Apple Music vs Amazon Music Unlimited: which streaming service rocks hardest?

Apple Music vs Amazon Music Unlimited
(Image credit: Amazon/Apple)

Apple Music effectively reinvented its entire streaming service with the introduction of Spatial Audio, an umbrella label for Dolby Atmos Music, but it’s not the only immersive audio champion in town. Rival Amazon Music Unlimited has a comparable 3D sound offering for subscribers, with Dolby Atmos and 360 Reality Audio tracks nestled alongside high-res music and regular stereo streams.

If you're looking for a new music streaming service but remain on the fence between these two, we've put both through their paces to give you all the information you need before laying down your cash.

At a glance

Apple Music

  • Price: $10.99/£10.99 monthly; $16.99/£16.99 Family Plan monthly;
    Student plan $5.99/£5.99 monthly
  • Sound Quality: CD quality 16-bit/44.1kHz, Apple Music Lossless
    24-bit/48kHz, Hi-Res Lossless
  • Spatial audio: Yes
  • Sign up at Apple Music
  • Apple Music review

Amazon Music Unlimited

With a comprehensive catalogue of more than 100 million songs, excellent genre reach and plenty of high-quality options, Apple Music is an excellent choice if you’re an Apple devotee or a music fan who would like to dive into their ever-growing range of albums in Spatial Audio.

Tracks labelled Hi-Res lossless and Apple Digital Master are about as good as it gets when it comes to streaming quality and cranking Metallica's 72 Seasons is a case in point, but Apple reserves its best listening trick, Dynamic Head Tracking, exclusively for iPhone users.

Undercutting rival Apple, but offering a comparable library, Apple Music Unlimited can be considered superior value if you already subscribe to Amazon Prime. It oddly labels CD and Hi-Res quality tracks as HD and UHD, and also offers a comprehensive range of Dolby Atmos albums. But its music curation engine could be better.

Content & quality

Woman listening to music outdoors

(Image credit: Getty Images/Abraham Gonzalez Fernandez)

There’s very little difference between the catalogue offerings of Amazon Music and Apple Music. Both claim to have more than 100 million tracks, and there’s comprehensive representation from the classic rock, metal, prog, punk and alternative archives. You may stumble across a few discrepancies if you look really hard, but even when we got eclectic, both services rose to the challenge.

Both music streaming services also have a comparable number of high-fidelity encodes, with substantial 16-bit and 24-bit quality libraries. So in terms of content, there’s really not much between them.

Price plans

Apple Music
Apple’s Individual Price plan costs $10.99/£10.99 a month, and there’s a $16.99/£16.99 Family Plan. There’s also a University Student plan, which costs $5.99/£5.99 per month.

Amazon Music Unlimited
We rate Amazon Music Unlimited as good value. While there’s no free tier, Prime subscribers can subscribe to Amazon Music Unlimited every month for $9.99/£9.99, which makes the service cheaper than Apple music (it levels up if you don’t take Prime). There’s also a $16.99/£17.99 family tier, and a single device plan which costs $5.99/£5.99 monthly.


When it comes to general usability, Apple Music starts to show its class. As part of the setup process, the Apple Music app invites you to favour musical genres and artists. This really helps with music curation and recommendations. If you tell it you like Powerwolf, it’ll quickly get the message and point you to the likes of Sabaton and Hammerfall. Your ears are in good hands no matter what your music preferences.

It’s also easy to add artists, albums and tracks to your personal library, while playlists are easy to store and create. Apple also give you the opportunity to customise your playlist cover icon with a picture from your phone or use one of their pre-designed icons. However, Amazon Music takes a little longer to get to know your tastes. 

The ‘My Soundtrack’ station home page default is populated with artists and bands from your playback history, plus seemingly random additions (I play The Darkness so I get The Killers?). There’s also a ‘You Might Like’ rail which suggests I should listen to Sub.Vision as I like Ghost’s Impera. Amazon’s AI is clearly working hard here as it reasons, "If you like Tobias Forge here’s some more Tobias Forge." 

Both Apple Music and Amazon Music Unlimited will please audiophiles with their clear labelling of Hi-Res and Dolby Atmos. Which brings us neatly to audio quality.

Audio quality

Apple Music vs Amazon Music Unlimited: Man listening to music

(Image credit: Marko Geber - Getty)

Apple Music and Amazon Music Unlimited are both great choices if you want your playlists to sound crystal clear. They have extensive libraries in CD quality – that’s to say 16-bit with a sample rate of 44.1 kHz – and Hi-Res 24-bit (with sample rates up to 192 kHz). What’s more, both services also offer Dolby Atmos mixes on an increasing number of releases. For example, Machinery Of Torment by Skullflower from the Metal Lords soundtrack is a must-listen in fully immersive Dolby Atmos.

So nothing separates either service, you might think? Well, Apple has one trick that Amazon can’t match, but not everyone will be able to take advantage of it.

It’s called Dynamic Head Tracking, and it came as part of Apple’s iOS 15 firmware update. This new processing mode adds even greater realism to Spatial Audio, because it follows the movements of your head, creating the illusion that music is coming from all around you. 

But here’s the catch: only iPhone users can use it, and you'll need Apple AirPods Pro, Apple AirPods Max or AirPods (3rd gen) to get it to work.


Both services have loads to recommend them. If you’re an Amazon Prime subscriber already, then opting for Amazon Music Unlimited will save you a bit of cash every month. Sonically, there’s plenty of high quality hardcore to leap around to, although I wasn't blown away with the music curation. It’s definitely a good choice for Android users though, so there's plenty to get excited about.

If you’re already an iPhone user, then Apple Music is the obvious service to opt for. It has superior content curation and recommendations, and complements its Hi-Res and Spatial Audio library with Dynamic Head Tracking, which is about as near as you’ll ever get to listening to your favourite band lay down tracks in a recording studio.

You can trust Louder Our experienced team has worked for some of the biggest brands in music. From testing headphones to reviewing albums, our experts aim to create reviews you can trust. Find out more about how we review.

Steve May

Steve is a home entertainment technology specialist who contributes to a variety of UK websites and mags, including Louder Sound, Yahoo UK, Trusted Reviews, T3, The Luxe Review and Home Cinema Choice. Steve began his career as a music journo, writing for legendary rock weekly Sounds, under the nom de plume Steve Keaton. His coverage of post punk music was cited in the 2015 British Library exhibition Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination, as a seminal influence on the Goth music scene.