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Good article on MQA and why it is so dangerous (as all "revolutions" are)


crenca
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The author has the best grasp as to what MQA is as a whole (i.e. it is not a mere SQ innovation) of any that I have yet to read in the "Audiophile" press. His point about the "broken business" model and how MQA is really about this, and not merely a SQ tweak are especially important:

 

Master Quality Authenticated (MQA): The View From 30,000 Feet | The Absolute Sound

 

Here is my response I posted on the site:

 

 

 

This is a very good article in many ways, indeed the best I have read about MQA in the “Audiophile” press to date. I want to focus on on one thing however, and that is the DRM aspect. On the one hand, you say:

 

 

" The record industry is reluctant to release their fast-sampling files for fear that they will eventually have nothing to sell...When you play an MQA file through an MQA decoder, you hear the high-resolution studio master, yet you never actually possess the high-resolution studio master."

 

 

Then, you say:

 

 

" Contrary to what some Internet posters think, MQA is not an evil scheme to institute DRM."

 

 

This is where you get tripped up in either your own reasoning and understanding of what MQA is and what DRM is as a digital/software implementation, or you are trying to sell us something (I think it is a bit of both).

 

 

What you are really saying, is that MQA as an encoding mechanism allows the end user to hear the master quality within a proprietary, closed format end to end digital delivery system that is protected by IP (intellectual property law) and all that entails. You don't want to talk about (or even admit - or is it you don't understand?) what this means as far as ownership, the ability to back up and re-sell, and the ability to play and manipulate files on equipment (such as DAC's, computers, music servers, etc.) that are open source or at least have not $paid$ Meridian (and others) for the "privilege" of manipulating IP which the end user then "leases" or purchases only very limited "rights" to and does not actually own.

 

 

As you point out, it is a "business model" problem - the problem is not with the end users of "Hi-Res" audio. We are perfectly happy with the sound of our high resolution files. Indeed, I can "hear" the "master" when I play 192 or above with the right filters, or DSDx4, etc. What MQA is REALLY about is getting me into an IP ecosystem where (just like video - have you tried to *legally* rip your BlueRay disc today?) "the industry" has a certain control over where and how I play music that I don't really "own" but for which I payed good money for.

 

 

Sure, it's not DRM in the traditional way most folks think about it, but it is DRM through IP and hardware implementation - that is what it *means* to say you will only get 16/44 upon playback through a non-MQA enabled DAC or audio-playback chain. In any case, DRM as traditionally defined is but a trivial software tweak away and if you read the fine print on any IP covered product, you can understand how you are giving the real owner of the content the right to do DRM (or anything else) in any case (maybe in the next mandatory software update of your MQA DAC).

 

 

You are right when you say that MQA is a revolution - but not in way music lovers really want. We are not interested in "master quality" sound at any price - MQA is a price too high even if it delivers on it's sound quality promises (which it may not - or at least in a significant enough advance over high sample rate PCM and DSD with good filters). It is not REALLY about sound quality, it is about the "broken business model" which you point to and it is about using sound quality as a selling point to get music lovers away from the advantages of PCM/DSD and into a closed format MQA based digital ecosystem that is a *legal entity* in a way that PCM and DSD are not.

 

 

Have we not learned our lesson about all this with video?!? I for one am betting that music lovers will see through this ruse, and that MQA will be a commercial failure...

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

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Excellent post and really great thoughtful commentary--thanks!

 

I can't help but see potential analogies with HDCD, which was unprotected in the DRM sense but a proprietary technology nonetheless. I share many of your concerns but remain optimistic in MQA's potential.

 

I truly am very interested in the potential sound quality improvements of MQA. Should we not consider a better paradigm and means of audio delivery? Hopefully better transparency will come. At the very least, I do think we should consider the possibility that the A/D and D/A converters may be historically under-characterized and therefore one of the least understood links in the distribution chain.

 

Still watching and patiently waiting...

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... Have we not learned our lesson about all this with video?!? I for one am betting hoping against hope that music lovers will see through this ruse, and that MQA will be a commercial failure...

 

Fixed it for you... :)

"People hear what they see." - Doris Day

The forum would be a much better place if everyone were less convinced of how right they were.

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The internet is a disruptive force that has changed things in dramatic ways. As much as the music industry pines for the good old days, those days are never coming back. Musicians and the record companies are not going to make money like they used to. Trying to get folks to walk back into the old world is simply not going to work.

 

I genuinely feel sorry for those who due to industry affiliations and what not have to waste time on MQA. Meridien's attempt to build another mouse trap simply has no more cheese.

 

Regards.

Win10 Transport + Fidelizer 8.7 + JRMC 28 & HQPlayer | Mutec MC-3+ Smart Clock USB |  Job INT | Green Mountain Audio Eos HX

 

 

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The internet is a disruptive force that has changed things in dramatic ways. As much as the music industry pines for the good old days, those days are never coming back. Musicians and the record companies are not going to make money like they used to. Trying to get folks to walk back into the old world is simply not going to work.

 

I genuinely feel sorry for those who due to industry affiliations and what not have to waste time on MQA. Meridien's attempt to build another mouse trap simply has no more cheese.

 

Regards.

 

Maybe the best comment on MQA I have seen. The mousetrap has no more cheese indeed.

And always keep in mind: Cognitive biases, like seeing optical illusions are a sign of a normally functioning brain. We all have them, it’s nothing to be ashamed about, but it is something that affects our objective evaluation of reality. 

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You are right when you say that MQA is a revolution - but not in way music lovers really want. We are not interested in "master quality" sound at any price - MQA is a price too high even if it delivers on it's sound quality promises (which it may not - or at least in a significant enough advance over high sample rate PCM and DSD with good filters). It is not REALLY about sound quality, it is about the "broken business model" which you point to and it is about using sound quality as a selling point to get music lovers away from the advantages of PCM/DSD and into a closed format MQA based digital ecosystem that is a *legal entity* in a way that PCM and DSD are not.

Have we not learned our lesson about all this with video?!? I for one am betting that music lovers will see through this ruse, and that MQA will be a commercial failure...

 

Thank you very much for a eye opening post on the realities of MQA! I had not fully understood the ramifications before. I hope the word will spread and opposition grow from the audiophile world against MQA.

"The gullibility of audiophiles is what astonishes me the most, even after all these years. How is it possible, how did it ever happen, that they trust fairy-tale purveyors and mystic gurus more than reliable sources of scientific information?"

Peter Aczel - The Audio Critic

no-mqa-sm.jpg

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Unless I've misunderstood, I don't get what the fuss is either way.

 

It's probably going to fail as most consumers want a low priced ubiquitous medium. The market for hi res I guess is pretty small and I imagine, given the downside of its restrictions, MQA is not going to deliver a sufficient improvement in SQ vs. existing and future "open" hi res PCM or DSD formats to win over that small market.

 

On the other hand, if I have understood correctly, when I buy a MQA download, I will own this and can freely copy it for my own use and these copies will behave in every way just like the original download. I will get CD quality+ on any equipment and HI Res quality+ if using a MQA decoder. Can't see the problem myself - if it's a genuine improvement why shouldn't you pay for it by having to buy a licensed decoder?

 

Freedom is great but it's also expensive- you could argue that there are some similarities between SACD and MQA. Yet I note it can be 2-3 times cheaper to buy the same DSD music on SACD than from a download site. For me that price difference massively outweighs the restrictions of SACD format.

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Unless I've misunderstood, I don't get what the fuss is either way.

 

It's probably going to fail as most consumers want a low priced ubiquitous medium. The market for hi res I guess is pretty small and I imagine, given the downside of its restrictions, MQA is not going to deliver a sufficient improvement in SQ vs. existing and future "open" hi res PCM or DSD formats to win over that small market.

 

On the other hand, if I have understood correctly, when I buy a MQA download, I will own this and can freely copy it for my own use and these copies will behave in every way just like the original download. I will get CD quality+ on any equipment and HI Res quality+ if using a MQA decoder. Can't see the problem myself - if it's a genuine improvement why shouldn't you pay for it by having to buy a licensed decoder?

 

Freedom is great but it's also expensive- you could argue that there are some similarities between SACD and MQA. Yet I note it can be 2-3 times cheaper to buy the same DSD music on SACD than from a download site. For me that price difference massively outweighs the restrictions of SACD format.

 

It depends who you believe at present, and who ends up being right about the SQ. Robert Harley and others say playing back MQA encoded files on a non MQA setup will get you "slightly better" than CD quality sound; Miska and others say you will get worse than CD quality sound.

 

If RH and his camp are right, I'm not to disturbed. If the other camp is correct, I'm not happy at all. It basically means that until I buy an MQA setup, MQA'd music I buy and streams from Tidal (soon to be MQA'd) are of "inferior" quality.

Main listening (small home office):

Main setup: Surge protector +_iFi  AC iPurifiers >Isol-8 Mini sub Axis Power Conditioning+Isolation>QuietPC Low Noise Server>Roon (Audiolense DRC)>Stack Audio Link II>Kii Control>Kii Three >GIK Room Treatments.

Secondary Listening: Server with Audiolense RC>RPi4 or analog>Matrix Element i Streamer/DAC (XLR)+Schiit Freya>Kii Three .

Bedroom: SBTouch to Cambridge Soundworks Desktop Setup.
Living Room/Kitchen: RPi 3B+ running RoPieee to a pair of Morel Hogtalare. 

All absolute statements about audio are false :)

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It depends who you believe at present, and who ends up being right about the SQ. Robert Harley and others say playing back MQA encoded files on a non MQA setup will get you "slightly better" than CD quality sound; Miska and others say you will get worse than CD quality sound.

 

If RH and his camp are right, I'm not to disturbed. If the other camp is correct, I'm not happy at all. It basically means that until I buy an MQA setup, MQA'd music I buy and streams from Tidal (soon to be MQA'd) are of "inferior" quality.

I've done my own analysis of undecoded MQA and come to the same conclusion as Miska. It's somewhat worse than CD quality.

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I have yet to understand why another closed ecosystem is going to merit the claimed net result. Granted I haven't spent a lot of time reading about it as it seems on the surface once again, a "follow the money" scenario. I'm not gonna revamp my rig just to play friggin MQA files. Sheesh.

 

Its like pizza and the "hipster" food individuals with all their leafy toppings to bring out the "essential aromatic oils" - its pizza, leave it the F alone :)

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As we have discussed, it is possible on a non-MQA system to apply system correction deconvolution filters, if one wants to go to the trouble -- essentially the room correction system measures and linearities the system which would be the playback system.

 

For recordings, we assume the mastering process is reasonably linear -- and are dependent as always on high quality.

 

With this technique and given a high bandwidth amplifier/playback chain, you could select a filter which would mimic another amplifier eg a vintage sound. It would be interesting to test out the extent to which we could mimic signatures such as the Sony VFET and/or tube designs. From a math point of view MQA can't do more (aside from its compression scheme) and we know there are excellent actual implementations of room correction.

Custom room treatments for headphone users.

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The author has the best grasp as to what MQA is as a whole (i.e. it is not a mere SQ innovation) of any that I have yet to read in the "Audiophile" press. His point about the "broken business" model and how MQA is really about this, and not merely a SQ tweak are especially important:

 

MQA doesn't really seem to address this concept of a broken "business business" model. I still don't see where it has been determined whether MQA will be a niche or mainstream oriented process, maybe they are hedging their bets and if it isn't as successful as anticipated they can say it was intended to be a niche product all along. But as I have seen stated before they do not address the "garbage in / garbage out" end of the broken business model. Are they offering a solution to the compressed music of the day? I don't think so.

Jim

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I am curious enough about how MQA sounds that I would pull the trigger on a Meridian Explorer 2, but so far there isn't really much I'm interested in listening to that is commercially available in MQA.

 

I don't want to fall into the same trap that I did with SACD/DVD-A, buying a lot of albums that I didn't even particularly enjoy just because they were in the new format.

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Its like pizza and the "hipster" food individuals with all their leafy toppings to bring out the "essential aromatic oils" - its pizza, leave it the F alone :)

 

Anyone attempting to put pineapple on a pizza in Chicago would be executed. LOL

"The gullibility of audiophiles is what astonishes me the most, even after all these years. How is it possible, how did it ever happen, that they trust fairy-tale purveyors and mystic gurus more than reliable sources of scientific information?"

Peter Aczel - The Audio Critic

no-mqa-sm.jpg

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With this technique and given a high bandwidth amplifier/playback chain, you could select a filter which would mimic another amplifier eg a vintage sound. It would be interesting to test out the extent to which we could mimic signatures such as the Sony VFET and/or tube designs.

 

Slightly off topic...here’s AD/DA that claims the ability to adjust the tubiness to one’s liking at a turn of a dial: http://www.cranesong.com/hedd-192.jpg

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Slightly off topic...here’s AD/DA that claims the ability to adjust the tubiness to one’s liking at a turn of a dial: http://www.cranesong.com/hedd-192.jpg

 

 

Ha! A distortion booster. Neil Young has that gizmo hooked up to old blackie!.

Rock on.

In any dispute the intensity of feeling is inversely proportional to the value of the issues at stake ~ Sayre's Law

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This article is somewhat interesting as it stresses the influence of digital filters for AD and DA for timedomain reproduction. I do not get the statements about file size. At 2L.no MQA files are 2 -2.6x the size of 16/44. Maybe that is the reason we do not hear much from Tidal about MQA recently.

Apparently not only CA member wait for explanations from MQA Talking Schiit About MQA, DSD At CanJam SoCal 2016 | DAR__KO

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Ha! A distortion booster. Neil Young has that gizmo hooked up to old blackie!.

Rock on.

 

Many folks on pro forums swear by it for mastering. No tubes inside. For our purposes would be like having multiple amp topologies in a single digital device. Would be interesting to hear what its DAC can do.

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Unless I've misunderstood, I don't get what the fuss is either way.

 

It's probably going to fail as most consumers want a low priced ubiquitous medium. The market for hi res I guess is pretty small and I imagine, given the downside of its restrictions, MQA is not going to deliver a sufficient improvement in SQ vs. existing and future "open" hi res PCM or DSD formats to win over that small market.

 

On the other hand, if I have understood correctly, when I buy a MQA download, I will own this and can freely copy it for my own use and these copies will behave in every way just like the original download. I will get CD quality+ on any equipment and HI Res quality+ if using a MQA decoder. Can't see the problem myself - if it's a genuine improvement why shouldn't you pay for it by having to buy a licensed decoder?

 

Freedom is great but it's also expensive- you could argue that there are some similarities between SACD and MQA. Yet I note it can be 2-3 times cheaper to buy the same DSD music on SACD than from a download site. For me that price difference massively outweighs the restrictions of SACD format.

 

So you are ok with buying all your music in MQA and the required MQA h/w? I mean all over again.

 

Not an issue with me, perfectly fine with me in fact.

 

The only problem I see is if MQA is all we have for new music coming out and the alternative being less than CD quality.

 

Like MQA, go ahead and have a party with it. I've no issues with it and couldn't care any less either way.

 

Just don't mess with the quality of audio CDs... especially for the folks who don't want MQA.

 

And all indications are the quality will be less than audio CD... not surprising because that's the goal of MQA, to lasso us all into DRM in the name of better quality MQA and what better way to achieve it than say hey audio CDs suck... listen to MQA its better.

 

Of course the good news is MQA is DOA. The internet has been its undoing.

 

Nikhil put it aptly... the MQA "mouse trap simply has no more cheese".

Next to the Word of God, the noble art of music is the greatest treasure in the world - Martin Luther

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Slightly off topic...here’s AD/DA that claims the ability to adjust the tubiness to one’s liking at a turn of a dial: http://www.cranesong.com/hedd-192.jpg

 

Might be very good if you like tube sound but don't want' the "mess". I'd be interested in hearing it. It's a good concept. I've heard DSP for tubes that was very convincing. You can always turn the tubiness to 0 if you want.

Main listening (small home office):

Main setup: Surge protector +_iFi  AC iPurifiers >Isol-8 Mini sub Axis Power Conditioning+Isolation>QuietPC Low Noise Server>Roon (Audiolense DRC)>Stack Audio Link II>Kii Control>Kii Three >GIK Room Treatments.

Secondary Listening: Server with Audiolense RC>RPi4 or analog>Matrix Element i Streamer/DAC (XLR)+Schiit Freya>Kii Three .

Bedroom: SBTouch to Cambridge Soundworks Desktop Setup.
Living Room/Kitchen: RPi 3B+ running RoPieee to a pair of Morel Hogtalare. 

All absolute statements about audio are false :)

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Anyone attempting to put pineapple on a pizza in Chicago would be executed. LOL

 

Oh no, in college a fellow opened his Chicago style pizza parlor in the town (yes he was from Chicago). When anyone mentioned pineapple on a pizza just the thought of it seemed so wrong to me. So the guy during his opening week let my girlfriend and I in to give our honest opinion of his product prior to his fully being open. One of our friends was working there and hooked us up. My girlfriend asked about pineapple, and he waxed on about how it was such a good combination with Chicago style deep dish. Hey it was my girlfriend and I acquiesced. WOW. That was a good thing on a pizza. I have loved pineapple on pizza since that day.

 

So the question is, why did this pizza dude leave Chicago for the southeastern US? Was he driven out by the pizza mob and his sacrilege of Chicago style deep dish pizza with pineapple? Was he avoiding execution? Does Illinois have extradition for that offense? And what is the statue of limitations? :)

And always keep in mind: Cognitive biases, like seeing optical illusions are a sign of a normally functioning brain. We all have them, it’s nothing to be ashamed about, but it is something that affects our objective evaluation of reality. 

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Its like pizza and the "hipster" food individuals with all their leafy toppings to bring out the "essential aromatic oils" - its pizza, leave it the F alone :)

 

Don't know about the MQA. My own tests show degradation vs redbook if undecoded. However, Neopolitan pizza has green leafy toppings. Having had such freshly prepared with fresh ingredients, there is no doubt it is the finest pizza I have ever had. I don't like green leafy anything either, but it works in this case. Neopolitan is the bomb.

And always keep in mind: Cognitive biases, like seeing optical illusions are a sign of a normally functioning brain. We all have them, it’s nothing to be ashamed about, but it is something that affects our objective evaluation of reality. 

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