It’s been quite a week in the world of hi-res music streaming.
News broke last Friday that MQA is going into administration. This left us wondering what this means for Tidal, as the streaming service uses Master Quality Authenticated (MQA) technology to deliver High-Resolution Audio to its HiFi Plus subscriber tier.
Well, maybe now we have an idea.
In a recent AMA session (ask me anything) on Reddit with the CEO of Tidal, Jesse Dorogusker was asked a number of questions regarding MQA and Hi-Res Audio. In response, he said: “We will soon be introducing hi-res FLAC to our HiFi Plus subscribers. It is lossless and an open standard. It’s a big file, but we give you controls to turn this up and down based on what’s going on.”
He didn’t go so far as to say that Tidal is completely removing MQA from its platform, but after reading his response, some may think it’s only a matter of time.
Dorogusker isn’t saying exactly when hi-res FLAC files will arrive, but “soon” would suggest we might have a few months, if not weeks.
He suggests that file sizes will increase as part of the format change, but also that users will have the option to turn the quality up or down depending on the source they are using. In the same AMA, Dorogusker notes, “We also live in a mobile-dominated world, and mobile phones have limitations in terms of memory, data plans, coverage maps – so there is always a trade-off for customer need between more quality and more bandwidth. /storage efficiency.” It seems that sufficient flexibility will then be built in; but the big question will be how will the switch affect the audio quality?
Tidal already uses FLAC to stream CD-quality lossless files in the standard ‘HiFi’ tier, but Tidal HiFi Plus supports Tidal Masters via MQA technology.
Tidal currently demands a premium for its hi-res catalog, charging £19.99 ($19.99, AU$23.99) per month – in stark contrast to Apple Music and Amazon Music Unlimited, which charge £10 ( $10, AU$10) and £10 ($10 / AU$12) respectively. Can this step lead to a change in the cost of a subscription? We’ll have to wait.
We’ve reached out to Tidal for further comment…
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