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Universal Music Group is the latest company to offer music in hi-res MQA format

Why it matters to you

If you're waiting to hop onboard the hi-res audio train, the arrival of more music in that format makes now a better time than ever.

Devices supporting high-resolution audio continue to grow in number, with receivers, wireless speakers, portable media players, and even some phones supporting the format. What hi-res audio truly needs to take off in terms of popularity is a widely recognized and supported format — similar to how the MP3 format caused digital music to skyrocket in terms of popularity. MQA wants to be that format, and is moving closer thanks to its new multi-year deal with Universal Music Group (UMG).

On February 16, the two companies announced the multi-year deal which will see UMG making its massive catalog available in the MQA Hi-Res format. This is following similar deals with companies like Warner Music Group, meaning the library of songs and albums available in the format is already sizable and continuing to grow.

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“We’re very pleased to be working with Universal Music to achieve our goal of moving studio-quality sound into the mainstream,” MQA CEO Mike Jbara said in a statement. “Universal’s timeless catalog and impressive artist roster will fuel music streaming services worldwide and enable the premium listening experience for all music fans.”

MQA, which stands for Master Quality Authenticated, offers a unique approach to high-resolution audio. The format is actually distributed in familiar file formats like WAV, FLAC, or AIFF, while allowing for smaller file sizes than traditional hi-res audio in those formats. On devices that don’t support high-resolution audio, the files still play fine, albeit in standard resolution, while high-resolution audio can be played from the same file on devices that support it.

“With MQA, we are working with a partner whose technology is among the best solutions for streaming Hi-Res Audio, and one that doesn’t ask music fans to compromise on sound quality for convenience,” UMG vice president of digital strategy Michael Nash said. “We’re looking forward to working with Mike and his team at MQA to make our industry-leading roster of artists and recordings available to music fans in the highest quality possible.”

More: It’s like being in the studio: Tidal now streaming songs at master recording quality

This isn’t the only recent major step forward for MQA. Last month, the company partnered with Tidal, making it the first major music subscription service to allow for streaming master-quality audio. The deal with UMG likely means that even more hi-res audio should be available via the streaming service soon.