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

I am going to wade into this conversation. This to me comes down to a very simple component of the conversation. Do I support an open standard versus a closed standard. Given a career in IT, I support the open standards versus the proprietary standards. I have a subscription to both Quobuz, and Tidal, I have a DAC that can fully decode MQA, it does sound very nice. Quobuz HiRes also sounds very nice, I will not give one any credible advantage over the other.

The lossy argument over MQA does bother me, and no matter the technology that reconstructs an audible signal that compensates for this does not sit well for me, why would I add extra processing when I can get the full HiRes experience from Quobuz.

I also do not like one company controlling all aspects of the digital experience, this never works out well, see Microsoft’s shift to Linux and Open Source. Open standards is the way to go with full published specifications of the standard, along with Open Source libraries available to aid in adoption of the specification is the way to go.

I have faith that FLAC/PCM will be available for future generations to archive/enjoy music with. I do not have the same faith that MQA will be around that long. If we are looking at massive digital archives of artistic performances to be around in perpetuity, I would advocate FLAC/PCM/DSD etc as an open standard that is not relying on proprietary technology in all aspects of the lifecycle of the archive from creation to playback as that mechanism regardless of the playback quality perceived or otherwise.

With Tidal’s change to replacing 16/44.1 files with similar MQA files, it is time for me to let my subscription lapse, I do not want to encourage the use of MQA to archive the artwork of humanity when there are perfectly good open standards. It is my hope that the studio’s see enough of our rejection to stem the shift from FLAC/PCM to MQA.


The problem is that much like any of the media copy protection schemes in the past, copy protection is fundamentally flawed. When the product has to be opened by the consumer, and the consumer given access to the contents at some level, there will always be a way to siphon the core contents out.

For example, The tidal app does all the MQA unwrapping and hands that data off to coreaudio on the mac. But I am free to write my own core-audio interfacing code that the tidal app will gladly hand the data to. Now my core-audio code can then hand it off to the soundcard, or push it out via airplay, or/and spool that data to disk for me to keep.

You can’t keep something safe and let me play with it at the same time, it just can’t be done. There’s a long list of attempts and they have all failed because of this fundamental flaw.

I hope you’re right because that is the final motivation behind MQA, IMO.

My question is - Can copy protection be removed without degrading other aspects of the signal.

I guess you are saying that it can be.

There is no copy protection in MQA.


Yes, I understand. There isn’t any yet, but from what I’ve read the potential is there and easy to implement.

The DRM potential is possible everywhere :grinning:

Why would DRM be implemented in MQA ? There is absolutely no logic behind such a speculation.

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I see the support of MQA by the major labels as a prelude to a new attempt to prevent unauthorized copying. I’m not alone in that regard.


As long as the DAC chip is separate from the rest of the signal silicon, and as long as the DAC chips are simple devices (like they currently are) it will be trivially easy to intercept the signal in hardware.

DAC chips have a master clock that runs the show, a bit clock that lets the chip know when to sample the data line, a word clock that lets the chip know when all the bits for a sample have clocked in and it’s time to decode and finally a data line where the serial data flows to the DAC chip. These lines can be sampled with a digital IO card and the data reconstructed from the clock signals and then stored to disk. This would be the same data that the dac chip decodes so by definition that same quality you would have as a listener.

That may seem like a lot of work, but it’s actually pretty easy (my oscilloscope can do it) if you are used to dealing with hardware design.


So many clocks. :laughing:

Hmm, I guess I should have been more explicit in my question.

I was referring to copy protection breaking software. Something that Joe Blow could buy.

As prognosticated, the imposed MQA future has arrived.

Last, I found some MQA content streaming through Amazon Music HD. It’s bit perfect as MQA was displayed on my DAC.

Ditching Tidal may provide a temporary respite. But Amazon Music HD, Deezer, Qobuz, and any other lossless audio streaming providers eventually are going to get stuck with Warner Music 16 bit 44.1 kHz MQA’d versions.


Speculation warning

I’m not familiar with how the various flavors of this software works on all machines, but I think the methods are largely the same, where the streaming software “thinks” it’s sending it’s data directly to the soundcard or audio sub-system for playing, but there is a piece of software in the system that looks like a soundcard driver to the streaming application, but is really a two pronged piece of code, the first prong forwards the signal to the soundcard, and the second prong spools the data to disk (and splits, applies metadata, etc).

So in that regard, I’d think the data going to disk would be identical to the data being played from the soundcard. But this is largely speculation

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Hmm, I have this to offer (FWIW). MakeMKV will not work if the CD player is connected to a USB hub.

Don’t know if it’s relevant, but MakeMKV seems to need to work at an interrupt level below that of a hub (?).

Why the surprise?
You develop an advanced system for delivering high quality music to people that is backward compatible and DRM free.
You demonstrate it to record companies showing the quality and cost saving advantages.
You demonstrate it to musicians who can see how their creative content can be delivered unadulterated to their listeners with authenticity.
You sell the idea to equipment suppliers who take it up as their listeners express positive reactions.
Then you release the catalog for people’s enjoyment. What else would you expect, this is the whole idea after all…

So Keith Richards will come to my living room and sign off on the experience? Will this include drugs? :smiley:

All of this. Chapeau, Sir.

Still nobody to this day, can say what MQA is for.

Authenticated, ‘artist approved’ content? Give me a break.
Hi-res on the move? Eh? You’ve got environmental factors that will mask any perceivable difference thousands of times over.

So, we have a solution looking for a problem and Occam’s Razor applies.

The record companies are desperate to repackage your Dire Straits, Pink Floyd and Fleetwood Mac into the 58th different version and market/flog it to you again as some magical differentiator. Oh, and the future possibility of DRM would be lovely thanks.


THIS!!! :+1:

Great post!

Back strictly on topic, the trial migration to Qobuz has now happened. Here are a couple of observations:

  • I have a minor niggle about how Qobuz arrange their genre filtering. It’s makes it a bit harder for me to browse new releases in the genres I’m interested in, but it’s not a deal breaker. Besides, Tidal changed their mapping a few months ago and that made things worse anyway.

  • Given all the chat about relative size and missing library items, I was very surprised how close Qobuz was to perfectly matching my Tidal library of 1300 albums. 3% missing and I should be able to manually find some of those. If you looked at Qobuz a year/18m ago and found the library wanting, I might suggest you have another look.

  • It’s £5/m cheaper than Tidal in my territory - better than a poke in the eye.

  • Initial song/album start up in Roon is snappier than Tidal for me. Perhaps this is down to where the services are hosted and my particular DNS route.

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21 posts were merged into an existing topic: MQA disappointing

Glad it all worked in the end @anon55914447, I was a bit concerned when I read some of your earlier posts once you had decided to give it a go :slightly_smiling_face:

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As soon as there is an alternative to tidal, I’m off.
MQA is a power play, money grab and ethically I have big issues with it.

Qobuz is just too pricey in $aud.

IMO, most remastered MQA tracks sound worse.