There seems to be a lot of confusion with the yesterday’s announcement of the TIDAL Master quality streaming update. So let me share my first impressions…
For the HiFi users, this upgrade comes free of charge and it shows in the settings as HiFi/Master. At the right bottom, Tidal application with automatically display either file is encoded as normal 44 khz 16bit file or as high resolution one, thus changing the the HiFi indication to the Master.
Do note, that so far only Mac and Windows desktop applications are supporting this new feature. I’m sure the upgrades will follow with all connected software and players.
There are two modes in work from what I’ve could decipher so far. If you own a DAC, that support MQA, then when passthrough MQA is checked in the sound preferences it will automatically decode the MQA based high-resolution file. I guess it depends on what “master” encoding quality label provided to the Tidal. There is no exact info with “Master” album at what exact resolution particular album is decoded inside the Tidal application, but luckily it will show on the your DAC display.
For the owners of DAC’s without MQA Tidal offers a 24bit/96khz or 24bit/88khz “studio” quality streaming. To enable this feature, you’ll have to turn on the excluisive mode. Otherwise the streaming stays at normal HiFi resolution.
Any difference? Not so much time to explore, but I’ve played few tracks from 2L label, Joni Mitchell, Pat Metheny Unity Group, The Doors, etc. and the impact is noftacible and its not subtle by any means with some, but not all. As usually it will depend on the quality of mastering and original files, but for example Joni Mitchell - Blue sounds wonderful through my reference MSB Technology Select II DAC. Quite a step up from the normal version!
Overall sum up? This is where 21st century high-end audio should headed long time ago. As much I was (as many of you) skeptical about MQA, it seems, that there are real world applications, that can push digital audio further. This is not my last word on the MQA, but thumb up for now!
The long awaiting, rapid push forward of digital audio is here. The real luxury of enjoying high resolution audio streaming is finally making sense and the upper echelon DAC’s can unlock their given potencies.
With the revival of vinyl and analog, digital audio is no shy either! I’ve repeated many times; its the best time to be in high-end audio and from what it seems the doors to digital heaven are only starting to open…