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TIDAL drops MQA from its offering – Dolby Atmos instead of Sony 360 Reality Audio

For a long time, TIDAL in particular was considered an advocate of the MQA format and thus the most important partner of MQA Ltd. TIDAL has now announced that it will remove all MQA-related content from its offering at the end of July 2024 and rely solely on the open-source FLAC format. There is also news regarding immersive audio: Sony 360 Reality Audio will no longer be supported, only Dolby Atmos.

Story Highlights
  • At the end of July 2024, you will no longer find any content encoded in the lossy format MQA at TIDAL, and content in Sony 360 Reality Audio will no longer be available. Dolby Atmos will be the only option here.

It is an announcement that is causing a stir, even if it is so far only a reference that the streaming provider TIDAL has hidden in its FAQ and which is dedicated to the future of content encoded in lossy MQA and content in immersive surround.

After being the most important supporter of the MQA format from MQA Ltd, TIDAL is now banning content in MQA, according to the streaming provider. This announcement can certainly be seen as a direct response to the fact that the newly formed Lenbrook Media Group, centred around the newly initiated MQA Labs, recently announced a partnership with HDtracks – as we reported.

Similarly, content in Sony 360 Reality Audio will no longer be accessible from the end of July. In future, the company will rely solely on a partnership with Dolby Laboratories Inc. and their Dolby Atmos for immersive audio.

MQA is history

This information can be found under the heading “Upcoming changes to audio formats”, with the title “Will I still be able to acess music in MQA and 360 Reality Audio on TIDAL”. In other words, the question is whether MQA and Sony 360 Reality Audio will still be available in the future, and the answer could not be clearer: it is a resounding no.

“From 24 July 2024, you will no longer be able to access music in MQA or 360 Reality Audio formats via a TIDAL application or integration.”

TIDAL on the question of whether MQA and Sony 360 Reality Audio will still be an issue in the future

Hi-res FLAC is the format of the future

For the audio data for classic HiFi in stereo, TIDAL has clearly opted for FLAC because, according to TIDAL, it is an open-source format with no restrictions and no licence fees. This means that every artist can make their music available in high quality directly on TIDAL without the need for a third party to be involved. This makes it easier for fans to experience music in the best possible sound quality on all their devices.

This argument is of course a low blow for MQA, but also a little hypocritical from TIDAL itself, because this immense disadvantage of MQA has always been true, so it should not be a new realisation for TIDAL…

Dolby Atmos instead of Sony 360 Reality Audio

For immersive surround sound, the decision has now been made to rely solely on Dolby Atmos as the standard format, meaning that Sony 360 Reality Audio has no future at TIDAL.

TIDAL cites the number of compatible devices as the reason for this decision, as well as the availability of the catalogue and the acceptance of the format by artists. TIDAL is pleased to partner with Dolby Laboratories Inc. to give artists the opportunity to expand their sonic vision and enable their fans to experience their music like never before, TIDAL said in the corresponding statement.

Impact in practice

Users who have content encoded in MQA in their playlists should not suffer any disadvantages, at least as far as possible, as a result of the decision now taken to dispense with content in MQA, as TIDAL explains. Audio data encoded in MQA will be available in FLAC from 24 July 2024, at least in most cases, and at least at 16 bit and 44.1 kHz, but in most cases also as Hi-res audio. an cannot guarantee, however, that all content that was previously available in MQA can actually be offered directly in FLAC. They are working at full speed to close any gaps in the offer as soon as possible. In any case, downloads for offline use must be reloaded in FLAC from 24 July 2024.

The situation is different for immersive surround, content in Sony 360 Reality Audio is simply no longer available and must be added in Dolby Digital, if available.

Getting to the point

It was quite astonishing that TIDAL, as a long reliable and ultimately the only partner of MQA Ltd., quickly decided to no longer devote all its attention to the MQA format in the wake of the company’s turbulence. TIDAL Max with Hi-res FLAC was supposed to be an alternative, but MQA was still an issue… The fact that the format has now been completely abandoned and the corresponding content has even been completely banned from the offering with a deadline of 24 July 2024 is surprising.

Even when you consider that the new owners of all rights relating to MQA and the newly formed MQA Labs, the Canadian company Lenbrook and its Lenbrook Media Group, are planning their own offering in partnership with HDtracks.

TIDAL’s reasoning seems particularly bizarre in this context, because the fact that MQA is a format for which massive licence fees are due and FLAC is actually the better choice as an open-source format without MQA encoding is not really new.

It is also interesting to note that it has now been announced that Sony 360 Reality Audio will not be used in future and that the company will rely solely on a partnership with Dolby Laboratories Inc. and their Dolby Atmos format for immersive surround sound.

THEMETIDAL bans MQA and Sony 360 Reality Audio
TIDAL
BrandTIDAL
ManufacturerSquare Inc.
DistributionTIDAL
More about this manufacturer at HIFI BLOG
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Michael Holzinger

Michael Holzinger, founder and editor-in-chief of HiFi BLOG and sempre-audio.at, has been working for years as a journalist in the fields of IT, photography, telecommunications and consumer electronics.

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