A newly certified high-resolution audio codec from MQA is set to target Qualcomm’s aptX and Sony’s LDAC solutions.
The format is called MQair (well, technically it’s called SCL6, but MQA is releasing it to the public under the more catchy moniker, MQair) and MQA tells us it can deliver higher quality PCM and MQA audio files when streaming to wireless and Bluetooth devices.
And you don’t just have to take the MQA at its word; MQair has achieved the Japan Audio Society (JAS) High Resolution Wireless Audio certification. This means that if you buy an MQair-supported product in the future, you’ll see a beautiful gold Hi-Res Audio logo adorning the packaging – as you’ll already find on the excellent Astell & Kern A&norm SR25 MKII, or indeed any of the best high resolution audio players on the market, not to mention the Sony WH-1000XM5 headphones and some of the best wireless headphones available on the market.
Here’s the important part: the MQair codec (which can be considered the ‘bridge’ between the resolution of the file you’re streaming and how much of it can actually reach your ears) will apparently support PCM and MQA audio formats up to 384kHz, via Bluetooth , Ultra-Wideband (UWB) and Wi-Fi streaming connections. It also claims to offer low latency and high efficiency – aka potentially longer battery life for your devices, similar to the advantages offered by Bluetooth Low Energy (LE).
Review: MQair is the Qualcomm codec and Sony will want to keep an eye out…
So it is an LDAC or aptX alternative. But why is this particular codec potentially more important? Well, MQA is the file format that Tidal uses in its Tidal Masters HiFi Plus high resolution library, which is (no doubt, you understand) the audiophile’s choice when it comes to streaming music – it’s certainly one of the best services. streaming music available today.
And whether or not you think the MQA outperforms the sonic punches of Apple Music’s ALAC codec used in its Hi-Res Lossless offering, it certainly offers more detail than Spotify’s sociable but lossy OGG Vorbis solution (with long-awaited HiFi or ‘Platinum’ tier has not been officially released yet).
The point is, when (if) MQair starts to become ubiquitous in the newest creations from Astell & Kern and the like, it could take on the ultimate in wireless listening – the Netflix of audiophile streaming, if you will.
Case in point: iFi’s audiophile output, which includes some of the best portable DACs out there; take a look at the hip flask-shaped hip-dac which is now in its second iteration. The company’s workmanship has long boasted full decoding MQA files up to 384kHz. This means that the entire ‘three unfold’ decoding process is performed internally, as opposed to just the final unfold (in the manner of an MQA ‘renderer’). This is all iFi’s roundabout way of saying “MQA is good, and we do it better.”
Of course, this is all a pie in the sky why not to meet not sure what brands or products will adopt the new MQA codec when it arrives, but we wouldn’t be surprised to start spotting an MQair logo on boxes soon – and of course, whether or not Tidal chooses to support it, no will have little influence on your success.
Will we see this start to appear in time for Black Friday? And will products unable to support it therefore be subject to some tasty Black Friday deals? It’s all a little early to say. But we can’t wait to hear it…