Is Roon supporting MQA? What are the pros and cons of MQA?

Thanks for taking the time to chime in.

Given how MQA seems to rather better backronym into Many Questionable Assertions than its original intended meaning, I’m personally at the point where trust in anything stated by Stuart et al. is completely broken.

The effort apparently made into preventing the curious and critical from publicly prodding the implementation isn’t helping their case, either. Given that external examinations have revealed that MQA compression does indeed, mathematically, if not audibly, degrade non-decoded content to sub-Redbook quality, I’m dubious as to how much weight Hollinshead’s word is worth.

1 Like

Comments on AudioStream on he same issue yesterday with others spouting the same patent.

The patent has been known about for years. Odd that it’s making a resurgence…


The anti-MQA brigade keep on repeating over and over anything they can find that seems to fit their view.


nothing odd about it, Lavorgna brought it up, people countered.

The Stuart quote ("“There is no DRM.” / “Everything that looks like security is authentication.”") is a flat-out untruth: as someone very eloquently put it on CA, “MQA denies me the right to inspect the full contents of the file. MQA denies me the right to process the full contents of the file on any machine I see fit. Clearly, MQA is managing my rights.”


Let’s be civil. If that same comment had been made about the anti-folder-view brigade the thread would have been locked.

EDIT: best not to post within 2 minutes of waking up. That said, I would like to see this community stay both civil and open to opinions, and for posts to contain substantive arguments and not ad hominem arguments.

It’s because of Audiostreams (Michael Lavorgna) latest article on MQA DRM published yesterday.

I’ll give a run down:

First he talks about asking Bob. Bob says no.
Then he lists a smoking gun from a MQA partner that he interprets as not really DRM.
He then proceeds to cut down forums posts and threads that disagree.

1 Like

Here’s what IS built into MQA as not yet activated features:

Full encryption of the MQA stream, making it unplayable without a decoder.
Scrambling of the decoded stream, making it unplayable without a renderer.

I don’t think those 2 features are there unless there is some consideration of using them in the future.
Sounds like DRM to me.

I can’t play DSD without a DSD DAC. No one gives a crap.

Not DRM.


Correct, that’s just a simple format issue.

Now if you take a DVD for instance HDCP features ICT that will down grade the output to 480P on unprotected outputs.

Same thing is happening with MQA.

Bottom line fact is MQA has DRM baked right into the format.


“Authentication” has very much to do with DRM. Just like “authenticated” players can decode BluRay discs or “authenticated” SACD players can decode SACD discs. Authentication = control = DRM.


Difference is that you can make a delta-sigma (DSD is marketing term) encoder and a DAC yourself, without involving any third party or having anybody to certify or approve your product. No secrets, no mysterious black boxes. Just like I designed and published a “discrete DAC” under open hardware license:

MQA content uses cryptographic means to protect the decoding process and even more so the encoding process. It specifically wants to have end-to-end control and extract money on every point. It would be entirely different if it would have been published like the FLAC codec for example, with source code for encoder and decoder, and format specification:
(same is actually case for MP3, MPEG-4 and bunch of others under ISO standardization process)


My question is why are some posters so vehemently denying it’s DRM? What is so morally objectionable about that conclusion?

The fact that MQA could be used for DRM or has similar latent capabilities doesn’t affect whether you enjoy how MQA sounds. Enjoy it! Appreciate it! I certainly have - there are a number of MQA releases that sound terrific. I bought a Pro-Ject S2 Digital and it’s been a lot of fun to play with.

But that does not mean that HDCP doesn’t annoy the heck out of me, and it doesn’t stop me from seeing the potential future in which (1) substantially all music is released only in MQA, and (2) MQA is used to impose DRM or a DRM-like control.

And I don’t like my media controlled and with closed standards. Has nothing to do with copyright. It limits the fun factor considerably for us tweakers. And occasionally downright degrades the experience.

MQA being available is great. MQA being dominant carries concerns.


Keep in mind that when HDMI with HDCP was first released that ICT wasn’t turned on in an effort to get people to adopt. It was a generation or two and then all the sudden 16:9 screens are hitting 80-85% market saturation and the the ICT switch get’s flipped.

People attribute DRM to certain outcomes, and because they don’t see them happening with MQA, they can’t put the two together.

Wikipedia defines DRM as:

Digital rights management (DRM) is a set of access control technologies for restricting the use of proprietary hardware and copyrighted works. DRM technologies try to control the use, modification, and distribution of copyrighted works (such as software and multimedia content), as well as systems within devices that enforce these policies.

If you buy 44.1/16 content, and it just so happens to be MQA encoded, then the extra resolution is just a bonus. One could argue that there is no “control” (as in the above definition). Thus, no DRM.

If you buy hi-res content encoded in an MQA file, then the extra resolution is exactly what you are purchasing. Now, is the MQA “system” (hardware, software, etc…) attempting to “control” the content?

One view (@joel, @Still-One) is that it is not. It is instead, MQA supported devices is just a mechanism of compatibility. Non-open formats/codecs all have this issue. We don’t call AC3 or any other closed format “DRM” just because it isn’t open.

Another view (@crenca, @Xekomi, @jussi_laako, @Mark_Brown, others) is that even in a hypothetical scenario where the knowledge to decode MQA was made public (by MQA or by someone else), the content could not be properly authenticated without the cryptographic keys required to do so. In that manner, it behaves similarly to the Content Scramble System (CSS) DVDs, which is absolutely DRM. AACS in BluRay discs go so far as to assign each decoder a unique key. This allows for key revocation, where future media playback is made impossible. That’s not impossible with MQA’s architecture for its authentication mechanism. I’m not saying it is there now, but the possibility exists.


The user is managed, digitally, from gaining access to said content (what you call a “bonus” ). Besides, it is not “44.1/16” PCM, thus it is not 14.1/16 content. The assertion that MQA is “just” PCM is just that - a marketing assertion. If it was, then my “legacy DAC” (what Bob calls them) would be able to digitally access said PCM content - but of course it can’t, thus I as a consumer am being “controlled” - I have purchased a product that is DRM by definition.

In the case of MQA we don’t even have to get to the cryptographic facts, we can stay at the level of DRM by design, enforced by IP and the attendant legal apparatus, to see that MQA is DRM…


I’ll give you that it’s impossible to be sold as a “bonus”. Either you know it is hi-res MQA or it is not. You found a tiny but irrelevant hole in my thought exercise.

Assume for this thought exercise that you never were notified that it was MQA encoded or that there was data below the noise floor. It is still PCM, and your non-MQA DAC (let’s never call them “legacy”) would still play it the same as the non-MQA encoded file. Either the DAC’s filters would take that noise out anyway, whether it was there or not (that’s what the MQA team advertises), or you wouldn’t know the noise was there in the first place because it is well below the threshold of hearing. Knowing that DACs do have filters for classes of “noise”, this is entirely within the realm of possibility.

Tesla sells cars with larger batteries than are advertised, then artificially locks them down to lower charges. The battery is big, but you cant access it all. But one could argue its fair since they aren’t misrepresenting the capacity to you, because only the lower capacity is sold to you. That’s the place I was coming from. It needs to be made clear that you aren’t buying hi-res – only 44.1/16.

You clearly lean on the DRM view – my post was written to show that there are multiple ways to look at this.

There was 1 viewpoint that I missed, however: the consumer that doesn’t care about authentication. They only want the content and either don’t care or don’t believe in the value of authentication. In that case, the “it’s only a closed format” argument becomes very strong.

There is debate here because not everyone looks at the problem the same way. I agree with you, @jussi_laako, and others that open formats are the way to go. I personally won’t be purchasing MQA content for this reason and others, but Roon will absolutely be supporting MQA soon (because our members want it).


Hum, a thought exercise, ok - no offense intended if I continue this exercise on then! Using your Tesla example, what are the IP and legal implications if say, a user or his hired technician alters his Tesla such that he has access to more of that battery capacity? Recently in the USA there was an attempt by several major automobile manufacturers to restrict consumers and their chosen mechanics (through copyright law) from even being able to work on their cars software coded components - which in a modern car includes just about every major component. Thankfully so far case law has not supported this effort, but this crass attempt to control the consumer and the repair market is revealing I think. In any case, I wonder just how much control Tesla really has - probably not an issue with the current Tesla demographic (who are uppercrust first adopters, etc.), but with the “average” car consumer it will be.

As to your point about “…it needs to be made clear…”. Well yea, but that is not the MO of MQA at all - just the opposite. A whole bundle of things need to “be made clear” around MQA but that has been detrimental to the sales pitch of MQA so such a thing was ruled out from the beginning. Your right, they are (usually) careful not to “misrepresent” in a strong way that would get them in trouble with certain gov. agency’s, but beyond that obfuscation is the strategery.

I understand your reasoning for MQA adoption, and don’t fault you personally for it. However, it adds a layer of mistrust between us (and I argue, consumers understand the advantages of open formats). As one famous politician said, “trust but verify”. With IP/NDA protected formats, the “verify” part is intentionally obfuscated. That said I recently upgraded to lifetime so it’s not like I (or any other consumer) don’t take risks, balance options, etc.

I think it is important to understand exactly how Bob thinks of his invention. His “legacy” language reveals something important - he is trying to create an either/or, not a both/and. For now he has to play the market, and he has allowed you to incorporate his product alongside open “legacy” formats and hardware, but MQA’s explicit intent is to become the standard format.


Did you mean 44.1/15? :grimacing: :grin:

1 Like

@crenca, you make some really good points and I like where you took the thought exercise.

The long-term effects of MQA success and what I call the “Dolby Innovation Paradox” must be considered here. There will be a serious problem if MQA becomes the Dolby of music audio, and innovation is stuck in the hands of a commercial entity that has no incentive to innovate. Mike Moffat & Jason Stoddard of Schiit state idea this well at about 9:49 into this video interview by John Darko.

Let’s not get stuck on whether it is DRM or not. This could be a much larger problem than “DRM” ever was. DRM has been shown to be breakable over and over. Dolby has not.

There is one serious busienss issue with MQA, and you can be sure they are thinking about it: MQA has to become the defacto standard before bandwidth increases make the folding irrelevant. the M and A in MQA still apply, but the Q only has a short lifespan.