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Favorite MQA albums?


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2 hours ago, kumakuma said:

The poster seems to want to believe in a conspiracy theory that MQA sounds better because there is an evident increase in volume. The poster thinks it's around 3dB. It's true that when I first heard a major difference with MQA a few years ago with the DragonFly Red, my first thought was: "are they playing dirty pool with EQ?" Later on someone on here analyzed MQA tracks and found no change in levels. Also if MQA really was adding +3dB (or whatever) boost I'd expect that it would have been exposed far and wide by now. Also I'd expect things like tape hiss, bass, cymbals to be louder as well, not just the center vocalist. There IS an evident forwardness in some aspects that does sound like increased volume, but it's not across the board, which is why I likened it to "leaning into the mic". This forwardness has also been reported by others here. I wonder what is it that causes that? Wouldn't the filter analysis done by others here  have shown, say, energy was being added to certain frequencies?

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15 hours ago, GUTB said:

Last month I received a CD transport from AliExpress which claimed to copy a Wadia circuit. It was close to $1k after shipping. I ended up breaking it trying to open the case but luckily the seller was willing to ship me a replacement cable harness for the front panel. After fixing this and soldering a lose power line to the power button, it's fully operational. So, with my new transport I decided to go back to my Jazz MQA-CD sample pack I got from JapanCD. It includes both the MQA-CD and regular CD of the same tracks. This time I hooked up my reference MQA DAC, the Mytek Liberty + linear power supply directly up to the amp and used it's built-in analog volume control chip, bypassing my Yaqin B-2T. This way I hoped I could get maximum resolution / lowest noise possible with my system. The Liberty's linear supply was plugged into my 500VA balanced isolation transformer, and the amp (Odyssey Kismet) plugged in to the Furutech outlet using a Lessloss Level 1 power filtering cable + Lessloss Firewall 64X. The Liberty to Kismet connection was SE on both ends. The transport connected to the DAC via AES/EBU.

 

Testing procedure was to listen to a track, stop the CD, replace it with the other media, and play the track again. By nature this will result in a perfectly level-matched scenario.

 

The MQA-CD displayed the effect of certain instruments and vocals appearing to be more forward / louder. Position in the sound stage doesn't change, just the more forward, as if leaning into the mic. Cymbals took on a more 3-dimensional character. Image size and position doesn't change, there appeared to be more air around it, better defined against the other instruments and vocals, giving the illusion of a more 3-dimensional presence. The bass is a little more defined; you can hear the harmonics a little better.

 

NOTE 1: MQA-CDs from Japan are actually pressed on UHQCD. This is a new CD and physical mastering media technology which supposedly returns a stronger and more uniform signal to the laser pickup. In my previous testing with a UHQCD (not MQA-CD, just a regular CD sampler pressed on UHQCD vs the same tracks on a normal CD) I believe I noticed a minor improvement to bass definition in some tracks, so the above findings should be taken with a grain of salt.

 

NOTE 2: as this is a sampler meant to evaluate the performance of MQA-CD, it was obviously designed to put MQA's best foot forward. Weather or not one finds the forwardness of certain midrange pleasing, it's very clear there was a significant and very noticeable difference, and the differences just weren't in midrange presentation but also in dimensionality and definition with certain aspects (with the caveat in NOTE 1 applicable).

 

Now I wonder if there is way to analyze the unfolded MQA stream? I guess it would be possible to plug the Liberty's SE out to a 3.5mm plug into a PC or maybe my iPad, but that's going to run it through a ADC phase. How would one go about grabbing the digital output of the unfolder? I guess I can rip the MQA-CD easily enough.

 

I guess you know what to expect from the ant-MQA crowd here 😬. I am not a member of that group because, well of all the different digital format we have I don’t think MQA is so bad and with some records it can actually sound better. Of course the problem many has is that MQA is marked as been made for audiophiles and that it has better SQ than high quality (hires) recordings, which it doesn’t IMO.

 

My system only does the first unfolding, so my experience is mainly with that. You have your own ear and can hear how MQA change the sound of different records, but one thing I will make clear is that yes it does change the sound, and if it’s good or bad depends on record, system and preference. For most records it make them sound more artificial.

 

For an audiophile purist the emphasis and manipulation (EQ), which can manifests as more perceived air, 3-D and clearer lead vocal and instruments, doesn’t sound true and natural with quality recordings in a high end system. The exception is IME with older duller records with can sound better with MQA. The duller and murkier the better the MQA effect is. I think of MQA as a remastering, and you know that many remastering can sound clearly inferior to the original. But sometimes if done well the remastering can make a record sound a little better.

 

Tldr: high quality recordings MQA sound worse, although for some older records it can sound a bit better.

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8 hours ago, Summit said:

 

I guess you know what to expect from the ant-MQA crowd here 😬. I am not a member of that group because, well of all the different digital format we have I don’t think MQA is so bad and with some records it can actually sound better. Of course the problem many has is that MQA is marked as been made for audiophiles and that it has better SQ than high quality (hires) recordings, which it doesn’t IMO.

 

My system only does the first unfolding, so my experience is mainly with that. You have your own ear and can hear how MQA change the sound of different records, but one thing I will make clear is that yes it does change the sound, and if it’s good or bad depends on record, system and preference. For most records it make them sound more artificial.

 

For an audiophile purist the emphasis and manipulation (EQ), which can manifests as more perceived air, 3-D and clearer lead vocal and instruments, doesn’t sound true and natural with quality recordings in a high end system. The exception is IME with older duller records with can sound better with MQA. The duller and murkier the better the MQA effect is. I think of MQA as a remastering, and you know that many remastering can sound clearly inferior to the original. But sometimes if done well the remastering can make a record sound a little better.

 

Tldr: high quality recordings MQA sound worse, although for some older records it can sound a bit better.

So, could it be just the filter used by MQA? Interesting it would have such a pronounced effect. It very well be though.

 

I tried playing back the regular CD from the sampler on my Yggdrasil Analog 2 (going through the Yaqin pre). The Yggdrasil is obviously the better DAC, that's evident in the higher quality audio. I'd say the center vocals aren't as "flat", and there's more microdetail. The difference isn't as pronounced as it was with CD vs MQA-CD on the Liberty though. I may end up having to give up on MQA altogether simply because if I can't get a high-end DAC experience with it than I'd rather just download hi-res audio where available. Also, the lack of DACs which can unfold MQA on SPDIF interfaces is a problem, that means the next upgrade path would have to be to a Manhattan II which is $6k and even $4k used is still a lot of money for a Sabre DAC. None of the other more affordable Sabre DACs can unfold on anything but the USB. And also, something tells me that all of these USB controller-run MQA implementations are cookie-cutter.

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3 hours ago, Rexp said:

I don't have a MQA DAC but the Tidal Hifi version of this album sounds clearly better than the Master version. Screenshot_20210102_131610.thumb.jpg.82392b034917bc81fea4d14e9303f4a7.jpg

I gave this a listen, using the Liberty in the headphone system being fed by my audio PC. It lights up green, meaning that MQA is detected but not authenticated. Comparing it with the non-MQA version it definitely shows the pronounced MQA effect: forwardness with a sense of increased resolution and spatial qualities. For example, Hedwig's Theme the violin has a resonant, open quality not just forward. It's especially evident with the string-plucks. To my ears it's significantly improved over the non-MQA version. One of the more pronounced differences I've heard in an MQA album. I also have a MQA-CD of John Williams in Vienna around here someplace I haven't even opened yet, I should go find it...

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13 hours ago, GUTB said:

So, could it be just the filter used by MQA? Interesting it would have such a pronounced effect. It very well be though.

 

I tried playing back the regular CD from the sampler on my Yggdrasil Analog 2 (going through the Yaqin pre). The Yggdrasil is obviously the better DAC, that's evident in the higher quality audio. I'd say the center vocals aren't as "flat", and there's more microdetail. The difference isn't as pronounced as it was with CD vs MQA-CD on the Liberty though. I may end up having to give up on MQA altogether simply because if I can't get a high-end DAC experience with it than I'd rather just download hi-res audio where available. Also, the lack of DACs which can unfold MQA on SPDIF interfaces is a problem, that means the next upgrade path would have to be to a Manhattan II which is $6k and even $4k used is still a lot of money for a Sabre DAC. None of the other more affordable Sabre DACs can unfold on anything but the USB. And also, something tells me that all of these USB controller-run MQA implementations are cookie-cutter.

 

Well as you know am no expert on MQA, but if am not mistaking you will need both MQA filter + MQA hardware to gain full MQA. I only have the MQA filter in Tidal. I strongly believe the below quoted to be true. Meaning that it’s not reasonable to expect that MQA/DSD/hires or whatever format can make a low-fi DAC sound better than a quality DAC. The auteur has also named a couple of MQA album that he liked. As you can see both are remasters, which is how/when I have experienced that MQA can sound better, but the question is is it because of MQA or the better remastering per se?

 

“Neither MQA nor high resolution files nor even DSD256 solve any problems in the quality of recordings and the quality of playback devices. If we listen to poorly recorded music or use a poor quality device, it will result in a poor sound, period. Both sides of the equation must be satisfied, i.e. the music and sound must be of good quality, and the devices used to play it must be good performers too.

 

I am writing this because the MQA coding is not a "remedy for all evil", treating it as a cure for quality problems is a mistake. Because Motörhead from the Under Cöver will remain Motörhead (MQA Studio 24/48, blue diode), and Melody Gardot with Live in Europe will be the same Melody Gardot (MQA 24/48, green diode). So we will listen to good music, but still deal with the problems of this type of recordings. The MQA will improve some of its aspects, above all smoothness and fluidity, but it will not save dynamics and will not discipline the bass.

 

And only when we listen to high-quality recordings like Aqualung by Jethro Tull in the Steven Wilson remix (MQA Studio 24/96, blue diode) or the fantastic album Late For The Sky by Jackson Browne (MQA Studio 24/192, blue diode) - only then can one can say that Liberty DAC sounds really good and that Tidal with MQA files - and even better with MQA Studio - is a full-fledged source of signal. (album Late For The Sky was discussed in the "Hi-Fi News", March 2018, Vol.63, No. 02).”

 

http://highfidelity.pl/@main-830&lang=en

 

 

 

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14 hours ago, GUTB said:

Also, the lack of DACs which can unfold MQA on SPDIF interfaces is a problem,

Q4 2020 saw the arrival of the ESS9068 chip having MQA technology onboard. You may want to look vinto that environment ... Gustard X16  i.e were below the 400$ mark at 11.11.2020.
And if you go that route, please report back if the DAC allows to bypass the MQA tech/filters on the chip  ... for non MQA PCM and Hi-Res files ...

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36 minutes ago, DuckToller said:

Q4 2020 saw the arrival of the ESS9068 chip having MQA technology onboard. You may want to look vinto that environment ... Gustard X16  i.e were below the 400$ mark at 11.11.2020.
And if you go that route, please report back if the DAC allows to bypass the MQA tech/filters on the chip  ... for non MQA PCM and Hi-Res files ...

Now THAT is interesting, I'll definitely look into it.

 

I also found out about the Technics SL-G700 which is a network SACD player supporting MQA using the AK4497, which is newer than the 9018 but older than the 9038. I may look into that too.

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38 minutes ago, bobbmd said:

@GUTB and others I have NO favorite MQA albums either BUT out of being an explorer of different sound quality I invested in two "MQA" DACs a Meridian Explorer 2 and AudioQuest DFR. I for one can't tell the difference in SQ other than MQA sounds 'louder' which is SUPPOSED to make it sound 'better'. As @TheComputerAudiophile @Kal Rubinson@AudioDoctor can  attest I have a pretty decent 'last rodeo' system with a definitely NON MQA( and will never be per Schiit founders) main DAC Schiit Yggdrasil GS and great speakers PLUS two very old sacd dvd-a and hdcd changers and my collection of all those HARD copies of all those formats sound better than anything that I stream (almost exclusively for ease of listening) now days. So I guess IMHO MQA is pointless doesn't sound any different to me than 96/192 does and the point of this thread as well as "MQA is Vaporware" is just humorous BS. Happy New Year and everyone get vaccinated(me and my small very old staff get ours Tuesday) bobbmd

Hmm, strange. I own all three of these DACs, except I have the Yggdrasil Analog 2. With the Explorer 2 I couldn't notice any difference with MQA. I had my first experience with MQA making a major difference with the DragonFly Red, I'm suprised you couldn't notice it. For sure, there is often a forwardness in midrange like vocals and instruments but it's not louder, and it's not the only effect. The Liberty is much better DAC than these two of course, although it's not great. I tested a MQA-CD on the Liberty directly against the CD version (MQA-CD sampler comes with a regular CD to do a comparison with) on the Yggdrasil. The Yggdrasil is a much better DAC and it's evident here of course, but it still didn't have the effects I noticed on the MQA version. Certain instruments had a spatial quality and sense of higher resolution, even though the Yggdrasil pulls out more macro-details.

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