Amazon launches Music HD with lossless streaming
Sep 21, 2021 at 12:45 AM Post #1,711 of 1,752

jsmiller58

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Some vocal tracks on Tidal seemed slightly recessed and I didn't like their balance with the frequency response. Some aspects felt overdone or over emphasized which could have affected the mid range. I also felt like I could hear more details on Amazon hd than tidal. Qobuz while being better than Tidal to me, again felt overdone. The one thing you notice immediately when you switch from Amazon to Qobuz, is that Qobuz is louder. Qobuz could actually be more dynamic than Amazon, but it was definitely more fatiguing. On certain tracks and volume matched, Qobuz sounded slightly more detailed, but again, to me, amazon was better balanced with the mids. I just preferred Amazon's sound signature.
Thank you - very helpful!
 
Sep 21, 2021 at 12:59 AM Post #1,712 of 1,752

originalsnuffy

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Is there a thread to discuss Dolby Atmos via streaming services like Apple Music or Amazon Music HD? I am trying to figure out if I can stream high quality Atmos music to my Atmos capable receiver. Seems like Amazon limits Atmos or 3D to one high end piece of hardware. I am not sure if Apple goes beyond its headphones....
 
Sep 21, 2021 at 2:25 AM Post #1,713 of 1,752

Alcophone

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Out of 3 streaming sites I've tried, I liked/preferred Amazon music HD the best/most. The other two I tried were Tidal and Qobuz.
Some vocal tracks on Tidal seemed slightly recessed and I didn't like their balance with the frequency response. Some aspects felt overdone or over emphasized which could have affected the mid range. I also felt like I could hear more details on Amazon hd than tidal. Qobuz while being better than Tidal to me, again felt overdone. The one thing you notice immediately when you switch from Amazon to Qobuz, is that Qobuz is louder. Qobuz could actually be more dynamic than Amazon, but it was definitely more fatiguing. On certain tracks and volume matched, Qobuz sounded slightly more detailed, but again, to me, amazon was better balanced with the mids. I just preferred Amazon's sound signature.
I'd appreciate it if you could be specific about how you configured the apps.

Since Tidal apparently MQAs all the things, including 16/44.1 material, there's certainly a good chance that it sounds different across the board. Qobuz and Amazon Music HD on the other hand both serve straight up FLAC files, lossless compression without any proprietary shenanigans on top (to my knowledge).

But they differ in an important way: For Qobuz, both the Mac app, as well as the Windows app (when used in exclusive mode), actually set the sample rate of the audio output device correctly, i.e. based on the current track. The Amazon Music apps, even though exclusive mode is supported on Windows, don't set the sample rate, so as soon as you listen to tracks with a variety of sample rates, you're guaranteed to have the OS resample the data before it gets sent to the DAC, adding a variable to the mix that Tidal and Qobuz can avoid (if set up correctly). In addition, both apps have their own volume dial, and exclusive mode bypasses the OS level volume setting on Windows, so if you set Windows to 90% volume and use exclusive mode in Qobuz, yeah, it'll be louder.

And then there's the "Loudness Normalization" setting in the Amazon Music app, which Qobuz doesn't seem to have. Even if the app volume and system volume are maxed out, this could result in the Amazon Music app reducing the volume of a loud track based on some average volume in order to make it roughly as loud as other tracks that have a higher dynamic range - another reason why Qobuz could sound louder.

For Amazon Music, unless you want to set the sample rate manually to what the track needs, 24/192 is the best setting so that the app actually selects the highest quality version of the file. Qobuz will adjust the sample rate as needed when exclusive mode is used, which won't be visible in Windows unless there's a device specific driver tool (like for iFi devices). Hopefully the DAC has a sample rate indicator to confirm.
Enhancements and Spatial sound should be disabled (exclusive mode will bypass those). Exclusive mode should be allowed, of course.

Windows Settings 3.png
Windows Settings 2.png


The OS level volume should be maxed out.

Windows Settings 1.png


Qobuz should be set to use exclusive mode and the quality should be set to up to 24/192. The Qobuz app should be set to 100% volume.

Qobuz Settings 2.png
Qobuz Settings 1.png


The Amazon Music app should be set to HD/Ultra HD quality, loudness normalization off, exclusive mode allowed.

Separately, you need to set the output device and tell Amazon to actually use exclusive mode. You might have to do that every time you start the app.

Amazon Settings.png
Amazon Settings 2.png


To confirm that things check out, click on the quality icon. On the left I played Beck - The Golden Age, a 96 kHz track that Windows will upsample to 192 kHz before the DAC sees it. On the right, I played Beck - Paper Tiger, a 192 kHz that should not get upsampled with the settings I have.

Amazon Settings 3 - Mismatch.png
Amazon Settings 3 - Match.png


Apologies if you have made all of these adjustments, but I think this is important when trying to get the most out of whatever streaming service you use, and especially when comparing them.
 
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Sep 21, 2021 at 2:41 AM Post #1,714 of 1,752

Tubewin

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I'd appreciate it if you could be specific about how you configured the apps.

Since Tidal apparently MQAs all the things, including 16/44.1 material, there's certainly a good chance that it sounds different across the board. Qobuz and Amazon Music HD on the other hand both serve straight up FLAC files, lossless compression without any proprietary shenanigans on top (to my knowledge).

But they differ in an important way: For Qobuz, both the Mac app, as well as the Windows app (when used in exclusive mode), actually set the sample rate of the audio output device correctly, i.e. based on the current track. The Amazon Music apps, even though exclusive mode is supported on Windows, don't set the sample rate, so as soon as you listen to tracks with a variety of sample rates, you're guaranteed to have the OS resample the data before it gets sent to the DAC, adding a variable to the mix that Tidal and Qobuz can avoid (if set up correctly). In addition, both apps have their own volume dial, and exclusive mode bypasses the OS level volume setting on Windows, so if you set Windows to 90% volume and use exclusive mode in Qobuz, yeah, it'll be louder.

And then there's the "Loudness Normalization" setting in the Amazon Music app, which Qobuz doesn't seem to have. Even if the app volume and system volume are maxed out, this could result in the Amazon Music app reducing the volume of a loud track based on some average volume in order to make it roughly as loud as other tracks that have a higher dynamic range - another reason why Qobuz could sound louder.

For Amazon Music, unless you want to set the sample rate manually to what the track needs, 24/192 is the best setting so that the app actually selects the highest quality version of the file. Qobuz will adjust the sample rate as needed when exclusive mode is used, which won't be visible in Windows unless there's a device specific driver tool (like for iFi devices). Hopefully the DAC has a sample rate indicator to confirm.
Enhancements and Spatial sound should be disabled (exclusive mode will bypass those). Exclusive mode should be allowed, of course.



The OS level volume should be maxed out.



Qobuz should be set to use exclusive mode and the quality should be set to up to 24/192. The Qobuz app should be set to 100% volume.



The Amazon Music app should be set to HD/Ultra HD quality, loudness normalization off, exclusive mode allowed.

Separately, you need to set the output device and tell Amazon to actually use exclusive mode. You might have to do that every time you start the app.



To confirm that things check out, click on the quality icon. On the left I played Beck - The Golden Age, a 96 kHz track that Windows will upsample to 192 kHz before the DAC sees it. On the right, I played Beck - Paper Tiger, a 192 kHz that should not get upsampled with the settings I have.



Apologies if you have made all of these adjustments, but I think this is important when trying to get the most out of whatever streaming service you use, and especially when comparing them.
Yeah, that's alot. But to answer a few of your points... I always max the volume in the os and control the volume through my headphone amp. My volume settings on both apps are setup so that they won't change when the tracks change. I have my windows os sample rate at 32bit/192khz. I do not have sound enhancements on. I've listened through Qobuz with wasapi exclusive mode. I for some reason prefer the non-exclusive (standard) mode on Amazon. Again, Qobuz is louder when it's maxed out on it's app compared to maxed out Amazon. This by no means was meant to be one size fits all in-depth comparison. Just my subjective impression. I just like the way Amazon music sounds more.
 
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Sep 21, 2021 at 11:17 AM Post #1,715 of 1,752

jsmiller58

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I'd appreciate it if you could be specific about how you configured the apps.

Since Tidal apparently MQAs all the things, including 16/44.1 material, there's certainly a good chance that it sounds different across the board. Qobuz and Amazon Music HD on the other hand both serve straight up FLAC files, lossless compression without any proprietary shenanigans on top (to my knowledge).

But they differ in an important way: For Qobuz, both the Mac app, as well as the Windows app (when used in exclusive mode), actually set the sample rate of the audio output device correctly, i.e. based on the current track. The Amazon Music apps, even though exclusive mode is supported on Windows, don't set the sample rate, so as soon as you listen to tracks with a variety of sample rates, you're guaranteed to have the OS resample the data before it gets sent to the DAC, adding a variable to the mix that Tidal and Qobuz can avoid (if set up correctly). In addition, both apps have their own volume dial, and exclusive mode bypasses the OS level volume setting on Windows, so if you set Windows to 90% volume and use exclusive mode in Qobuz, yeah, it'll be louder.

And then there's the "Loudness Normalization" setting in the Amazon Music app, which Qobuz doesn't seem to have. Even if the app volume and system volume are maxed out, this could result in the Amazon Music app reducing the volume of a loud track based on some average volume in order to make it roughly as loud as other tracks that have a higher dynamic range - another reason why Qobuz could sound louder.

For Amazon Music, unless you want to set the sample rate manually to what the track needs, 24/192 is the best setting so that the app actually selects the highest quality version of the file. Qobuz will adjust the sample rate as needed when exclusive mode is used, which won't be visible in Windows unless there's a device specific driver tool (like for iFi devices). Hopefully the DAC has a sample rate indicator to confirm.
Enhancements and Spatial sound should be disabled (exclusive mode will bypass those). Exclusive mode should be allowed, of course.

Windows Settings 3.png Windows Settings 2.png

The OS level volume should be maxed out.

Windows Settings 1.png

Qobuz should be set to use exclusive mode and the quality should be set to up to 24/192. The Qobuz app should be set to 100% volume.

Qobuz Settings 2.png Qobuz Settings 1.png

The Amazon Music app should be set to HD/Ultra HD quality, loudness normalization off, exclusive mode allowed.

Separately, you need to set the output device and tell Amazon to actually use exclusive mode. You might have to do that every time you start the app.

Amazon Settings.png Amazon Settings 2.png

To confirm that things check out, click on the quality icon. On the left I played Beck - The Golden Age, a 96 kHz track that Windows will upsample to 192 kHz before the DAC sees it. On the right, I played Beck - Paper Tiger, a 192 kHz that should not get upsampled with the settings I have.

Amazon Settings 3 - Mismatch.png Amazon Settings 3 - Match.png

Apologies if you have made all of these adjustments, but I think this is important when trying to get the most out of whatever streaming service you use, and especially when comparing them.
Wow. Thanks!
 
Sep 28, 2021 at 7:16 AM Post #1,716 of 1,752

attilio

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@thelastwaltzuk - perfect write up. I too share exactly the same observations. I also had Qobuz trial membership which is comparable to Amazon price if you subscribe for a year. In addition to your observations I noticed that Qobuz was the best sounding as far as SQ. Interestingly their catalog is pretty extensive as well and growing. I listen to a large range of music genre depending if I am in my office or at the gym or in my dedicated listening room with or without family. Aamzon Music HD though promising does not offer bit perfect solution and to your point sounds a little compressed and sharp. I have tried running it through my PC or dedicated streamer via external DAC's (Benchmark, OPPO 205, Ayre) still the same sound. Tidal on the other hand is expensive. My thoughts are that the streaming industry is not mature yet and has a lot of growing up to do with possible mergers or even acquisitions. Roon complements Qobuz really well but itself has limitations (will not let you add songs to Qobuz playlists for remote listening). Maybe it's just best to select a mid tier cheaper option like Amazon for now and wait it out to see what happens to the likes of Qobuz, Tidal and Roon or if Amazon makes improvements this year.
The problem with sub to Amazon HD, and then wait and see how it goes with Qobuz, Tidal.Is they won't be able to survive if we all did that.
 
Oct 2, 2021 at 10:42 PM Post #1,717 of 1,752

originalsnuffy

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The problem with sub to Amazon HD, and then wait and see how it goes with Qobuz, Tidal.Is they won't be able to survive if we all did that.
Not to put too fine a point on it; but only the big boys are likely to survive. They can subsidize the whole thing and treat the service as a bonus to customers. Which means a low price point which hurts the independents.
 
Oct 3, 2021 at 9:55 AM Post #1,720 of 1,752

GlenAppleton

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Exactly, every time I launch the app I must set exclusive mode. Have anyone found the way of solving this annoyng issue?

I don't recall having that issue when I was trying the service a couple months back. The main issue I had with the AM Windows app was that "exclusive" wasn't really the same exclusive that other apps / players had, with regard to bypassing the Windows sound interface. Other than that, the app seemed fairly solid, even if it did use an unusual amount of system resources for what it was, but that's typical of Amazon apps in my experience.
 
Oct 5, 2021 at 11:19 PM Post #1,721 of 1,752

originalsnuffy

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So we can look forward to a world where we only have Apple and Amazon. Because Spotify will be taken over by one of them.
That is certainly a scenario, but then again why pay any kind of premium for Spotify if you are Apple or Amazon? I am sure they already have the same customers for other services / products. And nothing Spotify offers is really proprietary. Granted that some people like their recommendation engine or maybe the radio station.

I would think the buy out customer might be something from left field like Nike or Lululemon who want to add some kind of hip branding. Or the market could just let it kind of wither away over time.
 
Oct 6, 2021 at 12:15 AM Post #1,722 of 1,752

Alcophone

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That is certainly a scenario, but then again why pay any kind of premium for Spotify if you are Apple or Amazon? I am sure they already have the same customers for other services / products. And nothing Spotify offers is really proprietary. Granted that some people like their recommendation engine or maybe the radio station.

I would think the buy out customer might be something from left field like Nike or Lululemon who want to add some kind of hip branding. Or the market could just let it kind of wither away over time.
Nothing is as well integrated as Spotify. Spotify Connect is a big deal for one (as Tidal recognized), as is the ability to control playback on any device from any device. I don't know if Apple has that, but I miss it with Qobuz and Amazon Music HD.
That feature probably has years worth or debugging in it to work as well as it does. Cloning it would be quite an effort given the many platforms Spotify is available on.

Surprisingly, there's a Tidal app for my Vizio TV, but no Spotify app (nor Qobuz or Amazon Music). Spotify, Tidal and Amazon Music all have apps for Fire TV. No Qobuz, Apple, Deezer as far as I can see, unless you can access Apple Music via the Apple TV app.
 
Oct 13, 2021 at 2:34 PM Post #1,724 of 1,752

Tubewin

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So I AB'd Qobuz with Audirvana running with Kernel Streaming (bit perfect) against plain amazon music hd, and... I think Amazon sounds better. One of the tracks I used was the theme from Jurassic Park by John Williams. I purchased and downloaded the hi-res 24 192 on Qobuz (I had to purchase the entire album since they don't allow individual tracks of that album to be purchased). I chose AIFF format played through Audirnava in Kernel Streaming. My testing devices were the Focal Utopia, gsx mini, holo may kte, PC. The first thing I noticed was the difference in the flute like wind instrument, 22-23 seconds into the track. On the Qobuz downloaded track, the wind instrument sounded more hazy, fuzzy, and as if there was excess energy from the instrument. The Amazon hd track streaming from their app sounded cleaner, more defined, and less haze around the sound. The size of soundstage was smaller on the Qobuz track than on Amazon. From 1:10-1:27 into the track, the bass resonating from the string instruments were impactful, well defined, and majestic on Amazon, while less clear and less impactful on Qobuz (the details just don't pop out at you like with Amazon). Most tracks I've tried just sound better on Amazon. I tried to give Qobuz/Audirvana another shot, since I just upgraded my dac, but... Amazon still sounds better in my opinion. I was not expecting this outcome. I thought for sure that Qobuz through Audirvana (bit perfect) with AIFF (non compressed) format Kernel Streaming/Asio would result in a better listening experience. To be honest, I walked away from this slightly sad. I had blindly purchased a few albums on Qobuz, from Julia Fischer's Sarasate to John Williams Jurassic Park to Alison Balsom's Sound the Trumpet, when I could have just listened to them through Amazon. I am curious to know how others feel about Amazon in comparison to the other hifi streaming companies.
 
Oct 13, 2021 at 3:33 PM Post #1,725 of 1,752

GlenAppleton

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So I AB'd Qobuz with Audirvana running with Kernel Streaming (bit perfect) against plain amazon music hd, and... I think Amazon sounds better. One of the tracks I used was the theme from Jurassic Park by John Williams. I purchased and downloaded the hi-res 24 192 on Qobuz (I had to purchase the entire album since they don't allow individual tracks of that album to be purchased). I chose AIFF format played through Audirnava in Kernel Streaming. My testing devices were the Focal Utopia, gsx mini, holo may kte, PC. The first thing I noticed was the difference in the flute like wind instrument, 22-23 seconds into the track. On the Qobuz downloaded track, the wind instrument sounded more hazy, fuzzy, and as if there was excess energy from the instrument. The Amazon hd track streaming from their app sounded cleaner, more defined, and less haze around the sound. The size of soundstage was smaller on the Qobuz track than on Amazon. From 1:10-1:27 into the track, the bass resonating from the string instruments were impactful, well defined, and majestic on Amazon, while less clear and less impactful on Qobuz (the details just don't pop out at you like with Amazon). Most tracks I've tried just sound better on Amazon. I tried to give Qobuz/Audirvana another shot, since I just upgraded my dac, but... Amazon still sounds better in my opinion. I was not expecting this outcome. I thought for sure that Qobuz through Audirvana (bit perfect) with AIFF (non compressed) format Kernel Streaming/Asio would result in a better listening experience. To be honest, I walked away from this slightly sad. I had blindly purchased a few albums on Qobuz, from Julia Fischer's Sarasate to John Williams Jurassic Park to Alison Balsom's Sound the Trumpet, when I could have just listened to them through Amazon. I am curious to know how others feel about Amazon in comparison to the other hifi streaming companies.

Maybe I'm wrong, but comparing Amazon (FLAC streaming) to a download AIFF formatted file might not be an "apples to apples" (pun intended) comparison. AIFF, while lossless, might not be the same bitrate and might not have been from the same master / mix of the music. There's many aspects that go into the quality of music, and comparison of sources can be tricky at best.
 

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