in ,

HDtracks + MQA + 7Digital = HDmusicStream

  • Is music streaming a zero sum business or does a rising tide lift all boats? That’s the question many will be asking later this year when HDtracks makes the jump from hi-res downloads to hi-res streaming, powered by MQA and 7Digital, to compete with Tidal’s selection of similarly MQA-encapsulated ‘Masters’.

    Among other things, MQA allows for hi-res audio streaming but at a lower bitrate and, as reported by, 7 Digital will “will handle app development, host the music catalogue on its platform and deliver tracks to consumers.” The HDmusicStream service is expected to launch in the second half of this year.

    Pricing information is still to be announced. Ditto catalogue size. What we do know is there exists the potential for the catalogue to be reasonably broad since Sony Music Group and Merlin (who represent numerous indie labels) joined Universal Music and Warner Music Group as MQA signees last month.

    For those in a speculative mood, we might imagine HDmusicStream as everything currently sitting on HDtracks’ website for sale as a download but made available to stream instead. How much would you pay per month?

    Also: America is not the world. For those not running a VPN, HDTracks (the download store) is only available to residents of the USA, the UK ad Germany.

    From their FAQ: “Due to agreements with our member labels, there are certain restrictions on which territories we are allowed to sell certain content to. However, every day we are adding more territories to our agreements, so if you are able to see and order our content, then you may download it!”

    Perhaps HDmusicStream will be made available to a broader range of territories. It’s hard to see how it will compete with Tidal if it isn’t. Or maybe competing with Tidal isn’t the intent.

    Whatever the intent and specifics, there’s no denying that Team MQA are on a roll right now and that the music download business is gradually being eaten alive by streaming, even in the hi-res space.

    Further information: MQA |

    John H. Darko

    Written by John H. Darko

    John is the editor of Darko.Audio, from whose ad revenues he derives an income. He is an occasional contributor to 6moons but has previously written pieces for TONEAudio, AudioStream and Stereophile. John used to live in Sydney. Now he lives in Berlin.

    Follow John on YouTube or Twitter


    1. HDTracks catalogue is way too shallow as it stands. They almost never have the recording I seek, while Tidal almost always does. I hope that going to streaming signals a much deeper catalogue for download, otherwise they remain irrelevant. And, writing from NZ, they need to get the territory issues resolved too.

    2. In the end both Tidal and the now boy are not what I want:
      – an extensive library of music
      – from which I can stream titles/albums once or twice to find out if music and recording quality are interesting enough for purchase. I would pay a ‘library fee’ of about 100 euro per year for this service.
      – the possibility to download the album (in MQA quality) so I own it indefinitely. (or untill my hard drive crashes, as you soberly suggested a while back, John). Since there is a marginal cost of near zero for this from the supplier, I think a fee of 5 to 10 Euro per album would interest me and artists.

      Would I buy my favorite 200 albums again in MQA at a cost of 1000 euro’s? Yes. Same for 2000? I doubt it. Would I pay 250 euro per year and not get to own a single file? No.

      So at their current offer there is a No from me to Tidal and a possible non- adaption to MQA. A shame, because MQA does sound very nice and I do have money to spend on this hobby. Just do’t expect me to bow to any scheme offered. If HD Musicstream is a copycat of Tidal my answer is clear: no thanks.

      • I understand all too well what you’d be willing to do. But (perhaps unfortunately) you’re not representative of the mainstream music consumption.

        Streaming is here to stay, because it’s the only form so far that provides a decent alternative to piracy. That is not to say that it eliminates piracy (far from it) but it provides a better piracy-revenue trade-off than CDs and music store downloads, in the internet era. Streaming accounts for a bit more than half of the music industry revenue in the US these days.

        Also, don’t mean to nitpick but you keep saying “own” when you don’t really own anything except for the medium that the copyrighted works reside on, and you have the right to play them and make one backup copy. Feel free to read the copyright law(s).

      • (in reference to Vlad’s reply…..)

        Most people I know aren’t especially concerned with the technicalities of copyright law in the context of “ownership” here. When we subscribe to a service like Tidal, it’s like renting an apartment… if Tidal were to go out of business tomorrow, or if I simply cancel my subscription, my entire “Tidal music library” ceases to exist – at least to me. Likewise, from my cable TV provider, I can “rent” on-demand movies for a day, or “buy” them “forever”. However, either way, if my cable company goes out of business, or I cancel my subscription, I lose access to any movies I’ve “bought”. There was even one disc DRM scheme which required the player to confirm your license with a server before the disc would play; when the company went out of business; all of their discs became coasters.

        In the context of music, most of us consider it to be “owning” music when we have a disc or file – which we can continue to enjoy indefinitely – even if the company we bought it from goes out of business – and even if we cancel our subscription. (This would apply to ordinary CDs, DVDs, and normal music files.)

        • @Keith

          Maybe people should be more concerned with the copyright law. Because in many jurisdictions, copyright laws only provide for a long-term rental to begin with. You buy a CD, listen to it until it breaks, and then you need to buy it again. You buy a flac download, the computer on which it resides breaks, well, you need to buy it again.

          In the US for instance, it’s not settled whether ripping a CD or backing up a legally downloaded file is fair use.

          “There is no other provision in the Copyright Act that specifically authorizes the making of backup copies of works other than computer programs even if those works are distributed as digital copies.”

          Now the RIAA concedes that they’re ok with the above mentioned practices (only for personal use of course) … but even then they only represent 85% of music labels (so in theory a label that’s not part of RIAA could sue you if you rip their CDs for backup).

          Other jurisdictions (UK for instance) explicitly disallow ripping.

    3. To me it’s easy to see how they could compete – high quality software.

      Streaming MQA without caching is really annoying. To date, Tidal software can’t do caching. Spotify does that, even though its files are smaller.

    4. No matter how popular MQA becomes it’ll eventually go the way of HDCD, i.e. become obsolete and mostly unsupported. I don’t even expect this process to take long due to ever increasing Internet speeds rendering the main selling point of MQA moot. I won’t be sad to see it go, the world doesn’t need the sort of proprietary technology MQA is. Also, it’s quite telling just how envious Bob Stuart is of FLAC and its popularity. He’s made at least one inaccurate claim about the limitations of the FLAC format…

    5. I live i Norway and have purchased several albums from HDTracks without using VPN.

    6. Hi John
      Seems like another blow for downloading, but I have to admit streaming is on the up no doubt.

      As someone who wants to buy music and I am far from lacking in choice, seems I can’t get much MQA to download. Is that more due to exclusivity for Tidal (streaming) than lack of availability?

      My most recent attempts to find MQA titles has come up zilch particularly on Onkyo Music and 7 Digital. Despite there being info that both sites have MQA to filter for and the MQA site says that both are streaming/download partners.

      Whilst not the most savvy on the planet, not finding popular titles, such as Bowie, Floyd or Mac on these sites (when filtering on 7Digital for all three artists comes back with nothing for MQA) is baffling.

      Worst case at the moment is knowing Kraftwerk’s new set is on Tidal masters but I can’t buy it.

      Seems I am already experiencing the desire of the music industry to get me subscribing not buying.

      Not much use for my Explorer2 in the MQA area. Just as well it is a good DAC anyway!

      Oh Dear


    7. If they want to ‘compete’ for my business, then Roon integration on par with Tidal is table stakes.

    8. Streaming may not be a zero sum game but high resolution streaming may be. At the Los Angles Audio Show last weekend Marc Finer of the Digital Entertainment Group was still saying the hi res market is 12 million the same as at CES in January.

      The real question is do HDTracks and 7 Digital have the resources to cover the losses of a streaming service?

      The MQA on a roll? It was nice that Bob Stuart told me MQA downloads will be available through HDTracks this summer but nobody in the Recording Academy seemed excited about MQA and the number of MQA files available as reported by Marc Finer is still very small. The only people at the Los Angles Audio Show showing interest in MQA were marketing people and a few journalists.

      • MQA may save streaming services some storage and bandwidth costs over non-MQA Hi-res, but for purchase, I’ll take non-proprietary Hi-res FLAC files over MQA files all day, every day.

    9. Does this mean that the download service will go away? I’m not a fan of streaming. I’d like to see parallel services akin to Netflix’s streaming and DVD services.

    10. I think these services are all great for the person that doesn’t have a huge music library on hand, or just doesn’t have time to build one. I’m glad these services exist. Not for me but I still appreciate them.

      • Agreed. And it’s great that you can see beyond your own needs, preferences.

    11. I am in. I’ll try any new product that promises improvement in sound quality. I’ll pay as much as I currently pay for Tidal for this new HDtracks MQA streaming service (I am not sure how much I pay for Tidal these days… hmmm?). I am not much for owning content. In any case, aside from a few most HDtracks recordings and remasters have terrible dynamic range. I have no interest it owning faux hi-res files. Streaming is fine. That’s just how I feel.

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