New TIDAL tiers and MQA

Thanks for asking the relevant question. I will ask some of the SBAF Australian members to test to verify…


Please let me know if I can help. I’m happy to setup a Hi-Fi tier sub on one of my secondary email addresses for testing purposes - I can easily cancel it before it charges.

It’s really important that the conclusions are shared so that everyone knows exactly what they are going to get before they make any commitment on plans etc.

I’d be more than happy to have the findings that a.dent (SNA poster) had, that I had input to, overturned if it brings further clarity.

All I think any of us can ask for is a bit of transparency and honesty.


If this is true, that’s quite bad behavior on Tidal’s part. IE., selling a CD lossless plan, but giving those customers the folded 44.1 MQA instead. A folded MQA is NOT the same as the normal non-MQA 44.1.


Thing is, it isn’t just poor behaviour, I believe it is potentially breaching consumer law (entirely dependent on the “lossless” moniker and its interpretation). I will leave the absolute conclusions on this to those far better qualified than me.

Giving every opportunity to be shown that the test findings were flawed, and giving every benefit of the doubt here, but it is hard to have faith when at every turn we seem to be only getting half the story. This comment is equally applicable with both Tidal and MQA.


Hmm. Why is everybody assuming or wanting the Tidal quality setting to make Tidal give you a different album (or in Roon terminology, Other Version), in particular a version that does not even exist (or have been removed) in their streaming catalogue?

The introduction of HiFi Plus merely creates a lower Non-Plus price tier such that people are restricted from Master quality setting if they pay less. I claim that you get the same thing from a HiFi quality setting regardless of HiFi Plus or Non Plus subscription.

The following is what I expect:

If you choose a MQA CD album (e.g. Joni Mitchell “Blue” 16/44.1) you get MQA CD at both HiFi quality setting and Master quality setting, regardless of HiFi Plus or Non Plus subscription. The MQA CD can be decoded.

If you choose a 24-bit Master MQA album at 44.1kHz delivery rate (e.g. “2L - The MQA Experience (Compilation)”, Master quality setting gives you 24-bit and can be decoded. HiFi quality setting gives you a 16-bit truncation (aka MQA CD) and can still be decoded but with less SQ, regardless of HiFi Plus or Non Plus subscription.

If you choose a 24-bit Master MQA album at 48kHz delivery rate, Master quality setting gives you 24-bit and can be decoded. HiFi quality setting forces it to become 16/44.1 so this MQA album can no longer be decoded as MQA. (This is harder to prove.)

That being said, I’m happy to be proven wrong. I want people to have access to the format they prefer, including PCM / MQA / DSD. (But not floating point WAV, since we don’t support it. :sweat_smile: )

1 Like

If the user chooses a MQA CD album, 16/44.1 FLAC is indeed lossless containing the MQA CD.

People may try and argue this point, however anything MQA is not technically lossless. MQA can’t and doesn’t even say they are lossless any more anywhere.

Peter, I think that we need to be precise with the terminology. Because MQA CD is a real physical media format – never mind its Japan limited market and questionable reason for existence.

MQA CD has been derived from a higher rate master and is 16 bit 44.1 kHz before unfolding/upsampling. Yet 16 bit 44.1 kHz streaming MQA is not necessarily the same thing as MQA CD – and probably not at all. Rather, that CD quality streaming MQA has not been derived from a higher rate master but is a bog standard 16 bit 44.1 kHz CD master that has undergone some MQA pre processing and authentication/upsampling code embedding.


1 Like

There are some albums that were available in Masters and are now in HiFi.

Not if it’s a downsample of the “HiRes” MQA file, which is what people seem to be suspecting, in the sense that a lossless encapsulation of an MQA CD file wouldn’t normally decompress to 16/44 but to something higher, and it also wouldn’t be lossless either at distribution (that infamous 13 bit thing) or at whatever it decompresses at, no ?

Your thoughts seem relevant Peter, but the quote surely must be a misconception? Or, i am misunderstanding…

I can see two scenarios using MQA in a reasonable way; The first is using the previously available 24Bit containers and actually using only bits 17-24 to store the upsampling/unfolding information and the remaining 16 bits containing the very much untouched original 16 bit master. This is not how it’s working i believe, i dont think you can ignore the extra bits and extract a lossless (technically) RedBook equivalent.

But the bigger issue is where MQA signalling is crammed into the 16/44.1 RedBook format. Tell me i’m wrong, but i see no possibility to store more information in a 16/44.1 PCM bitstream without compressing or discarding [parts of the original content]?


I was responding to the point of consumer law. If somebody tries to take a “lossless CD” streaming service to court, it will need to be defined what a lossless CD delivery is. Then a label tells the court this is exactly what they provide to the streaming service, since nowhere is it written a label has obligation to provide the same version as the physical CD to a streaming service (in fact they are often different, google Universal audible watermark) and the users actually get a bit perfect stream of that, do you still have a case legally? Of course I’m not a lawyer, this is just an imagination, and I may very well be wrong.


This was exactly what i was alluding to, Peter. The “lossless” label would define the breach of consumer law or not. It would likely come down to the very source of lossless being assumed as the first digital master used to release to market (physical CD or redbook equivalent). MQA could be said to have exactly that, but only if MQA was used to produce the initial release to market. The technicalities of discarded information could well be treated as moot if they were discarded prior to the point in time the master release is created. Where it is done after the fact e.g. as the creation of a separate, secodary MQA-master using the first digital master, this is a brand new hornet’s nest…

It’s a total mess where countless albums exist, and have digital lossless masters prior to MQA’s existence. The obvious loophole I can see here is going back to the analogue masters and producing an MQA-master from those. I’m not sure if this has ever been done or not - it certainly can’t be the norm due to the pace of converting old releases to MQA and the batch approach of conversion that would be the expected method with such a huge volume of material to get through.

Regarding Tidal’s 3 tier system and the legalities mentioned above, you sign up to any service (Tidal in this case) based on their terms and conditions which lays out what is on offer and what you can expect. So in the case of Tidal, I am signing up to what I consider the superior sound of MQA where it is available. Other will sign up for another tier, but it’s Tidal’s offer, if you don’t like it, don’t buy it. They offer what they offer and it’s up to them.
If a title is removed from the MQA platform for any reason, that will be covered in the terms stated. I just have to accept this. Should I really want a particular recording in a particular format, then it’s up to me to purchase this outright. (That’s what we always used to do anyway) CD’s 4 for £1.00 in charity shops these days…

Streaming is the future, it isn’t perfect, it comes with compromises and fluctuations but it makes music available in quality (MQA or Not) and quantity unknown until recently in the history of recorded music…


Surely you understand what lossless means when it refers to digital files.

I don’t want to start an argument of MQA and it’s sonic output but if they are going to deliver a lossless PCM tier as stated in this marketing then people who just pay for it should get just that (PCM lossless FLAC) not a MQA unflagged variant, Tidals tier change will be in response to Spotify’s lossless package due soon but if they deliver 16/44.1 PCM then Tidal may not be the same, Uk advertising standards agency would have a field day with this type of marketing if they were not delivering it. Tidal need to put back all the Warner’s conversion files to truly claim what it saying on this grid !

Oh and by the way the hi res PCM tier is rubbish too it’s another marketing claim that’s not true

1 Like

Agreed. If the HiFi (Lossless) tier was genuinely lossless PCM files then everyone wins. I can have my 16/44.1 PCM and MQA adherents can pay more for their MQA files.


As long as they do not offer non-MQA hires FLAC, they will never get me to resubscribe. But I see how the new tier system might appeal to the non-anti-MQA crowd. I pray that my side always has what it needs to happily listen, and the same for the pro-MQA side. And of course, I hope Roon is always around to help both sides reach musical bliss.


This is the right answer.

Every company is scrambling to provide “lossless” and “HD” and “high resolution” but there is no definition for any of those terms. You, as consumer, might have a definition but there is a really good chance it’s different than what you’re actually buying from the streaming services. And some services stretch this definition much further than others (cough Tidal cough cough Sonos cough).

If you think audio is a mess you should try video. They don’t even use terms like “bit-perfect” because it’s not a thing. There is only 1 streaming service I know of that claims they are streaming a “studio master”. The closest thing you can get in your home is probably Kaleidescape (and they use the term “lossless 3D audio” so try to figure out what format that is).

Anyway, go listen to what makes you happy. Please stop trying to defend any one format (it actually makes you look silly) and just enjoy it. Don’t expect Tidal to stream PCM. For those of us purists… it would be nice to have an alternative in Roon besides Qobuz. Thank you for coming to my Ted Talk.


Other than competing formats (Dolby Vision vs HDR10+, Dolby vs DTS), HDMI 2.1 implementations with non-fixable hardware defects, incomplete implementations that do not fully support the latest features from the latest game consoles, HDMI boards dying prematurely due to overheat, HDMI ARC compatibility issues, one important company in financial trouble and going to be delisted, fake 4K TV panels, cheap non-Netflix certified 4K TV failing to give you Netflix 4K HDR, forced ads in TV, OLED panel burn-in, there is no problem. :grinning:

That is correct. Even 1080p projection in theaters are lossy (but with a much less loss than your typical Blu-ray or UHD Blu-ray).