It’s a problem being an audiophile in the digital age, do you download the giant FLAC file of your favourite album so it sounds exactly as the original studio master was intended? Or do you stream the highly compressed version via a music streaming provider such as Spotify, Apple Music or Deezer?
Music streaming can often be a trade-off between portability and file size, with the quality of audio.
But thankfully this may become a thing of the past as MQA aims to settle this problem once and for all. Master Quality Authenticated (MQA) is a new audio codec that offers lossless audio quality which is in a small enough sized file to be able to stream via internet. The idea behind this is to offer the portability and ease of normal music streaming, but to also have the high fidelity of much larger music files.
Talking to Stuff, MQA’s Bob Stuart said this about the compression process: “We don’t chop or cut; we fold. There are areas of redundancy we can put information into, so every sample carries two or three times more information than before, but it appears small because it’s efficiently packed.”
Although you can listen to MQA files on most devices, to get the real high-resolution experience, hardware that is specially equipped with the full MQA decoding is needed. The biggest problem for MQA is that currently there’s not really much content in the format available. There are a few places to download albums, but with streaming there seems to be only one provider interested so far, and that’s Tidal, and there is no firm date when this will be launched.
Although there are some good signs, with MQA signing a deal with Warner Music Group, so new releases from their long list of artists, such as Prince, Coldplay, Led Zeppelin, Major Lazer and Jason Derulo, may be released in MQA format.
So if MQA can secure more deals with the right partners and get a steady release of albums and singles in the high-resolution master-quality audio, then there is every reason this could succeed, which would be music to the ears of the audiophiles out there.
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