Is High-Res audio streaming about to go mainstream?

posted on Wednesday, 25th September 2019 by Steve May

Hi-fi  Streaming  High Res Audio 

[#pageName]

Hi-Res audio streaming is on the verge of moving from an audiophile niche to mainstream proposition, says market analyst Futuresource Consulting.

The key reasons for a slow uptake of High-Res audio services have historically been attributed to the lack of awareness, the price of Hi-Res streaming subscriptions and the limited availability of  content. Hardware complexity has also been cited as a deterrent for everyday listeners.

However, Amazon’s launch of an HD music service could be able to change all that. Amazon Music HD, now available in the US, UK, Germany and Japan, undercuts more esoteric rivals and dramatically simplifies the hardware proposition.

The Amazon Music HD tier offers more than 50 million songs in CD quality (16bit/44.1 kHz), and millions more in Ultra High Definition 24bit/192 kHz. The service is priced at £12.99/month for Prime members and £14.99/month for Amazon customers, or an additional £5/month for current subscribers (Individual or Family Plan); compared to around $£19.99/month for Tidal and Qobuz.

“From rock to hip-hop to classical and pop, we believe listening to music at this level of sound will make customers fall in love again with their favourite music and artists,” says Steve Boom, VP of Amazon Music. “As we usher in a new listening experience for our customers and the industry, we’re combining the convenience of streaming with all of the emotion, power, clarity and nuance of the original recordings.” 

UHD albums include Fleetwood Mac’s Rumors and Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue.

“Earth will be changed forever when Amazon introduces high quality streaming to the masses,” adds Neil Young. “This will be the biggest thing to happen in music since the introduction of digital audio 40 years ago.”

Amazon Music HD will play the highest quality audio on a listener’s device that network conditions will support. It’s compatible with a wide variety of devices, including select Echo devices, Fire TV, and Fire Tablets. Amazon Music HD is also compatible with gear from Denon and Marantz with HEOS Built-in, Polk Audio, Definitive Technology, Sonos, McIntosh and Sennheiser.

Similarly, audio manufacturer Devialet and streaming service Qobuz have recently partnered in France to offer for a fixed monthly price (from €39.90 per month, depending on the length of the contract) and a one-off initial payment, a high-end wireless speaker with a CD quality streaming subscription. It’s thought this partnership might help reduce the barrier of adoption for high-quality streaming.

While these two initiatives are mainly focussing on CD quality streaming, they are expected to create awareness about higher audio quality streaming on top of incentivising users to invest in better quality speakers. It should also help incentivise artists and labels to deliver more content in Hi-Res.

Futuresource suggests that Spotify and Apple Music could also follow Amazon’s move into high-quality streaming. While Spotify has consistently rejected the idea so far (offering a maximum quality of 320 kbps), Apple Music, under the Apple Digital Masters banner, could implement a similar service.

In Futuresource’s recent Audio Tech Lifestyles survey, up to half of smart speaker owners surveyed said they want a smart speaker with better sound quality than they currently own, indicating the strong potential for upsell and upgrades.

Steve May

Inside CI Editor Steve May is a freelance technology journalist, who also writes for T3, TechRadar, Home Cinema Choice and ERT (amongst others).

Share this!

Have your say...

Sorry guests can't post comments.

Please Login if your an existing member or Register a new account.

Authors

Latest Posts

Orbitsound adds multiroom soundbar to Airsound range

Orbitsound adds multiroom soundbar to Airsound range

21

Oct

2019

posted by Steve May

Stylish model uses transconductance amplification

More...
.
Video conferencing boom as hardware shipments double

Video conferencing boom as hardware shipments double

18

Oct

2019

posted by Steve May

Shipments accelerate toward 3.6m in 2022 says Futuresource

More...
.