MQA to be released on Compact Disc

Coming to a CD player near you?

MQA continues to find new, and surprising ways to place itself into the mainstream music marketplace with it’s announcement today that the first CD to feature MQA mastering, and encoding technology is to be released on the Ottava label Friday.

If you’re like me, the first question that sprang to mind was “How will a conventional CD player be able to play the high-resolution MQA file?” One of the biggest advantages to MQA encoding or “folding” as the company refers to it, is that studio-resolution files can be folded down to much more manageable resolutions, and sizes for streaming, so a 24/384 studio file can be stored, and played back at either 24/48, or in this case at 16/44.1, or CD resolution.

“OK, we get it,” you say, “but what about the CD?” Well, for that you still are going to need an MQA-enabled device to decode. So the output from your CD player or CD transport would be piped into one of the hardware solutions from MQA Playback Partners like AudioQuest, Mytek, Brinkman, Meridian, MSB Technology, Aurender, or NAD to name a few.

Things are certainly getting interesting.

–Rafe Arnott

The first MQA recording to CD is A. Piazzolla by Strings and Oboe.

From the MQA press release that came out this morning:

Tokyo / London, 16 March 2017: A recording by Astor Piazzolla “the single most important figure in the history of tango” will be the first MQA recording to be released on compact disc in Japan.  The album “A. Piazzolla by Strings and Oboe” – recorded by the UNAMAS Piazzolla Septet and mastered by respected producer and mastering engineer Mick Sawaguchi – will be released by the Ottava label on 17 March.

Since launching in the early 1980s, the CD format has undergone a number of sound quality improvements, but these have depended largely on the manufacturing process, rather than an improvement in the quality of music itself.  After attending a JAS (Japan Audio Society) seminar on MQA technology presented by MQA founder Bob Stuart in late 2016, Mick Sawaguchi and Synthax Japan’s managing director, Seiji Murai, realised that MQA could enable not only 48-24 coding but also 44.1-16 coding.  We were both excited by the prospect that CD, combined with MQA technology, could herald a new era of hi-res audio,” says Sawaguchi.

MQA technology captures and reproduces the original sound quality using less data, and the MQA CD works in exactly the same way as the MQA digital file.  With a conventional CD player connected to an MQA-enabled device – such as those from Meridian, Mytek, Brinkmann and Technics – the MQA CD will ‘unwrap’ to the original sample rate.

Sawaguchi compared a test MQA CD with a normal CD of the same recording at SONA Studio, played back on a CD player with a Meridian amplifier and loudspeaker systems.  Listening to the MQA CD was a great moment in my life, as it no longer sounded like music from a CD,” comments Sawaguchi.

Bob Stuart, MQA founder and CTO adds, “This exciting release demonstrates that innovative music creators, like Mick Sawaguchi, are embracing MQA as the best way to master and deliver their recordings.  While MQA is ideal for streaming services like TIDAL, where studio quality sound can be streamed in smaller file sizes, we also appreciate the importance of the CD format in the Japanese market.”