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Article: CES 2017 - Nice Surprises


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Not sure you are right about full MQA decoding being available in software, at least from Audirvana. Here is what MQA say:

 

". Audirvana Plus 3 (available end of January 2017) integrates the MQA Core Decoder, enabling to get the full MQA quality with MQA devices, including the renderer only ones. Users who don’t have a MQA capable device will also benefit from the 2x sample rate of MQA streams thanks to the decoder in Audirvana Plus 3 that performs the unfolding."

 

So to get "full MQA quality" from Audirvana you will need an MQA device or renderer, otherwise you just get a higher sample rate.

 

http://www.mqa.co.uk/customer/our-partners/audirvana-partner-page

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and as for

 

" Chord's John Franks talked about how important physical CDs are to people and that the Blu mk II was really to bring out the best in CD playback. He went on to say people should have CDs, collect them, pass them down to children etc... And, that it's his belief that the "downloading generation" is missing the tangible quality and that people like cd collections. CD is important to John and he made if very clear. "

he should really listen to his children! CD is a legacy medium. It is finished. Over. Done and dusted. History. The past. Gone. You can pass playlists down to your kids - or even better, ask your kids for their playlists! I hated my CD collection, stupid plastic cases, minuscule print in tiny booklets, impossible to browse. Good riddance! I'm as likely to buy this as I am to buy a wind up gramophone.

 

 

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Not sure you are right about full MQA decoding being available in software, at least from Audirvana. Here is what MQA say:

 

". Audirvana Plus 3 (available end of January 2017) integrates the MQA Core Decoder, enabling to get the full MQA quality with MQA devices, including the renderer only ones. Users who don’t have a MQA capable device will also benefit from the 2x sample rate of MQA streams thanks to the decoder in Audirvana Plus 3 that performs the unfolding."

 

So to get "full MQA quality" from Audirvana you will need an MQA device or renderer, otherwise you just get a higher sample rate.

 

http://www.mqa.co.uk/customer/our-partners/audirvana-partner-page

 

And so the MQA "mindf*#k" goes on.

Nope, not safe to go in the water... not yet.

 

 

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Not sure you are right about full MQA decoding being available in software, at least from Audirvana. Here is what MQA say:

 

". Audirvana Plus 3 (available end of January 2017) integrates the MQA Core Decoder, enabling to get the full MQA quality with MQA devices, including the renderer only ones. Users who don’t have a MQA capable device will also benefit from the 2x sample rate of MQA streams thanks to the decoder in Audirvana Plus 3 that performs the unfolding."

 

So to get "full MQA quality" from Audirvana you will need an MQA device or renderer, otherwise you just get a higher sample rate.

 

http://www.mqa.co.uk/customer/our-partners/audirvana-partner-page

 

I'll be following up with MQA today.

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It seems to me that software MQA decoding is limited to 96/24 for all platforms. It also won't feature the final stage of MQA decoding which is a tailored filter based on the DAC used:

 

- Blusound users have reported that the Node 2 is limited to 96/24 digital output when streaming MQA. It appears the Blusound output is partially unfolded MQA, since connecting a MQA DAC to its output results in the blue light coming in -- which only happens for a MQA encoded stream.

 

- Tidal users yesterday reported that the software decode in Tidal is restricted to 96/24 max. Also some reports seem to indicate that this is again a partial unfold, and that the 96/24 stream still has MQA encoding which can be further decoded when passed to a MQA DAC.

 

- MQA Ltd have made mention in the past of a 96/24 Generic digital output as a target that can be monitored when mastering MQA.

 

Not sure you are right about full MQA decoding being available in software, at least from Audirvana. Here is what MQA say:

 

". Audirvana Plus 3 (available end of January 2017) integrates the MQA Core Decoder, enabling to get the full MQA quality with MQA devices, including the renderer only ones. Users who don’t have a MQA capable device will also benefit from the 2x sample rate of MQA streams thanks to the decoder in Audirvana Plus 3 that performs the unfolding."

 

So to get "full MQA quality" from Audirvana you will need an MQA device or renderer, otherwise you just get a higher sample rate.

 

http://www.mqa.co.uk/customer/our-partners/audirvana-partner-page

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I'll be following up with MQA today.

 

Chris, any idea when/if MQA will be available via iPad control of Roon vs desktop app only?

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I'll be following up with MQA today.

 

Great. imo it is really important to establish whether or not you need an MQA enabled device to get the full version.

 

Tidal claim that they deliver " an authenticated and unbroken version (typically 96 kHz / 24 bit) with the highest-possible resolution".

 

If this needs an MQA enabled DAC to experience, then it should be made clear.

 

 

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The DAC manufacturers that paid the licensing to put MQA magic inside their DACs are unlikely to be pleased if Tidal does it all. If Tidal did do a full MQA decode, then every DAC would be MQA ready without doing anything.

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One possible downside of software decoding has to do with the limitations of audio interfaces.

 

For example, some DACs support up through 192 kHz via USB or AES. If MQA is decoded in software it can't exceed this interface limitation. If MQA is decoded in hardware inside the DAC it can unfold to the max of the DAC chip, likely around 768 kHz etc...

 

The AudioQuest DragonFly will now decode MQA and it is limited to 96 kHz only on its interface. The DAC inside can go much higher. Squeezing undecoded MQA inside the DragonFly is probably a better idea.

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"Think of it as an SACD with a CD layer. People needed an SACD player to decode the SACD layer of the disc, otherwise the regular CD layer would be played. While not exactly the same, the concept is similar. "

 

Just wanted to point this sentence out. While we are a very vocal and knowledgeable minority in the world of audio/music, we miss growing the joy of reproducing music to its high fidelity when we forget the those outside our sphere. We should share the hobby, but this can only be done if we communicate to the audience without using four decimal places and unfamiliar prefixes. You were spot on with your approach and more companies/vendors/technology providers should strive for this.

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"Think of it as an SACD with a CD layer. People needed an SACD player to decode the SACD layer of the disc, otherwise the regular CD layer would be played. While not exactly the same, the concept is similar. "

 

But .. in the case of CD and SACD they were two distinct layers; in the case of MQA the two resolutions are wrapped up in the same package. An SACD layer did not degrade the CD layer, but with MQA there are arguments that the non-decoded version is actually inferior to a red book version because 3 of the 16 bits are used to "hide" MQA information and will so playback as noise unless you have a decoder.

 

This is what the wiki says:

 

"MQA-encoded content can be carried via any lossless file format such as FLAC or ALAC; hence, it can be played back on systems either with or without an MQA decoder. In the latter case, the resulting audio has easily-identifiable high-frequency noise occupying 3 LSB bits, thus limiting playback on legacy devices effectively to 13bit. MQA claims that nevertheless the quality is higher than "normal" 48/16, because of the novel sampling and convolution processes"

 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Master_Quality_Authenticated

 

Note I have no idea whether this is actually true though, as there is no citation.

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Been playing around all day (as I worked through crappy chores) with MQA on Tidal via the app (both Mac and Windows) versus non MQA versions, and then comparing the MQA versions to red book and HD versions of the same albums. The DAC is an Exasound e22 and all the audio was going through the Exasound ASIO driver.

 

Comparing MQA versions of albums to non-MQA on Tidal, if there's a lot of voice, mid-range content, or the MQA version has been remixed significantly since the non-MQA, the MQA version stomped all over the non version. With the exception of rock stuff where the albums were mixed tightly to the top of loudness, which didn't sound any difference one way or the other. So... Joni Mitchell Blue? The MQA version was remixed 2016, and both my wife (who says she can't hear this stuff) and I could tell you how tall her chair was when she was playing. She was absolutely corporeal, compared to HD or red book.

 

A very telling example... Ray Charles and Milt Jackson's album. The MQA version vs the non-MQA Tidal stream, the saxophone was seriously better on MQA, but otherwise... I might have preferred the non-MQA. And then, late in the album, there's a short tom-tom solo from the drummer, and I'll be damned if that drummer didn't materialize right in front of us for that solo. Enough that our 3 dogs all went rigidly focused on the slightly right of center location. And then... meh.

 

So far... I'd be thrilled to stream MQA on Tidal vs non-MQA. Will make a difference for a significant number of albums, although not all. I would not be thrilled to buy MQA media where I own a 24/96 recently remixed or just plain awesomely mixed 16/44 before. It reminds me of what I've heard with the Blue Note jazz releases under Don Was' oversight, where almost every re-release sounds like a totally different recording than the 16/44 versions I own. God bless Rudy van Gelder. But a ton of other jazz re-releases are indistinguishable from the red book versions I already own.

 

So far, for rock and alternative... the difference is imperceptible. I've seen people raving about early Led Zeppelin MQA releases, and I'm going to check that tomorrow. But, with Bare Naked Ladies, Dream Theater, CSN... not so much.

 

I've ordered an Explorer 2 to see if having the DAC do the decoding changes my opinion. An energetic and curious puppy destroyed my old AudioQuest mobile USB DAC so I have free reign to order a replacement.

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The definition of what is decoded MQA seems to change like the wind. I can't imagine software decoding does anything but unfold the file. The folding lossless lossy compression is only to reduce file size? And I would think the de-smearing is the largest benefit and has to take place in a certified DAC with specific filtering to accomplish this? No?

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The definition of what is decoded MQA seems to change like the wind. I can't imagine software decoding does anything but unfold the file. The folding lossless lossy compression is only to reduce file size? And I would think the de-smearing is the largest benefit and has to take place in a certified DAC with specific filtering to accomplish this? No?

 

Who knows?? Does anybody know? Seriously.

 

 

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The definition of what is decoded MQA seems to change like the wind. I can't imagine software decoding does anything but unfold the file. The folding lossless lossy compression is only to reduce file size? And I would think the de-smearing is the largest benefit and has to take place in a certified DAC with specific filtering to accomplish this? No?

 

The debluring from the ADC process should be present even in the non decoded file. But, yes, to correct for the DAC part, you will need a DAC certified for MQA.

 

 

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If this is the future of music...god help us all. So we don't own anything and have to pay rent....monthly? And we won't burden our children with selling our music when we die? What a bunch of globalist propaganda. No thanks..

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If this is the future of music...god help us all. So we don't own anything and have to pay rent....monthly? And we won't burden our children with selling our music when we die? What a bunch of globalist propaganda. No thanks..

 

You can still purchase the CD, Hi Res version or album of Your Choice. No one is forcing anyone to do anything.

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The debluring from the ADC process should be present even in the non decoded file. But, yes, to correct for the DAC part, you will need a DAC certified for MQA.

 

 

Sent from my iPad using Computer Audiophile

 

I would think correct filtering in the DAC is critical for the deblurring to work. Otherwise it would be smeared again. Because it's only a minor correction of the smearing, perhaps microseconds, which is audible to the brain.

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I would think correct filtering in the DAC is critical for the deblurring to work. Otherwise it would be smeared again. Because it's only a minor correction of the smearing, perhaps microseconds, which is audible to the brain.

 

Would depend on the design of the filter used in the DAC. Some designers have gone through a lot of effort to use well implemented filters rather than just using the stock brickwall ones. I was very unimpressed with the MQA filter used in the Mytek Brooklyn, rather stick with my Ayre QB-9DSD filter. YMMV

 

 

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