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MQA is Vaporware


Rt66indierock

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I figured MQA was dead on arrival. The concept of authenticating high resolution music all the way from mastering to the end user is a good one -- but we are talking about an industry that can't even make surround sound DACs or take HDMI audio, and anyone thinks they will go along with the MQA certification scheme? You can't even get the mainstream producers to sell us their high resolution masters!

 

 

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MQA's primary technical benefit to an audiophile is its ability to correct analog-to-digital equipment jitter. I'd be game to adopt the format, even if only a few labels I like bother to use it in the manner intended (i.e., 2L).

 

The problem is, the audiophile industry is too backwards and hidebound to get onboard with the MQA certification scheme. If MQA is more than just adding an IC to the circuit or a Sabre feature, the industry won't adopt it.

 

As far as mass consumer penetration, forget it. The average consumer listens to trash, and don't appear to place a very high value in improvements.

 

 

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In regards to cost, if I get access to all this new hi-res content for $20 month I'm for it. I just listened to a pretty good Led Zepplin album (Black Mountain Side deluxe edition). The album was on HDTrack for $30. I regularly buy $40 DSD recordings. $20 a month is honestly peanuts.

 

 

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Relying on the audiophile press for objective information is tough because they never review something they don't like...that's an exaggeration of course but we all know it's also fairly close to the truth.

 

But there is no reason to believe that Darko said about an Inconvenient Truth MQA Sounds Better is a bald-faced lie, for example. There's no reason why 2L would lie about being able to correct ADC artifacts in MQA. There's no reason why investigating MQA SQ would be waste of time or money.

 

Basically I'm here for the SQ. If MQA brings it, I have the money. Other topics are frankly irrelevant-- such as the philosophical debate on wether or not music should be commercial. If MQA has or is planning on DRM that's not that important to me. If Tidal gets a stranglehold on MQA due to studio collusion then fine.

 

 

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Here's the deal. I'm already upsampling high-resolution music through HQPlayer. I've listened to both Tidal software MQA decoding and "full" decoding via an Explorer 2 and Node 2. Although there is a clear improvement with MQA vs non-MQA through Tidal, streaming music can't -- and probably will never -- equal the quality of  upsampling PCM to DSD through a SDM DAC. Why? The benefit of skipping the SRC stage and using high quality filters from HQPlayer have a large sonic sonic improvement, an improvement that MQA can't benefit from and can't match.

 

Ladder DACs that support MQA might be a different matter, but those (ie, MSB DACs) are on a different magnitude of price.

 

Building a HQPlayer setup and pairing it with an appropriate DAC isn't exactly cheap, but it's bottom-budget affordable compared to building a streaming solution with MSB hardware.

 

The Node 2 was pretty good for the price, but simply not competitive with my reference HQPlayer chain.

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Why do you guys keep saying DRM over and over again when there is no DRM?

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But, isn't the argument that MQA needs special hardware or software an equal to DRM ludicrous on its face? Calling DSD a DRM scheme would be less ridiculous. You might as well call DXD a DRM scheme. 

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1 hour ago, monteverdi said:

MQA is not DRM like implemented in SACD but it limits the sound quality what I can get from it with out paying for decoders on software or/and hardware. DSD needs to converted to PCM if your DAC can only play PCM but one has  many software choices and is not stuck with a specific licensing process to one company. So the statement that MQA is not DRM is only a semantic argument; it is closed system!

I would even accept buying into such system if it would get me a significant sound advantage but in all of my attempts to evaluate MQA were quite disappointing even I believed originally what I was reading in the audio magazines. Actually MQA made me cancel my subscriptions!

 

Misinformation -- to get the full quality of DSD, you are, in fact, stuck with a specific company. Sony only allowed encrypted streaming of DSD which limited you to a very small number of incredibly expensive products. Technology has since defeated Sony's protection schemes, and once MQA is reverse-engineered it will enter the "de-facto" public domain too.

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The most most revealing, flawless sound I’ve ever heard came from tube amps. One such system was VAC’s incredible million-dollar room at CAF. Another was a much more modestly priced $50k Raven Shaman MkIIs.

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BTW there is obviously no chance most of these MQA albums have been mastered with individual care, simply given the sheer volume of releases. I bet Meridian worked with the studios to build a bulk conversion script.

 

The true benefit will come from — as usual — audiophile labels and other special releases taking care in the mastering phase by talented engineers.

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2 hours ago, Fair Hedon said:

REALLY simple. Create demand, manufacturers scurry to make their hardware buzzword compliant (in this case, MQA), more ad revenue will ensue, and Harley gets to pay is mortgage. Economics, plain and simple.

 

Serving the consumer and critical reporting are last on the list.

 

TAS is well known to be a no-BS publication.

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58 minutes ago, semente said:

 

@GUTBill come along in a minute to set things straight.

 

Responding to the call. Yes, I'll correct the statement: "mostly non-audiophiles".

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1 minute ago, semente said:

 

I've been meaning to ask you if you agree with the following:

 

IF MQA is lossy AND lossy is not high res THEN MQA is not high-end (thus not audiophile either)

 

"Lossy is not high res" isn't a logically valid statement.

 

However, it's true that not wanting / ignoring / discarding high-res in favor of lo-res is not audiophile.

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Another article another round of the anti-MQA cult losing their minds.

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8 hours ago, mansr said:

Very well, let's suppose there is something that matters above 40 kHz. What does MQA do with it? Starting with a recording at 192 kHz or higher, some unknown processing is applied, then the signal is downsampled to 96 kHz using a rather weak anti-aliasing filter. We know this because looking at recordings with some distinct content above 48 kHz (and these are rare indeed), faint alias products are recognisable in the lower frequencies of the decoded MQA file. The attenuation appears to be around 50 dB, but this is a very rough estimate.

 

The 96 kHz signal then undergoes band splitting, the top half compressed and encoded into the low 8 bits of the final stream. This step actually seems to work quite well in that the decoded output is pretty close to the input, at least for typical music and within the target precision. However, as clever as it may be, this scheme is wholly unnecessary. Standard methods, such as FLAC, perform equally well. As Xivero have demonstrated, the efficiency of FLAC can be further improved by preprocessing the input to remove non-information-bearing noise in the lowest bits. Needless to say, this process is not entirely lossless with respect to the input, but then neither is MQA. The Xivero method is also superior in that the output is a fully compliant FLAC file playable on any existing device without firmware updates or additional software. Of course, there are no royalties for Bob either.

 

Then comes the so-called rendering stage. As revealed by my reverse engineering, this consists of nothing but textbook FIR upsampling followed by shaped dither, usually at 16 bits. That last part is especially interesting. The images of the low frequencies left by the leaky upsampling filters, which is where any useful content must reside, are to a large extent buried under random noise.

 

To recap, whatever smidgen of useful signal identified by MQA in the high frequencies has, by the time it reaches the DAC, been attenuated, aliased ("folded" in MQA newspeak) into the much stronger low frequencies, compressed, uncompressed, imaged ("unfolded") back to the high range along with the mirrored spectrum of the (still much stronger) low frequencies, and finally drowned in random dither noise. "Post-Shannon" or not, nothing can survive this mangling and still be recognisable, let alone useful. If I'm wrong, show me the maths.

 

You seem to be talking about something that isn't MQA.

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10 minutes ago, Brinkman Ship said:

MQA has been totally ignored by every other sector as far as the press goes...exactly ONE article in Sound On Sound magazine, and spoon fed mentions of MQA by Stereophile in The New Yorker. Pro audio folks think it is an utter joke.

 

Stuart and the editors (and manufacturers) thought they could easily capitalize on audiophile's FOMA mentality, and their love of 3 letter acronyms and colored lights.  Did not quite work out as planned...although clearly the must gullible and weak minded did fall for it.

 

Stuart has promised phantom MQA "mastering tools" which are truly the definition of vaporware, with zero chance of ever appearing in any legitimate form.

 

Why did you make up a fictional MQA comparison? Why not just perform a real comparison and post your observations?

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Just now, Ishmael Slapowitz said:

LOL!!!! Thanks for the laugh Gumby. I mean, a real belly ache....whoo...I almost teared up.

 

spacer.png

 

Can you describe your MQA playback chain which led to your anti-MQA stance?

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1 hour ago, The Computer Audiophile said:

Which MQA CDs do you have?

 

I’d bet a lot of money that any sonic improvements you hear are due to mastering. 

 

If you like the sound, nobody can argue with that. It’s the underlying technology that is the issue for most people. 

 

I have two sample packs (Jazz and Classical) which contain a MQA-CD and regular CD of the same tracks. Kiyohiko Ozaki Second Album, Hiromi - MOVE, and Portrait in Jazz - Bill Evans Trio (Riverside). I thought I had Portrait in Jazz in CD format but I didn't so I ordered one in order to do a comparison. That will come hopefully this week. The sampler packs show a clear improvement in the MQA version but of course being sampler packs these may be cherry-picked examples.

 

Also here is an MQA insert that came with the MQA-CDs:

jp-mqa-insert.png.05f17a8b29f9681f0aed02b02a517fe4.png

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1 minute ago, The Computer Audiophile said:

Very cherry picked.  

 

Which MQA CD player are you using?

 

A Chinese CD player outputting via TOSLink to a Mytek Liberty with linear power supply. 

 

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7 minutes ago, Em2016 said:

 

It supports MQA decoding through it's TOSlink input?

 

 

Yes. I ended up with the Liberty specifically for that support. I had to buy a linear power supply but thanks to AliExpress that's inexpensive. As far as the CD player is concerned it's just a standard 16/44 stream.

 

My CD chain:

MHZS CD88J --Supra TOSLink-->Mytek Liberty + linear PSU. All plugged into a 500VA balanced isolation transformer.

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Wasn't Tidal supposed to go bankrupt last year? That's strange.

 

Also, why did Onkyo, Xiami and Naptster get involved in MQA, don't they know its fake?

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Just now, mansr said:

Are you sure about that?

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Lots of audiophiles care about SACD. You see SACD players throughout the high-end show rooms at audio shows and dealers. SACDs are still be created by audiophile labels. If the format wasn't locked behind Sony's control there would be greater penetration into the lower-end of audiophilia. SACD was a huge development in the world of optical media format music and has survived where HDCD and DVD Audio have all but disappeared. The reason behind that is simply that the inherent quality of DSD just won't go away; people will hear it and seek it out if they are audiophiles. SACD has been superseded by native high-rate DSD recordings in terms of quality but still a physical media player remains attractive for various reasons.

 

For the same reason MQA isn't going anywhere. It brings audiophile-grade quality to streaming services, something which DSD doesn't get. Also it opens high-end audio up to studios who otherwise won't bother with it. High-end digital audio with mass availability. Like SACD, audiophiles who care about audio quality to begin with will hear MQA and then seek it out.

 

Why not invest into a MQA playback chain and listen for yourself? If you're an audiophile, that is.

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