I’ve spent the last week using Amazon Music/Prime Music across multiple platforms – Web, Android, PC, and iOS (everything except OS X and Roku) – and in different ways – Headphones, IEMs, Bookshelf Speakers. I’ve explored their library pretty extensively searching for around 1000 albums (see my post on the Rolling Stone Magazine top 500 Albums of All Time on Amazon Prime). There is a lot to love and room for improvement, check out the full rundown after the cut.
The new Amazon Music App is good looking on everything I’ve tried it on, the album cover repeated in the background is a nice, clean touch. Use is fairly straight forward, even creating playlists, uploading and downloading is simple as drag and drop. There is a lot of room for improvement. The Search is awful: It is slow, it is difficult to search prime only, frequently returns false negatives, doesn’t offer spelling suggestions, doesn’t offer live auto-complete, etc. The app also doesn’t sync “Recently Played” across devices. The genre browser is somewhat broad and does’t offer sub-genres.
This is Amazon’s weakest point, but there is still a good selection at no additional cost to a subscription. I started with the Rolling Stone Top 500 Albums of All Time and found roughly 1 in 5 of the full albums, the NME list was marginally better represented. While certain artists are missing, most genres seem somewhat represented and there is no way you’ll run out of something good to listen to anytime soon. The amount of awful Karaoke or Tribute versions (“Ameritz” I’m looking at you) that clutter the search results is embarrassing, and you would be shocked by the number of bluegrass and banjo tributes that are available.
Sound quality is acceptable for your phone, in the car, at a houseparty, or background at work but it certainly isn’t HiFi. At its best it matches Apples 256 kbps but it is VBR by default so depending on connection quality you could end up with 48 kbps.
Amazon has the beginning of a great service that could be even better. Fixing the search weirdness, offering higher quality audio (I’d even buy an Amazon Basics DAC), more content, and offering an app for other devices (Gaming Consoles, Linux, etc.) all are basic but important additions. Adding the ability to take notes and write private reviews would be a welcome addition, as would social sharing options. It would be great to share your own prime playlists with friends and other subscribers. I love information overload, so additional info (BPM, Wikipedia links, etc.) would make me happy. A built in DJ app (or integration with MIXXX), or Jukebox front end for parties could help bring Prime Music center stage.
How would you change Prime Music?
Stay Tuned for the full NME 500 Greatest Albums Available on Prime list.