UPDATE: This article was originally published on 12/04/23 and has been updated to include an official comment from Tidal regarding its MQA catalogue.
It’s been quite a week in the world of hi-res music streaming.
Last Friday, news broke that MQA is going into administration. This left us wondering what this means for Tidal, given the streaming service uses Master Quality Authenticated (MQA) technology to deliver hi-res audio to its HiFi Plus subscriber tier.
Well, we might now have an idea.
In a recent AMA (ask me anything) session over on Reddit with Tidal’s CEO, Jesse Dorogusker a number of questions were asked relating to MQA and hi-res audio. In response he said, “we will be introducing hi-res FLAC for our HiFi Plus subscribers soon. It's lossless and an open standard. It's a big file, but we'll give you controls to dial this up and down based on what's going on.”
He didn’t go so far as to say Tidal is removing MQA from its platform entirely but, having read his response, you might think it’s only a matter of time.
However, we reached out to Tidal for comment and a spokesperson told us, "Our existing MQA catalogue will continue to be available on the platform." So, it looks like business as usual, for now at least.
In his Reddit post Dorogusker doesn’t say precisely when hi-res FLAC files will arrive, but “soon” would indicate we are perhaps taking a couple of months, if not weeks.
He suggests file sizes will go up as a part of the format switch, but also that users will have the potential to dial the quality up or down depending on the source they are using. In the same AMA, Dorogusker notes, “we also live in a world that is mobile-dominated, and mobile phones have constraints in memory, data plans, coverage maps - so there's always a consideration for the customer's need between more quality and more bandwidth/storage efficiency.” It appears there will be plenty of flexibility built in, then; but the big question will be how will the switch affect audio quality?
Tidal already uses FLAC to stream CD-quality lossless files in its standard ‘HiFi’ tier but Tidal HiFi Plus supports Tidal Masters through MQA technology. Soon it seems you'll be able to pick between two different flavours of hi-res.
Tidal currently demands a premium for its hi-res catalogue, charging £19.99 ($19.99, AU$23.99) per month – in stark contrast to the likes of Apple Music and Amazon Music Unlimited, which charge £10 ($10, AU$10) and £10 ($10 / AU$12) respectively.
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