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TIDAL abandons MQA
TIDAL abandons MQA
TIDAL abandons MQA

Tidal says “bye bye” to MQA and here’s what that means for subscribers

Tidal is finally saying goodbye to MQA, a closed file format. This has been coming for a while because MQA Ltd. was acquired by Lenbrook after insolvency . Tidal had already erred on the side of caution and embraced the open file format FLAC . As of July 24, 360 Reality Audio and MQA streams will no longer be available via Tidal.

Tidal is done with MQA

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Tidal has announced that it will replace its MQA streams with FLAC versions, after introducing the FLAC format last spring to complement its existing MQA offering. Tidal is also immediately eliminating 360 Reality Audio tracks, sticking only with Dolby Atmos as the multi-channel audio format of choice. The changes will take effect on July 24, 2024. All podcasts and music available in 360 Reality Audio will be removed.

So that’s the end of MQA and the end of 360 Reality Audio via Tidal. The move isn’t terribly surprising. Tidal’s days of supporting MQA seemed numbered when it not only added FLAC, but also immediately labeled Tidal FLAC as the “preferred format for high-resolution audio.” Earlier this week, Lenbrook (owner of PSB, NAD, Bluesound and, since September, MQA ) announced it was joining forces with HDTracks to launch a new MQA-powered hi-res service to rival Tidal, Qobuz, Apple Music and Amazon Music.

In a new support document explaining the coming changes, Tidal says it currently has at least 16-bit/44.1 kbps FLAC versions for almost all MQA tracks, but may not have a replacement for every song if MQA disappears. “We are working hard to ensure that all existing MQA tracks are replaced with a FLAC version in a timely manner,” Tidal said.

Subscribers who have downloaded MQA tracks or albums for offline access will need to update their Tidal app to the latest version on July 24th and re-download the tracks in FLAC.

Tidal is also dropping 360 Reality Audio

As for Sony’s 360 Reality Audio format, Tidal clarifies in that same document that Dolby Atmos will be the only multi-channel format it supports “due to the number of compatible devices, catalog availability and adoption of the format by artists.” When the changes happen in July, the song or album will be grayed out and no longer available for streaming. Sony’s 360 Reality Audio then lives on in Amazon Music and Deezer.

The past year has been all change for Tidal, with the introduction of FLAC and the simplification of the levels, but the landscape now appears stable: “We have no further plans to change our audio format offering in the future, and we remain committed to provide our subscribers with exceptional audio quality,” Tidal concludes.

FLAC is an open file format that has been around for a long time and can be used without having to pay licensing fees. The compression factor is so low and FLAC is so good that the difference with the bit-perfect WAV format is small. There’s a good chance that Tidal will stay with FLAC for a long time. There is no company behind FLAC that can collapse or withdraw support at any time. FLAC is completely future-proof and cannot be monopolized. That is an advantage that should not be underestimated.

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