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High-Res Audio Streaming Arrives

Digital Entertainment Group takes up the cause to build a market

High-resolution audio is making the move from downloading to streaming, with Tidal launching high-res streaming of thousands of albums and Napster announcing plans to begin high-res streaming of thousands of albums in the spring.

In a separate initiative to expand high-res adoption, the Digital Entertainment Group unveiled a new consumer awareness campaign, called Stream the Studio, to align marketing messages to promote high-res devices, technologies and music. The campaign will include event marketing and social media “to educate and engage millennial music fans on the benefits of studio quality high-res audio,” the group said.

Before the year is out, four to five services could be streaming high-res, said MQA chairman Bob Stuart. Stuart’s company developed Master Quality Authenticated (MQA) technology to reduce bandwidth requirements to make it practical to stream master-quality audio. Other companies are also developing technologies to make high-res streaming practical, Napster/Rhapsody CEO Mike Davis told TWICE.

High-resolution audio streams could spread high-res adoption by tapping into growing consumer demand for streaming music rather than downloading it. A Music Watch survey commissioned by DEG found that a premium music service offering high-res and other value adds could attract more than 12 million subscribers in the U.S., the DEG announced.

Tidal’s high-res albums can be streamed to its computer application and to embedded implementations such as wireless-multi-room speakers, soundbars, and audio components, said MQA’s Stuart. The music can also be streamed to Wi-Fi equipped digital audio players (DAPs) if equipped with a Tidal high-res app. Smartphone apps supporting Tidal, however, aren’t available yet, he noted.

To stream Tidal’s high-res files, consumers must subscribe to the $19.99/month Tidal HiFi service, which already streams in CD quality.

Other music services also spoke highly of high-res streaming during a Thursday press conference, including David Chesky, CEO of high-res download service HDTracks, but he didn’t say when his company would launch high-res streaming. In a written statement distributed by DEG at the show, Pandora CTO Chris Martin said, “Pandora has the platform to make this [high-res streaming] big!” He also noted, however, that “while not for everyone, high-res music streaming has the potential to engage millions of digital music fans who are seeking a more immersive, studio-quality listening experience.”

For his part, Atlantic Records co-chair/CEO Craig Kallman hailed high-res downloads and streaming as reversing “30 consecutive years of downgrading the quality of a consumer format,” beginning with the shift to CD from vinyl and then to MP3 files and streaming. High-res technology, however, has shown that “quality and convenience can be in complete harmony.”