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HD music for all: Amazon continues what Apple started

By Nadeem Sarwar May 17, 2021, 11:13 am
Amazon Music HD

The music streaming war is inching towards a titanic shift. Earlier today, Apple announced that lossless music streaming is now available as a freebie to all Apple Music users. Well, Amazon is answering with its own ‘free’ upgrade. The e-commerce giant has announced that Amazon Music HD – the paid tier of its HiFi music streaming service – is now available at no additional cost to its Amazon Music Unlimited subscribers. Earlier, users had to fork out an additional $5 per month to access the Amazon Music HD library of high-fidelity songs.

Earlier, users had to pay extra on top of Amazon Music Unlimited subscription to access lossless music

Now, all Amazon Music Unlimited subscribers can enjoy lossless music from Amazon Music HD’s catalog without paying an extra dollar. As for the asking price, Amazon Music Unlimited costs $9.99 per month for the average joe ($7.99 per month for Prime members and $14.99 per month for those on its Family Plan) and will include Amazon Music HD access as a perk starting with their next billing cycle. However, do keep in mind that the perk is only available in a select few regions that include US, UK, Germany, Canada, France, Italy, and Spain. In some countries like India, Amazon bundles Amazon Music as a freebie for Prime subscribers, but the catalog is limited and there’s no lossless streaming available in these regions.

Coming to the technical side of things, the company says that Amazon Music HD has a collection of over 70 million songs that you stream in CD-quality audio with 16-bit depth and a sample rate of 44.1KHz at up to 850kbps. Plus, there are over 7 million songs that you can stream in Ultra HD quality (better than CD quality, says Amazon) with up to 24-bit depth, a sample rate of 192kHz, and up to 3,730kbps bitrate. Of course, the latter is Hi-Res certified and is the best experience that you can get if you have the expensive listening gear at your disposal.

How it impacts the competition?

Spotify – the biggest name in the domain – has already announced plans to launch its lossless tier of music streaming service, but that is yet to roll out widely. But its key rivals have a major advantage under their belt – a free upgrade to Hi-fi music streaming. This strategy already puts some smaller names such as Tidal and Deezer on the backfoot, and it won’t be surprising to see Apple, Amazon and possibly Spotify too, killing the competition in the near future when it comes to lossless music streaming.

Is this yet another carrot and stick scheme?

The ‘big three’ definitely has pockets deep enough to license music and further expand their catalog, and even rope in artists for exclusive content too. What I think – and also afraid to contemplate – is that once the smaller rivals have been vanquished (or even acquired and merged) and a lot of users have grown to love the free access to lossless music streaming, these companies might go back to charging a premium for it. And if history is any indication, this possibility can’t be ruled out.

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