I'm completely sold on MQA. Thank God for the Bob Stuarts of this world

By Anders “String” Strengberg

Hi @David_Martin

It’s like @Henry_McLeod is writing pretty much.
But it’s also a great difference between the MQA albums from the 50’s, 60’s. Especially the albums from the 70’s and 80’s, some from the 90’s!
Why it’s that?
They have been recorded on 2” tapes and mixed down on 1/2”-1/4” Analog master-tape’s! Also been mastering on 1/2”-1/4” tapes!
On the 90’s started the big studios using digital recording machine’s, also mixing and mastering on digital tapes, and for the CDs they made glass masters, on the vinyl they made like before!
But the Vinyl albums started to sound different, because the Mastering come from digital Mastering tapes!
On the 90’s had also the digital mixing console made their entry, in the studio’s!

(Important! When “well the real professional Mastering Engineer’s is mastering music, for a Cd they make it in 16/44.1. But when they doing it for a Vinyl so are we making it in 24/48-88.2”!!! And everything under 200HZ is mixed/mastered in Mono! Why? Because the Turntable pickup needle don’t shall jump out of the songs small tracks)!

Did you know that?
The same thing is why, some Vinyl LP not have 33 rpm speed but 45 rpm!
A Studio version of a REVOX B-77 1/4” Real To Real Tape Machine’s, have 7.5” and 15”! A Vinyl Album with 45 rpm sounds much better than a 33 rpm!
So a B-77 rolling on 15” sounds a lot better than, if it’s running on 7.5”.
The reason why I mention this on a discussion about MQA!
If you run the Master Tape Machine, is because the tapes are quite expensive. As well are the 2” recording tapes how also have a slower and faster speed!
A 1/4” Master Tape is around 30 minutes, on 7.5 speed and 15 minutes on 15” speed! It’s the same thing with the 2” recording tapes!
So you can recording around 3-4 songs of course depending on how long the songs are, but twice as many if you recording and mixing down on the slower speed! But it will be on the cost of the sound!
Unfortunately is a lot of Albums made on the slower speed, they sounded crap when they made them!
So if they are made to MQA, so does they still sound like crap against the ones who have been recorded and mixed on the high speed!
I haven’t meet any Mastering Engineer who, can do much about it!

So there you have another Huge Factor, why some MQA Music Sounds Better or Different!

(For woes who’s interested! So did I use around 3 of the 1/4” tapes to mix down on and 3 of the 2” recording tapes, to a Album! I was blessed to work in a huge and great studio, it got two 1/4” Master Tape Machine’s!
So when I listen to the mix with headphones, so there wasn’t any dropouts.
Made I a listening copy on the other machine (zero losing in quality)!
Why, wonder you maybe, because a tape and tape machine is built on magnetic so you can recording on the tapes! Exactly as the cassette tape machine you had at home and in the car! I’m sure that you have been trough the tape sound like the high register, losing the edge and the tape have just been a mess right?
So I only played the master tape one time, so it was perfectly, when I took it to the Mastering Studio! The copy I made could be played, stopped, pause and rewind forward/back over and over again by myself or the band members “especially the guitar player/players who just wanted to hear their solos, over and over again” and I could leave them take a nap…without being worried about the Master!

So listen to Led Zeppelin Remastered versions, Fleetwood Mac Rumors and Deep Purple Made In Japan (live) on MQA.
And compare them with Albums from the later part of the 90’s and newer on MQA! So will you hear a big difference on the sound!

So my conclusion is:
MQA Albums is made of Master Tapes of there different kinds of quality and some of the Masters, are Analog some Digital! The Analog Masters is in different shape but they can be restored (the Tapes have to lay in a owe at special temperature up to a week, because the magnetic recording surface has started to losses from the Tapes, unfortunately can’t all be restored. They who can have to be played over to new and better Tapes). Sadly have some Analog Master Tape been transferred to Digital, that’s also change the sound. So it’s a quite lots of different kinds of factors who’s, depending on how the MQA Albums becomes in the sounds!
I don’t have any degree in MQA, I have only worked as a studio producer/engineer and mastering engineer for 40th years.
So I have heard that happens to a Albums sounds when it’s been transferred, from it’s original Analog Master Tape to Digital it’s losing the sound, it going from the warm acoustic dynamic sound to a cold flat sound!
I’m sure that not every single MQA Album, regarding the ones who is made from the Analog Master is made from it and it’s the ones, that we are not like the sound or the MQA format of!
It’s different if it’s a Digital Master from the beginning, because it’s different to mix a Digital Albums as well as it’s to Mastering!
So it’s shouldn’t sound different to make MQA Albums from a Digital Master!
When the got the human faults, because we all make mistakes, right?
So how good/great studio producers and engineers, make Albums with a sound they want to have on Albums, but it’s not wrong just because we don’t like the sound and it’s also a factor the Album becomes sounding different on MQA some of whose badly sounding Albums, becomes sounding better and some even worse!
I don’t know!
But one thing does I know it’s that I LOVE MQA.

Love & Respect


Thanks Henry and Anders! Between your responses and some additional homework, I get it. And I’m liking it too. Best, D


+1 this mirrors my own experience closely.

The only exceptions are recordings where MQA reveals more of how nasty the original master is. That’s not really MQA’s fault, but as with system upgrades sometimes increased transparency is a double-edged sword!

I’d say so far about 80% of the time I prefer the MQA version of recordings where I’ve been able to compare the red-book or hi-res recording directly.

Also, as I have directly experienced purchasing “hi-res” albums from legitimate sources in the past, only to subsequently discover they were simply upsampled red-book, or worse, I personally find MQA’s authentication a great plus.

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I haven’t made any “A-B” testing!
Because I love the sound of MQA, but it’s in it’s cradle still.
So when the giants among the company’s who make the best DAC’s, understand that they can’t stop the MQA!
It’s going to be even better and they have to lay down before it’s maker, so instead of saying no, they have to work together.
When will MQA becoming that many have been talking about for awhile now.

Love & Respect

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I have tried to do extensive MQA listening tests a couple of times but it’s always fallen flat (maybe because of the choice of DACs). I compare MQA on Meridian Explorer and Audioquest Dragonfly Red to non-MQA on Chord DAVE.

Sometimes it’s really easy to tell – when using Tidal – that the red-book version is lousy quality and the MQA is better. But every time I’ve been able to compare similar versions the DAVE simply blows the other DACs and the MQA away. We tried to blind test it but it was so obvious that it almost became a joke. :grin:

One day I might jump on the MQA train but considering doing so will be yet another expensive affair :sweat_smile:

To expect MQA to make a $200 DAC sound better than a $10,000 DAC is not reasonable. Have you compared MQA with the first unfold done in Roon sent to the Chord DAVE vs the Redbook version? That would be a more reasonable comparison.

Chord attempts to solve some of the same problems that MQA does using a different route so may not be the right DAC to get the best out of MQA. See this Stereophile review for more background.


Also in this review there is a comparison between the DAVE and the Meridian Ultra ($23,000) with MQA and even then only “a subtle difference” was noted.

Dear Erik or @Quaerit just so I get this right!
Have you like @philr also points out compared two $200 MQA DACs with a $10,000 DAC? The two $200 DAC’s doesn’t have MQA! They could be any kinds of $200 DAC’s that you would make this testing/comparing with, your $10.000 DAC and get the same results :wink:!!!

Buy or make the same test/compares with a dCS Network Bridge - Streamer and the dCS Rossini DAC for around 250.000SEK :smile:
But it’s enough with the PS Audio DS + their new Roon Ready Network Card or MYTEK Manhattan II with their Roon Ready Network Streaming built in!
PS Audio and MYTEK Manhattan II with the network streaming, costs around your Chord DAVE!!!

Please write and tell about that test/comparing if it’s also became a joke :smile:

Love & Respect

The late Charles Hansen of Ayre Acoustics had a great post about the most important features of a DAC (his respected opinion). The digital filters aspect were down on the list. Power supply and analogue sections were the most the most important by far. If you have a chance to chat to other respected DAC designers you may find they agree.


So taking Charles points, even putting aside price, I think a Mojo is a fairer comparison to the AQ DragonFly and Explorer2 but you’re still comparing different analogue section and power supply section designs here too.

Dave’s power supply and analogue sections are quite a bit more involved so it doesn’t make it a fair comparison, even if you put aside price.

Actually, considering what Charles and other great designers have taught me, the exercise of comparing Dave with a DragonFly and Explorer2 is mostly a learning exercise on the importance of analogue and power supply sections more than anything else…

I have been doing comparisons for an upgrade off the headphone rig.
I found I could plug the Geek Pulse DAC output into my Bryston headphone amp, and completely bypass the Geek headphone amp, and found a big improvement.
Which supports that view.

Also allowed me to plug the Meridian 818 into that Bryston, and compare those two DACs, and HW/SW MQA decoding, through the same amp.

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It’s always nice when our ears are in agreement with what some of the most respected designers have to say :wink:

Sorry if I came off a bit rude in my comparison. :sweat: I have done the first unfold on Roon and sent to Dave and both listened normally and with more testing without any significant benefit towards MQA, if any at all. Only with the Meridian we caught some positive difference, but it was more of a difference where non-MQA sounded slightly bad rather than the MQA sounding great. Kind of like my experience with the headphones that make a sound signature from your ear channels (forgot the name, a friend owns a pair) where they sound good with “your” signature activated and surprisingly bad when it’s not. Almost if it was “by design”, though not as much as with the headphones example. I’m not in any “against MQA” camp though, as I have not enough experience to take a stance. If I had the chance to demo the Meridian Ultra against my DAVE it would be really interesting.

My first experience of a MQA demo at a hifi event was a disappointment and the times I’ve tried it at home have been disappointments. But this is probably because of the hype having me believe this was the new benchmark of hifi audio. And to get to the level of me hearing benefits to my system requires more money and effort than affordable DACs can offer.

As a comparison I upgraded from a mRendu with LPS-1 to Auralic Aries G2 in January – that difference was night and day and really surprised me. I had never imagined it would or should change the perceived sound quality that much. And I kind of think I hoped for something similar with MQA, and with the right equipment maybe it’s possible.

Right now I’ll pass to wait and see. And maybe Chord one day jumps on the MQA train. That would be interesting because I have not heard a better sounding DAC, to my taste, and I’ve demoed quite a few, cheaper and more expensive, before picking the DAVE as the clear winner. I then upgraded from MSB Analogue DAC with the better PSU and heard a significant increase what I would best describe as more musicality.

(Maybe I should demo my old HUGO against the Explorer2) :thinking:

Their filters are a key selling/marketing point, I would hope they don’t compromise their brand and customers to pay Bob just to use his filters.

All Chord DAC’S, Dave and so on will never be able to get the best from MQA:
MQA’s and Rob Watts’s ideas on filter design are incompatible. So lets see who gives in first?

I don’t think that’s “Bob or MQA” have to give up :wink:
Because they have the Meridian products, MYTEK Manhattan II and the company who sells a lots of high-end DAC’s today!
PS Audio DS and with a extra network card makes them Roon Ready and MQA!
Also the giant dCS, with their dCS Network Bridge - Streamer
Their dCS Rossini DAC have MQA and some other dCS Dac is coming with MQA!
That covers the MQA DAC’s more than well, from cheaper to high quality and to the highest quality!
And the record company is already on the MQA train, so it’s not going to disappear perhaps change but it’s easy!
If you don’t like it it’s okay and it’s only to listen to the format that suits you as before MQA!

Love & Respect

To be accurate, John Franks has no issue with the 1st unfold… Like Ted Smith’s DirectStream DAC, there probably won’t EVER be any MQA decoding by Rob’s FPGA. But a Poly/2Go/future streamer MAY eventually do the 1st unfold.

See the end of this video:

Whatever you think of McIntosh’s house sound, their place in the “high end” game is the envy of most. They have decided that they don’t like the “distortion” of MQA. Perhaps this “end-to-end” proprietary scheme is going to go the way of the Dodo sooner rather than later. I suppose I should “Thank God” for that :wink:

I also love “McIntosh’s In The House Sound” :smile: I was recently in contact with them. Regarding that some of their new Integrated and Pre Amplifiers. Have built in, but with chance to remove if they upgrade it!
With something over, like MQA! Unfortunately didn’t they have any plans “yet” to jump on the train. Pretty much that they didn’t believed in the costs, not only for the company but to “Bob” (who’s this Bob that everyone’s talking about? :smile: I’m only joking).
But McIntosh didn’t say never ever! They said that they’re waiting and watching, a wise decision from a such Great Company!

Because if we all is serious about the MQA and “Bob”!
In my opinion so is MQA the best format, since the Vinyl Records and the 1/4 Reel to Reel Tape Machine’s that unfortunately only the Studio and Radio Station, of course also the Audiophiles of the 60’s, 70’s, 80’s maybe the 90’s?
But it’s was mostly music on Vinyl who’s was the easiest way to get!
Because Cd was and are a bad format, yeah you can scream as much as you want but it won’t be any better anyway!!!
When it’s SACD, DSD great format if you like classic music and jazz!
(I does it, but I want to be able to listen to other music styles)!!!
I’m sure that it’s more music on MQA and different styles, than SACD and DSD? Or what do you think?
But since the beginning of mankind, especially since that a special man walked on the earth and told us to be kind, against each other and love each other!
Words who King’s and the church “specially one man in a special church in the capital of Italy”!
Have miss used to get power over other people, not so much difference on that point on the last 2.000 years!
So when “Bob” says that he have made a new music format, so does it lay in our genes! To react like who are you and made a different music format!!!???
Who have aloud you to do that!!! Our music format sounds like crap, but it has it almost always done! So does you coming with something you call MQA! Who’s aloud you to do that??? And it’s got filters that’s we been learning to don’t use, because someone else has told their not good!

We acting like we Spanish Inquisition on the 1500 century against MQA and Bob, instead for being thankful for that someone trying to make music sounds better.

But we humans are not a thankful creator, we are envious of for example Bob, for that he made MQA and not yourselves!

Love & Respect


Sorry for forgot one of the biggest “problems” to somebody!!!
They don’t like MQA for some reason!

  1. They can’t use DSP as they want!
  2. They can’t use/setup any filters as they please!
  3. Or setup their DAC’s as they want!

Filters, DSP and DAC’s!
Have Bob fixed as he wants his MQA Music to sound!
But clearly is MQA Bad For Music!
Who’s Music?
We how like it as Bob has made his music format?
Or the one’s that’s not can change it with DSP, Filters and DAC’s!

Love & Respect

“We acting like we Spanish Inquisition on the 1500 century against MQA and Bob, instead for being thankful for that someone trying to make music sounds better.”

Poppycock. We are acting like responsible adults and consumers who are all too aware that far too many products, especially in audio, are snake oil. The same “kind man” you refer to also said “the truth will set you free”. It is of course banal to apply his purpose to audio, but I just wanted to note how you conveniently left that particular truth out in your rhetoric about this “kind man”.

I am not thankful that Bob S has created a closed proprietary encoding that is designed to line his pockets, “end to end”. Consumers are not “envious” of Bob’s dubious creation and that in now way explains why we reject it.


Some of us reject it. You can’t speak for everyone. MQA cannot exist in a world where no one wants it. It must serve a purpose to those who adopt it in the industry, even if it’s purpose is dubious or even sinister to some of us.
That someone wants to be paid for coming up with and promoting the system is almost a red herring. People have always been paid. Compact Cassette, Compact Disc, SACD, DVD-Audio. People got paid. Sony, Phillips, Toshiba etc all got royalties when you used their systems. This isn’t new and Bob has even been here before with MLP.
Finally, this may be seen as bad for some of us but it is breathing life into some areas of the industry. This sort of upheaval and this level of interest and discussion is not universally bad!