TIDAL Unveils MQA Streaming for Hi-Fi Subscribers on iOS

Jay-Z’s streaming music service, TIDAL, has had a tumultuous history since its launch in 2015. Despite a rocky start, the platform has continued to gain a significant following among audiophiles thanks to its high-quality streaming options. In an effort to attract more users, TIDAL recently announced that it would introduce Master Quality Authenticated (MQA) streaming for its Hi-Fi subscribers on iOS devices.

MQA is a file format that delivers high-resolution audio in a small streaming package. The format uses a “music origami” process to convert large 24-bit files into formats compatible with streaming services and music devices without a loss of quality. An MQA music file will usually play at better-than-CD-quality. MQA has already been certified by the RIAA and has long-standing deals with the big three music labels – Universal Music Group, Sony Music Entertainment, and Warner Music Group.

Despite MQA now being offered by hardware partners such as Onkyo, Technics, Bluesound, Meridian, and Pioneer, among others, consumers often can’t tell the difference between a high-quality audio file and a standard one. In an effort to attract more consumers to its service, TIDAL unveiled MQA recordings for Hi-Fi subscribers on Android in January. Previously, only desktop apps could use the option.

Last Monday, the company finally made the high-quality file format available for iPhone and iPad users. According to TIDAL, MQA files – 96 kHz / 24 bit – aren’t bigger than regular Hi-Fi streaming. However, the option to stream master quality recordings requires smartphones and tablets with specialized decoding chips. This means that not all iOS devices are compatible with the MQA format.

While the introduction of MQA streaming on iOS devices is a significant milestone for TIDAL, it remains to be seen whether it will attract more users to the platform. High-fidelity streaming has yet to catch on in the music industry, largely due to its high price point. TIDAL’s Hi-Fi service costs $19.99 per month, which is twice the price of its regular streaming service. While audiophiles are willing to pay the extra cost for high-quality audio, the majority of consumers prefer to pay $9.99 for a standard streaming service.

Moreover, most consumers cannot tell the difference between a high-quality audio file and a standard one. This is because the difference in quality is often subtle, and most people do not have the specialized equipment needed to fully appreciate high-quality audio. As such, the price point remains a high consumer barrier for high-fidelity streaming, making the option a niche for audio buffs.

Despite this, TIDAL remains committed to offering high-quality streaming to its users. Last year, the company revealed that it offers 165,000 tracks in the MQA format. While this is a small fraction of the millions of songs available on the platform, it is a significant number for audiophiles who are looking for high-quality recordings.

In conclusion, TIDAL’s introduction of MQA streaming for iOS devices is a positive step forward for the platform. However, it remains to be seen whether it will attract more users to the platform. High-fidelity streaming remains a niche market, largely due to its high price point and the fact that most consumers cannot tell the difference between a high-quality audio file and a standard one. Regardless, TIDAL’s commitment to offering high-quality streaming is admirable, and it will be interesting to see how the platform continues to evolve in the coming years.