Amazon HD and Me - Early Adopter's Dilemma

The "big woo" in the last couple of weeks in the world of audio is certainly Amazon Music's entry into streaming CD and HD-quality music files. For some people this will be a big improvement in sound quality and their listening experience, while for others it could be a big Meh.

 APR-amazonMusic1aSMALL.jpegI know where I fall on the scale and why...

I'm already a high resolution-streaming convert. I use Tidal and Qobuz, usually via Roon, which lets me pick music from both services as well as anything on the local drives in my home network. This system works seamlessly, and between the two services I rarely find that I can't find the music I'm looking for, so basically I'm completely happy with my current set-up. 

And for those audiophiles like myself, who already have a working High-resolution-capable streaming digital music system, What does Amazon HD add to the feast? Not much. Besides potential cost savings if you're already an Amazon Prime user, I see little reason to switch, especially right now when Amazon Music can't be incorporated into my Roon ecosystem.

APR-amazonmusic2asmall.jpegFor those that do plan to switch to Amazon and close out their Tidal or Qobuz accounts, there's the not insignificant issue of trying to duplicate the online library that you had with Tidal and Qobuz in Amazon Music. Even the "automatic" apps designed for such portages don't deliver or insure that all your music will get to where you want it to be...chances are you're going to lose around 10%...and then you can spend some time searching through Amazon music to see if there are substitutes.

And then there's the issue of metadata and added background info, such as the liner notes, players on the tracks, and other info useful to music nerds - Tidal has some, Qobuz has more and Roon has the most fully featured information cache, complete with links to other contributing artists' work.

APR-amazonmusic5.jpgI'm not a Spotify or Pandora user, but those folks who do use these services often mention that they have the best personal playlist and user "radio" options - even better than Tidal and Qobuz. Amazon does not have that level of user enrichment, yet...

A cynical critic might conclude that Amazon's high-rez initiative will succeed, but not in the way that audiophiles hope it will. In the best of worlds naïve users would try Amazon Music HD and hear such an improvement that they will immediately search out Tidal and Qobuz to move up to a better user experience. But will that really happen? Or will most new Amazon Music listeners' systems, connected via Bluetooth wireless to mediocre transducers, not hear an appreciable difference, and find no added value in the hi-rez service? If enough do, High-rez could even fail...

AR-amazonmusic4a.jpgThere is no doubt that Amazon Music's foray will bring the concept of high-resolution music to a greater percentage of the public...but as to whether these horses will find the musical water any better than what they're used to drinking is the question that remains to be answered...

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