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

Internet is full of “abuse”, starting with Facebook, Google, etc… :slight_smile:

Yes, certainly! Good starting point avoiding such is to stick with with standardized content formats free of DRM provisions.

AFAIK, IETF has not yet passed problematic stuff. W3C recently passed DRM things with lot of controversy.

I don’t have problems if some service wants to use DRM as long as it is not being masqueraded under something else. Netflix for example is certainly using DRM, but they are not at all trying to claim otherwise. Apple is also pretty clear, iTunes music download purchases are DRM-free AAC, while movies and such are protected with DRM.

MQA is HDCD/SACD-style DRM. At the moment,you can get reduced quality without approved solution, and higher quality with protected/approved decoder. With some possible provisions for more control.

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But even through a standard DAC MQA sounds better than red book so there is nothing to complain about. I even find undecoded MQA better than hires files.

I just spent a fair amount of time over the last two evenings comparing undecoded MQA of some of my favorites to CDs and hires and in every case it sounds better. Of course I don’t know for sure if that because it’s better master or not but I don’t care. Esp as MQA costs me nothing with my Tidal subscription and hires downloads typically cost me $18 a piece and it’s tough to try them out properly before I buy them to see if they are a better master.

I haven’t bought an MQA capable DAC yet but I am still able to benefit from MQA. When I am ready to upgrade I will of course go with one that fully decodes MQA but I’m in no rush.

The math is all interesting but I don’t care if I’m losing a bit of information or there is some noise at very high frequencies if it simply sounds better.

I gave up with the comparisons a few months ago and just started listening to the MQA version if it was available. With all the fuss I thought I would check again but I’m going to stop with all the pain staking level matching and A B ing and just enjoy MQA. I think I should stop reading all this back and forth on MQA too.


I’ve just been writing up a similar thought. The people who care about DRM in MQA are, or should be, the world’s Linux users–people who reject MacOS and Microsoft. I respect the point of view, up to a point, but I don’t share it. I’m a happy Apple user.

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And lots of other people have compared and disagree: they hear lower quality, less detail, etc. Even through an MQA DAC. I can’t argue with what you hear. But it isn’t a “fact” that MQA sounds better.


Yours and others are all are all false DRM analogies. The difference with audio is that we already have open,non-restricted formats that sound at least as good as MQA, if not better. And have had for years. Same with computer HW - the HW restrictions have been broken for years and anyone can obtain generic HW that will run a computer as well as a branded computer and often for less money.

MQA is an attempt to take that away - and turn every segment of the recording and distribution chain into a proprietary closed profit center.

Maybe the difference is that you somehow trust corporate interests to do something for your benefit. I don’t. I see no economic rationale for MQA in the medium to long term unless it is used to extract more money from consumers than the present model. If that wasn’t true, why would all the record labels adopt it?

If MQA succeeds in becoming a standard format, I predict it will be used to get more money from us, and will also be used as an excuse to remove actual hi-res masters from distribution. Even Robert Harley admitted that one of the main purposes of MQA is to “protect the crown jewels” - in other words, not to give us actual hi-res master files.
I know you will disagree. Just be willing to admit you were wrong when it turns out I was correct.


That is your subjective opinion. From objective viewpoint undecoded MQA performs poorly compared to plain RedBook and consumes much more bandwidth.

For me, MQA always sounds inferior, it has closed in “on your face” character, with similar plastic sounding flavor as MP3 (something I usually call “Tupperware-sound”). It’s like air sneezed out of the recording.

I do care.


It isn’t a fact it sounds worse either although people persist that is is, as if saying it enough with enough ferver makes it so. It doesn’t.
To me, my ears, my system MQA undecoded sounds great. Like others, I dont really care why. Life is just too short.
This debate has also got down to debating analogies which is missing the point entirely.

When all is said and done, all is said and done lol.


What an amusing post.

This is not, or should not be, about “DRM analogies.” DRM is just an acronym, representing a phrase. What matters in this case is the specific things–specific “rights”–that MQA does or does not limit, or “manage.” People like you think that any limitation is unacceptable–as if the constitution guaranteed your right to see every bit and do whatever you want with every recording. People like me don’t feel great about proprietary technologies, about giving up access enjoyed since, say, the mid-90s–we don’t even feel good about it–but we realize that the situation is complicated–that the rise of your beloved accessible (if not in all cases technically open) technologies coincided with the collapse of the recorded music industry, via cause and effect that’s easy to trace. (Yes, I’m aware of the crackpot theories that suggest that the timing is just a coincidence.) I’d keep going down this road but it’s pointless, since I’ve just written about this in Stereophile, and the article is out now (though only in print so far, not online; sorry, you can’t yet get it without paying; I know you must find that annoying). We trust corporations every day. I trust them with my life every time I get in my car. So do you.

What digital “rights” does MQA limit? What “rights” does MQA limit digitally? What rights does it have the potential to limit in the future? These are the important questions–not whether the acronym, or phrase,“DRM” is applicable.

What an obnoxious thing to say. No, I don’t disagree with you, or not completely. I recognize that if MQA wins out, we’ll be giving up some things that some people have gotten used to. What you appear not to understand is that that matters less to many others than it does to you and all the techno-libertarians out there. I respect you guys–I really do–and up to a point I share some of your values. I just don’t think your interests are aligned with those of the general music-listening public.

I am not an advocate for MQA–as a read of my latest Stereophile article makes clear. I recognize that MQA has advantages and disadvantages, costs and benefits, and that we won’t know how they balance out for quite a while (or never if MQA doesn’t catch on). My goal is to show the bullshit arguments for what they are, to emphasize the arguments that have merit, and let people decide for themselves. At the end of the day, both sides are pissed at me because I’m unwilling to carry their water. I take comfort in knowing that I’m very unlikely to determine MQA’s (and audio’s) fate, one way or the other.



Jim, that is a really crappy thing to say here. I subscribe to Stereophile on my iPad and with little stupid jabs on your part, now makes me wish to cancel. Great to see what you really think your readers are like.


Jim, the music industry hasn’t collapsed. It had a privileged position with monopolistic aspects which allowed it to make profits greater than it should have. There’s still lots of proit in the music industry, just not as much as there once was. No industry has a “right” to extraordinary profits based on a market without true competition.

What the labels want (and what your article seems to acknowledge) is that MQA is really about getting them back to that position of economic privilege - it isn’t about sound quality or authenticated masters. In fact it’s about making sure the public can’t get the masters. I’m not sure why I should be in favor of that. And it’s being marketed and sold to the public under false pretenses.

I’m under no illusion that my POV is that of the public. I’m pretty sure I’m in the top 1% of spenders both on audio equipment and on music: Streaming, downloads, and the occasional disc. I also care about SQ and am willing to pay for it. It’s obvious that puts me in a small minority.

MQA is about introducing a format that will have worse SQ (IMO) than what’s available today and will be priced so that I have to pay premium prices for that lessened SQ, if I want the best available.

I wouldn’t really care if I knew that the other Redbook and hi-res formats were still going to be available. Just as I don’t care that MP3 is what most people listen to today. But it seems that isn’t the plan MQA and the labels have in mind. That’s the issue as I see it.
The only saving grace here is that it is possible that there will be little public interest in MQA at all, and it will fail. Let’s hope so.

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It wasn’t directed at you. But if I offended, I offer you my apologies.

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Shockingly, we’re not that far apart in our views. I’d agree that “a privileged position” is a key to profitability in many industries; its funny how different intro econ is from the way (apparently) most businesses operate: if you can’t seize a privileged position–some sort of monopolistic status (whether legally or not), it’s not a business worth being in. The only (partial) exceptions are businesses that deal in commodities, at least those at the lowest end of the pricing chain (think discount gas stations and grocery stores). That’s the world we live in. Capitalism sucks, but often it’s the best way to get stuff done. And that is how capitalism tends to work. Like they say, it’s the worst system except all of the alternatives.

That is not a conclusion, but an observation.

You didn’t mention it, but my apologies for the snarky comment about paying for Stereophile.


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The general public has zero interest or need for MQA as it stands right now. IMO, only Apple can make MQA, and I hope they follow past trends and not implement something that didn’t come directly from their own oven.

It attempts to limit rights to perform DSP processing on the playback. Be that digital room correction, headphone cross-feed processing or loudness normalization, etc.

It also attempts to limit full-resolution transcoding rights to new formats. It puts proprietary encoding within non-proprietary encoding. So that without specifically approved decoder you cannot access the full resolution. (and your content is screwed when they go out of business or generally lose interest on old technology, just like MLP is practically dead now)

In addition, it attempts to enforce technically poor upsampling filter choices and reduces resolution significantly compared to the original hires.


Do you think this will always be the case or are there plans for an ‘MQA certified’ A to D converter, where the MQA file will be the original digital file? I guess that would mean the MQA file becoming ‘the master’? I can’t imagine this happening but stranger things have/are happening I guess.

For background: I’m not fussed with MQA at all personally. I wouldn’t be upset if it went away.

It does not allow DSP under all circumstances, but it does allow DSP. This is best thought of as a technical/philosophical issue: How do you ensure the integrity of the signal while allowing others to alter it? DSP is in principle compatible with DSP, MQA DSP is already available for some digital speakers, and MQA-DAC-based DSP is coming. It does, though, prevent you from doing it however you want to.

Yes. Those are the rights MQA limits. That’s it, in a nutshell. It’s worth mentioning that in these respects it’s similar to, say, stereo LP playback, except for the requirement of a licensing fee.

It’s important (to me, anyway) to distinguish between rights limited and opinions about the technology’s merits.

I don’t think it would happen, allot happens in a DAW after capture that would nuke MQA data.

First of all, there are very few DACs with advanced DSP like digital room correction, 3D headphone audio and such. (Don’t bother to talk about AVR’s with Audyssey or other ridiculous crap like that.) And in any case I don’t have interest in hardware-based solutions. I have much more DSP power available in my computers than any DAC will ever have. So I have zero interest buying new hardware just for the sake to make it “MQA compatible” or to have something as freaky as “MQA approved DSP”.

MQA can go screw themselves on their opinions, they have no word in how I want and will do DSP. Luckily I have already worked around the issue by placing all my DSP between MQA decoding and DAC while avoiding the crappy MQA upsampling filters. Sort of win-win-situation. But I shouldn’t have to go over such hoops to deal with simple things as these.

So, you also admit it is a DRM approach with quite a lot of limitations. For no good reason. In addition you get degraded quality even for fully decoded “hires”.

And no, it is not similar to LP playback. You don’t get extra quality-degradation on LP-playback using something else than monopolistic one-product-must-fit-all approach.


Plus there’s a lot of music that has instrument tracks that have never seen an ADC in first place. Lot of software synthesizers running inside DAW as plugins…

You don’t need to buy a Hammond organ these days, you can run it in software. And adjust aging level of the tubes and everything… :slight_smile:

Great! Good for you. Apparently not a likely customer then.

Oh–wait, what? You are a customer? I’m confused.

I hesitate to use “DRM” because it’s political; the word is used (like “lossy”) as a cudgel. I’d rather just list the rights that are limited; people can decide for themselves whether that’s tolerable.

I was thinking, specifically, of stereo LPs. You’d need a stereo cartridge; otherwise, the sound is “degraded.”

As for the rest, it’s your judgment about MQA’s merits. I’ve got no interest in debating those here.