One might say that we need another audio format like we need a hole in the head, but here’s a new one that actually makes some sense.
The good people at high-end Meridian Audio have come up with an interesting way to pack a lossless encode into an MP3 container.
The new format is called MQA (Master Quality Authenticated) and is backwards compatible with any player that can play a standard MP3 file. If the player has an MQA decoder, the listener can enjoy full lossless hi-resolution audio as well.
There’s another part to this that’s interesting. The actual music file that is being downloaded or streamed can first be authenticated by the owner (the artist or record label). If you’re using Meridian’s new MQA decoder hardware a little green LED will light to tell you that you’re listening to an authenticated version.
It’s still not clear exactly how this new format works, although the lossless part seems to unfold as either a FLAC or ALAC file so at least there’s no proprietary format secretly wrapped in. Remember that Meridian was responsible for the lossless MLP format used in DVD-Audio discs, although that doesn’t seem to be part of this format as far as I can tell.
Meridian feels that this format will take the music and audio world by storm, but only a few companies have officially signed on so far. Hi-res download site 7Digital and streaming service TIDAL might be the most significant, since the benefits for streaming are obvious in being able to deliver hi-res audio with less bandwidth.
The major labels also appear to enthusiastic, as the beauty is that a label won’t have to issue two separate releases—one an MP3 and another hi-res so it will keep the inventory down.
So what do you think? Are we ready for a new format? Is this something that you’ll think will help the music business or just another wave of the hi-res flag hoping that someone will salute?
You can find out more about MQA on Meridian’s dedicated website.
Bobby Owsinski is an author, producer, music industry veteran and technical consultant who has written numerous books covering all aspects of audio recording. For more information be sure to check out his website, and go here to acquire copies of his top-selling books.