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    Amazon Music HD Is Still Lossy

    Just over one year ago Amazon launched its Amazon Music HD streaming service. Many people uninterested in the success of small businesses and good customer service cheered the new offering from the 1.7 Trillion dollar company. At the time Amazon's $14.99 per month plan was the lower than all the other lossless or above music services. Not long after Amazon launched, Qobuz matched its pricing and now offers a $14.99 /month plan and $24.99 /month family plan. Let's take a look at Amazon Music HD, one year later. 

     

    I've been an Amazon Music HD subscriber since day one and have used the service off and on since signing up. Most of this use has been on my mobile phone or desktop. There just aren't many options for listening in another way, such as integration with Lumin, Aurender, Auralic, JRiver, Roon, etc... Given that Amazon is notoriously difficult to work with, it's no surprise that we have so few options. One year on, the landscape is still Sonos, Bluesound, and Denon HEOS (I'm sure people will let me know if I missed any). 

     

    The limited number of options for playback isn't a showstopper in and of itself because many audiophiles use computers directly attached to their HiFi systems. A USB cable between the computer and one's system is all that's required and Amazon Music HD will send along its highest quality. 

     

    What is Amazon Music HD's highest quality? I started testing where I always start testing, with bit perfect playback. If a service or app can't output bit perfect audio, then I have big problems because I don't know where the losses are happening and how big the losses are. The quick and dirty truth is that I can't play bit perfect audio from Amazon Music HD on Windows 10, macOS Catalina (10.15.7), or a Sonos Port using coaxial S/PDIF digital output. 

     

    rr.jpgI can match the sample rate of the audio sent from Amazon Music HD, but the stream or the file is being altered somewhere before it hits my house. In other words, when Amazon says it's playing a 24 bit / 96 kHz file, I can get my DAC to say 24/96, but the stream doesn't pass bit perfect testing. 

     

    Note: Not to toot my own horn, but I've been around the bit perfect block a few times and understand what's required to obtain bit perfect playback. If there is something special about Amazon Music HD, that isn't required for Qobuz and Tidal, I'd appreciate someone pointing it out to me. These other apps played bit perfect when I ran them through the exact same tests this morning. 

     

    Furthermore, the Amazon Music HD applications for Windows and macOS will not change the same rate automatically. For example, if I set Windows 10 to output 24/96 audio and set it to give exclusive access to Amazon Music HD, the music will always be output to my DAC at 24/96. Even though Amazon says the file is 16/44.1 or 24/192 etc..., the Amazon Music HD app can't change the sample rate of the audio output. This is problematic for people who think they are streaming what Amazon calls Ultra HD, but are really listening to a CD quality stream because that's what their computer is set to play. Apps that take control of the sample rate have been around for over a decade. There's no excuse to advertise and offer content at multiple sample rates, yet require users to manually change their control panel / audio midi settings between tracks just to hear the native quality. 

     

    It's hard for me to even think about looking further into Amazon Music HD as an option for people who care about sound quality and customer service. The company has had one year to fix issues, but based on its responses to users' request for these basic features, I won't hold my breath that the service or app will improve. There really isn't a reason to look at user interface and catalog if the company can't even stream the lossless audio it advertises. 

     

    One last note. I'm sure some people have seen the newly announced partnership between Amazon and Universal Music Group and Warner Music Group to release new high resolution remasters of albums from Eagles, Marvin Gaye, Nirvana, Tom Petty, Diana Ross, Linkin Park, J. Cole, Waylon Jennings, Ramones, 2 Chainz, Lady Gaga, The Notorious B.I.G., Ariana Grande, Selena Gomez, and more. While this may seem like a good thing, I'm unfortunately not optimistic. It isn't often that remasters actually sound better when created for the masses. I hope those in this partnership don't cross the audio DMZ and cause the loudness wars to flare up once again. 

     

    nevermind.jpgLast week, and again this morning, I went looking for these new remasters. I was able to see some of the albums because Amazon placed a convenient link to them on the Amazon Music HD app's main page. This link is no longer on my main page, so I went searching. What I found is a soup sandwich. For example, I looked for Nirvana remasters and found a single album labeled Remastered. I clicked into Nevermind (Remastered) and hoped to see an indication that this was the new remaster touted in all the press releases. Unfortunately the only date I can find on this album is "copyright 2011 Geffen Records." This is the same as the Deluxe remaster released in 2011 for the albums's anniversary. Think this is a one-off issue? Think again. I went through many other releases and found the same thing. There's no way to tell if an album has been newly remastered unless you find a link from Amazon, stating it's the new remaster, to the album. Even those albums have incorrect dates on them however. 

     

    And finally, these new remasters are exclusives to Amazon Music HD. Say what you want about exclusives, but I hate them. Dan Mackta, the Qobuz USA Managing Director, believes these exclusives won't last forever and we should see the new remasters come to other services in due time.

     

    As it stands today, one year after launching, Amazon Music HD isn't for anyone who cares about customer service,  audio quality or about using streaming services through integrations with numerous hardware and software vendors. If things change I'll be happy to reevaluate Amazon Music HD. For now I highly recommend Qobuz as the number one choice for streaming lossless high resolution audio. 
     

     



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    Smart TVs, Subscription Services Leak Data to Facebook, Google

    https://threatpost.com/smart-tvs-leak-data/148482/

    Quote

    Smart TVs and so-called “over the top” (OTT) platforms are the latest IoT devices found “spying” on users and leaking sensitive data to companies such as Facebook, Amazon, Google and Netflix, according to two separate studies conducted by university researchers as well as independent research done by a Washington Post reporter.

     

    Netflix reminds everyone it’s creeping on them

    https://techcrunch.com/2017/12/12/netflix-reminds-everyone-its-creeping-on-them/

    Quote

    Even anonymized data — if that’s truly what it was in this case, as its follow up tweet claims — can be re-identified pretty easily.

     

    Now the $64,000 question is whether they're getting paid to invade our privacy while gaining even more profits from such activities

     

    https://theconversation.com/amazon-echos-privacy-issues-go-way-beyond-voice-recordings-130016

    https://www.businessinsider.com/professional-hackers-amazon-alexa-google-home-horoscope-spying-voice-apps-2019-10

    https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2019/oct/09/alexa-are-you-invading-my-privacy-the-dark-side-of-our-voice-assistants

    https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/gadgets-and-tech/news/amazon-alexa-echo-listening-spy-security-a8865056.html

    https://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-8013225/Former-Amazon-Executive-reveals-switches-Alexa-wants-private-moment.html

     

    Pretty Orwellian if you will

     

    https://www.businessinsider.com/senators-demand-amazon-stop-spying-drivers-social-media-2020-9

    https://medium.com/radical-urbanist/jeff-bezos-can-thank-exploited-workers-for-his-100-billion-d3d5245a6e1b

    https://www.vice.com/en/article/3azegw/amazon-is-spying-on-its-workers-in-closed-facebook-groups-internal-reports-show

    https://www.vox.com/recode/2020/4/8/21214117/amazon-warehouse-workers-coronavirus-senator-booker-chris-smalls-senators-letter

    https://www.forbes.com/sites/angelauyeung/2020/04/24/amnesty-international-calls-on-jeff-bezos-to-address-amazon-employees-concerns-about-working-conditions/

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    3 minutes ago, seeteeyou said:

    Smart TVs, Subscription Services Leak Data to Facebook, Google

    https://threatpost.com/smart-tvs-leak-data/148482/

     

    Netflix reminds everyone it’s creeping on them

    https://techcrunch.com/2017/12/12/netflix-reminds-everyone-its-creeping-on-them/

     

    Now the $64,000 question is whether they're getting paid to invade our privacy while gaining even more profits from such activities

     

    https://theconversation.com/amazon-echos-privacy-issues-go-way-beyond-voice-recordings-130016

    https://www.businessinsider.com/professional-hackers-amazon-alexa-google-home-horoscope-spying-voice-apps-2019-10

    https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2019/oct/09/alexa-are-you-invading-my-privacy-the-dark-side-of-our-voice-assistants

    https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/gadgets-and-tech/news/amazon-alexa-echo-listening-spy-security-a8865056.html

    https://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-8013225/Former-Amazon-Executive-reveals-switches-Alexa-wants-private-moment.html

     

    Pretty Orwellian if you will

     

    https://www.businessinsider.com/senators-demand-amazon-stop-spying-drivers-social-media-2020-9

    https://medium.com/radical-urbanist/jeff-bezos-can-thank-exploited-workers-for-his-100-billion-d3d5245a6e1b

    https://www.vice.com/en/article/3azegw/amazon-is-spying-on-its-workers-in-closed-facebook-groups-internal-reports-show

    https://www.vox.com/recode/2020/4/8/21214117/amazon-warehouse-workers-coronavirus-senator-booker-chris-smalls-senators-letter

    https://www.forbes.com/sites/angelauyeung/2020/04/24/amnesty-international-calls-on-jeff-bezos-to-address-amazon-employees-concerns-about-working-conditions/

    Is there a tie-in to Amazon Music HD?

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    Speaking of Qobuz, I’ve been a TIDAL user, which offers up HD via MQA. I’ve never tried Qobuz.  Is HD without MQA the reason that you prefer Q over T, Chris?  JCR 

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    22 minutes ago, The Computer Audiophile said:

    Is there a tie-in to Amazon Music HD?

     

    I did mention Alexa before but I didn't wanna spell it out here by any means, apparently there's a tie-in by tying Amazon Music HD to their "lovely" Alexa while that should have given away what such intentions were all about

     

    https://github.com/alexa-pi/AlexaPi/wiki/Q&A-(FAQ)#does-alexapi-support-amazon-music

    Quote

    We apologize for the lack of clarity on Amazon Music approvals. Amazon Music is currently limited to Alexa-enabled devices that are approved for commercial distribution and use.

     

    IMHO that's why the access to their API might seem to be severely limited when compared to Qobuz / Tidal etc.

     

    https://support1.bluesound.com/hc/en-us/community/posts/360037587193-Amazon-music-support-roadmap

    Quote

    Thanks for your feedback. We have had discussions with Amazon about the limited experience in their service due to their Application Programming Interface (API) they provide to us and other third party services.

     

    https://forums.developer.amazon.com/questions/58421/amazon-music-api.html

    Quote

    No, there are no public APIs for Amazon Music, and no plans for that at the moment. Thanks!

     

    https://forums.developer.amazon.com/questions/224907/amazon-music-api-1.html

    Quote

    I know this question was asked several years ago (and the answer was no). However, I haven't seen anything recently (in Google searches). Are there any plans to build out a public API or Android SDK for Amazon Music? I couldn't find any recent questions/answers on this topic.

     

    https://support.soundiiz.com/hc/en-us/articles/360009509314-Why-Amazon-Music-is-not-fully-supported-

    Quote

    Currently, Amazon Music not providing any official API to access to an user Amazon Music account data.

     

    https://www.amazonforum.com/s/question/0D54P00007PiDUfSAN/volumio-integration

    Quote

    Please supply the Volumio dev team with API & application process resources so they can integrate this.

     


     

    FWIW I took my time to do my homework or else I wouldn't really post that kinda stuff in public

     

    https://static1.squarespace.com/static/5e449c8c3ef68d752f3e70dc/t/5f4cffea23958d79eae1ab23/1598881772432/Amazon_Report_Final.pdf

    https://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2019/03/harvard-professor-says-surveillance-capitalism-is-undermining-democracy/

    https://www.huffpost.com/entry/tech-companies-surveillance-capitalism_n_5da6f608e4b062bdcb1b93f7

     

    https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m000fjdz

     

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    Anybody who believed that Amazon launched that huge catalog with all of those files  really  sourced from 24 bit 96K  and 192K files was delusional. 

     

     

     

     

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    1 hour ago, The Computer Audiophile said:

    not lossy MQA


    I assume Bob S. wouldn’t agree to the term lossy when it comes to MQA 😀


    I wonder if someone will start a DSD streaming streaming service ?

    Or hires multichannel streaming ?

    I suppose DRM will exclude SACD as s streaming service ?

     

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    We have seen already Vinyl-Rip streaming, iirc. Chris stumbled on that service some 2 years ago or so. One early adopter reported lots of PBTHAL rips.

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    @The Computer Audiophile I second that Chris and also second that about Qobuz. Did you and anyone else know that you CAN get TIDAL on your smart TV as an app with all your own playlists/favorites etc-allows me to play TIDAL in my family room in surround sound? It is too bad Qobuz doesn't have the same features-- are you reading this @dmackta it would really be nice Dan

    bobbmd

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    Quote

    if I set Windows 10 to output 24/96 audio and set it to give exclusive access to Amazon Music HD, the music will always be output to my DAC at 24/96. Even though Amazon says the file is 16/44.1 or 24/192 etc.

    @The Computer AudiophileI just set my laptop to output 24/192. Generally people see oversampling and upsampling as beneficial. Is there any reason not to do that? 

     

    I will likely leave Amazon HD for a few reasons:

    1. Their apps are really poor; basic and clumsy

    2. No video content. YouTube Music is great for that

    3. Chromecast Audio streams Amazon as MP3 only, no HD

    4. I can't stream Amazon HD to my better devices (RPi, sMS-200, Playpoint)

     

    Unfortunately no Qobuz in Canada.

     

     

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    As always, Chris and other contributors to this topic, thanks for this article and follow-ups. I am seriously considering dropping Amazon HD and Music because of these issues. To me, the interface is horrible too.

    Off to get the trial offer for Qobuz.

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    5 hours ago, bobbmd said:

    Did you and anyone else know that you CAN get TIDAL on your smart TV as an app with all your own playlists/favorites etc-allows me to play TIDAL in my family room in surround sound? It is too bad Qobuz doesn't have the same features-- are you reading this @dmackta it would really be nice Dan

    bobbmd

    Working on it @bobbmd! Hope to have in the 1st half of 2021. 

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    5 hours ago, audiobomber said:

    @The Computer AudiophileI just set my laptop to output 24/192. Generally people see oversampling and upsampling as beneficial. Is there any reason not to do that? 

     

    I will likely leave Amazon HD for a few reasons:

    1. Their apps are really poor; basic and clumsy

    2. No video content. YouTube Music is great for that

    3. Chromecast Audio streams Amazon as MP3 only, no HD

    4. I can't stream Amazon HD to my better devices (RPi, sMS-200, Playpoint)

     

    Unfortunately no Qobuz in Canada.

     

     

    It's Canada who gets overlooked, too much.  Would a VPN allow Canadians to get Kobuz?

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    2 minutes ago, UELong said:

    It's Canada who gets overlooked, too much.  Would a VPN allow Canadians to get Kobuz?

    It likely depends on other things like billing address but you could try something easy like Tunnel Bear and see. 

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    4 minutes ago, UELong said:

    It's Canada who gets overlooked, too much.  Would a VPN allow Canadians to get Kobuz?

    You can create an account with a VPN but payment will fail with a Canadian credit card or paypal account.

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    2 minutes ago, 992Sam said:

    some time ago, Amazon banned me from being able to do any reviews, and furthermore deleted my prior reviews...  I'd been an Amazon member since 2002 and they did this without any sort of due process and refused to allow me to appeal the ban.. they essentially refused to tell me what I did wrong (and I could not recall anything out of the ordinary) but at the same time they were perfectly happy to keep my membership going so I can spend the thousands of dollars I'd spent thru their stores...

     

    Suffice it to say, I've now been a non-amazon user for over two months and I frankly don't miss it... 90% of what they sell is Walmart grade made in China crap anyway... and it's not that hard to find things I do need that are of that level of quality at a Target, Walmart, or Etsy online store...

     

    So the fact that they have crappy music streaming now just solidifies my lack of desire to return as a customer. 


    That’s what it’s like to do business with them as well. 

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    I am happy to be in complete agreement with Chris' article (shall we say rant?). I took up the free 3 months offer to play around with it: clunky interface, no direct hardware control (sampling rate issues), and dismal search. In short, the same disappointments. 

     

    There is one aspect I do appreciate. By commoditizing the "hi-res" streaming audio market, the potential impact and market share of MQA is challenged!  And that's a good thing, but for different reasons. 

     

    I also belong to the camp of disagreers of misleading or false claims about the superiority and benefits of "re-mastered" audio. I put those in quotes because most people don't want to, or don't have the time to understand what level of care goes into the re-mastering process. Once you understand about the sources and the processing chain (from recording studio to the human ear), one can make better decisions. In theory, I can simply rip a Redbook CD of my favorite music and run it through an upsampling routine, store the output in FLAC 24/96 and call it "re-mastered hi-res bull BS".

     

    Conversely, when you read about Miles Showell's re-mastering project of 8 Rolling Stones albums at Abbey Road Studios (example), you can understand and appreciate what is meant by "re-mastering". But then....I go out and spend $35 on the results in vinyl. 

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    Amazon set up their music service to support their "smart", Alexia speakers...not to cater to a few hanging out in the corner messing around with cables, optical networks, and power supplies.  These little speakers are nifty and sound ok but are meant to be convenience devices stuck in a corner.  Much like Apple, Amazon is not going to mess around to satisfy the few even though Amazon probably has the power and $$ to make the labels create really good masterings of the music.  

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    4 hours ago, jcbenten said:

    Amazon set up their music service to support their "smart", Alexia speakers...not to cater to a few hanging out in the corner messing around with cables, optical networks, and power supplies.  These little speakers are nifty and sound ok but are meant to be convenience devices stuck in a corner.  Much like Apple, Amazon is not going to mess around to satisfy the few even though Amazon probably has the power and $$ to make the labels create really good masterings of the music.  

    Agree. 

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    5 minutes ago, asdf1000 said:

    @The Computer Audiophile what's the status of Amazon Music HD on the Bluesound Node 2i ?

     

    That's not bitperfect with auto sample rate switching, using it's digital output?

    That’s the one product I wish I had here for testing, but I don’t. My guess is that the Node 2i can’t make a lossy stream lossless if you know what I mean. 

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