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What is MQA Audio?

MQA is an award-winning audio technology that enables music fans to stream the original master recording into their home, car or on their mobile. Musical innovator and rising star Theon Cross, on listening to his debut album Fyah in MQA for the first time, commented “It’s the best I’ve ever heard it. It feels like I’m in the room, watching myself play.”

Control4 Corporation was the first custom install specialist to adopt MQA as part of its drive to enhance the smart home experience. In May 2019, Control4 launched MQA support for its home automation platform – Control4 Smart Home OS 3 – delivering homeowners a streamlined, multi-room listening experience in studio quality audio.

The science behind MQA

MQA (Master Quality Authenticated) was developed using new insights in digital coding and a deep understanding of how humans hear. While we tend to trust our eyes over our ears, human hearing is quite remarkable: you can’t see in the dark or around corners, however your ears can and they’re always ‘on’. Human hearing is also incredibly adept at determining where a sound is coming from – as sounds reach us, microseconds apart, our brains build a 3D soundscape. This timing sensitivity evolved to help us survive in the natural world by pinpointing, for example, the direction of a potential attack. Using this same faculty, we can position individual instruments at a live performance and, with MQA, this crucial timing information is captured and preserved from the master recording, so it recreates the original performance.

How it works

The technology delivers the original sound, in the highest quality, with the most flexibility, using less data, while authenticating provenance. No other system can do this. MQA captures the original recording, ‘folds’ the file for efficient distribution, and ‘unfolds’ the file dependent on the playback set-up and device capability. Visit the ‘How it works’ section for a visual overview.

The best sound

MQA connects creators directly with their fans. Our record label partners ensure the master recording is converted to MQA and delivered to the music service. On playback, the MQA decoder authenticates the sound using a digital display – displayed on the UI – so that listeners know they are hearing a true version of the original recording.

Some of the world’s leading engineers have endorsed the qualities of MQA, for example mastering engineer Bob Ludwig, “The thing about the authentication aspect of MQA is that I can know that the listener at home is listening to the identical analogue sound that I've approved and that the artist has approved.”

Where to listen

The first major music service to adopt MQA was artist-owned TIDAL, which launched TIDAL Masters in January 2017. Since integrating MQA, TIDAL has won the title of ‘Best Music Streaming Service’ at the What Hi-Fi? Awards every year. The TIDAL app acts as a core decoder – which completes the final unfold for the optimal listening experience. In November 2020, TIDAL significantly boosted its Masters catalogue by adding millions of MQA tracks to its service.

Award-winning technology

Not only does MQA power award-winning partner products and services – here’s a reminder of Control4’s list of accolades – but the credentials of MQA’s founder Bob Stuart are also well documented and celebrated. Most recently, Bob became the first audio engineer to ever receive the prestigious Prince Philip Medal from the Royal Academy of Engineering (RAE) in 2020. The RAE bestowed the honour in recognition of Bob’s “exceptional contribution to audio engineering which has changed the way we listen to music and experience films.”

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