My new article series on MQA.

Discussion in 'Audio Hardware' started by LeeS, Jan 9, 2018.

  1. russk

    russk Forum Resident

    Syracuse NY
    Things can always change. One of the things I and I think other people find distasteful is the possibility of being force-feed a formate they do not want. Such a thing could only come about in a monopoly and in that situation everyone loses. Eventually even the print and online magazines that are complicit in the force-feeding will end up being losers.
    gd0, basie-fan and rbbert like this.
  2. LeeS

    LeeS Roll Tape! Thread Starter

    No need for personal attacks. I am just stating the facts. The labels have agreed on MQA and have invested in MQA.

    I see no evidence hirez will disappear. Besides, MQA is a hirez format. I see no evidence that the boutique labels will stop doing hirez releases like AP or MFSL SACDs.
    rednedtugent likes this.
  3. In my experience, as well as that of at least a dozen other team members involved in a particular product’s development and testing, there were no audible differences between digital filters, including those of the minimum phase variety. The ability to choose different digital filters was removed from the final shipping product.

    In my experience, generally, the only filters that exhibit any kind of audible differences are very steep brickwall filters (which can exhibit harsh upper midrange and high frequencies due to aliasing) and NOS designs which do not incorporate digital filters, but only aggressive analog filters.
    Last edited: Jan 12, 2018 at 11:52 PM
  4. LeeS

    LeeS Roll Tape! Thread Starter

    What evidence exists that the consumer will be forced to buy MQA?
  5. LeeS

    LeeS Roll Tape! Thread Starter

    I don’t know what product development you are working on but I hear digital filter changes and apodizing filters pretty readily.
  6. I am not sure if MQA can qualify as a hi-res format because the maximum bit depth that can be decompressed (or “unfolded” to use MQA’s terminology) is 17 bits, from what I have read. That doesn’t mean MQA does not or cannot sound good, however.
    Last edited: Jan 13, 2018 at 12:13 AM
  7. The products have been released over the last few years. You’d recognize the products. Big names, lots of talk about them on Internet forums, in the audiophile press, and the industry generally. You’d recognize the conspicuous absence to choose the digital filter types, too.
  8. LeeS

    LeeS Roll Tape! Thread Starter

    I am hearing it is 18 bits from some and 24 bits from others. I am hearing from some that the missing bits are below the noise floor so it doesn’t matter anyway.

    So I am still sorting it out in my research. All I do know is that sounds very good with most files.
  9. LeeS

    LeeS Roll Tape! Thread Starter

    Why can’t you reveal the names of the products if they have been released?
  10. Also, I was not involved in this product’s development, but the original Rega DAC had ten different digital filter options—five for hi-res and give others for 16/44.1 and 48. I owned a Rega DAC and couldn’t really hear differences between any of the filter choices. In the second iteration of the product, called the DAC-R, Rega removed four of the filter choices, ostensibly because consumers could not hear the differences and were confused by the choices.
    Last edited: Jan 13, 2018 at 12:12 AM
  11. I have heard similar comments and they don’t make sense to me—it doesn’t make sense to say “missing bits” are below the noise floor. The bit depth of a recording is going to determine the noise floor and SNR. Anyway, it’s all theoretical if the end result sounds good. Measurements sometimes correlate with good sound and sometimes do not.
    basie-fan likes this.
  12. I’m under NDA, so I’m not going to mention any names. There are a bunch of different companies I’ve been involved with but NDA’s cover my activities, so I’m not naming names or giving explicit details.
    LeeS likes this.
  13. Dr Tone

    Dr Tone Well-Known Member

    Calgary, AB
    Wild guess. Dragonflys.
  14. russk

    russk Forum Resident

    Syracuse NY
    No evidence, all I can point to is where yourself and Stereophile imply it.

    MQA Expands its Reach

    That is just the latest offering in the cheerleading competition that has been Stereophile's coverage of MQA.

    Now before you say I am quoting you out of context, might I point out that you or anyone else can go back and read through this thread.

    The mainstream audio print and online publications are heralding MQA as if it were the second coming of Christ instead of objectively reporting on it. Why is that? Of course I can't comment on your upcoming articles but will you address the many valid concerns raised here and elsewhere about MQA?

    Personally I'm not as invested in this fight as most, though I would much rather be able to buy a bit perfect copy of the master then some sort of mp3 esque compression scheme no matter how superior. Most of my serious listening is done with LPs and digital is more for convenience. However from the outside looking in this whole thing appears pretty distasteful.

    Maybe the almost celebratory, almost ad like writings can take a back seat to some thoughtful and probing journalism as this is something that has the potential to harm the whole recording and playback industry. Lets hold off on proclaiming MQA the savior of recorded music till we have some concrete proof about performance and intentions.
    Last edited: Jan 13, 2018 at 1:30 AM
    ribonucleic, Kyhl, zed and 1 other person like this.
  15. LeeS

    LeeS Roll Tape! Thread Starter

    This doesn’t make sense as Stereophile has offered very balanced coverage Jim Austin and John Atkinson mentioning some shortcomings. And we never implied the customer would be forced into it. Indeed, I expressed an opinion that other options would remain open.
  16. head_unit

    head_unit Forum Resident

    Los Angeles CA USA
    Sounds cool, but also sounds like BBE saying back in the day that they would restore stuff that had been lost in the recording process. To which I wondered, "if you don't know EXACTLY how something was recorded, isn't that impossible?"
    I hope someone will write a very clear explanation of how "deblurring" works, but more importantly how it knows what the "blurring" was in the first place!
    Kyhl likes this.
  17. head_unit

    head_unit Forum Resident

    Los Angeles CA USA
    You are correct, it is called Super Data Stream, or SDS for short. [OMG, that sounds SO creepily real! I oughtta trademark that name...]

    Their new SDS playback software is installed via rootkit, by the way. The sound is better because each bit is transported (via the finest in to the North Pole in the off-season, and the bits are hand-polished by Santa's Elves so they sound lighter and better.
  18. Archimago

    Archimago Well-Known Member

    Sorry man, that's a total cop out.

    I assume we are all in this hobby to enjoy our music. We are all music lovers. But the "audiophile" I assume wants not just really good sound... But strives for the "best" he/she can achieve. In the last 3 years of its existence, has anyone seen real evidence other than claims that MQA is truly the "best" we can achieve as a "format"? (I hate using that term "format" for MQA because it's really just an encryption technique riding over standard PCM which is then even losslessly compressed with FLAC, etc... created by a community that valued freedom.)

    The real evidence we have already seen is that MQA actually uses poor filtering technique (simple 32-tap weak FIR filters likely to keep it simple so they can employ it across different DAC hardware). It reduces the bitdepth (even Stuart admits that typically it's lower than a full CD/16-bits). As it steals from the bitdepth resolution, it adds proprietary encryption for a lossy ultrasonic unfold and adds the potential for DRM (which ultimately is likely why the major companies wants it - because MQA will control the firmware layer of all compliant DACs).

    So Lee, you're arguing that we should accept a compromised solution that trades potential sonic resolution for encryption and DRM. I know you're a "part-time" audiophile, but even you must see something wrong with this picture.

    Is that something audiophiles philosophically should accept? Or do we fight this? You are of course free to say as you please but in the big picture, ask yourself if this is truly the best and wisest trajectory for the audiophile hobby. Likewise Stereophile, TAS, etc. should have a sober look in the mirror and consider their vision and "leadership".

    Sure, the labels can ram MQA through no matter what. But I don't think they'll be doing us, or ultimately themselves any favors. I don't think it'll be building any good will among many audiophiles who probably are some of the loyal few who still pay good money for music rather than get their music through piracy (like almost everyone else I know!).

    Good luck...
  19. tomd

    tomd Forum Resident

    Well to be honest MQA is poorly marketed.We get these periodic blanket statements that “all the labels are onboard” yet someone interested CAN’T still go to Tidal and get a comprehensive list of MQA pop/rock titles.Also it’s “masters” list to my knowledge is STILL not available from mobile devices like the I phone.I do NOT have a pc so I have to rely on third party sites for posted titles.It would do more for MQA if MQA posted the available pop/rock titles on their website instead of the same old marketing crap.
    Linto likes this.
  20. I tried it when first launched at a trade show years ago.
    I asked Meridian staff what sources they were using, they said "studio masters"
    I asked them to elaborate, including the question, how do you know you are getting the
    "real" masters, answer was "the labels told us so" - the whole principle of using the best
    masters was lost on the person I spoke to.

    Meridian have made some amazing digital boxes, yet years later I still am not sold about MQA
  21. Claude Benshaul

    Claude Benshaul Forum Resident

    One of the supposedly benefits of MQA is a theoretical reduction in the bandwidth required to stream media. I never bought into this argument and concluded that this is either a fallacy or marketing Newspeak promoted by those who should know better for the consumption of those who have no clue about the subject.

    Firstly, bandwidth saving and therefore space saving has no benefit to offer the individual user if we are discussing physical media. It even has less appeal when considering the wide range and availability of storage offered to the home user in the form of external hard disks, NAS or even DOK. To put this issue into my perspective: All my audio library takes just a fraction of the space my movie library does. Which brings us to the next topic.

    Secondly, audio isn't even a blip on the internet bandwidth consumption radar. By far the largest consumer of bandwidth is video and music streaming isn't even among the first 10 sources of traffic. This is corroborated both by the 2016 dossier on Internet usage worldwide and by CISCO. The same dossier claim that the average global bandwidth for 2016 was 6.1Mbps, which is enough to stream 1080p HD video to practically everyone. Obviously it means that streaming HiRes audio at 96/24 is a non-issue and that bandwidth improvement means that streaming 4K video globally will be widely common in the near future. With this in mind, what exactly are MQA's bandwidth saving benefits for a home user connected at 30Mbps?

    Is it important to the mobile user? Well yes, but only when we insist on keeping the audio only blindfolds on. As proved in the linked articles, audio isn't a concern for the vast majority of the population and streaming audio isn't going to be the reason why the mobile connection plan will push the user to stream MQA instead of larger FLAC files. That's pretty much like saying to someone that you managed to brilliantly improve his car by changing the screen wipers.

    So who will benefit from the bandwidth saving if these are not the end users? The answer is probably the streaming services for whom storing and streaming audio is the only business they have.
    Last edited: Jan 13, 2018 at 4:09 AM
    Kyhl likes this.
  22. Brother_Rael

    Brother_Rael Forum Resident

    Scottish Borders
    Saving bandwidth? This is as the average home user has ready access to thousands of VOD movies and TV shows in HD, never mind the burgeoning 4K streams now coming. That's the stuff that hogs bandwidth, not audio music titles.
  23. Claude Benshaul

    Claude Benshaul Forum Resident

    Exactly. BTW, average global Internet speed for the first quarter of 2017 rose by almost 20% from 2016 and was around 7.2Mbps.

    perhaps the additional 1.1Mbps was added to cater for the needs of MQA?
    Brother_Rael likes this.
  24. riddlemay

    riddlemay Well-Known Member

    Chicago, IL
    This part excites me (if the labels follow through). I think the extent a person's musical tastes diverge from the "norm" will define how positively he views this news. As someone whose musical loves have always departed quite a bit from the "Billboard Hot 100"--and who therefore has seen many items of musical interest disappear from the catalogue never to return again--I'm enthused about the prospect of the entirety of recorded music coming back in digital form.
  25. rbbert

    rbbert Forum Resident

    Reno, NV, USA
    No “evidence”, but it is something that many MQA principals have stated as a goal; one of them was specifically quoted on page 3 in the latest Stereophile.

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