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Carrie Marshall

TIDAL's making a massive change to its hi-res audio


If you're serious about audio quality, TIDAL HiFi needs no introduction: it's one of the best music streaming services for audiophiles. But the news that the hi-res audio firm MQA was going into administration, which broke just over a week ago, may have worried subscribers: MQA (Master Quality Authenticated) is TIDAL's preferred format for hi-res audio tracks.

According to our colleagues at What Hi-Fi, there's good news on that front: while TIDAL is going to keep its existing library of MQA content, it's also embracing the hi-res FLAC format for its HiFi Plus service. And it's doing it soon.

What's happening to hi-res audio for TIDAL subscribers?

Last week TIDAL CEO Jesse Dorogusker did a Reddit AMA to talk all things audio; inevitably the subject of MQA came up. In response, Dorogusker said that “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 give an exact time scale, but that "soon" suggests subscribers won't have long to wait.

As for MQA, What Hi-Fi put in a call to TIDAL HQ and were promised that "our existing MQA catalogue will continue to be available on the platform", so it looks like nothing in your current library is going to change in the foreseeable future. 

The company that owns MQA is still trading, and the goal is to find another investor or investors to keep it afloat. However it's possible that the administrators may sell the rights to the SCL6 codec, or they may sell the entire business for parts. We simply don't know, but if TIDAL is moving to hi-res FLAC it could undermine MQA's future further: there are only so many music formats the market can accommodate.

For now it's business as usual, but if you're considering buying new audio hardware you might want to check its FLAC compatibility just in case.

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