Tidal Announces Major Changes – Ditches MQA & 360 Reality Audio

Last year, Tidal made some big changes to its lossless streaming platform. For a long time, Tidal has been using MQA as its highest streaming fidelity. This has been a hotly debated topic by those who use the platform, arguing the validity of its hi-res labeling. In April of last year, Tidal updated its streaming tiers, offering FLAC music streaming beyond CD-quality. However, MQA was still kept for those who still used it, even if it was made apparent that they would be moving on from it soon. That day has finally come, as Tidal has announced they are replacing all of their MQA tracks with FLAC.

According to Tidal, they will be replacing all MQA tracks with the highest quality FLAC version beginning on July 24th, 2024. It’s not clear what the exact streaming quality of these MQA tracks will be replaced with. Right now, Tidal’s hi-res selection can reach a maximum of 24bit/192kHz. What this could mean is that these MQA tracks will be replaced with any FLAC streaming quality above 16bit/44.1kHz, which is standard CD-quality lossless audio.

What’s come as even more of a surprise is the added announcement Tidal ditching Sony’s 360 Reality Audio. This means that you will no longer be able to listen to Sony’s spatial audio with headphones like the WH-1000XM5 or the ULT WEAR. However, this doesn’t mean that Tidal is getting rid of spatial audio completely. Tidal already has a selection of Dolby Atmos tracks for you to choose from, and will now be their main format for spatial audio moving forward. Dolby Atmos is also the format that Apple Music is using for its spatial audio tracks. This leaves Amazon Music, and Deezer as the last remaining music streaming services to offer 360 Reality Audio. It will be interesting to see if that format goes the way of MQA as well.

If you’re still interested in MQA, it was reported last week that a new music service is in the works from Lenbrook Media Group and HDtracks. This new digital storefront will feature both FLAC and MQA tracks just as Tidal has been doing for a year now.

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Alex S. is a sound designer and voice-over artist who has worked in film, commercials, and podcasts. He loves horror movies and emo music.