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Amazon launches new lossless music service
Old 17th September 2019
  #1
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FabienTDR's Avatar
 

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Amazon launches new lossless music service

Interesting news.

https://www.theverge.com/2019/9/17/2...6aBu-2FuE_2ecM
Old 18th September 2019
  #2
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It is interesting. It's too bad CD Baby and Tunecore have been requiring independent bands/artists/labels to stick to 16-bit/44.1k submissions all these years.

There could be so much more material in 24-bit/high sample rate form.

But this is at least a nice step in the right direction.
Old 18th September 2019
  #3
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I think this is great. It will force Spotify and Apple to offer lossless and aggregators to (hopefully) get their act together with format handling.

It's nice to see a service with a decent market share finally adopting FLAC and 16/44.1 is the best delivery format IMHO. I don't think there's a compelling argument to go beyond CD specs until people start listening to hi fi systems again and we stop pushing music into the top 4 bits of the available dynamic range.

Last edited by SmoothTone; 20th September 2019 at 10:43 AM.. Reason: Post needed mastering
Old 18th September 2019
  #4
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This is all great and going in the right direction but unless I'm missing something, the desktop music app doesn’t allow you to choose a specific audio device, and just plays out of whatever you have selected as your computer’s output.

It would be great to see Amazon update the app so that you can choose a dedicated audio interface, and if the app would force the sample rate to change on the device.
Once they figure that out on the desktop app, it will definitely be a TIDAL killer if it’s not already.

The nice thing about TIDAL is that it will let you use any audio interface, and it will force the sample rate change as needed.
Old 18th September 2019
  #5
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This is happening because of 5G. I've always thought most of the streaming services were just waiting for more data bandwidth before bothering with lossless. It's finally coming. Amazon doing this will open the floodgates and lossless audio will come 'streaming' through!
Old 18th September 2019
  #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Trakworx View Post
This is happening because of 5G. I've always thought most of the streaming services were just waiting for more data bandwidth before bothering with lossless. It's finally coming. Amazon doing this will open the floodgates and lossless audio will come 'streaming' through!
I don't think so with 5G, next gen. networks will be fine of course, you can stream or cache the stuff faster to mobile devices, but current technology isn't bottleneck.
I will repeat during every conversation about necessary lossy compression for audio streaming, that video streaming (Youtube, Netflix, Twitch, HBO Go), which is widely used by many people nowadays, requires much higher bandwidth that such audio.. (lossless streaming of CD rate stuff is 800 kbit in average).

The other thing is, mobile devices aren't necessarily right platform, where you can expect any apparent difference compared to current lossy stuff.
Those devices (phones, tablets) usually sucks, there is weak chip headphone DAC/amplifier, everything is optimized for power consumption also lot of people use BT phones, which means another form of lossy compression on top of distribution codec.
Of course, I'm talking in average, you can certainly find some enthusiasts with external DACs/amps connected to their phones, but that's tiny minority.
I expect, the only users who will be willing to pay some upcharge are only those and the ones, who has some more serious standalone listening setup.

5G is still at its infancy, it will take some time, until it will get some broader share among end user devices (even recently launched iPhone 11 doesn't have it) and operators has to build their networks for coverage of larger areas. Maybe in specific countries like South Corea will bit faster adoption. Anyway, I'm mentioning that, Amazon couldn't rely on 5G during this service launch, because nowadays it's just really tiny part of users, which can use that.

Michal
Old 18th September 2019
  #7
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Adam Dempsey's Avatar
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by msmucr View Post
I don't think so with 5G, next gen. networks will be fine of course, you can stream or cache the stuff faster to mobile devices, but current technology isn't bottleneck.
I will repeat during every conversation about necessary lossy compression for audio streaming, that video streaming (Youtube, Netflix, Twitch, HBO Go), which is widely used by many people nowadays, requires much higher bandwidth that such audio..
Exactly.

Quote:
Originally Posted by msmucr View Post
also lot of people use BT phones, which means another form of lossy compression on top of distribution codec.
Exactly again. Although it's another illustration of the need (and the ability) to minimize, if not avoid, the so easily cumulative lossy degradation.

MP3 was never meant to be further processed.
Old 18th September 2019
  #8
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5G is already showing up on my iPhone 8 top left corner of the screen in many locations around where I live. And it's coming soon to a lot more places. My point is that Amazon is leaning forward into the future of high bandwidth mobile streaming, and others will follow in time. 5G among other advancements is part of what's driving that.

Currently I only get high res music streaming when connected to wifi. 5G will change that and Amazon knows it.
Old 18th September 2019
  #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Trakworx View Post
5G is already showing up on my iPhone 8 top left corner of the screen in many locations around where I live. And it's coming soon to a lot more places. My point is that Amazon is leaning forward into the future of high bandwidth mobile streaming, and others will follow in time. 5G among other advancements is part of what's driving that.
Hmm.. no current iPhone has 5G modem, that's rumored to launch next year. Lookup specs for those phones and some articles.
There are just handful of phones (usually from asian vendors) with those modems.
https://5g.co.uk/phones/#What%205G%2...0coming%20soon

What you likely see is IMO stupid shady marketing with incorrect labelling of quick LTE networks as 5G or 5G Evolution.. some carriers unfortunately does that (also was in Europe with 4G networks, which really wasn't 4G).
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/5G#Mar...on-5G_services
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/AT%26T...ork_technology

Quote:
Currently I only get high res music streaming when connected to wifi. 5G will change that and Amazon knows it.
You should definitely get lossless streaming easily with LTE networks, as I've said CD ~ 0.8 Mbps, 24/96 ~ 3-3.5 Mbps. The latter is about the rate, you'd stream from Youtube with standard 1080/30p stuff.
Just for the comparison, at my phone I'm having from 50-70 Mbps at current LTE network in cities and about 20-30 Mbps at areas with worse coverage.
Should be absolutely no issue with that and necessity to align or wait for adoption of 5G technology.
Of course, that can differ by the country, because operators there maybe decided to skip technology steps in certain areas, so even current LTE sucks or it's actually only 3G and they will jump directly to 5G networks.
Even worse, they can sell fast internet with LTE, but don't have proper backbone network, so although you have quick connection to base station, you'll achieve just fraction of nominal speed due to excessive aggregation of connected users.

But I've got your point and in general solid coverage broadband networking is required for any kind of such business. I can't guess, how is that in all parts of USA, but for simplicity about bandwidth..
Anyone who can fluently watch SD video can stream CD quality, who can watch HD video, can stream 24/96 lossless.

Michal
Old 18th September 2019
  #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Adam Dempsey View Post
Exactly again. Although it's another illustration of the need (and the ability) to minimize, if not avoid, the so easily cumulative lossy degradation.

MP3 was never meant to be further processed.
Hi,

Although this "stacked" compression might apply under certain conditions, in my limited experience, it doesn't matter so much in a sense, that one layer of compression in BT can be enough to mitigate difference between good lossy and lossless source.
By limited experience, I've meant some test with quite capable BT receiver (Earstudio) at decent reproduction system. With different sources and BT codecs to direct streaming via USB (the receiver can dabble as class compliant audio interface)
Basically I felt, if I stream over BT (no matter of which codec.. AAC from Apple phone, APTX, SBC from Android). I couldn't guess differences between lossless and lossy source. It mostly affected center imaging and focus of bass attack.. which was attribute that enabled differentiation between FLAC, MP3 and AAC sources. It was pretty interesting, when I find some time, I might repeat that test and capture it back via ADC.

So I've mean it in bit different context, that they likely don't sell so much of those more expensive lossless subscriptions to mobile users, because there will be likely small or non-existing perceptible difference for majority of people.
Not just because of BT or generally crappy headphones, but also because of way, how people consume music from mobile phone.. TBH personally I don't need anything more than AAC, when walking dogs, going to work in noisy bus or street... someone driving car.. etc. I'm perfectly happy with what I have there
So that lossless option is IMO most attractive for home listeners, which leads me back to 5G.. Users can of course use 5G at home from some mobile modem, but most of people already has other (like cable, ADSL.. maybe local WiFi provider etc.) and perfectly sufficient broadband connection at home and doesn't have to wait for 5G.

Anyway, I definitely think, it's the right step from so big company like Amazon. Hopefully there will be sufficient support and ecosystem around that service.. Not just better PC or Mac app, but also 3rd party integration with support from various HiFi streamers, appliances, receivers etc. That's sometimes dealbreaker for people, who don't want to operate computer, when listening music.

Michal
Old 18th September 2019
  #11
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S_mask's Avatar
 

It still takes 8 minutes and 20 seconds for the sunlight to reach us.
However, they were 'streaming' six channels of 24 / 96k music with video feed already in 2000 (almost 19 years ago, to the day) using Internet2 and Mytek converters. Even though that pipeline's for universities, considering the intervening time, progress has been at a snail's pace. We can still barely share uncompressed 16 / 44.1k stereo! Moore's Law please...
Attached Thumbnails
Amazon launches new lossless music service-aes_109.jpg  
Old 20th September 2019
  #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by msmucr View Post
You should definitely get lossless streaming easily with LTE networks
Yes under ideal conditions or in a lab it's possible to get that much data streaming with LTE, but in actual practice our connections aren't that reliable. We've all experienced YouTube videos freezing while buffering when on LTE. In the real world the music streaming sites are aware of that so they automatically give us lossy audio unless we're on wifi. At least that's how several streaming services have been doing it to me here in California, for the time being, but I'm confident that will change when 5G takes over, and even if 5G isn't really up and running yet, the towers are already being built. Amazon is just the front edge of the coming wave IMO.
Old 21st September 2019
  #13
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finleysound's Avatar
 

It’s awesome that Amazon doesn’t charge extra for their Ultra HD (24-bit) library like the other streamers do.
Old 22nd September 2019
  #14
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loving it so far-- truly vast selection, good desktop app, not nearly as obtuse as tidal.
i do wish there was an option to play all "Ultra HD" tracks as "HD"-- so if I make a playlist with a mix of HD and UHD tracks, I don't have to go switch the SR on my soundcard back and forth.
next up... a lossless wireless audio protocol please!
Old 23rd September 2019
  #15
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I spent some time comparing Tidal and Amazon HD, I’m surprised out how different they sound, even when streaming at the same quality. Tidal is definitely louder, but even when volume matched Tidal has significantly more low end and a bit more punch. I was expecting them to sound identical except for loudness normalization differences.

I do like the interface one Amazon better. Sometimes Amazon wouldn’t play songs at the maximum available resolution, even though I have 100 Mbps internet and top tier modem/router.

Anybody else compared Tidal and Amazon HD yet?
Old 24th September 2019
  #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BrentA View Post
I spent some time comparing Tidal and Amazon HD, I’m surprised out how different they sound, even when streaming at the same quality. Tidal is definitely louder, but even when volume matched Tidal has significantly more low end and a bit more punch. I was expecting them to sound identical except for loudness normalization differences.

I do like the interface one Amazon better. Sometimes Amazon wouldn’t play songs at the maximum available resolution, even though I have 100 Mbps internet and top tier modem/router.

Anybody else compared Tidal and Amazon HD yet?
TIDAL's "highest" available quality is their bull**** "MQA" setting which no serious MA would use for reference. I've not tried Amazon HD I'm sure they'd sound identical if you set both at 44.1khz/16bit.
Old 24th September 2019
  #17
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intersting - not sure the world really needs this though...
Old 24th September 2019
  #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Hippocratic Mastering View Post
TIDAL's "highest" available quality is their bull**** "MQA" setting which no serious MA would use for reference. I've not tried Amazon HD I'm sure they'd sound identical if you set both at 44.1khz/16bit.
Tidal's MQA indeed is bull**** and close to a scam. For some technical info and background have a look here:

https://audiophilestyle.com/ca/revie...cautions-r701/

Also check out the MQA-thread on this very board to get an idea what mastering engineers have to say about it.

MQA

MQA is a fake high-rez codec piggybacking some DRM provisions. It never gained any traction in the marketplace and with Amazon going >16/44 it's dead anyways.
Old 24th September 2019
  #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Hippocratic Mastering View Post
TIDAL's "highest" available quality is their bull**** "MQA" setting which no serious MA would use for reference. I've not tried Amazon HD I'm sure they'd sound identical if you set both at 44.1khz/16bit.
They don’t. That’s the point of my post.
Old 24th September 2019
  #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BrentA View Post
They don’t. That’s the point of my post.
Have you recorded the output of both services into a DAW and done a null test?
Old 24th September 2019
  #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Hippocratic Mastering View Post
Have you recorded the output of both services into a DAW and done a null test?
No, I just listened. The differences were pretty apparent to me. I’m not sure how well it would work to record the outputs and do a null test because Tidal is quite a bit louder, so I think even different levels hitting the converter might cause them not to null, but i’m not sure.

Have you considered actually comparing them before speaking with such conviction that they can’t possibly be different? I was expecting them to sound identical too, but they don’t.
Old 24th September 2019
  #22
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I don't have an Amazon HD account, so I can't. I'm not going to pay for one just to win an argument on Gearslutz.

Do they both play at different levels when volume normalisation (that's what TIDAL calls it, not sure abut Amazon) is turned off and the outputs are turned to full? Interesting, if so.
Old 24th September 2019
  #23
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I haven’t. I think only the newest version of the Tidal app has the ability to turn on/off normalization and I’m not sure if my Tidal has auto updated to that or not.

The differences could be in the different normalization algorithms they are using, different SRC, or something else. Maybe different masters were submitted for CD and hi res and Tidal is using th CD master while Amazon is using the hi res and then converting it to 16 44.1. There’s a lot of possibilities and I’m wondering as well.

Again, I’d be interested to hear about experiences from other people who have taken the time to compare the two services.
Old 24th September 2019
  #24
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BrentA View Post
I think only the newest version of the Tidal app has the ability to turn on/off normalization. I haven’t updated to that yet so I’m not sure.
No, you've always been able to turn it off. I've had a TIDAL account for a good few years now and that option has always been in place, at least on the Mac desktop app.
Old 24th September 2019
  #25
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Hippocratic Mastering View Post
I don't have an Amazon HD account, so I can't. I'm not going to pay for one just to win an argument on Gearslutz.
For those interested, Amazon has a free 90 day trial.
Old 24th September 2019
  #26
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At least on Mac, the TIDAL desktop app has never had normalization until last week. It was always full scale. The iOS app has had normalization for awhile.

Last week they finally added a normalization option to the desktop app. I think it was ON by default. Then there was a bug that made your setting not be remembered. The update on the 23rd fixed that.

RELEASE NOTES ATTACHED:
Attached Thumbnails
Amazon launches new lossless music service-screen-shot-2019-09-24-3.33.19-pm.jpg  
Old 25th September 2019
  #27
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Hippocratic Mastering View Post
No, you've always been able to turn it off. I've had a TIDAL account for a good few years now and that option has always been in place, at least on the Mac desktop app.
Just to correct myself here, as Justin has rightly pointed out you haven't always been able to turn volume normalisation on on the desktop app. I have always wanted it off anyway, so never checked until TIDAL accidentally kept turning it on - there's no use having it on in the studio.
Old 25th September 2019
  #28
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hopefully jeff bezos will pony up and pay artists a decent rate, after all wih a net worth of 170 billion, why not?

yes i love the sound of 24-96 HD Audio, and super fast internet coupled with generous buffering...

kudos, we’ll see how it goes...

jt
Old 27th September 2019
  #29
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jerry Tubb View Post
hopefully jeff bezos will pony up and pay artists a decent rate, after all wih a net worth of 170 billion, why not?

jt
lol

https://youtu.be/H27rfr59RiE?t=55
Old 2nd October 2019
  #30
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So I went back and compared Tidal and Amazon HD again. I updated my Tidal to the latest version so I was able to turn off loudness normalization. Turned normalization off on Amazon as well and listened to the same material at 16/44.1 on both. I stand by my previous statements. Without a doubt, Tidal is much louder than Amazon. It also has more low end. Sounds like it has a bit more punch and may be more compressed as well but I'm not 100% sure about that. But bottom line is they sound quite a bit different.

I'm pretty surprised at the difference and I'm curious what the reason for it is. I would have expected both to sound the same. This is using the desktop apps for each service.
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