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Article: A Comprehensive Q&A With MQA's Bob Stuart


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Chris - Great and informative. Thanks to you and Bob. I'm more hopeful about this technology now.

 

You are sure to get incoming links to this from a big number of audio sites on the Web. Congrats.

 

I'm a big Tidal listener, so I can't wait to see if I'll hear a difference on my non-MQA system when Tidal incorporates MQA. I certainly won't be buying my collection over again in MQA versions, but I'll be very interested to hear how MQA'd recordings sound when they begin to be released to the public.

 

I'll also be interested to see if any of the critics back off on some of their claims that Bob categorically denied/explained were incorrect.

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

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All absolute statements about audio are false :)

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Thanks for all the work you and Bob put into that Q/A.

Next step will be in the measuring and listening of the MQA files both decoded and not.

Well see if the SQ lives up to the claims.

Thanks Again

"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

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Hats off to Bob Stuart (and Chris and the site for the Q's) for that is one hell of a reply. Seemed open and frank to me but I don't have a deep understanding of it, nor interest really, other than trying to understand if its genuinely an amazing thing in an industry that does have a bit of a history of milking the consumer a bit to be fair.

 

I walked away thinking it was a pretty impressive - certainly Bob's desire to make music better for all came across. The man does appear to very much know what he's talking about, and I'm sure its a huge undertaking to get something like this off the ground (let alone invent it!).

 

The answer to the one specific question on my mind about Room Correction made me smile.

 

I've never heard MQA and don't have an MQA DAC, but I hope to get the chance at some point.

 

I'm interested to see if these answers perhsps give a level of comfort to the more technically advanced members who felt the technology was somehow 'cheating us'.

Now, where's the popcorn….

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Q79. DRM

 

  1. MQA is a DRM system
  2. Does this MQA format have any DRM component that we as consumers need to be aware of? (added)
  3. What does DRM mean in the context of MQA?
  4. If MQA incorporates DRM at such level that the file cannot be played at all (MQA decoding or not) without authentication... What format would this file be in? That is: it could not be FLAC, could it?
  5. DRM DRM DRM - what technical and/or legal assurances does a user/purchaser of MQA (which is an IP/patented protected technology) have that MQA will not now or in the future serve as part of a DRM system? Not interested in personal assurances, good intentions, or a simple "we have no plans for that". What LEGAL rights do the purchaser of this technology have that protects them from MQA based DRM (if any)? Since the answer is probably "none", what changes to the licensing is Meridian prepared to make to assure the audio community that MQA can never be used as a DRM mechanism?

 

A79.

 

  1. NO it ISN’T. We have no idea where this rumour came from, but we advise circumspection about the motives of those who persist in repeating this falsehood.
     
    In fact, MQA is the antithesis of a DRM system: everyone can hear the music without a decoder!
     
    Even FLAC requires a decoder, so does AAC, MP3, etc; vinyl and optical discs require players. There isn’t anyone who can’t play an MQA file on a mobile phone or an existing system.
     
    DRM is about limiting access, tracking or copy protection. MQA does none of these.
     
    MQA is about getting access to the definitive essence of great performances, with sound quality that is not otherwise achievable and reassuring you when you have it.
     
    MQA files and decoders exist today, they can’t suddenly stop access to the music.
     
    MQA does carry provenance, metadata and (optionally) creation rights information that might help the artist or publisher. It does not (unlike some downloads) carry information tracking the purchaser and we reject audible watermarks.
  2. MQA does not have a DRM component.
  3. MQA does not have a DRM component.
  4. MQA does not have a DRM component.
  5. MQA does not have a DRM component.

 

 

I like this answer, but have a few little sticking points that just raise little "request more information flags." Three little points - raised mostly because of the answers.

 

First - why put this in the category of of "MQA Myths, Rumors, and Worse"? I get that MQA does not a DRM component. That's good. I like that they are rejecting audible watermarks and such. I like that it does not have purchase tracker information floating around in it. I am unclear how creation rights will help anyone without tracking information in the file, but hey...

 

Second - what's with the disclaimer that MQA doesn't need a decoder? to hear MQA music, you got have something decoding the encoded MQA information. Or does this mean that anyone can hear the 16/44.1 version of the music. Would that not sound odd? Is the encoded MQA information absolutely silent in PCM D2A functions? A little more clarification here would be welcome.

 

Third - the veiled warning is a bit British, no? "advise circumspection about the motives of those who persist in repeating this falsehood" ?

Did I simply mis-read that? If there is someone out there doing a smear campaign, circumspection hell. Let's expose the rats and move on. I get how frustrating it is to have your product questioned, but that looks like a very clear answer. MQA is a DRM tool is what I believe they are saying.

 

Fourth - lastly, why the "does this MQA format have any DRM component that we as consumers need to be aware of? (added)"?

Is there somewhat there that we don't *need* to be aware of as consumers but licensees are aware of? If so, what? The "we as consumers" as an added question was enough to raise a very American 'what the heck does *that* mean flag?"

 

Again, don't take this as criticism, It is just the location and actual answers to this question seemed a little - well - over reaction? Misplaced? Strained? Incomplete? Something along those lines. And I am a detail person. :)

 

-Paul

Anyone who considers protocol unimportant has never dealt with a cat DAC.

Robert A. Heinlein

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the 'missing' Archimago blog post the editor couldn't find in Q82 is here:

 

Archimago's Musings: MEASUREMENTS: MQA (Master Quality Authenticated) Observations and The Big Picture...

 

It was not 'removed'.

Hi sullis02 - The original question (seen here) from the MQA Q&A thread asked Bob to respond to the comments at the following URI - http://archimago.blogspot.ca/2016/01/measurements-mqa-observations-and-big.html

 

Based on the page not found message displayed I can only assume the page has been removed. If it hasn't been removed, it magically morphed into a, "Sorry, the page you were looking for in this blog does not exist" message. Without a follow up by the person who originally asked the question there is no way of knowing which one of the MQA posts on that site are relevant to the question.

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Some people believe that the processor cycles used to decode compressed files on a server can affect the timing of the bitstream to the DAC and hence it's quality. Is it known if there is any latency added by the MQA decoding process, be it implemented in hardware or software, that would impact the timing of the decoded bitstream to the DAC?

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From the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode, "Where No One Has Gone Before" (Season 1, Episode 6):

 

Commander Riker: (referring to so-called Starfleet Propulsion Expert, Mr. Kosinski) "Can anything he's proposing damage our systems?"

 

Chief Engineer Argyle: "How could it, it's meaningless."

 

This is how I'm feeling about MQA.....for now.....

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Hi sullis02 - The original question (seen here) from the MQA Q&A thread asked Bob to respond to the comments at the following URI - http://archimago.blogspot.ca/2016/01/measurements-mqa-observations-and-big.html

 

Based on the page not found message displayed I can only assume the page has been removed. If it hasn't been removed, it magically morphed into a, "Sorry, the page you were looking for in this blog does not exist" message. Without a follow up by the person who originally asked the question there is no way of knowing which one of the MQA posts on that site are relevant to the question.

 

 

 

Someone in your thread named "R12CL' linked to Archimago's investigations

14. Any comments on the content of these guys investigations ?

http://archimago.blogspot.ca/2016/01...s-and-big.html

 

and later someone named JR_audio posted as well:

I have already mentioned my two questions on the Archimago Blog, that is really worth reading:

 

Archimago's Musings: MEASUREMENTS: MQA (Master Quality Authenticated) Observations and The Big Picture...

 

In this blog you will see, that from the technical point of view, MQA have around 13 Bit of “lossless” information and everything below 14 Bit is “lossy”. Doesn't mean that is will not sound good, it just means, that this is not a lossless codec, it is lossy (from the technical point of view).

 

You've combined those two and slightly paraphrased the first to come up with Q82. (I've bolded the title the JR_audio's quote)

 

 

I've pointed you to the relevant URL, which leads to a page titled, curiously enough:

 

MEASUREMENTS: MQA (Master Quality Authenticated) Observations and The Big Picture...

 

Typing 'MQA' in the search engine on the site would also have brought it up as the first hit.

 

Have even bothered to look at it?

 

To claim there is 'no way of knowing which one of the MQA posts on that is relevant' seems strained; but Stuart's claim (footnote 13) that he was 'blocked' from posting corrections is simply incredible, given Archimago's modus operendi.

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Someone in your thread named "R12CL' linked to Archimago's investigations

 

 

and later someone named JR_audio posted as well:

 

 

You've combined those two and slightly paraphrased the first to come up with Q82. (I've bolded the title the JR_audio's quote)

 

 

I've pointed you to the relevant URL, which leads to a page titled, curiously enough:

 

MEASUREMENTS: MQA (Master Quality Authenticated) Observations and The Big Picture...

 

Typing 'MQA' in the search engine on the site would also have brought it up as the first hit.

 

Have even bothered to look at it?

 

To claim there is 'no way of knowing which one of the MQA posts on that is relevant' seems strained; but Stuart's claim (footnote 13) that he was 'blocked' from posting corrections is simply incredible, given Archimago's modus operendi.

Typing MQA in the search brings up several articles. It wasn't my job to parse through every MQA article on his site, seeking to correlate a question with a different post that may not even exist. The question was specific. It pointed to a blog post. The post was removed. End of story.

 

In addition, I don't curate the questions. I checked the links in the complete Q&A and noticed the page was removed.

 

There isnt a vast conspiracy going on here.

 

Also, I think it's strange you're questioning Bob's claim that he was blocked from that site. Have you checked with Archimago? If you do, please ask why the original post was removed.

Founder of Audiophile Style

Announcing The Audiophile Style Podcast

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re:

 

"Q10. Despite audio buffs (Who tend t listen with their minds rather than ears) nobody will really care about hi-res enough to make It something Special in the Market and in my opinion rightfully so. The only hi res formats that really make a difference are so large that makes them totally inconvenient to store stream or even listen to. To my experience all other digital formats except DSD128/DXD offer little if any improvement over Redbook depending on the recording"

 

That is a fairly damning comment if you really believe it.

 

Most of MQA is likely to be sourced from PCM of course.

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Many thanks to you and Bob (and the CA community) for all the great work you put into this. It had to take a lot of time to thoroughly address so many good questions. As a user of paid steaming services for new music discovery, I'm excited and hopeful that MQA will be successful.

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Having long believed that time blur is the root cause of the variations in SQ that we hear in computer audio, it is great to read that MQA manages this issue at the core of it's design.

 

I am curious about what tools the MQA team use to measure time blur, and if those same tools are accessible to all of us.

Pareto Audio aka nuckleheadaudio

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Having long believed that time blur is the root cause of the variations in SQ that we hear in computer audio, it is great to read that MQA manages this issue at the core of it's design.

 

I am curious about what tools the MQA team use to measure time blur, and if those same tools are accessible to all of us.

 

Just wanted to bring up a reminder that typically if we're talking time-domain SQ variation in our playback hardware in computer audio, we're thinking about timing variation as in anomalies like JITTER. This however is a property on the consumer playback end... MQA seems to be describing an ability to analyze and improve the timing parameters on the production end such that the actual music data itself is made temporally more accurate. The reality of this is unclear at this time.

 

Indeed, it would be interesting to understand how this is being done although it may very well be NDA/trade secret so we're just not going to get an answer.

 

Remember folks, the importance of jitter itself is controversial since there are many devices (usually CD players) with high measured jitter yet have been reviewed very positively and sound great. (Not to mention the other elephant in the room for audiophiles - the fact that time-domain performance of vinyl would be objectively terrible compared to what we use in the computer audio world yet many consider that the "gold standard" of quality.)

Archimago's Musings... A "more objective" audiophile blog.

Free The Music - No MQA!  :nomqa:

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I'm reading what the MQA folks are talking about as ringing rather than jitter. Some of this may be confidential but some has been described in papers.

One never knows, do one? - Fats Waller

The fairest thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion which stands at the cradle of true art and true science. - Einstein

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Having long believed that time blur is the root cause of the variations in SQ that we hear in computer audio, it is great to read that MQA manages this issue at the core of it's design.

 

I am curious about what tools the MQA team use to measure time blur, and if those same tools are accessible to all of us.

 

Me too - but it will be hard to convince the know it all crowd. I have been putting forth inherent time blurring (error) as an important factor for a long time. This is, in fact, the single most interesting point about MQA to me, though I think it is more on the recording or mastering side than playback. I am looking forward to a change to have a few long listening sessions with MQA encoded music.

 

-Paul

Anyone who considers protocol unimportant has never dealt with a cat DAC.

Robert A. Heinlein

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The masters of the back catalogue from much of the 1980s and almost everything earlier than the '80s are analogue.

 

Yes, and most of it has been catalogued for years in digital. All of Sony music, for example. Even LPs are usually sourced from digital today. The actual production of a release from master tapes is the exception, not the rule.

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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Unfortunately he refused to answer any of the interesting critical questions... :(

 

Similarity between SACD layer vs RedBook layer is striking (approved decoder vs undecoded quality degraded "compatibility"). To me, that's DRM.

 

My analysis of decoded MQA output from a Meridian DAC still shows both significant increase in noise floor and significant bandwidth limiting.

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I'm reading what the MQA folks are talking about as ringing rather than jitter. Some of this may be confidential but some has been described in papers.

 

Correct. But in reference to the initial statement, this is not the issue "we hear in computer audio". If there's a difference between one digital playback vs. another and it's time-domain issue, then it's "jitter" that would presumably be the difference between the gear.

 

As for ringing, effects... Hmmm... Again possible, but practically would be very rare I suspect and would require quite anomalous upsampling filters.

Archimago's Musings... A "more objective" audiophile blog.

Free The Music - No MQA!  :nomqa:

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Unfortunately he refused to answer any of the interesting critical questions... :(

 

Similarity between SACD layer vs RedBook layer is striking (approved decoder vs undecoded quality degraded "compatibility"). To me, that's DRM.

 

My analysis of decoded MQA output from a Meridian DAC still shows both significant increase in noise floor and significant bandwidth limiting.

 

Can you list the questions he refused to answer?

 

Yet you declined to ask the questions in the Q&A thread.

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Announcing The Audiophile Style Podcast

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