MQA TIDAL Masters Now Available On iPhone

Listening to MQA on-the-go just got easier with the announcement that digital music-streaming service TIDAL brought their iOS mobile-app code in-line to handle the software unfolding (24-bit/96kHz) of the ultra-high resolution Master Quality Authenticated (MQA) core signal for its Apple-centric user base. Android bassheads got their fix a couple months ago.

According to a spokesperson, on an iPhone the Lightning connector “provides the full MQA Core signal to drive an external Renderer (today with the help of a camera adapter). This signal can drive any MQA Renderer or MQA Decoder with Renderer capability (which is almost all of them). So, for example, you can use an AudioQuest Dragonfly or many of the portable MQA Decoders or a home installation such as Mytek, dCS and many others. This combination of the iPhone and Renderer has zero compromises using Tidal.”

Good news for those Apple users who give the streaming codec the nod, but just more grist for mill in the audiophile world where MQA has as many detractors as supporters for its end-to-end proprietary authenticated protocols for accessing all the high-resolution information contained in the ‘folded’ file which is transmitted for ‘unfolding’ by the end user DAC (Digital to Analog Convertor).

While MQA continues to be flashpoint for argument’s sake, there are many listeners who love the sound quality this proprietary mastering process imbues to songs thanks to the way it claims to capture timing-specific information in the original recording. I can’t help but wonder if (broad)bandwidth limits continue to increase to before unheard-of levels of fat pipe, that the need to make big files smaller will probably be less of a concern in the years to come.

I keep hearing threatening noises from different companies that DSD streaming will be the next big thing… only time will tell.

From the TIDAL press release:

New York/London, 11 March 2019: TIDAL, in partnership with MQA, has announced that Master quality tracks are now available via iPhone devices, continuing to optimise the smartphone listening experience and deliver guaranteed master quality recordings direct from the source. The eagerly awaited update to TIDAL’s iOS app follows the recent Android news announced at CES in January.

With TIDAL Masters playback now accessible on iPhones and Android smartphones, as well as desktop and connected devices, you can experience studio quality sound wherever you choose to listen. Using a process called ‘music origami’, MQA’s award-winning technology folds master files into smaller files that can be streamed on the go. The MQA decoder in the app recovers all the direct music-related information and also authenticates the source of the original master recording.

Mike Jbara, MQA CEO, commented, “From our ongoing work with engineers and artists, we know the importance creators place on delivering the original sound they created all the way to the music fan. Through our global partnership with TIDAL, this becomes a reality wherever you’re enjoying your music.” Lior Tibon, TIDAL COO, said, “Bringing music to life, just as the artist intended, is a core value of the TIDAL platform and we couldn’t be more excited to finally bring master quality music to both major mobile operating systems.”

MQA has partnerships with all three major record labels, as well as with Merlin, representing the independent label community, and the TIDAL Masters catalogue continues to grow rapidly, covering new releases and catalogue recordings.

TIDAL members can learn more about Master quality audio on

About TIDAL TIDAL is an artist-owned global music and entertainment platform that brings artists and fans closer together through unique original content and exclusive events. Available in 53 countries, the streaming service has more than 60 million songs and 250,000 high quality videos in its catalog along with original video series, podcasts, thousands of expertly curated playlists and artist discovery via TIDAL Rising. With the commitment of its owners to create a more sustainable model for the music industry, TIDAL is available in premium and HiFi tiers—which includes Master Quality Authenticated (MQA) recordings.

In the US, Sprint customers with the Unlimited Plus plan are able to access a “free-forever” TIDAL membership.  For more information, please visit TIDAL.

About MQA

Using pioneering scientific research into how people hear, the MQA team has created a technology that captures the sound of the original studio performance. The master MQA file is fully authenticated and is small enough to stream or download, while also being backward compatible, so you can play MQA music on any device. MQA’s award-winning technology is licensed by labels, music services and hardware manufacturers worldwide and is certified by the RIAA. MQA is a UK-based private company. For more information visit MQA.

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mlknez's picture

You should probably mention the limitations of the dac in the provided analog 3.5mm port provided by Apple. This will not let you take full advantage of the audio stream.

Arc Angles's picture

I can now stream tidal from my iPhone, which will "unfold" the MQA, and via the USB/Camera adapter, plug it in to a "non" MQA DAC capable of playing 24/96 files?

Whereas before, my DAC would have been required to have the software to "unfold" the MQA file itself?

In other words this could eliminate the need for a DAC capable of unfolding the MQA from tidal, and I can just use my phone as a streaming device to play MQA files through an external DAC.

Apologies if this is a basic question....


Rafe Arnott's picture
What you said? Yes.
Self Righteous's picture

An alternative (if rather expensive method) is to buy Audeze iSine IEMs with the cipher cable which includes lightning plug & inline DAC on the cable. Works for me.

John Smith's picture

Spent quite a bit of time last night trying to get my current version iPod Touch (on the latest IOS and Tidal) to work with Tidal Masters without success. My streaming and downloads were both set to "Master". It will only play "Hi-Fi". However, I mostly listen offline on my stereo through a Schiit Modi 2 DAC which is not MQA enabled so I guess I'm relegated to Hi-Fi. The Modi 2 is fed by the iPod though an Apple Lightning/USB camera adaptor. Am I missing something here?

Rafe Arnott's picture
TIDAL only performs the initial software unfolding via the app in either iOS or laptop/desktop OS.

Not sure if the TIDAL app developer interface in iOS is different in an iPod Touch though... and I don't have an IPod to test it.

So not sure what's happening there. Have you tried feeding the Modi 2 via a laptop/desktop with the app set to Masters?

Topher's picture

This is great news. It would be great to hear from Rafe or some other expert in the field a review of listening to Tidal through (a) a laptop, and (b) an iOS device like an iPad or iPod Touch (unless I'm the only person in the known universe to still have an iPod!) Is there, for instance, less noise when listening on a (simpler, less power hungry) iOS device? Or is the bigger OSX computer better for some other reason. (I get that this would be very much a review for entry-levellers like myself who don't yet own NAS drives and music streamers, but entry-levellers read Audio Stream, too!)

My last note on Tidal is that, as welcome as MQA on iOS is, we're still waiting for an iOS remote feature in which a laptop plugged into a HiFi can be controlled from the sofa by an iPad of the sort offered by iTunes, Roon, and, I'm told, even budget options like Spotify. But people have been asking for this for a number of years, so I'm not holding my breath.

Rafe Arnott's picture
I don't have an iPod so I can't do this, also you'd be limited to 24/48 in the iPad for output.
John Smith's picture

I contacted Tidal support and they told me iPods are not supported to play Masters.

Rafe Arnott's picture
There you have it... thank you John.
Topher's picture

Very late to reply, but for the sake of anyone browsing old posts about Tidal, having dusted off my Apple Lightning Camera Adapter I can confirm that you can in fact listen to Masters on iPod Touch. I can only imagine the Tidal person John spoke to thought he meant an iPod Classic or Mini or something.

I'm also puzzled why Rafe would say the iPad is limited to 24/48. The iPad and the iPod Touch are basically the same product, so I don't see why one would be limited to 48 when the other isn't. But since I don't have an iPad at present I'm open to correction, obvs.

One notable thing I haven't seen written about re Tidal Masters and iOS is the download option. One of the best things about the iOS version of Tidal is the ability to download before you listen, preventing troublesome WiFi buffering. Notably this is not an option with Tidal Masters. When you download a Masters album on iOS, it plays in regular old 16/44 HiFi.

Hope that helps.

Rafe Arnott's picture
Via the Lightning connector.
Topher's picture

By 'Lightning connector' do you mean the Lighting > USB Camera Adapter or something else? Because I'm getting 24/96 going through the Camera Adapter to the USB cable coming out of my DAC. As I say, I don't understand why it would be different with an iPad. Sorry if I'm missing something obvious here.

Rafe Arnott's picture
This is what I'm referring to, which caps out at 24-bit/48kHz.
b sweet's picture

...."to handle the software unfolding (24-bit/96kHz) of the ultra-high resolution Master Quality Authenticated (MQA) core signal"....

Ultra high resolution???!!!


Rafe Arnott's picture
They are referring to the 32-bit/384kHz MQA core signal that would be available via hardware unfold (third level) to MQA-authenticated DACs. But via the initial (software) unfold, only up to 24-bit/96kHz of the original signal is available.