The Beginner’s Guide to MQA Audio

Streaming music services are now becoming the main way many of us access our music, but since the majority of these services use compressed audio streams, it has never been much of a world for audiophiles. We’ve discussed Hi-Res audio before, but there are not many options out there for those who want Hi-Res music streams. That number seems to be increasing. Qobuz has offered Hi-Res streaming through it’s Android app, and as of this year Tidal are also offering a desktop app that allows Hi-Res streaming. It’s called Tidal Masters, and it achieves this feat by using an audio codec called MQA.

What Is MQA Audio?

MQA, like many other streaming methodologies, uses lossy compression to store music as a small enough file that it can be easily streamed. Where MQA deviates however, is the with the quality of the stream, using a different sampling processes and dithering techniques to bring a Hi-Res stream directly to you. You will no longer require a huge bandwidth to enjoy studio level audio quality!

How do I listen to MQA Audio?

MQA is not a file type, but rather a codec that is packaged within other formats such as WAV, FLAC or ALAC. This means you will need the appropriate hardware or software to decode the codec. Right now, there are not many of these going around, but as MQA moves out of its infancy stage, more manufacturers and developers may follow suit. MQA has a list of their current partners on their site, which include Pioneer, whose excellent XDP-100R player can decode MQA.

Tidal Masters seems to be the best (and only!) place to go for an MQA audio stream. Used in their desktop application only, meaning that the DragonFly by AudioQuest may be a sound investment for those using this service. The DragonFly is a USB DAC that supports MQA following an update, and will really help make those Hi-Res streams come to life.

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Where can I find MQA music?

MQA music files are currently available at online retailers such as Onkyo Music, 2L and (unsurprisingly!) Highresaudio. For streaming, as mentioned above, Tidal is the place to go.

As more companies begin adopting the MQA codec, be sure to keep checking AMP3 for new products that are compatiable over the coming months!