Napster is the latest music service do go hi-res, having just announced a deal to add MQA studio-quality files.
But rather than serve these files directly to users of its own streaming platform, Napster (which was acquired by Rhapsody in 2011) is instead making them available to other services that use its 'Powered by Napster' platform.
This platform is licensed to other brands to form the backbone of their music streaming offerings - iHeartRadio and Rakuten Music are 'Powered by Napster', for example. The Napster/MQA deal gives these services the option to offer MQA streams to their listeners in the future.
“Artists and creators are very clear that they want to give their fans the best possible sound quality,” said Mike Jbara, CEO of MQA. “With this agreement, Napster has positioned themselves as strong advocates for creators and its global reach makes today’s announcement a great milestone for MQA’s many global hardware partners.”
Will we see MQA files appear on Napster's own streaming service as well? The company's remaining tight-lipped on that for now, but it would seem odd to license the format and not offer it to its own subscribers.
Either way, it's another feather in the cap for MQA (Master Quality Authenticated) itself after Tidal announced MQA stream support in 2017. Hardware manufactures, such as Onkyo and Pioneer, have since flocked to update their products to work with MQA, too.
Master Quality Audio delivers hi-res audio folded into files small enough to stream at up to 24-bit/96kHz levels. An RIAA report cites a possible 400,000 studio-quality tracks available with labels releasing over 1,000 of these studio-quality albums each month.