Canadian audio group Lenbrook has announced today that it has acquired the assets of MQA, the British-based technology company that developed the MQA high-resolution audio encoding technique used by the music streaming service TIDAL and embedded in many audio devices.
Master Quality Authenticated is a technology developed in 2014 by UK audio company Meridian Audio, founded by industry figures Bob Stuart and the late Allen Boothroyd. MQA is a proprietary audio coding standard for lossy digital audio compression. The idea behind MQA was to provide high-quality and authenticated audio encoding that is a genuine and unadulterated version of the studio master recording.
Unfortunately, MQA went into administration on April 3, 2023. MQA was one of the high-end streaming tier offered by Tidal. Although TIDAL still offers MQA as a format on its HiFi Plus tier, the streamer has added high-resolution PCM alongside MQA, presumably as the future of MQA was in some doubt. The acquisition by Lenbrook should bring clarity to the future of MQA as a high-resolution audio format.
The acquisition boosts Lenbrook’s intellectual property portfolio, which now includes an assortment of significant patents and introduces two prominent audio codecs – MQA and SCL6.
Gordon Simmonds is the CEO of Lenbrook and has this to say about the acquisition: “Lenbrook’s vision is of a thriving hi-fi industry where technologies that promote both consumer choice and the pursuit of the highest sound quality are deserving of investment and nurture. We view this acquisition as an opportunity to ensure the technologies developed by the scientists and engineers at MQA continue to serve the industry’s interests rather than be confined to any single brand or company.”
George Massenberg, a Grammy-winning producer and recording engineer, reacted to the news by saying “I’m so relieved that MQA and SCL6 will continue under Lenbrook. MQA’s technology, with its faithful rendering of detail, complexity, and sound stage, gave us the reason to go back into the recording studio and reverse a 20-year decline in the quality of audio delivery methods.”
MQA was founded from the insights and support of record industry executives, recording artists, and audio engineering experts. The project sought to provide creators with the means to efficiently preserve the detail and nuance of recordings in high-resolution recorded formats, marking a pushback against the trend toward heavily compressed music.
“I’m delighted that MQA will continue in good hands with Lenbrook,” added Morten Lindberg, Grammy-nominated Master Engineer at 2L. “For 2L, using MQA has allowed us to enhance the experience of our recordings, beyond the raw capture, with increased access to sonic details, transparency and lower listening fatigue.”
Lenbrook is well-capitalized and tends to take a long-term view of investments and market development. The company owns NAD, Bluesound and PSB Loudspeakers. The acquisition of MQA will bring certainty for the technical developments and financial viability of the technology. As part of the deal, Lenbrook has retained a core group of engineers and developers, plus some sales and marketing personnel, including Andy Dowell, previously the Head of Licensing for MQA, who will continue to lead business development activities.
“MQA is the only technology that considers the entire audio signal chain, from studio to listening room, to assure consistent quality of reproduction. The patents and research that underlie MQA represent significant contributions to digital audio quality due to their focus on time domain issues that have not been well understood until recently,” explained Greg Stidsen, CTO of Lenbrook. “We’re determined to continue to develop our marketplace and encourage the possibilities these technologies can achieve.”
Andy Dowell added: “As one of MQA’s most significant licensees and the owner of the award-winning BluOS high-res content platform, Lenbrook is well positioned to build on what was started. Its BluOS platform work has proven that the Lenbrook team understands it takes a certain amount of neutrality to be a licensor, but it can also take a customer view when it comes to the wants and needs from a product development standpoint.”
Comment: MQA technology has brought high-resolution audio streaming in a multi-layered format that is highly efficient at being unfolded using software and hardware at various resolutions. There was a chance that MQA could have sunk without a trace, but it is a good and efficient way of streaming and unfolding high-resolution music and TIDAL has done a lot to ensure the uptake, as has hardware manufacturers like Pioneer and Onkyo. Warner Bros. also has a long-term licensing deal for using MQA. Now that the technology is safely in the hands of Lenbrook, the future of MQA looks a lot more certain.
More info: lenbrook.com