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Article: MQA: A Review of controversies, concerns, and cautions

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3 minutes ago, rickca said:
1 hour ago, John_Atkinson said:

I have not heard the MQA version sound worse than the PCM original

Yeah, not exactly a WTF moment.

 

With respect, you are taking what I said out of context. The article in which I expressed that thought and performed several comparisons can be found at https://www.stereophile.com/content/listening-mqa.

 

In that article I wrote: "My conclusion from these uncontrolled listening sessions was that MQA certainly doesn't damage the sound. Quite the opposite—the Prime sounded consistently sweeter than it had in the comparisons with the Ayre and Simaudio headphone amplifiers with regular PCM files."

 
John Atkinson
Editor, Stereophile

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6 minutes ago, John_Atkinson said:

 

The 2014 article in which I used that phrase can be found at https://www.stereophile.com/content/ive-heard-future-streaming-meridians-mqa

 

I request that CA posters read the full text of what I wrote, in order to comprehend the context.

 

John Atkinson

Editor, Stereophile

 

 

Just read the article. The context doesn’t seem to change much of the meaning of that quote.

 

I do see that you were going to test MQA process with your own recordings. How did that come out? Was the result ever published? Apologies if that’s an answered question, I’ve not been following most of the MQA debate in detail.

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4 minutes ago, pkane2001 said:

I do see that you were going to test MQA process with your own recordings. How did that come out? Was the result ever published?

 

Yes, In an article I linked to earlier.

 

John Atkinson

Editor, Stereophile

 

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2 hours ago, randyhat said:

Characterizations like "drinking the kool-aid" and referring to people you disagree with as being "brain washed" only serve to further polarize people around this issue rather than inform.

I don't think it is the most effective rhetorical instrument to use those words, but... Not every opinion is a valid opinion. The press has had some sort of bent in the last decade to allow for every argument to have the same weight - sometimes referred to bothsidesism. This is nonesense.


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14 minutes ago, John_Atkinson said:

 

Yes, In an article I linked to earlier.

 

John Atkinson

Editor, Stereophile

 

 

Thank you! The conclusion in your listening tests article seems to be that MQA ‘doesn’t damage the sound’. That’s a bit different than ‘MQA is as important to the quality of sound recording and playback as digital was 40 years ago’. 

 

Do you still think it’s the greatest development since digital? Again, I apologize if this is a rehash of a previous discussion; it’s hard to follow all the different threads.

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On Friday, March 02, 2018 at 6:54 PM, Fokus said:

Many thanks for putting so much effort into this.

 

+1!


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Very informative article. I would describe myself as having a healthy critical attitude towards supposedly better products, techniques, protocols etc. And although interested in the technical background, in the end I always let my ears to be the judge. From this perspective I want to add my experience with MQA. I don't own a MQA-enabeled DAC and I didn't compare MQA-files with with redbook and/or hires versions but I did compare Tidal MQA 'masters' with their CD-quality counterparts via Roon and Audirvana and in all cases the SQ of the 'masters' were better to my ears. I have to remark that I mainly listen to classical and jazz music. So my point is that - separate from all claims, promises and objective counter proof - I really enjoy and welcome the introduction of MQA in streaming services and hope that Tidal will expand their range, especially in the genres of my taste.


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A great read and a worthwhile addition to the knowledge base to inform the consumer and those who enjoy music.

 

Congratulations to @Archimago for all the hard work to draft the opening essay and to @The Computer Audiophile for engaging with the subject matter.

 

I thought it useful for my own interest to reflect back on Chris' initial listening impressions and views of MQA (with underlining by me for emphasis):

My First 24 Hours With MQA

 

Quote

Overall I am happy with the MQA music I’ve heard. I wish I could render an opinion, that would carry across all MQA products and music, that MQA is always better by a wide margin, but this isn’t the case. The differences I’ve heard so far are subtle and my opinions are limited to the music and hardware I used in the last 24 hours. I also have a suspicion that the MQA process will be more beneficial to recordings that were done under less than stellar circumstances (i.e. lesser quality A to D converters, etc…). The 2L recordings are done with the utmost care using very good equipment and very good engineers. While there is still improvements MQA has made to the original 2L masters, I’m willing to bet there are greater improvements to be made to more traditional popular recordings or very old recordings. On the other hand, it may not be easy to compare an MQA version and non-MQA version of some old recordings because the MQA version has been done with the white glove process. It would be the same as comparing two difference masters of the same album, of course they’ll sound different. There will be clear differences with or without MQA. The real question many people will want answered is, how much of the difference is MQA and how much is the white glove process? But, does this question really need to be answered? I’m not so sure because we don’t have the option of getting new white glove masters of some of our favorite music. If MQA is the impetus to get us better sounding music, that’s all that really matters. In a dream world we may have the option of a white glove MQA and white glove non-MQA, but this is the real world. The options are, MQA or live with what we already have. Anyway, the MQA train is finally leaving the building. I’m cautiously optimistic that everything will work out and we’ll have better sounding music without too much trouble.

 

That final line was telling. Prophecy or an possibly an underlying expectation that trouble would be unavoidable?

 

As with  @Archimago I'm very interested to read the findings of the McGill University work. I'd also be interested to understand the source of their research funding, so hopefully that is made clear at the time of publication.

 

Thanks for your effort and keep it going. There are many who appreciate the input from people who have access to the resources and technical capability that are simply beyond the average Joe.

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7 minutes ago, Archimago said:

The problem is that audiophiles who are trying to understand what is happening here have been made to jump through hoops to address the claims one by one without the assistance of the mainstream press - the ones we should hope are working for audiophiles as partners in truth, clarity, and education.

Kind of utopian.  It clearly doesn't work this way.  Did it ever?  We are on our own.


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Just now, rickca said:

Kind of utopian.  It clearly doesn't work this way.  Did it ever?  We are on our own.

 

True. Utopian. But if we cannot desire, ask, or hope for something better in the form of a higher standard of journalism in the audiophile press... Then we might as well just see the audiophile media as pure advertising.

 

As much as I criticize what I've seen from the press, I do believe that things are not irremediable and wish for something better than this from John, Jim, Jason, Michael, Steve, and yes, even Mr. Harley, et al.

 


Archimago's Musings... A "more objective" audiophile blog.

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2 hours ago, John_Atkinson said:

 

Yes, In an article I linked to earlier.

 

John Atkinson

Editor, Stereophile

 

 

Dear Mr. Atkinson,

 

I really appreciate your participation in this thread and others on CA. As others have said, your measurements and analysis are simply invaluable. Whether here or in Stereophile, I'd be very interested in your thoughts, or those of another person with appropriate technical expertise, on @Archimago's findings and analysis here. Subjectively, MQA may be the bee's knees, but many of us doubt that a product can excel in listening if it fails at the technical aspects of reproduction--which is why I always read your Measurements sidebars before equipment reviews. Maybe MQA is different, but even so it would still be good to have additional people considering the accurate reproduction (versus, say, FLAC) question. So, how about it? 

 

Best,

 

AMG

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59 minutes ago, astromo said:

A great read and a worthwhile addition to the knowledge base to inform the consumer and those who enjoy music.

 

Congratulations to @Archimago for all the hard work to draft the opening essay and to @The Computer Audiophile for engaging with the subject matter.

 

I thought it useful for my own interest to reflect back on Chris' initial listening impressions and views of MQA (with underlining by me for emphasis):

My First 24 Hours With MQA

 

 

That final line was telling. Prophecy or an possibly an underlying expectation that trouble would be unavoidable?

 

As with  @Archimago I'm very interested to read the findings of the McGill University work. I'd also be interested to understand the source of their research funding, so hopefully that is made clear at the time of publication.

 

Thanks for your effort and keep it going. There are many who appreciate the input from people who have access to the resources and technical capability that are simply beyond the average Joe.

 

I don't think Chris had any idea trouble was coming in February 2016.  He might have sensed trouble at RMAF 2016 but I think it was more like a year ago when things started to take off opposing MQA.

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2 minutes ago, mansr said:

I like to think that my reverse engineering efforts contributed in some small way.

 

I noticed a change from our host when someone documented that link to Utimaco, MQA's crypto partner.   

 

As @Archimagosays:

 

 

What do we have?

A software technique that keeps about 16-bits of audio data and hides some lossy sparsely sampled data from one octave above down to 24-bits + cryptographic signature + a way to play this using a certain type of upsampling filter.

 

Ok, meh, another audiophile product among thousands's of otherwise "meh" audiophile products.  Now throw in crypto, DRM and "end to end" ambition...


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

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15 minutes ago, mansr said:

I like to think that my reverse engineering efforts contributed in some small way.

 

Absolutely @mansr!!!

 

You work laid bare the suspected emptiness of claims.


Archimago's Musings... A "more objective" audiophile blog.

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5 hours ago, John_Atkinson said:

 

The 2014 article in which I used that phrase can be found at https://www.stereophile.com/content/ive-heard-future-streaming-meridians-mqa

 

I request that CA posters read the full text of what I wrote, in order to comprehend the context.

 

John Atkinson

Editor, Stereophile

 

 

To save others a click, @Archimago's depiction of what you wrote sounded both accurate and fair to me. It's a bit lossily compressed, sure, but a philosophically transparent portrayal.

 

Giving you revenue to unfold the argument reveals that you consider MQA a breakthrough only comparable to the SQ improvement of room-correction by DSP, and also comparable to the birth of CD for some undefined reason.

 

This depiction is closed by "there was palpability to the sound, a transparency to the original event, that I have almost never heard before", then you appeal to another authority for authentication, and everything after that sounds like high-frequency MQA Ltd. boilerplate noise.

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Here’s an interesting take at what some people hear when listening to MQA.

 https://www.audiostream.com/content/mqa-reviewed

https://www.audiostream.com/content/bluesound-plays-mqa

https://www.audioasylum.com/forums/critics/messages/8/87573.html

 

 
It’s a look back at what the late Charlie Hansen wrote in response to Michael Lavorgna’s praise of the MQA version of “Riders on the Storm”. CH said the MQA version was actually making some fine detail more difficult to hear and thus taking away  some of the emotional nuance of the vocal. ML heard this as praiseworthy: “more dimensional” and “pleasantly softer”.

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