We arrive at CES each year armed with notepads and cameras, in the hope of finding those exciting new products. This year it was harder than most because those outside the audio industry were festooned with randomly interactive products that may or (probably) may not be the Next Big Thing, but for those in the audiophile community the big news was not something that comes with a photo opportunity.
As the show commenced, one of the hundreds of emails every hour that hit our respective in-boxes was the news that high resolution music streaming company TIDAL was to begin providing its service in the new MQA format. Aside from photographing a screen-shot, or maybe a glowing LED on a MQA-ready converter, there isn't much to illustrate this. But it might just be the most important news of the year.
MQA's early promise was to provide a file good enough to be considered of audiophile grade (with a performance at least commensurate with other high resolution formats), but in a deliverable package to suit music-loving 'millennials', who are seemingly allergic to waiting more than a few moments for their music to load. However, that early concept went largely unrealised as MQA began to roll out to audiophile ears. Instead, we got large file sizes albums targeted at the traditional audiophile generation.
TIDAL's name on the dotted line redraws the map at a single stroke. The company might not have gained the tens of millions of subscribers it once hoped for, and few have forgiven the embarrassing launch party, but it does have a reputation, among audiophiles and non-audiophiles alike, for delivering high-quality sound. By taking on the format, it sends a message about MQA to a wider audience than just us audiophiles. Let's hope that wider audience is listening.
CES also showed that a lot of audiophile hopes are pinned on high-resolution audio. While numbers at the Venetian Tower were not great, several high-end, high-resolution audio brands moved to the higher foot traffic of the Las Vegas Convention Center, in the hope of reaching out to new people, and – once again – with TIDAL and MQA working together, maybe seeds were being planted in the Nevada desert.
Our congratulations go out to the lucky winners of our 1More competition: Jesper Bendix, Christian Boman, Paul Gambon, Heroen Hartjes, David Howe, Martin Hyland, Kevin Jewula, Sergi Meseguer, Dennis Nicoll, and Konrad Pochhammer. Well done!