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MQA on Tidal and Dynamic Range (DR)


asdf1000
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I am genuinely terribly sorry for adding yet another MQA thread here but I looked everywhere to see if there was an exiting thread where this could live. Chis, please feel free to move/merge if need be. I complained to myself last week at too many MQA threads on every forum and here I am :-(

 

I wanted to ask a very specific question.

 

Are people finding the DR of albums released in MQA on Tidal to be as high or higher than the same 1st pressing CD's or vinyl that had high DR's?

 

I'm mostly asking about 70's and 80's recordings, where they may have had a DR of 16 for the 1st pressing of vinly or 1st pressing of the CD (pressed in the 80's) but then a 90's or 2000's re-master had a DR of 8. In this case, is the MQA version on Tidal the MQA version of the original master and hence nice and high DR? Or is the MQA version on Tidal just the MQA of the re-mastered copy of the master tape, with the low DR?

 

I don't have a specific album yet that I can point too. So it's not a problem I've encountered but as I browse through Tidal via Roon (Warner library) I was just interested.

 

Sorry if my question isn't clear. I can try and elaborate better when I come across an example but it's more general of MQA releases on Tidal - those already released and those still coming.

 

It was just a thought. I don't know if anyone has the ability to measure the DR of Tidal MQA streams either? Or if anyone has?

 

I guess like many, I would really love if all the MQA releases on Tidal were transferred from the original master tapes and not from re-mastered master tapes.

 

Of course for new pop albums like Beyonce's latest, I don't expect even the master tape to have a high DR so it doesn't matter to me as much where the MQA version came from.

 

Whereas something like Off The Wall by Michael Jackson has a high DR for the early CD pressings (DR = 16) but the latest Hi-Res copy has a much lower DR value (DR=8). So it would be interesting to see what MQA version turned up. This is a terribly bad example I admit because that's under Epic/Sony Music which doesn't have anything released on Tidal yet but that's kind of what had me wondering about similar great early CD releases that had really poor later re-masters. There are many many of those.

 

Off The Wall HDTracks 24/96 DR = 8

Off The Wall Jap CD 1st Pressing DR = 16

 

I also want to add, not all re-masters are bad and a high DR doesn't automatically make a great album. Just observations and questions I had about some of the 70's and 80's classics that had poor later re-masters.

 

Thanks in advance and please be nice. These MQA threads can sometimes turn nasty :-(

 

Cheers :-)

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Ok I have a specific example with one of the highest selling albums of all time :-)

 

Fleetwood Mac Rumours

 

1977 CD DR = 15 : Album details - Dynamic Range Database

 

2011 HDTracks 24/96 DR = 10 : Album details - Dynamic Range Database

 

Does anyone know what the DR value is for the MQA version streaming on Tidal? Is it even possible to measure the DR via Tidal?

 

I should have started with this question and saved a lot of typing on my first post lol

 

My obvious hope is that they went back to the original master tape, not the recent hi-res master but am I dreaming (as usual) ?

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Dynamic range (I much prefer the ITU BS.1770-1/2/3 spec for measuring loudness and "loudness range") is a paradox with regards to audiophilia. MQA is exclusively marketed at audiophiles. Audiophiles (at least in theory) desire the best possible digital reproduction of the original source material (master tapes, etc.). But the "competitive loudness" marketing drive of the record labels is utterly antithetical to audiophilia, hence, the paradox.

 

My personal belief is that the record companies do not believe that audiophiles represent enough of a share of the purchasing market to put any effort (or capital) into actual audiophile releases. Witness the death throes of MoFi, Analogue Productions, Audio Fidelity, etc. for empirical evidence of this. With this as a context, the whole concept of MQA is nothing more than a way to sell, once again, the same familiar titles to that tiny sliver of the music purchasing public with new "features' like lower bandwidth utilization and temporal "correction" for the ADC and DAC.

 

This is not to say there aren't occasional surprises with mastering quality. In the Warner catalog, the Van Halen and Led Zeppelin titles are quite good and not particularly compromised dynamically. But for the most part, the record companies will take our money, but not our input on the quality of their product. And that's just a sad fact of life. All we can expect is lip service from the few record company people who interact with the audiophile media. And don't expect that audiophile media to hold them to account. The audiophile media will gleefully shill for the newest shiny object (currently MQA), but privately, they understand just how little audiophiles matter to the major record labels. I personally think it's shameful, but others quickly dismiss it as status quo and marvel at the splendor of this year's shiny object.

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Thanks all, great points raised. Can anyone help me with the DR value of Fleetwood Mac Rumours MQA version in Tidal?

 

I don't have the tools. Just this one example will be enough for me

 

Sincerely appreciated

 

 

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In the Warner catalog, the Van Halen and Led Zeppelin titles are quite good and not particularly compromised dynamically.

 

The Led Zep even from Mr Page Deluxe release 2014, 24/96 remasters s*ck pretty much compare to the old ones

Album list - Dynamic Range Database

If You Got Ears, You Gotta ListenCaptain Beefheart

 

MacMini, 4xi3 3.6GHz, SSD, 20Gb, macOS 12.0 > Audirvana Studio 1.6 >

Wyred DAC2 DSD Special Edition > Proceed AMP2 > Focal Cobalt 826 Signature Series >

Audirvana Remote > iPhone 11

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The Led Zep even from Mr Page Deluxe release 2014, 24/96 remasters s*ck pretty much compare to the old ones

Album list - Dynamic Range Database

Thanks mate. In my second post I had similar DR values for Rumours. I'm really hoping that the MQA version isn't the same mastering as the HDTracks version (which had a DR value of 10). A higher DR for the MQA version on Tidal may (or may not) tell us a bit on the mastering chosen.

 

Appreciated

 

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The Led Zep even from Mr Page Deluxe release 2014, 24/96 remasters s*ck pretty much compare to the old ones

Album list - Dynamic Range Database

 

The Diament masters will always be the standard. But the newer ADC(s) breathed some new life into those titles. YMMV, of course. Not saying they're prefect, but they're not horrid like the Talking Heads catalog.

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I just posted this on another forum. But sadly it sounds to me like the Tidal MQA version is the same as the HDTracks version which had a DR = 10. It sounds more much compressed than the early CD pressings or vinyl.

 

I don't have a DR value and wish someone could verify but I was hoping Warner would treat such a classic and massively selling album better.

 

Surely there exists an uncompressed version of the 24/192 master. Why wasn't that one released to Tidal in MQA? Sigh :-(

 

 

 

 

 

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I just posted this on another forum. But sadly it sounds to me like the Tidal MQA version is the same as the HDTracks version which had a DR = 10. It sounds more much compressed than the early CD pressings or vinyl.

 

I don't have a DR value and wish someone could verify but I was hoping Warner would treat such a classic and massively selling album better.

 

Surely there exists an uncompressed version of the 24/192 master. Why wasn't that one released to Tidal in MQA? Sigh :-(

 

 

 

 

 

Sent from my Blackberry DTEK50 using Tapatalk

 

Why? Well to even ask the question assumes that MQA is about sound quality...which it isn't ;)

Hey MQA, if it is not all $voodoo$, show us the math!

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Thanks to OP @Em2016 for this thread.

 

This DR discussion really hits home. Why do we take such care with our equipment and accessories if our source material is compromised, and, according to this thread, becoming more compromised as time goes on?

 

1. Computer Audio, at a fundamental level, is for the computer scientist and serious hobbyist. Most folks do not have the knowledge or desire to go through the many levels of difficulty to set up and maintain an audiophile grade computer system.

 

2. Streaming Audio, which is a sub set of classic computer audio, is simple and offers much of the benefits of a computer based system without the hobbyist aspect of computer problem solving.

 

But now we see that not only is most new music produced with a low DR value, (and other sonic issues) but older music is being re-released with compromised DR. It begs the question: Why download music in higher resolution if it is compromised? Do we need an MQA-Tidal platform or a HD Tracks download if it is poorly recorded or the DR has been downgraded?

 

Further, what do we gain from snake oil level cables, high end amplifiers, +300 lbs speakers, and blocks of maple wood salvaged from the deck of a 1940's era battleship if we are losing the source war?

In any dispute the intensity of feeling is inversely proportional to the value of the issues at stake ~ Sayre's Law

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Why? Well to even ask the question assumes that MQA is about sound quality...which it isn't ;)

I see what you're saying here and it saddens me :-(

 

I know it's only 1 data point with this album but I thought to get the MQA ball rolling they would treat an absolute classic with special treatment and get the uncompressed master that was used to produce the HDTracks version. It doesn't sound like that at all.

 

But you're right sadly :-(

 

 

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Thanks to OP @Em2016 for this thread.

 

This DR discussion really hits home. Why do we take such care with our equipment and accessories if our source material is compromised, and, according to this thread, becoming more compromised as time goes on?

 

1. Computer Audio, at a fundamental level, is for the computer scientist and serious hobbyist. Most folks do not have the knowledge or desire to go through the many levels of difficulty to set up and maintain an audiophile grade computer system.

 

2. Streaming Audio, which is a sub set of classic computer audio, is simple and offers much of the benefits of a computer based system without the hobbyist aspect of computer problem solving.

 

But now we see that not only is most new music produced with a low DR value, (and other sonic issues) but older music is being re-released with compromised DR. It begs the question: Why download music in higher resolution if it is compromised? Do we need an MQA-Tidal platform or a HD Tracks download if it is poorly recorded or the DR has been downgraded?

 

Further, what do we gain from snake oil level cables, high end amplifiers, +300 lbs speakers, and blocks of maple wood salvaged from the deck of a 1940's era battleship if we are losing the source war?

It's really sad isn't it. As I mentioned above you would think an audiophile classic would get special treatment in the initial roll-out at least :-( But to my ears it seems not. Best I stick with my CD rips which still sound amazing.

 

Now to be fair the HDTracks versions of Tusk and Tango have similar DR values as the early CD's and really sound great to me. But it shows that for the MQA rollout they possibly just went to final release versions so if the HDTRACKS release sounded compressed, that's what we're getting for the MQA version. Rather than the uncompressed version of that master.

 

Just one data point but it doesn't give me much hope. Rather than continue to test more I think I'll stick to listening to the good CD rips and good Hi-Res purchases that I have :-(

 

Maybe down the track they will add an "uncompressed studio master" version on Tidal, not only for this but for all. One can only dream lol

 

 

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I see what you're saying here and it saddens me :-(

 

I know it's only 1 data point with this album but I thought to get the MQA ball rolling they would treat an absolute classic with special treatment and get the uncompressed master that was used to produce the HDTracks version. It doesn't sound like that at all.

 

But you're right sadly :-(

 

We already knew the big labels care not one iota about sound quality. If they did, the loudness war wouldn't have happened. We also known they do not care about the artists or the consumers. The one thing we know they do care about is piracy; it is pretty much the only topic they ever talk about. Their perceived solution to piracy is DRM. MQA has DRM. Therefore they are eagerly adopting MQA. The promise of better sound is but the Trojan horse by which they hope to deliver DRM onto an unsuspecting public.

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I think you guys are looking at this the wrong way. You are judging MQA as if it were a record label, it is not.

 

MQA will provide it's processing for whatever masters the record labels provide, the nature of that master is up to the label.

 

Specialty labels such as MFSL are very different. They carefully select what recordings they want to offer and work with the original label to obtain the specific master they want to work with. None of those folks have a 500 album library after many more years around than MQA.

 

The issue is not with MQA, but with the masters that the labels have chosen to put through the MQA process.

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We already knew the big labels care not one iota about sound quality. If they did, the loudness war wouldn't have happened. We also known they do not care about the artists or the consumers. The one thing we know they do care about is piracy; it is pretty much the only topic they ever talk about. Their perceived solution to piracy is DRM. MQA has DRM. Therefore they are eagerly adopting MQA. The promise of better sound is but the Trojan horse by which they hope to deliver DRM onto an unsuspecting public.

Thanks for your insights. You have a bit more knowledge than most of us in the public, thanks to the stuff you've shared in your other threads (technical analysis thread)

 

I have to reiterate there are great HiRes releases with the full dynamic range of the early CD and even vinyl pressings. But I thought MQA would ensure no compression from now on. I was clearly wrong and you and others clearly right :-(

 

Thanks again

 

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I think you guys are looking at this the wrong way. You are judging MQA as if it were a record label, it is not.

 

MQA will provide it's processing for whatever masters the record labels provide, the nature of that master is up to the label.

 

Specialty labels such as MFSL are very different. They carefully select what recordings they want to offer and work with the original label to obtain the specific master they want to work with. None of those folks have a 500 album library after many more years around than MQA.

 

The issue is not with MQA, but with the masters that the labels have chosen to put through the MQA process.

Very true. I think I mentioned my anger that Warner chose not to release the uncompressed version of the hi-res master but if I didn't I should have. Sorry about that, you're completely right of course

 

 

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I think you guys are looking at this the wrong way. You are judging MQA as if it were a record label, it is not.

 

MQA will provide it's processing for whatever masters the record labels provide, the nature of that master is up to the label.

 

Specialty labels such as MFSL are very different. They carefully select what recordings they want to offer and work with the original label to obtain the specific master they want to work with. None of those folks have a 500 album library after many more years around than MQA.

 

The issue is not with MQA, but with the masters that the labels have chosen to put through the MQA process.

With all the talk of "studio quality" and "as the artists intended," one might easily be misled into believing MQA would somehow be an assurance of quality. It even turns on that blue light when conditions are right. The truth, as some of us suspected from the outset, increasingly appears to be quite different.

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With all the talk of "studio quality" and "as the artists intended," one might easily be misled into believing MQA would somehow be an assurance of quality. It even turns on that blue light when conditions are right. The truth, as some of us suspected from the outset, increasingly appears to be quite different.

:-( sad but true it appears

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I think you guys are looking at this the wrong way. You are judging MQA as if it were a record label, it is not.

 

MQA will provide it's processing for whatever masters the record labels provide, the nature of that master is up to the label.

 

Specialty labels such as MFSL are very different. They carefully select what recordings they want to offer and work with the original label to obtain the specific master they want to work with. None of those folks have a 500 album library after many more years around than MQA.

 

The issue is not with MQA, but with the masters that the labels have chosen to put through the MQA process.

 

My point is that the record companies must be a willing participant for MQA to have any market penetration. Since MQA is inarguably a technology marketed exclusively at audiophiles, MQA's willingness to quietly use dynamically compromised (i.e., non-audiophile) input material to the MQA process is at least cynical and hypocritical.

 

MoFi and other boutique remastering companies are almost dead because of the decline of sales of physical media and that most catalog titles that sell well have already been remastered. MQA is an effort to revitalize the audiophile media market and, by extension, generate increased demand for DACs and other audiophile gear. This is precisely the reason why some people in audiophile media are cheering MQA's arrival as "The most significant audio technology of my lifetime" or, "In almost 40 years of attending audio press events, only rarely have I come away feeling that I was present at the birth of a new world.". The end is near with old school audiophiles, and they aren't being replaced at even close to the rate we're losing them. The traditional audiophile business model is dying, and few companies have figured out what, if anything, is next.

 

And MoFi and others don't seem to be at the HDTracks hi-rez (typical MQA input material) party. Likely because their business model is based on sales of physical media (CDs, SACDs).

 

The initial MQA/Warner dump was candidly characterized as "low hanging fruit". And that's an implicit acknowledgement of the amount of dynamically compromised material contained in the dump. Steaming revenues will likely not justify a real, audiophile grade remastering pass of those beloved titles. Perhaps there may be a "tipping point" of streaming adoption in the future that will change these realities. But if the major labels are willing to invest in their catalogs for sound quality, the whole "crown jewels" mentality could trigger new DRM we haven't seen yet. Past behavior by the record labels supports this hypothesis.

 

MQA knows that in many cases, they're taking garbage in to create garbage out. But they're banking on the future profitability of MQA and hoping audiophiles forget this egregious betrayal. MQA just as culpable as the major labels.

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With all the talk of "studio quality" and "as the artists intended," one might easily be misled into believing MQA would somehow be an assurance of quality. It even turns on that blue light when conditions are right. The truth, as some of us suspected from the outset, increasingly appears to be quite different.

 

I think the only appropriate way to evaluate MQA is on the sound quality of the files compared to other currently available sources. Many of the horribly compressed releases were remastered in wonderful studios with great engineers, so studio quality doesn't really mean anything significant. You have to take "artists intent" for what it's worth, not much. For some artists the producer and/or label never let the artist have much to do with the sound quality so there was never anything laid down that represented the artists intent in the first place. It is also true that many of the "loudness war" decapitated recordings and remasters were approved by the artist and do represent their (misguided?) intent.

 

As far as the Tidal streams are concerned, if the MQA streams provide better sound than any other streams available then the process must be considered a success. If they don't sound better, then there is no reason for their existence.

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As far as the Tidal streams are concerned, if the MQA streams provide better sound than any other streams available then the process must be considered a success. If they don't sound better, then there is no reason for their existence.

 

If they do sound better, MQA has nothing to do with it. MQA is all about DRM. I have reverse engineered the decoder sufficiently to say that the actual audio coding parts are quite trivial. Most of the DRM features are unused in the currently available content. My suspicion is that they are waiting for broader deployment of MQA-enabled equipment before flipping the switch on full encryption. When they do, a non-MQA DAC will not be able to play the content at all.

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