It is here – Amazon Music HD, lossless streaming tier for $12.99 per month

This month Amazon has launched Amazon Music HD, an upgraded tier for Amazon Music Unlimited that features both lossless CD-quality streams for over 50 million tracks, and millions of better-than-CD, hi-res quality tracks.

Amazon’s new service is similar to Tidal’s HiFi subscription tier but with one very big difference: Amazon is only charging $12.99 per month for Prime members, or $14.99 per month for non-Prime members. What’s more, 90-day free trials are available for new and existing subscribers. Tidal’s HiFi plan costs $19.99 per month, so it will be some serious competition for Tidal.

The new hi-res tier is available in the US, UK, Japan and Germany. Amazon plans to expand to other countries in near future, but right now it just wanted to focus on its biggest music markets.

The most popular music streaming services like Spotify, Apple Music, Google Play Music, and Pandora use a compressed format of digital music that attempts to preserve as much detail as possible while keeping file size manageable. These tracks stream at a rate of 320 kbps. This is especially important for people who like to stream on their smartphones while on-the-go, and who might have limited mobile data plans. Not everyone finds these compressed digital files acceptable in terms of audio quality. CD-quality — the same resolution you’ll find on a professionally published CD — is considered a much better option by audiophiles, which is why many choose to use FLAC or ALAC files instead of MP3s. These uncompressed digital files preserve 100% of the information on a CD but at a smaller file size.

FLAC is the format used by Amazon Music HD (and Tidal HiFi) for its entire 50 million+ track library. These tracks will consume more bandwidth (in some cases up to twice as much as compressed music) — up to 820 kbps — but the tradeoff is better sound for those with high-quality audio gear.

Supporters of hi-res music, like Neil Young, claim it delivers the closest thing to what the artist intended when they recorded their music. “Earth will be changed forever when Amazon introduces high-quality streaming to the masses,” he said in a press release. “This will be the biggest thing to happen in music since the introduction of digital audio 40 years ago.”

Based on this development, we recommend that you now consider embedding your files in FLAC format in addition to the standard MP3, WAV, or M4A you have been doing (or not yet doing).

The ISRC Team offers embedding at only $5 per file. You can read more about music file embedding here and order FLAC file embedding here.