In recent years it’s likely that more people have written about hi-res audio streaming than have actually listened to it, but that hasn’t dented its appeal to music companies eager to tap into the high-spending audiophile market.
Independent label organization Merlin is the latest to strike a multi-year deal with U.K.-based audio tech company MQA (Master Quality Authenticated), which is certified by the RIAA and already has deals in place with Universal Music Group, Sony Music Entertainment and Warner Music Group, as well as a steadily-growing number of music services, including Tidal, 7digital and hi-res download store Onkyo Music. MQA’s hardware partners number Pioneer, Technics, Onkyo, Bluesound and Meridian, among others.
“Today’s future-facing agreement makes perfect sense — offering our independent label members a fast track entry point to an exciting segment of the streaming market, and ensuring they remain at its forefront,” commented Merlin CEO Charles Caldas in a statement.
According to Merlin, usage of its members’ repertoire is 27 percent higher on paid tiers than it is on free ad-funded services and, by partnering with MQA, it hopes to grow its reach among high-spending early adopters.
Founded by Bob Stuart and commercially launched in 2016, MQA uses a process it terms ‘music origami’ to make large 24 bit music files compatible on any service or playback device without loss of quality. On a normal player, an MQA music file will play at better than CD quality, says the British company. When played through an MQA decoder, the full, rich studio sound is unfolded — exceeding that of most recordings made with the highest sample rates commonly in use today.
“MQA’s commitment is to provide exceptional sound quality from the studio recording all the way through to the consumer,” commented MQA CEO Mike Jbara, who worked for twenty years at WMG before joining MQA last year.
“We’re excited to work with the leaders of the independent community,” he went on to say, calling today’s deal an important further step to “fuel the availability of master quality recordings for music fans.”