Major Hi-Res Breakthroughs

Yes, you've heard that before. But what you haven't heard, and what was announced on Thursday at CES 2017, is that:

•Tidal has begun streaming MQA content for all Tidal HiFi tier subscribers. An initial 200 albums are listed at Tidal.com/us/masters, with thousands more available via artists' pages. "Masters" content, which is what Tidal calls MQA, is expected to "grow rapidly." Many of the titles are from the Warner Music Group catalog.
•Pandora and Rhapsody/Napster have announced hi-res streaming.
•15,000 hi-res albums are now available from major and indie labels.
•Technics will implement MQA into their Grand Class SU-G30 Network Player amplifier this spring.
•AudioQuest will implement MQA in their DragonFly Red and Black later this month via a free firmware download.
•Audirvana's Plus 3 music player for Mac OS will decode MQA when it's released this spring.
•Pioneer and Onkyo's digital audio players, and Onkyo's new hi-res smartphone, are equipped for MQA.
•The HiResAudio download store has expanded its MQA content with downloads from Warner.
•Mytek's new Mytek Clef headphone amplifier/DAC is MQA-enabled.
•NAD and Bluesound's Pulse Soundbar now supports MQA.
•Bel Canto, Brinkmann, MSB, and Aurender all have products that support MQA.

All this information became available on the first day of CES, when a consortium of industry professionals gathered by the Digital Entertainment Group (DEG)—and chaired by Marc Finer, President of the DEG (in the photo above)—spoke to assembled press and industry supporters at a Hi-Res Audio Press Conference. The group announced a new consumer awareness campaign called Stream the Studio, which is designed to increase awareness of hi-res audio amongst millennials.

The speakers, who included representatives from Universal Music Group, Warner, and Atlantic, were buoyed by research, based on a study of 7000 listeners, concluding that music lovers want sound quality as good as that heard in the recording studio. It is believed that premium music services could potentially attract 12 million subscribers.

Craig Kallman, CEO of Atlantic Records, scored a bullseye when he stated, "We are the only industry that has spent 30 years downgrading the sound quality of its product…Quality and convenience of delivery can now be in perfect harmony. We are ready to deliver. 2017 will be a watershed year like we haven't seen in 35 years. The day for high-resolution audio has finally come."

While David Chesky of HDTracks did not speak at the presentation, he was present. Indications are that new hi-res options that have been a year in the making will be forthcoming from HDTracks. In an email, Chesky hinted at "a super big surprise."

COMMENTS
rschryer's picture

MQA seems to be living up to its early promise/hype. I'm stunned. And excited. I'm excitedly stunned and stunningly excited! The future is now! Thanks for spreading the good word, brother Jason.

goodfellas27's picture

I love how the industry is pushing for this. I just hope they start recording native MQA with higher standards. We need Universal and Sony catalog to take this home.

Archimago's picture

"I just hope they start recording native MQA with higher standards."

This is not how MQA works. It's just regular PCM audio data compressed into a lossy MQA encoding file.

The last thing I want a studio to do is perform audio editing, production, and archiving in MQA! As a consumer audio distribution format, let's see how it plays to the public.

goodfellas27's picture

Yeah? Please read up on how they'll produce records with MQA certified ADC and process change.

CG's picture

I find this very unsettling.

After 30 years, the recording industry has suddenly found religion? OK, times change as do markets and business conditions.

This part is even more baffling - music lovers want sound quality as good as that heard in the recording studio?

Maybe this explains the popularity of MP3 files, massive dynamic range compression on recordings, and the overwhelming business seen at audio boutiques (or even in the audio department of your local big box store.)

Is this one of those "fake news" things I keep reading about?

rschryer's picture

"Maybe this explains the popularity of MP3 files, massive dynamic range compression on recordings..." Convenience will always be the #1 selling point for the masses, but my guess is that now that there is a plethora of convenient mobile devices on the market that sound better than their predecessors, sound quality will matter more.

CG's picture

You could well be right.

This seems like a radical shift rather than an evolved position, though. I guess these things happen on occasion.

The part that still baffles me is why most people would even care about sound quality. I know very, very few folks who sit down and actually listen to music. It's normally just a background activity - kind of like personalized Muzak. It's rare for people to focus on the musical content. That's where higher quality sound really makes a difference.

Heck, most people don't even focus on the music during live performances.

By analogy, most people don't much care about the quality of video, either. They just care about how large the screen is and how thin the box may be.

(None of the above is a criticism of anybody, since IMHO, how people spend their free time is their business, as long as it doesn't adversely affect anybody else.)

goodfellas27's picture

you may be right, but people like you and me that come to this site for audiophile news care about it. I would guess their aim is to get us on-board as their base first with the hope of the better sound and convenience will bright in the massive afterward.

CG's picture

Maybe.

The skeptical side of me says that there is another business justification for all of this. The recording industry is not a charity, and never has acted remotely like one. So, this seems like a huge change in attitude. Not long ago, these same folks were unwilling or very reluctant to provide higher-than-CD-resolution files for sale to audio enthusiasts that were willing to pay a premium. What changed?

goodfellas27's picture

I guess you missed the point of the MQA certified DAC unfolding the "master" at the DAC itself to avoid people from ripping it. If you rip it at its analog stage, you will not catch the "deblur" process from their ADC; hence protecting the studio.

CG's picture

I apologize.

I've read your comment a few times and even let it sink in overnight, but I don't quite understand what you're getting at. So, I can't author the reply your comment deserves. Sorry.

PeterMrozik's picture

I don't quite understand the point about ripping. Unless MQA includes DRM, how are you prevented from ripping (copying) the file? My understanding was that MQA was specifically being positioned my Mr. Stuart as not DRM?

audiom's picture

MQA? No. Just give me a 24/96 stream of unadulterated bits and I'll take it from there.

Archimago's picture

Yup. Thanks but no thanks.

stereophilereader's picture

!

NeilS's picture

+1

tonykaz's picture

This excitement about MQA is about bringing higher sound quality to the World's Smart Phone owners ( a couple Billion Folks ).

Audiophiles will be (and are ) Ignored by the Music Industry!

From this point forward , the Smart Phone will be the Focus point of everyone.

MQA makes 16/44.1 from the narrow bandwidth of MP3.

Audiophiles need only to return attention to those $20,000 Speaker Systems, $5,000 Cable Systems and ( of course ) the important $12,000 Phono Cartridge.

Leave MQA to the rest of the World's everyday folks who text, facebook, twitter, etc.

As far as attracting "New Blood" to High-End, forgetaboutit, the new folks will already have High-End Audio as a Standard Feature Set in the next Phone they get, imagine trying to sell one of them on a $72,000 Tubed Phono Pre-amp. Egads! They are getting excited about the Mavic Drone Quad . ( about $1,000 and runs with the Phone as a Display )

My loved High-End and Oldsmobile are about equals, now-a-days.

Tony in Michigan

rschryer's picture

I believe you're half right, Tony. This excitement about MQA is not only about bringing higher quality sound to the masses, but to us.

PeterMrozik's picture

So this morning I'm happily listening to some Master titles on Tidal but I have no MQA equipment, just my laptop hooked up to the USB DAC in my OPPO 105. My I assume that I am only getting a hi-rez stream, not a master authenticated stream? I'll need a MQA DAC for that?

rschryer's picture

Correct; no MQA, but a confirmed yes to a 24/96 signal if your DAC is equipped accordingly.

Pono2017's picture

That is incorrect. The Tidal software, running on a desktop system, will stream and decode the MQA file (at a max resolution of 96/24) without the need for additional software or hardware. You also have the option to stream an "un-decoded" signal to hardware that can decode.