Amazon Music HD – hi-res on a budget
(especially for Prime members)
Whichever way you approach it, Amazon has gone super aggressive on pricing. In response to Apple Music offering hi-res quality for no extra fee last year, Amazon made its Music HD tier free for Amazon Music Unlimited subscribers. The Individual Plan still costs $7 per month for Prime members and $12 per month for Amazon customers – but now, your subscription fee includes Amazon’s highest-quality audio at no extra charge.
You can access Amazon Music HD’s hi-res tracks through the Android and iOS apps, Sonos kit, and compatible streamers.
We need another hi-res terminology discussion, though. Confusingly, Amazon Music HD doesn’t use the term ‘HD’ when it’s discussing high-resolution audio. Where you see tracks labelled ‘HD’, this actually means that they’re CD-quality. Amazon has decided to refer to and label hi-res music as ‘Ultra HD’. Why? Presumably it feels that this labelling will prove clearer for a mass audience. And perhaps it’s right. Anyway, the files you’ll get are actually FLACs. 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”. 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.”
To Amazon’s credit, it pushes Ultra HD content extremely hard on the service with dedicated playlists and clear labelling, e.g 'Best of Ultra HD', 'Ultra HD: New Arrival's, 'Ultra HD Hip-Hop' and 'Ultra HD Jazz'.
Dive in and it doesn’t take long to find a steady stream of hi-res UHD music to listen to.