MQA and Warner: the Real Scoop

Photo: Jason Victor Serinus

Exactly what did Bob Stuart (above) say at that press event earlier this month at the Rocky Mountain Audio Fest (RMAF)? Stuart—CEO of the company MQA, short for Master Quality Authenticated—made an announcement about the Warner Music Group's (WMG's) transcoding of their catalog into MQA format, a project announced last May.

But what exactly did he say? I didn't attend RMAF and accounts I found in the audiophile press were incomplete and contradictory. Is WMG finished with the project? Has the catalog been converted? All of it or just some? What exactly did they do and how did they do it? There was also some announcement at the press conference about the other major labels, Sony and Universal—what's the status of those projects?

Eager for answers, I arranged a conference call. Over the course of about half an hour, Stuart (with an occasional assist from Lisa Sullivan, MQA's Director of Marketing) answered all my questions and more. That call left me more enthusiastic than ever about the future of MQA, digital downloads, and—especially—high-quality music streaming. Here's what you need to know.

Has Warner Music Group really transcoded their whole vast catalog?
No, they're not finished. So far they've only completed the part of their catalog for which 24-bit masters already exist. That's a lot of music. It includes all their digital transfers from analog tape—think, for example, of all those 1950s and '60s jazz titles—and most of their recent recordings. But it's not everything. In fact, that part was relatively easy. Early digital recordings—the ones made before the introduction of CD, and recordings made for CD through about 1987—require more time and attention. They also haven't yet converted the analog masters that weren't already digitized.

So when will they be finished?
They expect to have completed everything—the whole WMG catalog—by next spring.

What about the other major labels?
There's currently no agreement with the other two majors, Universal and Sony. However, "our aspiration is that the majority of their catalogs will be encoded by next spring," Sullivan wrote in a follow-up email. With no agreement in place, that may sound ambitious, but Stuart seems confident, and the rapid progress of the Warner project is cause for optimism.

Wow, that was fast. They must have cut corners.
You'd think so, but I didn't find any evidence of corner-cutting. Read on.

MQA promises "master quality;" it's right there in the name. So what masters are they using?
The best available, which varies from recording to recording. As I've already written, they've already converted their catalog of recordings with 24-bit masters. Those master files have a range of sampling frequencies, but all their previous analog-tape conversions are 24/192. "There's still something like 100,000 really important analog tapes that still haven't been digitized," Stuart said. In that case, they start with the analog tape and create a 192/24 digital master; MQA has worked with Warner to develop the most MQA-friendly approach.

What about other digital formats? "We haven't done the DSD yet, but that should be easy to do," Stuart said. All those early digital recordings "regrettably are only in quite primitive digital formats like DASH tape or PCM-F1, or that sort of thing: 16-bit. In the early CD era, a lot of music was recorded directly to 16-bit formats that will no longer play. And with bad converters." Dire Straits' Brothers in Arms—the first CD I ever bought—was "made to DAT and then brought through an analog equalization process and then put back to DAT, so it had got terrific problems with the converters, and we had been working on that one for a few years with different versions." Cases like that take a lot of work, but with MQA's (the company's) help, the label is getting it done.

Sometimes even a CD rip might indeed be used as a master, but that only happens when it's the best recording available. Let's say a label has gone out of business and the master recordings have been lost, but the artist still wants her music converted to MQA. More relevant to the Warner project is when early digital master tapes are unusable, or when the proprietary machine they were recorded on is beyond repair.

CD-quality masters? That's hardly high-resolution.
Sure, but it's about the music, right? Stuart indicates that MQA is not about high resolution in the usual sense; it's about authenticity. "As far as we're concerned, anything from a cylinder forward is legitimate as long as it's the definitive statement about a recording," Stuart told me. "If a recording is important enough, and all there is is a 78, that's where we start. . . We're really concerned about producing the definitive thing," not the thing with the highest bit depth or sampling rate.

Besides, excellent results are possible even from early 16-bit masters, as demonstrated by Christian Eggen's recording, Carl Nielsen Piano Music, on the 2L label (2L-120), which was recorded direct to DAT in 1993. 2L's Morten Lindberg and the MQA crew worked hard on restoring those recordings—it's what Stuart calls a "white-glove reclamation"—and the result is superb. "It was an important recording because of the performer and the era and the instrument," Stuart told me during our conversation, "but it was recorded to DAT. Morten wanted to bring it out if he could. In this case we were spectacularly lucky because he's a great archivist. I said, 'what was the A/D converter?' and he said, 'I've got it in the cupboard.' We were able to fingerprint and reverse-engineer the A/D out of the recording."

The result was so good that they released a track from that album in the first batch of MQA demonstration tracks. As soon as I heard it, I downloaded the album from 2L and listened to the whole thing. I've listened to it quite a few times since then, always with pleasure. In the conversion to MQA, "it changes from a kind of splashy, muddy CD sound to really quite open," Stuart told me. "And when you listen to that Nielson, some of the shorter tracks around 10, 11, and 12, it's astonishing how much reverberation was captured."

Please explain this notion of authenticity, or, as Stuart put it, "the definitive thing."
"Say I can go to a store and buy a 192 of this album," Stuart said. The file you end up with may not be—in fact probably isn't—the "flat" master the label signed off on. "We could go to stores today and find a lot of 96k content, and this is often or usually not the original master, because what labels are inclined to do is to produce a real master, and then they'll produce something from that from which they cut vinyl and then they'll make a separate deliverable for iTunes." A record company may ultimately deliver up to 50 different formats, Stuart said. "The iTunes spec means that a lot of the 96k [files] around that are at least one generation away from the masters."

Files may also be manipulated after they're released. "You can go to stores like HDTracks or High-Res Audio and you say, I'd like this bit of music, and you find it's available in DSD, quad DSD, DXD, 192, 96, or 48. And you think, 'OK, I'll buy the one with the biggest number.' But what we go for is the authentic one. Because typically what's happening is these retailers are sent a file, they could be sent an [88.2kHz version], and then they make all the DSD out of it because they can charge more for it." With MQA you can have confidence that the file was produced from the master the label or artist prefers. If the file is manipulated post-release, the MQA light won't shine.

In all that music, is there anything new?
Yes. For one thing, Warner is digitizing all those analog masters that were never digitized before. "And in the archives, there's a lot of what everybody would agree is high-resolution digital that has never been released."

So, once this project is finished and Sony and Universal have done their thing as planned, the bulk of the world's music catalog will be encoded and ready for streaming or download, in definitive versions, in just a few months.

When will I be able to stream or download it?
Aye, there's the rub: No one knows, not even Stuart. MQA's focus is on feeding MQA files back into the supply chain, he told me. It's up to the labels to decide whether and when to make them available for download or provide them to streaming services. So far, none of the major labels have announced their distribution plans.

You wrote streaming "services"—plural. So far as I know, Tidal is the only streaming service that has announced MQA support, right?
Right—but in future, other services are likely to start streaming MQA. "We sincerely hope there's going to be more than [just Tidal]," Stuart said. He seemed quite confident about this. "We're talking to many [streaming companies]."

Are they really transcoding all the music?
Yes, all of it, including what Stuart calls recorded music's "long tail," that big chunk of the catalog that's rarely played. "Spotify says they've got 40, 50 million songs and about 4 million have never been played, and another 4–5 million have only been played once," Stuart told me. He thinks it's important to make all those songs—and more—available even if no one's listening to them, because he thinks completeness is important. Streaming services are key to the industry's future because they can make the "long tail" available even if it's not practical or profitable to distribute in any other way. "In order to have it an effective streaming service, we really have to fill in the whole thing, particularly as MQA brings sound quality benefits with all music, and it brings the authenticity to all music, and it brings really practical benefits to the streamers in MQA format," Stuart told me.

"It's practical to think that we would have broken the back of all the music in the world by next spring."

Jason Victor Serinus's picture

Excellent interview. Invaluable. Thank you.

spacehound's picture

"The entire Warner Music catalog has been converted to MQA (yea, the whole thing)"
Quoted directly from Michael Lavorgna's report on Stereophile's 'associate' site AudioStream.
No mention of "Existing 24 bit masters" only So either Stuart lied or Lavorgna did.

michaelavorgna's picture

I was reporting, i.e. sharing what was said at the MQA RMAF 2016 press event.

I would suggest that there could be other options beyond "lying".

John Atkinson's picture
michaelavorgna wrote:
I would suggest that there could be other options beyond "lying".

Indeed there are.

I have been deleting messages that continue to accuse this magazine and its writers of "lying." This is a warning to those of you who continue to post such accusations. If you do so, I will eventually have no option but to block you from posting. You are guests on this site; please behave as such.

John Atkinson
Editor, Stereophile

spacehound's picture

I simply said either Stuart or Michael were. It's a simple binary choice and needs no other alternatives, which would be mere obfuscation as what Jim, you, and Michael say in the linked reports is quite clear.

And later stated that Michael would have no reason to, whereas, following the links from Jim to you and then from you to Michael clearly demonstrates that Stuart had changed his tune since Michael gave his original report.

And Stuart has done it before. He retracted his original "It's lossless" statement. But only when closely questioned by experts.

"Guests"? No. We are potential customers who may respond to the advertising which is what supports this site.

dalethorn's picture

I agree that we are customers, and like one of my former bosses said "The customer is almost always right", yet I think we should try to converge on the most revealing story, rather than make binary choices. In an old court case, the opposing lawyer demanded many times that I give a Yes or No answer, and I don't think I ever did. In those cases my binary choice would have been only partly true, and so they allowed me to elaborate each time, with reluctance.

2_channel_ears's picture

I heard too (not from Stuart) from one of the exhibitors the Warner catalog was converted. That's just was said. But also said was the labels are trying to figure out how to "deliver the content", or something like that, see $$$ going off.

mrvco's picture

Considering that more than half of Tidal's current subscribers don't bother paying for the HiFi service now and the bit-rate of MQA ~24/96 streams won't be less than the current lossless CD-quality streams, what's the business case for Tidal adding support for MQA? Will there be a HiFi+ service w/ MQA that costs more than the current $19.99/month?

spacehound's picture

It's all BS.
Nobody I know, kids included, has the slightest interest in anything other than low bit rate MP3. And few have any interest in 'streaming' at all, simply because the telco's mobile data charges are too high, which is of course also true for 'in car' mobile data.
And let's face it, for walking along the street with headphones and a stupid expression or listening in the comparatively noisy environment of a car, 'regular' MP3 is perfectly adequate.

As it also is for 99% of the population when at home listening via their 'fixed' broadband setup.

THAT'S the reality and both the financially struggling 'streaming' outfits and the record companies know it. Take the major record companies, such as Warner. If they cared in the slightest about 'quality' they would have taken more care in the past, long bforese MQA, which they have not. Except possibly for 'classical' recorded by the most well known performers. And that is a very small market.

Even Stuart is now quoted as saying Warner's converting existing 24 bit masters was the 'easy' part.
The majors, if 'MQAing' their stuff at all as Warner is reported to be doing, are only 'playing' with it and 'showing interest'. At this stage it probably costs them nothing - I doubt any of them have actually handed over money to the MQA people.

Severius's picture

All of those people walking along the street with headphones and a stupid expression or listening in the comparatively noisy environment of a car", or the "99% of the population {...] at home listening via their 'fixed' broadband setup" - how are they all doing all of that? How? Downloads? To fixed broadband setups?

Or, is music now sent directly to your brain?

spacehound's picture

Buying downloads from (mostly) Apple of course, which you can do on a mobile, a Mac, or a PC. Do you ACTUALLY believe these people don't have a fixed broadband connected Mac or PC at home? Or for that TINY percentage of people 'like us' from HD Tracks, Qubus, whatever.

I do it myself, from a 'fixed' PC and then transfer it to an iPod via iTunes. I then use the iPod via a Chord Mojo to the 'aux' input on my car stereo. I don't walk about with an iPod and earphones.

NOT 'streaming' it - it's FAR too expensive if done on a mobile or in a car, except maybe, for that tiny 4% of the world's population who live in the USA, where, I believe, mobile is less costly.

The same as people ALWAYS have, be it vinyl, pre-recorded cassette tapes, CD, etc.

Despite the efforts of 'magazine' people, as always trying to promote anything 'new' whether that 'new' item is worth having or not, as they have to keep interest and thus 'circulation' or 'hits' up or they will lose advertising revenue, streaming related or not, the continual struggling of Tidal, and even Spotify, to make any money from paid streaming, and the failure/disappearance of others demonstrates how SMALL streaming is in the market.

Remember, basically it's only 'radio' after all. It even comes over the 'wireless' same as FM radio does. And radio is free, you don't have to pay for the 'waves' like you do with mobile data charges.

dalethorn's picture

This is difficult to address, because it's complicated. I'll take a stab at it. My experience, as a software developer and sometime pioneer from the 1970's on, is that the vast majority of people don't want to have to deal with file management and backup. What complicates the issue is the overlap between audiophiles who are fine with the storage tasks, and those who will surrender it when the infrastructure makes streaming good enough that 1) The stream is very rarely interrupted, 2) The total cost is lower than owning and managing the files locally, 3) The indexing of the remote music is such that playlists are easy to build and are reliable long-term, and 4) The playlists, to specific recordings at a specific playback quality, stay that way.

A CD plays at 176 kb per second. An HD movie (1080x1920) streams at approximate 2-plus mb per second. So there's no reason an audio streaming channel can't support the same rate as an HD movie, or about 11-12 times more than CD quality.

michaelavorgna's picture

...streaming revenue (in the US) hit the $2.4 billion mark last year, up from $1.9 billion the year prior.

spacehound's picture

And only Spotify could be said to be 'relatively secure'. Tidal seems to at least be attempting to provide a good service. But is still changing 'management' far too often for a stable outfit.

Also revenue is only one measure. Profit is the one that really counts, though I accept that it is early days. Unless you are someone like Musk without profit fairly quickly you cannot sustain the business or interest investors.

Additionally it is common for revenue to rapidly increase in the early days. Nissan increased its Leaf electric car UK revenues several hundre4d percent in the fist three years. It sold TEN in the UK the entire first year so selling 20 in the second year looks like a big increase.

And remember 99% of the relatively small proportion of people who listen to 'streaming' don't read HiFi magazines or sites, are not interested in 'quality' and have never heard of MQA.

michaelavorgna's picture

..."And few have any interest in 'streaming' at all"

For a global perspective, check out the IFPI's report. Here's one bullet point:

"Paid audio streaming is growing: 71 per cent of internet users aged 16-64 access licensed music. Paid audio streaming services are growing in popularity, especially among under 25s. One-third of 16-24 year olds now pay for an audio streaming service."

spacehound's picture

I looked. There seem to be two IFPi reports. I have not yet looked in full detail (I will - it is interesting) but it seems there are so many numbers we can all pick what we want to 'support' anything we want.

So I will pick this. Streaming revenue in growing, but as I said earlier, from a VERY small base so it SHOULD grow quickly, but it isn't - see below.
And it is very small still. Only 2.89 billion dollars 'worldwide' in the report. That's less than ONE 'average' billionaires worth for the entire industry.
And the growth rate, even though it is a 'new' industry and SHOULD therefore be rapidly expanding (see my Nissan Leaf example), is, in Europe and the USA, LESS than the overall national growth in those countries. So it is, though new, an UNDER performing business, even in those low national growth locations.

How they get their 71% I have no idea. I doubt they have a clue what people actually listen to. And to be honest, neither do you or I.
All that can be 'checked' is what they pay for. It totally leaves out the 'free to air' digital music stations we listen to in our cars or at home. It is impossible to measure those listeners.

And the 30,000 plus free music services delivered by wire to your fixed home broadband. Any one of those has a surprising LOW number of listeners at any one time, but there are tens of thousands of them.

As for downloads, except for Apple's low res stuff and HD Tracks, the rest tends to be nothing more than 'vanity publishing' from the likes of Naim, Linn, and Blue Coast. All excellent recordings provided you like deeply unpopular music by unknown artists. And of course there is a very good reason for most of them being (and remaining) unknown :)

michaelavorgna's picture

We can look at this in any number of ways. "Only 2.89 billion" are words I would never string together ;-)

But I get your point. The fact of the matter is, paid streaming is growing worldwide while downloads and CD sales are in decline. There's no indication that this trend will change.

If I step back out of numbers and business analysis, I am thrilled to have a subscription to Tidal HiFi - it has provided me with endless enjoyment and allowed me to discover more music than otherwise would have been possible *in any other way*.

While we can say, "but Tidal may not last", I would suggest that I could say the same with much more confidence about you and I ;-) My point being when it gets down to the realities of a music consumer today, we have a wealth of choices and music consumers worldwide are moving toward paid streaming.

spacehound's picture

Because the music industry has become so fragmented.
The days of ripping your CDs are, I expect, over for most of us and (to be honest)most of us have already ripped the worthwhile CDs we have temporarily borrowed from our friends purely for the purpose of ripping them :)

So what's next?
I, for one, have just signed on to Spotify's service. I chose them because UNLIKE most of the others, I do NOT have to give them a credit card number which I later have to cancel if I don't want to 'automatically' continue after the free trial.

Other than that I am currently 'stuck'. I listen to the still excellent UK FM radio services, which is of course a form of 'streaming'. We tend to forget that point. And to our digital radio services which are supposed to 'eventually' replace it. Both of which are of course 'mobile' as well as fixed. And both are 'free' of course.

But in the UK 'personalised' streaming services to mobiles and cars involve VERY high telco charges, as they also do in Europe.
I just checked. 20GB a month typically costs about 50 US Dollars equivalent on a minimum 12 month contract which you have to pay at 50 Dollars each month whether or not you use the 20GB.

michaelavorgna's picture the ability to choose the music you want to hear with streaming. I also use Roon which seamlessly integrates Tidal HiFi, essentially turning their library (50+ million tracks and counting) into my curatable library.

Seeing as Tidal HiFi is $20/month, there's very little financial risk.

dalethorn's picture

I have quite a few recordings from Blue Coast, Linn, HBDirect and others, as well as HDTracks. The lesser-known labels have given me the excuse I needed to expand my collection on the premise of getting very high quality recordings and sound. I can't just compare the experience of listening to those recordings to what I've ripped or gotten from other sources - each is its own unique experience, and something I would not want to give up. That said, maybe these other labels will go kaput someday, and maybe a lot of their recordings won't make it onto someone's favorite streaming service, but I have a feeling that unlike a lot of old and obscure vinyl records and CD's, these digital recordings won't disappear.

jmsent's picture

surpassing revenue from downloads for the first time in 2015. Between the two, we're talking about 70% of the total recorded music consumption. Streaming is most definitely on the rise and downloads are falling away. Apple clearly understood this and introduced their own streaming service in response. Tidal's overall share of the streaming business is very small.

tonykaz's picture

I might even buy a complete Meridian System, I love their designs.

Geez, Access to the entire World's recorded music is a Dream, I'd love to have that capability. I already spend a fortune on various music.

Count me in!, I'll have their Controller right next to my Lazy-boy: Heaven on Earth!!!

Tony in Michigan

spacehound's picture

"Perfect sound forever" just like CD was :)

tonykaz's picture

Awww Geez, I've never believed in perfection ( I was a vinyl guy, for gods sake ).

Tony in Michigan

dalethorn's picture

The data rate of the music track and the coding (MQA for instance) are just two factors in the big picture. The recording itself, the performance, and the mastering are bigger factors I think, but the data rate and coding are keys to getting the most out of the recording, performance, and mastering. Technology will continue to develop unabated, and the question for most people (especially the young) is not whether they make the leap to a newer platform, but when.

tonykaz's picture

I accept!

For me, the bigger picture is that these 'holders' or 'keepers' of the World's vast recording collections are about to make them 100% accessible to all of us. I hope it will include some of my own mother's singing from the late 1930s.

Just now it's only a hope but this is the first time I've heard of anyone talking at this scale. I suppose it's not having to make hard copys and not having to create viable distribution channels that provides the needed Catalyst, Tidal and perhaps a few others may be enough. MQA technology might only be the "needle that breaks the Camel's back".

So, what ever it takes, count me in!

I'll even accept 16/44.1, for gods sake.

At my age, I have something to look forward to, again!

Thank You!

Tony in Michigan

dalethorn's picture

I wonder how they converted everything. That's a lot of tracks. If everything were digital masters in their final form, ready to feed into an auto-converter that would know exactly how to process them, maybe so. But it sounds too simple, especially for analog sources.

spacehound's picture

They lied, as demonstrated by Stuart now 'backing off' from that initial statement, as reported here.
And some of them still are, as shown by rt66indierock's post.

Just the same as, when questioned in detail over some time, the MQA people 'backed off' from their initial "lossless" statement.

It's all just smoke and mirrors. Go buy a five thousand dollar interconnect instead. The paper and internet HiFi magazines all say they are wonderful.

rt66indierock's picture

I was told by a MQA representative Saturday at RMAF that the entire catalog was converted and it hasn’t. And I was told by the same person that the costs associated with the MQA process would make a MQA Tidal subscription forty dollars a month.

Based on this interview they are having trouble with Brothers in Arms. I wonder when the 12 bit stuff will be coming. No The Nightfly and MQA is nonstarter for me. I can’t even evaluate the Warner part of my reference albums without it.

mrvco's picture

At CES this year when responding to a question about "provenance", they made it sound like the process for creating MQA content wasn't just a batch/automated transcode, but a process more akin to remastering. So yeah, I'm also confused. Personally, I'd prefer to buy the hi-res FLAC or DSD file and apply filters in HQ Player as I see fit.

sfjain's picture

"next spring" Hes gonna regret those words!!

Ayrehead's picture

I'm not naysaying the MQA project. I still don't get it. I don't understand how an electronic process can make music apprear where no music exists. If the source file is drawn from an old 45rpm record and sounds as those sources sometimes sound, how can MQA make it sound better? And, why would I want to repurchase the 60,000 track that I now own?

AaronGarrett's picture

If older recording processes -- digital and non-digital -- added artifacts that degrade the sound - which I think is part of the claim of MQA -- then removing them might result in a smaller file that sounds better.Removing jitter results in less "stuff" and it sounds better, so why not.

If it sounds a lot better I might want to repurchase some. I certainly would want to stream them. And if the result is a file that is much smaller it will cost less to stream and to store.

rt66indierock's picture

A process can recover music that is in the noise floor and inaudible by lowering the noise floor.

AJ's picture

So far they've only completed the part of their catalog for which 24-bit masters already exist.

Pray tell what is "wrong" with 24 bit ADCs, that is to be "fixed" by MQAs DRM and a nice dose of anharmonic aliasing distortion?

spacehound's picture

MQA is just a method of attempting to secure an income for Bob Stuart and his associates. It is a 'spin off' from the not notably successful Meridian. And a mere legal fiction, as it is all owned by Richmont, a Swiss outfit who sell inaccurate (compared to quartz) grossly overpriced 'luxury' watches too. Breitling is one of their brands. Merely 'lifestyle' products, same as Meridian.

Glotz's picture

Yeah, Meridian really doesn't have pedigree of an excellent high-end company... and they NEVER innovate... no! And Breitling... utter garbage that doesn't last... pfft... Sure thing, hater.

But I'm sure your new lineup is much better- I heard your new DAC last week at RMAF!

Fantastic! Orgasmic! Almost like it's not there!

Cause it ain't.

Thin ice, man. Thin ice.

spacehound's picture

Hater? A typical US nonsensical label. In Europe we are NOT trained from birth to nod our heads and say "Awesome!" to every new gimmick that comes along.

They own Breitling (WHERE DID I SAY THEY DONT LAST? NOWHERE. SO YOU JUST MADE THAT UP), Vacheron Constantin, Piaget, Purdey guns, Chloe fashion, Azzedine Alaia fashion, IWC Schaffhausen, Cartier, Meridian, Alfred Dunhill, Panerai, and about ten other crazy priced 'lifestyle' outfits.

Breitling and IWC don't even make all their own movements. They buy most of them from SWATCH, of all people.

Their first effort was the disastrous Lecson amplifier, renowned for its unreliability and because its glass strip 'sliding' controls, stuck on with double sided sticky tape, kept falling off.
Then their 'tarted up' Philips CD players that cost near double the Philips prices but sounded no different.
Next the 'modular' amplifier. Very expensive, poor reviews, and when the promised expansion modules, such as the FM radio tuner, never appeared all the buyers got was BS.
It's ALL in their history and old magazines. You don't have to take my word for it.
They have a NEGLIGIBLE share of their home market, the UK. Hardly anyone stocks their stuff. So, both in the UK and the rest of Europe, they have had to resort to 'boutiques' that they own (or lease) themselves. They sell only to unknowing 'fashionable' people. Rather like B&O but nowhere near as successful as B&O is.

Problem is that Stuart keeps changing his tune. First it 'improved' low res streaming. Now it 'improves' everything.
First it was for 'new' material only. Now he says they are 'converting' old material.
First he said it was lossless. Now he has dropped that claim after being closely questioned by people every bit as expert as he claims to be.
So it smells very heavily of BS.

I simply don't understand your comment from "But I'm sure..." onward so won't reply to it.

Glotz's picture

Lots of facts, specious arguments... from a hater. To argue their role in digital or hugely innovative active speakers... is asinine.

I've listen to Meridian demos as far back 1995. NOTHING to be ashamed about and LEAGUES beyond B&O. Their fully active system that JGH reviewed that long ago was very impressive. I heard the exact same set up in Milwaukee then. And I've own Breitling for over 30 years, and the same watch is STILL GOING STRONG!

Value is in the ear and the eye of the beholder. You are not sole arbiter of quality, rather just one disgruntled soul who doesn't play well with others..

You smell heavily of BS. I think it's your negativity.

spacehound's picture

"Lots of facts"
What's wrong with facts? Don't you like them? Try this one. It's 2016. Or this, I'm typing on a Logitech keyboard. Anything dislikeable about those?

And again "Hater". You haven't got an answer so you throw an insult.

And you seem to have a 'hang up' on how long a Breitling lasts. Your first reply criticised something I never posted, and now you are waffling on about how long your watch lasts. Yeah. Swatch movements are fine. Three quarters of the Swiss 'mid price' (EG Breitling) watch industry use them. Breitling, IWC, Omega, and many others are mostly just 'Watch case makers', though some make a few movements of their own for their very top models. Breguet, the best of all, and the oldest, and owned by Napoleon, his successful opponent the Duke of Wellington, George Washington, and Mary Antoinette, make all their own movements, as do Patek Philippe.

I've got a Rolex which I purchased new in 1984. That still works too. AS DOES THE 40 DOLLAR QUARTZ TIMEX I purchased a year or so before I purchased the Rolex. So what?

I don't play well with others? If the "others" are people who obtain their income via trying to sell us things, as Stuart is doing, then you are correct. And his constant changing his tune on what it is for, and his saying it is too 'intricate' for mere mortals to understand, doesn't help.

He's been writing his 'White Papers' for years. He seems to think calling them 'White Papers' adds some 'scientific' credibility. However his products, which are 'reality', not mere scratchings on paper, while not 'bad' rarely achieve notably good reviews and their position in the market is so small as to be near invisible.

Glotz's picture

If JGH reviewed Meridian in the past and was completely impressed by them over 20 years ago... that's enough for me. His opinion mattered- YOURS DOES NOT. AT ALL.

Your knowledge of any particular subject here is completely false. Your facts are specious lies with no basis in reality. You know nothing of the companies nor their products.

You only pretend to know quality, and yet you consistently compare the garbage you own with quality products available. Your 'opinion' is invalidated by your other erroneous comments on this website, that further prove anything you state is again, totally without merit or fact.

You are utterly tedious.

You are most certainly deserving of any insult thrown at you. I would not lend you the credulity to argue with you. You consistently wear your welcome out with every post, and I'm sure I am not the only one tired of your BS. Please piss off immediately.

spacehound's picture

I will not respond to your insults but I will say this.

Why did you introduce how long a Braitling 'lasts' when I made no mention of that?

"You know nothing of the companies nor their products."

My observations on both Richemont and Meridian organisation/finance are all factual and can be very easily checked. For Richemont I went directly to their corporate site, checked out the companies they own (Breitling is owned by a Richemont subsidiary so I had to go there.) For my general 'watch' observations I went to the 'Hodinkee' site. This is the most respected and learned watch enthusiasts site in the world (I am somewhat of a watch enthusiast myself.)

For Meridian my 'performance' observations are drawn from historical information which can be easily found in the UK as they have always been UK based. For my comments of the performance of their products I went to reviews in the top UK HiFi magazines, both the current ones and the old ones. There used to be many such magazines, though today there are far less. JA, the editor here, was a highly respected contributor to some of them before he moved to the USA.

And living the UK and having been a HiFi enthusiast for at least 40 years I am very aware of Meridian's position in the market. Its position is so small as to be near invisible. How it managed to survive until Richemont purchased it I have no idea, except possible by its extremely high prices so appealing to the 'status' market. You never see it in HiFi dealers. I assume that Richemont purchased it to add to its collection of high-priced 'luxury' trivia in which it seems to specialise.

"The garbage you own".
So you think dCS, Naim, and Tannoy are garbage do you?
Maybe you should note that a dCS DAC WAS USED IN THE DEMO/REVIEW RIGHT HERE of the quarter of a million dollar YG speakers.

And overall, dCS DACs are VERY highly thought of by every HiFi magazine and 'professional' (such as this one) web site in the world.
As for Naim, together with Burmester in Germany they are probably the two best streamer and amplifier manufacturers in Europe. Naim is very successful too, which has resulted in it being very large by 'HiFi manufacturer standards. dCS, Naim, and also Burmester and Tannoy are certainly the equal of any US manufacturer, at any price range.
I suggest you try listening to the $80,000 and up dCS Vivaldi DAC, the $250,000 Naim 'Statement' amplifier and the $250,000 YG speakers before you throw out accuations of "garbage"

My gear comprises two of those manufacturers, dCS and Naim. Plus large Tannoy speakers from their top range. It is not at the extreme high level of the stuff I mention in this post, being 'only' the dCS Rossini, the Naim NAP250, and a pair of Tannoy Kensingtons, but I assure you it is pretty good, as most here, including JA, would probably agree.

mpb020479's picture

"MQA's focus is on feeding MQA files back into the supply chain, he told me. It's up to the labels to decide whether and when to make them available for download or provide them to streaming services."

When Jason Stoddard of Schiit Audio announced they wouldn't be supporting MQA, he outlined several reasons, two of which were that MQA wants "Licensing fees from the digital audio product manufacturers and hardware or software access/insight into the DAC or player."

If all that MQA is essentially doing is providing best-possible files back to the labels for distribution, why does MQA need the above?

tonykaz's picture

I agreed with Schiit when they published their opinion but have things changed ? Besides, Schiit isn't quite a Global force in Audio.

What the Chord people ( and the Smart Phone people ) have to say ( and do ) with MQA will be far more telling of the realities.

If ( and when ) MQA becomes widespread, Schiit will adjust ( probably ).

"A wise man will change his mind, a fool never will"

Tony in Michigan

CKKeung's picture

Will the original digital files be deleted after getting a MQAed version?

Archimago's picture

Boy, that would be a tragedy if MQA as described becomes some kind of archival format. No thanks...

Seriously, it's about providing good mastering that sounds great and 16/44 is already fantastic. 24/48, 24/88, 24/96, 24/192 data rates have already been here for years and easily accessible by almost anyone with reasonable internet speeds and with inexpensive DACs.

If an outfit like HDTracks commonly sell 24-bit albums that sound no better than a 16-bit counterpart because of crushed dynamics from the music labels, what's the point of exactly the same thing in an MQA partially lossy CODEC that we as consumers have to buy new hardware for?

Seriously folks, claims of jitter, temporal distortion and the ability for removal of such artifact is becoming more and more speculative as we hear about the rate of the music conversion and the unlikelihood that such rapid wholesale music transcoding really is a detailed effort akin to achieving a better master.

Streaming is indeed their only hope of making sales simply because they insist they can achieve 24/192 quality sound in a 24/44-48 container. But remember, we are looking at likely 50%+ increase in bitrate over standard 16/44. And audible benefits are likely questionable, which makes the whole value proposition tenuous. Without Tidal coming on line after all this time, with only 1 major label announcement, without actual concrete plans like even revealing a pricing structure for people to consider or anticipate, 2 years since the announcement... I suspect indirectly at least, this slow pace is reflection of market feedback.

spacehound's picture

Every time he is questioned by experts he comes out with different 'answers'. Now, when asked if it truly lossless he replies that it is too 'intricate' to explain and also says that there are many 'definitions' of lossless, which is pure, unadulterated BS.

Also his 'claims' have constantly changed from day one.
And I would lay odds that neither Tidal nor any of the 'major labels' have put anything more than 'investigation' money into it.

C'mon Stuart - tell us how many firm and paid for contracts have they signed??? Until they do it's all hot air.

doak's picture

After two years of talk, whenever MQA is mentioned I place my fingers in my ears and chant until it goes away. It's WAY past the time to "Put up, or STFU."

readargos's picture

With the promise that they've curated the best possible version.

You can, of course, download music from other sources (eg, HDTracks), but when you play back a file sourced from the Pono store, a little blue light will indicate that it not only comes from the store, but that its provenance is assured by Neil Young and crew. That means that if they say it's 24/192, it's not a 24/96 file that has been upsampled, but rather a true 24/192 file, either identical to a 24/192 master, or converted directly from analog to 24/192.

Pono's stated goal—to present songs "as they first sound during studio recording sessions", using "high-resolution" 24-bit 192 kHz audio instead of "the compressed audio inferiority that MP3s offer"—has received mixed reactions, with some describing Pono as a competitor to similar music service such as HDtracks,but others doubting its potential for success.

spacehound's picture

Pono appears to be dead or 'nearly dead'.
As are most of these 'dedicated' portable players - the main UK dealer just dropped Astell & Kern.
People just want to be able to play, via downloaded files or streaming, 'adequate quality' music on their mobile phone. And walking around or in a car, MP3 is perfectly adequate, particularly if you use 256 or 320 Kbs. They don't want to carry a second box just for music.

And it is the same with MQA.
Despite all the typical HiFi magazine 'Breathless reporting' which is an EXACT replica of all their Pono nonsense, my guess is that it will have vanished in a year.

readargos's picture

With Pono, my thought was that the people who cared about sound quality already knew where to find quality downloads. I didn't think a curated Pono library, guaranteeing quality for the quality-illiterate, would necessarily bring new listeners to the fold. Its only promise as a concept (not in execution of the physical product's sound quality) was the leveraging of Neil Young's star power to create increased awareness.

Somewhat similarly, the streaming market generally has not been geared toward (nor driven by) sound quality. The promise of MQA is higher quality that is not bandwidth-intensive, so it works with existing infrastructure. However, there is no free lunch. Someone will ultimately bear the costs of MQA encoding - the hours needed to encode the catalogs of music labels, and the value of the encoding as intellectual property - and that seems to be the end-user. I agree with comments that the average end-user will not pay more for higher quality, especially if it means a near-doubling of subscription costs for streaming services.

By and large, then, for music streaming services, MQA addresses a demand for higher sound quality that does not exist within the target market.

That still leaves the promise of higher sound quality, but that would once again be limited to demand within the niche audiophile market. In this sector, I think we're still talking digital downloads more than streaming, attuned listeners who want to curate their own libraries based on experience, tastes, and a lifetime interest in serious listening. I understand the value of streaming services for exposure to new music for those of us who share that passion, but how many audiophiles sit in the sweet spot and put the server on "swim" or let the streamer play? It still seems more for background listening while doing other tasks, where quality is not the driving factor for enjoying the experience. By contrast, serious listening usually involves a conscious choice of listening material, as well as a conscious choice to sit in the sweet spot and listen intently.

If anything, I think the demand for higher sound quality by the average consumer is coming from a different segment of today's music market, namely the vinyl revival. For the streaming market, people listening on-the-go or via desktop systems, buying a better set of speakers or headphones is likely to yield a larger increase in sound quality than paying for MQA.

In this respect, MQA could be said to be at odds with itself. It is targeting the streaming community, but what kind of system (what quality level of playback medium) does it take to appreciate the difference? And will the targeted consumer have that level of quality playback? A fairly consistent observation about MQA's improved quality is longer decays. To appreciate that requires playback that is high enough in resolution and low enough in noise (including environmental noise for headphone users who listen while commuting on the metro/subway).