New Meridian audio format creating quite a buzz

Discussion in 'Audio Hardware' started by Apesbrain, Dec 5, 2014.

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  1. Amateurish

    Amateurish Forum Resident

    Location:
    Valencia, Spain
    Correct:

    "MQA is decoded by a simple decoder – which can be an app, a software player or hardware – and it reconstructs the exact sound approved in the studio along with an indicator to authenticate that what you are hearing is a true rendition of the original master recording.."


    http://www.ultrahighendreview.com/uploads/documents/Meridian_MQA.pdf
     
  2. Brother_Rael

    Brother_Rael Senior Member

    Location:
    Scottish Borders
    Useful technical summary, that covers the "how" rather well. There's an interesting - and critical - conclusion too that surprised me, but that aside, this gives a helpful description of the "what" and the "how" MQA works, minus the Meridian blurb.

    http://www.metal-fi.com/meridian-audios-mqa/
     
  3. Rolltide

    Rolltide Forum Resident

    Location:
    Vallejo, CA
    That's a very good article that does a good job of distilling J Atkinson's write up. So basically, MQA is less of a new digital format then a new way to compress high-rez PCM to smaller file sizes while adding DRM. Atkinson seems to imply it sounds better then PCM, but it doesn't seem like that's actually Meridian's claim.

    I don't see any practical application for this other then Tidal to be honest. I guess you could fit more high rez music on a portable player as well. Maybe the DRM is why studios are excited, and if said DRM makes them more willing to open up their catalogs and offer true master quality audio, I'll take it.
     
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  4. Brother_Rael

    Brother_Rael Senior Member

    Location:
    Scottish Borders
    Yes. Or, "new revenue stream" to put it another way.
     
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  5. jh901

    jh901 Forum Resident

    We can post the Robert Harley article from TAS May/June 2015 when it's available. His listening impression based on a private 1 hour demo was that the sound was virtually indistinguishable from a microphone feed. I've never been in a studio at the mixing console listening to a live feed, so I'm not sure what that would sound like. I'm not interested in the Meridian digital active loudspeakers, etc, so the real test will be when MQA enabled hi-end media players/DACs are demo'd in reviewers' home systems.
     
  6. Brother_Rael

    Brother_Rael Senior Member

    Location:
    Scottish Borders
    I'm sure their actives are stunning. Probably better than most corresponding passives at the price and some way around it. Then again, for £30k, they should be.
     
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  7. Rolltide

    Rolltide Forum Resident

    Location:
    Vallejo, CA
    Right, with anything else we need to hear it before we decide what we think about it. But when you subtract the marketing hype and focus on the technical details, it just seems to basically be lossless compression for high rez, combined with lots of revenue streams for Meridian. So I see why it would have smaller file sizes and be more practical in many ways, but I don't see inherently why it would sound better/different/etc then high file size PCM.

    Meridian's write up on their site starts with this (emphasis mine) :

    "Developed by Meridian, MQA is a breakthrough technology to reverse the trend, in which sound quality has been continually sacrificed for convenience. Vital elements of our music have been thrown away to fit thousands of songs into a pocket or millions in a cloud. With MQA there is no sacrifice; it brings us right back to the enthralling sound of live music. MQA captures and preserves nuances and vital information that current music files obscure or discard, but in a file that is small and convenient to download or stream."

    This seems to point to lossless compression, the idea that you get "all of the bits" with less space. The next paragraph is:

    "MQA allows listeners to experience every intricate detail the microphone heard, offering music fans the purest ever sound. And it’s based firmly in science. For the first time in history, music fans will be able to hear at home what the artist created and approved in the recording studio, and MQA confirms its exact delivery."

    I can't tell if here they're suggesting it sounds better then existing high-rez PCM, or if this is just the sort of standard Neil Young Pono salespitch that high-rez PCM sounds better then redbook. I want to make it clear I'm not turning my nose up at MQA by any means, I haven't heard it, my angle is that I'm not 100% sure what Meridian's actual claim about MQA is. A better concept, or a better way to deliver an existing concept?
     
    Last edited: Apr 10, 2015
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  8. tmtomh

    tmtomh Forum Resident

    I see only two options here:

    (1) There's something about this priority encoding system (where the encoder IDs the most-significant and leas-significant bits and shunts them into 16-bit and 8-bit pieces of the file) that can improve sound quality over traditional PCM encoding

    OR

    (2) This is a more sophisticated encoding system than FLAC or ALAC, but the better encoding simply reduces file size and allows a redbook and high-res version to be packed into the same file.

    If it's option (2), IMHO this is a solution in search of a problem. I see zero market for this kind of DRM, and with storage capacity and bandwidth getting ever faster, and high-res DAC chips getting ever less expensive, I just don't see the market.

    But maybe it's option (1), or maybe this system hasn't been fully explained yet. Definitely keeping an open mind and looking forward to learning more.
     
  9. Rolltide

    Rolltide Forum Resident

    Location:
    Vallejo, CA
    I think that's about the right breakdown, tmtomh.

    The problem with (1) is that as best as I can tell we're starting with PCM/WAV files. It's not a new way to go from an analog master reel (to the extent such things exist anymore), it's a new way to encapsulate PCM. So for this to be true, we have to assume FLAC loses data. But it doesn't.

    It's probably closer to (2), but I don't see it as a solution in search of a problem in that when its possible to have smaller file sizes of the same quality this should always be done out of good form regardless of the availability of disk and bandwidth. Like I said, this could be big for streaming, and now that I'm a grown up that can afford to buy all of the albums I want to own DRM doesn't necessarily bother me unless it's poorly implemented (but this assumes that DRM motivates studios to release more high rez music, without that its just silly).
     
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  10. jh901

    jh901 Forum Resident

    It starts with the analog source. The A/D is unique as is the D/A. The idea is to remaster the back catalog of recordings from the best existing original source. The new TAS article has my attention.
     
  11. Rolltide

    Rolltide Forum Resident

    Location:
    Vallejo, CA
    This would make sense, but I'm under the impression most analog master reels have gotten pretty crusty and remasters tend to be working off digital (IE PCM) versions of the masters at this point.
     
  12. Amateurish

    Amateurish Forum Resident

    Location:
    Valencia, Spain
    From what I've seen and read, MQA also captures in metadata the characteristics of the converters (DA/AD) and processing tools used in the studio with the goal to recreate the experience in the studio. Whether this actually works, I don't know. It sounds analogous to color profiles used in digital photography for color managed workflows.
     
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  13. Hans Beekhuyzen

    Hans Beekhuyzen New Member

    Perhaps this may help:
     
  14. brimuchmuze

    brimuchmuze Forum Resident

    Hans, I get the impression that MQA works in the digital domain, and the input and output is digital. Is that correct?

    So a new ADC is not used, but it would operate on a high res digital input source?
     
  15. Amateurish

    Amateurish Forum Resident

    Location:
    Valencia, Spain
    Indeed it does, that's why I posted your video a few posts earlier in this thread. But I if I'm not mistaken, even you had questions about the finer points of particular feature of MQA. Also, I haven't seen any first hand accounts on the effectiveness of this technique.
     
  16. I perused Harley's article in TAS and it read like a marketing piece. After the first two pages, I lost interest as the technobabble he was scribing seemed to be regurgitated from Meridian's own materials without any further explanation.
     
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  17. Metralla

    Metralla Joined Jan 13, 2002

    Location:
    San Jose, CA
    Unfortunately, that's typical of Robert Harley's style. He should have learnt more from the master.
     
  18. Hans Beekhuyzen

    Hans Beekhuyzen New Member

    I have been reading the patents involved and must counterspeak the negativity I sense here. The real benefit of the codec is the time smearing compensation (or whatever you want to call it). It takes the impuls respons of all devices in the chain (for as far as known) in account. That means that when the decoder is in the DAC, it can avoid pre and post echo's to a large degree. It is my belief that this might be the solution for what analogue lovers hate in digital reproduction. As a result the advantages of digital (now wow&flutter, no scrape flutter, no modulation noise, no troublesome - and mono where vinyl is concerned - low end, and so on) with the advantages of analogue (no brick wall filtering, no pre and post echo's). I will get the opportunity to hear it coming saturday. The 'data compression' is of course another speciality of Meridian and like I said in the video it offers more hertzes and bitses to Arthur Average and more audio quality to Alphonso Audiophile. It makes streaming (Tidal, Qobus) of 24/192 feasible. My reservations had to do with the possibility of DRS or conditional access control. Bob Stewart guaranteed me in writing that this was not the case. You do of course need an MQA compatible DAC to reclaim the 24/192 signal (otherwise the 16/48 portion is played). The fingerprinting is used to guarantee the consumer that the file is not tampered with.
    And to defend my colleague Harley: it seems that it sounds so good that you have to write about it. Meridian has chosen to introduce MQA as a mass market product, only summing up the user benefits and not the technology, so the only thing Robert could write about was what he heard. It took me quite some time to find out (only partially) what the basics of the system are.
    The problem of our profession is that when we encounter a product that really blows us away and we write that down, it is immediately seen as a cheap product plug. I had the same with the fantastic Chord Hugo.
     
  19. Hans Beekhuyzen

    Hans Beekhuyzen New Member

    Sorry, I missed that.
     
  20. Larry Johnson

    Larry Johnson Senior Member

    Location:
    Chicago area
    Very informative, thanks. Please share your thoughts after you hear it.
     
  21. Tristan

    Tristan Member

    Location:
    Asheville, NC
    I have been reading the patents involved and must counterspeak the negativity I sense here. The real benefit of the codec is the time smearing compensation (or whatever you want to call it). It takes the impuls respons of all devices in the chain (for as far as known) in account. That means that when the decoder is in the DAC, it can avoid pre and post echo's to a large degree. It is my belief that this might be the solution for what analogue lovers hate in digital reproduction. As a result the advantages of digital (now wow&flutter, no scrape flutter, no modulation noise, no troublesome - and mono where vinyl is concerned - low end, and so on) with the advantages of analogue (no brick wall filtering, no pre and post echo's). I will get the opportunity to hear it coming saturday. The 'data compression' is of course another speciality of Meridian and like I said in the video it offers more hertzes and bitses to Arthur Average and more audio quality to Alphonso Audiophile. It makes streaming (Tidal, Qobus) of 24/192 feasible. My reservations had to do with the possibility of DRS or conditional access control. Bob Stewart guaranteed me in writing that this was not the case. You do of course need an MQA compatible DAC to reclaim the 24/192 signal (otherwise the 16/48 portion is played). The fingerprinting is used to guarantee the consumer that the file is not tampered with.
    And to defend my colleague Harley: it seems that it sounds so good that you have to write about it. Meridian has chosen to introduce MQA as a mass market product, only summing up the user benefits and not the technology, so the only thing Robert could write about was what he heard. It took me quite some time to find out (only partially) what the basics of the system are.
    The problem of our profession is that when we encounter a product that really blows us away and we write that down, it is immediately seen as a cheap product plug. I had the same with the fantastic Chord Hugo.

    As they say Hans the proof is in the pudding. Did you taste the pudding yet? Please let us know what your thoughts about actually hearing MQA are. I look forward to watching MQA Part 3.
    Thanks so very much for your great posts, Parts 1 and 2. I feel now I now at least have a partial understanding about what MQA is and how it works.
     
  22. thrivingonariff

    thrivingonariff Forum Resident

    Location:
    US
    How would you define (in simple technical terms) "true master quality"?

    What might we realistically expect from the impact of MQA in regard to the labels' motivation to remaster?
     
  23. Rolltide

    Rolltide Forum Resident

    Location:
    Vallejo, CA
    Every bit as good as the master, whatever format the master might be in. In the context of my post it basically means "no cheating with upsampling".
     
  24. thrivingonariff

    thrivingonariff Forum Resident

    Location:
    US
    In regard to your point about being "every bit as good as the master", I presume that you're saying that "as good" would require the exact same sample rate, regardless of how high that might be? To be clear, I'm not raising the sample rate issue (i.e., how high should it go, what's optimal), I'm just interested in your thinking about this to the extent that it contributes to my reading of this thread. Thanks.
     
  25. JamieLang

    JamieLang Forum Resident

    Location:
    Nashville, TN
    Anything that requires going back to the original analog tapes to be remaster in 2015 is a functional joke. It will start with the same suspects who JUST had the tapes remastered for 96 or 192 PCM....which will be in some cases the 10th remastering from an original tape--I don't think people understand how tape does NOT hold up well to repeated plays.

    Not to mention, ANY time there a remastering push, it starts with humongo sellers and critically accalaimed albums--which ionically, nearly all sound like poo and/or audience doesn't care about fidelity. So, it fails. It's like introducing a new video game console by saying "it'll play Tomb Raider 2--now with shorter loading times!" You will sell next to none of them. You need NEW material that shows it off. So long as people are driving around with 1967 Aretha Franklin records blasting in a car....and remastering Rumours for the 85th time....why would anyone young invest in it with time attention, or money?

    New material that sounds amazing made for the new format. Exclusives. Only way to hear the new Jonatha Brooke recorded by Clearmountain (as usual) for the format? Subscribe to "Meridan Level Tidal"? Now, I'm considering it. New One Direction? Make it near the holidays....and you'll sell a TON to young girls everywhere who will likely stream it to earbuds ironically, but--irrelevant, because they bought it. More money in the pot....more established fan base....they'll eventually plug it into something cooler....listen to something better....

    But, I've BEEN in studios for 25 years....with 24/48+ you ARE hearing the studio master*. In fact, all this certification....is ALL about, in theory analog tape recordings. Which are next to none for 20 years....and the ones that exist are most oxide worn by now--at least the ones people care about. You can take records from say 1992-now, and 95% will be 48khz or better digital (meaning the capture of the analog mixer, because the tracking medium is a subjectively irrelvant discussion to delivery format, IME).

    *the output of the DAC is the same as the studio....whether you have the amp/speakers/room to "hear" the same thing is a different discussion not being addressed by this tech
     
    High Fly, SandAndGlass, art and 3 others like this.
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