Meridian Audio MQA paves way for high-res streaming

This evening [4th December], Meridian Audio launched its Master Quality Authenticated (MQA) technology - stating no less an ambition than to fundamentally change the way we all enjoy music.

Meridian MQA is an entirely new method of digitally capturing recorded music in a file that's small and convenient to download or, crucially, stream, but with none of the sonic sacrifices associated with compressed files.

Of course, Meridian has previous for inventing sound technologies, having licensed MLP for use on DVD-Audio and Blu-ray discs as part of Dolby TrueHD.

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Traditionally, digital coding has been designed with the primary assumption that how it deals with the frequency range and how it preserves the timing relationships between frequencies are both equally important.

MQA takes a different view, tailoring the way it samples the original signal (or recording) to take into account the way people's hearing works on a fundamental level. Meridian Audio calls this process 'encapsulation', and it's a method of coding that majors on getting timing precision right.

An MQA music file uses PCM, and it's backward-compatible. A product without the necessary MQA decoding will read the core code and, it's claimed, will deliver CD-quality sound.

MQA can be delivered inside any lossless container, e.g. Apple Lossless, FLAC or WAV.

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Hardware with an integrated MQA decoder (and that can be hardware in the home, in the car or portable) will unpack the additional information contained in the file, turning the data stream into what was originally recorded in the studio.

Significantly, the bandwith required for MQA is similar to that required for CD-quality streams, and so puts no additional pressure on data requirements.

While we have seen lossless, CD-quality streaming services from Tidal and Qobuz, MQA opens-up the possibility of high-resolution music streaming services.

Bob Stuart, founder of Meridian Audio, said: "Music-lovers need no longer be shortchanged... finally we can all hear exactly what the musicians recorded. MQA gives a clear, accurate and authentic path from the recording studio all the way to any listening environment."

We understand MQA already enjoys broad support from the music industry, recording artists and record labels, and expect further details regarding MQA as an app, software and/or hardware to be forthcoming at CES 2015 in Las Vegas.

MORE: What is MQA? Everything you need to know

MORE: High-resolution audio - everything you need to know

Simon Lucas is a freelance technology journalist and consultant, with particular emphasis on the audio/video aspects of home entertainment. Before embracing the carefree life of the freelancer, he was editor of What Hi-Fi? – since then, he's written for titles such as GQ, Metro, The Guardian and Stuff, among many others.