Now that both platforms offer lossless audio, we compare Amazon Music vs Apple Music to see which one you should invest your money in.
The music industry is ever-changing, and music streaming apps are likewise constantly evolving. And Amazon Music and Apple Music are great examples of those that have made some significant upgrades in the last few months.
In May 2021, Amazon Music announced that it would offer lossless audio to all its Amazon Music Unlimited subscribers. Similarly, in June 2021, Apple Music also announced the addition of Spatial Audio and Lossless Audio as part of their paid plans.
This is excellent news for people who are already committed to either one of these services. But for those still on the fence, the upgrades might make choosing between the two even more difficult.
No worries, though! We’ve reviewed all the different features on both apps to make it easier for you to decide. So let’s dive in!
Amazon Music is a music streaming platform owned and developed by Amazon. Then called ‘Amazon MP3’, the service was launched in 2007. At the time, it had only 2 million songs and 180,000 artists in its catalog and was considered the first digital music download store to offer “DRM-free music”. This gave music consumers an easy way to buy MP3 files from record labels like EMI Music and Universal Music Group.
As of March 2022, Amazon Music has over 90 million songs in its catalog and over 55 million subscribers.
Before Apple Music, there was iTunes. In its heyday, it was a “one-stop-shop” music app that allowed music fans to purchase songs instead of entire albums. It had a huge impact on music consumption in the early 2000s until several design issues bogged it down.
To streamline the convoluted mess that iTunes had become, Apple Music was created and launched in June 2015 in 100 countries. It offers a combination of music streaming and 24-hour radio programming, bolstered by Beats Music, which it acquired in 2014 along with Beats Electronics. The service attained 11 million subscribers in its first year.
Pricing & Plans
Apple Music and Amazon Music share a few things in common when it comes to their paid plans. Check out this handy table to see how both platforms’ paid plans compare and differ:
|Apple Music||No||$9.99/month or $99 a year||$14.99/month||$4.99/month||N/A|
|Amazon Music||Yes||Prime members: $7.99/month or $79 a year|
|Single Device Plan:
Both platforms offer the following premium features for subscribers:
- 3-month free trial for new subscribers.
- Full access to all music and video content.
- Lossless, high-resolution audio.
- Ad-free, unlimited playback.
- Option to purchase music.
- Option to import local files.
- Option to download songs for offline listening.
- Live feature – livestreams (Amazon Music) and radio stations (Apple Music).
There are also key factors that set these two apps apart. If you’re keen on getting the better deal, it’d be helpful to keep the following points in mind:
Free plan availability
Apple Music doesn’t offer a free plan. However, new subscribers can take the Individual Premium plan for a spin on a generous 3-month free trial. On the other hand, Amazon Music offers a free plan that comes with a limited selection of top playlists and stations. It also offers a 3-month free trial for new users.
Apple Music’s plan offerings typically consist of only Individual, Family, and Student subscriptions. In contrast, you’ll get more from Amazon Music, which offers additional discounted plans for existing Prime subscribers. You can also avail of its more budget-friendly Single Device Plan that lets you stream from any eligible Echo or Fire TV device.
Apple does offer podcasts, but you won’t find them on the Music app. You’ll actually need an entirely separate app (Apple Podcasts) to access them. Amazon Music, on the other hand, offers podcasts conveniently within the app. However, its catalog amounts to over 70,000 titles only, which is markedly less than Apple’s 2 million.
Amazon Music is definitely the more obvious choice in this scenario, especially if you’re on a budget.
If you’re already a Prime subscriber, you can avail yourself of everything Amazon Music has to offer for $2 less. And if you aren’t a Prime subscriber, you can still take advantage of Amazon Music’s free plan or Single Device plan, which is $6 cheaper than Apple Music’s Individual plan.
Who Has the Better Content?
Both platforms have extensive libraries and offer more than just music tracks. But in terms of amount and variety, which delivers best? Let’s find out.
Amount of music content
Both Amazon Music and Apple Music have over 90 million songs in their respective libraries. And with licensing deals locked down with major record labels, you won’t have trouble finding all the top hits and big names in music on either platform.
Amazon Music is at par with Apple Music in terms of the amount of music available, but they definitely emphasize ‘popular’ content more. And that isn’t really surprising for a streaming app that was once described as a “mainstream music-streaming service for the mainstream music fan”.
As such, you’ll find much fewer categories available in Amazon Music’s ‘Search’ section. There are a total of 12 categories that cover the most popular genres and feature playlists like Pop Culture, Rap Rotation, and All Hits. The playlists are also ranked according to what’s popular among users of the app.
But that doesn’t mean Amazon Music is totally devoid of independent or niche music. You’ll just have to know what you’re looking for and actively search for it, as they aren’t prominently featured on the app.
Thanks to impeccable content curation, there’s much to explore on Apple Music.
In the ‘Browse’ section, the bulk of Apple Music’s music offerings is spread out over a hundred categories. Some of them are very distinct like Indigenous Australia and Kayōkyoku, which is basically early post-war Japanese pop. Each category is filled with playlists that further flesh out the genre, leading users to some interesting deep dives.
If your tastes lean more towards independent or niche, there are just as many options to choose from. Apple Music’s indie section is a deep well of content containing artist playlists, video playlists, and stations. Its Indie Essentials section alone already features about 40 playlists, and that only makes up a small part of the category.
Other streaming apps offer podcasts and audiobooks in addition to music. Unfortunately, that isn’t the case for Apple, which offers neither on its Music app. Listeners looking for such content will need to download Apple Podcasts or Apple Books. On the other hand, Amazon Music does come with podcasts, but those looking for audiobooks will have to turn to Amazon’s Audible.
Beyond podcasts and audiobooks, both platforms still manage to offer their own unique brand of non-music content.
As mentioned earlier, Amazon Music hosts about 70,000 podcast titles in the app alongside its music collection. The section covers a decent amount of genres, from Arts and Business to Science and True Crime.
Amazon Music also offers video content, though noticeably less than what Apple Music offers. Listeners can check out music video playlists curated by genre or year, behind-the-scenes content, live performances, and exclusive sessions like ‘Prime Day Show’.
There are some interviews available, such as Adrian Younge’s Invisible Blackness, but other than that, the talk show type format is not as regularly or frequently produced as it is on Apple Music.
One pretty cool feature is Amazon Music’s Live feature, which is only accessible via the mobile app. It allows musical artists from anywhere in the world to broadcast their Twitch livestreams through the app for Amazon Music subscribers to watch.
Apple Music may not have podcasts, but it does have a lot of video content to offer. Enough to warrant a category of its own in the app’s ‘Browse’ section. Here you’ll find playlists dedicated to music videos, stylized lyric videos, and even live performances. Subscribers can also watch a 24-hour music video stream via Apple Music TV, a new feature launched in late 2020.
Videos aside, what Apple Music truly specializes in is radio. The app features three flagship stations – Music 1, Music Hits, and Music Country – all of which broadcast live to 165 countries. Apple Music’s radio experience is so comprehensive that listeners can even tune in to international stations to get updates on news and sports.
Yes, both platforms have a lot of music to offer. But Apple Music presents its content in a way that feels like you’re getting more than just the mainstream genres.
Looking at the ‘Browse’ section alone, there’s a conscious effort to expose the listener to as many facets of the main music genres as possible, from as many places as possible. For instance, you’re not just getting ‘Pop’, you’re also getting ‘Russian Pop’, ‘60s Pop’, ‘J-Pop’, etc. And in doing so, the listener has a better way of accessing and navigating all the content Apple Music has to offer.
Whereas with Amazon, you have a very general overview of music genres available, and you essentially have to know what you’re looking for if you want to go outside of that selection.
In terms of content variety, both platforms have music videos and live performances. However, you get way more with Apple Music Radio and all the interviews, talk shows, and exclusive artist content it offers.
Apple Music offers four audio quality settings, while Amazon Music provides up to five. Both also offer Lossless and High-Resolution Lossless audio as well. But before we go into that, let’s take a look at each platform’s audio quality settings and their corresponding bitrate:
|Audio quality setting||Apple Music(AAC, ALAC)||Amazon Music(AAC/MP3*, FLAC)|
|High Efficiency / Best Available||depends on connection||depends on connection|
|Data Saver||N/A||24-96 kbps|
|Standard||N/A||Up to 320 kbps|
|Lossless / HD||Up to 24-bit/48 kHz||Up to 16-bit/44.1 kHz|
|High-Res Lossless / Ultra HD||Up to 24-bit/192 kHz||Up to 24-bit/192 kHz|
Standard and high-quality audio
Apple Music also streams in its native AAC format and consumes about 60 to 120 MB of data per hour. On the other hand, Amazon Music doesn’t explicitly state what format it streams in, but it’s likely either the usual AAC or MP3 formats. Its ‘Standard’ setting consumes about 150 MB of data an hour, so the ‘Data Saver’ setting will be a welcome option for those who want to conserve their data plans.
That said, based on my experience, playback on both platforms is generally smooth with hardly any lag between songs on these settings.
Both Apple Music and Amazon Music stream high-resolution lossless audio at 24-bit/192 kHz, with the former using ALAC format, and the latter streaming in FLAC format. However, there’s a slight difference between their ‘Lossless’ and ‘HD’ quality settings, which stream at 24-bit/48 kHz and 16-bit/44.1 kHz respectively.
With higher audio quality and higher data consumption, you can also expect some playback issues if your network connection isn’t up to speed. In my case, I definitely encountered some lag and buffering of almost 3-4 seconds on days when my internet wasn’t cooperating.
Is there a significant difference between 24-bit/48 kHz and 16-bit/44.1 kHz?
The values of 24-bit and 16-bit refer to bit depth, which tells you the resolution of the audio data. The higher the value, the more detailed the captured audio is. The other two values – 48 kHz and 44.1 kHz – are sample rates. These refer to the number of times the original audio signal is sampled. Again, the higher the value, the more accurate the sound reproduction.
So, yes, there is a difference between 24-bit/48 kHz and 16-bit/44.1 kHz, but it’s so minuscule that we just won’t be able to hear it.
Here’s why: Audio sampled at 44.1 kHz covers frequencies of up to 22 kHz. And 48 kHz goes even higher by capturing frequencies of up to 24 kHz. To put things in perspective, the limit of human hearing is 20 kHz, making everything beyond that frequency no longer audible to us.
So, what’s the point of higher sample rates?
Well, one benefit has to do with your hardware. Audio files sampled at 44.1 kHz use up less space and less CPU power on your device, making it easier to store and share. This is also the standard sample rate used for CDs, making it an ideal choice if you’re recording music in physical formats.
On the other hand, audio tracks sampled at 48 kHz provides more head clearance in the higher frequencies.
This extra headroom makes it easier for mixers to fine-tune music tracks without affecting the frequencies you can actually hear. The extra “space” also means that less audio clipping occurs in the higher frequencies, giving you clearer overall sound.
Minimum requirements for lossless audio quality
To maximize the lossless audio experience, you will need to check if your existing gear can handle it. As for high-resolution lossless audio, or anything in the 96 or 192 kHz range, you’ll need to buy an external DAC (digital-to-analog converter) to bolster your device’s dynamic range capabilities.
iOS devices running iOS 11 or later can support lossless audio of up to 24-bit/48 kHz without the need for additional equipment. Android devices running Lollipop or later can also support up to 48 kHz.
As for PCs, the audio specs can vary greatly between brands and models, so you’ll need to check with the manufacturer. On the other hand, Mac computers released after 2013 are equipped to support up to 96 kHz. All you need to do is adjust the ‘Format’ setting in Audio Midi Setup under Utilities, and you’re good to go.
When it comes to speakers and headphones, you will need something that can accommodate at least 20 kHz+ for lossless and 40 kHz+ for high-resolution lossless. However, you need to be wary about using Bluetooth headphones, as most wireless models cannot support true lossless playback.
This is mostly due to the limitations of Bluetooth codecs, which function by compressing audio data for more efficient wireless transmission. Naturally, when audio is compressed, you lose the lossless quality of an audio track.
Apple Music and Amazon Music both offer high-resolution lossless audio. So, ultimately, the choice between the two boils down to whatever works for your current setup. Either way, both apps will deliver amazing audio quality with the right equipment.
A good music discovery algorithm makes it possible for us to find new music and artists. And while some people are perfectly content to stick with what’s familiar to them, there are those (yours truly included) who actively and regularly engage with the feature to keep their libraries fresh.
That said, here’s an overview of the discovery features available on both platforms:
|Discovery Feature||Amazon Music||Apple Music|
|Search/Home (Amazon Music)|
Browse/Listen Now (Apple Music)
|Artist Profile Recommendations||Related Artists||Similar Artists|
Amazon Music’s discovery features are seemingly few and sorely lacking in personalization. While I did get some interesting recommendations in sections like ‘Albums For You’ and ‘Songs For You’, the others felt more like “best of the best” compilations consisting of what’s generally popular in the app.
If you’re looking for new releases, you can access them in the ‘Search’ section, under the ‘New Releases’ tab. There you’ll find a pretty straightforward selection of new albums, playlists, and songs. However, that’s pretty much all it is – just a rundown of everything new that’s come out, regardless of whether it matches your taste or not.
To be fair, Amazon Music does offer a few personalized playlists. ‘My Soundtrack’ is a custom radio station that gives you an endless stream of music based on tracks you’ve already liked. And ‘My Discovery Mix’, which looks more promising, is a weekly playlist that offers up a selection of completely fresh tracks from artists you’ve probably never come across.
Apple Music, on the other hand, gives listeners more variety. Like Amazon Music, it has the typical sections you’d expect for music discovery. There’s ‘Must Have Music’, ‘New Music’, and ‘Best New Songs’, which showcase recommendations from Apple Music curators. There’s also a whole section called ‘Add To Your Library’ which compiles all the new releases across 11 music genres.
However, what gives the app a bit more of an edge is the availability of mood playlists. There are playlists for when you can’t sleep, or when you’re feeling anxious, which can be very helpful if you’re looking for something new to listen to but don’t know where to start. It’s also a great way of discovering new artists and music.
Apple Music’s Charts is another feature that sets it apart. This section features City Charts and Daily Top 100, which gives listeners insight into what is trending around the world. Unfortunately, Amazon Music doesn’t offer mood playlists or global music charts.
Both apps have few personalized playlists to offer. However, Apple Music comes out as a better option by offering listeners more ways to discover music through mood playlists and global charts, as well as taking steps to ensure users can easily find new content on the app.
Ease of Use
Amazon Music’s interface is relatively easy to use. Instead of a sidebar, it has a navigation bar at the top portion of the desktop app. There you’ll find links to your ‘Home’ feed, personal library, and podcasts, making it easy to navigate the app.
Sorting filters are also prominently displayed in the ‘Search’ and ‘Library’ sections, making it easy for listeners to find what they’re looking for. Amazon also features a pretty comprehensive drop-down menu on both desktop and mobile apps. This gives you access to a lot of functions without needing to leave the current window.
In a sea of dark-themed music streaming apps, Apple Music retains its iconic clean, light, and minimalist look on both desktop and mobile platforms.
The interface is simple and minimalist. It has a permanent sidebar that allows you to easily create or edit playlists and jump between the different sections of the app. The sidebar is also fully customizable on desktop and mobile, allowing you to choose which filters or playlists you want to display or keep hidden.
Apple Music has a handy drag-and-drop function that compliments the app’s sidebar by allowing you to quickly move content to your different playlists. Like Amazon Music, the menu that pops up when you right-click or long-press on a song or album is similarly packed with functions that make it easy to manage your content.
Generally, both apps are pretty easy to navigate. However, Apple Music’s sidebar gives the app a bit more of an edge.
Thanks to this little feature, users get an overview of the different sections in the app. This makes it easy to get around, even for newbies. Having a customizable sidebar is also a big plus for those who want to streamline what they can see and access on the app.
There are some additional features that both platforms have in common. Both apps offer Spatial Audio for an even more immersive listening experience. Both have a built-in equalizer that allows listeners to further fine-tune their sound. And both apps also have integrated lyrics and song credits. However, Amazon Music offers an extra feature called ‘X-ray’ on the Now Playing screen that highlights interesting info related to the song or artist.
Another feature that Amazon Music recently launched is DJ Mode. The playlist works like a hosted listening experience led by artists and DJs. It’s is designed to give listeners more insight into their work and musical influences.
Apple Music has a similar feature that puts the spotlight on the stories and people behind the music. But rather than just a playlist, there’s an entire section devoted to it. In Apple Music’s ‘Behind the Songs’, listeners can find playlists like ‘Behind the Boards’, ‘Song Book’, and ‘On the Session’ that highlight the producers, songwriters, and session musicians behind the songs you know and love.
There are a few other cool features on Apple Music that won’t be found on Amazon Music. There’s the bonus of Spatial Audio by Dolby Atmos, which provides listeners with an even more immersive listening experience; Apple Replay, which sums up your most listened to songs throughout the year; and Saylists, which encourages better speech articulation for those who suffer from speech-sound disorder (SSD).
Apple Music certainly has a lot more to offer in terms of additional content, making it more worth your money. And, hardcore music fans will enjoy delving into the thoughtfully-curated ‘Behind the Songs’ section.
The inclusion of ‘Saylists’, in particular, is a unique feature you don’t normally see on streaming apps. This is also something that gives Apple Music more of an edge in terms of value.
How Much Do Apple Music and Amazon Music Pay Artists?
|Platform||Pay per stream||Streams to get $1,000|
Apple Music and Amazon Music pay some of the highest per stream averages at $0.01 and $0.004, respectively. In the music streaming industry, this places both apps second and third only to Tidal.
Both apps make use of a market-centric payment system or stream share basis to calculate royalties. Essentially, all revenue is pooled together, and a portion is allocated to record labels or distributors based on stream volume. These companies then pay the artists based on whatever is stipulated in their contracts.
Both Apple Music and Amazon Music also offer additional sources for royalties. Amazon’s digital music store and Apple’s iTunes let people buy and download songs or albums separately. Both apps collect 30% of these sales and pay the rest to labels and/or artists, in addition to streaming royalties.
One difference is that artists stand to earn a bit more from Amazon Music Prime subscribers. This is a separate subscription plan that comes with bonus access to 2 million songs. Any artist fortunate enough to be part of that curated 2 million can earn an additional $0.00139 per stream.
As for Apple Music, it’s worth noting that the service pays the same rate for all labels, major or independent. The same also goes for songwriters, publishers, and licensors. This is especially huge for independent artists because it means that all creators are equally compensated, regardless of whether they’re signed to a major label or not.
Artists stand to earn additional income with digital music downloads and purchases from both apps. And although Amazon offers a bit more with their Music Prime subscriptions, I think Apple Music’s clear-cut commitment to equal compensation for all music creators and collaborators is more meaningful in the long run.
It not only demonstrates respect for the artist but respect for the inherent worth of music itself, as well. And that says a lot.
Which Should You Go For?
Here’s a quick recap of all the good stuff each platform has to offer:
|APPLE MUSIC||AMAZON MUSIC|
Both platforms have pretty extensive libraries and provide high-resolution lossless audio. They both contain a good amount of video content and other unique features like radio and livestreams. And, both apps also offer a means of extending your support to your favorite artists by buying songs or albums from their respective digital music stores.
Ultimately, the choice between the two will depend on what’s convenient for you.
If you’re already a Prime subscriber, it’d make sense to go for Amazon Music’s discounted plans. Even more so if you’re on a budget since you can also take advantage of the free plan. If you also prefer having convenient access to podcasts, again, Amazon Music is your best choice.
On the flip side, if you’re an iOS user, Apple Music will allow more seamless integration between your devices. Listeners who enjoy having a radio feature on their music streaming app will get a lot out of Apple Music Radio. If you enjoy well-curated playlists and exclusive music content, Apple Music is the way to go.
Additionally, if supporting your favorite artists or music creators is important to you, Apple Music’s commitment to equal compensation may be more appealing to you.
Apple Music might have the lead in five out of the seven categories in this review. But both apps still come pretty close in terms of delivering a great listening experience. It’s simply just about your personal preferences.
Some people may prefer Apple Music’s slick interface and fancy animated covers. Some may also prefer more thorough music curation with lots of themed playlists and such. Others won’t care about the aesthetics or extra content at all. Some simply want a platform with great sound quality and a good music collection.
All in all, it depends on what you like as a music listener. Still, we hope this review has somehow helped illuminate certain things in each app that will help you arrive at a decision. But if not, you can always take both apps for a test run with a free trial.
How did you find our review? If you have any thoughts or questions, drop us a line in the comments section below. We’d love to hear from you!