High-resolution MQA (Master Quality Authenticated) audio technology, unveiled a little more than a year ago, continues to make headway.
Two days before CES’s Wednesday opening, Scandinavian music label 2L announced the launch of MQA downloads 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. Its download store, available in the U.S., will add more than 120 MQA albums, 80 originating in DXD resolution.
More download sites will begin offering MQA downloads as soon as the first half of this year, and more audio companies are announcing plans at CES to incorporate MQA decoders in their products, MQA inventor MQA Ltd. said.
Besides 2L content, the new products will be able to play downloads available as soon as the first half by 7digital and Onkyo Music in the U.S. and by HQM in Japan. The Jay Z-led Tidal streaming service is also expected to launch MQA streaming in the first half for playback through select MQA devices. At CES, Tidal will demonstrate MQA streaming.
7digital’s adoption could spread MQA to additional download sites because 7digital is also a download-platform provider whose customers include Onkyo Music, Samsung, T-Mobile, HMV, BlackBerry, Yahoo, and MVNO Rok Mobile. 7digital, which offers a catalog of more than 30 million tracks, will detail its MQA plans in early 2016.
In product developments, Auralic, Aurender and Lenbrook’s Bluesound are joining the list of companies planning MQA-decoding products. Sometime in 2016 as playback material becomes available, Bluesound will add MQA decoding to its family of wireless multiroom-audio products as a firmware upgrade, a spokesman said. Lenbrook will also roll out MQA to NAD products as well, he added.
Bluesound will demonstrate the technology at CES in one of its products in Venetian suite 34-204.
Auralic and Aurender will also demonstrate MQA-enabled products. MQA will be available in all three of Auralic’s streamers: Aries, Aries LE, and Aries Mini. Auralic demos will take place in Venetian suite 29-122.
MQA Ltd. also announced that Berkeley Audio, dCS, Ixion and Kripton are actively planning MQA-enabled products to add to MQA products from Meridian Audio, Mytek, Onkyo, and Pioneer.
MQA could potentially make its way into smartphones. Here at CES, HTC is demonstrating an MQA-equipped One A9 smartphone as a “proof of concept.”
Many of the MQA products will also be demoed at MQA Ltd.’s Venetian suite 30-335.
The MQA end-to-end technology is promoted as delivering master quality audio performance in files that are smaller than today’s high-resolution music files. The technology is also said to make high-resolution music streaming practical.
Music from analog, PCM and DSD masters can be MQA-encoded and placed inside any lossless-audio “container” such as FLAC, ALAC or WAV.
Because an MQA music file is “fully authenticated, listeners can be sure they are hearing exactly what the artist recorded and approved in the studio,” an MQA spokesman said.