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Audiophile music service sound-off: Tidal HiFi and Amazon Music HD


Tidal HiFi is a great service and may have come first, but Amazon Music HD's advantages are tough to overcome.

Amazon Music HD

Best value

From $13 per month at Amazon


  • Millions of high bitrate songs
  • Great deal for Amazon Prime members
  • Fastest-growing music service


  • Number of Amazon Music options is confusing
  • Need higher-end speakers and a tuned ear to appreciate

Amazon Music HD offers millions of songs at up to 10 times the bitrate of standard-definition services, and double that of other high-definition services like Tidal. Pair it with a high-end speaker like the Echo Studio and special pricing for Prime members further sweetens the pot.

Tidal HiFi

The OG option

From $20 per month at Tidal


  • Works on Echo and Google/Nest speakers
  • Artist exclusives and concert live streams
  • Discounts for military and first responders


  • No ad-supported or free options on Tidal
  • No song lyrics available

Tidal was one of the first, if not the first, music services to provide high-quality, lossless audio over streaming. While it may not technically have the highest bit rates per second, it does have an impressive catalog of lossless high fidelity music and high definition videos.

Tidal and Amazon offer a huge music catalog at a quality unmatched by the other top streaming services like Apple Music, Spotify, YouTube Music, or Pandora. Both of these high-quality services stream music at a high bitrate, and the higher the bitrate, the smoother and more natural sounding the music is said to be.

Now that we know where they stand versus the rest of the competition, let's take a look at how these quality streamers stack up against each other in terms of specs, options, and price.

HD vs HiFi

Even though we're mainly concerned here with the higher-quality music plans, it is important to note that both Amazon Music and Tidal have cheaper, standard-definition options available as well. These plans may be perfect for you if you're not an audiophile or music nerd, or if you don't want to pay more than you have to for a streaming music service.

Note that the Amazon Music plans are subsidized if you are a Prime member. Prime memberships run from $119 per year for a standard membership, though students, the elderly, and members of the military are offered lower rates. If you are not a Prime member, the prices of each of Amazon's music plans are closer to, if not the same, as Tidal's prices.

Amazon Music Tidal
Standard Audio Quality 320 kbps 320 kbps
Ad-Supported/Free Options Yes No
Individual Plan From $8 per month $10 per month
Single-Device Plan* From $4 per month No
Student Plan From $1 per month $5 per month
Military Plan No $6 per month
First-Responder Plan No $6 per month
Family Plan $15 per month $15 per month

Amazon offers single device plans for its Music Unlimited service that are intended to be used on only one Echo device.

Now for the comparison you came here for, let's take a look at the highest-quality music plans available from Amazon and Tidal.

While Amazon offers HD music plans for individuals and families, Tidal features these options, as well as hi-fi plans for students, military, and first responders.

Amazon Music HD Tidal HiFi
Number of Songs > 50 million in HD
Millions in Ultra HD
> 60 million
High Definition Audio Quality Up to 850 kbps for "HD"
Up to 3730 kbps for "Ultra HD"
Up to 1411 kbps
Android App Yes Yes
Desktop App Yes, Mac and Windows Yes, Mac and Windows
Web Client Yes Yes
Alexa Compatible Yes Yes
Google Assistant Compatible Limited to play/pause controls Yes
Podcast Support No Yes
Music Videos No Yes
Device Lyrics Yes No
Individual Plan From $13 per month $20 per month
Student Plan No $10 per month
Military Plan No $12 per month
First-Responder Plan No $12 per month
Family Plan From $18 per month $30 per month

Prime package

Amazon Prime membership has its advantages, including subsidized pricing on premium services like Amazon Music Unlimited and Amazon Music HD. Not only can you save around six or seven bucks a month on an individual HD plan as compared to Tidal HiFi, but the family HD plan is over ten bucks cheaper. Not bad at all, especially if you plan on paying for Prime anyway. Amazon Music Unlimited is also the fastest-growing streaming music service around, and with all of the options and pricing plans available, it's easy to understand why it's catching on so quickly.

It's easy to understand why Amazon Music Unlimited is catching on so quickly.

Amazon Music HD (itself a premium version of Amazon Music Unlimited) technically has three tiers of music, including a catalog of 50 million songs available for playback at a standard compressed 320 kbps, or a high definition lossless audio up to 850 kbps (over twice the bitrate of most standard services). The final tier tops out at 3,730 kbps of lossless audio, though unlike Tidal's HiFi collection, this tier is limited to what Amazon says is "millions of songs."

Amazon Music HD was made to work well with its Alexa voice assistant, and even helped to spawn the creation of an entirely new class of Echo in the Echo Studio smart speaker. As someone who has an Echo Studio in his home, I can vouch for how good music sounds on the device, though my colleagues and I remain a bit skeptical that most people would appreciate (or care about) the differences that the better speaker and higher bitrates bring.

Even though Amazon provides customers with a great deal of choice by offering so many pricing options and music quality tiers, this variety is also a point of critique for the growing service. As someone who covers Amazon products and services for a living, even I have trouble keeping up with all of the options Amazon Music offers


Tidal wave

Tidal music began life in Norway 2014, where it started to build up a loyal fan following thanks to its commitment to high quality, high-fidelity streaming music. Later that same year, media mogul and rapper Jay-Z paid over $50 million to acquire the service to promote high-quality music and to provide a platform that was intended to give artists more control of their music and greater revenue opportunities. Tidal claims Rihanna and Alicia Keys as co-owners, and according to music media sources like Variety and Digital Music News, the service indeed does pay out more in royalties than most of the other big players in streaming music, including Amazon.

Until Amazon Music HD came on the scene, Tidal HiFi was the runaway leader when it came to high-definition lossless audio streaming.

Until Amazon Music HD came on the scene in mid-2019, Tidal HiFi was the runaway leader when it came to high-definition lossless audio streaming. At up to 1,411 kbps, its streams offer more than four times the average bitrate of the competition. Amazon has closed the gap, offering "HD" quality bitrates just under this level, and has even taken the lead with it's "Ultra HD" tier, which more than doubles Tidal's best.

Tidal HiFi is not just about bitrates, however. One of the service's key selling points is the many exclusives, live performances, and other special events that it promises its artists and customers. It definitely has the "cool" factor thanks to its ownership and direct association with a variety of music artists, which is an area where Amazon is struggling to gain relevance.

Tidal also works on Amazon Echo, Sonos, and Google/Nest smart speakers, and it plays well with both Amazon's Alexa and the Google Assistant. That's a level of compatibility that Amazon Music HD can't match, as it does not really work with Google products or services.


Even though Tidal HiFi offers a variety of pricing tiers for groups like students, the military, and first responders, it remains substantially more expensive than Amazon's HD plans. And unlike Amazon, Spotify, and Pandora, among others, Tidal does not offer any ad-supported or free tiers (neither does Apple Music for that matter). This is ostensibly in service to supporting and paying artists more per song stream, but it no doubt turns away a sizeable chunk of prospective listeners,

One last thing about the app experience that may bother some is the lack of support for in-app lyrics. Whether you like to sing along to your music karaoke-style, or just want to know what the heck your favorite mumble rapper is saying, you're out of luck when it comes to Tidal.

The best for most

I'm going to go out on a limb here and guess that many of our readers are Amazon Prime members, and if so, the discounts available make Amazon Music HD tough to pass up. Even if you're not a Prime member, the price is still $5 per month cheaper than Tidal HiFi for an individual account, and $10 per month cheaper for the family plan. That's $60-$120 per year! Amazon Music HD also offers a higher quality tier of music that is more than double the bitrate of Tidal HiFi. Tidal offers some nice plans for the military and first responders, but for my money, Amazon is the way to go.

Amazon Music HD

Best value

From $13 per month at Amazon

If you're an Amazon Prime member, this makes the most sense

Not only is Amazon Music HD cheaper for Prime members, but it offers a higher ceiling for high-definition audiophiles to enjoy.

Tidal HiFi

OG for outstanding audio

The most options for high-def music

From $20 per month at Tidal

If you're someone who enjoys quality music, then you can't go wrong with Tidal for your music streaming needs. The service features over 60 million tracks while offering quite a few exclusive tracks and music videos.

Original Article


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