Developed by Meridian Audio and officially presented at the 2015 CES trade show, MQA technology (Master Quality Authenticated) was in the spotlight again during the 2016 CES trade show. This technology allows the streaming of 24 bits / 192 kHz HD audio files via a similar bandwidth to that used for CD quality files.
This high resolution recording, compression and distribution format is based on recent research in psychoacoustics and puts an emphasis on the temporality of the recorded audio file, a feature especially important to the human ear. It uses a specific data encapsulation system which preserves the richness of an HD audio recording in a digital file which requires a much smaller bandwidth than current high resolution audio files.
MQA technology would thus allow online music streaming services to offer a true catalog of high definition songs to their subscribers via a simple 3G connection. Tidal, the music streaming service headed by the American artist Jay-Z is already working on its offer and presented it with a convincing demo carried out at its booth during the 2016 CES trade show.
The other key players in the market – audio device manufacturers and online music services – should soon follow, especially as the MQA is not just another format which will require the user to completely change his or her audio system. The distribution of lossless high resolution files (24 bits / 192 kHz) is carried out via a FLAC, ALAC or WAV container, meaning it can be read by the majority of current audio network players, multiroom speakers and audio systems and audiophile portable players. Only one constraint remains as it is necessary to own an MQA compatible DAC like the Meridian Explorer 2, or device which can decode metadata generated by MQA technology such as the Bluesound products, which will soon integrate this technology via a software update (to be released in 2016), or as the already compatible Pioneer XDP-100.
Given the enthusiasm created by MQA technology at the CES trade show, many brands should quickly be compatible with this technology. If the device is not MQA compatible, the audio file can still be played without any issue, it will only be of a slightly better quality than that of an audio CD.
Full of promises, MQA technology offers highly interesting prospects and could very well be a key factor in the expansion of high resolution audio streaming.
A situation worth watching…