Cat­a­logue is our Prime con­cern

FOR Good value for money; great app; ex­ten­sive playlists AGAINST Lim­ited cat­a­logue; sound qual­ity lack­ing

What Hi-Fi (UK) - - First Test -

Ama­zon fi­nally launched Prime Mu­sic in the UK in the sum­mer of 2015, fol­low­ing a head-start in the US. It was well re­ceived across the pond, the com­pany claim­ing to have more users than Tidal, Rdio, Deezer, Google Mu­sic and Rhap­sody com­bined.

Next-day de­liv­ery in­cluded

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 Prime Video, un­lim­ited photo stor­age and Kin­dle's lend­ing li­brary. 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 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.

Whether you’re us­ing the desk­top site or one of the Prime Mu­sic apps (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 swipethrough tabs for what’s new and pop­u­lar, a ‘Spot­light’ sec­tion with sug­gested songs, al­bums and playlists, and a ‘Rec­om­mended’ se­lec­tion based on your lis­ten­ing habits.

In the cloud

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 the mu­sic avail­able to stream sits along­side any mu­sic you’ve bought 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 in, com­pared to Ap­ple’s AAC and Spo­tify’s Ogg Vor­bis for­mat. With re­veal­ing head­phones, the dif­fer­ence is au­di­ble, with Prime Mu­sic un­able to match Spo­tify for de­tail re­trieval, drive or punch.

A slight lack of im­pact

Lis­ten to David Bowie’s Black­star and the drum­kicks that sit un­der the 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 in, es­sen­tially free, it doesn’t get more con­ve­nient than that.

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 were 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.

We have to score it a three, due to its small cat­a­logue and av­er­age sound qual­ity. But for any­one al­ready signed up to Prime, it’s a nice added ex­tra that might stop you shelling out for a sep­a­rate ser­vice.

Ama­zon Prime Mu­sic

Mu­sic stream­ing ser­vice

£80 “If you make use of Prime’s ser­vices, it’s hard to ar­gue with the value for money. But you are ac­cept­ing a lesser mu­sic-stream­ing ser­vice”

Prime Mu­sic is very

con­ve­nient, but it

can't match Spo­tify

for num­ber of tracks

or sound qual­ity

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