Sunday, July 14, 2024

Tidal is dropping MQA support, opting for FLAC instead

Key Takeaways

  • Tidal dropping MQA and 360 Reality Audio in favor of FLAC and Dolby Atmos starting July 24th.
  • Tidal’s decision is based on open source benefits of FLAC and wider compatibility of Dolby Atmos.
  • MQA tracks will be replaced with FLAC versions, while 360 Reality Audio tracks will be grayed out.

Lossless audio enthusiasts know that Tidal has been using multiple different audio formats their lossless audio and immersive audio for a while, supporting Master Quality Authenticated (MQA) and 360 Reality Audio formats alongside FLAC and Dolby Atmos. But starting July 24th, Tidal will be dropping support for both MQA and 360 Reality Audio, in favor of just FLAC and Dolby Atmos. Instead of MQA being the highest-quality format available on Tidal, it will be replaced with HiRes FLAC.

This comes after years of Tidal being one of the only services to support MQA files, which have a smaller file size than FLAC but have better audio quality. Last year in a Reddit AMA, Tidal CEO Jesse Dorogusker stated that Tidal would be introducing HiRes FLAC as a lossless audio option, and also stated that there were no plans to get rid of MQA. But since then, MQA Ltd, the company behind the MQA format, went bankrupt and sold the format to a company called Lenbrook, causing speculation about the future of the MQA format.


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Tidal’s motivation for this transition

Tidal explains on its website that the main motivator for supporting FLAC over MQA is that it’s open source, so artists can easily get their music on Tidal without involving a third party. As for Dolby Atmos over 360 Reality Audio, Tidal explains that Dolby Atmos has more compatible devices, as well as more widespread adoption of that format.

Users that have MQA tracks in their collection will be replaced with FLAC versions, and 360 Reality Audio tracks will be grayed out in their collections. Tidal says they have no plans to make any other changes to audio format support in the future. These changes also come after Tidal lowered their subscription prices to $10.99, and turned their HiFi and HiFi Plus plans into one tier.

With Tidal making moves with its lossless catalog like this, I’m excited to see what else might happen in the lossless space in streaming in the future. Maybe this will motivate Spotify to finally launch their lossless tier? But only time will tell.


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