The Original is The Best

While music fans are celebrating the arrival of millions of never-before-heard MQA tracks on TIDAL, some industry observers are surprised that MQA can deliver high-resolution sound from masters created for the CD age. At MQA, we are excited to tell this part of our story.

As Grammy-winning producers and engineers attest, MQA achieves benefits far exceeding the gains from the highest of sampling rates – delivering high-resolution experiences when the master is 44.1/16 (CD-quality) and higher.

MQA was designed with the music industry in mind. The RIAA has reported that as many as 70% of the most popular new releases are available in higher-than-CD quality. However, over half of all music streaming is of older titles which the industry calls ‘catalogue’ [1] – most of which are captured at CD quality. Clearly, it is equally essential that those be provided in their best sound. Music fans should be given the best sound across all the music they love, not just the newest.  

As my friend and business partner, Bob Stuart, recently wrote, “A file cannot be high-resolution nor can the container inform us about the sound.” Bob Stuart, the first audio engineer to receive the Royal Academy of Engineering’s Prince Philip Award, is saying there is no such thing as a high-resolution file.  What is he telling us?

It’s simple: All sound is heard as an analogue experience. High-resolution is only achieved while listening.  

So how did we find ourselves in such a confusing and contentious period around the topic of high-quality sound? It appears that there were two key factors:  

1. Most Industries like scalable, technology-based answers; ‚Äč
2. The improvements in PCM audio at higher rates were clear and addictive.  

During my time at Warner Music leading the studios and production, we valued standards which enabled consistency across the broadest set of studio partners. Not surprisingly, there was collective enthusiasm when the technology arrived allowing higher sampling rates and bit depth.

Sadly, not only did those increases come with a significant data cost, they did not address the core issues at the heart of digital reproduction. As Bob reminds us, “There’s no problem in principle using lots of data, but it is unethical to advocate inefficiency born of lack of understanding.”  

By designing MQA based on how sound travels through air – the purest distribution platform – MQA puts great emphasis on the preservation of natural dynamic range and timing information. When applied to digital masters, these techniques counteract the traditional, often unnatural, impacts of analogue-to-digital conversion, mixing, mastering and digital-back-to-analogue processes.    

With the arrival of MQA, the provenance of the master would be the better standard for the industry to promote – not sample rate or bit depth. As demonstrated by TIDAL Masters, MQA ensures that the Original is the Best.

To learn more about MQA visit Bob Talks.

[1] Music Connect/MRC data shows catalogue music accounts for 60+% of overall music streaming.

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