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Tidal Announces They Are Dropping Support for MQA Hi-Res Audio

Tidal's Shift from MQA to FLAC: What It Means for You 

In a significant move, Tidal has announced that it will be dropping MQA (Master Quality Authenticated) in favor of FLAC (Free Lossless Audio Codec). This change also includes the discontinuation of Sony's 360 Reality Audio. To understand the implications of this transition, let's explore what MQA, FLAC, and AAC (Advanced Audio Coding) are, their respective uses, and why this matters to consumers. 

What Are MQA, FLAC, and AAC? 

MQA (Master Quality Authenticated) 

MQA is an audio technology that aims to deliver studio-quality sound in a format that is easy to stream or download. It compresses the audio file to retain high-resolution sound quality, making it ideal for audiophiles who seek the highest fidelity in their listening experience. MQA ensures that listeners receive the exact sound that was recorded in the studio. 

FLAC (Free Lossless Audio Codec) 

FLAC is an open-source codec that compresses audio files without losing any quality. Unlike lossy formats like MP3, FLAC retains all the original data from the recording, making it a preferred choice for those who want to experience music in its purest form. FLAC is completely royalty-free, which makes it more cost-effective for streaming services. 

AAC (Advanced Audio Coding) 

AAC is a lossy format commonly used for streaming and storing audio due to its efficiency in compressing audio files while maintaining decent sound quality. It's the default format for iTunes and many other streaming platforms. While AAC offers a good balance between file size and sound quality, it doesn't provide the same level of fidelity as lossless formats like FLAC or MQA.

Why It Matters to Music Lovers

For consumers, Tidal's transition from MQA to FLAC means access to high-quality audio without the additional costs associated with proprietary formats. The royalty-free nature of FLAC can lead to more competitive pricing for streaming services, as seen with Tidal's recent price adjustments. 

Tidal's Decision to Drop MQA and Sony 360 Reality Audio 

Tidal has announced that it will replace its MQA catalog with FLAC versions and discontinue Sony's 360 Reality Audio from July 24, 2024. This strategic shift towards more cost-effective and widely supported audio formats is a significant development. 

Cost-Saving and Accessibility 

One of the primary reasons for this transition is the cost associated with MQA's licensing fees. FLAC, being open-source, eliminates these costs, allowing Tidal to offer high-resolution audio at a lower price point. This change aligns Tidal's pricing with other major players like Apple Music and Amazon Music, making high-fidelity audio more accessible to a broader audience. 

Technical and Practical Considerations 

While MQA and FLAC both offer superior audio quality, MQAs adoption has been limited due to the need for compatible hardware and the additional costs. The open-source nature and broader compatibility of FLAC ensures that more users can enjoy high-resolution audio without needing to invest in new hardware. 

Impact on Subscribers 

For Tidal subscribers, this shift means that MQA tracks in their Tidal collections will be automatically replaced with the highest-quality FLAC versions available. However, not all MQA tracks may have direct FLAC replacements initially, leading to potential gaps in the library during the transition. 

Offline Listening Adjustments 

For those who have downloaded MQA tracks for offline listening, these will need to be re-downloaded in FLAC format after updating the Tidal app. This additional step ensures that users continue to have access to high-quality audio even when offline. 

The Rise of FLAC and the Future of Hi-Res Audio 

This change is part of a broader trend in the music industry towards lossless and high-resolution audio formats. Services like HDTracks are partnering with MQA Labs to bring MQA streaming using new technologies like MQA Labs' ARIA. This collaboration aims to provide an even richer audio experience for consumers. 

HDTracks and MQA Labs Partnership 

Lenbrook, the company that acquired MQA technology, has announced a partnership with HDTracks to launch a new streaming service that will support FLAC and MQA. This initiative promises to deliver studio-quality sound to a wider audience. 

Audioengine and High-Resolution Audio 

At Audioengine, we understand the importance of delivering high-quality audio to our customers. Our Home Music Systems are designed to reproduce every detail and depth of sound captured by high-resolution formats like FLAC and MQA. Whether you're using our compact desktop speakers or a full-room setup, you'll experience your music with the clarity and emotion it was meant to convey. Our line of DACs (Digital-to-Analog Converters) support hi-res codecs such as FLAC, MQA, and AAC, up to 32-bit, ensuring that your audio is rendered with the highest fidelity possible. 

Conclusion: Embracing the Future of Music Streaming 

Tidal's decision to switch from MQA to FLAC represents a significant milestone in the music streaming industry. As high-fidelity audio becomes more accessible and affordable, consumers can look forward to an enriched listening experience. This shift, along with advancements in streaming technology and partnerships like the one between HDTracks and MQA Labs, ensures that the future of music streaming is bright and full of promise. 

At Audioengine, we're excited to be part of this evolution, providing you with the best tools to enjoy your music to its fullest potential. Whether you're an audiophile or a casual listener, the advancements in high-resolution audio mean that every note, beat, and nuance of your favorite songs will be delivered with unparalleled quality and depth. 


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