Archimago Musings: "Final" comments... Simply put, why I don't like MQA

It takes almost 4 years (since its introduction in 2014) for someone to sum up a very good conclusion about MQA…


That’s absolutely awesome. The best thing is reading this very current thread on audio asylum, mainly centered on posts from Charles Hansen of Ayre and John Atkinson of Stereophile …


Archimago, the only honest pundit out there. All the rest are shills, for various equipment manufacturers, who never met a piece of hardware they didn’t wax poetic about.


We have 2 options currently

  1. We simply downsample to 48kHz while maintaining 24-bit resolution and give up the ultrasonic frequencies above 24kHz = STANDARD downsampling.
  2. We sacrifice 24-bit depth to “typically 15.85 bits” (Bob Stuart’s words), and encode the ultrasonic frequencies from 24-48kHz in a lossy fashion = MQA encoding & decoding. [Throw in some stuff about “de-blurring” while you do this of course and claim you can recover everything else you “need” back to the “original” 192kHz. Turn on a LED/indicator telling us MQA decoding is happening, that there’s no error in the stream and it’s the “original” resolution (meaningless, but that’s fine).]

I only skim the MQA debates, but this seems like a good summary.

Does Option 1 exist in any streaming service today?

There is Qobuz for 24-bit streaming (EUR349.99 per year) at various sample rates up to 192kHz.

Considering the cost and geographical availability, Tidal is still the best option for Hi-Res streaming for a lot of people. For Tidal subscribers, having MQA decoding is very important, regardless of the controversies surrounding this technology or whether one likes the technical and non-technical aspects of it or not.

Since this is a Roon forum, and Tidal is the only streaming service integrated with Roon, this also makes MQA particularly important for Roon users.

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I have Tidal (because of Roon), not a huge fan of its ecosystem (sharing, recommendations, playlists). Am being slowly drawn back to Spotify (currently have both, need to drop one).

I guess what I wasn’t sure about is what *most Tidal music is available as and what most Spotify music is available as (at their respective highest settings).

Most Tidal Hi-Fi albums are available as lossless CD-quality 16/44.1, with 7500+ MQA albums right now, and continue to be added.

Most Spotify Premium albums are available as lossy 320kbps in the best case. There was news saying Spotify was testing a lossless service, but I don’t know if/when this will happen and how much it will cost if it does happen.


I am a Tidal subscriber and I wouldn’t say that that’s true.
Just a couple of hours ago I wanted to listen to Mahler’s symphony no. 6 in this particular performance, and was unpleasantly surprised to see it’s available only as an MP3 (
MQA? Whatever. Let me get CD quality first.

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Yes and No. Yes in geographic sense, No to MQA decoding to Roon users (as for now). There’s no controversies here, it all about facts. What makes Roon +Tidal unique from the rest is the tight integration UI. Even If Tidal doesn’t offer MQA, the 16 bit 44.1kHz lossless FLAC sounds way superior compared to Apple Music and Spotify.


If MQA can yield an effective resolution near to 17 bit after get decoded at 96kHz, the same goes to a conventional 18 bit 96kHz lossless FLAC. In term of bit rate both are not far apart. In fact an 18 bit 96kHz FLAC has a smaller file size compared to MQA.

Having a 18 bit 96kHz FLAC playback means it is immediately compatible to almost all devices out there; no need special decoding hardware, no need to buy new DAC!

But no one is offering this, correct? (other than Qobuz referenced above)

We don’t know yet, sometimes ago Apple was testing on Hi-Res 96kHz streaming and while Spotify is testing its own lossless streaming. It will become clear by next year what to expect from them. I suspect they may offer Hi-Res lossless streaming using existing infrastructure.

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You can’t. Their problem is they made these announcement in reaction to the interest in MQA before they made the improvements to their backbone and before the front end software was written. I don’t doubt the promises will be kept but the time and investment required to increase capacity will drag this out. They can always do what Qobuz did and price the offering in such a way it limits usage and keeps it centred in wealthy parts of the world with supporting infrastructure. We shouldn’t look at the delivery of high Res through the lense of our ability to receive big numbers locally. The business of growing a network to deliver bigger files is a lot different to growing it to accommodate new customers. And then there is the business of obtaining the permissions from the record labels to do this. They will want to get paid. Be patient. It will come, but it will take time and lots of money.

Tidal signed a licensing agreement with MQA for the right to stream MQA, so there’s a fee that MQA will charge according per stream.

On the other hand, Qobuz is different, there’s no middleman(MQA) in the equation, thus it deals directly to the music companies on the streaming royalties. It’s that simple. Having a middleman means streaming providers no longer able to make enough income based on the per streaming model.

I am pretty sure Qobuz like all the other providers use 7Digital as the source of their files.

Excellent. I long stopped reading and replying to the original MQA thread on here since it was plain that the MQA bullshit quotient had reached critical mass and the zealots taken over the asylum, suspending any sort of critical faculties. “Temporal de-blurring” became the last refuge for the faithful clinging on to the crumbling rock face of Saint Bob Stuart’s sketchy marketing edifice.


Here’s Bruno Putzeys on Facebook discussing Bob Stuart’s MQA AES 2017 presentation that just happened this past Friday! Brilliant comment - a stab right at the heart of the technical issues…

Hmmm… “No Scientific Tests Were Done, Says MQA Founder” :slight_smile:


Aliasing is going to a problem due to ‘weak’ impulse response digital filters. The drawback of aliasing is it will get reflected back to the audio range and manifest itself as distortion. Since distortion happens in the audio range, we may able to hear it.

There must be more testing to show the severity of aliasing in MQA and it’s compromises.

Man, I’m surprised and bummed out by the amount of drama on this Audio Asylum thread. Never would have expected this from Charles Hansen.

from a trustworthy pundit -

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