You Can Build A High-Resolution Streaming Service, But Will Enough People Care?

Amazon
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recently completed deals with Universal Music Group and Warner Music Group to remaster a large batch of songs and albums into Ultra HD streaming audio quality for use exclusively on its Amazon Music HD service. The platform already has 5 million tracks in the high-resolution 24 bit and up to 192kHz format, as well as immersive audio tracks in both Dolby Atmos and Sony 360 Reality Audio formats, as the company becomes particularly agressive in the hi-res audio space.

What’s surprising here is not that Amazon has such a large presence in this arena, but that Apple
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has chosen not to compete – at least not yet. That fast is that Apple has been collecting high-resolution digital mastered since its Mastered for iTunes program (now called Apple Digital Masters) launched in 2012. While the service still streams at a maximum bit rate of 320kbsp, it does use what many claim is a superior-sounding codec in AAC. That said, it’s still a lossy format, so the benefit of all those hi-res files has never been fully realized.

It’s been within Apple’s power to flip the switch at any time during the 5 years since Apple Music launched and turn it into a high-resolution audio service, yet that never happened. And that illustrates a big point about the high-resolution audio – just because you offer it, it doesn’t mean that many people will care.

It’s About Convenience

The recorded music industry has a history of following technical innovation that harkens back almost to its beginning. From the move from shellac records to vinyl, then later to tape, CDs, downloads and finally streaming, the industry has never been afraid of trying something new. But if you look at the tech that resonated with the