What is Amazon Music? Amazon Music (previously Amazon MP3) is a music streaming platform and online music store operated by Amazon. As of January 2020, the service had 55 million subscribers.
It was the first music store to sell music without digital rights management (DRM) from the four major music labels (EMI, Universal, Warner, and Sony BMG), as well as many independents. All tracks were originally sold in 256 kilobits-per-second variable bitrate MP3 format without per-customer watermarking or DRM; however, some tracks are now watermarked.
The service was launched in the United States as a public beta on September 25, 2007, and the final version followed in January 2008. Amazon MP3 was launched in the United Kingdom on December 3, 2008, in Germany on April 1, 2009, and in France on June 10, 2009. The German edition has been available in Austria and Switzerland since December 3, 2009. The Amazon MP3 store was launched in Japan on November 10, 2010. The Spanish and Italian editions were launched on October 4, 2012. The edition in Mexico was announced on November 7, 2018. Licensing agreements with recording companies restrict the countries in which the music can be sold.
What is Amazon Music?
Amazon Music is a music streaming service similar to Apple Music, Spotify, YouTube Music, Tidal, and Deezer. It offers a library of more than 100 million songs and a wide range of popular podcasts to stream and download for offline listening, too. Similarly to its competitors, Amazon Music users have access to a massive amount of current and back-catalog songs and albums and can create their own playlists that can be shared.
It also uses your listening habits to create recommendations: new artists, albums, curated playlists, podcasts, and more, to help you easily find something good to play For the audiophiles out there, Amazon Music has plan tiers for hi-resolution lossless audio that it calls HD and Ultra HD (more on this below), which is important if you’re considering Spotify, as it currently does not.
The platform’s interface and controls are easy to use and full of album artwork and visuals (taking more than a few cues from Spotify) and can be accessed in a number of ways, including iOS and Android apps, desktop apps for Mac and Windows, and web browsers, as well as Echo and Fire TV devices. Additionally, Amazon Music works with Alexa voice control, allowing you to do things like skip tracks, pause, or ask it to play something, all with voice commands.
What plans are available and what do you get?
Amazon Music Free
If you’re looking for the entry-level experience to get your feet wet, its most basic plan is the ad-supported Amazon Music Free, for which you do not need to have an Amazon Prime subscription to use. The bare-bones tier is a bit limited (as most ad-based, free services are), giving you access to “millions of podcast episodes,” and thousands of playlists and stations with ads popping in between songs.
Perhaps most annoying for most people is the fact that playback is limited to only shuffle — meaning you can’t select any song you want to play — and songs are not available in the lossless HD or Ultra HD formats. All you need is a standard Amazon account, and you don’t even need to hand over your credit card information.
Amazon Music Prime
If you can’t stomach the ads of the Free tier, and you’re already an Amazon Prime subscriber (or are thinking of becoming one), Amazon Music Prime is free. Not only do you get all the perks of an Amazon Prime account like same-day shipping and Prime Video, but the music situation also opens up with ad-free access to the entire 100-million song library, podcasts, stations, and playlists.
Downloads are also made available at this level, too, which is good because this tier only allows for playback on one device at a time, too, unless you’re playing downloaded music that’s stored on your device.
It doesn’t come without quirks, though. While you do get access to that expanded library (the same 100 million songs as the Unlimited tier, actually), playback of albums, artists, and playlists is still limited to shuffle mode, with the exception of the “All-Access Playlists,” which you can pick, play, skip, and download at will.
Things get even more specific for Echo devices (even the All-Access Playlists are in shuffle mode), Fire TV (there’s music, but no podcasts), and Fire Tablet (where the catalog is limited and there are no ad-free podcasts), and you also don’t get access to all that HD, Ultra HD, and spatial audio goodness, either. All that said, you may just want to consider …
Amazon Music Unlimited
Amazon Music Unlimited is the full experience. It’s basically everything that the Amazon Music Prime plan offers with no pesky shuffling or limits on what you can and cannot play; just have at it. But I’ve buried the lede here — Amazon Music Unlimited is all about the sound quality.
100 million songs are available in lossless HD format (that’s CD-quality 16-bit/44.1kHz, with an average bitrate of 850kbps), and an undisclosed “millions” of tracks in their top-level Ultra HD quality range (24-bit depth and sample rate ranging from 44.1 to 192kHz and an average bitrate 3,730kbps).
These hi-resolution tracks use the FLAC audio codec and the sound is crystal clear and stunning, rivaling the sound quality of competitors like Tidal (which also uses FLAC) and Apple Music (which uses the comparable Apple ALAC codec). There are also more than a thousand tracks mastered in Dolby Atmos Music and 360 Reality Audio, should you want to space out with some immersive surround sound.
Music Unlimited itself has a range of plan options to suit (outlined below) that have a few limitations, but for the most part, it’s a robust music streaming plan worthy of consideration.
How do I listen to Amazon Music?
Amazon music can be played back through the Amazon Music desktop app for PC and Mac, on iOS and Android devices, and a wide range of other devices including Amazon Echo and Fire TV devices, Sonos systems, and Roku media streamers. Outside of the apps, you can access the player through a web browser, too. You can also access the app in some cars through Android Auto or Apple CarPlay.
Amazon Music’s spatial audio tracks can be experienced through Dolby Atmos-capable devices, such as soundbars, headphones, surround sound systems, iOS and Android devices, and the Amazon Echo Studio speaker. Amazon Music will also be one of two music services to support Dolby Atmos Music on the new Sonos Era 300 when that speaker launches on March 28, 2023.
To experience the full extent of some of the highest-resolution Ultra HD tracks, you may require an external digital-to-analog converter (DAC), which you can learn all about in our explainer.
One feature some might miss with Amazon Music is a native, built-in equalizer in the app that many Apple Music and Spotify users will be familiar with. Sadly, you won’t be able to boost the bass or treble of a pair of not-so-great speakers, but many modern headphones come with apps that let you do this (and probably do a better job as well), and your car and home stereos will likely have EQ features as well. Rest assured the quality of the HD and Ultra HD tracks on Amazon Unlimited is top-notch and properly balanced, so you might not even miss it.
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