Amazon is stepping up its music game, adding high quality audio streaming to its Amazon Music subscription program. The new, premium tier is called Amazon Music HD, and it is available to current subscribers for an additional $5 per month. For a limited time, Amazon Music subscribers in the U.S., U.K., Japan and Germany can upgrade for free for 90 days. New subscribers can sign up now for a 90-day free trial. After the free trial, Amazon Prime customers will pay $12.99 a month. Other Amazon customers will pay $14.99 a month for the HD service. A family plan is also available.
With an Amazon Music HD subscriptions, listeners will get access to more than 50 million songs in high definition (HD) audio and millions of songs in ultra high definition, the best sound quality available.
We spoke with many artists while developing Amazon Music HD, who were excited about the potential for fans to be able to stream their favorite music, and hear it as it was originally recorded, said Steve Boom, vice president of Amazon Music, in a September 17 news release.
From rock to hip-hop to classical and pop, we believe listening to music at this level of sound will make customers fall in love again with their favorite music and artists. As we usher in a new listening experience for our customers and the industry, were combining the convenience of streaming with all of the emotion, power, clarity and nuance of the original recordings, Boom added.
Amazon promises subscribers that they will always receive the best quality recordings available with Amazon Music HD, based on the device, connections and network available. Amazon recommends a minimum data speed of 1.5 Mbps, devices that support 16-bit/44.1 kHz or higher, and headphones or speakers that support 16-bit/44.1 kHz or higher.
Amazon compares different standards of quality here:
Spotify and Apple Music do not offer a comparable service, but Tidal, the streaming audio subscription service owned by Jay-Z, offers high definition and master quality streaming audio.
Rock n roll hall of famer Neil Young sang Amazons praises for this innovation, now available to subscribers.
Earth will be changed forever when Amazon introduces high quality streaming to the masses, said Young. This will be the biggest thing to happen in music since the introduction of digital audio 40 years ago.
Will this premium subscription help Amazon Music get a larger share of the market? It depends on whether quality sound is important to listeners and, if so, if they are willing to pay for it. Right now, Tidal is the only one close in terms of quality, but at $19.99 a month, it is pricier than other services. Tidal does offer some exclusivity with music not available elsewhere, but it does not seem to be subscribing new listeners in droves.
What Amazon has going for it is its test-evaluate-tweak-repeat formula. It uses this with most of its products and services. The company tests an idea, evaluates the results, makes changes and tries again. Amazon is, however, pretty quick to abandon an idea that doesnt work, so the risk here seems low. Perhaps theyll even raise the quality bar for other streaming subscription services.