Amazon Music is turning on high-fidelity streaming for all of its Unlimited subscribers by default, the company tells Billboard.
The move comes five months after it led the industry by cutting prices for its hi-fi tier from $15 per month to $10 per month ($8 per month for Amazon Prime subscribers).
Amazon has been the leader in cutting the price of hi-fi music audio, which commonly cost users $20 a month before the company launched Amazon Music HD in 2019 at $15 per month. The change will apply to individual, family and student plans.
The company is also rebranding its 3D Audio catalog as Spatial Audio — following Apple’s marketing lead — and will make those tracks available on any pair of headphones, and on other devices that support Alexa Cast, Amazon’s proprietary wireless casting protocol. Previously, Amazon’s 3D Audio catalog was only available on the Echo Studio, Amazon’s $200 high-fidelity speaker powered by Alexa, and Sony’s RA5000 and RA3000 speakers.
Amazon Music will be the exclusive home to a handful of Spatial Audio albums and performances, including Bicep’s second album Isles, and Mercury – Act 1 (Amazon Music Live), a five-track EP from Imagine Dragons featuring live tracks from the group’s recent album mixed in Dolby Atmos. Th EP was recorded on the rooftop of the Amazon Music office in Brooklyn.
“We recorded our new album Mercury – Act I with Rick Rubin at Shangri-La studios in Malibu, and it’s great to have a new avenue for people to experience the space and depth in those rooms through these new Dolby Atmos mixes,” Imagine Dragons said in a statement. “We’re excited to share our first acoustic live EP of some of these tracks, that we recorded with Amazon Music.”
Amazon has seen substantial growth in its high-fidelity service over the past 18 months, with subscriptions of the now-defunct standalone HD subscription doubling as of this past May, right before HD was merged with Amazon Music Unlimited. The streaming service now offers 75 million songs in HD (16-bit / 44.1 kHz or CD-quality) and over 7 million songs in Ultra HD, which exceeds CD-quality and can reach 24-bit / 192 kHz
Andre Stapleton, Amazon Music’s global head of artist and label relations, says the HD branding will go away now that the high-fidelity option is the default for all Unlimited users.
“We’re rolling [HD] right into the Amazon Music Unlimited, so we don’t even really need it,” Stapleton says. “This will be our baseline tier moving forward. Everybody will have access to the highest quality audio within the standard tier. It’s incredibly exciting to be able to push our footprint up to a much broader audience.”
High-fidelity music and Spatial Audio has captured the attention of the major streaming services in 2021. In June, Apple launched its own version of both offerings in June, and Spotify announced in February that it will launch its own high-fidelity tier before the end of the year.