Tidal, the music streaming service initially founded by Jay-Z, has announced “Master quality recordings” at CES 2017 available for streaming by paying subscribers of the service’s $20/month HiFi option. The new feature will give users the ability to listen to high-resolution audio that outputs in a CD-quality lossless format coming through at 44.1 kHz / 16 bit. Tidal already offers users higher quality FLAC streams, but they don’t exactly stack up to true high-res audio.
The new audio codec being used by Tidal is called MQA and is created by a company of the same name. A full explanation of how the codec works can be found below.
Meridian says MQA will “fundamentally change the way we all enjoy music”. It’s a new method of digitally storing recorded music as a file that’s small and convenient to download or even stream, without the sonic sacrifices that are traditionally associated with compressed files.
Meridian says an MQA file requires a similar bandwidth to that required for CD-quality streams. So if you’re able to stream Tidal’s hi-fi tier with relative ease then the new Tidal Masters tier using MQA shouldn’t be a problem.
This means hi-res audio streaming can become a reality, with songs being able to be delivered exactly how they were recorded in the studio, without requiring huge amounts of bandwidth to deliver.
Essentially, the music will still be provided through lossless containers such as FLAC or WAV, but now it will transmit at around 96 kHz / 24 bit. This new codec will also allow users to listen to high-resolution audio without causing a great strain on their bandwidth, unlike other codecs whose massive file size can cause problems.At first, Tidal is only making the “Master” service available on Desktop. However, they confirmed that true high-res audio files on mobile
At first, Tidal is only making Master audio playback available on desktop. However, the company confirmed that true high-res audio files on mobile is a definite possibility, so stay tuned.
Tidal’s entire catalog won’t be available in Master format, mind you, but a number of artists and labels including Warner Music Group’s entire catalog is already available in Master quality.