Amazon is releasing a new service that, much like its shopping service and its shipping service, is looking to take over from other audio services. The new service, called Amazon Music HD, offers lossless versions of audio files at a lower rate than competitors–$14.99 for the HD tier and $12.99 for Amazon Prime customers. “Earth will be changed forever when Amazon introduces high quality streaming to the masses,” said rock legend Neil Young. “This will be the biggest thing to happen in music since the introduction of digital audio 40 years ago.”
“Lossless music” refers to the process of compressing music down into MP3 files. In that process, any sound that the computer thinks the human ear can’t hear is cut out, which reduces the amount of storage needed to hold numerous tracks. This is where you get the term “bit rate” from—the lower the bit rate, the more has been cut out. Lossless audio compression keeps every detail yet still reduces the file sizes by using a mathematical algorithm that recognizes sound patterns and then repeats those patterns as needed, cutting down on storage requirements.
According to their announcement, Amazon has some 50 million songs that are “CD-quality” that have a bit-rate of 16 bits. They also have an ambiguous “millions” of songs that are more in the range of 24-bit.
According to Amazon’s VP of Music, Steve Boom, Amazon is shooting for “mass audience” appeal. “It’s a pretty big deal that one of the big three global streaming services is doing this—we’re the first one,” said Boom. It goes without saying that the quality of the audio that you’re listening to will depend largely on the equipment that you’re using. Amazon says that this new service is compatible with second generation and newer Alexa-enabled Echo devices as well as Fire TVs, and Fire Tablets that support HD quality audio. It’s also compatible with products from “Denon and Marantz with HEOS Built-in, Polk Audio, Definitive Technology, Sonos, McIntosh, Sennheiser, and many more.”
Audiophiles will appreciate this new service most, but even the “common man” will be able to note the difference. The service is available now and for a limited time, Amazon is offering a 90-day free trial.