Is High-Rez coming to Apple Music? Probably Not.

A recent post on Roon's forums drew my attention to an apparently new category at Apple Music, Apple's streaming service. The post pointed to an Apple Music page listing music curated by the ECM music label. After ECM "Playlists," "New and Noteworthy," and "Recent Releases" is a section labeled "High-Resolution Masters."

It has long been rumored that Apple was planning a high-resolution streaming service, but nothing has ever been confirmed. Also, anyone who's been following the streaming wars will find the phrase "high-resolution masters" evocative—most likely of MQA, Master Quality Authenticated, the codec from MQA Ltd. So far, among major streaming services, only Tidal has publicly embraced MQA. Has MQA Ltd, now struck a secret deal with Apple?

There's no word yet from either Apple or MQA (the company) about any such agreement, and without that, there's no apparent way to confirm or corroborate. Testing whether those files are indeed MQA-encoded would be a start—but that would require extracting bit-perfect output from the Apple Music stream and sending it to an MQA-enabled DAC to see if the blue or green light lights up—but that doesn't seem to be possible without serious hacking. iTunes isn't set up to provide bit-perfect output, and the Apple Music stream is apparently in a proprietary format. MacOS sends its output to external devices at whatever sample rate you set in the Mac's Core Audio, up to 32/384, regardless of the native streaming rate or format. Apps such as BitPerfect and Audirvana can assist iTunes in putting out bit-perfect data, but none (or none I've found) can directly access the proprietary Apple Music stream. If this is indeed something new, new Apple Music plumbing will be needed before it's actually useful.

Are these ECM albums the only high-resolution masters on Apple Music? I searched Apple Music for about an hour and didn't find any others; still, that seems unlikely. Whatever Apple is up to, it appears to be early days. And of course this could be nothing at all—just some Apple developer's fancy, inadvertently published. Also possible: it could be a legitimate new high-res Apple Music initiative—but some other technology and not MQA; the phrase "high-resolution masters" has been used in other contexts: Neil Young's Pono and Xstream ventures, for example. And Apple has long been collecting higher-resolution masters to create its "Mastered For iTunes" lossy-compressed files.

ECM announced in mid-November that their catalog would be made available for streaming on "services including Apple Music, Amazon, Spotify, Deezer, Tidal and Qobuz." The press release didn't mention MQA—but a distribution agreement with Universal Music was mentioned, and Universal is in the process of encoding its whole library into MQA. Much of the ECM catalog is already available on Tidal in MQA—including many (perhaps all) of the albums listed on Apple Music in that "High-Resolution Masters" section.

MQA has proven controversial, with passionate supporters, even more passionate critics, and much incivility on blogs and social media. An Apple Music—MQA agreement would surely be greeted with cheers, cries, and indifferent shrugs—and, for better or worse, ensure MQA's survival for a good, long while. Stay tuned.

Update: Apple still hasn't gotten back to me about any plans to add high-resolution streaming to Apple Music, but they've made their plans, or lack of them, clear enough.

Tonight, December 30, I opened Apple Music and returned to the aforementioned page and found that the "High-Resolution Masters" header has disappeared, replaced by a new one: "Featured Albums." The content of the section remains the same.

What the heck? I've heard (from editor Michael Lavogna among others) that Qobuz has a similarly named section on their ECM page. (As an American, I can't access Qubuz to confirm&$151;but Qobuz has announced that this will change soon.)

Just a guess, but maybe ECM itself maintains this page, and whoever's doing the work copied the design from Qobuz, including, briefly, the misleading header.

tonykaz's picture

Even their most critical Professionals are demonstrating eagerness for higher quality captures and displays. Phew

I see 4k Video adoption driving the Audio segment standards.

All one need do is visit any Video ShowRoom ( even Costco ) to see displays ranging from 1080 thru to 8k. Everyone is buying this stuff. ( even my Minister Wife wants one over the fireplace, like she saw somewhere )

Where is Costco's high end Audio Gear ShowRoom ?, probably in LG's announcement of it's partnership with MQA and maybe in boxed sets of B&W 2.1 Soundbars.

By comparison, we audiophiles are like the Camera guys that cling to Kodak Film and Rangefinder Cameras with the Vinyl guys in a "fight to the death" and the rest of us following along with Nelson Pass and his Burning Amp adventures.

Funny thing is that I'm rather happy with my RedBook CDs while my wife 'now' wants the technical advantages of an 60" OLED Flat Screen endlessly playing our family photo albums. ( I'll try to convince her that the new 60" Screen requires a XA100.8 Amp and a pair of Magnepans ). Hmm, I wonder if she'll compromise ?

Tony in Michigan

JimAustin's picture

However, there's still something to be said for old-fashioned film. Since you mainly focused on movies, I will, too: Remember that in-home audio is a little older than in-home video, and more mature. And in-theater, frankly, I find digital tech underwhelming. Here in NYC there are a couple of theaters that specialize in old-fashioned film. I'm not saying that it should replace modern digital, but it's pretty great. It definitely has its place.


tonykaz's picture

Certainly, most of whats being presented in Theaters is rather horrible to ugly-horrible. ( very "low budget" productions combined with lower skill levels )

I'll ( rather ) take you to the quality of the Video capability of a Canon 6D or the Cannon 1D. The stuff that a Pro-Am guy like Peter McKinnon is doing for his YouTube Channel is high level Art, comparable to Philip Bloom and his Pro level Video work output.

Low budget stuff like the recent Murder on the Orient Express is barely forgivable compared to the original giant budget version.

Even Dji drones are delivering quality.

Film delivers that "Period" old school look. An example would be "Better Call Saul" which is done in Film to get that period accurate look of 1990s.

The Film Era ended about the year 2000 when the Best Film outputs were compared to the best Digital outputs of the Cannon 1D.


... watching old Film is kinda wonderful, I appreciate the practiced skill craft of the creators.

But you can't do a David Attenborough Nature Documentary using any sort of Film, can you?

Tony in freeeeeeeez'n Michigan

JimAustin's picture

(Sorry, text vanished. I don't want to type it again.)

michaelavorgna's picture

Qobuz offers the ECM "High-Resolution Masters" catalog in their hi-res streaming service and it's not MQA.

Michael Lavorgna

tjf's picture

This could just be ECM's error in assuming A.M. will offer their hi res stuff. But,
-IF it's an "easter egg" type press teaser to gauge possible interest, &
- IF Bob Stuart & MQA could do the necessary $$ agreements to get MQA's foot in Apple Music's door, MQA would have an insurance policy against Tidal's recent bad financial press, and so the MQA revenue stream may need to be opened to the folks in Cupertino...

JimAustin's picture

However, Michael Lavorgna's point is also well-taken (echoing my fourth paragraph): Even if it's truly happening--high-res at Apple Music--that doesn't mean it's MQA. I'd probably bet against it. We'll see.

drblank's picture

There is already major record label support for converting to MQA and that catalog is growing and having a large catalog is key. It takes up less space on their servers and requires less bandwidth. Apple's been quietly adding FLAC support for iOS and AppleTV, so something's up. Also, Tidal is on the ropes and they are probably going to have to find someone to buyout Tidal. The reason why Apple would be the best candidate is that they don't rely on that side of the business for profits. It's more of a convenience for their customers rather than a big money maker and since they have kajillion of money, they can dump $ into promoting it as long as they need to until it reaches at least that break even.

Also, Apple might want to use MQA as the audio portion for movies and TV, which could be on the wings for streaming video.

I'm wondering what major announcements at CES are going to be made surrounding MQA.

MQA makes sense because not every country has high bandwidth to stream Hi Res audio if it's standard 16 Bit Lossless and it's even harder for them to stream 24 bit due to file sizes. I just think it's just going to be the most convenient method for Hi Res streaming music. And for those that don't like it, keep on spending gobs of money on Hi Res digital audio and having a small catalog to listen to.

For me personally, if they did offer MQA, and I could combine the streaming service content with my pre-existing content and then iTunes app would just automatically sense and switch playback mode, the I have the best of both worlds.

What Apple would have to do to increase their potential customer base is MQA enable as many preexisting devices (those with at least a 24/96 DAC built in) to MQA ready and then implement better DACs as time goes on. What I'm wondering is why they held off on releasing the HomePod last month. Could it be that they are planning on MQA'ing it? I'm sure they are doing more testing and improvements to the Siri portion but why would they hold off on releasing the product? I actually heard that they had much larger speakers they were playing around with in their R&D labs as this was a personal project their audio designers were playing around with. Tomlinson Holman (THX), Mike Rockwell (Dolby Labs), and others hired by Apple had some audio projects they wanted to work on to see what they could come up with. and HomePod is what resulted as the first of potentially many others to come. I'm sure they might be MQA supporters. They certainly have lots of respect for Meridian since Dolby Labs chose MLP instead of anything else for TrueHD.

Either way, I'm not convinced yet that Apple won't use it.

tjf's picture

I accept that HiRes streaming has other paths than MQA, but at this point MQA's viability is locked to Tidal's viability, you might say "Tidally locked"-- so diversifying to another platform may be essential for MQA's long term survival, hence the "IF"'s...If Bob and MQA mgmt need to make a move, this would be a great one...we'll see...hope Tidal sticks around for a while...

deckeda's picture

Hi Jim,

Apple Music streams only as an AAC file. That’s not a proprietary format, not even if anyone and everything is prevented from accessing it until logging into the service.

We may never know why ECM called one of their categories what they did. Perhaps an audio journalist could ask them.

This topic of Apple seeing the light is an evergreen one, and perhaps one day they will. One year it was when they hired a guy from a HiFi company background. Another year it was when they began accepting/requiring hi res files be submitted from the labels.

But can we first ask ourselves if Apple might stream lossless 16/44 files (as ALAC, most likely) before wondering if they’d weirdly skip right past that?

Your comment about high resolution masters being available from Apple (even, albeit just barely, in the context of speculation) verges on irresponsible.

tjf's picture

We could see a new tier of Apple Music-- where ALAC gives 16/44 CD quality files (ala Tidal) and then MQA, with their packaging working via ALAC, so Hi Res streaming appears on A.M., saving Apple time/$$ in getting HiRes going, in order to one up, so to speak- Spotify-- Apple Music's true existential competitor...
Luckily, speculation on my part can't be called irresponsible, or even verging on such..

JimAustin's picture

tjf, Let's also not forget that Quobuz recently announced that they're coming to the U.S.--bringing, at a high price, high-resolution streaming. Apple Music could see that, too, as a serious challenge--and the prospect of charging $35 / month enticing.


tjf's picture

The Quobuz announcement is good news for high grade streaming, to be sure, but Quobuz & Tidal are minuscule compared to the battle of the music streaming Titans- Spotify vs. Apple Music.
Apple might be looking to further differentiate themselves "qualitatively" from Spotify...Hi Res is one strategy, especially since Spotify had press releases a while back about plans to offer "lossless" quality streaming...haven't heard much from them since on this point...

AJ's picture

Good luck with that...

JimAustin's picture


Let's see: There's a page on Apple Music with a section labeled "High-Resolution Masters"--and you think speculation that Apple Music may be planning to make high-resolution masters available "verges on irresponsible." (shakes head)

Your criticism from behind a pseudonym borders on ... well, never mind. Such things are too common these days to get worked up about.

deckeda's picture

Please do not confuse me raining on your parade as wanting to pick a fight. ECM's named sub category is highly unlikely to be an Easter Egg hiding in plain sight about an impending announcement by Apple.

If you feel this is an important development at Apple, or could be soon, this is me saying I don't agree.

Consider the terminology used for "Mastered for iTunes," Apple's contour provided to labels for duct-taping what they submit so that the resulting AAC file sounds a little better than an AAC file.

If you have a copy of iTunes on your computer, and click within the Store link for Mastered for iTunes (right-hand rail) the resulting page claims:

"With sparkling state of the art fidelity, Mastered for iTunes lets you experience music as the artist and sound engineer intended. Capturing every detail in high resolution, this mastering process ensures a pristine listening experience on your computer, stereo and all Apple devices ..."

We've had that "state of the art, high resolution" with a "pristine listening experience" solution since 2012. And it's still AAC as delivered.

I take some umbrage at being made to feel as if I'm somehow being unreasonable for not willfully suspending disbelief at whatever was on the Internet post you based all of this enthusiasm on. I still maintain that ECM has provided zero insight into what may happen in the future, or when.


I comment with a username (as expected/anticipated by TEN's commenting software) and so do most readers. I've had this username here for nearly 12 years and have never had a Stereophile writer or contributor approach me in this way. I don't recall seeing you too worried about any of that when they agree with what you say. What we do not need, and I do not appreciate, is my commentary being made "about me," rather than the topic at hand.

Brown Sound's picture

I agree with deckeda on his defense of his User ID or pseudonym, as you referred to it. Some Stereophile readers have been on here since the forum days, it has been over twelve for myself. Our ID is our business and Jim Austin could be a pseudonym for Mary Smith for all we know. Sam Tellig was a pseudonym, after all. I have been a dutiful physical subscriber since the early 90's, so I have seen many reviewers and editors come and go. Jim, from your previous MQA battle posts, it is clear you are well educated, a Masters or PhD in Physics if I remember right. With that said, you need to work on your people skills, sir. Getting so easily offended and then basically calling someone with over ten years on the site a troll, is not cool. By acting this way, you appear to think you are infallible and we all know only JA is. Have a great and safe New Year everyone.

JimAustin's picture

But I have observed repeatedly that people who do not identify themselves, and so are not personally accountable for what they say and do, behave less well than those who are accountable. There are people who have very good reasons to hide their true identity--let's say, human rights activists who oppose a dangerous and oppressive regime. For anyone else, it's failing to take responsibility for what you say or do, for mere convenience.

Of course I'm not talking about those who simply use a userID that's not their real name. I'm talking about people who actually conceal their identity in their online postings. Anyone who's willing to sign their posts will win my respect and courtesy.

and by the way, the notion that I "could be" some troll lacks credibility. I'm pretty easy to find on the Internet.


Brown Sound's picture

Sorry for the confusion, Jim but I never said you were a troll,
"and by the way, the notion that I "could be" some troll lacks credibility. I'm pretty easy to find on the Internet." I was referring to your calling deckeda a troll in a round about fashion. Anyhoo, that was so last year and I have equipment to tweak for the making of shiny silver discs. I am looking forward to the continuing saga of the MQA format, since it does have applications in my field (MQA CDs). Have a great new year, sir.

Lee Brown
Calibration Technician

spacehound's picture

Why do you use "behind a pseudonym" as some kind of implied criticism as if it reduces the validity of what is posted?

Anyone with at least two brain neurons to rub together knows perfectly well that is merely a method to help prevent scammers, and others of evil intent being able to connect your internet presence to an actual person. No more than that.

For example, should you wish to get in touch with me I would be happy to send you my actual name and email address.
But I'm certainly not going to post either of them here as anyone can see it, and I have already posted that I live in the UK and have some fairly expensive hifi equipment. My actual name, of which my first name and surname together are not particularly common, though common enough separately, would be a personal invitation to burglars in addition to internet scammers etc.

JimAustin's picture

>>Apple Music streams only as an AAC file. That’s not a proprietary format, not even if anyone and everything is prevented from accessing it until logging into the service.<<

The file format isn't the only consideration; indeed, a big part of the problem is that a stream is not a file. Note that, e.g., Bitperfect and the other apps that work with iTunes cannot decode the Apple Music stream. So the problem is 1. Apple Music itself does not provide a way to extract bit-perfect output, 2. Apple's core audio can't do it--it outputs whatever sample rate you set (and for me appears to be stuck on a bit depth of 32-bits, and 3. is apparently difficult for accessory apps to do what iTunes and core audio don't do: ensure bit-perfect output.

Note that, in contrast, Tidal itself provides the controls necessary to extract bit-perfect output. If Tidal didn't do it, it couldn't be done for Tidal, either, even though it streams FLAC.

deckeda's picture

... is not the same thing as a walled garden.

But let's change the subject anyway, and talk about that.

To be clear, I would definitely include Apple Music's inability to stream a bit-perfect signal to be worrisome! But only after I could use roon or whatever to log into the service in the first place. And then only after Apple streamed something other than an AAC file.

It's almost as if Apple isn't really making any moves to deliver hi res audio.

drblank's picture

to their pre-existing catalog wouldn't be that big of a deal. They would obviously have to update their ITunes/Music apps on all of their devices to automatically switch back and forth, which really isn't that big of a deal. The thing they would have to do is MQA'ing as many pre-existing devices with MQA and hopefully they have 24/96 or better capability. I read that they were already implementing 24/96 DACs, but they never opened up 24/96 because they weren't ready to offer those higher res files. There has been plenty of interest in HiRes, but I think they were standing on the fence watching what happens with Tidal, etc. waiting patiently for the major record labels to convert and offer a big enough catalog to make it worth while. they have over 40 Million AAC songs, but there isn't anywhere near that many that are MQA. So they would have to figure out how to add MQA content to their pre-exising catalog and just charge another $5 to $10 a month if you want their existing catalog and Hi Res content.

I wonder if the major record labels are going to spend time doing standard FLAC when they are committed to MQA, why do both? At some point In time the MQA catalog will be as big if not bigger than the standard FLAC Lossless.

And if they offered to levels of streaming service, the software would just make available the catalog that's associated with the level of service, but they could simply offer AAC versions if a MQA version isn't available and basically you have the biggest available catalog.

deckeda's picture

As with [not] embracing Blu-Ray, I see numerous business reasons why Apple would not be interested in MQA. As end-users, we talk about sound (or picture) quality and what changes need to happen at our end. But there's so much more at stake for a company to "just" make "it" happen.

Regardless, the salient business feature for catalog owners and distributors is the One File to Rule Them All approach: a single MQA file would deliver sound quality to the snobs like us, and (relatively) smaller file sizes to consumers who will never, ever care about sound quality.

It's ironic that here we all are, fretting is MQA is "worth it," when it might not ever come to pass in any real sense. Talk about First World Problems!

But if you start talking about a double inventory of files, MQA's raison d 'etre vanishes, from a practicality/business model. That remains true even with it's backwards compatibility ... 'cause that's an end-user problem, but doesn't address the content owners' concerns.

Video services can support the good vs better business model because it's an easier sell. Apple has explicit movie versions they'll stream, depending on price, whereas Netflix sends the best it can and adjusts picture quality more-or-less on the fly. Only MQA comes closest to that approach, which is what makes it a smarter audio "format."

Just the other day I learned my new iPhone will play higher- res files out of the box, right from the default Music app. The 24/48 limit is no more. So, I no longer need 3rd-party apps that handle them. I no longer need to maintain two song copies in iTunes, or ensure nothing higher than 24/48 tries to transfer to the phone, irrespective of iTunes' optional ability to transcode-to-AAC on the fly as it copies songs to the phone.

I don't care if the phone's software or DAC truncates to 16/44.1 nor anything else. None of what I typed above has anything to do with sound quality: I'm using no outboard DAC, no fancy headphones in the car. But only dealing with one copy of something in the database is what it's about.

It changes how and what we do as users.

JimAustin's picture

>>If you feel this is an important development at Apple, or could be soon, this
is me saying I don't agree.<<

That is much more appropriate language.

deckeda's picture

... are not tone

As for my tone? Hmm, well, that's why we're all here, to hash out ideas, to the extent we're willing to acknowledge them.

It's a disappointment to read that posts here have not earned your respect and courtesy, as you say, unless their username is their real name, or close enough to guess it.

Anton's picture

I would hope that the resolution offered would be in the music’s highest resolution format and then we can let the market decide about MQA. Nothing would prevent those so inclined from taking the “Hi Rez” stream, allowing the DAC to perform some MQA magic to “origami” and “improve” it, and then playing it back via MQA!

Best of both worlds!

Then, if I don’t want MQA insinuating itself between me and the music’s original format, I don’t gotta; and the fans of MQA can still have their sonic cake!

JimAustin's picture

...that you'll soon get to choose between Tidal and Quobuz Sublime--assuming Tidal is still around, and assuming you're willing to pay the Qubouz asking price.

If musicians were getting paid decently, I'd say this competition was healthy. As it is, it's hard to see how an industry is sustainable when the creators are getting shafted.


Anton's picture

It seems, for now, I have cast my die.

I use MQA, but would rather it be a choice than it being a de facto standard.

MQA strikes me like a church, trying to insinuate itself between me and “the original signal.” Leave me alone and I will choose as I please. Buying your way into becoming a barrier between me and the original resolution of the source is not what I wanna pay for.

MQA should be an aftermarket audiophile choice whether, or not, to use it.

spacehound's picture

So do I.
To a fully MQA-capable DAC, though thankfully with the DAC I use I can turn off the MQA process entirely, which includes using the DACs regular filters. (Some lower-priced DACs appear to turn off the 'MQA process' but keep the MQA filters.)

And like you I want the original 'un-messed with' file too. If they don't provide that then goodbye Tidal.

At first I was impressed by MQA. After a few hours listening carefully I find MQA gives a FAKE view of what I shall call 'presence' and 'liveliness' on some recording and a 'dullness' on others. Probably due to its various inherent distortions which Stuart doesn't like to mention.

But despite all Tidal's MQA publicity stuff they don't actually have much MQA material at present. Which suits me fine.

JimAustin's picture

which I think are mostly admirable--I agree. Choice is desirable.

drblank's picture

With the exception of what one can afford. There are more and more people that would rather just pay $10 a month or something in that price range and have access to as much content that they can. It's certainly more affordable than buying CDs, buying Lossless or uncompressed digital downloads. There is a new generation of music buyers that simply don't have gobs of money to buy music and gear, but they still want good sound quality, and mobility. MQA makes the most sense for that crowd.

But you can still buy Vinyl if that's your preference, just like you can still buy CDs and rip them if you want, or you can buy any type of digital downloads available from a ample number of sources. It's just a matter of managing everything. Obviously, it will eventually boil down to which formats are the most successful and the market dictates that. Some music comes in limited edition CDs or Vinyl for the "super fans' that will spend the extra money, and then the lessor expensive digital downloads and then digital streaming.It's all up to choice and then managing one's catalog and sources of content in the most manageable manner.

spacehound's picture

Your article is headed "Is High-Rez coming to Apple Music?"

And in the first paragraph you refer to "High Resolution Masters"

MQA has NOTHING to do with high-rez or high resolution masters.
It is merely a method of occasionally, and then mostly only with new music, of 'authenticating' it and then sending the result in a somewhat distorted and lossy form to the end user. If it was 'high-rez' at the beginning it certainly isn't after that. If you disagree look up 'high' and 'resolution' in your dictionary.

But you manage to insert "MQA" in your fairly short report no less than FOURTEEN TIMES while referring to everything else, such as FLAC, already used by the BBC on increasing occasions and as a full-time service by several commercial streaming outfits, Tidal included, as "other technologies".

[flame deleted by John Atkinson]

spacehound's picture

To put what you posted in full - "most likely of MQA, Master Quality Authenticated, the codec from MQA Ltd."

Why do you think that?

Apple has already formally stated it will shortly support FLAC, Free Lossless Audio Codec, the codec from Xiph.Org Foundation, to give it it's full title and who it comes from, just as you did with MQA.

Also 'straight' FLAC results in a smaller file than FLAC compressed MQA of equal resolution, is free, isn't lossy, and doesn't require additional electronics in the 'renderer', which will often be an Apple iPhone. So on all four counts MQA seems a most UN-likely choice.

JimAustin's picture

>>... anyone who's been following the streaming wars will find the phrase "high-resolution masters" evocative—most likely of MQA, Master Quality Authenticated, the codec from MQA Ltd. <<

That is my judgment: the word "master" in the context of "high-resolution" ... that combination is, these days, most often encountered (in a streaming context) in connection to MQA. Perhaps my judgment is wrong. In any case, I can't help thinking you intentionally removed that phrase from its context to misrepresent what I wrote.

Incidentally, I notice a flame was deleted from your previous post--not the first time a flame has been deleted in one of your posts on this site. Do you routinely insult people in your face-to-face daily life, or is this something you only do under the cover of anonymity?

spacehound's picture

"High resolution masters" or very similar phraseology is not "evocative" of MQA at all. The term has been in common usage in 'digital hifi' long before MQA or streaming existed and some even use it when referring to vinyl. Tidal has just 'picked it up'.

And I see you are on your 'anonymity' kick again, even though I gave you totally valid reasons why it is utilised by the vast majority of 'non-public' people on the internet, AS YOU WELL KNOW.

I would in fact PREFER to use my actual name, but do not for the reasons I stated. And no doubt the MAJORITY of internet users who do the same do it for the same reasons as I do.
I use my actual name and openly state any commercial attachments in areas in which I am professional occupied, which isn't 'audio' in general or hifi, it's 'big' computing.

(Sorry for the big letters, but I don't know how to do italics or bold on this site).

JimAustin's picture

You can do italics and bold using the usual html commands. Just make sure to choose "filtered html" as the text format.

I understand why you find it inconvenient to post using your real name. I don't expect to convince you to change your mind--and honestly I don't care much. I will, however, suggest that you examine the choices you make when posting with a pseudonym. Would you write the same things if you, personally, were accountable? If not, and you post them anyway ... well, to avoid being insulting, I'll simply say that I think that's the crux of the problem.

spacehound's picture

Rest assured that my posts, agreeing with what is written or not, would be the same whatever name I use.

I don't really like anonymity. In fact in my employment we have an anonymous 'complaints' system. Nevertheless I always put my name on the tiny number of complaints I have made over the 30 yeas plus I have been there, and also openly admit to the far more numerous 'screw-ups' I have made :):)

JimAustin's picture

>>Rest assured that my posts, agreeing with what is written or not, would be the same whatever name I use.<<

I fail to understand, then, why you feel compelled to post anonymously. What's the benefit of anonymity if you say the same things in your regular life? Aren't you contradicting yourself?

spacehound's picture

Being anonymous does not lessen the value (as you appeared to imply with the other guy) of a post, nor does it invalidate it.

In my 'regular' life there aren't several hundred million people, some of evil intent, listening over my shoulder. Or wading through the scientific, technical, and immensely tedious (to an 'outsider') stuff that we produce, much of it not publicly available.

Of course 'Spacehound' is not 100% secure, but it's much better than none at all. I'm only 'registered' on two other public sites, not audio related and use a different name on each of them.,

AJ's picture

I would call it speculation, perhaps wishful thinking at best, not Right/Wrong.
Official word from Apple would settle it

AJ Soundfield

John Atkinson's picture
AJ wrote:
Official word from Apple would settle it

We agree. Jim has contacted Apple's spokespersons but so far no response had been forthcoming.

John Atkinson
Editor, Stereophile

spacehound's picture

Rather like speculating on the result of a football game when in an hour or so's time the result will be on TV.

But Apple now does support FLAC on IOS 11, though I can't test it myself as my fairly old iPad is stuck on IOS 10.

NeilS's picture

I'm not sure exactly what this article accomplished other than conveying to me the columnist's lack of grace in his frustration with being challenged.

dclark2171's picture

Apple does not need MQA...period. Why would Apple go thru all the headaches of making all their hardware conform to such. Plus, payt additional fees, etc to MQA for a niche market (HI REZ or REDBOOK). Qobuz streams hi resolution (16/44 and higher) FLAC with no problems.

Apple, if they go higher resolution, would stream Apple Lossless which is accepted on pretty much any DAC out there. Apple already has entire catalog stored on their servers at 16/44 or higher. To me it does not make much business sense for Apple to adopt MQA. The MQA owners would love Apple to make a purchase offer, I believe that is their primary goal. To get a company like Apple, record label group, or big time manufacturer (DEI, Sony, Pioneer-Onkyo, etc) to purchase

spacehound's picture

But MQA? Not a chance. It isn't 'free' and Apple likes free.

It's the reason why The Mac OS is just Unix with a 'pretty' interface on top. Employing programmers with the knowledge to write a genuinely Apple OS for the Mac would have cost them too much.

spacehound's picture

Thank you for this, which you posted on another site.

"Completely disabled" gives the wrong impression. There is no "bug" with the Mytek DACs. You can easily switch off Mytek's MQA reconstruction filter with the on-screen menu."

It has cleared up my confusion about the Brooklyn and presumably the confusion of some others.

Nevertheless it's a real stupid way of doing it, making you faff around with the menu. My DAC simply goes back to whichever 'regular' filter you have selected when it is not playing an MQA file and turns the MQA filter back on when the next MQA file is played. After all, it turns the MQA sign on and off so it can do the same with the filter too.
Doing it on the panel is as stupid as having to change the incoming sample rate manually and there aren't many buyers who would accept that.

Jason Victor Serinus's picture

As has been noted above, the title "masters" does not necessarily refer to "Master Quality Authenticated," or MQA. It may on Tidal, but Tidal is Tidal. I've written ECM's publicist for information, but the offices are closed through January 1, and she may not know regardless.

However, there is a High Resolution press conference on the first day of CES, January 9, which I will cover for Stereophile. I expect there will be a lot of juicy stuff there to share. Please stay tuned.

David Hyman's picture

should be april fools.

spacehound's picture

And I was the one who said 'master' doesn't necessarily refer to MQA.

I will go further, in the minds of both most of the music trade and 'consumers' (most of whom have never heard the term 'master' in any context whatsoever), it doesn't ever refer to MQA. Even Warner and the others who have reportedly put their catalogs though some sort of mass 'sausage machine' MQA process very different from the original MQA 'authenticated' claims have released very little MQA material.

Is there a significant market for MQA files?
Of course not.
The only people to date who have shown any interest is the 'about one percent of the streaming market' Tidal, the audio magazine business because unless it 'keeps the pot boiling' on any subject it can find it will cease to exist or be entirely reduced to 'free' internet blogs such as this site, and the 'specialist hifi' manufacturers who are looking for anything 'new' to recover their rapidly declining businesses.

Then there's us lot. There aren't enough of us to matter and about 50% of us would rather have a plague of rats than MQA.

Solarophile's picture

Some misnamed label on Apple Music website leads to a speculative post like this in what I believe is the primary North American audiophile magazine?!

Just seems like you guys are overly desperate to promote high-res in general and MQA specifically.

Clearly ain't going to happen with Apple. Lossless ALAC maybe. But Apple are no dummies when it comes to the lack of consumer interest in MQA adoption.

spacehound's picture

"Just seems like you guys are overly desperate to promote high-res in general and MQA specifically."

It sure does.
(Though to be fair Jason says he doesn't think Apple will support MQA.)

Leaving aside "high-res in general" simply because unlike MQA it doesn't degrade a high-fidelity digital signal.
The degradation caused by MQA is incontrovertible - every detailed measurement ever made on MQA shows that it adds aliasing in the audible band that did not exist in the original signal, and also that the 'high-res part of the MQA process is lossy, which the original is not.

JA has told us that the Stereophile writers are free to write whatever they want and has also told us that Stereophile reviews are not influenced by advertising. As the few who have tried are unable to produce hard evidence to the contrary we had just as well believe it.

And JA, re MQA, states elsehere that the vast majority at Stereophile find MQA superior because "it is possible that we are hearing the absence of PCM artefacts".

1) What artefacts? Provided the Nyquist/Shannon theorEM (it isn't a theory, it's a theorem, therefore it is as bomb-proof as Pythagoras on triangles) is obeyed, PCM is 'perfect'.
The filters might not be perfect of course, but provided they are placed high enough, which 44.1 might not quite allow, but 48K and up certainly will, the imperfection of 'real' filters simply wont matter.

2) Xiph.Org has produced mathematically totally solid evidence of PCM's 'perfection', as have IBM and Microsoft, the joint developers of WAV many years ago, and as could anyone else with 'college level' mathematics. If Nyquist/Shannon is obeyed there at no 'gaps between the samples' as often incorrectly supposed. 'Digitisation' of the data is 100% accurate within the chosen bit depth (which I will come to in my point 3).

3) The reduction of bit depth enforced by MQA is rarely mentioned. Many people, including real DAC designers, rather than magazine writers, hold the view that bit depth is as least as important as bit rate, if not more so.

4) While JA talks about the "artefacts of PCM" he chooses to totally ignore the artefacts of MQA, such as high level aliasing splattered all over the 20Hz to 20KHx band due to MQA's deliberately 'weak' filters.

So WHY does Stereophile 'promote' MQA so much???

'Promote'? Yes. Despite that the author himself, Jim Austin, states he doesn't think MQA will happen in the context of his report, there are no less than thirteen more direct references to MQA.
Whereas all the existing non-degrading alternatives, including FLAC, in effect a world standard, with ALAC second but some way behind, are not mentioned by name, not even a single one of them, but lumped together as "other technologies".

I find this behaviour very odd. They surely know about the failings of MQA as well as I do. That they all personally seem to prefer the sound of these MQA-induced artefacts (and its low bit depth) is just a very unusual chance happening and has nothing to do with MQA's touted 'superiority'.

arve's picture

iTunes isn't set up to provide bit-perfect output

I measured this a few years back: If you turn off enhancements, volume normalization and EQ, and iTunes (at least on Mac) is entirely bit-perfect already. The only applications I had problems with getting to output bit-perfect audio were Audirvana and Amarra - one had periodic dropouts, and the other compromised system stability.

Apple Music stream is apparently in a proprietary format.

You need to be much more precise with what you mean by "stream". The local output (as to the internal sound card or an external DAC) is, on all operating systems straight up raw LPCM data in whatever format the output device supports. It's sent from the application to the system's mixer. This is pretty much the same for all operating systems, whether it's Windows, Linux, MacOS, a *BSD or something entirely else. There's nothing "proprietary" about this - it's merely how the operating system implements the audio stack.

As for externally connected DACs: MacOS, and by extension all applications that utilize CoreAudio talks to those in an entirely standard way through USB Audio Class 1.0 or 2.0, depending on device

What iTunes (and well-behaved Mac applications will _not_ do is to change the sample rate from under the nose of the user, as it can have unforeseen and unwanted consequences for creative applications (DAWs like Reaper or Logic Pro). In the case that the system's sample rate does not match that of the source file, either of the application itself or the system mixer in CoreAudio will resample the audio.

As for network streaming of audio through AirPlay: AirPlay 1 uses Apple Lossless encoding at 16-bit, 44.1 kHz or 48 kHz (depending on the speaker) using Apple Lossless encoding. The format itself is open-sourced by Apple since 2011, with a patent waiver and a reference decoder. While I've only had a very cursory look at AirPlay 2, to be introduced with the HomePod, it appears to use a different protocol where the speaker instead just gets a pointer to an audio source, and fetches all of it, while decoding it on the speaker itself, thus allowing it to prefetch minutes of audio, so your music won't need to stop playing because you answer the phone.