MQA disappointing

What is wrong with that? That’s how business works. If you have a product that customers value, you get a financial reward, as you should. If your product has no value, customers won’t buy it.

I’m sitting here right now listening to Tidal MQA using my laptop, Dragonfly Cobalt, and Sony headphones because I’m away from home. I’m thinking how great this James Taylor MQA album sounds and I’m not a huge James Taylor fan.


It doesn’t sound great because of MQA…


I disagree. I think MQA adds a little punch and bass emphasis you don’t get with high res alone.

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If there is a bass bump and “a little punch” (whatever that is), it is in the mastering, not MQA…

You will notice so much MQA is 44.1/24 and as such there is no greater resolution to be has. With MQA the resolution (Digital) is not so relevant, MQA is MQA

Most hires I have is 96/24 or DSD64/DSD128/DSD256, also the original-vs-MQA tracks I’ve tested are primarily 96/24.

MQA can be a touch louder, with distortions, and all that distortion can sound good to some and not to others

I prefer to leave native sample rate file of the mastering session as is and focus on room environment which is usually the weakest link in the chain. Remember the record labels supporting MQA are bulk processing back catalogues to create a market presence mostly not a lot are as they say MQA Studio in the mainstream.

It’s not possible to upgrade mastered PCM or MQA would now be the standard approved go to source in studios for mastering and archiving,

As MQA say they do not alter the original

It’s just another flavour to go with FLAC (PCM), ALAC, MFIT, OGG and so on this just has some filter pre requisites that some listeners may like but has to be paid for

Pays ya money takes ya choice

Is this a guess, is your statement based on your own listening experience or are you just repeating what you have seen written in this thread or in a blog elsewhere? What qualifies you to make this statement?

I am fairly ambivalent about the claimed benefits of MQA and MQA itself. However, what I can say is that on my systems (one of which fully decodes MQA and the other which makes use of the Roon first unfold) I do not hear the distortion that some others repeatedly assert that they hear.

What equipment have you used to personally reproduce and hear the distortion that you say MQA ‘produces’? I guess it’s possible that this effect that some people hear is system dependant.

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I have listened to MQA for over 18 months. I have three MQA capable DAC’s that can completely unfold content all have slightly different sound signatures, which is another argument that MQA is different between it’s own licensed hardware which sort of skews the benefits of the minimal phase filter response for me. The sound I think is not “the night and day” that people go on about, I have listened to Qobuz as well as Tidal back to back and I see no mileage in MQA for me personally, I’m not knocking the technology I think it’s very clever in what it does, but I can shape sound the way I want with my own DSP so I would rather have the original file to work with in that instance. The point is we actually don’t know what the sound is like before MQA is applied, as you never get to hear it, the only files out there are from the 2L stable and nothing else so you can only subjectively test yourself to the best of your ability inside you own setup, IMHO I see no benefit but a lot do which is fine


yeah but @hmack is asking you about distortions, maybe you can give us a song to which anyone can listen if they can experienced that distortion you are talking about. I’m curious too.

Maybe my wording was too harsh I was more pointing to additional noise that is added in the MQA process when burying the utlrasonics (subjective harmonics) in the second fold for transporting, this can have a subjective effect when unfolded back which in turn (distorts / changes) from the original PCM file that went in, but that is what MQA was intending to do with their theoretical time domain / pre ringing clean up process it’s something that has to be heard to evaluate, I rarely hear any difference and if it is then it’s usually on certain types of music which may have an ambience and or openness in it’s delivery, but this can modified by adjusting your post analogue sound chain in most cases

Thanks for the response to my questions.

I actually agree with your own findings, as I find the differences between 16 bit and 24bit (MQA) to be quite subtle. As I mentioned, I am fairly ambivalent towards MQA in my own systems although where both MQA and non MQA albums are available on Tidal I tend to choose to put the MQA version into my Roon library.

So I do agree with you to some extent. I just wanted to question your reference to distortion which some people write about on this and other threads, even to the point of claiming that “all MQA tracks sound dreadful” and “MQA sounds worse than MP3”. Those comments I simply do not understand…

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Cheaper to use your tone controls than to buy into MQA.


I have two MQA DACs and Tidal.

MQA creates a very pleasing sound it’s not lossy in the sense of throwing away data (MP3) it ensures that any musical data inside 48khz range is captured and not destroyed in anyway this their goal this is held in approx 17/18bits the balance is used for metadata / instruction and unpacking of the balance of ultrasonic signals which is not restored in its original form with the instruction and settings for what filter data to apply (clever really) but is it 10 years too late, we can only see if there are any more adopters in the future other than Tidal which they would need

1 Like has quite a bit of material that is available in both original hires and MQA (at +2€ price).

It is quite lossy, for example one synth pop album I have in MQA and original hires is 96/24 and MQA version has only 15 bits left because the amount of ultrasonics make the bit reservation starve the dynamic range that much to host (part of) the high frequencies.

Of course I’m having a bit of fun because I have pretty good idea how MQA works so I know what kind of material to look for that will be challenging for it. Exactly same as with MP3.

Certainly if you want something that is easy for any lossy encoder, use solo piano. :smiley: (it is hard to record nicely though, from micrphone selection and placement point of view)

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Yes that’s probably the same analogy for the MQA CD this is coming out at around 13 to 14 bit due to the 16 bit restriction for backwards compatibility, very clever but I think it’s a lot of over engineering for little or no return in general. I’ll stick to PCM, if the studios have it as there approved standard it will do me for home use

It does when you consider ‘24 bit’ MQA is a 16 bit in the audible range and 8 bit above it. MQA doesn’t emphasis on resolution but rather on improving the rough edges, i.e. transients response. With that said, MQA is another DSP process added into hires mastered files to sound ‘better’. They think 16 bit resolution is more than enough but not everyone will agree to that :wink:

In ‘16 bit’ MQA CD, you still able to get close to 16 bit resolution but no information above the audio range. You still get some improved transients response. Do remember all MQA DACs report only authenticated samples, similar to what Roon reports in the signal path. This is not the same when normal PCM is playback with the actual output sample to the DAC.