MQA or Hi-Res? Which to buy?

Since I now have hardware MQA decoding in my audio system, I’ve downloaded some of the MQA samples that 2L puts up on their web site, and am listening to them. They sound great. So I thought I’d buy an MQA album or two and listen some more, to something I’m more familiar with. But I don’t see any MQA for sale on HDtracks, and everything I see on HIRESAUDIO seems to not be purchasable from California. So that leaves the Onkyo store, more or less. Their Jazz selection is very poor, but I might buy a Joni Mitchell album I have only on vinyl.

But then I noticed that the MQA seems to be a packaging of the 24/192 hi-res version, same price and sample size and frequency. So why not just buy the Hi-Res instead? What, aside from “authenticated”, do I get from MQA in addition? This post, which I have no reason to doubt, seems to imply: not much. In addition, the MQA format seems to be proprietary (undocumented) whereas the hi-res version is apparently just FLAC.

I’m aware that I may like what I hear from the DAC because of distortions introduced by the MQA decoding logic, and those would be missing or different from the hi-res version which would presumably go through a different hardware subsystem. However, I haven’t found any difference in the 2L samples (that I can hear).

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Try acoustic sounds, prostudiomasters, nativedsd and bluecoastmusic. I would never, ever purchase an MQA album, thats what TIDAL is for. I suppose if you didn’t have TIDAL and MQA was way cheaper than hi-res than that might be reasonable.


I would suggest you search out the music you want, buy the highest quality format you can both afford and discern, and not be artificially pidgeonholed into a narrow selection.

But I could be wrong.


That will be the smart thing to do.

A lot of marketing BS and a bunch of applause from the MQA fans! :grinning:


I would buy Hi-Res downloads because it is universally supported in almost all Hi-Res playback devices. If you like the ‘distortion’ created by MQA, subscribe to Tidal Hi-Fi which can access to ‘Master’ section. If your DAC have minimum phase slow roll-off filter, try using it, you may surprise it sound likes MQA.


Get Tidal and stream MQA to listen to. You don’t have to buy anything. Then buy what YOU prefer.
Personally, I like to own a copy of the Crown Jewels, sadly most of that for me is not in MQA or any High Res format. I buy direct from artists if I can…

2 Likes has quite a few MQA titles available

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I would go hi res over MQA unless the MQA sounds waaaaay better.

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I’m firmly on the fence when it comes to MQA, so no bias from me.

IIRC one of the prime objectives of MQA is to make high resolution audio streaming possible, i.e. package high resolution audio in a smaller file.*

So for your purchases I’d say buy a standard format in your preferred resolution unless MQA start being open about the provenance of their recordings (not that they’re alone in this.)

*Some would say that this is a problem that didn’t need solving.

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Is this your setup?

Roon software - $10/month
2010 Core 2 Duo mac mini running Ubuntu 16.04 and Roon core - $200 (used)
scavenged speakers from a discarded 1971 all-in-one Bell & Howell stereo - $0
Chromecast Audio on sale - $25
Fosi Audio 50 watt stereo amplifier, version 1.0 blue - $60
Amazon Basics 3.5 mm to dual RCA cable - $6
Oodles of digitized music - >$10,000

If so then I would not bother paying premium $ for high resolution files unless you plan significant upgrades. If you spent $10,000 on digital music already then it is time to invest in your system starting with speakers.


One of them. But not the one I’m listening to MQA on. And the Core machine is now an AMD 2700 CPU with 32GB of RAM. And I do plan significant upgrades. I found a pair of B&W 804 D3’s that I’m thinking of buying. But it seems to me that getting the source right is also imperative.

Source file is not as important as speakers. Great speakers properly amplified will make even mp3 or AAC from a cellphone sound great.


I agree with Jeremy 100% on this one. Speakers and room are by far the most important. Given competent amplification, preamp would be next on my list then the DAC. A well mastered album on high bit rate MP3 will sound exccellent at that point.


So no point at all to buying hi-res or even CD-quality tracks, if you’ve got good enough equipment?

You cannot make whipped cream from shit…

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I didn’t say that, I just reiterated that the source is far from the most important part of the playback chain.

I have to admit my desire to buy hi res downloads died when I purchased a really good (Accuphase) CD player. Gets the best out of redbook and CD’s are as cheap as chips these days.

Garbage in, Garbage out. Yes, you can get nice sound from poor sources. My Meridian set up does this very well, but you can’t escape a good source in the end although we all want the best from what we have.
If that’s not the case, what was all the discussion about best and better CD players about? This kept Hi Fi communities buzzing for years… :joy:

I guess the (good) point that’s being made is ‘source first’ is less of a thing for all but the top few audiophiles.

Reasonably priced digital sources are good now. Everything will make a difference still, but the speakers AND room (they can’t be separated) are more important assuming a reasonable source.

Personally I hate anything less than cd quality - even my non audiophile Sony noise cancelling headphones (which I use daily on a noisy commute) show up a ‘high quality’ Spotify stream as poor. But then I’m quite treble sensitive.

I use my sonys more than other more audiophile headphones I have - because the noise cancelling makes more of a difference in general use despite the pure audio quality without NC being perhaps not as good. Overall the combined speaker/environment aspect proves to me most important here too.

I have some reasonable kit. I barely hear a difference if any between redbook and high res or upsampling. But I hear a fairly big difference between redbook and lower.

I would definitely not buy anything less than cd quality unless the cd was unavailable to rip or there were just no other options. If the highres is cheaper I often buy it, but I have a daft punk high res I never listen to as it sounds awful to my ears compared to the cd rip. I think many are abusing the high res thing…,.

All been said, I listen almost exclusively on headphones these days, Sennheiser HD 800, they are a bit discriminating, it’s alarming how even “good quality “ labels show up wanting

Even the so called HD versions are still victim to the original recording

I am seriously considering a pair of cheaper, read less discerning headphones , to see if I can cut out some of the c**p

Buy kit …