Mastering Engineer Brian Lucey Rips MQA...

Discussion in 'Audio Hardware' started by Fair Hedon, Nov 6, 2017.

  1. LeeS

    LeeS Audio Research Fan

    Fine by me. No conspiracy here. I'm just a reviewer trying to learn more about MQA and experiment with some Tidal files.

    I have a Mytek Manhattan II inbound soon so I will also be able to hear MQA file differences on that too.
    Billy Budapest likes this.
  2. LeeS

    LeeS Audio Research Fan

    One thing I may do is talk further with Michel at Mytek and share some of the things I learn. Or better yet, write it up for Part-Time Audiophile so you skeptics drive traffic to our website. ;)
    Billy Budapest and Bubbamike like this.
  3. Fair Hedon

    Fair Hedon Active Member Thread Starter

    Don't you think if you are going to talk to Michal @ Mytek to "learn" about MQA, it might be a good idea to talk
    to the manufacturers who have spoken out against MQA? Like Bryston, Linn, Benchmark Ayre, Schiit, etc....and not
    just someone who has a distinct financial interest in MQA succeeding?
  4. Fair Hedon

    Fair Hedon Active Member Thread Starter

    Will you compare the Tidal MQA streams to the corresponding hirez downloads? Because that is something all reviewers
    so far have refused to do.

    And to be frank, you have been less than forthcoming. You did not reveal you area an admin for the group, which indeed
    does include Bob Stuart, and a host of other reviewers and MQA dealers. Hardly just hobbyists.
    Billy Budapest likes this.
  5. LeeS

    LeeS Audio Research Fan

    Yes, it's always good to hear from both sides. I know Mark Waldrep well and I know John Siau from Benchmark and I'm currently reviewing both the AHB2 and the DAC3 from them. I already interviewed John but not on this topic.
    Billy Budapest likes this.
  6. LeeS

    LeeS Audio Research Fan

    I might talk to Charlie at Ayre as well.
    Billy Budapest likes this.
  7. Fair Hedon

    Fair Hedon Active Member Thread Starter

    Good idea. why wouldn’t you? The only reason would be if you had no interest in hearing
    anything negative about MQA.
    Billy Budapest likes this.
  8. Fair Hedon

    Fair Hedon Active Member Thread Starter

    They would be on my speed dial list.
    Billy Budapest likes this.
  9. LeeS

    LeeS Audio Research Fan

    Peter Veth is an enthusiast who runs an environmental sciences firm in the Netherlands. I just searched the members and saw Bob Stuart's name but I don't recall him ever commenting. Based on a quick page search, I did not see any Stuart comments. Steve Stone from TAS and a few other reviewers are on it but Steve's just exploring like me to learn more. I think he was a bit of a skeptic in our last conversation.

    I hardly think this is some kind of conspiracy page as you are intimating.
  10. Fair Hedon

    Fair Hedon Active Member Thread Starter

    I just find it interesting a reviewer, who is supposed to be neutral, would join an MQA "enthusiasts" group, filled
    with many with direct financial ties to MQA succeeding. And in fact, many of the members of your group have taken to the forums
    tirelessly cheerleading MQA and endlessly countering any logical and technical warnings against it. Several were booted from Computer
    Audiophile etc.
  11. LeeS

    LeeS Audio Research Fan

    What better way to learn about MQA than from the people actually inventing it? And those inventing it will of course have financial interests in it.

    Speaking of financial interests, this whole format will thrive or sink based on whether people buy the end product. That's one of the great things about capitalism. The free market sorts things out.

    Which members were booted from Computer Audiophile? And can you provide links of members "cheerleading" it on forums?
  12. Fair Hedon

    Fair Hedon Active Member Thread Starter

    Oh dear. So, no independent research needed, just go with what Uncle "40 million in the red" Stuart claims and call it a day?

    Banned? Why don't we start with Peter Veth, lol.....
  13. Brother_Rael

    Brother_Rael Forum Resident

    Scottish Borders
    What better way? A method that critiques the process objectively maybe? If only @Archimago had done something like that...
    Balthazar likes this.
  14. If MQA is changing things enough that you'd end up altering your mastering to suit MQA then that makes for a very convincing argument against MQA. Especially if the labels are applying MQA to past master files and end up altering their sound in ways that you don't approve of and would rather do a remastering for MQA instead of letting the old masters get converted to MQA. If the MQA processing is affecting the sound of the mastered files that much, then MQA cannot claim that the MQA sound is what the mastering engineer intended.

    If MQA processing really is changing the sound of the master files that much in ways that diverge from what the mastering engineer intended then mastering engineers and other people concerned need to be vocal about that. That is valid criticism of MQA.

    The MID and SIDE balance is critical. Especially for modern style mastering. And especially for me as a headphone listener. Altering the MID SIDE balance can change the tone and the sense of depth. I can hear that by playing with different digital filters on the playback side or DAC. It's a delicate balance. Good mastering engineers are obviously taking that into account and are adjusting the sound and EQ and MID/SIDE balance to suit the characteristics of AD converter and other processing they are using. You don't master the same for every AD converter. I'm quite aware that different AD converters sound different, just like how different DACs sound different.

    The difficulty with that argument is that very very few of us here (and even fewer elsewhere) have heard a professionally done recording go through the process from recording to mixing to mastering and the changes that happen to the sound through each step. I have never heard that. I have never heard a pure mic feed. I've never heard a recording as the mastering engineer heard it. I have no idea how the two compare. I have no idea if MQA is getting the sound closer to the sound the mics heard or closer to the sound the mastering engineer heard or whatever. This is a case where the mastering engineers and other involved in audio engineering need to tell us. Because we have little to no experience with that. If MQA is promising that we're getting closer to the sound the mics heard or closer to the sound the mastering engineer intended when that is not the case then tell us.
    crispi and kevinsinnott like this.
  15. I agnostic about MQA’s effect on sound quality, having not had enough exposure to it, but their over-the-top marketing push has really turned me off. It has also caused me to not renew my 30 year subscription to TAS, because my opinion of their credibility has been reduced to nil. Nonetheless, I am not going to make any pronouncements about how MQA sounds until I have more exposure to it.

    Some industry figures who I greatly respect have come out against MQA for a variety of reasons, and that has me questioning the motivations of the developers of MQA and has sowed doubt about the technology behind it. John Siau’s 2016 “hit piece” on MQA is particularly persuasive to me:

    Is MQA DOA?
    Shivermetimbers likes this.
  16. Bubbamike

    Bubbamike Forum Resident

    In the Facebook The Audiophile Group this is the reaction to discussing MQA:

    Michael, you miss the point. We don’t give a damn. We aren’t trying to prove anything to you or ourselves or anyone. We don’t care about your comparisons. We are just listening to great sounding music, and it IS great sounding music, through MQA, and having a good time.

    So there you go, the Audiophile reaction, we don’t care if we are being scammed as long as we are happy cows.
    Rolltide, gd0, LarryP and 3 others like this.
  17. Balthazar

    Balthazar Forum Resident

    That's the big MQA "improvement" in a nutshell.

    The loudness difference was plainly noticeable when I tried a casual A/B switching between a Meridian Explorer and a Benchmark DAC on Tidal tracks . It's Stereo Salesman 101. Turn It Up to Move It Out.

    Level matched, any improvement claims would disappear.
  18. Shivermetimbers

    Shivermetimbers Forum Resident

    Somewhere, someone had a romantic and/or cynical mental image of all these discerning music lovers sat there satisfied and reassured because their little blue 'MQA-approved' LED was telling them they'd done the right thing, the best thing. Not only that, but that they'd go and buy the right material to keep the blue LED of validation alive. Why wouldn't you? And so the behaviour creates the demand.

    Something about that makes me feel ill.
    showtaper likes this.
  19. telemike

    telemike Well-Known Member

    Greensboro, NC
    Due to the adaptive filters, the high frequency content that is reproduced at the end of the MQA chain is not the same as what was present in the original high sample rate files. If you ask me, I would rather listen to the original high-resolution content than a processed "enhanced" version.

    MQA requires a lossless transmission system from the file source to the final D/A converter. Benign DSP processes such as a digital volume control (used in moderation) immediately defeat the MQA decoding. The same is true for digital crossovers, digital EQ, and room correction. The MQA stream will be corrupted if any of these common processes are encountered. These common forms of digital processing will shut down the MQA decoder and revert the system to a 44.1 or 48 kHz sample rate and an effective bit depth of 13 to 15 bits.
    Is MQA DOA?

    If what comes out is not the same as what goes in, I don't want it.
  20. No Static

    No Static Gain Rider

    "Mental acoustics" is a very powerful thing. I know my better looking equipment sounds better.
    Rolltide, kevinsinnott and showtaper like this.
  21. Agitater

    Agitater Forum Resident

    What files did you hear first? A CD of the demo music? An MP3 of the demo music? How were they prepared? How were you prepped (by whomever was conducting the demo) to hear the files? How were you preppped to hear the allegedly MQA’d file?

    And what sort of file monkeying is MQA doing?

    Take the Tidal Masters, Chopin Nocturnes, played by Fazil Say (superb pianist, BTW) on Warner Classics. On a Lumin T1 DAC/Streamer feeding a Krell S-550i driving a pair of Harbeth Monitor 30.1 speakers, the stream sounds wonderful. When I load the album in Tidal, the Lumin app and the hardware readout on the T1 displays the MQA symbol and 24 bit 48kHz 2.3mbps. But when I press Play, the data display changes to 24 bit 96kHz (with no data rate showing). Looks to me as though MQA is manufacturing B.S. - claiming more data than the original file contains. If MQA is claiming that its folding/compression accounts for this displayed difference in bit rate, then why is there no data rate also displayed? The same thing happens with other DAC/Streamers, so it’s not merely a Lumin display or metadata rendering problem.

    Here’s another problem. When I load the Warner Classics CD of the Say recording, some listeners can hear a difference from the Tidal Masters stream when I run the CD through a different DAC (using a Marantz SA-14S1 to feed a North Star Design Supremo). So is that MQA all by itself, or is that the difference between the original 16/44.1 CD recording compared to a remastering at 24/48? The are several possible answers, but the answer based on the fewest assumptions is that a professionally careful remastering at 24/48 or 24/96 is frequently going to exceed the audible quallity of a 16/44 original as well as any and all MP3 or heavily crushed FLAC versions. If so, what does that difference have to do with some black box MQA process?

    MQA seems, in the case of the Say recording and many, many others, to be a confusing factor, not a benefit to music lovers and audiophiles.
  22. riddlemay

    riddlemay Well-Known Member

    Chicago, IL
    This is the first topic in which I've seen SIDE balance referred to (or at least referred to by that name). I'm not sure what it is. I'd guess it means the left-right balance of the stereo image, except it seems unlikely that MQA would alter that, and you seem to be talking mainly about tonality, not image location, so I'm thinking it must mean something else. If anyone can fill me in, I'll appreciate it.

    Re the people quoted a few posts ago, to the effect that all they care about is that the music sounds good, I have to confess I'm in sympathy with that. Granted that a million irrational factors can make the music sound good (or bad), pleasure is what music listening ought to be all about, and even if MQA makes the music sound different from the master in the studio, if it makes it sound more pleasurable in my home then I have to be at least interested.
    Last edited: Nov 14, 2017 at 9:02 AM
  23. testikoff

    testikoff Forum Resident

    Note, that there are virtually no spectrum differences between Hi-Rez 24/352 source & its 24/44 MQA counterpart, decoded (i.e. unfolded to x2) + rendered (i.e. upsampled x2 with custom MQA minimal-phase-ish filter) in audible band (i.e. 20Hz - 20kHz). Above that, however, spectral differences are substantial, as expected (on graph below C represents a 24/352 DXD source, A - MQA decoded/rendered 27/176 incarnation).

  24. Time Is On My Side

    Time Is On My Side Forum Resident

    Madison, WI
    I'm still happy with a CD.
    Blank Frank and ggjjr like this.
  25. Mid/Side is a different way of representing stereo. Instead of Left and Right you have Mid and Side. Left Right channels can be converted to Mid Side using some math. It's a lossless transformation. You can convert Left Right to Mid Side and then back to Left Right and you're back to where you started.

    The math to convert to Mid Side:
    S = L - R
    M = L + R

    The math to convert back to Left Right:
    L = (M+S)/2
    R = (M-S)/2

    A lot of audio processing in the studio gets done in Mid Side rather than Left Right. Especially compression.

    I found a page on iZotope that explains some of how Mid Side can be used in mixing and mastering: What is Mid/Side Processing? | iZotope Audio Mastering Tips
    Kyhl and riddlemay like this.

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