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MQA is Vaporware


Rt66indierock

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MQA was launched on December 2014. It is now January 2, 2017 so let’s see where MQA is at today.

 

Remember all the people who said that MQA was not Digital Rights Management? Well Utimaco disagrees. “MQA turned to Utimaco, a leading manufacturer of hardware-based security solutions that provide the root of trust to keep cryptographic keys safe, secure critical digital infrastructures and protect high value data assets. “ “Critical to the continued success and monetization of the streaming and download services of the entertainment industry, is the ability to secure and safeguard end-to-end transmission of intellectual property. A market leader in hardened encryption, Utimaco is at the forefront of enabling the authenticated delivery needed to drive next-generation entertainment consumption.”

 

Now turn to content. As of today there is no music in the genres 80% of American buy, Rock, R&B/Hip Hop, Pop and Country. Add Latin and EDM and you are at about 9 out of ten people buying music in America have no MQA encoded music to purchase. Don’t wait for licensee Warner Music Group to suddenly turn a switch and their music become available because they told the SEC in their latest financial statements they haven’t figured out how to distribute digital music.

 

There are 10 companies that produce equipment with MQA decoders. None of the products have enough units in the hands of consumers to make any impact. Many companies announced they would not support the format. The view of companies neither producing products nor announcing they would not support the format is indifference. Hardly a must have feature.

 

I said earlier this year that I would need 200 artists producing new music in the genres I regularly buy for MQA to be viable a viable format for me. I don’t see any interest by those artists in recording high resolution much less with MQA encoding. Those genres are rock, alt rock, alt country and bluegrass. And personally I will not test any MQA equipment until eight of the nine albums I use as my reference are available in MQA.

 

The Doors “Riders on the Storm “was used as demo of MQA not realizing there was no master to authenticate. Something that was well known but apparently unknown to the MQA people and audio journalists.

 

As of January 2, 2017 two years after its splashy launch we have a lot of audiophile press about MQA, announcements and demonstrations. But there is a limited supply of equipment to decode MQA files and no music encoded for nine out ten American music buyers, classic vaporware.

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A couple of items.

 

Thanks for the Utimaco mention. I linked the PDF above. I like it when we can use facts for the discussion.

 

As I said to you at RMAF, I believe the SEC filings are a red herring. If Warner said it hasn't "figured out how to distribute digital music," that has nothing to do with MQA. Warner is a record label, not a distributor. The company is doing fine providing material to the likes of Spotify and Apple, who are the distributors.

 

Warner may be required to mention items that will majorly effect earnings, in SEC filings, but so is Apple. I'm willing to bet mention of the iPhone 8 won't be in an SEC filing until the last minute. In addition, who knows if there is an immediate return on MQA for the labels. Maybe it's a long game for them.

 

With respect to content, it will help put this into perspective if we compare MQA to DSD. Not technically, but the amount of content. You said, "As of today there is no music in the genres 80% of American buy, Rock, R&B/Hip Hop, Pop and Country. Add Latin and EDM and you are at about 9 out of ten people buying music in America have no MQA encoded music to purchase." I believe we could replace the letters MQA with the letters DSD and end up in the same place.

 

Do you feel the same about DSD as you do MQA, with respect to it being vaporware?

 

Not trying to debate the merits of either, just searching for perspective.

The Doors: There doesn't have to be an original master in order to create an MQA version. The term Master is thrown around a lot and most people have no clue what it really means. In fact, it means different things to people in the industry as well. When remasters are made, are they using the master, running master, safety master, etc... MQA doesn't purport to be using the original master. It's master quality, not copied from the master. I believe labels will shoot for the best quality available for some releases. If that's from a safety master, who cares?

 

I'm not supporting MQA with my statements above. Just trying to get facts out and perspective in place. Based on classic definitions of the term vaporware, MQA is most certainly vaporware.

 

Vaporware - "software or hardware that has been advertised but is not yet available to buy, either because it is only a concept or because it is still being written or designed."

 

 

You’re welcome on the Utimaco information. I’ve been sitting on it for a while to see if anyone noticed in the audiophile world they hadn’t. MQA I believe has stated that there is no DRM in MQA. I think we can say this is false and question why their story was bought so easily.

 

A minor accounting point Warner Music Group is a distributor. Apple is a retailer as are Target, Walmart, Amazon and Google Play. These five retailers are specifically mentioned in the latest SEC filing as having the power to influence the pricing of the content they buy from WMG. Notice how the record companies brought vinyl back into their companies? They wanted more than the fees they got for allowing other to make and sell records. They want to do the same for digital.

 

A common sense accounting point Warner Music Group is very concerned about piracy. Record Companies love vinyl because you can’t copy it. It all goes downhill from there because people are copying everything else including streaming. MQA is a way to control copying if it can be accepted by the mainstream. If MQA is not a mainstream product soon then the royalty stream is going to be very small.

 

A major accounting point if you license or buy a technology like MQA the SEC accounting rules say if it is significant you must disclose it. That is different than if you internally develop a product like the iPhone you just have to disclose research and development costs on broad basis. And Apple discloses when they acquire companies to get technology. What WMG not disclosing the MQA licensing agreement says to me is they don’t think today MQA is a mainstream product.

 

I’ve said in prior posts that DSD is not a commercially viable format and doesn’t work for my purposes and music tastes. And as Sony promoted format it has no chance to ever be a successful format. Mainstream America (Joe Six Pack) has shown they will not accept any Sony promoted musical format. I could say it is vaporware and make some good arguments to support it is. But the thing that keeps DSD from being vaporware in my view is it is supported on so many DAC chips. In the audio world I think you have to have both nonexistent hardware and nonexistent content to be vaporware.

 

My point with The Doors was there wasn’t a master of the complete song to use. There should be two rain sounds and there aren’t. MQA was claiming it was master when it wasn’t. The song was recorded on an 8 track machine and the tracks were maxed out so the sound effect rain and thunder were added in the mixing according to the engineer Bruce Botnick. MQA didn’t start saying they were going to use the best available master until after this was discussed around time of T.H.E. Show at Newport this year.

 

Why this matters is MQA and its supporters in the audio press have misled us.

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This is an ambitious project and if they can send MQA streams via Tidal and all I need is a $300 meridian explorer dac I'm game. Not a very big risk IMO. I am all for anyone that is trying to improve digital.

 

I think Tidal is going to charge you something extra to stream MQA. I was told by MQA representatives at RMAF 2016 that it would cost $40 a month.

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$40 a month including Standard Tidal service - or $40 per month on top of Standard Tidal ?

 

$40 per month including standard is what is was told.

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Acoustic Sounds lists their DSD Downloads by genre/category. They are indeed listing DSD titles in those categories, and more....

 

DSD Downloads By Genre (28)

=======================

Classical (252)

Jazz (244)

Pop/Rock (88)

Blues (44)

Female Vocalists (22)

Folk Rock (21)

R&B/Soul (12)

World (10)

Soundtrack (6)

Guitar (4)

Easy Listening (4)

Country (4)

Folk (3)

Alternative (3)

Vocals (3)

Organ (3)

Christmas/Holiday (2)

Bluegrass (2)

Blues-Rock (2)

Piano (1)

Metal (1)

Singer/Songwriter (1)

Swing (1)

Male Vocalist (1)

Percussion (1)

Sampler (1)

Zydeco (1)

Latin (1)

 

Vinyl Records, SACDs, DVD Audio, Audiophile Equipment|Acoustic Sounds

 

Yesterday on Amazon there were about 26,000 SACDs. That is none in the overall scheme of things. I wish everyone using the argument I found a few albums in the genre so there is music would stop. In the US 12% of the music buying public is Country. You found four albums. Do you see a problem? You found a short afternoon of listening that is all.

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Not for me I can divide the number of tracks 30,000 by the average number of tracks on a CD 12 and get 2,500 albums. Still vaporware sorry. It is better than nothing but not by much.

 

And a good question for you how many MQA enabled DACs were sold in the US in 2016?

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Given that Tidal didn't have representation at RMAF, I'm skeptical of the original claim.

 

Chris, I was told by MQA representatives at RMAF 2016 about Tidal pricing after a discussion where I pressed them about the amount of content converted since T.HE. Show 2016 and how the converted files would be distributed. Then the discussion moved to costs. At some point I commented that was a lot of costs. And asked what will Tidal have to charge? They told me $40 a month.

 

And don't forget your post #2 in Big MQA News, no extra cost is the introductory rate. In case you forgot an introductory price means a higher price is coming.

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Rt66indierock, don't ever try the stock market, your timing is BAD. It's like your post caused it to rain MQA streams **FREE** from Tidal and I didn't have to buy nuthin, not even a DAC.

 

Witch,

 

Vaporware for me is less than 10,000 albums. I nice round number I've used for several decades. Then we get to commercial viability.

 

I think my timing was good. MQA didn't have 10,000 albums as of January 2, 2017 and they still don't. When they do MQA won't be vaporware.

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Introducing is hook marketing word. If there is no additional cost then Tidal is absorbing the costs associated MQA or MQA is not getting any royalties. You tell me which one is happening. MQA can license hardware and software collect royalties on unit sales. And they can license content providers and collect royalties. Can you see any other ways to bring in revenue?

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I am a Tidal HiFi subscriber.

I compared Tidal with Spotify in my system and the sonic difference I could hear in my system was enough to justify the higher monthly cost.

Now I have an additional option (MQA streaming) which seems (at least this is the first impression) to improve or in any case to not worsen the SQ.

As long as the Tidal subscription cost does not increase, I'm happy (and happier than before).

 

I only discussed the sound quality of Riders on the Storm. And I won't discuss sound quality again until I have enough music to do proper testing. That means Sony and Universal have to license MQA.

 

I may buy a Dragonfly Red and experiment with Tidal as a lark or impulse buy.

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First thank you Chris for allowing this debate it had to be hard on you. For the record a process or format needs to be .25% of the population to be real enough to not be considered vaporware.

 

Vincent1234 some of your comments frighten me. Since they are not related to my original post I will address them in a separate thread. But your comments on MQA were helpful to the debate.

 

I wanted the debate about MQA to focus on the amount of music available and providence of the source used to create the MQA file. Special thanks to those who have added their knowledge.

 

Jason Victor Serinus at Stereophile on January 6, 2017 in his CES coverage dutifully reported that there are 15,000 albums available in hi-resolution and the potential market for premium music service is 12 million people. I believe both numbers and the reports that paid streaming services reached 100 million subscribers at the end of 2016. I don’t think it was intended to show 7 out of 8 paying subscribers don’t care about premium streaming services.

 

I am wondering three things. How many people will pay to stream those 15,000 hi-res albums currently available? How much of the catalog will have to be hi-res to interest those 12 million potential customers? And will MQA get a significant piece of this market?

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But apparently the future could be in uprezzing Redbook to DSD so they might have missed the train, or more likely those that buy their PCM-only DACs are missing the train... Maybe.

 

Where is this train you are talking about?

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I am loving my VPI Classic 4 turntable more and more. All this fear and loathing is just not worth it.

 

As for benefits of High Rez recordings/MQA? Only a small number of all recordings meet audiophile standards.

 

Only a very small number of recent recordings meet audiophile standards.

 

Therefore, why would anyone pay for a high rez download or stream of a poor recording?

 

Would not a CD or LP of a quality recording would be a reasonable alternative to a monthly charge for dreck?

 

Good points.

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Well it is hear @ Computer Audiophile, where at least 2 dozen or so of us do it every day :)

 

Seriously, I have found the upsampling-to-DSD-via-HQPlayer/Roon crowd in various unexpected places around the web, so it does have an honest following in the niche of Audiophiledom.

 

Only Miska can confirm just how small (or large) the niche is by telling us his sales figures...

 

But this as compared to MQA is a non-starter, because MQA is not about SQ anyways...

 

Personally I'm not impressed with a user base that doesn't contain the word thousand.

 

I would never ask Miska his sales figures, that would be unprofessional.

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To answer your question about CDs going away the simple answer is no. There are 6.2 million CDs for sale on Amazon today. Indie (see username) bands sell CDs directly to their fans at shows. Too important of a revenue stream to go away without a replacement format. Mainstream music lovers are still buying enough CDs that Target and Walmart have power with record companies to dictate pricing. You have to move a lot units to have this power.

 

Since I can, I'm going to stop by the operations headquarters of Aftermaster and see what they are up to. And ask if they have solved their shipping problems. I'm dropping off two of my golf clubs about four blocks away to have some repairs done. But I must say the chip they using is not going to do what you say it will. I looked at the specifications.

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https://www.nytimes.com/2016/03/25/business/media/music-sales-remain-steady-but-lucrative-cd-sales-decline.html

2015 figures (I think 2016 figures should be in by around March of this year), $US:

 

Music industry total: Just over $7 billion.

Streaming (services including Tidal, free streaming [including ad-supported], Internet radio): $2.4 billion

Digital downloads: Just under $2.4 billion

CDs: $1.5 billion

Vinyl: $416 million

YouTube and similar sites: $385 million

 

Jud thanks or posting this. I have avoided the dollar figures and focused on subscribers and unit sales because I enjoy Chris going on about free markets and the drill down to commentary on the dollars always includes complaints about regulation. For those who don't know in the United States the music business is highly regulated and they use every chance to complain about it. Our Department of Justice trusts them so little they tightened the regulations last year.

 

Even in decline CDs will be relevant for a few more years.

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I should point out that I didn't actually post the—now deleted—comment over on Audiostream, another user has pasted it from my original post made over on the Linn forums.

 

The guy seemed to have posted it multiple times so perhaps it may have looked like spam.

 

Jim Collinson

 

Jim,

 

Welcome to Computer Audiophile and the thread I started January 2, 2017. As a Linn employee you have a different viewpoint than I do and I welcome your comments on the original post.

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Now, thát's the proper tone to welcome new members!

 

Why was Michael not being welcomed in a normal way? Unless of course no one is really interested in his opinion because it might differ from yours..? Such a missed chance for an open discussion.. :-((

 

Sent from my HTC One_M8 using Computer Audiophile mobile app

 

Vincent,

 

I've met Michael and I think it is best to let him speak for himself. What he posted in this tread is his and his alone.

 

I'm more than happy to listen to anyone's opinion when I talk about audio. If Michael wants to read the original post and comment on it great. I may comment his post but I will not comment on the language. He is doing a great job of making MQA an audiophile format. Number two on my list of the ways for MQA to fail in the United States.

 

Finally you should look at The Enthusiast Network website and see how small the audio part is. Especially look at Audiostream and note the picture.

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Fun thread....sorta. I think a good read is Darkos articles on MQA which do a pretty good job of explaining things.

MQA & Tidal - where are we now? | DAR__KO

 

Not sure where so much angst is coming from on the subject of MQA. If the main beef is DRM I'm not sure why (as Mike said) "

Do I believe that record labels should be able to limit piracy? Yes." which I happen to agree with.

 

John Darko's post you cited is excellent for explaining my reason number three why MQA will fail in the United States. MQA is within the margin of error sound quality wise.

 

I'm going to ignore your last sentence until you can show me ten recording artists treated fairly by major labels. There are good reasons why the United States regulates them. You can't trust them. Pirates complaining about piracy.

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LOL! "2017 Audiostream Media Kit" indeed!! The "coincidence" is almost too much to bear...There is an "Audio God" and there is the proof!!...LOL!!!

 

No "Audio God" exists.

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Yes - we met at RMAF before Darko's panel. I recall we continued to discuss the Door's "Riders On The Storm" and the recorded rain at the beginning of the track. You thought that the recorded rain was a keyboard. This 'conversation' began on the Stereophile website in the comments:

 

MQA: Questions and Answers | Stereophile.com

 

I remember this so clearly because it struck me as odd that you would bring this up 2 months after the original exchange.

 

In any event, it was nice meeting you, albeit rather briefly.

 

Question for you: what relevance does the picture on the TEN website have to me?

 

Michael,

 

I’m glad that you are back on the thread. The rain on “Riders On The Storm” is simply a providence issue. There should be two rain sounds on the song one a special effects record and one a keyboard. On both the hi-res and MQA versions there is only one rain sound. In my view this is using the best available source and not a “master”. I’m okay with the best available source if you disclose it but don’t call it master. Similarly Micky Hart’s remix of the Grateful Dead’s American Beauty is the best available source but not the original master. That is long gone.

 

I told Steven Stone, John Atkinson and you at RMAF that there was no master of “Riders”. I had exchanges about MQA with you guys and it is only fair to tell you first then let the providence discussion spread.

 

I enjoyed meeting you as well but at a show you are working so I didn’t want to take up much of your time. And I had my own agenda of things started at T.H.E. Show to continue working on.

 

The relevance of the TEN website is twofold. First some people won’t stop ranting about DRM. I want this discussion to focus on Utimco encryption. The picture is a cat toy. Here go play with this and stop ranting. Second I’m a car guy so I’m in the prime demo of TEN. I don’t think very many people would disagree the TEN Brand Street Rodder is in the bag of advertisers. If you want I’ll tell what think TEN Brand Audiosteam would look like if it was a showcase for advertisers.

 

Take care

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Rt66indrock,

 

Perhaps you have already clarified it (point me to the post) but I am no clear as to your view of what the Utimco encryption means. In our opening post you say that Utimico believes DRM is DRM (naturally, they are in the business of providing technical implementations of DRM), but I get the sense you are hedging - that MQA is not DRM even though the Utimoco encryption is embedded in it. What is your view?

 

Let me be clear then. I am not hedging anything the Utimaco encryption is DRM. You need a license to encrypt and license to decrypt. That is DRM. Tidal acquired either a license to encrypt or acquired the music encrypted. And they acquired a license to distribute software to decrypt MQA. Still DRM in my view just the end user hasn't paid any money for the license directly.

 

Thank you for getting back on track.

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