Hi-Res audio is a big deal nowadays, with a multitude of sites and devices allowing you to stream CD quality or better. As good as this is, most of modern day life is spent staring into a device with very little memory that isn’t specifically designed to hold vast amounts of music, but instead hold vast amounts of apps…
Hi-Res audio streaming could be the solution, as it allows all of the music fidelity that you can have but without the need for gargantuan gigabytes of space. Tidal, Deezer and Quboz already offer CD quality streaming (with Quboz even offering 24 bit Hi-res streaming but only on Android devices) but there’s still further the technology can be pushed to really get the quality to astronomical levels.
Developed by Meridian Audio, MQA stands for Master Quality Authenticated, and is a new way of capturing a digital recording and putting it into a file that makes it accessible via streaming but with none of the inherent issues you get from compressing files. Apparently needing around the same amount of bandwidth as a CD quality stream MQA technology means that using the same amount of bandwidth you’d use for streaming CD quality can now be used to stream a 24-bit 192kHz PCM file.
MQA’s ability to provide better sound quality at around the same size is because instead of creating an entirely new file type it can be packaged into lossless files such as WAV, FLAC or Apple Lossless (ALAC). The last of those files probably being the most interesting as it means the possibility of streaming Hi-Res audio through an iPhone could be a possibility with the right hardware. The right hardware being that integrated with an MQA decoder, which will take the file and unpack all of the extra data and turn the stream into the original studio recording.
For probably a better idea of the theory behind this watch Bob Stuart in the link below explain “Music Origami”.
In this day and age though a new standard is only as good as the hardware it can be used through. Some MQA compatible products from Mytek, Onkyo, Pioneer, Meridian, Berkeley Audio, dCS, Ixion and Kripton have already been announced, as well as MQA streaming being available through 7digital, Onkyo Music and Tidal.
So let us pause for a second and consider things to come. If MQA can deliver digital content without the usual repercussions of digital encoding (such as the required filters introducing time domain artefacts) and allow you to stream Hi-Res with limited bandwidth, then the future of potable audio starts to look brighter than it ever has.
Author – Hal, Plymouth store