MQA at Munich HIGH END: Driving adoption of authenticated studio quality sound
MQA, the pioneering company delivering authenticated master-quality music in a file small enough to stream, enters this year’s Munich HIGH END having just concluded a global agreement with Rhapsody International Inc, alongside an array of partner news. Rhapsody announced earlier this week that it will offer MQA as part of its ‘Powered by Napster’ service, a complete music and audio platform that makes it possible for companies to quickly and efficiently launch their own branded streaming services across mobile, automotive and home.
MQA founder & CTO Bob Stuart commented on MQA’s ongoing quest for perfection in sound quality and authenticity, “MQA’s system manages the delivery of the original music through to the end listener: our label partners ensure that only the highest quality definitive master recording is converted to MQA; and our service and hardware partners integrate MQA’s technology and authenticate provenance through their playback displays.”
Continued MQA Adoption
HARMAN Luxury Audio Group is increasing its MQA-ready lines. Following the successful integration of MQA into the Mark Levinson No 519 Audio Player, HARMAN has confirmed that both ARCAM and Lexicon will integrate MQA into future product ranges. On the back of rave reviews for its KANN Cube portable media player, Astell&Kern is launching its newest flagship player in Munich, the MQA-enabled SP2000* from its A&ultima range. Elsewhere at the show, Onkyo will reveal its TX-8390 Stereo Receiver, which is due for release within the month, while Pioneer will unveil its PD-50AE Music Player, the first MQA-CD player in the range. In other recent news, Lenbrook has integrated live concert recordings specialist, nugs.net, as the latest music service on its BluOS music management platform.
MQA’s European software partners are also on the rise. Thesycon, the Germany-based system-level software development specialist, has announced that support for MQA technology will be available as an optional feature in its new U-HEAR firmware solution for Arm-based micro-controllers. U-HEAR stands for USB High-end Audio Receiver and implements the complete digital data path for a high-end DAC or amplifier with USB interface and other digital signal inputs. And Audirvana, the France-based maker of MQA-ready high-performance audio playback software, has just released Audirvana 3.5 for Mac, which benefits from sound quality enhancements and introduces the new-generation user interface first implemented on Windows 10.
MQA continues to work closely with all its hardware partners and other new MQA-enabled products include the following:
- Brinkmann will be launching its MQA-compatible ultra-performance Voltaire Integrated Sound System Amplifier
- Esoteric will be demonstrating the Grandioso D1X DAC* with the P1X Transport and N-03T Network Audio Transport
- Hegel will showcase its new H390 Integrated Amplifier
- EMM Labs is unveiling its NS1 Streamer* which is next in the range of MQA-enabled products coming later this year
- Cocktail Audio will be showing its new X50Pro Reference Pure Digital Music Server and HA500H Hybrid Headphone Amplifier & DAC*
- Matrix Audio is announcing that its new Element series*, due for release within the next few months, will support MQA
- Pro-ject will be displaying its new Pre Box RS2 Digital DAC*
- Wadax is announcing the new Atlantis Reference and Arcadia DACs*.
(*subject to final test & certification)
Expansion In Japan
Further demonstrating its global reach, MQA has recently launched the Japanese version of its website, mqa.jp. The MQA-CD format continues to flourish in Japan and over the last 12 months, hundreds of titles have been released, including albums from the Rolling Stones and Queen, jazz performer Bob James, and all releases from the Nordic 2L label. MQA-CD can be played on any regular CD player to deliver more detail and nuanced playback; when paired with a decoder, MQA-CD reveals the full master quality recording.
MQA’s success in Japan has not gone unnoticed, and earlier this year it received a special award in the annual HiVi Grand Prix Awards. Chair of the judging committee and renowned critic and writer, Reiji Asakura, commented, “I am truly pleased to see how MQA has been growing quickly worldwide, and the HiVi Grand Prix is proof that MQA is earning widespread recognition in Japan. MQA-CD is especially good news for Japanese music fans who love physical media.”
MQA Format Versatility
Decca Records, the iconic British label celebrating its 90th anniversary this year, has collaborated with MQA on a masterpiece project “Luciano Pavarotti Life in Art”. MQA worked closely with Decca to deliver the legendary tenor’s complete catalogue, including previously unheard recordings, in pristine MQA audio. The files are presented as a limited edition ‘digital box set’ on an Onkyo digital audio player – available for Munich demos – in a bespoke handcrafted wooden case, alongside several ‘money can’t buy’ related experiences and artefacts.
"Here's To Ben" by Jacintha is the first ever ‘Crystal Disc’ recording in MQA. The special disc is made of glass instead of polycarbonate, with a reflective layer of 24k gold, rather than conventional aluminium, and was manufactured in Japan. Originally released on Groove Note in 1998, and now licensed by nMusic Ltd, the session was recorded direct to two-track at the famous Oceanway Recording Studios in Los Angeles using vintage microphones. A tribute to legendary tenor sax player, Ben Webster, the collection of songs includes Webster classics such as “Stardust”, “Georgia” and “Over The Rainbow”, reinterpreted by jazz singer Jacintha. This special disc is on view at the show – recommended retail price €1,600.
Harnessing MQA technology for a different format – this time vinyl – “Special 33” from jazz trio Blicher Hemmer Gadd, is a limited edition double LP, remastered using MQA and produced in collaboration with Brinkmann Audio. Featuring the trio’s favourite songs from their two previous albums, all ten tracks were recorded live at shows performed in some of Europe’s leading jazz clubs, with one song never previously released. Pressed on 140g vinyl with a limited run of 500 copies, Special 33 quickly sold out upon release earlier this year. You can learn more about the story and production process, as well as listen to Brinkmann’s first LP, in the Brinkmann Audio suite (Atrium 4.1, E108).
MQA Live Returns to Munich
Once again a special MQA Live performance will be delivered into partner rooms at Munich High End, this year with British singer-songwriter Ana Silvera performing songs alongside double bassist Jasper Høiby. The duo’s performance will be streamed in real time at 3.30pm CET on Friday 10 May, from the Black Tornado studio in Copenhagen, into MQA partner listening rooms (see notes below for full list).
Caspar Sutton-Jones, Ana Silvera’s mastering engineer at Gearbox Records, commented, “It’s wonderful to be able to broadcast this exclusive performance with Ana and Jasper, and relay the studio sound in all its glory in real time. Through our ongoing collaboration with MQA, we’re exploring ways the artists we work with can deliver their music in its original studio quality.”
To experience the MQA Live stream, please visit the following MQA partner rooms at 3.30pm CET on Friday 10 May:
Aurender – Hall 1 A09
Bluesound/NAD — Hall 3 H04
Brinkmann Audio — A4.1 E108
dCS — A4.2 F209
EMMLabs — A4.1 E111
Esoteric — A4.1 E118
iFi Audio (WOD Audio room) — A4.1 E109
Mark Levinson — A4.1 F119
Meridian (Audio Reference) — A3.1 D111
Wadax — A4.1 E106
Wadax (AvantGarde) — A4.1 E115