Since its launch in December 2008, The Amazon MP3 Store has established itself as the most credible big-name rival to iTunes, thanks to a library of more than 10 million songs, aggressive pricing, and DRM-free downloads.
It even has an answer to the iTunes/iPhone combo, with an app that allows users of Android phones to purchase and download tracks through their handset.
Amazon’s music catalogue is unrivalled outside of the iTunes Music Store
Amazon’s music catalogue is unrivalled outside of the iTunes Music Store. Where other stores struggle to offer three versions of a Wagner opera, Amazon dishes out 36, and it’s a challenge to find a rock or pop album of the past 30 years that isn’t sold.
With a predictive search engine and advanced search facilities, it’s easy to find what you’re looking for. The search has its flaws – results are often presented as a long list of individual tracks with only a few albums displayed, for example – but it’s well geared towards the simple business of finding and buying good music.
There are reasons why you might want to look elsewhere, however. Amazon’s tracks come in the form of 256Kbits/sec variable bit-rate MP3 files, and while most users won’t consider this an issue, budding audiophiles may prefer to buy their tracks as 320Kbits/sec MP3s.
Once tracks have been purchased, you only have a limited amount of time in which to download them, and there’s no locker or history facility with which to re-download tracks should you lose a file.
You also need to install the Amazon downloader app before you can download albums. Still, this occupies only around 4 to 4.5MB while downloading, and quietly copies files into your iTunes or Windows Media Player library. You can pause and resume downloads if necessary, and the applet also supports H.264 and WMV 9 video files and digital booklets.
Above all, Amazon wins out on price. For both our current and all-time chart albums, it was significantly cheaper on average than every other store on test, and there are some superb £3 to £6 offers to be found on classic albums, obscurities and recent hits.
Other online music stores might offer better quality, more features or streaming, but if you’re looking to download music at a decent price then this should be your first port of call.