Apple announced plans to roll out lossless music streaming to all Apple Music subscribers at no additional charge for the next month. In addition to the appropriate spatial audio function for AirPod Pro and AirPod Max owners, the update will increase the quality of around 75 million tracks to CD quality or higher when they are launched. Not to be outdone, Amazon quickly announced that its own high definition audio streaming solution – Amazon Music HD – will now be free to all existing subscribers to Amazon Music Unlimited.
Until now, Amazon has charged its customers a monthly premium of £ 5 to stream their tracks in lossless format – a practice that has now become standard in the industry. TiDAL, one of the first mainstream music streaming services to talk about the benefits of lossless audio, cost more than a standard £ 9.99 a month subscription to Apple Music, as did rivals Deezer and Qobuz.
It is widely rumored that Spotify is working on its own high-quality layer of streaming allegedly called Spotify HiFi. So far, sources have suggested that Spotify might charge more for the increased quality, as the Swedish streaming company has already raised prices for millions of monthly subscribers worldwide in the past few weeks. It will be interesting to see if Spotify is forced to keep this in line with the competition and bundle the upgrade for free.
Meanwhile, Amazon Music Unlimited looks like one of the best deals out there.
A custom plan will bring you back £ 7.99 per month if you’re already a Prime member (£ 79 per year), or the standard £ 9.99 per month for everyone else. As with Apple Music, there is a family plan for £ 14.99 per month that includes access for up to six people. All of these options now include access to lossless audio at no extra charge.
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For anyone who has an expensive speaker setup at home, this is a bargain. Anyone who has already paid an extra 5 euros per month to unlock Amazon Music HD will find that the fee disappears on their next billing cycle, says Amazon. If your subscription goes out of your checking account at the end of the month, you may be able to avoid paying the extra that month.
Amazon Music HD currently has over 70 million songs that can be streamed in CD quality and high definition audio. It uses twice the bit rate of many standard music streaming services. Of course, these larger files will crunch through your mobile data volumes faster than lower quality streams. Hence, when you connect to your home Wi-Fi connection, instead of trying to stream everything at 3G speeds – it will be much, much slower – you may want to download some of your favorite albums in high definition.
Amazon Music HD is available in your web browser and in an iOS and Android app. The music streaming service is also supported by the Sonos app, so you can stream high definition songs to any of your smart speakers in your home. And of course, if you have Amazon Echo speakers, you can ask the chatty voice assistant Alexa to stream everything from the Amazon Music catalog.
Amazon divides its high-resolution offering into two categories: HD tracks are designated with a bit depth of 16 bits, a minimum sample rate of 44.1 kHz (also known as CD quality) and an average bit rate of 850 kbps ”. What it calls UHD tracks “have a bit depth of 24 bits, sample rates from 44.1 kHz to 192 kHz, and an average bit rate of 3730 kbps.”
If you’re not sure whether to switch from Spotify or Apple Music to Amazon Music Unlimited, the subscription service is currently offering a three-month trial for new customers.
You can cancel at any time during the test phase and not pay a cent.