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MQA founder talks music quality, streaming and immersive audio

As the founder of music technology firm MQA – and before that of Meridian Audio – Bob Stuart has plenty of views on audio quality and the evolution of music services.

This week, he shared them in a keynote interview at the Music Ally China Digital Summit, for which he was interviewed by Vickie Nauman, founder and CEO of CrossBorderWorks. Stuart started by looking back to the early days of digital music.

“My work began in the analog era, before digital existed, and when digital came obviously we were very interested in it, because digital has a promise that we can store the music without damage, and we can transmit it easily without damage,” he said.

“Those are real benefits, but even at the beginning of digital people were arguing about the sound quality. Was it as good as analog, you know?”

Stuart cited the transition from vinyl to CD as a “hugely important” moment for the music industry because – and vinyl lovers may want to look away at this point – “it brought a very clear sound, a better sound, and a more robust form of distribution to everybody”.

However, he also looked back to the period around 2000 when he and his peers were exploring a next step “from CD to high resolution” only for technology to take another course.

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Major labels talk hi-res audio: ‘It’s not a niche market’

Traditionally, better audio quality has been a niche, from physical formats like DVD-Audio and SACD to lossless-quality music downloads. Will ‘hi-res’ audio be more than a niche for audiophile music fans?

The three major labels hope so. A panel at this month’s IFA show in Berlin featuring representatives from Universal Music, Sony Music and Warner Music – as well as tech firm MQA – outlined their hopes that hi-res audio can have mass-market appeal.

That includes the challenge of convincing younger fans that hi-res doesn’t just sound better than their existing method of music-listening, but that it is worth paying for.

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Deezer reveals MQA deal for its hi-res music tier

Last week, we reported on Deezer’s rebranding of its hi-res tier from Deezer Elite to Deezer HiFi. Now there’s another development in the streaming service’s hi-res ambitions: a partnership with tech firm MQA.

“The deal will enable MQA’s technology to be integrated into Deezer’s platform, as well as across the service’s ecosystem of hardware partners and connected devices,” explained the announcement this morning, which noted that the two companies already share partners including LG, Onkyo and Sony.

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Will music fans want to ‘stream the studio’ with hi-res audio? (#midem)

Major labels, a number of prominent artists, audio hardware firms and some streaming services are excited about the potential for ‘hi-res audio’. But will more than a niche of fans agree?

A panel session during Midem 2017’s ‘Streaming Day’ strand explored the issues from the point of view of supporters of hi-res audio, sponsored by industry body the Digital Entertainment Group (DEG) and moderated by its senior director Marc Finer.

The panel included Pete Downton, deputy CEO of 7digital; Mike Jbara, CEO of MQA; Malcolm Ouzeri, CMO of Qobuz; Andre Stapleton, SVP partner development, global digital business at Sony Music; and Ty Roberts, CTO at Universal Music.