at the very least is why I buy physical media and then use ALAC or FLAC to encode it for my devices (not just desktops and phones). For they type of music I prefer I can tell the difference between ALAC and AAC or MP3 no matter what bit rate those are set to use.

      Apple should have started selling ALAC CD quality tracks and albums over 10 years ago. They could have even charged a 50% premium and people still would have paid for it. Steve, and later Tim, could have just made the senior management decision to do so.

    1. Yeah, Amazon is engaging in some deceptive market-speak by calling CD-quality audio “HD”. Their 16/44 CD-quality streaming is anything but HD, by any industry-standard definition. So I expect a lot of pushback on their marketing.

      And their use of the term “Ultra HD” will do nothing but muddy the waters on what are true HD music offerings. I applaud their offering streaming music up to 24/192.

      Amazon’s offering 24/192 streams hopefully will drive the audio industry into offering more compatible software, DACs and playback systems to enjoy the sound! There are many different ways to enjoy true HD audio, but it takes some research and desire to get there.

    2. If Amazon (or Apple) were to SELL (not stream!) music at 16 bit, 44.1 kHz. I’d buy tracks from those music stores in a heartbeat. I’d even pay a premium of 50% or so to do so. Hell, I’d probably pay double to get the 24-bit, 192 kHz offerings if — and only if — I can purchase them. I’m not interested in streaming.

      I’ve got vinyl (well, the really old ones are not really vinyl) that dates back over 100 years. I’ve got others that date from the 1920s through the 1980s. I OWN them (but play them very, very rarely).

      I don’t have to connect to some service in order to listen to them. I’ve ripped them at high definition (better than CD quality) and can listen to them anywhere I want. If I want the full effect I can listen to them on a great setup at home.

    3. Your point is valid.

      However, it’s a continuum. “high definition” is a relative term. For the purposes of this blog, I would contend that most people would mark the CD at or near the high value point for well-listened consumers. Anything better is audiophile, anything less tends toward compressed consumer grade noise. The best recorded music a consumer can get is SACD or DVD-Audio, and that depends on the quality of the masters.

      I do find it interesting how MDN pushes Apple as a premium brand when Apple struggles to deliver the most obvious quality in their remaining few products. Once again, Amazon just beat them to the punch. Let’s say you are a well-heeled Apple demographic kind of guy/gal and you can afford high quality stuff in your life. Apple has no solution to offer the keen audio enthusiast at or better than CD quality. Apple does not, and perhaps never will again, be considered high fidelity. It squandered opportunity after opportunity to be that when it placed iOS app sales and subscriptions ahead of any audio quality considerations. iTunes became stale and perhaps most criminally, it was never allowed to become a premium product. The Beats brand isn’t highly regarded by anyone who knows audio. There is no CD-quality file store through Apple, in fact, I could unearth a 1985 vintage CD player that will offer better sound quality than Apple chooses to today. One exception might be Logic on the Mac, but again, you have to jump through hoops to connect current Macs digitally and losslessly to stereo systems. With iOS, it’s damn near impossible — compressed Bluetooth is Apple’s answer there. You have to go elsewhere if quality is your thing. I am not sure Amazon is where I would go, but everyone has to choose for themselves.

      Perhaps the best advice for the home audio listener with moderate means is to ignore what Apple and most of the subscription services are doing. They all want to soak you for tens or hundreds of dollars per year forever, and tie you to the internet at all times. There is freedom in disconnecting from the internet drip feed. That’s what the CD and the iPod offered. You still can revert to other solutions that have been in the marketplace since the late 1980s.

      Start with what matters: sound quality. The two greatest sources of distortion in a modern audio device tend to be 1: the speaker, and 2: the compression codec that reduced the digital file. Of course wire losses/interference and amp distortion and room acoustics etc play a role, but that’s beyond the scope of someone who is trying to decide if High Definition audio is for them. Anyone with a decent set of speakers and a pair of ears less than 50 years old should be able to discern the difference between truly high definition, the compressed MP3 and MP4 itunes tracks, and DRMed streaming crap that Apple wants people to subscribe to hear. Pull out your old iPod or retired iPhone and load it up with uncompressed tunes. The old minijack will hook it up with “it just works” ease to any halfway decent stereo.

      If one appreciates great audio, and is just starting out building a new home audio system: put your money first into great speakers and acquire uncompressed audio at least in redbook CD quality (16 bit, 44.1 khz sampling rate). That could be inexpensive via used CDs or more costly via digital downloads. Yes, those nice speakers will have to be driven by a decent amplifier but you can pick up very high quality used stereo equipment very inexpensively these days. A nice high quality Yamaha integrated amp will utterly blow away any Apple Hi Fi or HomePod all day long. Just feed it uncompressed music through a wire (preferably Toslink or S/PDIF if possible) and you will be set. Use AirPlay if you have to, but don’t expect miracles there. Interference will cause dropouts occasionally and the lag is rather poor. But at least by avoiding Siri and Alexa home spies, you have control. You can upgrade as you choose when you wish to do so, your ears will lead the way. You will discover rare discs at the local record shop that no streaming service offers. You will find people on eBay cleaning their closets and dumping their CD collections for pennies on the dollar. Don’t waste time subscribing to compressed audio services.

      If on the other hand you MDN flips its narrative and contends that Apple is the savior of the poor, offering cheap consumer grade stuff at lower prices than anywhere else …. well they are wrong. If you want free audio, Youtube offers compressed stuff for free. Awesome podcasts from KEXP or Sound Opinions or whatever will expand your horizons. Your local library has shelves full of stuff in all media types too. The only point in paying a subscription would be to let Apple push its “curated” algorithms on you, which tend to narrow your music taste into whatever everyone else is listening to this month. Sad because Apple can’t even get genre categorizations accurate, let alone recommend innovative new music that I haven’t heard before.

      This is why Apple Music sucks:

      “Hey Siri, play some solo works from that instrumental guitar guy who played that awesome show we saw with Peter Wolf in Boston years ago. That was really great stuff. Johnny somebody.”

      Siri: “I have no idea, would you like me to look up ‘Jonny Sumbuddy’ on Wikipedia? Meanwhile I will keep playing the same canned ‘adult contemporary’ pop garbage that your sister incessantly asked for when she visited last week.”

      Me: Great talent doesn’t always come with big names and big corporate marketing budgets. But Johnny A [ Antonopoulos – ] is one of many great examples of an artist with real chops that Amazon and Apple never give a fair shake. A thousand others could be added to the list. Let’s just stick with overlooked guitar gods: Danny Gatton, Roy Buchanan, Allan Holdsworth, Shawn Lane, Jennifer Batten, Scotty Anderson, Michael Lee Firkins, Bert Jansch, …. If you actually like timeless music, you’re going to have to look for independent artists and dig a bit deeper on your own. Siri doesn’t have a clue.

      1. Why anyone voted your comment less than five stars is beyond me. TRUTH from start to finish.

        I still DJ on occasion and bought the best speakers I could afford years ago (KV2 EX12 and EX2.2). I demoed them against Meyer, Danley, and Fulcrum Acoustic, but got a sweet price on the KV2 system.

        My MBPs go through either an Echo Audiofire 2 or Metric Halo ULN-2 sound card, though I’m tempted to upgrade to the ULN-8 while it’s on sale this month.

        The weak link in my system is the nearly 15-year-old Mackie Onyx 1220 mixer. I’m itching to upgrade to an APB-DynaSonics’ ProRack-House mixer since I’m still way more comfortable with analog boards. The ROI isn’t quite there for me at this point, so it’d be more of a luxury indulgence than an actual need.

        I ripped my entire collection as AIFF files and subscribe to a DJ music service that offers AIFF as well. When I get a request for a song I don’t have, I reluctantly go to iTunes.

        All in all, start with the best source file you can get, which isn’t from Apple. They dropped the ball on that years ago.

  1. Getting whiplash!

    “But, will the masses pay $14.99 per month when Apple Music coasts just $9.99/mo. ($4.99/mo. for students)? “ – MDN

    So am I getting this right? Apple Music is for cheapskates?

    1. Well noted. In one post MDN will tout how Apple customers are the well healed folk who pay top dollar for quality. In another post, like this one, MDN shows how Apple customers are penny pinching cretins who can’t afford to pay for quality.

      MDN is nothing but a sycophant for Tim Cook.

  2. Meanwhile, most people these days are listening to their music via bluetooth headsets and speakers incapable of reproducing that quality of music….so is it just a way for Amazon to get more money out of people while serving up “the highest quality audio the customer’s device and network conditions will support” ie. highly compressed files…..

Reader Feedback

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.