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Lenbrook Media Group Has Big Plans for MQA But the Devil Will Be in the Details

MQA Labs introduces three new brands to enhance digital music playback: AIRIA, FOQUS and QRONO. Find out what it all means.

MQA Labs brands 2024

When Lenbrook Media Group acquired MQA in 2023, industry pundits and fans of hi-resolution streaming were rightfully confused. Putting aside Lenbrook’s early support for MQA and the integration of the codec in NAD streaming amplifiers and network players, Bluesound network players and wireless speakers, and PSB wireless speakers — there was virtually no interest in MQA outside of those who were using it on TIDAL.

MQA was successful at convincing other hardware manufacturers to pay their licensing fees and integrate the codec into their own products, but enthusiasm for it was severely curtailed when MQA’s financial troubles began to surface in the United Kingdom.

Lenbrook are a rather conservative organisation who do not have a history of taking huge risks, but it’s clear that they see a lot of value in the IP and made the decision to acquire MQA and develop it further.

MQA and TIDAL’s future together definitely took a huge hit in 2023 and that created speculation that Lenbrook Media Group might be considering to launch their own music streaming platform which would support SCL6.

Lenbrook Media Group
Lenbrook Media Group was formed in 2024, which is part of the Lenbrook Group of Companies that includes NAD Electronics, PSB Speakers, Bluesound, and Bluesound Professional.

That has not happened yet, but we suspect MQA and the brand new technology being introduced by Lenbrook Media Group could end up both on the hardware front and music streaming side by the end of 2025.

NAD, Bluesound, and PSB will clearly be the first hardware platforms to feature what is planned for the future.

If the rebirth of MQA creates a scenario where we can stream hi-res audio more efficiently and without any data loss between devices and headphones and wireless speakers — we’re totally on board with this.

How that competes against Bluetooth aptX HD, and aptX Lossless will be very interesting to see; especially because most consumers have accepted Bluetooth as their primary method for sending and receiving a signal between their smartphone, tablet, and headphones and loudspeakers at home.

So What’s Exactly Happening?

Newly formed MQA Labs, now under Lenbrook’s ownership, appears to be distancing itself from the all encompassing brand of MQA into three unique brands that handle different parts of digital audio encoding and playback.

MQA Labs brands 2024 include FOQUS, AIRIA and QRONO
  • AIRIA by MQA Labs (also known by its technical name, SCL6 and previously as MQair) delivers high resolution audio while seamlessly scaling from full lossless to very lossy rates. This solution handles the wireless link between a sending device (phone, tablet) and a receiving device (headphones, speakers).
  • FOQUS by MQA Labs represents an innovative approach for analogue to digital conversion. Although information is limited, this brand seems focused at professional audio engineers for mastering music.
  • QRONO by MQA Labs brings a variety of audio processing enhancements within playback devices. These technologies are expected to debut in a variety of licensee products before the end of calendar 2025.

Gordon Simmonds, CEO of The Lenbrook Group, LMG’s parent corporation, reflected on the initial decision to acquire the assets of MQA. “These developments confirm our instincts around this team and the value of the IP. While the choice and accessibility of MQA content remains a priority ​ for us, this was never about a single codec,” he says.

The creation of MQA Labs and its newest product families reflect Lenbrook’s passion to improve the whole audio chain and bring the highest quality recording, distribution and playback technologies to benefit the entire specialty audio industry and its fans.

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“The digitization of an analogue signal introduces a range of imperfections to the resulting audio file. One of the most common and critical is something often referred to as time smearing – when the resolution of two sounds is reduced because their timing is incorrectly reproduced within the digital file,” explains Greg Stidsen, Chief Technology Officer at Lenbrook. “MQA Labs’ team are experts in time-domain audio improvements, having invented many of the techniques to avoid or eliminate such audio defects.” ​ 

Two of the new product families will address the issue head on: FOQUS, which tackles the analogue to digital processes, and QRONO, which will address converting digital back to analogue. 

SCL6 by MQA
SCL6, which was previously known as MQair will be re-branded as AIRIA

The third product family is among the most anticipated of LMG’s future products. Previously known by its technical name, SCL6, it is a new codec seamlessly ensuring the best resolution possible regardless of bandwidth availability. Now named AIRIA by MQA Labs, the codec was developed to transform audio across wireless connections.

Most recently, LMG successfully completed pilots for use as a distribution codec – perfect for streaming services. ​ As a transmission codec, it shines as a high-resolution codec with dramatic operational savings and reliability.

Early response from the industry around these new products has been positive.

“We are inspired by the reactions of our partners who are incorporating these technologies into their products,” explains Mike Jbara, Vice President & GM of LMG. “This is a milestone moment for us. We are committed to receiving and applying feedback from the market in how we apply our technologies and ensuring they are more flexible and accessible throughout the music supply chain.”

Final Thought

With the introduction of three new brands, does this mean MQA is going away?

Update

We received this statement from June Ip, Vice President of Marketing for Lenbrook Group of Companies (Global):

The original MQA codec will continue as a product family within the MQA Labs portfolio. Work is being done to further enhance the product family, including tools for musicians and recording engineers to offer them more control over the way their recordings sound. Additionally, our licensees will continue to support the MQA rendering codec and there continues to be new MQA encoded content being made available all the time. Lenbrook is 100% committed to making sure that MQA fans and audiophiles, who want better access to MQA than ever before, will get it. 

Additional information about the other products will become available in due time. But for clarity, FOQUS handles the conversion from analogue to digital while QRONO is a product family that has a number of different applications in the playback audio chain. While all MQA Labs technologies share similar techniques to deal with time smear and other distortions, AIRIA, FOQUS, and QRONO are independent of the original MQA codec, meaning that they neither require nor result in MQA encoded files.

1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. DH

    June 10, 2024 at 8:29 am

    “time smear”
    They’ve (original MQA and Lenbrook) never actually explain in testable terms what this is and never have let their technology be tested to prove that it does what they claim.

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