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Amazon Music HD hi-res audio tier is now free for all Amazon Music users

Amazon Music HD hi-res audio tier is now free for all Amazon Music users
(Image credit: Future)

The streaming wars are hotting up! Amazon has announced that Amazon Music HD, the company's lossless and hi-res audio service, will now be free for all Amazon Music Unlimited subscribers.

The news comes hot-on-the-heels of Apple Music adding lossless audio (and Spatial Audio) at no extra charge, and leaves the soon-to-launch Spotify HiFi looking like it will have to be free to keep in line with the competition. 

It remains to be seen how Deezer, Tidal and Qobuz will convince customers to keep paying extra for its lossless and hi-res audio tiers now that Apple and Amazon offer the same quality, in theory, at no extra cost.

The Amazon Music Unlimited Individual Plan costs £7.99 ($7.99) per month for Prime members and £9.99 ($9.99) per month for Amazon customers, while the Family Plan is £14.99 ($14.99) permonth – and both now include lossless audio. The Amazon Music HD tier was previously an additional £5 ($5) per month. For current subscribers to Amazon Music HD, there will be no extra charge for HD starting with their next billing cycle.

Amazon Music HD gives you access to 70 million songs in CD-quality and hi-res audio – double the bitrate of many standard music streaming services. Tempted? You can get a 3-month free trial (opens in new tab) to try out the service.

In our five-star review of Amazon Music HD (opens in new tab) we called it "up there with the best" and noted that it was "excellent value" compared to rival HD streaming services such as Tidal and Qobuz.

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Amazon Music HD 3-month trial FREE (opens in new tab)
Intuitive desktop and mobile apps, good CD-quality and a hi-res library – all free for three months! New subscriber to Amazon Music Unlimited? This freebie is a no-brainer. 

So what is Amazon Music HD? And should you really try it out? 

Amazon has been in the music streaming business for well over a decade, first with its Amazon Prime offering, and then with its fully-fledged Apple Music and Spotify rival, Amazon Music Unlimited. As of late last year it has also gone a step further by taking on the likes of Tidal and Qobuz with its own CD-quality and hi-res music streaming tier. And, you guessed it, this is the service we're talking about: Amazon Music HD.

You can access Amazon Music HD through three different avenues: a web browser, a dedicated desktop app or through an Android or iOS mobile app – although it’s worth noting that you can’t actually stream CD-quality music or hi-res tracks on the web browser mode.

Amazon refers to HD tracks as having a ”bit depth of 16-bits, a minimum sample rate of 44.1 kHz (also referred to as CD-quality), and an average bitrate of 850 kbps”. What the service calls UHD tracks, on the other hand, “have a bit depth of 24-bits, sample rates ranging from 44.1 kHz up to 192 kHz, and an average bitrate of 3730 kbps.”

It's a great service: it's easy to use, has an extensive library of CD-quality and hi-res music and it is cheaper than its competitors. Our advice? A free 90-day trial seems like a no brainer.

MORE: 

Spotify HiFi tier (finally) launching to offer CD-quality streaming

Apple Music Spatial Audio will work with all headphones

The best music streaming services for music fans

What Hi-Fi?
What Hi-Fi?

What Hi-Fi?, founded in 1976, is the world's leading independent guide to buying and owning hi-fi and home entertainment products. Our comprehensive tests help you buy the very best for your money, with our advice sections giving you step-by-step information on how to get even more from your music and movies. Everything is tested by our dedicated team of in-house reviewers in our custom-built test rooms in London and Bath. Our coveted five-star rating and Awards are recognised all over the world as the ultimate seal of approval, so you can buy with absolute confidence.


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  • kdbur
    I signed up 3 months ago at £129.99 for a year ( I already had yearly prime) so I was a bit annoyed to see this at £79.99 now.

    I got on the amazon customer service chat bot and they put me through to a real person who immediately cancelled my music subscription and refunded me the whole £129.99, allowing me to re-sign up at the new yearly price of £79.99.

    You can't ask for more than that and I was very pleased, if a little surprised. Thank you Amazon!
    Reply
  • Gray
    kdbur said:
    I signed up 3 months ago at £129.99 for a year ( I already had yearly prime) so I was a bit annoyed to see this at £79.99 now.

    I got on the amazon customer service chat bot and they put me through to a real person who immediately cancelled my music subscription and refunded me the whole £129.99, allowing me to re-sign up at the new yearly price of £79.99.

    You can't ask for more than that and I was very pleased, if a little surprised. Thank you Amazon!
    Excellent outcome.
    I recently experienced a 'too good to be true' level of customer service from them.
    Like you, I was a bit surprised, but it's certainly welcome.
    Reply
  • jwtservicesllc
    What Hi-Fi? said:
    There's a new battleground in the music streaming wars: hi-res audio.

    Amazon Music HD hi-res audio tier is now free for all Amazon Music users : Read more
    So, I decided to do the free trial of Amazon Music because my TIDAL app is very glitchy. Well, I looked at the library from Amazon and it seems to be lacking in the “Ultra HD” department. Songs that ARE available on TIDAL in “Master” Quality are NOT available in “Ultra HD” on Amazon Music. Hopefully this will be remedied soon before the expiration of my trial period. Also, Siri doesn’t recognize TIDAL as a music app and therefore I cannot say “Hey Siri, Play (whatever) on TIDAL.” Since I have the Apple Music app removed from my phone to allow more storage space for my Hi-Res music, she tells me there aren’t any apps available to do that. I haven’t tried with Amazon Music yet. Maybe functionality will be better with the Amazon Music app which will win me over. I have a lot of volume level normalization issues with TIDAL and it causes a loud burst when resuming playback after a phone call plus it dips and comes back sometimes as well as it doesn’t display most menus in CarPlay. When I attempt to view the menu, it just comes up as a blank screen. One of the volume bursts actually blew one of my very high end and nearly irreplaceable tweeters in my truck. I had to buy a used set to have spares. Ended up buying both sets the guy had so I had another set for the rear plus a spare set. They were the only two I could find. I would use Apple Music’s new ALAC but there aren’t any head units for cars available that support higher than 48kHz for Apple Music codecs and having an external DAC to decode at the 96-192kHz defeats the CarPlay ability to search and control music from the head unit. That’s very frustrating. One of the gripes about TIDAL is that when searching “My Collection” via the CarPlay app, I can only use the “Tracks” method which doesn’t allow a by-artist alphabetical sort; it only sorts by date added. Even setting it to alphabetical by artist in the app on my phone doesn’t change that on CarPlay. If I try to search by artist or album, I just get a blank screen. Also, when trying to “Explore” to stream un-downloaded music for streaming, it comes up with a blank screen. I’ve tried on multiple head units and the result is the same. Seems the TIDAL app on CarPlay DEFINITELY has some issues. I have notified them of the glitches but they still haven’t fixed the problem with an update to the app! The other disappointing thing about Amazon that I saw is that they included 44.1kHz as “Ultra HD” which is TERRIBLE. ALL Hi-Res music should AT LEAST be in the 48kHz family (ie 48kHz, 96kHz, 192kHz). 44.1kHz, 88.2kHz, 176.4kHz etc DESTROY the digital image of the music. To be considered “Ultra HD”, it should be AT VERY LEAST 48kHz, but really should not be below 96kHz. I will have to try the app and see if it tells me what sampling rate each song actually is. Hopefully when they say the “average” bit rate is 3,307kbps, that’s a true average and there aren’t any songs actually at that bit rate. They should ALL be 2,304, 4,608, or 9,216kbps. NOTHING ELSE. The reason 44.1kHz destroys the digital image is because it doesn’t create an even number of bits for a depth of 24 bits. That screws with the quality of some samples and changes what the actual sampled sound is. It may work for 16-bit, but not 24-bit. The funny thing is that Apple still tries to claim that there is no detectable difference between standard AAC and ALAC which is a bunch of crap. Maybe that’s because they aren’t TRUE Hi-Res-Native files. They are probably upsampled AAC files. That’s the same as trying to upconvert 480p to 2560p. They claim their compression doesn’t affect the detectable quality. Maybe for those who are listening through a Bluetooth speaker or a basic factory stereo in their car, but those of us with truly high-performance audio systems can DEFINITELY hear a difference. Listen to a rock song that was recorded before the days of studio compression on the guitars. AAC completely loses the “hotness” of the tube amp and a dual humbucker pickup. FLAC (haven’t heard full quality ALAC to have an opinion) is almost as good as a vinyl and you can certainly hear that tube sound! When running a 3-way component speaker system plus subwoofer using active crossovers and discrete amplifier channels for each driver and having individual time alignment plus phase-coherent crossovers that don’t require polarity inversion to prevent frequency response dips at the crossover points makes EVERY BIT of a compressed file apparent to the listener. Basic everyday stereo systems don’t lose much quality even when playing SiriusXM which has HORRIFIC compression and a little Bluetooth speaker with a 4” driver doesn’t provide enough fidelity to make a difference. Play the same compressed audio on a well-designed and tuned stereo, then compare it to Hi-Res. You’ll throw the compressed crap out the window and never look back! The “quality” of audio systems that people find “acceptable” today is atrocious. Even when buying a car with a “premium” audio system people accept things that shouldn’t be accepted. A Bose stereo in a car has PAPER cones, TINY amplifiers, 1/2 ohm subwoofers, and CLARION tweeters yet it adds $4,000 to the sticker price of the car! The new McIntosh 1375W system in the new Grand Wagoneer is a JOKE. That’s 1,375W PEAK power, NOT RMS. For FOUR THOUSAND DOLLARS?!?!?!? ARE YOU ON CRACK??!!!!!!!!?? Do you know how much BETTER $4,000 worth of aftermarket stereo equipment, even ENTRY-LEVEL, will sound and how much MORE power you’ll have? The world has been numbed to sub-par quality today since everything is made in China by a child who is getting paid PENNIES an hour. They wouldn’t know a truly high-quality system if it smacked them in the no-no’s. Because of that, those who DO demand quality have a very limited selection of equipment from which to choose and subscription services that give them what they need. The market for high quality anything anymore has all but diminished. Audiophile car audio stores are dropping like flies because high-end auto manufacturers have made it almost, if not actually, impossible to upgrade the stereo system in their car and they have accepted these “premium” factory systems. One of my customers wrecked their 2018 Audi A3 Quattro with the B&O system. He called me and said he wanted me to remove his “premium” speakers from the car. I thought he had some aftermarket system in there. I get there, pop one panel off, and find PAPER speakers! I told him it’s not worth my time or his money for me to remove that. He said he could sell it. I said yeah, if you remove the ENTIRE system including the head unit, amplifiers, speakers, and ALL of the wiring for it! That wiring is INTEGRATED with the body harness of that car and would take 10+ hours to remove. You’re not even going to get HALF of what you pay me to remove that when and IF you sell it. The sad thing is that SOME people actually are dead convinced that it is some be all to end all stereo and are paying THOUSANDS of dollars to upgrade their Audi to that system. It’s TRASH just like EVERY OTHER factory “premium audio system”. This is what people accept and why they can’t hear the difference between AAC/MP3 and Hi-Res FLAC. Again, I’ll bet ALAC is just an upconverted AAC file so there’s no way it’s higher quality since the compression and loss has already happened. You can’t add the original data back to a file once it’s been compressed unless you have the native file from which the compressed file came. An upconversion only GUESSES what the original data was based on the information it has. Play a movie on a DVD player into a TV that upconverts to 2560p and pause it anywhere. Then play the SAME movie on the SAME model of TV with a 4K Blu-Ray player and pause it at the same point. You will see a MASSIVE difference in quality. The SAME thing happens with audio. Do you really think Apple obtained the uncompressed audio files from every single studio out there when they released iOS 15 and had a switch to enable Hi-Res? Do you think Apple quadrupled+ their server space for this? I HIGHLY doubt it. They just added a little switch to the settings to make people THINK they are listening to lossless music. It probably is in itself but it’s been derived from a lossy, compressed file and that’s why they say no difference in quality can be heard. And people are BUYING IT!!! It’s a shame TIDAL’s app is so glitchy because the audio quality from it is unsurpassed. I’ll report back after a week of listening to Amazon Music and let you know the verdict on every bit of the experience.
    Reply