Tidal Announces Hi-Res FLAC Format Amidst MQA’s Bankruptcy

Is Tidal dumping MQA for Hi-Res FLAC?
Is Tidal dumping MQA for Hi-Res FLAC?

We independently review all our recommendations. Purchases made via our links may earn us a commission. Learn more ❯

MQA’s bankruptcy and Tidal’s switch to Hi-Res FLAC cast doubt on the future of high-resolution audio streaming.

In a Reddit Q&A last April 10, 2023, Tidal CEO, Jesse Dorogusker, revealed that the streaming platform will soon be supporting FLAC in their Hi-Res format for HiFi Plus subscribers, days after MQA files for Appointment of Administrator, which is equivalent to bankruptcy in the US.

MQA, or Master Quality Authenticated, is “the audio coding technology company that makes high-resolution streams” for audio streaming services like Apple Music and Tidal. It is known to require certified and licensed hardware to playback encoded content, folding and unfolding the main audio file.

MQA Files for Bankruptcy Protection

MQA officially appointed its administrators on April 3, 2023, following the company’s announcement that its major investor is already “seeking an exit.”

In a public statement, MQA says, “Following the recent positive reception to MQA’s latest technology (SCL6), there has been increased international interest in buying MQA Ltd. At the same time, MQA’s main financial backer is seeking an exit.

In order to be in the best position to pursue market opportunities and expedite this process, the company has undergone a restructuring initiative, which includes entering into administration and is comparable to Chapter 11 in the US.”

The London-based company has filed the necessary documents to UK’s High Court of Justice, which is equivalent to the United States Courts, where companies file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

Under the U.S. Courts, “Chapter 11 is typically used to reorganize a business, which may be a corporation, sole proprietorship, or partnership.”

In MQA’s case, it was mentioned that it is undergoing a “restructuring initiative,” hence, the filing for bankruptcy security. This happened after Richemont’s (now Reinet Investment) representative and MQA’s main financial backer, Anthony Edward Rupert, resigned from his seat a month ago.

Tidal’s Latest Announcement in Possible Relation to MQA

Tidal, which is considered one of MQA’s biggest streaming service distributors, stirred some discussions among the audiophile community as well.

In a Reddit post done through his AMA or “Ask Me Anything” session, Tidal CEO Jesse Dorogusker announced that Tidal will soon be supporting Hi-Res FLAC for HiFi Plus subscribers aside from MQA.

“Breaking news for my Reddit peeps: we will be introducing hi-res FLAC for our HiFi Plus subscribers soon. It’s lossless and an open standard. It’s a big file, but we’ll give you controls to dial this up and down based on what’s going on,” he says.
Original post of Tidal's CEO on possible switch from MQA to FLAC. (From: Reddit)
Original post of Tidal’s CEO on possible switch from MQA to FLAC. (From: Reddit)
Tidal currently uses FLAC for lossless streaming in their HiFi subscription plan, while the higher tier, HiFi Plus, uses MQA for Tidal Masters.

When asked why Tidal originally chose MQA instead of FLAC or other formats in the first place, Dorogusker states that “TIDAL added MQA when others were streaming low-bitrate AAC (and some still do). It was a balance of quality and bandwidth.”

But he added that, “Cell networks are better now. Hi-res FLAC files will be big, but we think the infra is ready, even on mobile.”

This comes with the hint that users will be able to select the best audio format for their particular needs and preferences.

Dorogusker didn’t clarify when this Hi-Res FLAC format will be rolled out.

Feedback From the Community: What to Expect

Tidal’s CEO Jesse Dorogusker’s post alone had attracted varying reactions and queries from audiences, just nearly two weeks after it was made.

User Evshrug sees Tidal’s move in a positive light, and thinks that it is about time for the company to distance itself from MQA.

“I believe that they used MQA as a way to provide the highest streaming quality available when they first added MQA, and I think they’re providing more options now,” he says.
Users' varying comments over Tidal's latest switch announcement. (From: Reddit)
Users’ varying comments over Tidal’s latest switch announcement. (From: Reddit)

Another user, HD64180, meanwhile, hopes Tidal’s switch to FLAC will mean having the traditional FLAC as it is, instead of just deriving it from “unfolding” the MQA files.

Another Reddit post from a couple of days ago has also generated more reactions from consumers, both for MQA and Tidal’s announcements.

Most of the comments favored Tidal’s possible move to halt its MQA codec.

More feedback from users regarding MQA's filing of bankruptcy protection. (From: Reddit)
More feedback from users regarding MQA’s filing of bankruptcy protection. (From: Reddit)

User plazman30 said, “good riddance to bad snake oil.”

‘Snake oil’ is a frequent jargon among the community pertaining to MQA as a scam. A lot were also doubting MQA’s legitimacy when it came to its claimed lossless format.

However, there are also objective comments that provide suggestions instead.

While user itzykan agrees that MQA was “probably snake oil,” he wishes that there would be more interest in producing new file formats in the industry.

He says, “I’d love for us to have better compression formats for hifi, or different time domain response formats that could do good.”

There are still a lot of uncertainties regarding the MQA and Tidal’s latest revelations. Whether or not the series of announcements coincide with each other remains a question for many.

But for others, Tidal won’t just simply drop MQA from its service, and MQA still has the chance to revitalize its system through the SCL6.

Leave a Reply