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Does the Music Streaming World Need Another Hi-Res Option? The New Owners of MQA and HDtracks Think That You Do

Lenbrook Media Group partners with HDtracks to create a streaming music service for audiophiles featuring AIRIA by MQA Labs codec.

Lenbrook Media Group partners with HDtracks

When Lenbrook Media Group acquired MQA and its IP in 2023, it was my opinion that the only logical reason to acquire the technology was to launch its own hi-res music streaming service which audiophiles could play back on the dozens of source components that supported MQA within TIDAL.

The problem with my theory was that the market already has more than enough hi-res music streaming platforms; TIDAL, Qobuz, Apple Music HD, Amazon Music HD, Deezer, and the never-ending promise of Spotify HiFi which was announced years ago.

The most recent rumor is that Spotify HiFi is coming this year for an additional $5 per month for those who desire lossless playback.

So all of that begs the most obvious question — does the market want or even need another hi-res music streaming platform?

The partnership with HDtracks which pioneered lossless and hi-res downloads is interesting from the perspective that the focus will clearly be on iconic albums from a wide range of genres in the best possible sound quality.

But can’t we already access all of these albums on Qobuz and TIDAL?

Reading through the press release, this specific paragraph stood out for its ambiguity.

The service will be available across platforms. In addition to its own applications for mobile, the service will find its way into many of the world’s leading high-end audio ecosystems, apps, and brands, that count on service providers for their content...”

What exactly does that mean? Which platforms, ecosystems, and apps?

Will the platform be offered through Roon? Will it become a standard offering through BluOS?

The remainder of the press release included the following information.

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Lenbrook Media Group and HDtracks logos

Lenbrook Media Group, specialists in high resolution audio technology, and HDtracks, the pioneering service for audiophile quality music downloads, have announced a partnership to develop a streaming service aimed squarely at audiophiles. Among a set of unique features, the service will offer consumers choice in formats and will be the first subscription service using a novel application of the AIRIA by MQA Labs codec.

Tip: AIRIA was previously known as MQair or SCL6 (neither of which ever came to market). It’s technically a lossy codec, that’s being marketed as “perceptually lossless” for wireless audio streaming between source devices and speakers/headphones. Essentially it proclaims to offer sonic improvements over Bluetooth Audio.

“We have wanted to launch an HDtracks streaming service for some time. In Lenbrook we have a partner with global reach to help us launch a service ensuring quality and consumer choice,“ says HDtracks co-founder David Chesky, who has been a leader in high resolution audio alongside his brother Norman. “Fans will get to choose their format – either PCM/FLAC or MQA – in a service that will ensure high resolution audio streaming whether you are in your home or on-the-go.”

MQA Labs brands 2024 include FOQUS, AIRIA and QRONO
AIRIA is one of three new digital audio solutions introduced by recently formed MQA Labs.

The HDtracks service will be the first to use Lenbrook’s AIRIA by MQA Labs, a transparent delivery codec equally suited for streaming from the cloud or wirelessly from a device to headphones. Designed for low-latency wireless communications by the inventors of lossless compression, it brings the benefits of a format-agnostic, scalable codec with a combination of audio quality, reliability, and data-efficiency. 

“Our industry has been built by providing discerning music enthusiasts with choices while using innovation to advance digital music delivery,” explains Lenbrook’s Chief Strategy Officer, John Banks. “As audiophiles ourselves, it’s an exciting prospect to bring a service to life for the millions of global audiophiles that care so passionately about the quality of the music they listen to.”

Mike Jbara, VP and GM of Lenbrook Media Group adds, “Norman and David are the perfect partners for Lenbrook. Their experience and understanding of the high-end audio fan is unique and their history with quality and innovation speaks for itself. We are ready to embark on this journey with them and think music fans are going to love it.” 

Initial Thoughts

Competition is great if the end result is a better product that more consumers have access to and it is ultimately cheaper.

If AIRIA improves the hi-res streaming experience, we’re completely behind that.

The reality is that hi-res streaming represents such a small slice of the pie, that we have a hard time understanding how this new streaming platform is going to compete against all of the aforementioned existing platforms and make any money.

Will audiophiles pay for another hi-res service?

Will this new platform offer music that one can’t find anywhere else? And will there be enough of it to convince listeners that they need to pay for it?

Because of the ownership group, NAD, PSB, Bluesound, and DALI will all certainly support the new streaming platform but which other brands have signed up already to feature it?

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5 Comments

5 Comments

  1. ORT

    June 15, 2024 at 6:33 pm

    The thing that is most transparent about all of this is the outright lying that these shills will go to just to sell their tripe to frAudiophiles.

    As said elsewhere (but not with the aplomb it deserves so…allow me!) MQA is all about removing “time smear”. Since the codec and its inventor and shills are full of it, it makes sense to say it like it is: poop smear.

    As for Roon making MQA a part of their Roonacy? Anything to make a buck off of morons means they are likely to do so. And of course frAudiophilian Roonatics will begin waxing off over how much more transparent and airy MQA is once it becomes Roony.

    To paraphrase Gaius Petronius Arbiter’s “Wisdom and beauty form a very rare combination” I would say this about MQA and Roon – “Dumb and dumber form a very dumb combination.”

    In the name of Ego, these fools will themselves to be deceived, so let them be deceived and laugh as they masquerade as the pinnacle of frAudiophilian voluptuary.

    I shall close with yet another quote of the genius that was, and remains, Gaius Petronius Arbiter – “Can’t you see that I am only advising you to beg yourself not to be so dumb?”

    Think of MQA as the Symplegades or in common speech, the “Clashing Rocks” of Greek Mythology. Any ship that tried to sail between them was crushed to driftwood by these mountainous cliffs coming together to literally destroy any vessel that attempted passage through them.

    Did no one ever just sail around them? Think about that and MQA/Roon et al. But especially so MQA.

    ORT

    • Ian White

      June 17, 2024 at 2:13 pm

      ORT,

      Like a lot of things, the market will decide. I don’t see the market jumping for a new hi-res music streaming platform. Most people would say that they are spending enough right now.

      Best,

      Sir Alloutofmoney White

  2. Ed Brumbaugh

    June 16, 2024 at 11:32 am

    For me, given the quality I already stream with Qobuz and Apple Music, the last thing I’m considering is adding yet another streaming service … so it’s a hard pass from me.

    • Ian White

      June 16, 2024 at 3:03 pm

      Ed,

      It doesn’t make sense to me. The market has already made its choice. The vast majority of consumers use Spotify, Apple Music, Amazon Music HD, with Qobuz, TIDAL, and Deezer picking up the remaining crumbs.

      I gladly pay for TIDAL and Qobuz every month and have since their inception in the North American market. My kids use Spotify and I’m not paying for another service.

      And that doesn’t take into account all of the video streaming services that one has to pay for these days.

      IW

  3. Rudy (Lost and Found Sounds)

    July 5, 2024 at 1:22 am

    The failure of mqa once already showed us that the world doesn’t want another lossy streaming format. .

    I realize Lenbrook got mqa at a fire sale price, but they apparently can’t comprehend that mqa has already failed once, and likely will again.

    I don’t use streaming often, so Qobuz does everything I need it to. The Qobuz store has also made HDTracks irrelevant, as I can buy anything I want and can download it without an expiration date (where HDTracks, I believe, only lets you download your purchases for a couple of months…or at least they did several years ago when I made a couple of purchases from them). And if I get the Sublime+ membership, high-res downloads are as much as 50% off the “list” price.

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