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MQA Listening Impressions


hissinkl
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I've managed to update the Explorer2 ok and using a Mac Pro, Roon it functions ok. (feeding Lehmann Black Cube/HD800 Sennheisers.

 

However I have not heard a difference, if any between the 2L MQA and CD version files.

 

So I tested it on the main system using a Windows 10 notebook, Roon and same files this time using JPlay. No blue light but if Meridian speaker is enabled and Jplay deactivated, the Explorer recognises MQA files again. And if there is a difference between MQA and CD quality, it's not jumping out and biting me.

 

However I used 2L files exclusively, which means classical, and perhaps there is a palpable difference with other genres.

 

Or my hearing is shot, and that is unlikely as I recently replaced the AMG Viella arm with the Axiom arm and that change was jaw dropping different; Then I have not heard a similar quantum difference between MQA and CD16/44 versions of the music tracks.

 

It would be nice to have other music in MQA vs CD resolution to compare.

 

Next step is to listen to the Stax SR009/Woo amp combo and see if that is able to result in any difference.

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Please update us after listening through the Stax rig.

Listening to Spes' Kyrie track (2L) and the Mozart Violin concerto's (Marianne Thorsen) via the Stax 009s.

 

MQA is different - slightly crisper starts to music with deeper soundstage and more focus of voice compared to CD quality.

 

Difference is similar to inserting the QOL into the signal path re the sound stage and the crisper starts to the notes etc is the difference between analog (LP) vs digital, with digital sounding more 'rounded' or blurred.

 

Do note I use Larsen 8 speakers so the differences may not be that obvious if listening to near field situations.

 

Preliminary conclusion is that MQA removes the digital glare and blurring, plus improves the acoustic sound staging.

 

As for comparing more modern music in MQA format to cd quality, I suspect we have to wait for Tidal to turn the tap on.

 

MQA thus sounds like analog minus the hoo haa involved with playing LP's. I suspect compare to MP3 it's gob-smacking. Compared to classical genre CD's - subtle. Modern music? No idea.

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Compared to classical genre CD's - subtle. Modern music? No idea.

Thank you for these early comparisons.

What I meant was to compare to 96-24 or higher resolution recordings (PCM or DSD) as opposed to CD-quality.

I did not mean "modern music", I intended instead recent state-of-the-art recordings using high-resolution equipment.

2L has posted some of these for comparison.

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As for comparing more modern music in MQA format to cd quality, I suspect we have to wait for Tidal to turn the tap on.

 

But why compare it to CD quality? Because the bandwidth required for MQA is equivalent of hires. How does it compare to 96/24 or higher hires, then you have roughly equivalent file sizes...

Signalyst - Developer of HQPlayer

Pulse & Fidelity - Software Defined Amplifiers

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You mean compare MQA with original or higher res-versions? Only up to 24/192 as that is the limit of the Explorer2 output. (I use the line out on the Meridian btw). I'll download some of the higher res files and listen. One caveat - seems audiophile sound tends to be highly etched and focussed, sort of extreme enhancement of sound sources. This acoustic etching is absent with the Larsen 8's and probably the reason I concluded that the MQA version was 'subtle'. It wasn't as subtle via the Stax earphones but equally I had to pay close attention to the music and only after many repeats did I hear the difference. It means that the various versions 2L have placed in the testing area are top quality from the start, irrespective of which version you listen to, so trying to hear a jaw-dropping difference is not to be expected.

 

I distinctly remember when CD first came out in 1982 when I was selling Hi Fi and the improvement since is astonishing. Meridian dealers do have MQA demo files for customers to listen to, so it might be possible for Meridian (hint hint) to make these available for testing ? :-)

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Because if you can't hear any difference between MQA and CD quality, then it's no point listening to higher-res versions. CD is the benchmark. One reason for hi res versions is to put the brick-wall filters further out into the high-frequency area, so the audible effect is minimised. MQA, on the other hand, uses a q

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Because if you can't hear any difference between MQA and CD quality, then it's no point listening to higher-res versions.

 

Sure...

 

CD is the benchmark.

 

I think the true benchmark is to compare it with standard files of roughly equal size...

 

Only up to 24/192 as that is the limit of the Explorer2 output.

 

You could play the master DXD files converted to that. Quite many players can do on the fly conversions too.

Signalyst - Developer of HQPlayer

Pulse & Fidelity - Software Defined Amplifiers

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Unfortunately file sizes are not a solution since 24/96, MQA and CD are all different sizes. I listened to 2L-48_14 versions, CD @ 18.8Mb, MQA @ 51.9 Mb and 24/96 @ 85.8 Mb through the main system. Extremely difficult to tell any difference between all 3 versions, especially the MQA-Hires comparison. (2L-48-14 has a weird metadata issue in that Roon can't seem to recognise the MQA file. Aurender notes all caps in the album title for one of the files).

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Unfortunately file sizes are not a solution since 24/96, MQA and CD are all different sizes. I listened to 2L-48_14 versions, CD @ 18.8Mb, MQA @ 51.9 Mb and 24/96 @ 85.8 Mb through the main system. Extremely difficult to tell any difference between all 3 versions, especially the MQA-Hires comparison. (2L-48-14 has a weird metadata issue in that Roon can't seem to recognise the MQA file. Aurender notes all caps in the album title for one of the files).

 

When converting the master DXD to 96 kHz rate, it can be safely cut to 18-bit which will make the resulting file smaller than the MQA one.

Signalyst - Developer of HQPlayer

Pulse & Fidelity - Software Defined Amplifiers

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Thank you for these early comparisons.

What I meant was to compare to 96-24 or higher resolution recordings (PCM or DSD) as opposed to CD-quality.

I did not mean "modern music", I intended instead recent state-of-the-art recordings using high-resolution equipment.

2L has posted some of these for comparison.

 

I ended up listening to the MQA versus the original at optimum playback and the differences are subtle with an edge to MQA eliminating the brick-wall filter effect. Which means that I am also admitting that I'm having difficulty hearing the difference between a $20K DAC and a MQA enabled $500 DAC; it's that close.

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I ended up listening to the MQA versus the original at optimum playback and the differences are subtle with an edge to MQA eliminating the brick-wall filter effect. Which means that I am also admitting that I'm having difficulty hearing the difference between a $20K DAC and a MQA enabled $500 DAC; it's that close.

 

So, then both DAC's performance are limited with PCM resolution limits...? IOW, even $500 DAC itself is way better than incoming PCM...?

 

What if you listen some 2L DXD original (or 192kHz) file vs DSD from same site, maybe that brick-wall effect is cone also with DSD?

Sorry, english is not my native language.

Fools and fanatics are always certain of themselves, but wiser people are full of doubts.

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For the 2L albums that had MQA version, with proper 192k conversion from the original DXD there is no "brickwall effect", because there is no musical content above about 60 kHz...

 

DSD128 can also very well contain more information than those recordings have, and no need to limit the bandwidth of DXD either.

 

But the MQA versions, AFAIK since they collapse just 2x of the FLAC rate, need to band-limit the content to some extent.

 

If the MQA sounds "crisper" or more "edgy" than the 192k it could be indication of leaky digital filters with aliasing/images. (if someone has heard "Brothers in Arms" through SAA7220 + TDA1541A they know what I'm talking about)

Signalyst - Developer of HQPlayer

Pulse & Fidelity - Software Defined Amplifiers

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For the 2L albums that had MQA version, with proper 192k conversion from the original DXD there is no "brickwall effect", because there is no musical content above about 60 kHz...

 

DSD128 can also very well contain more information than those recordings have, and no need to limit the bandwidth of DXD either.

 

 

Yet, MQA may be able to bring a similar sound to a recording that was not recorded at high enough sample rates (say, above 192k or DSD128) and/or were processed/mixed in low rate equipment....just thoughts...

Hey MQA, if it is not all $voodoo$, show us the math!

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Yet, MQA may be able to bring a similar sound to a recording that was not recorded at high enough sample rates (say, above 192k or DSD128) and/or were processed/mixed in low rate equipment....just thoughts...

 

That is to be compared against the usual apodizing filters to see how it performs...

 

So far, 2L content is DXD. Except the one DAT (44.1/16) recording that you can of course also play through various different apodizing filters for comparison.

 

Let's see when I have chance to run MQA through measurements to check how it really performs.

Signalyst - Developer of HQPlayer

Pulse & Fidelity - Software Defined Amplifiers

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That is to be compared against the usual apodizing filters to see how it performs...

 

So far, 2L content is DXD. Except the one DAT (44.1/16) recording that you can of course also play through various different apodizing filters for comparison.

 

Let's see when I have chance to run MQA through measurements to check how it really performs.

 

Well, I will be interested in your results. I am right now listening to some 16/44 Cowboy Junkies through HQPlayer which is sampling up to DSD256 to my iDSD and it sounds pretty darn good! thanks!!

Hey MQA, if it is not all $voodoo$, show us the math!

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One thing about 2L - they says that original is DXD. Ok, but there are listed also multichannel versions of same track, so maybe that stereo DXD is downmixed from MCH DXD recordings, and that is original, not stereo DXD, the only thing what we can download... So, we don't have a real original source at all in comparisons.

 

Good thing is that different stereo files are sourced (orobably) from that downmixed DXD file...

Sorry, english is not my native language.

Fools and fanatics are always certain of themselves, but wiser people are full of doubts.

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I ended up listening to the MQA versus the original at optimum playback and the differences are subtle with an edge to MQA eliminating the brick-wall filter effect. Which means that I am also admitting that I'm having difficulty hearing the difference between a $20K DAC and a MQA enabled $500 DAC; it's that close.

Thanks for the feedback. This is really exciting, have you tried a different transport other than the Aurender? I wonder whether there is less need for $20K transports and DAC's.

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