The good folks at MQA have done a great job at getting their technology and message out. Never mind about the benefits of the “authentication” process or the technical merits of the “origami” folding of ultrasonic frequencies within the bandwidth available to streaming companies, they’ve succeeded in convincing a couple of the major labels (and a number of smaller ones), some hardware manufacturers, and production studios to endorse and collaborate with them.
As I opened my email this morning, I clicked through to a press release issued by MQA and Universal Music Group. The title “MQA and Universal Music Group Collaborate on Advancing Hi-Res On-Demand Streaming” means that UMG, holders of one of the largest and most valuable catalogs of music has joined Warner Brother Records in support of MQA. With the world rapidly moving away from digital downloads to streaming, the move to associate “hi-res audio” — made possible by MQA processing — with the new distribution paradigm is interesting. Brace yourself for the second wave of “so-called” high-resolution audio/music promotion.
On the other side of the coin, I also received a heads up from a friend about an article written by Jim Collinson of Linn titled, “MQA is Bad For Music. Here’s Why”. You can click here to read this very compelling argument against the MQA technology. His take is rooted in the fact that MQA is great news for the labels, for the streaming services that will extol the virtues of “hi-res” and potential charge more or attract more subscribers, and MQA but doesn’t provide any real benefit for end users. His article is well worth the read.
And finally, I read a couple of posts at Archimago on the technical aspects of MQA. In early February, he authored a couple of well-documented articles. The first “Musings: Discussion on the MQA filter (and filters in general)…” drills into the bit-depth basis for timing accuracy. He successfully addresses some of the confusing and incorrect claims made about sampling in other publications as they apply to MQA. His other piece is “COMPARISON: Hardware-Decoded MQA (using Mytek Brooklyn DAC)“, which uses an MQA enabled Mytek DAC to evaluate hardware MQA decoding. Those of you who are more technically minded will appreciate the information and graphics in these posts. They confirm many of my apprehensions about this technology.
The labels are all about trying to license their catalogs again — this time under the banner of “hi-res” streaming. They extracted many millions of dollars during the “hi-res” download period (2007-2016) and are looking at reaping the same windfall as TIDAL and others play the fidelity card. The reality is that the world doesn’t really care about fidelity. They want convenience over sound quality. If adding an extra imperceptible octave to a recording from 50 years ago using MQA floats your boat then it’s time to get excited. As far as I’m concerned, streaming CD-specification sound surpasses my own requirements. If you want real high-resolution audio/music, avoid streaming.
The press release reads as follows:
LONDON AND SANTA MONICA | FEBRUARY 16, 2017 – Music technology company MQA and Universal Music Group (UMG), the world-leader in music-based entertainment, announced today that the companies have entered into a multi-year agreement that will encode UMG’s extensive catalogue of master recordings in MQA’s industry-leading technology, promising to make some of the world’s most celebrated recordings available for the first time in Hi-Res Audio streaming
Today’s announcement comes shortly after the launch of the cross-industry marketing campaign “Stream the Studio”, launched at the 2017 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas and spearheaded by The DEG: the Digital Entertainment Group, to raise awareness of the advantages of Hi-Res Audio streaming.
Mike Jbara, CEO of MQA, commented, “We’re very pleased to be working with Universal Music to achieve our goal of moving studio-quality sound into the mainstream. Universal’s timeless catalogue and impressive artist roster will fuel music streaming services worldwide and enable the premium listening experience for all music fans.”
Michael Nash, Executive Vice President of Digital Strategy at UMG, said, “The promise of Hi-Res Audio streaming is becoming a reality, with one service already in the market and several more committed to launching this year. With MQA, we are working with a partner whose technology is among the best solutions for streaming Hi-Res Audio, and one that doesn’t ask music fans to compromise on sound quality for convenience. We’re looking forward to working with Mike and his team at MQA to make our industry-leading roster of artists and recordings available to music fans in the highest quality possible.”
MQA – the award-winning technology which delivers master quality audio in a file small enough to stream – debuted on global music and entertainment platform, TIDAL, at the beginning of this year, and is also available internationally on several music download services.
Using pioneering scientific research into how people hear, the MQA team has created a technology that captures the sound of the original studio performance. The master MQA file is fully authenticated in the studio and is small enough to stream, while also being backward compatible, so you can play MQA music on any device. MQA’s award-winning technology is licensed by labels, music services and hardware manufacturers worldwide and is certified by the RIAA. MQA is a UK-based private company.
For more information visit www.mqa.co.uk
About Universal Music Group
Universal Music Group (UMG) is the world leader in music-based entertainment, with a broad array of businesses engaged in recorded music, music publishing, merchandising and audiovisual content in more than 60 countries. Featuring the most comprehensive catalog of recordings and songs across every musical genre, UMG identifies and develops artists and produces and distributes the most critically acclaimed and commercially successful music in the world. Committed to artistry, innovation and entrepreneurship, UMG fosters the development of services, platforms and business models in order to broaden artistic and commercial opportunities for our artists and create new experiences for fans. Universal Music Group is a Vivendi company. Find out more at: http://www.universalmusic.com