Amazon Music has launched a new “HD” subscription level of their streaming service, becoming the first of the three major streaming services to offer high-fidelity digital audio. It joins the likes of Tidal, Deezer, and French service Qobuz, which are all smaller streaming platforms that boast high-quality audio options. The two biggest streaming services, Spotify and Apple Music, do not yet offer high-resolution tiers.
Amazon Music HD subscribers now have access to about 50 million songs in what the company calls “HD,” which is essentially CD quality audio (16-bit files with sampling rates of 44.1 kilohertz). A subset of “millions” of those songs, according to The New York Times, will be available at the “Ultra HD” level (up to 24-bit and 192 kHz). The recordings are encoded with FLAC, a format that allows for the lossless compression of audio. The bit depth, sampling rate, and audio format all contribute to how much audio information is preserved in each file.
Amazon Music HD is available now for $12.99 per month for Amazon Prime members and $14.99 per month for regular customers, or an additional $5 per month for current subscribers on Individual or Family Plans. “With this pricing, we are signaling to the world that quality is for everybody,” Steve Boom, the vice president of Amazon Music, told the Times.
While streaming services continue to offer subscribers high-quality audio, its value has been highly doubted—especially because many academic studies have shown that average consumers cannot discern the difference between high-quality and low-quality audio.
Nevertheless, Neil Young, who has previously tried to launch his own high-fidelity audio venture called Pono, is in support of Amazon Music’s new tier. “Earth will be changed forever when Amazon introduces high quality streaming to the masses,” Young told the Times. “This will be the biggest thing to happen in music since the introduction of digital audio 40 years ago.”