Provenance and MQA

MQA talk a lot about provenance and that was the very pertinent to the original post that has now been answered. You don’t have to like MQA to understand that.

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And you don’t have to dislike it to understand that their reference to provenance is nothing but empty marketing.


While this is technically true, there is a bit more going on.

In the case of a FLAC at “hi-res”, you have no idea where that data came from at all or how it was changed along the way. For all you know, an intern at a music label manipulated it before sending it out to your streaming service. Mistakes are made after all.

In the case of a MQA file, there is a person or entity that has digitally signed the data at some point in time. If MQA authentication passes, you can be sure that the data has not been modified from the point of that signature to the point where it hits your DAC. Of course, what happens before that signature is still open to all kinds of changes. So, who is that signer? Hopefully it’s a trusted source, such as the artist or the label who mastered the content. Their signature is their word that the music is as they intended it to be. MQA authentication makes it possible to detect if anything has been done to the content from that point forward. That’s a better story than the case of FLAC hi-res. Is it fool proof? Of course not – it’s just some entity saying “yup, that’s right”.

Unfortunately, that “signer” is not known by Roon or any other player, because the repository of signers is unknown to anyone but MQA Ltd. I’m working hard to get that repository opened up and made verifiable, but as you can imagine, there is a lot of moving pieces here.

MQA authentication, right now, tells you if someone is saying “yup, that’s right”, but it doesn’t tell you who that someone is… yet.

It’s more than just endorsement. A digital signature gives a recipient very strong reason to believe that the message was created by a known sender, and that the message was not altered in transit.

This is why it’s important to know the signer’s identity in a verifiable manner.

One thing to make note of, is that I am hearing from labels and the MQA team (I have not nor can I verify it) is that more artists are wanting to deliver MQA encoded content to the labels, because they understand this exact issue. The labels are slowly working it into their established pipelines. It’s why you will find MQA content on Qobuz.


That’s an opinion you hold. See the post above that covers it well.

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Yes, Danny, I am aware. My point was that the signer could do whatever they wanted. They could upsample an 128kbps MP3 to a 24/192 MQA and sign it. They probably wouldn’t do that but they could. In other words, MQA is no panacea in this regard.

I don’t get my FLAC files from some unknown source so this really shouldn’t be an issue for me. Or, anyone else that gets their FLAC files legitimately or rips from CDs.

Bob Stuart says, “Provenance and technical standards are completely different things.” Yet, I cannot accept that provenance is established simply by a blue light. Unless a recording comes complete with definitive information about the release provenance is not established.

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This doesn’t help you either. You are assuming whoever and whatever what used to write that CD master didn’t screw you over.

Yes, but if that signer was an artist, you’d trust it more than an unknown source.

100% agreed. Provenance requires trust with an identity backing that trust. Imagine if Roon could provide information like ‘Rick Rubin’ signed off on this stream. I’d like MQA to provide that. I’m working on it.


Come on. Now you are drinking the koolaide. I don’t get your fascination with MQA. Roon users would be better served if you DIDN"T work on it…


Seriously? How else do you improve stuff? Bob Stuart is trying to improve this world end-to-end with his vision of the solution. I’m trying to do the same. You know there are people that think of Roon as the devil too… should we fold?

Do I agree with everything MQA does? Of course not – but the “A” in MQA is the most interesting possibility for me! But as @Martin_Webster said above, it’s not there yet. They have the data AND the means, they lack the system to present it.


I am all in favour of our knowledge about what we play being enhanced. My opinion is it would add more value to the Roon proposition.



Bob Stuart is trying to put money in his pocket. He is trying to sell something that no one but the studios need: a way to sell content in another format all over again…

At least your product is useful to consumers.


Negatively oriented zeal is not something I’ve ever been able to relate to. This argument seems fundamentally flawed for being defeatest. Call me naive, call me an idealist, but my glass is always overflowingly full.

Present me a non-MQA version of “A” that is supported by artists/labels, and I’ll jump all over that. I can’t invest in building that end of it, but I’m happy to do my end.

Bob is doing hard work to make that “A” a possibility. I’m absolutely going to do my end of it because I want to see it happen.


Of course the labels and artists support it. They want to sell albums in their catalogs again.


So? I want to sell you more Roon. Everyone has an agenda. Don’t get hung up on agendas, instead direct the goal posts. You gotta play the game if you want to make change.


Oh, don’t think that we forget that Sooloos, Meridian, and Bob Stuart are all tied together…

When MQA has their dac manufacturers show source sample rate instead of unfolded sample rate, deliberately misleading owners how could we trust the provinence and/or authentication provided by MQA?


I really see two problems here:

  1. The opacity of the digital signature. You have no idea of who “signed” this, so it’s really kind of useless.

  2. The intertwingling of another somewhat dubious and secret compression format. Using this proprietary format instead is going to raise a lot of suspicions.

After all, it’s pretty easy to create and post an actual digital signature for a hi-res download. Any purveyer of downloads could do it. The software world has been doing this for years.

And, of course, all the marketing hype isn’t helping to untangle it.


Now you are in conspiracy theory land and wasting my time. Come on, I only know you from these forums, but I expect more.

Maybe those DAC manufacturers should try harder to “do the right thing”? We did:


100% agreed. But they do have the data, access to the people, and the flow of data. I want to leverage that and solve this opacity issue. Presenting it is not enough. Keybase has an interesting way to solve this in a manner that does not require a certificate authority, by piggybacking on Twitter. Using multiple points of soft “verification” like Facebook, Twitter, domain registration, etc could be quite viable.

It doesn’t help if the artists/labels don’t use it. MQA Ltd is doing that part of the work that no one wants to solve.

This will eventually get cracked. I’m not worried. I’d prefer to leave it behind, but we have to take it because they are doing the above legwork with the artists/labels that no one else seems to be.

The marketing hype is so bad. It’s crazy how much of their pain is self-inflicted by not being more transparent and down-to-earth with the consumers.


That post actually proves my point.