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Article: UPDATE: Amazon Music HD Is Still Lossy*


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14 minutes ago, The Computer Audiophile said:

No. The apps for Windows and macOS are incapable of bit perfect. 

 

Their iOS app too...  for now.

 

Whereas you can connect Tidal app + iPhone to an MQA DAC (with Apple Camera Adapter) and MQA will light up on the DAC. Bit perfect is only interrupted on iOS when you get a sound notification. But Do Not Disturb mode solves that.

 

They introduced 'Exclusive Mode' in March this year so someone over there at Amazon Music HD is on the right track.

 

But I can't believe they haven't fixed their apps to do bit perfect yet. Given the resources they would have.

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13 hours ago, The Computer Audiophile said:

No. The apps for Windows and macOS are incapable of bit perfect. 

What about if I am using Amarra SQ+ with the Spotify app streaming to my Benchmark stack using the volume control on the LA4 preamp?

RIG:  MB Pro - Benchmark DAC3 L | Benchmark AHB2 | Paradigm Sig S6 Cables:   Van Damme XLR Canare 4S11 Lifatec optical Wireworld and IsoTek power

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1 minute ago, photonman said:

 

What about if I am using Amarra SQ+ with the Spotify app streaming to my Benchmark stack using the volume control on the LA4 preamp?

My original comment, and this article, reference the Amazon Music HD app and its content. 

 

Spotify is lossy to begin with and the company doesn't offer lossless. If you like it, you're totally golden. Don't worry about it. 

Founder of Audiophile Style

Announcing Polestar | Quick Community Reviews and Ratings

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5 minutes ago, The Computer Audiophile said:

My original comment, and this article, reference the Amazon Music HD app and its content. 

 

Sorry, got off topic a little.  I did try SQ+ with the Amazon Mac app.  It would start out fine but after about 15 minutes of continuous play I would get pops and clicks.  Amarra support looked into it and responded that the Amazon app was CPU intensive from what they saw.  

RIG:  MB Pro - Benchmark DAC3 L | Benchmark AHB2 | Paradigm Sig S6 Cables:   Van Damme XLR Canare 4S11 Lifatec optical Wireworld and IsoTek power

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Just now, photonman said:

Sorry, got off topic a little.  I did try SQ+ with the Amazon Mac app.  It would start out fine but after about 15 minutes of continuous play I would get pops and clicks.  Amarra support looked into it and responded that the Amazon app was CPU intensive from what they saw.  

Ah. There is nothing Amara, or anyone, can do if accepting the audio feed from the Amazon apps. 

Founder of Audiophile Style

Announcing Polestar | Quick Community Reviews and Ratings

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14 hours ago, The Computer Audiophile said:

No. The apps for Windows and macOS are incapable of bit perfect. 

 

OK, so how "imperfect" are they with no digital attenuation in terms of signal/data degradation?  Are they taking a CD or better signal and converting it to MP3 compressed quality?  Or something better but not 100% of the original file quality?  

 

Seems dumb for Amazon to advertise HD and then not deliver it, especially when they charge extra for it and it's not like they do not have the resources to develop an app that delivers as advertised.  

Tone with Soul

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30 minutes ago, 57gold said:

 

OK, so how "imperfect" are they with no digital attenuation in terms of signal/data degradation?  Are they taking a CD or better signal and converting it to MP3 compressed quality?  Or something better but not 100% of the original file quality?  

 

Seems dumb for Amazon to advertise HD and then not deliver it, especially when they charge extra for it and it's not like they do not have the resources to develop an app that delivers as advertised.  

That's the rub. I have no clue where the DSP is taking place or what it's doing. I suppose I could capture a stream and compare it to the lossless version I have and to other services, then make a difference file. 

Founder of Audiophile Style

Announcing Polestar | Quick Community Reviews and Ratings

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25 minutes ago, 57gold said:

 

OK, so how "imperfect" are they with no digital attenuation in terms of signal/data degradation?  Are they taking a CD or better signal and converting it to MP3 compressed quality?  Or something better but not 100% of the original file quality?  

 

Seems dumb for Amazon to advertise HD and then not deliver it, especially when they charge extra for it and it's not like they do not have the resources to develop an app that delivers as advertised.  

Seems dumb? Yes, but only if you think like a normal person and not like a predatory corporation. They advertize "HD" and then include also include regular CD quality as "HD". Of course they have the resources to develop an app that would playback everything bit perfect - it would be trivial for them. But they don't care - why not charge customers for something that isn't quite up to snuff if you can get away with it? Except for people who read sites such as this one, no one even knows it's happening - it's behind the scenes in the app. At some point they will probably improve the app...

As far as SQ, it's probably not a huge degredation. The issue is that if you are paying for audiophile quality and high res, that's what they should be giving you - the hi res file as it exists, not a version altered behind the scenes. 

Main listening (small home office):

Main setup: Surge protector +_iFi  AC iPurifiers >Isol-8 Mini sub Axis Power Conditioning+Isolation>QuietPC Low Noise Server>Roon (Audiolense DRC)>Stack Audio Link II>Kii Control>Kii Three >GIK Room Treatments.

Secondary Listening: Server with Audiolense RC>RPi4 or analog>Matrix Element i Streamer/DAC (XLR)+Schiit Freya>Kii Three .

Bedroom: SBTouch to Cambridge Soundworks Desktop Setup.
Living Room/Kitchen: RPi 3B+ running RoPieee to a pair of Morel Hogtalare. 

All absolute statements about audio are false :)

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2 hours ago, 57gold said:

 

OK, so how "imperfect" are they with no digital attenuation in terms of signal/data degradation?  Are they taking a CD or better signal and converting it to MP3 compressed quality?  Or something better but not 100% of the original file quality?  

Definitely not MP3, the SQ of HD easily beats 320kbps from Google Play and YouTube Music provided you are using an app that allows it. For me that is only via Windows.

 

My Chromecast streamers OTOH do downgrade HD to MP3 quality. My sMS-200 and Playpoint can't play Amazon Music at all.

“The best sounding audio product is the one that exhibits the least audible flaws.”

 Dr. Floyd Toole

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Very good tests. 
personally I have subscriptions with Qobuz, Tidal and Amazon HD. 
I have a Node 2i that I continue to use as a pure streamer and then I pass through a Matrix Audio X-Sabre Pro Dac before entering via Xlr into my amp and electrostatic speakers. 
Amazon HD has a user interface that is awful if you want to have your own artists or albums because it's all based on playlist: Tidal (the best) and Qobuz are much better. 
But the sound quality is really good and my Dac shows 24/96 or 24/192 as it should with high res music. 
 

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On 11/16/2020 at 3:16 PM, KeenObserver said:

As I said before, it is a sad state that as we get closer and closer to the holy grail of being able to reproduce the musical experience, the music suppliers play games with the source music.

It's sad for the labels and musicians as well.  We want you to have the full experience of what we've uploaded to these HD services.  What comes out the other end is not what we've uploaded.  When you upload a 192 file, you expect 192... not 96.  I can say that Qobuz and Tidal have both been very open to direct relationships with labels and make efforts to sell what we upload... if they receive it directly from us, which isn't always the case.

 

Enjoy your listening

Cookie Marenco

Blue Coast Records and Music

https://bluecoastmusic.com/

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Thanks for the great article and the update. Over the past two years we have moved from Apple Music to Amazon to Amazon HD. Everything has been streamed through our Cambridge Azur 851N via an iPad or iPhone...Certainly not ideal and maxes out at the basic CD quality available through Apple. (Seems a shame to not take advantage of our PS Audio Direct Stream Junior, so we are capable of unfolding better sound quality.)

I'm looking for an all in one streamer with a hard drive for our 350 CDs and willing to buy more to be respectful of the artists. (I do not have the chops to run something through a Mac Mini/etc.) Intrigued by Bluesound, but a little hesitant about the sound quality.....

The Bluesound Vault might be the answer, but wonder if I should wait for a NAD version (Thinking NAD is better quality than Bluesound) and better yet an Innuos Mini version. Is the Roon streamer compliant with Amazon?

My question: Is there a list of streamers/companies that have a relationship with Amazon Music? My searches on the inter-web have not been productive.

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I think this is a great series of tests and I very much appreciate the effort undertaken and the clear results posted. I am afraid I do not share the same enthusiasm for Bluesound and would like to explain why. I purchased a NAD M10, a higher end version of the Bluesound Powernode, because of the excellent reviews this unit has received. And I think that overall it is a high value product. Playing music from Tidal or some of the other sources via this unit, audio quality seems to be as high as allowed by the source. But not all music I listen to is available from Tidal or Qobuz. As a result I was really disappointed the unit is not Chromecast capable. Taken by itself, this would not have caused dissatisfaction with Bluesound.

In today's world I expect that a specialty audio company will be accessible to its customer base and will respond reasonably quickly to its customer questions and comments. Neither Nad nor Bluesound offers "Contact us" via their web sites. But they do host a forum. The forum pertaining to Chromecast use on Bluesound, https://support1.bluesound.com/hc/en-us/community/posts/360034972134-Add-Chromecast-support-to-Bluesound-product-line?page=3#community_comment_360013597294 was started more than a year ago and currently has more than 70 posts, many of them asking two basic questions:

1. Can Chromecast be added to Bluesound

2. If one adds a Chromecast dongle is the audio available at other Bluesound devices for multi-room use

As anyone who reads the comments will quickly see, there were no responses from Bluesound staff for more than a year on Question 1. After that long delay, there were first responses from Bluesound that do not appear to be accurate, followed by an explanation that the Bluesound devices do not have adequate memory but without full details. Question 2 has never been answered one way or the other. This lack of transparency and responsiveness has caused me to loose all enthusiasm for Bluesound

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4 hours ago, WVillet said:

I think this is a great series of tests and I very much appreciate the effort undertaken and the clear results posted. I am afraid I do not share the same enthusiasm for Bluesound and would like to explain why. I purchased a NAD M10, a higher end version of the Bluesound Powernode, because of the excellent reviews this unit has received. And I think that overall it is a high value product. Playing music from Tidal or some of the other sources via this unit, audio quality seems to be as high as allowed by the source. But not all music I listen to is available from Tidal or Qobuz. As a result I was really disappointed the unit is not Chromecast capable. Taken by itself, this would not have caused dissatisfaction with Bluesound.

In today's world I expect that a specialty audio company will be accessible to its customer base and will respond reasonably quickly to its customer questions and comments. Neither Nad nor Bluesound offers "Contact us" via their web sites. But they do host a forum. The forum pertaining to Chromecast use on Bluesound, https://support1.bluesound.com/hc/en-us/community/posts/360034972134-Add-Chromecast-support-to-Bluesound-product-line?page=3#community_comment_360013597294 was started more than a year ago and currently has more than 70 posts, many of them asking two basic questions:

1. Can Chromecast be added to Bluesound

2. If one adds a Chromecast dongle is the audio available at other Bluesound devices for multi-room use

As anyone who reads the comments will quickly see, there were no responses from Bluesound staff for more than a year on Question 1. After that long delay, there were first responses from Bluesound that do not appear to be accurate, followed by an explanation that the Bluesound devices do not have adequate memory but without full details. Question 2 has never been answered one way or the other. This lack of transparency and responsiveness has caused me to loose all enthusiasm for Bluesound

 

In my discussion with them they said Chromecast essentially needs the full version of Chrome browser running and the Node 2i can't handle that , alongside everything else it's running. There would be a performance issue that would affect the BluOS experience.

 

They will try to add it if it becomes leaner in terms of resources but i imagine it's a sure bet for a Node 3 or whatever the next hardware will be called ...

 

There is the Cambridge Audio CXN V2 that supports Airplay 2 + Roon + Chromecast Built in + Tidal Connect (coming) + Spotify Connect

 

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19 hours ago, JPK said:

 

I'm looking for an all in one streamer with a hard drive for our 350 CDs and willing to buy more to be respectful of the artists. (I do not have the chops to run something through a Mac Mini/etc.) Intrigued by Bluesound, but a little hesitant about the sound quality.....

The Bluesound Vault might be the answer, but wonder if I should wait for a NAD version (Thinking NAD is better quality than Bluesound) and better yet an Innuos Mini version. Is the Roon streamer compliant with Amazon?

For what it’s worth, I'm really enjoying the Node 2i.  I use it with an external DAC.   While there may not be a list of specific devices, Amazon does provide a listing of “preferred brands” that might help narrow your search a bit: https://www.amazon.com/music/unlimited/why-hd#hd-edu-brands

 

it’s also worth noting that the Node 2i has a USB port on the back of the unit, and can read music files from a flash drive plugged into that port.   So, here's something to consider:

 

First, you'd need to rip copies of your CD's, and save them in a file format that's easy for the device - in this case the Node 2i - to read.  Might take some time, and you'd probably look to a program like dbPowerAmp or similar to help make the ripping process easy. 
 

Next, you'd want to copy/store the files in a safe place, maybe a couple of places like an external drive for backups.  You probably wouldn't to have to go through the effort of ripping those CD's again if something happened to the drive that stores all your ripped CD's.

 

Finally, get a flash drive large enough to hold all your ripped CD's.  I suspect a 150 or so GB USB flash drive would be sufficient for 350 CD's ripped to FLAC, but you might get something a bit bigger in case you want to add more ripped CD's to your collection later on.  Something like this might suffice: https://www.bestbuy.com/site/sandisk-ultra-256gb-usb-3-0-type-a-flash-drive-black/9208267.p?skuId=9208267&ref=212&loc=1&ref=212&loc=DWA&ds_rl=1260402&gclid=CjwKCAiAtej9BRAvEiwA0UAWXqX-U55X9V45Y9Vv0N8iHQb9w4TXwDcd0KCOZsVPdQcSnmaAUdU_lBoCUlAQAvD_BwE&gclsrc=aw.ds

 

Then, plug the flash drive into your Node 2i, follow the instructions to have the Node 2i play music from the flash drive, and enjoy.

 

 

 

 

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Whell....Thanks for the great guidance and I will check out your preferred brands link. Would I be able to avoid the use of a flash drive by going to a Bluesound Vault? Or is there something inherently better by going through the rip via dbPowerAmp/others and separate drive? Thoughts on NAD being a better quality product and maybe await a streamer/drive combo from NAD?

 

Thanks for the great article and the update. Over the past two years we have moved from Apple Music to Amazon to Amazon HD. Everything has been streamed through our Cambridge Azur 851N via an iPad or iPhone...Certainly not ideal and maxes out at the basic CD quality available through Apple. (Seems a shame to not take advantage of our PS Audio Direct Stream Junior, so we are capable of unfolding better sound quality.)

I'm looking for an all in one streamer with a hard drive for our 350 CDs and willing to buy more to be respectful of the artists. (I do not have the chops to run something through a Mac Mini/etc.) Intrigued by Bluesound, but a little hesitant about the sound quality.....

The Bluesound Vault might be the answer, but wonder if I should wait for a NAD version (Thinking NAD is better quality than Bluesound) and better yet an Innuos Mini version. Is the Roon streamer compliant with Amazon?

My question: Is there a list of streamers/companies that have a relationship with Amazon Music? My searches on the inter-web have not been productive.

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