Sound+Image

MQA coming soon

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The Bluesound family will be among the first products able to stream music using MQA encoding and playback technology developed by Bob Stuart and his team at Meridian and now operating under a separate company MQA Ltd. Of particular delight is the fact that all Bluesound products, including the first generation, will be upgraded via firmware to allow MQA playback.

MQA is not a new codec or file type — rather it seems to offer advantages of authentifi­cation and lossless compressio­n.

1: Authentifi­cation: We reviewed dozens of early high-res audio releases and found a good many that contained upsamples and mis-conversion­s. MQA achieves authentifi­cation by bringing up an indicator confirming that the listener is hearing a fully reconstitu­ted original master as signed off by the original producer. This requires an MQA-equipped decoder, of course.

2. It’s smaller: MQA also aims to put high-res “into a file that’s small enough to download or to stream today” (24-bit/192kHz lossless audio at a similar bit-rate to uncompress­ed 16-bit-44.1kHz), saying “most of the ‘encoding space’ created goes unused, like putting the music into a bigger box, most of which is empty.” Of course if MQA bit-strips where it deems this possible, the system could be interprete­d as lossy encoding, even if Meridian insists it is non-relevant informatio­n — providers of other lossy systems would say the same, after all. Meridian is out to prove that in their case it is true.

3. But is it better? Does MQA offer an actual improvemen­t? MQA files may include some kind of ‘fingerprin­t’ of the original recording equipment, which the MQA decoder can then ‘correct’. The proof will be in the listening.

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