Amazon Music HD

MikeyFresh

Moderator
Staff member
I see today in Seattle at Amazon's annual product showcase event they announced a new $199 version of their Echo speaker called Echo Studio that is HD Music compatible, and is said to be co-designed by Dolby.

This speaker will have some sort of "3D" or "immersive" mode compatible with albums said to be "mastered in 3D" using Dolby Atmos Music.

The Echo Studio can be used as singles or in pairs.

16643
Of course, it is an Alexa compatible "smart speaker" too, but in a nod to growing privacy concerns, you can switch the listening microphones on/off with one button.

Sounds like a bunch of gimmickry to me, but I'd still be curious to hear what Echo Studio actually sounds like. The Apple Home Pod is said to sound quite good (I've not yet heard it myself) in the category of smart speaker, though I don't believe it is thought to have sold very well to date.
 

MikeyFresh

Moderator
Staff member
I’m guessing this should blow Apple Music away handily?
You'd certainly think so if Apple Music continues with lossy AAC256 encoding, unclear if this recent move by Amazon into "HD" streaming will prompt a response from the other two paid subscriber biggies in the room, that being Apple and Spotify.

This Echo Studio speaker seems to show Amazon trying to appeal on all levels, however the Music HD streaming service aspect probably isn't really targeting audiophiles per se, but there is at least some effort to attract the "quality is important" crowd there along with an attempt to differentiate it from lossy streaming like Apple Music or Spotify, while undercutting Tidal and Qobuz on price.

On the flip side of that, this whole immersive 3D thing appears much more a pseudo surround sound type of appeal, probably more for movie watching than for music, although the claim is that music albums will be "mastered in 3D" whatever that means. Partnering with Dolby is probably not a bad idea there, Amazon likely hopes these smart speakers will both help drive subscriptions to Prime Video/HD Music, and further lock people into the world of Alexa, where everything is not just at their fingertips, but literally available just at the sound of their voice command. That doesn't turn me on personally, but many others absolutely love it.

I'd love to know what kind of margins Amazon has managed on something like that smart speaker, or for that matter Apple with their slightly pricier Home Pod speaker. Home Pod debuted at $349 but was quickly being discounted, suggesting it has not been a big seller. The original iPods for instance were never discounted at all for many years after introduction, they sold so well that Apple was able to realize every last bit of margin on them from a hardware sales perspective, while simultaneously fueling growth of the iTunes Store.

These smart speakers are sort of that same thing all over again, though the landscape has changed since the time of the iPod and I suspect both Apple and Amazon aren't really making that much on the hardware here, more relying on the idea it will help to drive growth of the streaming subscriptions and lock people in to their Siri/Alexa-based overall ecosystems.

One thing is for sure, people are lazy and resist change, so if you can get them accustomed to using their voice to command the smart home, you've probably got a customer for the longer term unless price or performance is an issue. I have many colleagues that love Alexa integration in their home, not so many with Siri.
 
I'm going to give Amazon HD a whirl for the trial as they have some good stuff in Ultra HD. Really, it would just be nice to hear everything that I usually play on Spotify upstairs to come out sounding better than their 320k. Maybe my not so great hearing can tell a difference. If so, I'm willing to pay the extra $3/mo over Spotify since we already have Prime. What the heck.
 

Audionut

Next Round Is On Me
Ok, so I jumped on board for the single 90 day service. It was a bit glitchy online (might be the new apple software upgrade). Installed the app and much better. Now to see how this stacks up against Apple Music. First up is the HD6XX headphones direct connect to iPad. Playing the same song on both services rendered a higher volume level and a more pronounced/detailed listening experience on Apple Music (tried several songs).
More to come....
 
Last edited:
I've set mine up using my phone casting to a Chromecast Audio piece tied in with optical connection. I listened to various things for about an hour last night and compared it to Spotify. The sound quality is much better with Amazon HD and I will be switching strictly to them. I do wish there was a way to control/sync the phone to the desktop app but I can live with that. I have 2 CCA's so I can use one on each system and tell it which to cast to.

For my hearing, which isn't what it used to be, I can easily tell the difference between Spotify and Amazon HD. I have tinnitus and HF loss along with it but below about 12kHz, I can tell. It's too bad Spotify never went to it over the last couple of years.
 
Last edited:
I will say that in listening to Amazon HD music last night for a couple of hours, it was very enjoyable in the audible experience. The only caveat I do have with it, versus Spotify, is that when you "Follow" an artist, you can't go to an Artists list and find everyone, pick one of them, explore their albums, etc. You have to search for it every single time you want to listen to one. That part is kind of frustrating versus Spotify where they have that part down well. What Spotify has gotten worse with is their algorithm for the Daily Playlists and the songs that repeat over and over and the lists not updating that great; it became more stagnant and boring.

So, I've got to decide which is more important. More than anything, it's about the music and the sound. But, at my age, convenience of being able to see a complete list of artists, albums, etc., is rather handy.
 
I’m thinking of trying Amazon HD. My digital front end is a 2017 Mac mini (Ethernet to router) with optical to Bottlehead DAC. Is there a way to use iPhone or iPad as remote? Or something else?
 

MikeyFresh

Moderator
Staff member
I’m thinking of trying Amazon HD. My digital front end is a 2017 Mac mini (Ethernet to router) with optical to Bottlehead DAC. Is there a way to use iPhone or iPad as remote? Or something else?
I don't think it is app controllable at the moment, however it wouldn't surprise me if the Mac mini's IR remote works (assuming you have one).
 
I've not found a way to do that yet nor have I read any different. But, I'm picking Amazon HD for the moment and can always go back to Spotify if they decide to change in the future. I like the SQ much better.
 
Has anyone who has Amazon Prime gotten a free 90 day trial for the new HD service. Anytime I clicked on a link I was asked to sign up for the service for a slightly reduced teaser rate — nothing for free, ads not withstanding.
 

MikeyFresh

Moderator
Staff member
Has anyone who has Amazon Prime gotten a free 90 day trial for the new HD service. Anytime I clicked on a link I was asked to sign up for the service for a slightly reduced teaser rate — nothing for free, ads not withstanding.
I have the free 90 day trial. If you were already an Amazon Music subscriber previously, they won't give you a completely free trial, it's only for what they consider a brand new subscriber.

So if you already had Amazon Music Unlimited (for instance), they will keep charging you the same fee for that they ever had been, however you do get the upgrade from the lossy tier to the HD/UHD tier at that same price (for 90 days).

They won't however waive the price of the original tier subscribed to, that doesn't become free, only the HD/UHD add on is free for 90 days.
 
I'm pondering on signing up to a streaming service. But one thing that really gets my goat is the idea of suggestions (you listened to Joni Mitchell how about these...)
Also the minute an app mentions the words "carefully curated", I freeze. I know its an algorithm , not human suggestions! How do I get past this (ir)rational feeling?
 
I'm pondering on signing up to a streaming service. But one thing that really gets my goat is the idea of suggestions (you listened to Joni Mitchell how about these...)
Also the minute an app mentions the words "carefully curated", I freeze. I know its an algorithm , not human suggestions! How do I get past this (ir)rational feeling?
Qobuz does not use any algorithmic playlists. Really is human suggestions.
 

MikeT.

Senior Member
I'm pondering on signing up to a streaming service. But one thing that really gets my goat is the idea of suggestions (you listened to Joni Mitchell how about these...)
Also the minute an app mentions the words "carefully curated", I freeze. I know its an algorithm , not human suggestions! How do I get past this (ir)rational feeling?
I am really enjoying Roon Radio, which plays something similar at the end of a particular selection or album. Artificial Intelligence, Carefully Curated, Best Guess....I’ve discovered some really great music and artists, even new releases by artists appearing in trios who I have not listened to in a long time or ever through the software. How they do it, dunno. But I like it better than Siri or Alexa talking back to me.

Qobuz does not use any algorithmic playlists. Really is human suggestions.
Really enjoying Qobuz @Dan from Qobuz but have Tidal as well. Both work well with Roon.
 
I might have to give this a try. I'm currently paying for Pandora One and Spotify Premium. I'm thinking of ditching Spotify due to their lack of a thumbs down button on radio. I find it very frustrating when a song comes on that I cannot stand - and all I can do is press the 'Heart" to love it - or press >> to skip it. What is the point of a heart if you do not also carry the opposite indicator?

I was thinking Apple - only because my car has Apple Apps support - though I can play Spotify, Pandora- I cannot use Siri to control anything.

Also - I want Tidal type quality though I'm not sure if there is anyway to ensure I'm getting that quality vs MP3 or 300Kbps. I'm using both Spotify Connect and HEOS from an iPad to a Marantz streamer. There is quite a bit of vagueness in the documentation for what bitrate you get using these apps.

I'll have to try the free trials.
 

MikeyFresh

Moderator
Staff member
In what looks like an obvious rebuttal to Amazon Music HD pricing, Qobuz announced today they will ditch their lossy MP3 tier, and offer a consolidated CD + hi-rez quality FLAC library only, for $14.99 per month or $150/year subscription rates. This new CD + hi-rez subscription plan is called Studio Premier.

I say good riddance to MP3, and this would also appear to be a shot across Tidal's bow too, not only on a pure pricing level, but also on the bandwidth fallacy that attempts to support the need for wonky-ass compression schemes such as MQA, supposedly necessary to fit hi-rez files into an easily stream-able package, at the expense of being lossy.

With current 4G infrastructure, such lossy compression schemes are unneeded, and with 5G coming soon, MQA's supposed bandwidth savings appear moot. Qobuz is driving that point home in offering both CD and hi-rez quality streaming with no compression whatsoever, just like Amazon Music HD.

Qobuz subscribers who don't have an unlimited mobile data plan will still be able to stream in MP3 if they so choose, however the option to subscribe to an MP3-only price tier will likely vanish.

This new Studio Premier pricing plan is said to be available to the first 100,000 new subscribers and existing users in the U.S. or through January 31st 2020. No word yet (that I can see) on what the pricing for Studio Premier will become thereafter.
 

Olson_jr

Active Member
I'm pondering on signing up to a streaming service. But one thing that really gets my goat is the idea of suggestions (you listened to Joni Mitchell how about these...)
Also the minute an app mentions the words "carefully curated", I freeze. I know its an algorithm , not human suggestions! How do I get past this (ir)rational feeling?
Try it. Tidal used to be pretty bad at this, I mean really bad. Lately, I have found it much better and I have even found a couple of new artists from the machine's suggestions.

I do believe the more you use it the better it understands your musical tastes.

Whoops, I am talking about how Tidal continues to play music when an album I choose ends.
 
Last edited:
Top