Amazon and Apple have opened a new front in the music streaming wars that leaves the industry leader, Spotify, behind.
Apple Music and Amazon Music both unveiled plans Monday to offer lossless audio streaming, which is CD-quality or higher, for the same price as a regular monthly music subscription.
Amazon Music previously charged $5 extra per month for customers who wanted higher-quality audio. Now, the option will be included with all subscriptions, which cost $9.99 for individuals, $7.99 for individual Amazon Prime members and $14.99 for families, the company said.
Amazon’s price drop came on the very same day rival music streamer Apple announced the launch of lossless audio on Apple Music. Apple customers will also get the option of HD-quality sound starting in June for the same price as a regular subscription, which costs $9.99 for monthly individuals and $14.99 per month for families.
“Apple Music is making its biggest advancement ever in sound quality,” said Oliver Schusser, vice president of Apple Music and the headphone maker Beats.
Monday’s moves leave other streaming companies playing catch-up.
In February, Swedish streamer Spotify revealed plans to launch a high-quality streaming option sometime in 2021, but has not said whether it will charge extra for the service. The company currently offers standard individual streaming plans for $9.99 per month, as well as couples’ accounts for $12.99 and family plans for $15.99.
And Tidal, the struggling streaming service that Jack Dorsey’s Square bought from Jay-Z for a reported $350 million earlier in May, sells a lossless option for $19.99 per month — double what Amazon and Apple plan to charge.
Lossless quality audio files have bit depths of 16 bits and a sample rate of 44.1 kHz, making them equivalent in quality to CDs. Amazon Music currently offers more than 70 million songs in lossless quality, as well as 7 million “Ultra HD” songs with even-higher bit depths of 24 bits and sample rates of up to 192 kHz,
Apple Music plans to eventually make 75 million songs available in lossless quality, and some tracks will be available in up to 24 bit at 192 kHz. However, just 20 million songs will be available in lossless form when the service launches in June, according to The Verge.
Some audiophiles may find Apple’s embrace of high-quality audio ironic. The company introduced the iPod in 2001, helping to popularize low-quality MP3 audio files that could fit more easily into pocketable devices. Many audio-quality-obsessed listeners hated MP3s, and rock icon Neil Young launched an ill-fated iPod competitor called Pono in 2014 that folded three years later.
Now, technology is catching up to the audiophiles. In 2019, Young called Amazon’s introduction of lossless streaming “the biggest thing to happen in music since the introduction of digital audio.”