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Tidal Dumps MQA High Res Format Major Blow To Lenbrook

In a major blow to Lenbrook whose Bluestream products are distributed by Sydney based Amber, Tidal has pulled the plug on the MQA format just months after the Canadian Company acquired MQA.

Also out is Sony’s 360 Reality Audio format as of July 24th a format that is less popular with music Companies.

The audio streaming Company who are seen as the best for high-res audio files, says it will replace all MQA tracks with “the highest quality FLAC version” available.

The news of TIDAL choosing FLAC files in place of MQA files for its preferred hi-res format had to hurt MQA,

Lenbrook the privately owned Canadian Company whose holdings include NAD electronics, PSB speakers, and Bluesound (the maker of the BluOS music operating software system) acquired the assets of MQA, Ltd, including MQA technology and the SCL6. back in September 2023.

It’s not known how much they paid for the business but they did claim that the deal “further solidifies Lenbrook’s commitment to evolving premium audio.

In a statement Tidal said “On July 24, 2024, we’re replacing the music in TIDAL’s MQA catalogue with FLAC versions. In addition to this change, we’re removing all podcasts and music available in 360 Reality Audio. Learn how these changes will impact your Collection.”

The switch from MQA to FLAC was clearly a cost-saving move. MQA (owned by Lenbrook since 2023) charges a fee for its use, while FLAC, as an open-source format, is completely royalty-free. The decision to ditch MQA may have been a key factor in Tidal’s subsequent subscription price drop, which saw its premium offering fall inline with Apple Music and Amazon Music’s subscriptions after many years of being nearly twice as expensive.

Killing support for 360RA, however, may simply be due to a lack of demand. Tidal says, “for immersive sound, Dolby Atmos was chosen as the format we will support going forward due to the number of compatible devices, catalog availability, and artist adoption of the format.”

As a result of the FLAC implementation, Tidal increased the monthly their monthly subscription fees.

Effective immediately Tidal will use FLAC for stereo track downloads because it’s open source, enabling any artist to deliver music in high quality directly to Tidal without the involvement of a third party or the payment of a fee to the likes of Lenbrook.

They claim that this makes it easier for fans to experience music in the highest possible sound quality on all their devices.

the company has been quietly replacing MQA tracks with the FLAC equivalent with insiders questioning why Lenbrook actually acquired the business in the first place.

It became clear that this was a matter of “when” and not “if MQA would be fully deleted by Tidal” said one observer.

As for 360 Reality Audio tracks or albums in this format including those in a playlist or downloaded for offline access, Tidal is set to grey them out and make them unavailable for streaming.

The big question is that subscribers who have paid for a service on the expectation of premium audio with hundreds of tracks especially music owned by Sony not going to be available until they are converted to FLAC format.

This move leaves Amazon Music as the only major streaming service to still support Sony’s 360 Reality Audio format. T

the format is also available on niche services such as Deezer, Artist Connection and nugs.net.

Tidal has chosen to move forward with Dolby Atmos with the Company claiming, “Dolby Atmos was chosen as the format we will support going forward due to the number of compatible devices, catalogues availability, and artist adoption of the format,” Tidal says.

Currently Tidal is alerting users that it has FLAC versions to replace “nearly all MQA tracks,” but you may run into a title here or there not yet updated.

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