Meridian outs high resolution high efficiency MQA codec, says it's a "seismic shift" in coding technology

posted on Friday, 5th December 2014 by Steve May

High Res Audio  Streaming 

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Meridian Audio has revealed a new audio encoding technology able to deliver unprecedented master studio quality sound in a relatively tiny file size. Named MQA (Master Quality Authenticated) the new high resolution format was introduced by founder Bob Stuart (pictured above) at the top of The Shard, Western Europe's highest building yesreday evening.

Stuart describes MQA as a “seismic shift in coding,” explaining the technology has only been possible thanks to recent developments in MRI scanning and research. “Higher resolution audio uses higher sample rates. 96kHz sounds a little bit better than CD, 192kHz sounds a little bit better still, and 384kHz, unfortunately, a little bit better again. The problem is that the file size becomes huge. An enormous amount of data is required to deliver a nuance.” This is like trying solve the problem of water pollution, by pouring clean water in to dilute it, he quips. “The real solution is not to pollute it in the first place. What we’re doing with MQA is not polluting it as we go from analogue to digital and digital to analogue.  MQA allows up to capture the sound of the studio at much lower rates, to experience every intricate detail the microphone heard. For the first time in history, music fans will be able to hear at home what the artist created and approved in the recording studio.”

The implications for the music industry and hi-fi manufacturers alike could potentially be huge, it the format garners enough industry support. In attendance at the event were senior executives from Sony Music, Universal and Warner. Mike Jbar, CEO of the Warner Music Group said interest in the format was already being driven by artists. “For the creative community this is kind of jaw dropping. It could be argued that we’ve been stagnant as an industry when it comes to introducing new experiences. MQA will introduce a lot of new creativity.”

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The small file size offered by MQA, which can be streamed at just 1m/bit a second, could also transform streaming music services, says the brand. Bob Stuart told Inside CI that it was key to have music industry support. “What we don’t need is format wars or confusion, we all need to be on the same side,” he says.

One early adopter of the technology will be Arcam. MD Charlie Brennan told Inside CI, that while firmware updates could be used to make players compatible, Arcam was already working on a hardware decoding solution. “It’s just the best way to maximise performance. We’ll be looking to have a product ready for launch sometime in the summer of 2015.”

David Mugford, UK sales manager for Onkyo Europe, was equally enthusiastic. He told Inside CI: “It’s just awesome! We first heard MQA some time ago and were blown away. You can definitely expect to see Onkyo MQA enabled hardware from us soon.” Currently there is no confirmed details on the availability of MQA-encoded software, however online music giant 7digital was in attendance and is know to be a supporter.

Meridian says there will be further announcements at the 2015 International CES.

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Steve May

Inside CI Editor Steve May is a freelance technology journalist, who also writes for T3, TechRadar, Home Cinema Choice and ERT (amongst others).

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