There has been buzz around the ‘Master Quality Authenticated’ (MQA) audio codec in the recent past… well as much buzz as there can be around an audio codec.
Designed for hi-fi, digital audio, internet streaming and file download, the codec is owned by MQA Ltd which carries out research, development and licensing of the codec to consumer audio playback system manufacturers, record companies and other music content owners and providers.
The company is now in talks with over 100 companies as the technology is being rapidly adopted by audiophiles and component manufacturers alike.
MQA director of marketing Lisa Sullivan says the technology is more than just a codec.
“It’s an end-to-end technology that captures, delivers and reproduces the sound of the original studio master. When an analogue sound is converted into a digital signal, temporal ‘blurring’ occurs, smearing transients through time. As a result, our ears can’t tell where individual sounds are coming from and recorded music sounds flat compared to ‘live’,” she says.
“MQA is able to ‘clean up’ this distortion to create a truly accurate 3D soundstage unlike anything you’ve heard.
“Once the recording has been de-blurred, MQA uses a process we call ‘music origami’ that cleverly makes a large, high resolution file manageable with any service or playback device. On an ordinary player (without an MQA decoder), the MQA file will still playback and sound better than CD quality. With an MQA decoder the full, rich studio sound is unfolded.”
MQA is the creation of Meridian co-founder and MQA chief executive Bob Stuart.
Bob talks about some of the philosophies that went into creating the codec on the MPA website. He explains how new theories based on neuroscientific research have moved the conversation on audio quality from the diminishing returns of ever-increasing sampling rates to a new definition of resolution and a more natural and authentic sound.
“We have to re-think how sound is changed to digital,” Bob says.
“One of the fundamental things about MQA I think is important to realise is although we talk about psycho-acoustics and neuroscience, we’re not using it to throw away parts of the sound.
“Some audio codecs do that, they try to decide what you don’t need to hear. We absolutely don’t believe that. Human hearing is so sensitive, so incredibly acute, that you can’t mess with the sound. The question we’re answering is what is the part of audio that is the most important to protect, defend and deliver.”
The philosophy behind MQA is to recreate natural sound as closely as possible, true to nature.
Bob says the codec comes from a passion for music and an understanding of how we hear and has been on a ‘journey’ within the music industry evangelising MQA for many years.
He started to ‘test’ MQA with labels and artists in Japan and the US. When label executives and artists heard MQA for the first time their reactions were incredibly positive and this confirmed the desire for Bob to bring MQA to market.
Once it was taken to market, Lisa Sullivan says the uptake has been astounding.
“We are talking to over 100 companies about the adoption of MQA technology,” she says.
“Live download stores include 7digital, Onkyo Music, 2L and HIGHRESAUDIO. MQA-ready hardware partners include Bluesound, Pioneer, Onkyo, Meridian, Mytek and NAD with many more partner announcements and launches anticipated over the coming months, including the roll-out of wider content.
“Warner Music Group signed a long term licensing deal with MQA in May 2016. Downloads of MQA music are also now available worldwide and MQA-ready products are now live in the market.”