From The Verge: Amazon is launching a new tier of its music service today, dubbed Amazon Music HD. It offers lossless versions of audio files for streaming or downloading at a price that aggressively undercuts Tidal, the main competition for this kind of audio. Amazon will charge $14.99 a month for the HD tier, or $12.99 if you’re an Amazon Prime customer. Tidal’s Hi-Fi plan costs $19.99 monthly. The new plan was rumored a few months ago.
Amazon says it has a catalog of over 50 million songs that it calls “High Definition,” which is the term it’s applying to songs with CD-quality bit depth of 16 bits and a 44.1kHz sample rate. It also has “millions” (read: less than 10 million, more than one million) of songs it’s calling “Ultra HD,” which translates to 24-bit with sample rates that range from 44.1kHz up to 192kHz. Amazon Music HD will deliver them all in the lossless FLAC file format, instead of the MQA format that Tidal uses.
Amazon’s VP of Music, Steve Boom, tells me that Amazon chose the HD and UltraHD terminology because it found it was more comprehensible to a mass audience than the current terminology for audio quality. And “mass audience” is exactly what Amazon is going for; it doesn’t want Amazon Music HD to be a niche player like Tidal and other lossless music platforms like HDtracks or Qobuz.
Boom says that “It’s a pretty big deal that one of the big three global streaming services is doing this — we’re the first one.” Amazon Music isn’t often in the conversation about music streaming competition, which usually ends up following a Spotify vs. Apple Music narrative. But Amazon considers itself in their company, and with the new HD offering it’s looking to differentiate itself and perhaps raise its profile.
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