Fire TVs gain the built-in Music interface they’ve been missing for years

While watching movies and TV shows are obviously the main things people do with Fire TVs, the streaming devices have always been very capable music players as well. Long ago, before the multiple home screen interface overhauls that have occurred over the years, the original Fire TV interface used to have a “Music” tab where you could see what was currently playing and browse other tracks, albums, and playlists. The “Music” tab was dropped with the first major Fire TV interface update but, even though an Amazon Music app concurrently launched in its place, some of the “Music” tab’s functionality was lost with its demise. Amazon is now restoring that functionality and returning to the Fire TV’s roots with the launch of an all-new built-in music and audio interface for Fire TV devices.

The new Fire TV audio home is called “Music & More” and it allows you to browse and play music, radio stations, and podcasts. You can get to it by either saying “Open music and more” to your Fire TV’s microphone or by selecting the “Music & More” tile in the Fire TV’s “Find” tab. Although the new audio home isn’t technically part of the Fire TV’s launcher app and is instead a new standalone system app, it closely resembles the main Fire TV interface you’re accustomed to.

The top half of the “Music & More” screen consists of a large banner that cycles through several audio recommendations to try. Below that are navigation tabs that include For You, Music & Radio, and Podcasts. All three tabs have various rows of suggested content to play from Amazon Music. There is, apparently, some kind of integration with other music services as well, including Spotify and Pandora, but I didn’t see any on my device even though I have the apps installed. However, I don’t normally use those apps on my Fire TV so it may take time and regular use for 3rd-party content to appear in the Fire TV’s new music interface.

Among the more useful rows in the interface is the “Recently Played” row, which is at the top of the “For You” tab. For me, it listed Amazon Music tracks that I recently played through an Amazon Echo. As expected, playing other audio content from the interface made it appear in the recently played list as well. However, asking Alexa on the Fire TV to play something didn’t cause that content to appear in the list.

That seems to be because asking Alexa to play something from Amazon Music still loads the content in the standalone Amazon Music app and not in the new “Music & More” interface. Each way of playing music uses a separate player interface that doesn’t seem to be linked to one another. Perhaps content played through Alexa will eventually appear in the new music interface, as content played through an Echo has, but it not appearing immediately is a bit confusing.

A little-known feature of Fire TVs is their ability to continue playing music in the background, even after you’ve exited the app that started the audio. You can even continue to use the Rewind/Play/Pause/Forward media controls on the remote to control the audio while browsing other parts of the Fire TV interface. When Fire TVs lost the Music tab, they also lost the ability to easily see what was currently playing in the background. That lost capability has finally been restored within the new “Music & More” screen.

While background audio is playing on the Fire TV, regardless of source, the “Music & More” screen will contain a “Now Playing” tab that lists what is playing and which app or service it’s playing from. Much in the same way as playing audio appears in the notification interface of a phone or tablet, the new “Now Playing” tab in the “Music & More” screen seems to universally list what is being heard. I’ve tried audio from Spotify, Audible, Tune-In, Pandora, and others and they all appear in the new tab with a button that easily takes you right back to the appropriate app.

While some people will surely argue that, with Alexa and numerous standalone apps available, the Fire TV didn’t need yet another way to play audio, I think the new “Music & More” screen is a good addition and fills a gap the Fire TV has had for years. This feature, if nothing else, finally provides a way to see what audio is being played in the background, which is something that has been missing for too long. Like many other new Fire TV interfaces before it, it’s far too centered around Amazon services, but it’s a good starting point that will hopefully expand to aggregate more 3rd-party audio content.

  1. Brantome says:

    Is it still not bit perfect when playing Amazon Music Unlimited I.e. does it still play everything at the resolution the device it’s connected to can support rather than each individual track’s resolution, so if your AVR for example supports up to 24/192, then all tracks even 16/44.1 tracks are played at 24/192? Thx

  2. Ujn Hunter says:

    I don’t think any of this matters since, Amazon, long ago removed the ability to actually just “play” YOUR OWN MUSIC from Amazon Music and instead forces you to “shuffle” your music and other crap that you don’t care about.

  3. ben says:

    treid to play somethinig under recentnly played but it just plays random songs

  4. Someguy says:

    The entire FireTV user interface is a real mess, frustratingly slow on most devices and does a lousy job of surfacing àpps that a user has installed (as the reviewer found). I really wish they would get their act together.

  5. Hereward the Woke says:

    A bit off topic but did anyone in the UK suffer a FireTV outage yesterday (15 January) between about 17:00 to 22:00hrs GMT? No reports on the ‘Downtime’ websites, and all my other devices were working fine, including Alexa.

    • tech3475 says:

      Are you with Plusnet? I read there was a DNS outage Monday afternoon.

      • Hereward the Woke says:

        Yes it could have been but my router wasn’t showing a disconnect, and I was not having any problems with other media devices, including Alexa and Windows PC.

        • tech3475 says:

          DNS entries can be cached and overridden compared to the router, so maybe that played a part?

          Either way, it’s the closest I’ve seen to any reported outage.

  6. Alex Wood says:

    They should concentrate on fixing their Dolby Atmos implementation before any of this. If you search for and play the Dolby Labs album, front top channels play from the rear top. This is on a Firestick Max and a Firestick Max gen 2. It was broken when Volume Normalisation came in, then they fixed it, then they have broken it again. As if they broke the same thing twice. Generation of system sounds makes the sound go to the correct speakers. It’s annoying as Atmos is one of the reasons I have Music Unlimited! Fortunately stereo HD/Ultra HD sound good upscaled to 11.1.4 anyway.

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