Amazon finally launched Prime Music in the UK in the summer of 2015, following a head start in the States.
While impressive, those figures may be slightly skewed – Prime Music is included as part of the Amazon Prime service, which costs £79 a year in the UK and offers free next-day delivery, Amazon’s Prime Video, unlimited photo storage and Kindle’s lending library.
It charges an annual, upfront payment for all of this, but compared with Spotify’s £120 annual payment, Amazon Prime offers a strong proposition for £40 less.
Prime Music is just one part of a whole, and people are unlikely to sign up to Prime for the music streaming alone. With just one million tracks, its catalogue is much smaller than the likes of Spotify at 30 million.
A quick search shows that even albums from popular artists like Adele and Justin Bieber are nowhere to be seen on Prime Music, while some artists like The Weeknd and Ellie Goulding have only their older albums available rather than their latest releases.
That might be a problem for people looking specifically for a music streaming service, but when you’re getting it as part of a package you pay the equivalent of £6.50 a month for, perhaps it isn’t as much of a dealbreaker.
Whether you’re using the desktop site or the Prime Music app (for iOS, Android, Mac, PC and Amazon devices), Amazon offers similar functionality, so you can search by artist or title, choose to listen to one of the themed playlists (curated by humans rather than algorithms) or pick a themed radio station.
The app does a good job at showing off the range of content, including swipe-through tabs for new and popular music, a ‘Spotlight’ section with suggested songs, albums and playlists, and a ‘Recommended’ selection based on your listening habits.
Music can be saved to your Amazon Cloud library or added to playlists, plus there’s the option to download any content you like for offline listening as well.
What’s nice about Prime Music is that all the music available to stream sits alongside any music you’ve purchased through Amazon or elsewhere, and manually uploaded to your Amazon Cloud (via the app), making for one big library.
Sonos supports Prime Music playback too, and there’s a nice touch that Amazon’s X-Ray feature found on Kindle works here as well, offering lyrics to songs.
Here’s the only ‘but’: Prime Music tracks are only 256kbps at their highest quality, the same as Apple Music, but lower than Spotify Premium’s 320kbps. Amazon uses MP3 to stream, compared to Apple’s AAC and Spotify’s Ogg Vorbis format.
With revealing headphones, the difference between Spotify and Prime Music is audible, with Prime Music unable to match Spotify for detail retrieval, drive or punch.
Listen to David Bowie’s Blackstar and the drumkicks that sit under the main instrumental lack the same level of impact as on Spotify, sounding soft in comparison. Bowie’s vocal loses a layer of subtlety and insight, sitting back in the mix for a presentation that sounds a little flat and one-dimensional.
By comparison, Spotify pushes the vocal to the fore, and it’s packed with expression and clarity, while the instrumental sounds lively and enthusiastic, offering much more by way of dynamics to boot.
Of course, these services are all about convenience rather than out-and-out sound quality, and for Prime users who now have Prime Music added onto their package, essentially for free, it doesn’t get much more convenient than that.
Ease of use
The app is a real joy to use – much better than using it through your browser – and makes finding music quick and easy.
The recommendations based on our previous use are sensible, and the playlists are extensive in the topics and moods covered.
Deciding on a star rating for Prime Music is a hard call though. Assuming you make good use of the other Prime services, it’s hard to argue with the value for money.
But then you are accepting a considerably lesser music-streaming service as a result.
As such, we have to score it a three, in large part due to its small catalogue and average sound quality.
But for those people already signed up to Prime, or even considering it, it’s a very nice added extra that might stop you shelling out for a separate service on the side.
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