MQA (the company) dropped the mother of all news annoucement bombs at CES 2017: Tidal’s desktop app would execute the first unfold on MQA-encapsulated hi-res audio streams. The tiny corner of the Internet populated by audiophiles subsequently exploded, mostly with enthusiasm but also some displeasure. The former celebrating the arrival of hi-res content to the mainstream, the latter complaining of back-door DRM by stealth.
The next question to be asked by those maintaining an open stance: when would MQA’s first unfold (core decoding) come to mobile devices? Speculation intensified as to its imminent arrival in September with LG making a big splash with their V30 smarthphone at IFA. This was the first mass market device to include full MQA decoding and rendering. (DAPs aren’t mass market devices).
Alas, without Android app support from Tidal, the Berlin-based MQA party fizzled out early, restricting the V30, and Android-based DAPs from Pioneer/Onkyo, to the handling of locally stored MQA content.
CES 2018 be the ideal time for Tidal and MQA to co-announce iOS and Android support…but that’s not happening. The official word is ‘soon’ (but not next week). Instead, MQA will spend their time in Las Vegas talking up partnerships with lesser-known third parties.
South Korean streaming service Groovers will be joining hands with LG to debut MQA/hi-res playback on Android – a world first – for which a free 3-month Groovers trial will be offered to all South Korean LG V30 owners.
Throwing the net a little wider, nugs.net – whose archive of live recordings features the likes of Pearl Jam, Bruce Springsteen, Metallica, Phish and Umphreys McGee – has moved the streaming business. Monthly access to their entire catalogue of 10,000 live shows is priced at US$12.99 for lossy ‘standard sound quality’ or US$24.99 for ‘CD-quality lossless audio’. From 10th January, lossless subscribers will be able to enjoy ‘native MQA playback’ of thousands of full-length concerts via nugs.net’s iOS app – also a world first. What we don’t know is whether or not nugs.net streams will unfold to sample rates higher than 16bit/44.1kHz.
Back on the desktop, Roon have at last formally announced that support for MQA will be arriving at some point ‘soon’. How soon? They won’t say. No doubt AudioQuest DragonFly Red/Black owners will be crossing everything they have that said MQA support also comes to the iOS/Android playback engines added by v1.4.
Lastly, both software teams at Amarra and Audirvana continue to work behind the scenes on Windows MQA implementations with the latter’s app slated to arrive at the end of January. Audirvana+ for Windows will see retain the MacOS version’s feature set but will come wrapped in brand new interface.
Further information: MQA