I didn't see it coming (Tidal replacing albums with MQA only)

So I’m not trying to say MQA is good… I get the fear, and the concern. I’m more asking the question “if there are some MQA recordings that I find equivalent or in some cases better, but many I find clearly audibly worse, and many find them consistently audibly worse” is there a way to reconcile / explain that through incentives. What I can’t buy is that the DRM concern (“sum of all fears”) means that all MQA is worse, when I believe that in some cases it results in audibly better recordings. In other words if the “null hypothesis” is that “all MQA recordings are audibly worse” and I reject that (subjectively) based on some (definitely not all) counter examples, how do I explain the evidence I see.

Life is never black and white. MQA is not, per se bad IMHO. I do think it’s too bad they don’t live up to their promise and release the technical information about their releases – did it come from the actual masters, who did the transcode/transfer, was the artist involved, etc – so they can pay off the “as the artist intended” marketing position. Without this you have no idea where the MQA files came from… I do agree that some MQA releases are very good – likely because it was actually created with care from an actual master by someone who didn’t overcook it. Of course some are not… The key issue from my perspective is that if the rise of MQA means reduced choice for consumers, that is a terrible situation and that is what many people who don’t like MQA are concerned about. Tidal’s actions are not helping that concern.

On an added note, my sources tell me that Tidal will soon be acquired by a deep-pocketed, but very unlikely buyer. We’ll see if their strategy changes if that indeed happens…


Many reasons. Simplifying legal distribution rights tracking.
Avoiding consumer confusion.

On the latter count, keep in mind that nearly zero music consumers care or even know about multiple masterings. Any “Hotel California” is “Hotel California” to them. And the same as it always has been. No questions asked about Steve Hoffman vs Ted Jensen vs Bernie Grundmann.



So this is where my problem lies. MQA is great if you bought into it buying MQA dac with full decoding. People can argue whether it’s better than true hires but the people who own these setups tend to love them. But what about the rest of us?

Some claim they like MQA with roon unfolding the first part but others don’t. Some claim MQA folded sounds the same as the cd version but others don’t. I happen be one of those who think MQA sounds worse on my setup, Chord mscaler/Dave. So what’s my options? Before I could use Tidal and still have access to original cd versions which sound best with the mscaler but now just left with MQA versions. Or I go for slightly smaller catelog from Qobuz but get better sound quality. If Tidal still offered all the cd quality version, I might have stayed with them.

My worry is what if Warner Bros decides to pull their cd versions from Qobuz and only offer MQA like the 2L label. Then I’m left without a choice. Does this try to influence people to sell their dacs for full MQA decoding ones?

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This sounds juicy. Will be interesting to see how this plays out (no pun intended :stuck_out_tongue: )

This news?


4th time someone has posted this, I think.

Yep, I’ve replaced the external link with on to the existing topic on that subject so hopefully any subsequent discussion can continue there.

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MQA Ltd makes money directly through licensing fees to labels, software makers, and equipment producers, which apparently aren’t insignificant.
The labels are partial owners of MQA and the more it is used the more their stock in MQA is worth.
Both sides have an incentive for MQA to be used

hear, hear! This was one of the things i initially saw as an actual advantage of this debacle. Then they started bulk tagging/converting millions of tracks and it was very obvious that there is no provenance whatsoever in this, only money as usual. Greed once again rears it’s ugly head…

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I completely understand your point of view.

As someone who has had a largely positive experience with MQA masters on Tidal via Roon, I completely understand the position and feelings of those who don’t share those experiences on their systems.

Big strategic mistake by Tidal to remove standard 16bit/44.1 files from their premium service!


Is there any money made off each stream? If there is, then could see why they’d remove the cd versions. But also could be the simple reason it’s less confusing to only have one version available especially if believe folded version exactly the same as original cd version.

But yeah if I had a MQA setup I think I’d be very excited by this news but then somewhat confused by the 44.1k quality. Lead to believe MQA was about fitting in hires recordings in smaller package. What’s really happening with these cd quality ones? If previous cd was already their best copy, what’s changed? Applying the short minimum filters?

There is a payment per stream.
Ironically, taking a CD and putting it in MQA format results in a larger file than a standard CD file.

As far as I am aware, MQA make their money in licensing devices and not payment per stream.

If I am wrong here, please lay out the details as I would be good to know.

You will find, not even the artists/composers make anything much per stream.

So many CD grade MQA files exist because the masters are such. Especially from the early days of digital recording. Bob Stuart talked about this in a recent post. The idea that so much music can be in Digital high res is a fallacy unless you upsample it.

I was enjoying Songs in the key of life from Stevie Wonder and thinking how fortunate we are that it was recorded to tape allowing us the greater fidelity. It’s an 24/192 MQA transfer, had it been recorded digitally in those days it would have been compromised. Being recorded digital today it would have been equally amazing. Things have come along way in the digital recording world and from my listening experience, 24/48 is all you need.

As I wrote, there is a fee per stream to the record labels. MQA indirectly benefits from this, as it encourages use of the HW and SW licenses it sells.
Since it is also partially owned by the record labels and they profit each time an MQA file is streamed, this gives them an incentive to promote MQA files and to keep/promote their investment in MQA. Without this they might very well lose interest in the format and decide their MQA stock isn’t worth much.
MQA Ltd, till now has needed the injection of cash from the record companies to survive. The labels took MQA stock in exchange for the cash injections that kept MQA afloat. The stock isnt traded publicly, it has value only as long as the labels support it.

There is a fee to the record companies MQA or not. If MQA is increasing the amount of streams, that shows people are using it and as such the standard file is just taking up space and adding costs for no reason.
This is the Music Business after all…
All businesses need injections of cash as they start up. Again, that’s business

So, the standard files taking up space is the reason to remove them. But they have space enough for 2 or 3 different MQA versions.

Time will tell if this was a good business move for Tidal. At least my money they get only in part, because I have reduced my account to Premium as an answer to that move…

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I expect, Tidal are in a state of crossover at this time with regard to versions and decisions about it all, but one of the advantages of MQA is you only need one file… They may choose to offer more for many reasons non of us are privy to.

And what is the benefit of having 2 or 3 versions? Would it not be better to have also a non-MQA version? Give the customer a choice is most of the time a better move, for the customer not for MQA.

This is the scenario which the critics have warned against.
After the format is in the market, remove the freedom of choice. The next step can be to activate the DRM, so the music companys can gain full control.
Wait and see. Everybody who will say, this will not happen, should remember that removing ALL non-MQA for so many albums was also a scenario everybody said, will not happen.