A more balanced view of all of this, including the nonsense of “exposing MQA”, “fraud”, etc. that puts these videos clearly in their place is given in the recent series by Bill Leebens on Strata-gee, of which the fourth in the series is given here. See the strata-gee website for the earlier parts 1,2 and 3. They are worthwhile reads.
Thanks for posting this. There is much verbiage about “seeking middle ground” and MQA being “complicated”, but in the end Leebens (and Green) do not convince - not the least because they both admit they don’t in fact have the tech. background to evaluate the truths of MQA’s technical claims. They want to believe that “deblurring” means something other than known art, but all available evidence points to it being nothing more than known art as well as a solution in search of a problem. They admit that a non-value added middle man and rent scheme, wedged into the audio delivery market, actually adds no value that anyone can point to, yet they want to believe that MQA is not a total loss - there must be something to it.
Middle ground seeking is very often - most of the time - the sensible “middle way” as Aristotle and most others know through experience. Thing is, sometimes the extreme - the outlier - is actually in play. This is the case with MQA as it turns out it really serves no positive purpose. It’s clever folding scheme is in fact “lossy” and irrelevant in todays streaming market. It’s “deblurring” claims are just that. It’s “end to end” claims do not even begin account for the realities of modern music production and delivery. It’s closed source, proprietary, and rent seeking nature replaces a perfectly good digital audio delivery system that is both cheaper and superior technically.
So besides being a trophy to Bob Stuart’s cleverness, MQA adds no value to anyone except Bob Stuart and perhaps the “High End” promotion machine that literally feeds off the hype of the Next Big Thing. In other words, MQA is an actual example of the extreme, the outlier, the invention that no one asked for and no one needs.
Maybe someday Leebens and Green will see this…
This is just outstanding. Exactly accurate, and well written.
I love this paragraph: “As Bill mentions, MQA has an impressive roster of supporters that are Grammy award-winning recording engineers, producers, and mastering engineers. These folks make a living off their almost other-worldly precise hearing. Bob Ludwig will tell you that while he watches frequency readouts, what really makes the difference is what he hears. I respect that, and I think you should too – unless you personally possess more Grammys than he has, which I sincerely doubt.”
Such a good example of the fundamental contradiction within “High End” marketing toward their usual target (variously called “the Old Guard”, “Rich Old Farts Audio Society”, etc.). On the one hand they continually push a radical subjectivism. “Only your ears count”, measurements are a distraction at best, etc. On the other hand, they pose themselves (their writers, publications, spokespersons such as Ludwig) as authorities, don’t trust your ears, trust their ears they tell us, always in the context of The Next Big Thing which they just happen to be promoting…
It’s so strange these arguments and statements.
MQA just admitted in writing that their format is lossy. So what is your point? That some random people like a lossy format? Great, good for them.
MQA is lying. Their patent logo says lossless. Their marketing material says the format is lossless. The format is demonstrably lossy.
And the argument has nothing to do with the format. It’s about consumer communication and consumer choice. If you want to listen to MQA, have at it. I don’t care. I’m sure Mahler’s 6th sounds wonderful with the notes “deblurred.” Just don’t go to the studios and lie and restrict MY choices.
Just don’t go to the studios and lie and restrict MY choices.
This doesn’t seem well thought out.
You don’t seem to understand that the studios do their own listening and choosing. It’s entirely up to the artist and production team to choose a format when the format is part of the sound they want - whether it’s MQA, DSD, or loud compressed headbanging sound (by choice, not forced by loudness wars). It is not about you and your biases, or the lens presented by your choice of listening system. Do you expect to have the right to demand that all releases will henceforth include 4X DSD, otherwise your choice is restricted and somebody lied to the studios?
The range of format and metadata required by different streaming and download services, plus labels, artists and distributors, is already a big headache for mastering studios who have to prepare releases in a dozen versions and instruct their clients what version has to be sent to whom. Into this muddle, you think the consumer should be able to demand “choice” - which means what? That every release has to be available in every format?
Player and server manufacturers already try to straddle this format question by supporting every format, data rate, lossless and lossy compression codec, wav and aiff, etc. Their point is to make the full range available so the user doesn’t have choice problems.
Curious why you think bandwidth and storage are irrelevant in todays streaming market?
I think you might be overestimating the reliability and throughput of your average consumer wireless home network. It doesn’t matter how fast your modem internet speeds are if you’re in an urban environment with an audio endpoint that only supports 2.4GHz WiFi. I’d wager that we see an equal (if not more) amount of issues due to LAN speeds vs WAN throughput at the modem. If this were so easy, why isn’t every home-streaming protocol offering full high-resolution playback already?
I’m not suggesting that MQA is the right choice for everyone or that its “folding” scheme is the correct trade off to make. But to ignore the issue completely with flippant statements like this ultimately hurts the discourse.
Issue or luxury?
I run exclusively off cellular 10/10 services and do Teams meetings with 5+ video participants. Streaming high bit rate music is not an issue that needs solving. I stream exceptional sounding music through my service all the time.
I suggest re-reading the section of post where I stated that internet connection speed is often not the limiting factor when streaming high-resolution music on consumer audio devices.
Give me a break! If you want to do hi-res in your home, put the appropriate network in place. Again, a luxury not an issue that needs to be solved with an end to end licensing scheme.
Cuenca: Leebens sees your post, but doesn’t feel he needs the scales removed from his eyes.
I may not have the technical chops to test things like MQA myself, but I was actively involved in PS Audio’s evaluation of MQA at its launch and during PS’ ultimate decision to license MQA, on the basis of market demand.
Paul McGowan’s objections to MQA are painfully-well documented, and through the years I’ve discussed MQA with many friends and colleagues in the biz, including many of the leading lights in digital audio. My friend Charley Hansen’s objections to MQA are also well-documented, and reached the level of a crusade in the last years of his life.
If I’ve learned anything in a half-century of involvement in audio, as both avocation and vocation, it is that there is no single “right” way to do things. I’ve worked with many supporters of DSD, and have heard some of the benefits they cite as evidence of its superiority over PCM. I’ve also heard it’s deficiencies, and am well-acquainted with the technical cases against it.
I think MQA is a similar case. I’ve heard examples where it improved upon the original. I’ve also heard cases where I didn’t care for the sound.
Oh, well. In my experience—-including a fair amount of time in dozens of recording studios—-a skilled practitioner can make almost any medium or format sound good.
As long as one is not forced to accept one format with any choice forbidden—-I thing it amounts to a matter of taste.
Yes, there have been issues with MQA’s marketing. I think we detailed that pretty well.
I suggest re-reading the section of my post where I stated that these issues are often caused by WiFi congestion in urban environments + the numerous audio devices that only support the 2.4GHz band.
Why are you insistent on gatekeeping high resolution audio to the limited subset of people with the ability to determine what network setup would optimal in a given environment, get said network setup correctly (often involving a struggle with the ISP), and afford whatever new hardware was necessary?
Additionally something like 80% of the world accesses audio as streamed 2-channel using a cell phone or portable. Bandwidth availability and data plan costs are certainly issues. MQA offers access to high res rather than lossy codecs at a reasonable data rate.
They were capable of implementing a system and room making the minuscule difference between hi-res and redbook discern-able.
I’ve had no trouble distinguishing MQA high res from redbook sourced from a laptop running Tidal into a Meridian Explorer 2 (which is a 4" portable USB DAC/headphone amp) plus headphones. Using portables that have good quality onboard MQA DACs, others have said the same.
Unsure how audio system building and acoustics knowledge relates to networking…
Many of the most discerning ears I’ve encountered over the years wouldn’t have the first clue about WiFi frequency bands or WAN vs LAN.
Personally, I think this series of articles are really well written and researched, and present a balanced summary of most of the involved issues.
Personally, I totally agree with that.
OK so if I find a recording engineer who has more Grammys the Bob Ludwig an who thinks that MQA is a big lying nothing burger packaged as the next Copernican revolution (Robert Harley) in audio, the issue will be settled?
I certainly would respect that opinion and you should too.
But that’s not the case of MQA, there would be no controversy, there still would be some disagreement on the merit, if not for Bob Stuart scamming with big labels to restrict customer choices.
" forced to accept one format with any choice forbidden" was exactly, and still is, the MQA objective.
Read the subsection in Leebens: " MQA’s Behavior Speaks of Bullying and Desperation"