When it comes to High-Fidelity Music Streaming online, you’re pretty much stuck with using Tidal, at the moment, but that may be soon to change, as plans for Amazon to launch such a service could be entering fruition by the end of 2019.
What’s the difference?
The difference is the quality. For those out there, most consider audiophiles, who really appreciate their music by every note, traditional music streaming just isn’t enough. You’re probably used to, by now, hearing the many complaints by people who proclaim ‘it doesn’t sound as good as the CD / record’, which are rather typical complaints it comes to online streaming, which is compressed down to a size workable for slower speeds, or limited bandwidth, internet / storage devices.
A source close to Amazon’s project claims;
It’s a better bit rate, better than CD quality. Amazon is working on it as we speak – they’re currently scoping out how much catalog they can get from everyone and how they’ll ingest it
Normal vs HQ standards like MQA
Most streaming services, like Spotify or Apple Music, stream typically (for subscribers) around the 256kbps level, and may peak around 320 level. The reason why these standards are used, which has been the case since the dawn of the .mp3 file, is size. The size of the files of a 5 minute track, are small enough to deliver the same quality to users on limited data plans, and to be stored in much higher numbers of devices such as Music Players or Smartphones with only a set number of storage.
The problem with this, is quality. Whilst the general consumer, and even audiophiles with most music, won’t be able to discern much difference between these and the CD versions, it is true is when you get to music with a more of a pure intention that you start to notice sizeable differences in the quality being delivered to your ear.
A new standard that is moving music streaming forward is MQA (Master Quality Authenticated), which is currently being used with Tidal after a partnership was arranged for a streaming variant. The MQA standard can achieve a full 96Khz / 24 bit audio quality meaning you’ll get exactly the same audio quality from what is available from a physical audio format like a CD.
Amazon, however, is said to be working on their own HQ audio standard, which makes things very interesting to see what they can deliver and what the quality will be.
It is expected, Amazon will offer this as a more premium Tier on their Amazon Music service, which is now available for free (with ads) on any Alexa supporting device.