Master Quality Authenticated (MQA) is the newest format to hit the market. MQA is an audio codec intended for high fidelity, digital audio, internet streaming and file download. Launched in 2014 by Meridian Audio, it is now owned by MQA Ltd, which carries out research and development, and licenses the technology to consumer audio playback system manufacturers, record companies and other music content owners, and to music streaming and download providers. It also licenses the technology to professional audio manufacturers for the production of studio equipment required to make, process and monitor MQA recordings. In essence, it was developed to do two things; deliver master quality audio in a file that’s small enough to stream or download. MQA encoded content is delivered in a FLAC container. When an MQA file is decoded by an MQA-enabled DAC, the DAC is presented with the original high-res content. When using a non-MQA-enabled DAC, the DAC is presented with essentially a CD-quality file (either 24/44.1 or 24/48 depending on the original resolution). This means it’s backwards compatible, so will play on any device. And because it’s fully authenticated, you can be sure you’re hearing exactly what the artist approved in the studio.
How Do I Play MQA?
MQA can be played on any audio device, whether that’s inside your home, your car, from your phone or anywhere else you might be – perfectly fitting into the way you listen to your music today. Without an MQA enabled product, the sound will be better than CD quality. To truly unlock the richness of MQA you’ll need a device or software with an MQA decoder. On playback of MQA content, the player indicates you are hearing exactly what the artist recorded and approved in the studio.
The following is an excerpt taken from Michael Lavorgna's article on Audiostream.com.
"An MQA encoded file can be played back in four ways; with no decoding, software decoding, hardware decoding, and a combined software/hardware decode."
"If you play back a 24-bit/192kHz MQA-encoded file using iTunes through a regular DAC (i.e. a non-MQA DAC), you will get a 24/48 file."
"If you play back a 24-bit/192kHz MQA-encoded file through an MQA software decoder like Tidal HiFi, Audirvana, or (soon) Roon, and you are using a regular DAC (i.e. a non-MQA DAC), you will get a 24/96 file. A software decoder does not offer the ability to 'unfold' the original file to resolutions higher than 24/96 (or 24/88.2)."
"If you play back a 24-bit/192kHz MQA-encoded file through an MQA-enabled DAC, you will get a 24-bit/192kHz file. If you are also using a software decoder like Tidal HiFi, Audirvana, or (soon) Roon, you can have the software decoder perform the first 'unfold'"
The original article can be found here and we highly encourage you to read it in its entirety
How Do I Buy MQA Files?
In exactly the same way as you normally buy digital music – from a range of streaming or download providers.
Why Should I Care?
MQA keeps all this timing information, and folds it into a file that's only a little bigger than a CD. Played back on any existing system, it will sound better than CD. But on an MQA-capable system, the music will be unfolded, reproducing every element that's in the original recording. MP3 brings you just 10% of what was recorded in the studio. Everything else is lost to fit the music into a conveniently small file. MQA brings you the missing 90% – the full, rich experience – without any loss of convenience.
With MQA, the engineers go all the way back to the original master recording and capture the missing timing detail. They then use advanced digital processing to deliver it in a form that’s small enough to download or stream.
The result is astonishing. Every nuance and subtlety of the artist’s performance – every tiny drop of emotion – is authentically reproduced. When you listen, you’ll be transported right into the very moment of creation. You’re there!
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