High-Res Music Spreads, Comes To Download Sites

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High-res audio is coming to a wider selection of audio products and in a new format: MQA (Master Quality Authenticated).

Music-download sites have begun offering MQA-encoded music, with 7digital’s web store and Onkyomusic.com offering indie-label content. Onkyomusic.com uses 7digital’s download platform, and 7digital promises to make MQA content available for download and streaming to all of its 46 platform users in 33 countries.

The 7digital MQA catalog consists initially of hundreds of songs available a la carte from Nordic label 2L, but 7digital “expects thousands within the first few months as we will be adding labels weekly,” a spokesperson told TWICE.

For its part, 2L itself began offering MQA downloads on Monday from its web store to consumers worldwide. The label specializes in classical, jazz, art music, chorale music, and folk and has offered SACD and Blu-ray audio discs. The label’s download store, available in the U.S., offers more than 120 MQA albums, 80 originating in DXD resolution.

MQA inventor MQA Ltd., led by Meridian’s Bob Stuart, also announced that the Jay Z-led Tidal streaming service is expected to launch MQA streaming in the first half.

In MQA product developments, MQA Ltd. said Auralic, Aurender and Lenbrook’s Bluesound and NAD are joining the list of companies planning MQA-decoding audio products.

Here’s what’s coming in new audio products with MQA, as well as some without.

Arcam: The $799 irDAC-II is a combination USB DAC, digital preamp, headphone amp, Bluetooth with AptX, and support for high-res audio, including DSD128. Compared to its predecessor, it adds Bluetooth, DSD 128, and headphone output.

Harman Kardon: The Harman brand is upgrading its wireless multiroom-audio products, shipping in June, to support 192/24 wireless streaming, up from 96/24, thanks to the addition of 192/24 DACs and wider bandwidth dual-band Wi-Fi. The Omni+ products ship in June.

Mark Levinson: The 519 Digital Player, due in July at an unannounced price, features CD playback, Cloud-streaming services, and high-res decoding of music from multiple sources, including computers via asynchronous USB, Gigibit Ethernet. Optical and coaxial digital inputs, and Wi-Fi. It also features Bluetooth with AptX. Supported high-res formats include 192/24 PCM and double-speed DSD.

A digital volume control enables connection to a power amplifier or active loudspeakers without the need for a separate preamp.

Onkyo: The brand’s first high-res portable, the $899-suggested DP-X1 with MQA, is due in late March or early April. The Android-based player features 132kHz/24-bit DAC and decodes WAV, FLAC, ALAC, AIFF and 2.8MHz, 5.6MHz and 11.2MHz DSD. It uses Wi-Fi to download high-res songs from OnkyoMusic.com, and it features AptX over Bluetooth.

Also new is a high-res networked stereo receiver, the $399 TX-8140, due in February with 384/32 DACs, streaming services, phono preamp, and ability to play FLAC and WAV files as well as 2.8/5.6MHz DSD. It lacks MQA.

Pioneer: The brand’s first high-res portable, which decodes MQA, is the previously announced XDP-100R, which has begun shipping at $699. It features Wi-Fi to download high-res songs direct from OnkyoMusic.com. The Android-based player supports high-res formats up to DSD11.2MHz and up to 384kHz/24bit FLAC & WAV.

The brand also began shipping its high-res networked stereo receiver, the Elite SX-N30 at a suggested $600.

Sony: A new soundbar and AVR with high-res decoding are on tap along with a USB turntable with high-res encoding. The HX500 turntable, due in the spring, features built-in A/D converter to convert vinyl music to high-res native DSD (up to 5.6MHz) or WAV files (up to 192 KHz/24-bit) formats for playback on high-res portables, music servers, and other products.

The 7.2-channel STR-DN1070 AVR will replace the $599 STR-DN1060 in the spring. It lacks Dolby Atmos and DTS:X surround.

Technics: The storied audio brand, revived last year as a luxury-audio brand, is expanding its selection of audio components, which support high-res playback.

The Panasonic-owned brand launched its first music server, its first integrated amplifier/DAC with network streamer, and its first tabletop music system. All feature high-resolution audio decoding. The Panasonic-owned brand also resurrected its turntable business.

The networked integrated amp/DAC is the $3,999 SU-G30, due in March. It combines an integrated amp, 384kHz/32-bit DAC, and networked music player in a single aluminum chassis. It connects to the new SU-G30 solid-state music server and features Wi-Fi and Ethernet to stream high-res files through a home network. Supported formats include DSD’s 2.8MHz, 5.6MHz, and 11.2MHz flavors. It also features USB ports to play music from USB-connected sources. Network features include DLNA and Airplay. It will get a firmware update after it ships to add Cloud services.

The SU-G30 music server is due in the summer at an unspecified price with included removable solid-state drive. Storage capacity wasn’t announced. It also features CD ripper, though CD playback isn’t supported.


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