News & Opinion

Tidal Drops MQA

Tidal drops MQA (insert shocked Pikachu face here)! Tidal has announced that they will no longer be using MQA. Any MQA files will now be available in Hi-Res FLAC instead. And even if you downloaded MQA files, those will get replaced with Hi-Res FLAC now.

In another surprising turn of events (can you sense the sarcasm?), Tidal will only use one spatial audio format, Dolby Atmos. That means that the previously supported formats, mainly Sony 360 Reality Audio, will be unavailable until a suitable Atmos track is available.

Lastly, Tidal claims that the Hi-Res FLAC files will sound every bit as good as their MQA counterparts and most folks will never notice the difference.

But Why The Change?

Tidal claims the reason behind the change is that MQA incurs additional licensing fees, while FLAC is open source. This lack of licensing fees (and mastering requirements) means that more artists will opt to choose FLAC, and this should make more Hi-Res audio files accessible to us.


As far as Dolby Atmos goes, the simple fact is that Dolby Atmos mixes are widely available and are used on services such as Tidal, Apple Music, and Amazon Music. Holding on to niche formats like Sony 360 Reality Audio probably won’t entice folks over to Tidal.


Tidal has simplified its pricing tiers. Their Hi-Fi tier which includes Hi-Res FLAC and Dolby Atmos is $10.99/month, $16.99 for the family plan, and $4.99 for student plans. Tidal also offers a DJ Extension plan that gives DJs access to 110M tracks.

Our Take

If you didn’t sense my sarcasm, this is not exactly a shocking turn of events. I have always argued that while there may be objective (and measurable) differences between audio formats, you will never hear them as long as the bitrate is high enough. While MQA, on paper, sounds like a superior format, it requires a fancy decoder to access it, and I doubt that anyone could realistically tell the difference between MQA and FLAC (come at me audiophiles!)

I am glad that Tidal has simplified its audio formats to two formats, FLAC and Atmos. I am also glad to see a simplification of their pricing plans. Tidal is a great service, with an expansive library of music. I think that this new change will make them more competitive with the other music services!

3 Comments on Tidal Drops MQA

  1. Pablo

    The audio world is filled with idiots that can’t understand the meaning of lossless. MQA can NEVER be better than FLAC. If you don’t understand that, go back to school and learn math again.

    (BTW, while higher sampling rate and bitdepth do help during music recording and postproduction, HiRes makes zero sense as a delivery format. No human can hear the difference between a CD and HiRes audio.)

    NOTE: this isn’t directed to the author of the post, but to any flat Earth… err… I mean audiophile out there.

    • Andrew

      Hi Pablo, I didn’t think it was directed at me. You are right, the audiophile world loves anything that has some element of elitness to it. I have long said, like you, that we are unable to hear differences that these different codecs use. This just proves that Tidal knew it too!

  2. Carlton

    MQA never offered any sound quality benefit from a CODEC perspective. Lossless is lossless. It only authenticated that the source file hadn’t been altered. So it was basically just FLAC with a CRC/MD5 checksum included in the stream. Why should a music company pay a third party to verify the file the music company uploaded to a streaming service is authentic?

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