Napster's adding high-quality MQA streams - but not in the way you might imagine

MQA growth continues with 'Powered by Napster' set to stream studio-quality audio

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.


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Dan Sung

Dan is a staff writer at What Hi-Fi? and his job is with product reviews as well as news, feature and advice articles too. He works across both the hi-fi and AV parts of the site and magazine and has a particular interest in home cinema. Dan joined What Hi-Fi? in 2019 and has worked in tech journalism for over a decade, writing for Tech Digest, Pocket-lint, MSN Tech and Wareable as well as freelancing for T3, Metro and the Independent. Dan has a keen interest in playing and watching football. He has also written about it for the Observer and FourFourTwo and ghost authored John Toshack's autobiography, Toshack's Way.