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Amazon Prime Music vs. Music Unlimited: What is the difference and which should you get?

Amazon Music
Amazon Music (Image credit: Android Central)

Amazon Music Unlimited

Amazon Music official render

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Amazon Music Unlimited is Amazon's premium paid streaming music service. With subsidized options for Prime members, the service offers over 50 million songs, along with HD tiers and other exclusives. It's now the third-most-popular service behind Spotify and Apple Music.

Amazon Music Unlimited

Unlimited possibilities

Over 50 million songs
Thousands of playlists and stations
Curated and personalized content
High definition premium options
Multiple tiers of plans
Discounts for Prime members
Paid service with no ad-supported option
Need higher-end speakers and a tuned ear to appreciate HD versions
Number of options and plans is confusing

Amazon Prime Music

Amazon Prime Music

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Amazon Prime Music has been around since 2014, offering Prime members ad-free access to over two million songs, plus thousands of playlists and stations. In 2019 Amazon created an ad-supported free version that non-Prime members could enjoy on any device as a gateway to other Amazon services.

Amazon Prime Music

Basic beats

Over 2 million songs
Thousands of playlists and stations
Ad-free for Prime members
Ad-supported for everyone else
The catalog is pretty limited
Can only play on one device at a time
No family plans

One could make the case that Amazon has been one of the most important digital music pioneers around. Since the mid-2000s, the company was one of the first to offer DRM-free digital downloads, and then it started the smart speaker revolution with Alexa and Prime Music. Over the past several years, Amazon has added to and refined its streaming music offerings, featuring various tiers, discounts, and quality standards across its Unlimited service. If you're just now looking to get started streaming with Amazon, which should you consider? Prime Music, or Music Unlimited? I have some thoughts on this topic that I'll share with you below.

Head to head

At first glance, it may not seem fair to pit a premium, paid service against a free service, but you may be surprised just how well Prime Music holds its own as a legitimate streaming alternative.

Music UnlimitedPrime Music
Number of Songs>50 million>2 million
Monthly FeeFrom $4/monthFree with Prime membership
Music Quality320 kbps standard
Up to 3730 for "Ultra HD" plan
Up to 320 kbps
Number of Simultaneous DevicesOne
Up to 6 with family plans
One
Auto RipYesNo
Works with Alexa?YesYes
Ad-FreeYesYes with Prime membership
Free, ad-supported version available without Prime membership

As you would imagine, a "free" service like Prime Music is not going to be as full-featured as a premium paid service like Music Unlimted, but that doesn't mean it's not an excellent option for a lot of folks. Let's take a closer look at just why that might be the case.

Priming the pump

Amazon Music Wfh Hero

Source: Jeramy Johnson / Android Central (Image credit: Source: Jeramy Johnson / Android Central)

Prime Music has been around for nearly six years. In that time it has served first as a nice side benefit to a Prime membership, and then as an excellent gateway into Amazon's growing garden of paid media services to include Amazon Music Unlimited, Kindle Unlimited, and Audible to name a few.

This service is free for existing Prime members, and offers somewhere around two million songs, along with thousands of playlists and radio stations, all ad-free. Over the past year or so, Amazon has moved to further lower the barrier to entry for its music services, making Prime Music available for free with ads to anyone, across any device. No membership required!

Of course, this is more than just a gesture of goodwill, and Amazon hopes that those people will at a minimum sign up for Prime, and beyond that enroll in one of its other subscription services. Even so, it's still an excellent option to have.

If you're someone who doesn't listen to a ton of music or obsess over specific songs or obscure bands, Prime Music may be for you. If you mainly use your Echo devices not as music players but as a way to control your smart home, find out the temperature, or have random questions answered, Prime Music may be for you.

Heck, even if you like to listen to music but primarily do so on traditional radio, Prime Music may be for you. You can still stream free content from local radio stations, NPR, iHeartRadio, TuneIn, and podcasts from your Echo at no additional charge. That's a lot of audio content for basically nothing. And that's probably enough for a lot of people.

Unlimited is pretty accurate

Amazon Music web app

Source: Jeramy Johnson / Android Central (Image credit: Source: Jeramy Johnson / Android Central)

As good a value as Prime Music is, it probably isn't enough for you if you're someone who likes to have access to the latest hits as well as uncover undiscovered music gems. If you want artist exclusives, curated playlists, and content customized based on your preferences and listening habits, then you're probably going to want a more premium subscription service like Amazon Music Unlimited.

For starters, Amazon Music Unlimited is now the third-largest music subscription service, trailing only Apple Music and Spotify, and with a catalog to match both competitors. It leads the pack, though when it comes to high-definition music, offering higher quality options than even hi-fi leaders such as Tidal Music.

Amazon Music Unlimited may be a paid service, but it also offers the most tiers and options that I've come across, with plans as low as $4/month (one Echo device; Prime member discount) on up to $18/month (HD family plan), with several options in between for individual listeners and students. As I mentioned, Prime members can get discounts on most of the individual plans, though family plans are generally a standard price across the industry.

One other cool feature that Amazon Music Unlimited offers is called Auto Rip (opens in new tab). Auto Rip is Amazon's feature that automatically puts digital copies of any physical medium music you by from Amazon immediately into your Amazon Music digital library. So if you want to support your favorite artists by ordering a CD or vinyl album off of Amazon, you'll get your physical media in a few days. Still, you'll get access to digital copies immediately. Pretty cool!

Which Amazon Music service should you use?

Honestly, I think both options are suitable for different types of listeners.

If you don't listen to a ton of music, or if you just aren't that particular in what you listen to, go with Prime Music. You'll still get access to a lot of great music, and you can supplement your listening with free access to other streaming services on your Echo devices such as local radio stations, TuneIn, and iHeartRadio.

If you have broader musical interests, if you are interested in listening across multiple devices, or if you really and truly care about the quality of your listening experience, then an Amazon Music Unlimited plan would be an excellent choice for you. Plus, if you're a Prime member already, you'll be able to save several bucks each month compared to services like Tidal, Spotify, and Apple Music.

Want to learn more about all of the Amazon Music options and plans? Then check out our ultimate guide to Amazon Music. Curious how Amazon Music stacks up against some of the other streaming services? Then dive into some of our great streaming comparisons.

Jeramy Johnson
Jeramy Johnson

Jeramy is proud to help *Keep Austin Weird* and loves hiking in the hill country of central Texas with a breakfast taco in each hand. When he's not writing about smart home gadgets and wearables, he's defending his relationship with his smart voice assistants to his family. You can follow him on Twitter at @jeramyutgw.