Authentication: The need for MQA or other similar idea?

Recently I had a completely different view of MQA. I had a negative view, and after a heated message between me an another I looked into MQA again to try and form a different perspective in case I was wrong.

I take no credit for this post as it was a message from Danny Dulai on another thread that got me thinking in a different way.

Recently I had a completely different view of MQA. I had a negative view, and after a heated message between me an another I looked into MQA again to try and form a different perspective in case I was wrong.

I take no credit for this post as it was a message from Danny Dulai on another thread that got me thinking in a different way.

Whether I agree or disagree with the business model of MQA, I wish to focus this post on the “A”.

Authenticated music as the artist intended and retaining that sound is a must to me. I think we need to focus on that more.

Equipment standards have to be such to ensure this authenticated music is, well authenticated as intended. This part of MQA I agree with.

This idea should be an industry standard and should be policed to ensure what the artist(s) make and intended is not betrayed by downsampling/upsampling and copying etc. Should this be by means of DRM, no, but it must have means of protecting the songs, albums to prevent quality being degraded or tampered with. The sources of the music, such as streaming services play part in this policing as it must, in my view, be made illegal to alter the music as an artist intended.

Paying for licences to allow supply of this standard is a must, so must a license be required to allow making copies. Equipment manufacturers and software service providers should pay a license fee for the relevant tech to decode the music. We the consumer do our part by paying a fair price for the equipment and the pleasure of listening to the music (stream, download etc). This doesn’t mean equipment manufacturers are stuck with making the same equipment, just the decoding stage should be the same. The conversion to analogue can be as they want I suppose. Services like Roon can be used to correct the equipment’s signature if the user wants to.

I downloaded some MQA classical music from and I was surprised I could copy it. I copied it several times over and each time my Roon NUC and DAC combo unfolded fully to the original quality (I guess) and this shouldn’t be allowed (my view).

These are my views and I wonder how many may share similar views.

I’ve made some upgrade tweaks to my system in the last 24 hours and I’m also hearing a difference in MQA music where I didn’t appreciate it before. Placebo effect, I don’t think it is. Most of the music I listen to via streaming services are on CD in my garage. I dug out my CD transport and compared to the MQA streamed versions and most times I preferred MQA versions.

It could be said that the file sizing of these songs would be enormous if no compression applied. Yes I agree, but for a lot of people I believe broadband caps are unlimited. Mobile devices could just be for offline use only. Bandwidth seems more important to music streaming services from my view and part of the current purpose of MQA.

I could be naïve in this, but if what I write makes sense, makes sense to me. Open to views.

(FYI - since using Roon I have unleashed greater sound quality in both Qobuz, Tidal and own stored music).

Oh, I do appreciate individuals equipment at home may not be what the recording studios used, but could room correction be used to get close to this?


There seems to be contention between labels and artists here… MQA being used by artists is great for “A”, but unfortunately, that is rarely the case. Labels often own the rights to the music, and they want to sign the content themselves. This is at odds with the idea that the signing being done by the artist because they made the content. Ownership is often a tricky thing involving money and contractual obligations. This only makes the matter worse.

I’d love to see a public registry of signatures where artists can advertise their signature, and one can verify their content against it. I just don’t see anyone motivated to do that, nor do I see a music creation/publication/delivery path that finds that a desirable thing.


I overlooked that part. That ain’t likely to change either I guess.

I bet that far more often than not, the “A” has nothing to do with anyone involved with the original recording.

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None of the words that make up the “MQA” acronym have anything to do with reality. The “A” part is the biggest joke.

If you like the sound of MQA, great. But don’t assume you are getting anything special in regards to what the original artist intended. Because you are not!


Yes, from the MQA website. Surely it gives us hope the “A” is real.

That’s called marketing and is not the truth…


You can achieve “A” by embedding a digital signature in the container file. Pono did that with their songs using FLAC; whenever you played an authenticated track on their DAP, a ‘blue light’ would turn on. There is no need for a new technology or royalties, just a certificate.


Could be, but if not true it’s false advertising and in Mort countries that’s against consumer rights. I have a little faith it’s 80 to 90% true. Otherwise everything that could be considered to better SQ is all snake-oil.

I did read this somewhere, but also read that it wasn’t fool proof.

Found this for laughs:- I guess you didn’t mean this type of certificate.

No, not that type of certificate :slight_smile: I meant a public key certificate (X.509). That identifies the issuer and prevents tampering. I doubt people would be interested in that any more than they were interested in Pono. If the audiophile mantra is ‘trust your ears’, why would you need the “A”?

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The “A” needs to be so that no one can degrade the original quality. Was X.509 able to stop downsampling of music files, say converting them from a 24/192 to 16/44.1 and then some dodgy geezer deciding to upsample to 24/192 and pass it of as such.

If this was possible, and to be honest I haven’t tried to convert an MQA to a lower quality of file type. I’m guessing it’s not possible. Maybe the “A” I’m thinking of is already here with MQA.

Knowing all music services could provide the same quality file regardless of format would benefit all music lovers.

Certification doesn’t prevent content from being modified, it just tells you if it was modified or not. That’s the purpose. If you go beyond that, it becomes DRM. Besides, if people want to down-sample the tracks they own or convert them to MP3 or AAC, why shouldn’t they be able to? They should also be able to play them on the cheapest phone with the cheapest ear buds for that matter.

MQA itself allows playback without any unfolding. If they forced people to unfold, I guess Tidal would be out of business already.

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I do see your point here.

In my rose tinted world, music services would be able to provide that as an option.

However, storage options these days are very cheap. A 512gb micro SD card for £70. Uncapped broadband. Even my wife, not a music lover at all can tell the difference between Spotify and Redbook and she prefers Redbook.

For those who want the highest quality, the consumer would know what they are getting is genuine. If that’s a form of DRM, I’m happy with that. Many won’t be I know.

Our ears would be able to tell us if it was good quality, but what if all the music services, for worst case had the same poor quality version. A system to ensure “A” is there is a good thing?

DRM has been tried and failed. All DRM tracks I purchased before (luckily not many) are not playable anymore. If it came back, I’d start buying CDs only, and if those went away, I’d stop buying music. But we have a free market, so I’m confident DRM-free, high-quality music will be available for download for the foreseeable future. Sort of…


I don’t get why “authentication” is all of a sudden an important issue. When has the source of music been in question? It’s not like people are out there making their own masterings and selling them as something new or special.

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I have previously and repeatedly said that the only laudable part of mqa is the idea of new music coming from the studio and preserving its integrity the whole way through to the consumer’s player.

Platitudes from the likes of Bob Ludwig are great, but that doesn’t mean, for example, that some Led Zeppelin II masters (which, in part, is a component of Ludwig’s hugely impressive legacy) being punched through an automated conversion process, are in anyway connected with what went on in Olympic, A&M, Sunset or Mystic studios in the first half of 1969.

There can be no “A” in this scenario without going back to the original studio masters (the “white glove” treatment we’ve all heard about, but seems as common as a unicorn) which doesn’t happen with the batch conversions.

It’s the elephant in the room that is not being addressed: shovel batch-processed, mediocre product out to the masses, restrict their choice by removing Redbook versions leaving many of us wondering what the hell just happened?


I hear you on this. I do think there has been some need for it though.

You have a Ferrari, would you use ungraded fuel in it or a quality fuel that meets a certain standard?

To some, their HiFi is a Ferrari. Mine is more an BMW but is still wish to play the best quality music I like.

With your viewpoint, do think there should be a set standard to prevent mediocre music being streamed to the consumer.

I’d like to think services such as Qobuz, Deezer, Apple and Amazon will still offer Redbook and not convert to MQA. That said, if MQA can be played on kit that cannot unfold, would it again be a bad thing to have this new Redbook authenticated to confirm its no less than the Redbook we’ve lived with since the 80’s.

If we have standards of quality for fuel and other industries, should we not have better standards in place in the music industry to make sure studios, mastering engineers and artists don’t churn out garbage?

I’m not trying to be flippant, but I thought we had a set of standards. If one knowingly pulls MP3, then it is not necessarily a mediocre product, one is getting what was requested: a product developed with efficiencies, trade-offs, quality and price that are in an equilibrium that is acceptable for the market. Same for any format.

I’m comfortable for a myriad formats to exist as long as they are transparent in what is offered.

I’m even happy for mqa to be part of that enormous formats vista as long as we get to the truth - I’ll expand as part of the following response.

I have no bones with this approach. I’m pondering what exactly was wrong and needed fixing with Redbook PCM for it to be supplanted in the way it has on Tidal rather than supplemented to provide choice.

To face the aforementioned, uninvited pachyderm, and to come in line with your sensible assertion, would mean mqa/Tidal need to regain trust and alleviate the understandable suspicion surrounding their modus operandi to date. How? In a utopian approach that doesn’t consider factors unknown to my mere mortal, non-music industry experience:

  1. (this one is purely based upon my personal need to see justice done under almost any circumstance) Provide the market with a “mea culpa” over the apparent subterfuge of batch processing/white gloving/collusion to remove alternate non-mqa versions. Include the fact that not using the mqa moniker on versions in the current HiFi tier, in no way means the version is PCM despite what they wanted people to infer from the non masters tier labelling.
  2. Introduce additional badging to denote whether mqa versions that have been converted from back-catalogues have been batch-converted or white-gloved from original masters.
  3. Commit to an ongoing programme of white-glove conversion that is scheduled according to existing playback numbers or original record sales or some other suitable metric.
  4. Put the damn Redbooks back and let people listen, compare and choose.
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I have to ask, what basis do you have for this opinion? This is a very strong statement, but have you ever been there, been involved? Very little has been published about the encoder(s) but there is no reason, after years of experience with how this works, that a partially automated process cannot be written, with specific interaction expected and left to the studios/artists doing the encoding. The statements Bob Stuart has written make it clear that even in the most automated version of the encoder, there is a lot of analysis and feedback expected to/from the one doing the encoding, and that in the encoders provided to studios, there are many choices left to the operator.

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Nope. I have not. At the risk of whataboutery, I at no point said that they were not making every effort to produce something adequate during the batch process. What I am calling into question, is why is the effort not being made to go back to the studio masters, where available? It seems that if huge amounts of analysis and feedback are a staple for batch processing, why not just remaster the damn studio material rather than use existing digital masters.

The biggest takeaway I get from the valid input you have offered, is that the batch process is effectively endorsing the digital sources they use as the pinnacle of available sources. If it is, then one wonders what was wrong with the digital source that requires saving by processing it into a new format and equally (and perhaps more importantly), why was the digital source a better one to work with rather than the studio masters?

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