China’s Xiami Music has partnered with audio tech company MQA (Master Quality Authenticated) to bring master-quality hi-res audio streaming to one of the world’s fastest-growing music markets.
Effective immediately, Alibaba-owned Xiami Music will offer MQA playback to all its users for a limited free trial period after which it will be available to the platform’s premium SVIP subscribers via its Android and iOS apps.
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, which is certified by the RIAA and has licensing deals with all three majors and independent label organization Merlin.
Music services that already offer users MQA “studio quality” audio streaming include Tidal, Nugs.net and hi-res download stores Onkyo Music, e-Onkyo (Japan) and Hi Res Audio. MQA’s hardware partners include Sony, LG, Astell & Kern, Pioneer, Technics, Onkyo, Bluesound and Meridian.
The company says that China is the fourth largest market for sales of MQA-enabled devices, reflecting the growing demand for high quality audio listening in the world’s seventh-biggest recorded music market (according to the IFPI). MQA hopes that its partnership with Xiami Music will further boost sales of partner products.
“We are very proud to be the first music service in China to offer MQA, as we continue to push the technological boundaries in pursuit of improved sound quality to benefit our music fans and all musicians on our platform,” Xiami Music director Long Yang said in a statement.
“By partnering with MQA, Xiami is the first music service in China to confirm when the consumer is listening to the authenticated studio master,” MQA CEO Mike Jbara tells Billboard in an emailed statement.
Jbara goes on to say that while there are currently streaming services in China that list some of their music as high quality, “there’s no way for listeners to validate the provenance of those files.” He claims Xiami is the first streaming platform operated by the big three tech and e-commerce companies in China — Baidu, Alibaba and Tencent — “to offer authenticated studio masters at scale for mobile consumption.”
Xiami Music was founded in 2008 and acquired by the Alibaba Group in 2013. User numbers are not publicly available. The biggest digital music services in China are QQ Music, Kugou, Kuwo and WeSing, all owned by tech giant Tencent Music Entertainment Group. Collectively those four services have more than 800 million users, says Tencent.
NetEase Cloud Music, operated by Chinese internet company NetEase, is another of the region’s biggest music platforms and claims to have more than 600 million registered users.
In 2018, China became the fourth-biggest market for streaming revenues, according to the IFPI’s Global Music Report, generating over $478 million in revenue.