MQA: Benefits and Costs

Enough has been said by now about the technical details of how Master Quality Authenticated (MQA) works to fill several books. But the technical details are only part of the story, and probably not the most interesting part—and they're certainly not what provokes the extreme emotional responses of many to the format. So let's jump into the business and practical aspects of MQA to which so many audiophiles are reacting.

From the point of view of MQA Ltd., what might success look like?

"Success" would be achieved when MQA is used to master most, if not all, new releases and back catalog of recorded music for streaming, downloading, or other uses. The higher the percentage of recordings mastered and released MQA encoded, the better. Nor must MQA be restricted to recordings of music—all sound recordings, including podcasts and, eventually, audio accompanying all forms of video, would be likely targets. Low-resolution and multichannel versions of MQA are probably already waiting in the wings.

More recordings released in MQA means more money in licensing fees for MQA Ltd. And somewhere is the tipping point, when enough recordings have been released only in MQA and it becomes the de facto standard. Then, as other formats such as FLAC and WAV slip away, MQA's hegemony snowballs. When Spotify and Apple Music come aboard, game over.

How can MQA accomplish this?

To entice music stakeholders, MQA offers the record industry significant benefits. First, its clever lossy compression scheme reduces bandwidth overhead, which translates to lower costs to store and distribute files. Second, MQA combines multiple resolution payloads into a single package, thus reducing the need for multiple inventories—master once and off you go. And to seal the deal, a third and final benefit: Since the MQA file is a lossily compressed version of the actual master recording (albeit a very clever one employing crippleware, footnote 1), and not an exact reproduction of the master recording stored in the record label's vaults, no more releasing the family jewels straight to the public. Take that, pirates!

Once securely in place in the industry, MQA would be very difficult to dislodge, and its very dominance would deter the development of newer, possibly better formats—or even discourage the retaining of such current alternatives as WAV, FLAC, etc., as viable choices in the marketplace.


What does all of this look like from the consumer's point of view? In a nutshell, allegedly better-sounding music in a reasonably small stream or file. But here the benefit gets tricky, depending on what type of consumer you are. MQA realizes this, and has added a spoonful of sugar to help the compression medicine go down.

If you're an audiophile who dislikes anything that smells of compression, MQA has added a "deblurring" feature. At the same time, they've sincerely done what I consider a good job of creating a compression scheme that looks transparent on paper, even at the high resolutions where audiophiles dwell.

There's one problem: We have no way of separating MQA's deblurring sweetener from its compression medicine, and thus no way to critically listen to and test each process in isolation from the other. Wouldn't it be wonderful if we could hear and test each process under ideal conditions to assess what, if any, effect each has on the signal, and thus verify or refute the claims made for MQA?

Of course, that would open up a nightmare scenario for MQA Ltd.: audiophiles deciding that the deblurring is good and the compression is bad. We would then demand that the compression scheme be scrapped, and that deblurring be offered as a feature somehow attached to noncompressed files.

Gone, then, would be the benefits to record labels and streaming companies, and it would actually require even a new inventory SKU: MQA Deblurred, or something like that. MQA's crippleware aspect—partial resolution with non–MQA-licensed playback, full resolution with MQA-licensed playback—would also go out the window.

So MQA will bind compression to deblurring tighter than white on rice, and make it tough to objectively or subjectively evaluate the compression scheme. This makes the job of the rational reviewer impossible: If, in comparing MQA to non-MQA files made from the same master, we hear any differences, we won't know what has caused them. We will be forced to assume that any differences we hear are the results of the synergy between deblurring and compression.

In my book, that's not good enough.

There are two issues here, and with their PR campaign MQA Ltd. has done a great job of focusing our attention on one—sound quality—and not the other: the hazards of a format monopoly. If MQA succeeds, I predict that it will lock in for a decade or two, or even longer. That will mean that all high-resolution files from the major labels during those decades will be formatted in MQA. No alternatives.

Some smaller distributors will undoubtedly continue to offer old-fashioned uncompressed masters for sale in a variety of formats, perhaps even via a boutique non-MQA streaming service. But with the major labels committed to MQA, such efforts will remain at the margins.

Which brings us back to sound quality. A possible format monopoly is all the more reason we should be absolutely sure that MQA is a format whose sound quality we can accept for the long term. But without the ability to even evaluate the format's compression scheme separate from its deblurring component, I don't believe that, over the long term, MQA is in the best interests of audiophiles. I just hope it's not too late.—Jon Iverson

Footnote 1: Two earlier articles on this subject can be found here and here.

Indydan's picture

Bob Stuart's MQA is the biggest con job ever thrust upon the music industry and public. An MQA format monopoly would steer all the money into Stuart's pockets, and force music lovers to accept, whatever crumbs he thinks they should get. It would be the equivalent of a banana republic dictator living the good life, while his people starve.

If MQA becomes the dominant format, Don McLean will need to sing "The day the music died" part 2.

drblank's picture

First off, Meridian spent a lot of money on development which was over a multi-year period. Secondly, they are spending money on the marketing of MQA, which is a constant expense, so in response to your assumption, nope. It's not going into Bob Stuart's pockets.

You seem to think in a vacuum.

One can buy or stream whatever is available, it's up to the record labels to decide what formats they want to have their content distributed and us consumers pick the one that suits our pocketbook.

I would rather spend $20 a month and stream a big huge catalog, rather than paying $20 an album for Lossless is they sound pretty much the same.

I haven't heard MQA, but having read several different reviewers plus remarks of reputable recording engineers/mastering engineers, they seemed to like it.

If you don't like it, then buy expensive Lossless Digital downloads, and lots of storage. And see your pockets draining at a much quicker rate.

arve's picture

You seem to think in a vacuum.

He's not. MQA's wet dream has happened before, in other industries, and it's been deemed universally bad, For the better part of two decades, Microsoft's de-facto monopoly on viewing web content in a web browser (through MSIE being pushed on customers) held back capabilities and features on the web, and in the cases where users couldn't do something with Internet Explorer, they had to resort to an inherently unsafe (and preexisting, but unremovable) technology called "browser plugins".

In other words: It's prevented free market access to new players, startups, and it's greatly held back the world wide web, and we're still not out of the woods with regards to that one. The one extension that's been around, Flash, has cost society billions through various security exploits. It took another monopolist (Google) a strong arm to break this trend through pushing Google Chrome on everyone - and while Chrome/Chromium is more open in nature, it's not a given the replacement is overall good for the market either.

The same parallel can be found in document formats (Word processing, spreadsheets). Microsoft there, too, have a de-facto monopoly, and despite there being actual "open standards", they become hard and costly to work with, because Microsoft's nominal compliance to the standards is just that: Nominal. A company, foundation, individual or non-profit often has no choice but to still buy licensing.

MQA is just that, but for playback of 2-channel audio. It's going to actively prevent new companies from entering the market, having disastrous consequences. We are just about to enter an age where computational audio could be coming into the mainstream.

Some of what is being done with machine learning and extremely clever use of DSP and control systems is inherently incompatible with MQA - as it relies on manipulating the signal while still in the digital domain, and much of it requires band-splitting and band-limiting that is completely incompatible with the de-blurring. It will rely on feedback from physical processes to compute and process corrections - corrections that will take the harmonic distortion of a woofer from 20% to 1%, and that will allow a system to go significantly louder, while taking up less space. It will allow you to have much improved control over the speaker's directivity and interaction with the room.

What it also will do: As indicated by the previous paragraphs. The loudspeaker has largely been a stagnant technology for the better part of 50-60 years. Yes, there has been incremental improvements here and there, but a loudspeaker in 1968 is much the same as one in 2018: A passive mechanical design based on limitations in material science. With the advent of powerful digital processing, sensors and comprehensive models of a speaker's behavior, that could greatly change. But it will require a new breed of inventors and audiophiles It will come from startups, driven by enthusiasm, competence and tight budgets.

Any monopoly that creates a steep price for entry to market, or for technical limitations will prevent that invention from happening, and we will be looking at a very, very bleak future.

yuvalg9's picture

Please see below.

yuvalg9's picture

Quote: The loudspeaker has largely been a stagnant technology for the better part of 50-60 years. Yes, there have been incremental improvements here and there, but a loudspeaker in 1968 is much the same as one in 2018: A passive mechanical design based on limitations in material science.

By sheer coincidence, I have just pulled out an Israeli hi-fi magazine from Nov. 1977 from a stack of magazines. On the back cover is an ad for 3 new KEF loudspeakers. Now, if you take, for example, the Cantata featured there, and compare it to, say, an LS50, the difference in sound quality will be so huge that you will want to turn the old KEF into a bed-side cabin. Adjusting for inflation, their price would be about the same.

It is true that the basic constituents of loudspeakers have not changed for the last 50-60 years, but material research, computer simulation, the development of exotic new drivers, new ways to strengthen the enclosure, new crossover components, etc. have brought a huge improvement in the SQ of loudspeakers over the time span of the last 50-60 years. It is true, however, that a handful of companies, such as Legacy Audio and Meridian, utilize DSP's in their speakers to great effect. Heck, even KEF utilize them in their LS50 Wireless! But they are still few and far between, and the vast majority of current speakers sound vastly better than old speakers without "resorting" to signal processing measures.

Anton's picture

Now, instead of "looking for a fight," Spacehound was accurately describing this whole predicament!

adamdea's picture

"I don't believe that, over the long term, MQA is in the best interests of audiophiles. I just hope it's not too late."
Combined with KR's comments in the same edition on SQ, (not to mention the letters page this month). This points to MQA really not being attractive.

crenca's picture

The author could have said more about what we already know about "deblurring", in that it is known art (i.e. slow, leaky filtering, etc.) unless Bob S. has really discovered something "new" in signal processing and if so how is he peddling it in audio when the military industrial complex would already have it classified.

Also, MQA's PR campaign has only succeeded with industry insiders such as this trade publication in focusing the debate on "sound quality". Consumers from the very beginning have been asking the hard questions about "deblurring", monopoly, IP/DRM, and the overall effect a software encoding such as MQA would have on our musical and digital ecosystems.

Matt Ruben's picture

Great piece by Jon Iverson. We could be live-and-let-live with MQA if its business model did not threaten to displace other, open-source formats like FLAC from the marketplace.

But since MQA's business model is predatory - and let's not forget that the major labels reportedly own 21% of MQA, giving them a stake in all MQA's licensing fees - we must investigate its claims of sonic benefits and consumer benefits. And most or all of those claims are misleading, at best.

Deblurring does not work unless the entire equipment chain is known, and even then it does not work on multitrack-sourced recordings if the individual multis were recorded with different equipment chains and/or at different sample rates - which is very common with popular music recordings.

In addition, as Iverson's article indicates, MQA contains DRM, because you can only copy, restore and play on non-MQA equipment a crippled version of the MQA file. The fully decoded and unfolded high-res version cannot be played on non-MQA equipment.

T.S. Gnu's picture

The danger with using the term balance is that it imports a false equivalency to the viewpoints. It is analogous to thanking a comment by a heliocentric for providing "balance" to comments by geocentrists. They ought not to be given equal credence.

dalethorn's picture

I use a non-MQA music player and a full-decoding MQA DAC. I'm not especially concerned about the DAC, but I'm very concerned about having elective DRM software running on my computer. So my questions are:

1) How much worse does a typical MQA'd release sound if I play it through a non-MQA DAC compared to my MQA DAC? I'm OK with CD-quality sound, and I don't have Perfect Pitch, so if tonality isn't perfect it might not be a problem for me.

2) Do we expect that non-MQA playback of MQA recordings might sound worse on average in the future than they do now, or that some functionality could be further crippled so that non-MQA playback isn't even remotely hi-fi?

3) Do we expect that non-MQA playback of MQA tracks could be locked out in the future, or that MQA tracks might be so tightly DRM'd that I couldn't back them up and restore them on a new computer without registering them?

In other words, I'm trying to get a sense of where the minimums are going to be for sound quality and freedom to back up and restore the tracks, if the official providers go 100 percent MQA.

T.S. Gnu's picture

1) How much worse does a typical MQA'd release sound if I play it through a non-MQA DAC compared to my MQA DAC? I'm OK with CD-quality sound, and I don't have Perfect Pitch, so if tonality isn't perfect it might not be a problem for me.

Even if one assumes it sounds no worse than, for example, 16/44 CD quality, the file size is larger than any equivalent FLAC container. So at best one is getting a larger file size for the same quality.


2) Do we expect that non-MQA playback of MQA recordings might sound worse on average in the future than they do now, or that some functionality could be further crippled so that non-MQA playback isn't even remotely hi-fi?

Depends on how cynical or gullible one is. Is what you ask possible? Yes. It is a monolithic system and you will be subject to the whims of the gatekeeper. Many are uncomfortable with that prospect.


3) Do we expect that non-MQA playback of MQA tracks could be locked out in the future, or that MQA tracks might be so tightly DRM'd that I couldn't back them up and restore them on a new computer without registering them?

Same answer as that to the second point above.

In other words, the minimums are at best what they are with legacy PCM, but may be capped much lower. You can backup and restore present tracks at will. However, the hardware and software players that will render future tracks/streams at non-degraded SQ will be dictated (or "licensed") by a single corporate entity. The illustration is more vivid if one were to use physical objects instead of files as an example.

Imagine the scenario of buying an LP that will play at native quality on the Thorn1 turntable, but at a much more degraded level on any other device (unless the other device is licensed by paying GnuCorp a licensing feel); further imagine that newer LPs from a later date may have further restrictions when played back on the Thorn2 should licensing deals fall apart.

dalethorn's picture

Most of what you describe are non-sequiturs for digital music. The only issue is the packaging, or codec. What's clear (besides the music itself) is:
1) The digital music tracks will be clear, and no worse than the *loudness-compressed* music that already comes via the Loudness Wars.
2) The classical and jazz genres will be self-policed by those involved.
3) Any other "art" genres will have to learn to organize like (2) to protect their music.

Edit: Adding to the above about "other" genres, it would be good for musicphiles of all types to form a watchdog group to monitor the integrity of their musical genres.

Music_Guy's picture music sounded like. Just as we lament on these pages that a whole generation that was bought up on compressed MP3 files doesn't know what good recorded music sounds like, so too the next generation will be brought up not knowing what could have been. MQA is deemed good enough for them. No variety, no choice. Just what the MQA algorithm allows.

DRM has won out over ever improving quality.

I am not saying MQA sounds bad, even today. But, it sure kills the aspect of this "hobby" that is the pursuit of improvements in sound quality.

Make no mistake, the compressed, then unfolded output does not and can not give us the resolution of the original higher bit rate file. MP3 throws away some information. MQA throws away some information.

Ahh, what could have been...

I 'pray' for continued existence of labels and artists not aligned with the restrictive MQA CODEC consortium to give us ever improving sound files.

georgehifi's picture

REALLY!!!!! What next!!!! To suck you in.

Cheers George

Ovation123's picture

Perhaps a very dumb question (but I’ve been busy with non-audio things in real life and have only very recently started reading a lot about the latest audio developments).

If I rip my physical media to FLAC, do I have to worry? I do use Apple Music for casual listening (it’s convenient with my gear) but still sit with SACD/DVD-A/CD discs for critical listening at home and carry a hard drive loaded with lossless ripped audio for lengthy listening sessions while out of the house. Is this “out of the house” option going to become impossible or am I only going to deal with this issue with streaming (a casual music source only, for me).

More broadly, I DO NOT like the apparent monopolistic implications of MQA, as I’ve gleaned from this article. I’m agnostic re: formats (as witnessed by my gear over the years—most of which is still in rotation) but I’m firmly against losing options.

dalethorn's picture

SACD and DVD have had restrictions for a long time if not all time, whereas CD ripping to completely unprotected files has been the norm. But we have CDs now with MQA coding, and worse yet, one such CD I have has no indication of it anywhere.

T.S. Gnu's picture

If SACD and DVD-A players were ceased to be manufactured, disc owners would be restricted to hearing the CD layer or the lossy Dolby Digital on the DVD-V layer. This is an issue with HDCD discs and the hardware required to decode them. Owners of MQA content could fall into this trap despite the lessons from history. There are many who do not wish to be forced into this situation.

dalethorn's picture

Stereophile is being instrumental in bringing these possibilities to the widest possible audience now, before it's too late. Audiophiles are paying attention, especially here in these discussions, where neither the pros nor the cons are being suppressed. Sad to say, that's not the case with everyone.

DH's picture

I've listened to MQA on an MQA DAC. I've found some recordings sound a bit better, some not so different, and some worse. I've even found a few I think sound worse than the CD version. Of course, I only can be more or less sure I was listening to comparisons based on the same master in any case, so it's hard to compare.

But from that my conclusion is "what do we need MQA for?"

In addition, I don't buy the whole reducing bandwidth and streaming argument. You can take a 24/96 FLAC master and reduce it to something like 18/96, properly dithered and it will be smaller than the equivalent MQA file, and will be, actually, less lossy (in terms of actual music content, not lossy at all in many cases). So again, the question is " what is MQA for?" - other than setting up a DRM'ed and controlled, monopolized music format?

Relayer's picture

Some cogent thought on at least some aspects of this situation.

KeithyD's picture

Man.........who knew MQA would be a bigger "Hot Potato" than Mpingo discs, expensive IC's and power cords?

Anton's picture

I think you are supposed to put it in the MQA Kool Aid.

digilog's picture

So who are these idiots? Look in the mirror: They're all you that keep commenting in these bottomless MQA blogs.

MQA is such a bit-player topic in audio, it ain't worthy of all but a few articles.

Hey, don't fault the 'Phile. They've hit a goldmine with MQA and baitin' the public for FREE content. One of the staff editors spews off a few paras ... and all you SUCKERS fill in the rest.

Are all your lives SO BORING -- and pathetically lacking interest -- that y'all are givin' away your limited lifetimes to such a small-potatoes topic?


Graham Luke's picture

That was good. Are you feeling better now?

dalethorn's picture

A little levity doesn't hurt. Much. Ouch.

Graham Luke's picture

'Format monopoly'; the two words that are the most significant in the above article. Thank you, Jon; you are SPOT ON.

Wdw's picture

I have tried to hear this “great new thing”, gone to trade shows, subscribe to Tidal but find nothing other than willful subterfuge and dishonesty. No willingness on the MQA group’s part to show us the improvements, if any....just rent seeking at its most base. Can’t we just stop this in its tracks!
Thank you Jon

rgelen's picture

There's a fundamental misconception in this piece, and that is that MQA isn't a format. It doesn't supersede lossless file formats whether they are uncompressed like .wav or aiff, or losslessly compressed like FLAC or ALAC. Indeed, MQA requires a lossless format to convey the data in a form that can be unfolded at the playback end.

crenca's picture

It is a format, a piece of software. As the article correctly states, it offers a "crippleware" (another word for this is "freemium")PCM section so that your "legacy dac" (Bob's description of non MQA dacs) can play something, but you need an MQA dac to decode the full software, because only an MQA dac recognizes and decodes this new format...

rgelen's picture

OK, I should have been more specific. It's not a file format like AIFF, WAV or FLAC.

T.S. Gnu's picture

Formats are either Pulse Code Modulation, Pulse Width Modulation (as in DSD), or Pulse Amplitude Modulation.

There has been a lot of conflation of terminology and it would be helpful if people referred to MQA as what it is — a codec. Then, comparing the "advantages" it bestows and the restrictions it imposes with that of other codecs makes a discussion easier to navigate. As in, what does this new codec do that others don't (the technical details sorely underreported by the audio press) and what does it restrict in comparison to existing codecs (ANY form of DSP)? The latter is rarely highlighted and it is good to see writers like Kal bring focus to that. Very simply, bass management and room correction are at odds with the BLOT — the Blue LED Of Truth.

For those who take comfort that the future may allow for these manipulation DS in the digital domain, it might be wise to remember that them that give and also take the away. The only assurances against unilateral impositions and dispensations are in open source standards. Perhaps it is the right time to focus on this aspect.

Exsomnis's picture

Tidal still maintains standard flac/alac album streams side by side with their MQA’d album releases and you can generally hear an improvement in SQ between the two. The MQA version usually sounds more articulate and clear - with a more palpable sense of presence due to the blacker background. The caveat being that the source material was well recorded and mastered to begin with.

Whether or not Tidal intentionally reduces bitrate on their non-MQA content is up for debate but if they aren’t, then I like what I hear with MQA. In the end, will it affect me as an end consumer? Let me put it this way - DRM has been around in various forms for decades now, and is not going away anytime soon. As long as high SQ mastering objectives are met and standards are maintained and propagated to a wider swathe of the music industry, I won’t complain.

dce22's picture

The "deblurring" feature will damage 44.1khz playback for everybody MQA should never be used in mass music production, for people that want to understand anti-alias/anti-image filtering watch this video

Rocky Mountain Audio Fest
Speaker: Rob Watts

Beyond Off the Shelf DAC Chips
Filtering in ADC DAC at 17:00 minutes

DAC Masterclass

AJ's picture

Nice piece Jon. You will now be branded a "Hater" ;-).
This is exactly what "they" have been saying all along.
Now, I'm perfectly fine if some stereophile believer needs unauthentic aliasing distortion (MQA) to make their spatially deprived stereophonic system sound less worse. That's a subjective choice, like a high output impedance SET amp or some other pathological audio widget.
Where I have to draw the line is at music being mastered with unauthentic aliasing distortion, so that all are forced into the cult whether willing or not. Leave the masters uncompressed and aliasing distortion free (aka "blurred") so we can both have our cake.

steve21's picture

The good news is all the attention MQA is attracting means audiophiles will be able to form an opinion of the product and as consumers will have some influence on how MQA will be adopted commercially.
Bad news is that after we get a good look at "the man behind the curtain" we see yet another DRM compression technique trying to capture market domination.
When 16/44 was prematurely adopted as the industry standard for CD's every one with an ear knew eventually it would be improved. What that improvement would be has been a whack a mole game between engineers developing new formats and consumers rejecting them. With the advent of 24/192 and or DSD downloads it appears the industry is willing to put its best foot forward as far as releasing the best possible quality to consumers. However when MQA's Spenser Chrislu says "releasing that format(24/192) is basically giving away the crown jewels" it reveals volumes about what MQA is trying to do. And so it continues.........The fellows that have never deviated from vinyl must be having a good chuckle.

NeilS's picture

Good column, better late than never, but far too late. If this column is indeed now "As We See It", I think Stereophile still has a lot of explaining for "As We Saw It": going on two years of incessant wide-eyed boosterism of MQA.

Anton's picture

Are you saying some people were for it before they were against it?

NeilS's picture

I've heard that Gregory Anton was for it before he was against it.

solarboy297's picture

then the record store. There is great music out there without all of this hissing at each other. Jeeze..

Laurence Svirchev's picture

When industry associations build standards they are are for the common good, usually. A good example is the old USB contraption, now superseded by USB-C and if you like it for your purposes, wireless transmission. Then there are not so good standards that limited what the ears could handle: 20-20kHz 16-44.
These are industry-wide consensus standards. But this MQA as described? Bad idea. It's not industry wide and it locks out competition. It sounds like monopoly. Everyone who reads Stereophile knows there is an art to mastering and presenting music. I've listened to older and remastered versions of Ellington's 'And His Mother Called Him Bill' and prefer the older one.
The multitude of companies offering different takes on music recording and play-back systems attests to the undesirability of a single format monopoly. "My ears and aesthetics are different than yours" should be the rule.

hapinoregon's picture

As an aging neo-Luddite with absolutely no interest in streaming, or any other computer related means of listening to my music, what does MQA mean to me? Will I still be able to buy vinyl and "regular" CDs/DVDs w/o worrying about yet another "up-grade"?

dalethorn's picture

No upgrade will be needed, so far anyway. The CDs, i.e. the masters they are made from, and undoubtedly the digital masters the LPs are made from, will be mastered with MQA encoding. They will sound similar to what we have already, on existing gear. Supposedly they will sound better if you play them through a DAC that has MQA code to retrieve the "extra" stuff that MQA will encode into those masters. It's anyone's guess at this point how it will eventually turn out, until the MQA company tells us exactly what processes are going into the "MQA encoding", and what processes retrieve the extra stuff out of that code when you have the MQA DAC. Without that DAC, the MQA company has assured us not to worry about anything. But there is some worry...

tonykaz's picture

Suppose you end up scaling down to a 600 sq.ft. little one bedroom for your Lazyboy days, only room for a couple thousand CDs.
You'll, by then, appreciate the technical people's continued work in refining our Streaming systems and our little handheld receiving gear.

Actually, all those folks that live a portable life will only have access to lovely High-Quality music thru Streaming Music delivery systems.

MQA is better than anything we've had before.

Tony in Michigan

Graham Luke's picture

...said which empirical study, employing back-to-back, blind testing...?
Better than 24/96 FLAC files? Really? Okay, other than 10 year olds and dogs, who can hear an improvement?

tonykaz's picture

You're right, of course, as an Audiophile.

I'm referring to our Walkman kind of portability type music systems, even iPods & ear buds.

MQA is a Compression type for our Smart Phone Marketplace. I can't see how it fits in with us Big System Audiophiles.

We discuss MQA because it aspires to great things and Audiophile levels of music capability but the typical user will only have an LG Tone or simple in-ear transducers.

MQA isn't for us, unless we find ourselves confined to a Smart Phone music system.

An Astel & Kern player and a nice JH Custom In-ear will probably out Play an Audiophile LG MQA Smart Phone or it might not. We'll find out soon because someone at Stereophile will now be reviewing the LG Quad DAC MQA Smart Phone.

I've had to live a Road Life with only a little Cassette Player and a few cassettes. Streaming Music & Video Content with RedBook is a wonderful dream realized. I can accept it as a significant improvement and advancement.

We just experienced John Atkinson auditioning an IRS V System built around & with a A+ Level Electronics, he used a simple SD Memory Card as the source ( not a full blown Vinyl player ). We are entering into a fascinating & technologically competent world.

I'm as ready as I can be, let them bring it on.

Tony in Michigan

ps. did you see the "Roll-up" OLED TV ?

Stevens's picture

A few truths:
MQA sound quality is not proven. Take up has been minimal.
The recording majors have not committed. They are minority’s investors in MQA Ltd. They and many others make HD steams available via Qobuz and others.
Qobuz has proven there is no mass market for HD streams, they went bust trying, realised the market is very small and created a new business plan on that basis.
If the majors were committed they’d buy Tidal. They haven’t.
Tidal are likely to go bust leaving MQA without a platform.
In Europe I’ve been streaming 24/192 at home for 3 years no problem. I can also do so via my phone. The Qobuz app allows me to select the maximum preferred streaming rates for WiFi and mobile data.
The Crown Jewels argument is rubbish. The majors allow unlimited offline downloads via Qobuz, but they can’t be copied.
MQA only has limited funds for further marketing.
I will eat my stereo if MQA has any degree of success.

Stevens's picture

The vast majority of the streaming market is low definition via Spotify. My kids 17 and 20 both use it. I would bet my life that no one at Stereofile could hold their attention proposing the benefits of MQA for more than about 30 seconds.
Moreover, as most streaming is by phone (a lot of mine is via Qobuz mobile in HD via a Mojo DAC and headphones, my kids use Chromecast), is MQA going to persuade Apple, Samsung, Huawei and the rest to build in extra hardware and pay a license fee for the privilege? Get real.

David Harper's picture

MQA won't go anywhere. Most people just listen to MP3. I'm an "audiophile" and MQA sounds like a well thought-out way to get stupid audiophiles to make a few people very wealthy. It not only requires exclusivity in the recording and playback, but it makes everything else obsolete!
By the time everyone figures out that it doesn't sound any better than a well mastered CD recording, it will be too late. We've been down this road before. The best sq I've ever heard was MOFI vinyl. Maybe we need RVQA. Retro vinyl quality authenticated.

wareagle's picture

I agree with much that has been said in previous posts raising concerns about MQA. From a philosophical perspective, monopolies are not good for consumers. If MQA does have this as an end goal, then I am adamantly opposed to their efforts.

digilog's picture

Not just dogs ... but sons-a-bitches y'all are born-n-bred to be ...
... just slightest aroma of three capital letters (MQA) ... and y'all come-a-runnin' . Beggin' fer more.... pimpin' the 'ophile fer more porn ...

Kirk to Khan: "I'm laughing at the superior intellect".


gsnorris's picture

I find this debate over digital acronyms instead of musical sound thoroughly depressing.

When I started music lessons over 55 years ago, my brain began accumulating the indelible sonic attributes of the individual and collective instruments around me. Much later, when I wanted to assemble a stereo system, I happened upon "The Absolute Sound" and "Stereophile."

The idea seemed straightforward: dismiss the equipment and focus on the realistic presentation of the music. And there I went, with great success, trusting my ears and sonic memories.

So, I must ask, what the hell are you all doing? It appears you're focused on how bits of data are collected instead of realistic renderings of the instruments. Do you ever listen to live music? What am I missing?

dalethorn's picture

This specific issue is not the normal audiophile issue where "more bits" or "better bits" with less jitter means a more realistic tonality. This issue is about audiophiles resisting a new packaging scheme for the music, because they feel that the packaging mechanism (codec) corrupts the bits. That feeling seems to be based mostly on the technical tests rather than the listening.

crenca's picture

...what you are missing is the engineering, math, and signal processing (theoretically discussed, practically implemented) being at the root pf the very thing you seek, the "realistic renderings of instruments". What you seek is provided by consumer electronics and digital software (even if your vinyl only, most new recordings are mastered in digital these days). These electronics and digital encodings are grounded on engineering, math, and "acronyms". You might not have any interest in understanding the place of all this, but then you have to just trust us when we tell you it is all "basic" and necessary...

gsnorris's picture

Very well said. I would be more interested in the theories and engineering if I had kept up with their development over the years. You're right - it now seems so esoteric I will have to rely on those of you who get it to sort things out, so thanks for that - to all of you. From now on I will probably dig deeper only when I see opinions on how the different encodings manifest themselves in the sound that arrives at my ears. I don't acquire many new recordings and don't stream, but that needs to change.

miguelito's picture

As you know many have expressed reservations with MQA, many of which are very well addressed here. I am delighted to see this in Stereophile.
#renewstereophile #canceltas

dalethorn's picture

I was curious about MQA, so I bought an MQA DAC and several high-res recordings in MQA format plus their non-MQA counterparts. I posted my comparison-listening results in several places, but they were thread-bombed out of existence. Stereophile is the most tolerant forum of all, but you can see the hostiles circling the wagons here too. I'm neutral on some aspects, skeptical on others, but most of all I'm appalled at the level of angst from a handful of erstwhile critics.

miguelito's picture

But I don't mind. I have a pretty decent system (dCS Rossini+Clock, Audio Note Kondo Ongaku, AvantGarde Duo Mezzo) and I have listened to a lot of MQA on TIDAL (fully hardware decoded in the Rossini) and compared to both redbook and high res I own.
- Decoding is better than not decoding (of course!)
- Decoded MQA sounds generally better than redbook (but it's not day and night, and at 2x the file size!).
- Decoded MQA often sounds a little different than high res, but never found a case that is markedly better.


boulderskies's picture

Well said sir. Its amazing how critical people can be of change.
So, what was your impressions of MQA with hi-rez files?


dalethorn's picture

I bought the high-res versions (24/88/96) of Steve Reich's Pulse and the Buena Vista Social Club album. I then bought the Reich MQA'd CD, as well as a 16/44 download of Reich's Pulse that was also MQA'd - apparently the CD and the download are the same. Then I got the BVSC MQA'd download from HighResAudio.

The BVSC MQA version sounds slightly brighter, but it doesn't sound more hissy or irritating on sibilants, so I'd guess that there could be something in the separate mastering process of that album for MQA that might not even be related to MQA itself. One of the mysteries of MQA is that we don't have a process to determine what was the more likely cause of the difference in sound.

The difference between the MQA and non-MQA Pulse album was very subtle for me, and I'd say that someone with a system that has a near-perfect and very extended treble would hear slightly more "air" and/or greater sense of space with the MQA version. I don't hear a significant midrange difference in either album.

In both the Reich case and the BVSC case, the differences I reported required that the MQA DAC show the proper "authenticating" lights. When that doesn't show correctly, or when using a non-MQA DAC, the greater "air" or detail (if that's what it really is) doesn't happen. I didn't spend much time listening for quality when playing back without MQA enabled, so while they didn't sound much different that way, the differences could be even less than the differences you'd hear between any two masters made at different times.

I don't use an MQA-aware music player, just a full-decoding budget priced MQA DAC. I asked a few times whether an MQA-aware player** could make sure my Macbook MIDI settings were always correct for MQA playback of different file resolutions, which I have to do manually now, but have never gotten an answer.

**My free Vox player has all options disabled except playback, so I do get the full MQA effect with the DAC I use, albeit I have to adjust the MIDI manually to get the correct authentication.

labjr's picture

In the case of MQA, I think most people are critical of the reason for it's existence more than they are for the sound quality. I, for one, don't care if it sounds better, which apparently it's a mixed bag. It's just a bad idea to hand one company a monopoly for what is basically a new filtering scheme(that they're supposedly gonna make better as time goes on). And it's deliberately bundled with lossy compression because nobody would want to pay for licensing for just some new filter.

John Atkinson's picture
I deleted several postings this morning because they were exchanges of flames.Please address the subject, not throw insults at other posters.

John Atkinson
Editor, Stereophile

spacehound's picture

That MQA has been totally debunked by peer-reviewed measurements by 'Archimago' and many others, both in and outside the audio trade.

And as the MQA supporters have been totally unable to refute such measurements, all of which are quite straightforward and repeatable by anyone with a few appropriate instruments and fairly moderate 'technical' knowledge, the MQA supporters have resorted to attacks often based on 'anonymity', choosing to overlook that, for example, Boyle's law would still be true even if his name had been forgotten.

Come to that, who DID first claim that 1+1=2? Probably some anonymous Greek.

T.S. Gnu's picture

it is refreshing to see this column in this publication despite it being rather tardy in its arrival. It is also interesting to see what was once a leading publication in the world of audio press, following a trail blazed by those who do not carry out audio journalism as their prime vocation.

It will be educational to view this episode with hindsight a few years from now, and see whether it serves as a learning experience to those who do not demand that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. Resting on the ground of "but it sounds better" argument without any investigation regarding mastering, EQ or even volume differences between the items under the "listening tests" especially with the easily available tools on hand doesn't provide a firm foothold for a rational discussion of the purported merits of a "revolutionary" technology.

A good start by Mister Iverson, and hopefully the beginning of an era of reporting incorporating more critical thinking.

dalethorn's picture

"It is also interesting to see what was once a leading publication in the world of audio press, following a trail blazed by those who do not carry out audio journalism as their prime vocation."

I consider Stereophile to be THE leading publication of audio journalism, and especially because they have allowed a great deal of dissent (including yours) here that has not been allowed on other sites that would like to be seen as leading.

T.S. Gnu's picture

Allowing dissenting opinions isn't a sign of leadership. It is simply a sign of not being authoritarian. Perhaps a closer look at certain regimes on this planet may clear things up for you.

dalethorn's picture

Bad analogy, Gnu. We need not look to political regimes for our examples of suppression, we need look to other audio sites such as the one that hosted Archimedes' article.

texanalog's picture


Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

Thank you for expressing the very concerns that other writers in the TEN network seem to have dismissed.

Jason Victor Serinus's picture

Simply because someone, in this case, me, consistently prefers the sound of MQA in products whose MQA implementation is superior does not mean that they've dismissed the concerns raised by Jon Iverson and others. Nor does it mean that Stereophile does not have a lot more to say on the subject, both pro and con. Presenting multiple viewpoints is what a magazine that's responsible to its audiophile readership must do.

For the record, I applaud Jon's AWSI, as well as the decision to publish it. As soon as I read it, I called Jon to thank him. Then again, I also applaud Jim Austin's equally cogent analysis, and the sound that reaches my ears.

miguelito's picture


My experience in a post above (I use a Rossini+Clock). I do find that on average decoded MQA sounds better than non-decoded - of course - but it does have 2x more bandwidth requirement so it should.

I am interested in your comparison between high res and the MQA version of the albums, for whatever albums you've listened to.

My experience is that some sound different than their high res counterparts, never better.

dalethorn's picture

I'd interject the thought that since an MQA'd album is a separate mastering (yes?), then we would expect the MQA and non-MQA versions to sound very similar only when the same person does both masters, preferably at the same time, yes? I don't know how anyone would do a comparison when the masterings are separate in time and place, under unknown circumstances.

miguelito's picture

If an MQA album sounds better because it is a separate, newer, better mastering then this has most nothing to do with MQA and more to do with the mastering.

But most albums are not. There are about 8,000 MQA albums on TIDAL. If you had 10 teams encoding these, each team doing 1 album a day, working every day of the work week, you would need 3.1 years to do this job.

Most MQA albums have been encoded in a batch process from the same digital files used elsewhere in the distribution.

texanalog's picture

Jason, I did not have you in mind.

I should have written (to Jon, of course): Thank you for expressing the very concerns that another writer in the TEN network seems to have dismissed.

T.S. Gnu's picture

Mister Serinus, it is not as much a question of dismissing those concerns but, more a question of why these concerns were not raised earlier by aforementioned writers. Did these concerns not occur to you and your ilk? If they did occur, why were they not raised within these pages before they were raised in other venues?

The enthusiasm conveyed in your effusive writing is very enjoyable, but while you "applaud the sound that reaches your ears," have you eliminated the effects of different mastering, EQ, volume levels before you ascribe the "goodness" of what you hear to MQA itself?

boulderskies's picture

Let me see if I have this straight:
1. The author is criticizing a business model & monopoly that may never happen.
2. The responders are criticizing something they've never heard.


Archimago's picture

Considering MQA has been out for >1 year and there's a free trial of Tidal Hi-Fi available. I think many criticizing MQA *have* heard it and remain skeptical or found it to not have been beneficial on the whole.

boulderskies's picture

1. Less than five of all responders here mentioned actually hearing MQA with MQA gear. Maybe more have but didnt say so (and I'd expect them to if they had). The rest are criticizing based on pure opinion.
2. Yes the author is discussion a possible (the sky is falling the sky is falling) monopoly but who said anything about a monopoly besides the author? Whats being proposed is ANOTHER encoding scheme with distinct benefits all the way down the chain.

So to my way of thinking, the article and the comments are pre-mature.

T.S. Gnu's picture

1. Less than five of all responders here mentioned actually hearing MQA with MQA gear. Maybe more have but didnt say so (and I'd expect them to if they had). The rest are criticizing based on pure opinion.

The problem with that statement is that you do not know the proportion of each of the two. Another problem is that some of the respondents are also including comments that include measurable quantities. A third problem is that comments by Lucey clearly stating that his mastered albums were NOT signed off by him are conveniently ignored.

To many other people's way of thinking, the article was long overdue. Refer also to Kal's most recent article on the same.

miguelito's picture

The author is criticizing a business model that has the potential to be all-monopolizing by construction - in fact that is the stated goal!

Meanwhile some other people are talking about the technical merits, many of whom have listened to MQA extensively (like me). A completely different dimension of the problem.

And to summarize my view:
- I disapprove behemently the monopoly aspect
- I find the technical claims disingenuous
- Having listened to it, I find that decoded MQA sounds better than redbook, most of the time, but you are using 2x the bandwidth so it must!
- Compared to high res it is same/different but not better in my experience

So on the whole do I like the improvement compared to redbook sound? Yes.

Do I want MQA to succeed and possibly become a burden on music production? No.

Do I think you could get the same quality with standard PCM? No doubt.

Archimago's picture

Yes. Well put.

T.S. Gnu's picture

3. There hasn't been a demonstrated necessity for the thing to exist

Assuming that respondents have not heard the thing they are criticizing is a bit naive at best. It is possible to do both since they are not mutually exclusive. Any differences I have perceived in MQA vs FLAC (yes, heard) have not been attributable to the technology itself because of other confounding variables (mastering, EQ, volume levelling, or substandard filtering).

No brilliance here to be awed by. Just first principles at work.

dalethorn's picture

"Any differences I have perceived in MQA vs FLAC (yes, heard) have not been attributable to the technology itself because of other confounding variables..."

Which is why there hasn't been a demonstrated necessity for the thing not to exist.

hellrider77's picture

I am keen on logic so I get sore eyes when reading pro and con comments posted here.

Leaving aside the shady interests of the Industry:
- Most listeners made their MQA vs non-MQA comparison using Tidal services. Non_MQA Tidal SQ is not up to audiophile standards to begin with. I fail to understand how critical listeners could bear listening to Tidal. Having this in mind, it is normal that MQA Tidal to sound better than non MQA Tidal, it wouldn't be to hard to achieve. But, I strongly believe that AAC+ compression would give much better SQ than MQA streaming, just head over to some serious online radios that stream in AAC+ 96kbps or higher and you can judge for yourselves (Radio Swiss Jazz that can be listened here is a fine example).

- what if we compare rendering of music on hardware that introduced MQA unfolding via firmware upgrades? Well, when I first upgraded my Aurender to MQA capable firmware, the first thing to notice was a general drop in SQ on non MQA material. Tried MQA and seemed to sound better than local 16/44.1 but still nowhere close to 24/96 or higher (please consider that I was expecting to love MQA). Downgraded to the factory FW and everything sounded better.

When making MQA vs non MQA comparison, please make sure that hardware/software is not biased towards MQA material. All measurements of MQA capable hardware here on Stereophile have shown that manufacturers made a "mistake" and applied MQA filters on non MQA material. (Aurender A10, Mytek). Some comments even said that applying a specific set of filters on non MQA content is part of certification requirements and cannot be bypassed by manufacturers.

I could understand MQA in the streaming context or for people that consider mp3 listenable. I would go even further and say that when it comes to modern-day mainstream recordings, they are so poorly mastered that it doesn't even matter the format, mp3 would do just fine.

Pop in an XRCD rip and there is no contest. Compare Tidal MQA with above mentioned radio station that streams AAC+ and prepare to be amazed.

miguelito's picture

Overall my experience with TIDAL redbook quality is excellent. I have done many comparisons of TIDAL redbook vs ripped CD (using XLD) vs downloaded files (PCM or DSD) vs ripped SACDs (via PS3). TIDAL def holds itself in most cases. In some XRCD cases the CD comes from a completely new mastering (eg Bill Evans's "Everybody Digs Bill Evans") in which case yes, the XRCD rip beats TIDAL.

boulderskies's picture

What about today's market and how people actually listen to music? What about them? The issues surrounding MQA do not affect "audiophiles" exclusively. You all will always be able to tinker with your playback mode, cobbling together multiple software installed on over-priced gear. Great, if that's what you enjoy, go for it.

But the overwhelming majority of consumers do not want to do that. They want good SQ delivered in stream-sized data packages, played on reasonably priced gear. They dont care about record label shareholder stakes in MQA, fantasy monopolies that never happen, the Nyquist theorum - they just want their music in a digestible form factor. This translates into streaming from a mobile phone perhaps utilizing MQA components.

Gumbo2000's picture

The fallacy of your argument is that, as you say "consumers want good SQ". The overall market proves you wrong. MQA is nothing.

boulderskies's picture

Are you saying the overwhelming majority of consumers do NOT want good sound quality? So they want bad sound quality? Makes sense...

People are listening to what YOU consider less than par sound quality because its convenient and inexpensive. But its been shown in recent studies that millenials are willing to pay more for better sound quality but they're not going to pay a lot and they're not sitting around in their sound rooms auditioning expensive equipment.

As far as "MQA is nothing," there is nothing in that statement to respond to.

T.S. Gnu's picture

Are you saying the overwhelming majority of consumers do NOT want good sound quality? So they want bad sound quality? Makes sense...

That is a strange vantage point to assume. By that logic you are implying that if you do NOT want a good smack on the head, you actually want a bad smack to the head. You might consider the more obvious third option that perhaps the majority don't really care for or much about sound quality. This is particularly true once a certain threshold has been met. Binary thinking doesn't lend itself to reaching logical conclusions in complex scenarios, and also often in simple ones such as the one you chose to rebut.

boulderskies's picture

I was responding to the "The fallacy of your argument is that, as you say "consumers want good SQ".

T.S. Gnu's picture

And I am agreeing that it is a fallacy to think that the average consumer wants good SQ. I am, however, also saying that calling it a fallacy doesn't imply that the average consumer wants bad SQ (which you attemted to associate that statement with).

I will, however, reiterate here that history shows that the average consumer cares not one whit about SQ (beyond a certain minimum threshold which appears to have been reached as far as their needs are concerned).

The last statement by gumbo2000 Makes more sense when taken in context with the title of his post. If people are happy streaming/downloading MP3, and while there is a slim chance that they MAY be persuaded to do likewise for 16/44 FLAC, the actuarial analyses by the content providers doesn't appear to support that although the relative gains in SQ at that point are tremendous going from 256MP3 to 16/44FLAC.

Archimago's picture

This is Stereophile. Aren't we here to discuss, share about, and ultimately aim to enjoy the best sound we can get when enjoying our music?

As others have said, MP3 is the dominant file format in the consumer world. As audiophiles, yes, we can tolerate, even enjoy 320kbps MP3. But don't we typically advise friends and family to go lossless when they can as a matter of "best practice"?

So too with MQA. We know that this file type limits the actual bit depth of an original 24-bit master, adds ultrasonic frequencies that were not in the original during playback, and can recognize that the playback filters actually adds phase distortions. Furthermore, so far, the whole notion of "deblur" remains mysterious and there's no evidence that this is even anything.

In the face of this, why then should audiophiles advocate for this? The business model is suspect. The objective performance clearly is not better than 24/96 FLAC (remember, MQA only does one true unfold, claims of 192kHz performance is nonsense in the current state).

Jon Iverson is right on more levels than this article speaks of when he said "I don't believe that, over the long term, MQA is in the best interests of audiophiles".

dalethorn's picture

Actually, we are here to learn about good gear, good record albums, and other matters concerning the enjoyment of music listening - with the emphasis on listening. While your opinion on MQA is well known, I don't agree with it or the contention that you get to define what parameters constitute "objective analysis" of audio quality. In the mere two weeks I've been buying MQA albums, I've been pleased with the results, and so have many others. If you're trying to sway opinions in your favor here, the escalating negativity around your article and suppression of opinion is going to push people the opposite direction, as it has me.

Archimago's picture

Likewise Dale, I've seen your comments here and elsewhere, plus know of your recent YouTube Explorer2 videos.

Over the years, I have known of people who prefer high bitrate MP3 in blind testing. You are entitled to your listening preference to MQA as much as those folks are entitled to a preference in their MP3. Ultimately they are both compromises but in different ways of course.

By all means, you and "others" are free to buy and enjoy MQA. I am here to lend support to Mr. Iverson's sentiment and suggest that there are other rational reasons why he is correct.

"Escalating negativity around your article"?

"Suppression of opinion"?

I don't know about the former. But certainly the latter is not what I'm about. Sometimes, opinions are resisted because they're simply wrong in the face of actual facts.

T.S. Gnu's picture

It would seem that the quote


Aren't we here to discuss, share about, and ultimately aim to enjoy the best sound we can get when enjoying our music?

is pretty much what Stereophile is about. Straight from the pony's pouty-place(

For your edification:


According to editor John Atkinson, “Whatever the medium via which audiophiles choose to enjoy their music — be it two-channel or surround-sound,CD, SACD, DVD-A, MP3, LP or whatever — you will be able to read about it and how to get the best from it in Stereophile."

Besides the article (and a significant portion of the following discussion) is precisely focussing on "other matters concerning the enjoyment of music listening" with the appropriate term format monopoly to highlight those matters of concern.


Actually, we are here to learn about good gear, good record albums, and other matters concerning the enjoyment of music listening.

While you have expressed your opinions and linked to them, you have yet to provide facts (other than non-contestable ones such as "I liked how it sounded" which factually state your opinion) despite having promised to do so. I look forward to reading them.

dalethorn's picture

I stated the only facts that matter. You haven't contradicted those actual facts. The alleged ancillary matters, be they hidden distortions or potential DRM etc., are only alleged.

T.S. Gnu's picture

There appears to be some miscommunication as to what the facts are, Thorn. Hence, the request for clarification, which is yet to be forthcoming.

As I understand, your opinion is that you like the sound of some MQA files you have compared to others (without any verification online of eliminating effects of mastering, EQing and filtering; please provide links to correct any misconception we may have on this).

There is no alleging involved. Simply a question of have you confirmed that you are comparing apples to apples. You haven't shown that to be the case, and until then it is an unknown and therefore questionable. This is not an unreasonable ask, since people have compared the Norah Jones SACD to the CD layer and found it better, despite it being the upsampled CD layer. The fact is, no one knows what two quantities you are comparing at the moment.

The only other fact is that you have an opinion about something. No one can contradict the fact that you like something over something else, and expectations of contradictions to that are going to be unmet.

dalethorn's picture

My opinion is based on actual comparisons of MQA'd and non-MQA'd versions of the same albums. Those are factual comparisons you deliberately ignore.

spacehound's picture

Are genuine ones. Any others are not 'facts' at all.

Here's four facts about MQA:
It discards much data that is in the studio master.
It adds distortions that were not in the studio master.
It has the potential for DRM.
Some of that DRM potential is already being used as you can't have the full effect of MQA without having an MQA DAC.

Being facts they are incontestable by definition. Thus "alleged" does not apply. So I do not understand why you are attempting to discuss them as such attempts are bound to fail.

dalethorn's picture

Every new master shares those "facts" or potential facts. Next?

spacehound's picture

Only masters that actually USE the MQA process to make the original recording.

And to date there is only one ADC in existence that can do that, it has only existed for a short time, and is not widely used.

And it will anyway produce a low quality master because of the things it loses and adds, so may not become widely used.

BTW: Tt is not necessary to put quotes around the work fact.

dalethorn's picture

Quotes around "fact" refer to the fact that what you state as a fact isn't necessarily a proven fact, instead it's an asserted fact.

BTW, non-MQA masters *might* have any of the problems that are attributed to MQA. It's the randomness of complex processes that can't always be predicted.

spacehound's picture

In that manner it's fine by me.

Though I am mildly (only mildly) curious why you should want to do that.

dalethorn's picture

"Deluded" is a false statement. If that's an example of your facts, then you have no facts. I got into this with an investigation buying a new DAC and several albums. I'm sure you're aware that the topics reporting my investigations got extremely suppressed on several sites. That tells me a lot, and tells others here too.

spacehound's picture

"aware" of you at all.

The only suppression I've ever seen is the refusal of Stuart and of some writers in US-based (only) magazines, both paper and online, to engage with the facts, probably because, being facts, they are indisputable.

BTW: I'm a mathematician by both qualification and occupation. MQA is pretty simple stuff and none of the measurements made on it are in any way difficult or esoteric. And as you seem unwilling to engage in meaningful discussion either, I, like Archimago, see no point in continuing this conversation with you so don't intend to.

dalethorn's picture

You haven't seen any suppression? How can you say that? The suppression by CA has been extremely well documented here, and you have been part of those discussions. Your entire participation here has been extremely negative, with many of your posts removed. BTW, I've been a member of the audio forums you post on, for years, always posting under my real name.

boulderskies's picture

Are we any further ahead after reading the last 15 posts?

We learned that people cant have their own set of facts. We should explain that to the media and some other highly placed officials.

But what I came away with was the same thing I always come away with when I read circular discussions like the above: It is SO easy to mix objective with subjective. Objective means graphs & charts; Subjective means, "Does it sound good?" I think the above discussion was objective-based; I dont really care about objective and I dont care about "facts" in this one area of my life. And I sure as hell dont care about one persons' ability to see into the future and alert us that the MQA business model will be a bad thing.

I simply want to know if others think MQA sounds good or not. How hard can that be?

T.S. Gnu's picture

I simply want to know if others think MQA sounds good or not. How hard can that be?

If all you care about is whether something sounds good to you, why would you care about what others think? Linn's tag-line is "Just Listen" for precisely that reason.

You also don't get to define your own terms. Objective doesn't mean "graphs & charts" unless one takes a very callow approach; it means "why does it sound good?" in response to the subjective "Does it sound good?" If all you care about is the latter, then by all means these discussions may be tedious for you.

However, the underlying issue that you appear to be ignoring is that the article and the discussion is not even there yet. There is still the problem of people actually not knowing what the "it" actually is when it comes to MQA.

dalethorn's picture

Disagree. I know exactly what the "it" is for MQA. I've read it in Bob Stuart's papers as well as other readings of it. I can also hear it, although the effect varies according to the mastering.

boulderskies's picture

Now there's a short, honest post: Dalethorn has spent the time to understand exactly what MQA is and to discover that its resulting SQ depends on the quality of the mastering. If we could filter out the posts of those that havent done this, we would save a lot of time and opinion postings.

And to the person who simply wants to take issue with whatever I say, "Objective" most certainly does mean "charts & graphs." You might want to check your definition of callow. And as Dalethorn has pointed out, many people know (objectively) what MQA is. Its the ones that dont that cause all the opinions and circular discussions. And its the people like me who try and filter out one from the other.

spacehound's picture

No, he's just read 'papers' from Stuart, who hopes to make money out of it, and maybe some others. And some of Stuart's papers are simply untrue. At one point he attempted to re-define the internationally accepted and mathematically proved definition of 'lossy' for example.
And Stuart, in his own words, refuses to "engage" on some other problems, such as the always demonstrable and sometimes audible 'aliasing' that MQA adds to the studio master.

The 'not particularly difficult' measurements tell us EXACTLY what MQA is.

AFAIK Dale hasn't made any (if he has he seems reluctant to tell us what they were, despite being asked) so he is presumably relying on his personal preferences which may or may not be the same as anyone else's.

And taking measurements doesn't prevent you from listening.

dalethorn's picture

I'm certain you've seen my link to my tests. Perhaps you can tell us about specific albums you've compared and your listening results.

spacehound's picture

Other than being someone who posts occasionally on here I have never heard of you.

Albums? Only a few, and only on Tidal, which is the only significant source of MQA files at present. Though of course one cannot describe Tidal itself as in any way significant.
Anyway only 0.02% of Tidal's repertoire is MQA and they seem to be introducing new MQA ones less and less often.

In any case there is little point in 'testing' things that are demonstrated not to work as claimed. Maybe Tidal thinks the same.

What do I think subjectively? MQA doesn't appear to damage 44.1 files but it doesn't 'improve' supposedly high-res ones either, though on some music its distortions can produce a fake 'liveliness' that may appeal to some people.

dalethorn's picture

You've been informed of my tests, and rather than look, you just claim ignorance? Then why are you even arguing here? BTW, I post under my real name, and I've been doing so for a long time.

spacehound's picture hardly of interest to anyone else. You aren't interested in them either.

And you have learnt that SOME people have their own set of 'facts'. Genuine facts are not 'owned' by anyone and they don't require 'belief' or human 'approval'.

Also "sounds good or not" is merely about personal preference and has ZERO to do with 'high fidelity" which is presumably what many of us pay for.
You say you want to know what others think. What for?

MQA. The facts are presented.
They demonstrate that an MQA file bears little resemblance to the 'studio masters' which are the best that we fairly easily have 'at home' access to. For example, HD Tracks and others have millions of them as most music is recorded in 96/24 or 192/24 PCM or sometimes DSD. To date the record companies don't appear to have done extra work 'messing' with them, though with the arrival of MQA some of the record companies appear to be half-heartedly releasing a few that MQA has messed with.

boulderskies's picture

But we pay for High Fidelity because it sounds good. At least I do.

Agree with your MQA paragraph.

spacehound's picture

We all have our preferences. Sometimes we CAN equate them to 'high fidelity' even though we may have never heard the musicians playing live.

For example. I have recordings of an orchestra that was recorded in DSD and PCM simultaneously.
The high-pitched solo violin sounds even more ear-splitting in DSD than it is in PCM. And as 192/24 PCM and 128 or 256 DSD are near enough distortion free in the audible band the PCM version HAS to be losing something :-)

dalethorn's picture

Science 101:

"Even fact can be proven false, in error, or wanting in some way. Science doesn't really prove things to be true, it just proves things to be false, leaving truth in the wake like an archer zeroing in on her target."