Paul McGowan of PS Audio comments on MQA

Here is YouTube video…


“Today is a day for controversy. So if you’re not ready for controversy, better switch over to another episode, because we’re gonna talk today about MQA…” (Paul McGowan).

That sums it up pretty well, I think…


I agree with Paul…most audiophiles don’t have a bandwidth problem. I’d also be totally fine paying an extra $10/month for true lossless Masters streaming vs. lossy MQA streaming if the option was available.

There are some time domain corrections that MQA claims to offer, but as I understand it, those benefits really only kick-in when MQA is used in the ORIGINAL analog to digital conversion. I’m fairly certain that I have zero recordings for which this is the case, and I doubt there are many (if any) currently available on TIDAL.

What we’re left with is a format that requires special software/firmware (1st unfold in Roon and an MQA Renderer or a full MQA decoder), is lossy (not bit-perfect to the original high-rez PCM master) even under ideal conditions, and solves authentication and bandwidth problems that most of us don’t have and don’t care about.

The only potential benefit that I see is that the new format may inspire record labels to create better sounding masters (i.e., less dynamic range compression) to help create demand for MQA and inspire consumers to sign up for MQA streaming services or re-buy their favorite recordings. With any luck, the better sounding masters will continue to be available in some lossless format long after MQA is dead and gone.


I’m a bit slower than this group usually, but am I correct to say that it is only in the streaming domain that MQA MIGHT be a positive thing?

Also, am I correct to say that it enables TIDAL and others to send, and for us to receive, better possible SQ than is otherwise possible from a streamer today. No?

And, for this POSSIBILITY, we should actively search and/or wait for MQA-equipped kit, right?

Who among this discussion would consider the purchase of a non-MQA-“equipped” DAC today?



Define “SQ.” Some do not care for MQA sound quality. Others feel MQA has no inherent sound quality. And others think MQA sound quality is the best thing since sliced bread. Some MQA albums are loudness war remasterings, while some are not. No guarantee of sound quality – unless you define it.

Define “possible.” Streaming 18 bit (zero padded 24 bit) 96 kHz FLAC would be possible in similar bandwidth to that of 24 bit 48 kHz MQA. Thus, other, non proprietary solutions are possible.



I’ve yet to see a positive outside the people that like the sound.

I would actively look for kit that doesn’t implement MQA. A few implementations compromise regular pcm playback which is concerning. I see no need for it so I’m not going to support them with another decoder license.


I would only purchase a DAC from a manufacturer that has no intention of supporting this MQA nonsense.


And no DAC manufacturer who didn’t support MQA received any consideration when I purchased my current unit.

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While I would never say never (indeed I payed for a Roon lifetime knowing full well they are working on implementing MQA), this lossy, DRM, proprietary, anti-consumer “crown jewel protection” encoding is a definite negative in my book.

Unless Bob S/MQA have discovered something “new” in signal processing (and if that is true, why are they not getting rich selling it to the military industrial complex?) then MQA is a cleverly marketed proprietary compression and digital filter package. Each of its extra-ordinary claims has been proven to either be a gross exaggeration (e.g. DAC specific tailoring, no DRM, etc.), or a mere ideal (e.g. the “what the artist intends end to end”). Even if you like it as yet-another-small SQ tweak, why would you ignore its significant disadvantages when compared to PCM/DSD?

What would our musical digital ecosystems look like with MQA (or anything like it) at the bottom of them? As Jon Iverson of Stereophile put it, we all hope it is not too late…


Okay Andrew, I’ll play along. New wording:

Do you agree or disagree with the following statement: MQA enables TIDAL and others to send, and for us to receive, better SQ than is otherwise possible from a streamer today.

Do you agree or disagree with the following statement: MQA support would be an important consideration for me if I were to purchase a DAC today.

I’ve recorded you as a ‘no’ on both questions.


Speaking for myself:

“Do you agree or disagree with the following statement: MQA enables TIDAL and others to send, and for us to receive, better SQ than is otherwise possible from a streamer today.”

No. Unless you like MQA’s particular take on SQ (i.e. slow roll off leaky filters with IM, etc.), what does MQA have to offer over standard 24/96? Throw in the fact that I upsample my streamed 16/44 to DSD, apply DSP, to give my HP rig and room setup the SQ I want, and MQA becomes a step backward (several, actually).

" MQA support would be an important consideration for me if I were to purchase a DAC today."

No, it would rather be a large negative - it limits my choices rather than expands them.

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It’s trying to address the issues that don’t exist, instead it creates a set of problems; lossy audio(we don’t have a bandwidth problem), artifact such as aliasing and the use of leaky filters. This resulted in high distortion at high frequency to achieve the so called ‘de-blurring’. Every set of issues its trying to solve, unfortunately it creates another one…

The so called locked in system ‘DRM’ requires the purchase of MQA DACs to get maximum performance. The list just go on and on… and people is sick of it!

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Qobuz streams better quality, up to actual 24/192.

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When I bought my Mytek Brooklyn in 2016 MQA ready was an important consideration even though I hadn’t heard MQA to that point, but hey it was the rave and “who would buy a new DAC w/o MQA?”.

Well I finally had a chance to listen to MQA on my Brooklyn and listened and listened and listened. Initially I thought it was great, but after a while I felt it was just different, sometimes better sometimes worse. And more than anything mostly only available through Tidal with little opportunity to buy and own. Owning is critical to me, I don’t believe in renting my music. Just works best for me.

I then bought the PS Audio DS Jr for my primary listening room (Brooklyn relocated to the home office). I’d wouldn’t trade my DS Jr for the Brooklyn or anything else for that matter (ok that is my opinion and I’m sure others have their favorite he/she wouldn’t trade either). But point is MQA support is no longer a must have, in fact it would play no part in my decision. Give me the best sounding DAC I can afford that supports HiRes audio period.

Aside from the great quality product and sound, far superior to the Brooklyn, the PS Audio product does not go out of date. Mytek has already introduced a new Brooklyn Plus leaving me with the out of date version. Meanwhile PS Audio has released my 3rd version of the DAC software with each version better then the last. My DS Jr continues to be the latest version that PS Audio sells today.


Thanks for the responses, existing and future, particularly those that explained their rationale.

BTW, mine were all “straw man” questions/propositions. I was not taking a position on the issue; rather, I was trying to coax some people smarter than me to give theirs. You did, and I’m grateful for the input.

Jeff, I’ll put you down in the “disagree” column.

By the way, I didn’t frame the question in terms of bit depth and sampling rates. I said SQ.

Same answer.

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Yeah, that was clear already.

Issues that don’t exist for whom? I see MQA as a way for Bob Stuart to make money by persuading record companies to adopt his product so they can make more money. At least that is his pitch. Record companies make more money by selling new releases of old titles that “sound better”.

Issues don’t exist for consumers. Well, better masterings are always welcome as are higher resolution downloads with better masterings. There is not much there for the record companies though.

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So you can summarize, as long as you play mainly from stored high res content (or Quobuz) forget about MQA and I believe this applies to the majority of this forum (me included).
If you don’t have the content and you prefer the convenience of Tidal go with the MQA DAC and roll the dice to see if you get good upsampling (I’m sorry decoding? issue that don’t exist addressing?)