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Lenbrook Has Acquired MQA and That Raises Some Interesting Questions

Deal adds significant audio patents and codecs to Lenbrook’s IP portfolio.

Lenbrook acquires MQA Ltd

Quite a few theories have been circulating today online in regard to this purchase and that forced us to reach out to both MQA and Lenbrook for some clarification.

The craziest rumor we heard was the Lenbrook was buying TIDAL which we all know was not happening based on what Square paid for the streaming service only a few years ago. Do you really think Lenbrook was going to spend $300M USD for a streaming platform with such a small percentage of the market?

Lenbrook has a reputation for being fiscally conservative and there is no way they would sacrifice the stability of NAD, PSB, and Bluesound with such a risky move.

The Canadian company, however, is not just adept at manufacturing hardware but also developing software. The high-end audio business is not the only category that it operates in and we started to wonder about the following idea.

Lenbrook was one of the first supporters of hi-res audio and have been strong proponents of MQA from the very beginning.

TIDAL’s recent decision to transition to FLAC with hi-res files was a huge blow to MQA and we can’t imagine that Lenbrook’s management were oblivious to the reality that the codecs were no longer being used by a single music streaming platform.

If the codecs were not being used, why would any hardware manufacturers continue to pay for the license?

Does Lenbrook have plans for its own hi-res streaming service which listeners could access through BluOS? We just previewed BluOS 4.0 that was demonstrated at CEDIA 2023 and all of this feels very connected.

We do know that Lenbrook and MQA’s management have confirmed with their partners that that nothing is changing and that things are “business as usual.”

So what exactly happened today?

Lenbrook Corp., the parent company of NAD, Bluesound and PSB Speakers has acquired the assets of troubled MQA Ltd., which had filed for Administration in the UK (Chapter 11 protection) this past April (2023). As a result, Lenbrook now controls MQA’s patents for the MQA and SCL6 (formerly MQAir) audio codecs.

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What is MQA? Developed by Meridian Audio in 2014, MQA stands for Master Quality Authenticated. It is a proprietary audio coding standard for lossy digital audio compression. The intent of MQA is to provide high-quality audio that is “authenticated” to provide the same listening experience as a lossless audio equivalent but packed in a smaller compressed digital container that requires less bandwidth — making it easier for use in streaming. However, there have been both supporters and detractors regarding the results of this process over the years.

MQA logo

The press release announcing Lenbrook’s acquisition of MQA out of administration is shown below. This story will be updated as we learn more.

PICKERING, ONTARIO, CANADA, SEPTEMBER 19, 2023 – Lenbrook Corp., a diversified, privately-owned Canadian enterprise with activities in brand development, technology, and distribution in both residential and commercial audio and the communication sectors, has acquired the assets of MQA, a UK-based industry leader in high-resolution audio encoding.

This acquisition enriches Lenbrook’s intellectual property portfolio with an assortment of significant patents and introduces two prominent audio codecs – MQA and SCL6. This merger further solidifies Lenbrook’s commitment to excellence and innovation in the evolving landscape of audio technology.

“Lenbrook’s vision is of a thriving hi-fi industry where technologies that promote both consumer choice and the pursuit of the highest sound quality are deserving of investment and nurture,” states Gordon Simmonds, Chief Executive Officer of Lenbrook. “We view this acquisition as an opportunity to ensure the technologies developed by the scientists and engineers at MQA continue to serve the industry’s interests rather than be confined to any single brand or company.”

George Massenberg, Grammy winning producer and recording engineer, reacts saying “I’m so relieved that MQA and SCL6 will continue under Lenbrook. MQA’s technology, with its faithful rendering of detail, complexity, and sound stage, gave us the reason to go back into the recording studio and reverse a 20-year decline in the quality of audio delivery methods.”

Founded from the insights and support of record industry executives, recording artists, and audio engineering experts, MQA sought to provide creators with the means to efficiently preserve the detail and nuance of their works in high resolution recorded formats, which at the time pushed directly against the trend toward heavily compressed music.

“I’m delighted that MQA will continue in good hands with Lenbrook,” adds Morten Lindberg, Grammy-nominated Master Engineer at 2L. “For 2L, using MQA has allowed us to enhance the experience of our recordings, beyond the raw capture, with increased access to sonic details, transparency and lower listening fatigue.”

“MQA is the only technology that considers the entire audio signal chain, from studio to listening room, to assure consistent quality of reproduction. The patents and research that underlie MQA represent significant contributions to digital audio quality due to their focus on time domain issues that have not been well understood until recently,” explains Greg Stidsen, Chief Technology Officer of Lenbrook. “We’re determined to continue to develop our marketplace and encourage the possibilities these technologies can achieve.”

Lenbrook has established a position as a stable and well capitalized organization that takes a long-term view of investments and market development. MQA had amassed over 120 licensees and several content partnerships, so Lenbrook’s primary objective in this acquisition was to provide certainty for business and technical developments that were underway prior to MQA’s administration. As a result, Lenbrook retained a core group of engineers and developers and sales and marketing personnel including Andy Dowell, previously the Head of Licensing for MQA, who will continue to lead business development activities.

“As one of MQA’s most significant licensees and also the owner of the award winning BluOS high-res content platform, Lenbrook is well positioned to build on what was started,” reflects Dowell. “Its BluOS platform work has proven that the Lenbrook team understands it takes a certain amount of neutrality to be a licensor, but it can also take a customer view when it comes to the wants and needs from a product development standpoint.”

ABOUT THE LENBROOK GROUP OF COMPANIES 

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The Lenbrook Group is a privately held Canada-based owner of brand development and distribution interests in residential and commercial audio and communications technologies. Its internationally recognized brands include NAD Electronics, PSB Speakers, and Bluesound, serving the high-performance residential audio space; Bluesound Professional, for sophisticated networked streaming commercial audio solutions; and a growing portfolio of software platforms and technologies including BluOS, MQA, and SCL-6. Lenbrook provides comprehensive market development services to a portfolio of important brands through Lenbrook distribution subsidiaries in Canada, USA, and Southeast Asia. 

For more information: lenbrook.com | mqa.co.uk

8 Comments

8 Comments

  1. ORT

    September 19, 2023 at 10:35 pm

    The following words are different ways of saying the same thing:

    crap
    poop
    shit
    chocolate turdles
    BM
    cow patty
    dung
    excrement
    Dung Beetle Buffet
    Doodie
    Baby Rooooth
    MQA
    Hollyweird Ham Sammich
    feces
    Fly Pie

    Because a turd by any other name will still smell like a turd. And who knows turds better than an audio turdle? This quote from a “Master Engineer” is turgid with textbook turdwords so loved by the Cult of the frAudiophile.

    “For 2L, using MQA has allowed us to enhance the experience of our recordings, beyond the raw capture, with increased access to sonic details, transparency and lower listening fatigue.”

    As the immortal Bugs Bunny would say, “What a maroon!”

    “…beyond the raw capture”. More raw CRAPture.

    ORT

    • Ian White

      September 19, 2023 at 10:57 pm

      ORT,

      I’m laughing so hard…I may have burst something. Hopefully not in my brain.

      You have to admit it’s an odd acquisition.

      IW

      • ORT

        September 19, 2023 at 11:12 pm

        Ian my brother, I had so hoped you and the rest of the folks happily ensconced in the palatial offices of Ecoustics (Howdy all!) would appreciate the phraseology involved in this none too delicate diatribe against the idiocy of not only MQA but the Asstriches of Audio.

        And in truth, who to better know about crap than they who have their own heads stuffed so far up their own dirt-star or in a throwback to a 60s acid fueled communal copulation, that of their fellow typists or even a manufacturer’s arse in search of another equipment bro-deal.

        I think I need a de-fib…STAT!

        ORT

        • Ian White

          September 20, 2023 at 12:48 am

          ORT,

          I pay very little attention to the masturbation offered up by the proponents of MQA.

          Poop in. Poop out.

          MQA is just one of the issues we have with the streaming platforms.

          We’ve been listening to different versions of the same tracks on the 5 major platforms (both stereo and Atmos-encoded) and all of them sound different.

          More to come on that front…

          IW

  2. ORT

    September 20, 2023 at 1:30 am

    Ian, Atmos is nice and I being a creature of habit (I have ’em but never wear ’em) I listen often to the music of George Harrison on Amazon and it is in Atmos.

    I look forward to reading and learning of that which is yet to come.

    ORT

  3. Mike Cornell

    September 20, 2023 at 12:29 pm

    ORT….I’m no MQA fanboy…never even heard an MQA encoded/decoded track…but just wondering why you’re ok with Dolby licensing/encoding/decoding of ATMOS tracks why you rail against MQA?

  4. ORT

    September 20, 2023 at 4:10 pm

    Hi Mike –

    A few years ago I tried the MQA Challenge at a High End Show. It was via an Onkyo DAP. I took complete control over the player and never knew what I was listening to and as such relied upon my ears to hear any real differences.

    There were none. But they want me to pay for it on equipment I buy and recordings, even CDs and I would guess they were working on screwing us for records too. His High Foolishness, Profit Stewie aka, Darth Stewie and his Sadawans in the print and online world are full of The FARCE. I ain’t buyin’.

    Contrast that with an action film properly encoded with Atmos. Atmos is not the olde Dolby Surround or even Dolby Pro-Logic. It is much more sophisticated at placing the sounds as they “appear” on the screen.

    If there is nothing going on there is no dramatic difference in audio.

    I do not like being lied to much less being farced to pay for something that I know is a lie and being told I have not the DNA to hear the difference. FTN.

    Contrast that with an action film properly encoded with Atmos. Atmos is not the olde Dolby Surround or even Dolby Pro-Logic. It is much more sophisticated at placing the sounds as they “appear” on the screen.

    If there is nothing going on there is no dramatic difference in audio. No one has ever told me there is “more” in there and that I need to “listen harder”. MQA people say that sort of crap.

    I do not like being lied to much less being farced to pay for something that I know is a lie and being told I have not the DNA to hear the difference. FTN.

    I listen to George Harrison in Atmos once in a while. Not all the time because stereo is more than just fine. I have never wanted to feeeeeel that the artist is in the room with me, that is just silly. It ain’t gonna happen until there is a ST-TNG Holodeck in your home and given the twisted nature of mankind I seriously doubt having the Beatles or Sinatra singing in your living room would be what most guys would do with such a device…

    MQA and its carnard spewing creator, Darth Stewie can take an airborne intercourse. The are full of crap and while there really is nothing wrong in wanting to make money, I refuse to buy from the heir to the tailors of the Emperor’s New Clothes.

    Note: I am terrible at editing my self. All errors are mine. 😉

    ORT

  5. Mike Cornell

    September 20, 2023 at 4:41 pm

    As always, I do enjoy your comments and point of view. Just as those who enjoy MQA are paying for it, I do think either directly or indirectly we are paying for Atmos (and all the other Dolby variants). Dolby’s not about to give their tech away.
    As for the experience, I can see the point of Atmos for film and the placement of sounds and effects…less so for music listening. While the differences are readily apparent vs the stereo mix when Atmos places the drums behind your right ear, the singer over your head and the guitar lower stage left, to me it’s more of a novelty, not to mention it often messes with the tonality and intent of the original recording. As you said, stereo is just fine. Perhaps Atmos for music will mature and evolve into a realistic medium for listening to
    music but until then, it’s a hard pass for me. Cheers!

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