A new music format is working its way to the car audio market and is expected to get a lot of attention at CES.
Some in the press have called the new format, MQA (Master Quality Authenticated), a “miraculous” solution for bringing high quality audio to consumers.
MQA takes the original master recording and is able to reproduce it fully, but in a file that’s not much bigger than CD quality music.
And it can “fold” itself into a bit rate lower than a CD rate for wireless streaming and then “unfold” itself back for listening.
MQA is expected to come to the car next year, its CEO Mike Jbara told us earlier this month. MQA is in talks with both aftermarket car audio companies and car makers.
MQA was founded by Bob Stuart, who also founded Meridian Audio. It launched in 2015 as is now available in a handful of home audio products as well as portable players from Pioneer and Onkyo. It was also shown in a concept smartphone by HTC.
MQA works differently than other file formats. It takes the higher end of the music spectrum above 20KHz including super high frequencies that you can’t hear and “folds it” or buries it into the frequencies under 20KHz. If you add an MQA decoder then the rest of the spectrum is “unfolded” and you hear better overall sound quality.
You can recreate 24 bit 192kHz files in about the same space as a CD quality 16 bit 44.1KHz file.
MQA likes to say that MP3 captures only 10 percent of the music originally recorded, while MQA restores the other 90 percent.
It’s also backwards compatible. According to Jbara, “MQA gives you the best sound your system can handle. If your device does not have any MQA decode capability at the application, OS, or hardware level, you can still get better than CD quality.”
Jbara believes the car makers will use audio quality in competing against each other and so he believes MQA will play an important role.
For the aftermarket it could create demand for new higher end speakers, amplifiers and new MQA-enabled equipment.
We are told to expect announcements on MQA in the next few months in the lead up to CES and at CES in January.