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Onkyo and its subsidiary Pioneer Electronics have officially announced the availability of a Master Quality Authenticated (MQA) firmware update for the Pioneer XDP-100R and Onkyo DP-X1 digital audio players. Beginning tomorrow, April 12, owners can download and install MQA on either DAP device, making them the first MQA capable devices on the planet.

Bob Stuart, MQA’s creator, commented: “We are very excited to launch MQA on the Pioneer XDP-100R [and Onkyo DP-X1]. Throughout the implementation process, the MQA listening tests have been astounding and we’re looking forward to hearing customers’ reactions to MQA on the portable player(s). We continue to work with the music industry and you will see much more MQA music in the market very soon. It’s an exciting time for MQA and our partners.”

What is MQA?
As music streaming services have become the dominant way for music lovers to listen to music, quality (for the most part) has been eclipsed by convenience. The vast majority of audio files available through streaming and download services are sonically handicapped through lossy compression that accommodates current internet and wireless capabilities and enables end-users to maximize the number songs they’re able to store on any given mobile device. Amazingly, a decrease in perceived audio quality has been deemed an acceptable trade-off across the consumer world. MQA claims to eliminate those sonic handicaps while offering small file sizes that are still easy to stream or download.

Meridian, the developer of MQA, says the new technology is a total revisit to “how sound is made into digital.” Instead of discarding bits and pieces of sound within an audio track to keep file sizes small, MQA is applied to a master recording prior to streaming, allowing its advanced digital processing to shrink file sizes while maintaining good sound. In other words, CD quality sound without the requirement for big-time bandwidth.

How to Play MQA
According to Meridian, MQA audio files are playable on just about any device imaginable. If the device isn’t MQA enabled, then the resulting sound will be as good as or better than CD quality. And if the device is MQA enabled, then listeners will experience an extra level of audio richness and detail.

The XPD-100R and DP-X1 digital audio players will indicate (on their display) that MQA decoding is in process, while a small green light on the unit will let listeners know they are listening to studio-grade sound. A blue light will indicate that a music file has either been approved in the studio by the artist/producer or has been verified by the copyright owner – an authentication that tells listeners they are hearing exactly what the artist intends.

Where to Buy MQA Music?
MQA isn’t a new kind of music file (it can be embedded in just about any lossless file type) and can be purchased the same way we buy typical digital music files. Currently, MQA says 7digital, 2L, TIDAL, OnkyoMusic, and the HQM Store are already officially onboard as content providers. There’s no official word on the participation of other services, such as Apple Music, yet.

What MQA Players are Currently Available?
Currently, Pioneer’s XDP-100R and Onkyo’s DP-X1 are the only two players available. In fact, Onkyo’s DP-X1 was officially announced as “retail available” today. It supports quite a few Hi-Res Audio Formats, has separate audio and CPU circuit boards and dual DACs, and sports 432GB of storage.

For more information, visit Pioneer and Onkyo on the web. If you’re lucky enough to be attending AXPONA 2016, stop by the Michigan Ballroom (Onkyo Booth 7) for a demo session.

Image Credits: MQA, Onkyo, Pioneer Electronics
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