MQA disappointing


#811

I’m not sure I dare if the last couple of posts are anything to go by.

Have I stumbled across some sort of secret society?

Scientology auditing! - some people do seem to have an almost evangelical dislike of anything remotely positive that is said about MQA.

My view is simply that life is too short to get so worked up about something that isn’t genuinely that important in the grand scheme of things.


(Tim) #812

@hmack

I’ve only been following this forum since May of last year so my opinions may not count for much with some.

In an effort to help you catch up on the feelings about MQA I would say that opinions vary widely and some are very fervent in their support of or disdain for MQA.

Supporters tend to like what they hear and you will see some recent posts where users have reported doing an A/B test between an MQA album on Tidal and a Hi-Res version of the the same album on Qobuz and finding that the MQA version sounded very close and in some cases better than the Hi-Res version. As expected MQA supporters were glad to hear this but it’s blasphemy to its detractors.

I’m not sure all the detractors have listened to many MQA albums and I suspect some have not listened to any. Concerns about lossy vs lossless, perceived sound quality issues, DRM, proprietary format, fills a need that does not exist, created to make money and other individual issues seem to be enough to inspire what sometimes comes across from a few as hatred for MQA and disdain for anyone who likes it and listens to it. I just read a post where someone stated they would not support a record label if MQA was all they published for streaming. I respect their view but I don’t share it.

Sometimes it seems that exchanges between detractors and supporters are like two ships passing in the night, both are expressing their opinion but no one is really listening to the other. Especially the apparent refusal of many detractors to acknowledge that others are listening to it and like what they are hearing.

My library is small but growing, at the moment 40% ( 222 of 562 ) of the albums in it are MQA and I enjoy listening to them. I’ve read posts by users whose hearing appears to be much better than mine and they hear “defects” I just don’t hear. I also know I’m just renting via Tidal and that could come to an end if Tidal shuts down or if some of the wilder conspiracy theories about the real motives behind MQA come to pass.

Should I lose access to MQA content I’ll survive even if I have to completely rebuild my library and I’ll continue to use Roon as long as they have a streaming partner. I’m in the “I don’t have to own it to enjoy it” group since my library has less than 100 CD rips. Those in the “I have to own it” group have much larger physical libraries and strong feelings about streaming with some refusing to stream. For me streaming made getting back into music possible and affordable after I retired last year.

I mentioned earlier seeing some posts comparing MQA and Hi-Res content that reported that the MQA content held its own against the Hi-Res content. To me they support my own theory that one of the design goals for MQA was to offer better than CD quality streaming at much lower bandwidth than 24/96 or 24/192 streaming. Given that MQA streams at 24/48 I’m assuming that it uses about half the bandwidth of 24/96 and only one quarter the bandwidth of 24/192. While that makes no difference to a user with high speed internet to their home I suspect it would make a real difference to someone like Spotify. Of course, the big players like Spotify may never feel compelled to stream better than CD quality since their hundreds of millions of users seem content with less than CD quality.

My opinions are my own and my therapist assures me I believe them :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:

Feel free to share your opinions here, everyone else does.

Tim


(Jeff) #813

FWIW:

MQA doesn’t compress into a FLAC container as well as regular PCM. The reason being the folded data in the upper bits just makes it busier and harder to binary compress efficiently. So it’s saves more like 30-35% of the bandwidth of regular 24/96 PCM.

MQA can’t deliver > 96kHZ so it shouldn’t really be compared to 24/192 PCM.


(Jeremy) #814

I started with streaming with a focus on Tidal masters - MQA promised to be the best thing since sliced bread! I listened extensively for thousands of hours. I am appalled. I was duped. The MQA versions without exception are worse than their equivalent hi-res or CD Redbook version. The distortion from MQA is subtle but once you hear it - well it is like the coffee stain on your shirt that never came out - you can’t help but notice it all the time, even if others may only see it from certain angles or in certain light!!!

That I was lied to is the principal reason that I am vocal about my discovery that the Emperor really has no clothes at all. I don’t like to be taken for a fool or idiot. Strong claims of miraculous superiority and authenticity that prove to be lies are not something I accept lightly. If MQA had stuck to realistic claims of being a high quality lossy format that is slightly better than compressed MP3, I would never have raised my hackles!


(Tim) #815

An audiophile might not compare MQA to 24/192 PCM but a businessman might. Based on your comment that MQA data does not compress as well as PCM data it might still only need 1/3 the bandwidth of 24/192 PCM. Why pay for 3 times more of everything to offer a better than CD offering when your current customer base is apparently OK with less than CD quality? According to Spotify their free ( ad supported ) customers ( all 100 million of them ) listen at best to 160 kbit/s Ogg Vorbis streams and their paying customers ( another 100 million ) only get 320 kbit/s Ogg Vorbis streams.

How many audiophiles are out there? I have no idea but I bet it’s less than a million or two and as a percentage of those that listen to music I suspect their percentage is decreasing.

Tim


(Tim) #816

Jeremy.

You have listened to MQA and it is not for you. I have no problem with that. I listen to MQA and like it. I may be misreading your post but it seems like you feel I should feel the same way you do since “MQA versions without exception are worse than their equivalent hi-res or CD Redbook version”. Kind of difficult to believe you have listened to all available MQA releases. New releases come out every week. Are you tormenting yourself listening to every one?

I’m not saying you don’t hear what your hear, I’m saying I don’t hear what you do. Seems like you should accept that.

Tim


(Jeremy) #817

I don’t disagree with what you hear and that it may be different from me. I respect your findings and viewpoint. I just wanted to you to be aware how much I had hoped MQA would be what was claimed and that I gave it a very serious and substantial effort to that effect. I just wanted to point out that it wasn’t a casual effort with a couple of tracks. I don’t claim to have heard every MQA track. In fact it was quite difficult to find all the Tidal MQA albums as not all the MQA albums were classified as Masters. I doubt I heard them all or even much more than 50% - just a great many. Only point is that for myself MQA was carefully weighed, measured and found wanting.

Anyway your suggestion that detractors of MQA may not have done much MQA listening might be also true, just not in my case. And that was the aspect of your post that I quoted and was responding to. I put a great deal of effort into MQA and was disappointed and ultimately frustrated. The next best thing since sliced bread, not.


#818

Be prepared for the school yard bully pack…Oh they’re already here…


#819

Tim,

Thank you for this detailed and very considered and rational post outlining your views on the merits and possible flaws of MQA. Your views and your opinions pretty much coincide with my own.

I must confess that having expressed some surprise and even shock at some of the recent anti-MQA as a very recent newcomer to the Roon Community forum, in reality I was not shocked at all. Although a newcomer to this forum and to Roon, I have engaged in the past in some pretty robust discussion about MQA in a couple of other forums, and it has usually the same. There will be a number of people who argue rationally and legitimately about some of the issues surrounding MQA as a format, and in particular with some justification about some of the ‘slightly dubious’ claims that were made about MQA at the outset. Then there will be a significantly larger number of people whom I describe as ‘anti-MQA zealots’ who may never have listened to MQA (although I admit that this is perhaps a little less likely on a Roon forum) and who jump on the evangelical mantra that MQA is not ‘bit-perfect’ or ‘truly lossless’ or that it is nothing but an attempt to introduce DRM and so is the root of all evil.

Well - my own view is quite straightforward, and I would certainly not describe myself as an MQA evangelist. Here we go:

  • First of all, contrary to my expectations I have been completely won over by Roon and what it offers, and that includes its integration with Tidal and its support of MQA andTidal MQA Masters.

  • I believe that the most important factor in the sound quality of recordings is ‘the mastering’, and not bit rate or sampling frequency, not whether an album is streamed locally or streamed from Tidal, and not whether a music file is MQA mastered or not. Some of my best sounding albums are 16bit, 44.1KHz

  • Where I can find equivalent masters, I find that on my systems hi-res versions of albums generally sound better than their CD quality equivalents.

  • Where I can find equivalent masters, most MQA Masters from Tidal sound (to my ears and on my systems) sound better than their non MQA equivalents. I cannot hear the ‘distortion’ on either of my systems that one or two others claim to hear when listening to MQA files. If given a choice, I will always choose to listen to Tidal MQA albums - Roon MQA bypass to my MQA enabled Sonore microRendu/Mytek Brooklyn+ or with the Roon first MQA unfold into my non MQA enabled Linn Klimax DS/1 in my other system.

So, my position is pretty clear. I have become a convert to Roon and would continue to use it even if it did not continue to support MQA. However, I am glad that it does support MQA and that I (like everyone else who uses Roon) have the option of deciding whether or not to make use of this feature.

I have an almost pathological distrust of ‘evangelists’ and bullys who try to impose their will on others. Witness the pressure on Sonore not to implement a planned release that would introduce MQA support to some of their products.


(Jeff) #820

This is a very good point and illustrstes that there was no real need for MQA in the first place as audiophiles are the only persons that haven’t been fine with lossy mp3. From the consumer standpoint at least.


#821

Yours is also a very good point, but by the same token one could argue that there is also no need for hi-res PCM files either. Of course it may be that you don’t value the availability of hi-res generally, in which case from your perspective your logic is very valid.


(Jeff) #822

The value of high res is that it lessons the load of D/A filters in analog reproduction. MQA goes against that and introduces more digital filters.

Personally I much prefer linear phase filters, minimum phase filters like MQAs smear the soundstage on my system. I’d prefer if audiophiles have a choice in this regard moving forward, MQA removes this choice.


#823

Okay - that’s fine. However, you do have a choice of whether or not you choose to unfold Tidal MQA Masters using Roon, whether or not you choose to play MQA Masters from Tidal at all or indeed choose whether or not to subscribe to Tidal.

You also have the same choice as to whether or not you actually buy MQA encoded downloads. I suspect you won’t and of course that’s your choice. I had decided not to purchase any more MQA encoded album downloads (I only have 2) because I would not be able to make full use of them on one of my systems (Linn Klimax DS/1) which does not my support MQA. However, I may re-assess this position now that I have the possibility of Roon delivering hi-res PCM to my Klimax DS/1 from MQA encoded albums. I suspect I won’t change my mind though. Unlike some other people I have not subscribed to the point of view that MQA ‘hi-res’ sounds better than ‘standard’ hi-res, just to the point of view that there is very little difference between the two. But then, I haven’t carried out many specific listening tests on this particular claim some would make of MQA.


(Jeff) #824

We are already seeing a label only providing MQA encoded PCM. So the point is if we all sit on our hands and not speak up we might not have a choice in the near future. MQA has public-ally stated their goal is to be the only distribution medium for “hi-res” content. While you and others continually mention choice that’s not what MQA wants. You can’t blame them it’s all about the $$$.


#825

I understand your point of view although I don’t share your concerns.

Do you feel the same way about DSD?


(Jeff) #826

You really should but that’s your choice.

DSD is a great format just like regular PCM.


#827

I guess we can agree to disagree on the first part.

I too think that DSD is a great format, especially now that I have Roon. However, to play devil’s advocate (and to match one of your objections to MQA) - in the event that a label was to exclusively release DSD only versions of its albums then many (if not most) customers would be forced to change their equipment in order to be able to play the DSD content. For example, my Linn Klimax DS/1 does not play DSD since Linn was/is of the opinion that DSD ‘is bad’. I only have a limited amount of DSD content for this very reason, but fortunately Roon (and its conversion of DSD to hi-res PCM) pretty much rescues the day for me.

You may know that Linn has recently introduced DSD support for their Klimax Katalyst and Akurate Katalyst models, but not for any other models, and their view of the merits of DSD haven’t changed.


(Jeff) #828

There’s no advantage for the labels to convert everything to DSD. I certainly don’t want all PCM automatically converted to DSD and forced on everyone. MQA has clear advantages for the labels and MQA is counting on that.


(Neil Russell) #829

No, per Bob Stewart, MQA DOES throw musical information away, but he feels that people are unable to detect that lost information. I, for one, can easily detect the loss.


(Neil Russell) #830

If you have ever looked at photos of an analog impulse, and then how that same impulse is reproduced at various bitrates/depths, you do not get anything really close to accurate reproduction until you get to 256 DSD. 192/24 FLAC is close, but still has very noticeable differences. 96/24 and each step below that progressively lose accuracy. You can see the impulse getting flatter and flatter with each drop below 256 DSD.