Is There Money in Hi-Fi? MQA Files for Bankruptcy After Investor Bails

MQA bankruptcy
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MQA bankruptcy
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Photo Credit: Silivan Munguarakarama

The British company behind Tidal’s Hi-Fi format has entered receivership—the U.S. equivalent of Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Here’s what we know.

MQA Ltd. is facing significant financial challenges, which has prompted its principal investor to exit. The company partnered with Tidal to deliver high-resolution audio in MQA format, but at this point it’s unclear if that partnership will be affected by the bankruptcy. MQA Ltd. is currently seeking a buyer and has undergone a restructuring process. It filed for the Appointment of Administrators in the UK, which is similar to Chapter 11 protections in the United States.

You can read the full statement from MQA Ltd. regarding its bankruptcy below.

“Following the recent positive reception of MQA’s latest technology (SCL6), there is increasing international interest in buying MQA Ltd. At the same time, MQA’s main financier is seeking an exit. To seize opportunities and expedite this process, the company has undergone a restructuring initiative, which has placed the company under receivership.”

“During this process, MQA simply continues to act together with its partners. While negotiations with third parties take place, we will not be commenting further.”

Apple music entered the world of hi-definition streaming under the Dolby Atmos umbrella. That partnership has helped drive the Dolby Atmos name further among general music consumers. On the audiophile front, MQA faces several challenges. The technology involves using proprietary lossy compression techniques to fold audio into a lossless container to reduce file sizes for streaming. The result is that MQA-certified hardware of software is required to ‘unfold’ the file for playback.

So how does the process of folding and unfolding MQA audio work? Well, it’s a wink wink nudge nudge, trust us situation. Take this explanation from Headphonesty:

“The MQA process is proprietary, so we must accept much of the explanations of its inner workings from the company on faith. From the end user’s perspective, it appears that music is inserted into a black box, and encoded MQA music comes out the other side. Feed the MQA encoded file into another MQA-branded box, and music comes out.”

The format has attracted some controversy from artists who care about quality too—most notably Neil Young when he pulled his catalog from TIDAL.

“TIDAL’s master is a degredation of the original to make it fit in a box that collects royalties,” the rocker wrote on his website. “That money ultimately is paid by listeners, I am not behind it. I am out of here. My masters are the original.”