Bob Stuart, creator of MQA, talks in detail about this revolutionary British technology that sets a new standard in capturing, delivering and reproducing digital audio.
MQA in Broadcast
MQA is a superb technology for distributing high-quality audio, as we have shown in the worlds of download, streaming and physical releases (on MQA-CD). Our goal is always to bring listeners the sound of the studio, whether for new or old recordings and to allow confirmation of that delivery with the MQA light.
In all areas of sound, the key benefits of MQA include:
- Efficient modern coding with a clearer sound than normal digital using matching deblur technology in the encoder and decoder.
- The ability to transmit the full gamut of high-resolution sound with no wastage of data, that is, in a smaller right-sized stream.
- A flexible and consumer-friendly ‘last mile’ architecture for listening at home or on the go.
- Authentication – an MQA light or indicator to confirm that the listener has the exact result intended; that the audio had not been modified on the journey to the listener.
- Provenance – the additional Blue light indicator is very helpful for artists, engineers and labels to confirm that the sound uses the highest quality source available.
Each of these points has been covered in posts here and are linked at the end.
The data-saving aspects of MQA should not be underestimated. In the enthusiast ‘audiophile arena’ the use of MQA makes an enormous impact on the cost and carbon footprint of providing streaming. It is also the only way listeners can be confident of the original source.
In the wider world of audio, MQA can radically improve sound quality but also, through the ‘Origami’, actually enable high-resolution experiences in applications where conventional high-rate PCM simply can’t be used.
Here are some examples:
Sound with video competes with the picture for bandwidth and there is a long history of standards where sound is limited to lossy codecs at extremely low bitrates. Sound with video is also constrained by an infrastructure with a fixed 48 kHz sample rate.
It has always been understood that video or movie experience is significantly improved by higher-quality sound, but up to now, the opportunity to experience that is largely limited to the Blu-ray platform.
Enter MQA. Using our ‘Origami’, MQA can package 96 kHz or 192 kHz audio into a 48 kHz stream. We have illustrated this with several examples and conducted trials with partners in the USA and Japan, showing that MQA can be packaged with video on location and efficiently streamed. There are a few examples on our website [See links below].
So, today, we can enable the highest quality sound with video and it can be streamed over the Internet. In the coming months and years (depending on region) TV Broadcast standards are evolving to allow 48 kHz PCM audio with 4k and 8k video – bringing MQA a unique opportunity to enable great-sounding high-resolution audio with moving pictures. And, not unimportantly, the MQA stream can Authenticate all the way from capture to the home – indicated by the Green light on the MQA Decoder you own today.
Live performances can be captured in high quality and encoded in real-time to MQA. Over a 3-year period, we have showcased several Live performances that demonstrate how a 192 kHz stream can be streamed in MQA to give astonishing vibrance, clarity and sense of being there.
Once again, not wasting bandwidth is critical. We have been able to demonstrate remote concerts between venues with poor or contended Internet connections.
Radio is an important listening source for many people, it’s the oldest medium. Radio is a different experience to streaming tracks or playlists from recorded albums; depending on the station it includes announcements, interviews, continuity, talk shows, news, plays, in-studio performances and of course, live or pre-recorded concerts.
Unfortunately, Radio has suffered from a long tradition of lower sound quality that started with the limitations of broadcast radio (AM, FM, DAB, Satellite) and this has continued to IP radio where low-bit-rate lossy is the norm.
MQA feels it’s time to bring higher sound quality to this area, starting with Internet Radio.
Of course, given the enormous range of sources, it is unrealistic to expect everything on Radio to be in high-resolution from the outset. But what is heard in the ‘continuity suite’ is quality PCM and not ‘MP3’. Improving audio experience by pulling regular listening away from low-bit-rate sound is exactly what we live for!
Here again, the key benefits described in the introduction — efficiency, de-blurring, flexibility and Authentication — can radically upgrade the total listening experience.
As with video, the MQA stream can Authenticate all the way from the broadcast studio to the home – again, indicated by the Green light on the MQA Decoder you own today.
For each of the scenarios outlined – Video, Live and Broadcast – different Provenance applies.
- With Video, the moment where the audio is multiplexed with the video is the point of confirmation – you hear what the producer heard.
- With Live, the sound you hear was monitored on location.
- With Radio, once again, Authentication brings us back to the studio or continuity suite.
Remember too that these programs are often continuous and ‘one-time’ streams.
A radio broadcast may, from time to time include recorded music, but often this may be a different version from the album release of the same song. Examples of differences include:
- Radio stations are normally provided the ‘radio version’ which may be limited in playing time, or ‘louder’ or with lyric changes and for promotional reasons, pre-date the final album release.
- Radio stations also normalise loudness, fade songs in and out and so on.
That doesn’t mean that the sources sound bad, far from it, the songs do come directly from the label.
For this reason, MQA Authenticates the highest-quality sound the radio station can offer, using the Green light.
To understand more on these topics, try the links below.