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I just very much hope they weren't serious about this if they want ANY customer at all.

 

Redbook streaming is already twice the price of compressed offers, limiting this offer to some crazy audiophiles like us (very small numbers) willing to pay for this premium for what is in absolute terms not a huge improvement in SQ.

 

I've never heard MQA but even if it is an improvement over redbook who in their right mind would pay 4x Spotify Premium or 2x the price of full resolution redbook streaming?

 

Yes. I think if they charge $40 a month they will get a subscriber base worldwide numbering in the thousands. Maybe not over 10000 in total. My guess is it will sound a little better than Redbook streaming and almost no one will think it is worth the price. Just as relatively few feel Redbook streaming is worth the additional cost over mp3.

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highresaudio.de has been pretty active concerning MQA. But the MQA albums are priced 1-2€ higher than the equivalent hi-rez PCM files

 

Two examples:

 

https://www.highresaudio.com/en/album/view/re6ihc/ronny-graupe-the-white-belt

https://www.highresaudio.com/en/album/view/xhw9mt/david-virelles-antenna

 

Given the limited advantages of MQA for the listener (if at all) compared to regular hi-rez files, I wonder who will buy them (assuming MQA-capable hardware is present), when the price is always higher? That pricing seems very silly from a marketing point of view.

Claude

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My main thought about MQA is that in the couple of years they have been trying to get their act together computer audio has progressed further and I wonder if their window of opportunity hasn't passed by already. Now I see them scrambling to try and find a use in today's market for their old tech.

Jim

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I am not a fan of "hirez" 96/24 files or DSD. To me what goes into the mike on the recording end is much more important than the sampling rate. My personal preference is music recorded at a live event even if it is in MP3 format.

 

The next thing is listening in immersive audio that has been upmixed with my Marantz processor to 10.1 channels sounds closer to a live event than anything in just 2 channel stereo.

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I think the reason MQA is finding it quite difficult to find a niche is that they're already a niche in a niche:

 

The "bigger" niche: Those who want to stream high quality audio (above typical lossy codecs MP3, AAC, Ogg, etc.)

 

The niche in that niche: Those who want to stream at resolutions higher than Redbook.

 

MQA seems to be selling this to record companies as some kind of DRM. From an interview with Spencer Chrislu:

 

It's important, though, to protect the interests of studios. If a studio does their archive at 24-bit/192kHz and then uses that same file as something to sell on a hi-rez site, that is basically giving away the crown jewels upon which their entire business is based.

 

I think Mr. Chrislu is misinformed about HDTracks pricing model. :-)

 

Back to the "vaporware" topic, the one thing that MQA doesn't adequately address is their mobile story. As a Tidal HiFi subscriber, I also am able to stream on my mobile phone. So far, MQA has been steadfast that decoding must happen in hardware (hardware that MQA licenses of course). This is not to say there aren't at least some sample implementations of mobile MQA. I have an Onkyo DP-X1 that claims to have an MQA decoder. I downloaded a sample MQA file from 2L and the equivalent PCM file. I liked the PCM file better. YMMV of course.

 

Until MQA can be decoded in pure software, there is no real mobile story. And until MQA does have a solid mobile strategy, it's DOA.

 

And let's not forget that Tidal (for example) still can't make a profit. And it's part of that "bigger" niche. So far, MQA's primary "success" is the number of words that Stereophile has produced with glowing, gushing reviews. Classic vaporware.

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I'm not an advocate for MQA as I'm not interested in streaming services and I can't see that MQA downloads would better existing hi res PCM and DSD formats. But, I can walk to my local HIFi dealer in the UK and buy an MQA DAC today and download MQA music from 2l right now if I wanted to, so it most certainly is not vaporware according to that definition.

 

As I understand it, the consumer is free to make multiple identical copies of an MQA download, the "drm" angle only comes into play in: 1. assuring the provenance of the file and 2. that you need a MQA licensed player/DAC to get the apparent full SQ potential. The former seems a completely benign application of DRM; as for the latter, is there anything wrong in the owner of intellectual and artistic property seeking to protect their work and investment? I don't work for free and judging by the disposable income on display here, neither do/did most members of this forum.

 

If you don't like MQA, don't buy it. I have no plans to, but am open minded enough that if the results vs other formats merited it (which I doubt) I would happily buy into a "closed" system. Just as I did with SACD until the advent of reliable ripping.

 

Also the idea that DSD/SACD is also a failed or non-viable format is nonsense. I buy on average 5-10 recent releases on SACD and download each month; for me it's the default digital format for classical music.

Hi Norton - I think where we differ is determining what number of items for sale equates to vaporware. Sure there are some 2L and other MQA releases, but I'm not yet willing to say it's a real product until a major label starts releasing it. Just my take.

 

I don't look at MQA as DRM in the classic sense, meaning something can't be played without phoning home to authenticate. Perhaps MQA is not as far down the DRM continuum because eventually when the chips to decode MQA disappear, we will be stuck with less than what we purchased.

 

As a champion of free will and free markets, I don't really care what MQA does with respect to DRM. If the company wants to lock it down tight to protect label's rights, that's fine with me. I can always elect to purchase the content or not. As a producer of content myself, written words, I'm sure I would be looking at all angles to protect my content is the situation was different. I'm never against anyone protecting their assets.

 

The other angle to this is that labels could only release MQA music. They could do this for 10 years, then start releasing music in "MQB." It just turns into another format in which people will purchase Kind of Blue. Long term, I don't think customers have any say or sway over whether or not MQA takes off. It's all about the major labels. If they want it, they'll get it.

 

I compare it to the movie industry. Blu-ray is the standard physical release format. Heavily DRM'd by many definitions. Streaming movies is another way to rent or purchase. The movie industry has never sold its crown jewels, original masters. Maybe the music industry is finally moving in that direction. Since the music industry has already sold its crown jewels to its most lucrative assets, it must come up with a reason to purchase them again. Thus, MQA sounds better than the crown jewels :~)

 

Who knows? It's all speculation.

 

One more point, MQA working with Utimaco for cryptographic keys doesn't mean the product is DRM. MQA has always said it uses these keys. The only real news is that it's using a third party company to design them.

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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.

LOL! I would certainly not pay that amount to have a "format" I could not fully decode...

 

Hope Tidal survives...it's currently my favorite source for discovering new music.

If they want to survive they should enlarger their customer base instead of trying to milk a current niche and create an even smaller niche....

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[quote name=

Since the music industry has already sold its crown jewels to its most lucrative assets, it must come up with a reason to purchase them again. Thus, MQA sounds better than the crown jewels :~)[/quote]

 

Some would argue the crown jewels are really pressed in vinyl..... Interesting thought though Chris, but since the music industry has already left the genie out of the bottle (selling their crown jewels) it will never go back in again! Maybe another reason to shift back towards vinyl, even if it is only to do needle drops, no proprietary hardware or software! Seems like the music industry, in their inimitable incompetence, still can't find their way out of a paper bag.

Jim

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To me, it will be a fairly straightforward decision as follows:

 

1. I will not pay to "buy" something that I lose the ability to use if my seller goes bankrupt. I will however "rent" content on a monthly basis on the assumption that if my "rentor" goes bankrupt, someone else will offer the same content thereafter.

 

2. I will not buy a special DAC to play content unless that content is widely available (i.e. at least 25% of new releases come out in that format).

 

3. I will not purchase or rent a new form of content, unless I can clearly hear a sonic benefit.

 

On that basis, MQA still has a ways to go before it affects my purchases.

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t's important, though, to protect the interests of studios. If a studio does their archive at 24-bit/192kHz and then uses that same file as something to sell on a hi-rez site, that is basically giving away the crown jewels upon which their entire business is based.

 

That sounds like a comment from 15 years ago, when downloads were DRM-protected and labels tried to add copyrotection to CDs. The music industry was in panic mode.

 

Legal downloads took off after DRM was abandonned, and whether they are MP3, CD quality or studio quality doesn't make a difference in terms of "giving away crown jewels", since the main loss of income comes from people illegally sharing MP3s, which is still the dominant format. It just makes a difference for the tiny, economically irrelevant fraction of audiophiles.

Claude

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That sounds like a comment from 15 years ago, when downloads were DRM-protected and labels tried to add copyrotection to CDs. The music industry was in panic mode.

 

Legal downloads took off after DRM was abandonned, and whether they are MP3, CD quality or studio quality doesn't make a difference in terms of "giving away crown jewels", since the main loss of income comes from people illegally sharing MP3s, which is still the dominant format. It just makes a difference for the tiny, economically irrelevant fraction of audiophiles.

 

And wasn't the MQA version supposed to be precisely the "crown jewels"? So with MQA we are getting less, just something "crown jewel -like" but still not the real thing?

 

MQA doesn't prevent copying or distribution of the copies. It just prevents creation of content and "full resolution playback" on anything else than hardware that has been approved and licensed by the MQA company to perform playback the way they want.

 

So technically it is much similar to SACD, but with a twist that you could freely and easily copy SACD discs. But you could play the DSD layer only on Sony-approved hardware, otherwise you'd get only the CD-layer. Also the content creation side is similarly controlled, you pay MQA every time a song is encoded for you. Or you purchase ~$20k encoding machine.

 

If manufacturing of hardware with MQA decoder ceases to exist, soon you cannot anymore play the content in full and you are left with less than CD resolution. I have bunch of HD-DVD discs I cannot play anymore. Now I'm supposed to buy the same movies and concerts again on Blu-ray. Which certainly will also cease to exist at some point. I'm not going to do that.

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Pulse & Fidelity - Software Defined Amplifiers

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Legal downloads took off after DRM was abandonned, and whether they are MP3, CD quality or studio quality doesn't make a difference in terms of "giving away crown jewels", since the main loss of income comes from people illegally sharing MP3s, which is still the dominant format. It just makes a difference for the tiny, economically irrelevant fraction of audiophiles.

 

 

Yes, remember when the music industry for years would not release any music in mp3 format because of "piracy"? When iTunes' store came out, legal sales of digital downloads boomed, and CD sales suffered substantially. So it wasn't piracy at all, just legal consumer demand for a convenient format that didn't force exorbitant payment for an entire album to get the one song of a dozen you actually liked.

 

So what is the industry doing with MQA? Offering yet another new format at substantial entry cost, as yet inconvenient (i.e., difficult to find songs you want in the format), and not providing the CD-or-better-quality digital originals due to overblown piracy fears. History repeats itself.

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re MQA market size

 

let's use (another) car analogy

 

the market might be the size of that for Ferraris

 

or Porsches

 

or Mustangs

 

all 3 are or were viable and the cost per car is high relative to the 'unit' cost of MQA

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MQA doesn't prevent copying or distribution of the copies. It just prevents creation of content and "full resolution playback" on anything else than hardware that has been approved and licensed by the MQA company to perform playback the way they want.

 

MQA can easily be turned into full-blown DRM. Here's how:

1. Make a subtle change to the format, creating MQAv2.

2. Make decoders supporting v2 verify your rights to play the content online.

2a. Apply online verification also to v1 content.

 

Sure, you can keep your old DAC and play your old v1 music, but any new purchases will need a new DAC or a firmware update. If I were Mr. Stuart, I'd have this planned from the start. Nothing they've said so far contradicts the existence of such a plan.

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MQA doesn't prevent copying or distribution of the copies. It just prevents creation of content and "full resolution playback" on anything else than hardware that has been approved and licensed by the MQA company to perform playback the way they want.

 

So technically it is much similar to SACD, but with a twist that you could freely and easily copy SACD discs. But you could play the DSD layer only on Sony-approved hardware, otherwise you'd get only the CD-layer. Also the content creation side is similarly controlled, you pay MQA every time a song is encoded for you. Or you purchase ~$20k encoding machine.

 

If manufacturing of hardware with MQA decoder ceases to exist, soon you cannot anymore play the content in full and you are left with less than CD resolution.

 

Very good explanation, thanks. That's the answer to Musicophiles question about MQA's impact to end customer.

 

People behind MQA were saying MQA is not DRM. They operate with the word 'master' ambiguously. They were not explaining clearly what and why they are doing and what's real impact to end customer.

 

I don't like DRM because it means practical complications like limited music content and HW supporting it, troubles when DRM schemes change ... Impacts would be always on side of customers. In principle I understand the intention behind the attempts to introduce DRM. But what I don't like is that with MQA type of DRM no real hires (MQA format is not that!) and no DSP like simple equalization, digital room correction, crossfeed etc. is possible!

 

IMO what people behind MQA are not saying is: Digital downloads are growing, internet access is faster, cheaper and easier available than before. Digital downloads are future, so they see the chance to implement DRM scheme on that basis and catch significant market with that scheme. I think even if MQA will fail (I think and I wish it will), some other attempt to introduce new DRM scheme to digital downloads will be introduced soon. Maybe without that stupid restriction which disallows true hires and DSP.

 

I have feeling that attempts like MQA mean 'beginning of end' of physical medias. When some digital download DRM scheme would succeed (today we are far from that), content owners could restrict any other distribution channels (physical medias and unprotected downloads).

 

I have bad feeling that all the MQA and maybe future DRM schemes go against audiophiles. We are taken as some crazy animals who don't fit to their scheme.

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MQA can easily be turned into full-blown DRM. Here's how:

1. Make a subtle change to the format, creating MQAv2.

2. Make decoders supporting v2 verify your rights to play the content online.

2a. Apply online verification also to v1 content.

 

Sure, you can keep your old DAC and play your old v1 music, but any new purchases will need a new DAC or a firmware update. If I were Mr. Stuart, I'd have this planned from the start. Nothing they've said so far contradicts the existence of such a plan.

 

Yes, lot of the infrastructure is sort of there already. If they'd add (or already have) a device specific key in the decoder, then the content could be encrypted to be decoded only on that particular piece of hardware.

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Pulse & Fidelity - Software Defined Amplifiers

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About MQA vs. DSD being vaporware. DSD is not waporware for me because many DACs support DSD. I am sending all PCM content as DSD to my DAC, because it sounds better with my DAC to me. One could consider SACD media (not DSD) being vaporware. I'm rock oriented and I find quite lot of interesting content on SACD's ... although it's far from all I like. But DSD content typically sounds better on my DAC than PCM content, so I am preferring it if it is available.

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For one view at the MQA related technical aspects, there's pretty good three page write out by Jim Lesurf (he writes a technical column on Hi-Fi News magazine):

MQA 192k / 96k There and back again.

 

I don't agree with all his interpretation/details of MQA, but anyway... He also talks about determining required bandwidth and word length for the content and use of that to help save encoding space without introducing anything new, proprietary or quality degradation, just regular standard FLAC. Same stuff I was talking about in my blog post here in the past.

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Pulse & Fidelity - Software Defined Amplifiers

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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.

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

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MQA can easily be turned into full-blown DRM. Here's how:

1. Make a subtle change to the format, creating MQAv2.

2. Make decoders supporting v2 verify your rights to play the content online.

2a. Apply online verification also to v1 content.

 

Sure, you can keep your old DAC and play your old v1 music, but any new purchases will need a new DAC or a firmware update. If I were Mr. Stuart, I'd have this planned from the start. Nothing they've said so far contradicts the existence of such a plan.

 

Have to have something people want before making it difficult to get becomes lucrative.

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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Very good explanation, thanks. That's the answer to Musicophiles question about MQA's impact to end customer.

 

Well actually my question was more about any potential BENEFIT for the end customer to justify any investment in MQA files or hardware.

 

So far, we all seem to think there is little or none.

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Have to have something people want before making it difficult to get becomes lucrative.

That's why a first phase without strict controls while gaining acceptance makes sense. People are wary of DRM, and they know it.

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That's why a first phase without strict controls while gaining acceptance makes sense. People are wary of DRM, and they know it.

 

I think it is the "gaining acceptance" phase where things may prove to be a bit problematic. ;)

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

Computer, Audirvana -> wi-fi to router -> EtherREGEN -> microRendu -> USPCB -> ISO Regen (powered by LPS-1) -> USPCB -> Pro-Ject Pre Box S2 DAC -> Spectral DMC-12 & DMA-150 -> Vandersteen 3A Signature.

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