'Member the computer program Stuffit? An oldie but a goodie. I remember the early days of the internet when the size of files was just as important as the content within. This was of course because most of us were connecting at 28.8 kilobits per second over the telephone line. Digital soothsayers at the time liked to tell us that one day we'd be able to watch full quality movies as instantaneously as a click of a button.
Some users with state-of-the-art connection speeds are already there, but no one can deny that the pace and direction of the internet and related technology has been steady and forward. We're at a point where my phone can play a crystal clear (albeit tiny) live NFL game after waiting just a few seconds for buffering — provided I've got a decent LTE or 4G signal, of course.
I remember a handful of compression technologies and companies making big bucks back in the day with their software, and I remember the terrible quality of the videos, photos and music shared via these technologies. Compromise was OK if it meant we could do something completely new, like sending Grandma a video of a monkey sniffing his butt.
Internet technology has been moving at light speed since those early days. Companies like Hulu and Netflix and HBO early on began directing resources toward the development of ever faster, more stable video platforms, and now, people are consuming better quality video over the internet than ever before.
For some reason, audio has lagged behind video a bit in this internet technology trudge. Just recently, we're seeing the beginnings of a shift across the industry to better quality, "hi-res" (high resolution) music streamed to our wireless devices.
Almost a year ago in this column, I offered the lowdown on a new hi-res audio format called MQA and mentioned that Warner Group had decided to offer its catalog in the innovative file type. At the time, Tidal had also just announced its intentions to offer MQA streaming as part of their Hi-Fi, CD-quality streaming option.
Good things come to those who wait, and only just now have MQA files started showing up as options to Hi-Fi subscribers. If you've got Tidal, try Hi-Fi and listen to a new MQA track and see what you think. Compare against the same song in a different format, and try to reduce the variables like mismatched volume or external noise.
Now, I wouldn't be surprised if you don't have a Tidal subscription, just like the rest of my friends or anyone I've ever asked about it. Chances are you are a Spotify user or you like the radio presentation of Pandora or are using one of several other options born from the early days of internet streaming.
Well, good news! At CES this year, Pandora and Rhapsody/Napster each announced plans for CD-quality streaming. And on Wednesday, Spotify started sending invitations to select users to try a new Hi-Fi, CD-quality streaming option. There's no official announcement yet, but it leads me to believe the tide is turning. How fitting to be led by a Tidal wave.