Provenance and MQA

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.

Many factors detract from MQA being a support-worthy goal (@Bill_Janssen’s comment above about the compression being one, the origami work being another). Still, one should take note that there is a vision that they have, and that vision is not yet complete.

Many people buy into that vision, and not it’s the current state of affairs. The current state is pretty weak, but it’s still the early days. MQA is closer to an objectively better model of provenance than anyone before them. It isn’t just “empty marketing”, it’s just not completed yet.

As for the other pieces, Roon changed the course of DSP + MQA. There exist possibilities to change the course of the future impact of MQA in other ways.


Ok, I’ll rephrase, by inserting the word “currently” just before “nothing” in my aforementioned statement.

If it were truly lossless and if they hadn’t lied about it to begin with I’d have less issue with it. But the rate at which decades of releases have made an appearance and the existence of releases that significantly post-date the Universal fire tells me that the process too is thus far nothing more than a sham.

If they did away with the compression and the filters and focused on provenance for new content, maybe there’s something to offer re provenance for those that care about it. But it seems to me another solution in search of a non-existent problem except among a particularly niche subset of audiophiles.


One of the original promises of MQA was that the digital MQA files would be sourced from analog masters verified by someone involved in the recording process (artist, engineer, etc.). I have read interviews of recording engineers concerning MQA releases of their music and they have stated that no one contacted them to verify the source (provenance) of the masters that were used. Considering the pace of the MQA releases, I have serious doubts that the original promise to verify provenance is being accomplished.


Interesting. I have been looking, for personal interest mainly, at the players in the growing music blockchain world. Interesting stuff.

Your actual point is that MQA brings along additional baggage with that solution to provenance.

Given that you don’t care about provenance, the baggage is a net negative you are unwilling to “fix” - you’d rather throw away the baby (provenance) with the bathwater (the compression and filters) because the baby is worthless to you and the bathwater is dirty.

That’s a fine position to take, but it’s very different than arguing that provenance via MQA is a lost cause or that provenance itself is “another solution in search of a non-existent problem except among a particularly niche subset of audiophiles”.

If the authentication information said “authenticated by Sony Music”, you wouldn’t consider it “worthwhile” provenance – who trusts a behemoth with a generic signature? If however, it said “authenticated by Bernie Grundman”, and you could have some reasonable level of proof that it was indeed only Bernie who could say that, my guess is that you would feel differently.

My vision for the “A” in MQA is to provide that level of presentation and proof within Roon. Without it, “hi-res” could be quite a sham. Hell, we’ve already seen the music labels send AAC files by accident via TIDAL lossless service. If Roon’s Signal Path didn’t show you a yellow light, they might even get away with it. Pesky kids.


What is the problem provenance is trying to solve? Are there 100’s of different releases of albums in the wild, half of which were not issued by the labels themselves? Or is it simply to identify when a label has mistakenly released AAC content in lieu of lossless content? If the sleeve or release info says it was mastered by John Doe, then I’ll accept that was the case. Having the A in mqa doesn’t make it more or less true, not does it lend an air of legitimacy to something consumers have expressed any concerns about (none I know of in any event). Unless there’s a barrage of fake releases flooding the market I truly don’t get the utility of provenance. Furthermore, the notion of a company that lied about its product’s qualities subsequently lending an air of legitimacy to something, is to my mind laughable.


There are many dozens of steps between the artist and you. All it takes is one mistake or one shortcut. If you are paying for something of higher quality, don’t you want to know something about its authenticity?

1 Like

No, the mere fact that there are many steps between the artist and the end user and that it’s highly unlikely mqa is applied at every step in the process already says their provenance is worthless.


Ah ha! That’s where you’re missing the point.

The authentication from MQA only needs to be applied at one point: the trusted entity. After that point, no one can change the stream. Previous to that point, it doesn’t actually matter because you trust the entity.

As I stated earlier, artists are starting to understand and are complaining actively to both MQA and the labels that they are unable to deliver MQA masters to the labels in a streamlined manner. The label ingestion pipelines need to be updated, but once they are, you should be getting content from the source.

I still don’t see any value in it, it’s not giving me anything I don’t already have. If a muso accidentally includes a lossy drum track or voice recording in what is ultimately released it is what it is, mqa will still authenticate it. I couldn’t care about someone changing it after the fact - upsamples are usually pretty easy to see as is lossy content transcoded to a lossless container. Tidal’s version of Holly Throsby’s The Time it Takes is upsampled MP3. My ears told me that, my eyes subsequently confirmed it.

1 Like

I’m somewhat skeptical. We know Twitter can be hacked. And the “multiple points of soft verification” are interesting, but that’s sort of how the PGP Web of Trust works (though, to be sure, with certificates, though not with a centralized certificate authority). And here’s a document on why that didn’t take off :slight_smile: .

I’m also sympathetic to the concern that @evand expresses over how much value true signatures would actually bring to music tracks. How much extra would consumers pay for authenticated hi-res vs. normal hi-res?

My concern is more that the secrecy, marketing, and various high-handed tactics have poisoned MQA as an audiophile format. That RMAF 2018 session was just brutal.

Of couse, other companies have survived such bad PR simply by re-branding. Not sure the audio community is big enough for that to work.

Finally, wouldn’t it work to just store the signature in the FLAC file by registering a new metadata block? Checksum the blocks you wish to make verifiable, calculate a digital signature for that checksum (as well as a list of which blocks they are), and put that directly in as a metadata block. You’re absolutely right that the process would have to be automated and incorporated into the workflow for it to be effective, and whether that gets done depends on how much value such authentication has.


It’s not authenticating the material to be “true” for exactly the reasons you state. It’s authenticating that a stream has not been manipulated along the way.

A waste of time that provenance could have solved. Also, many users might spend time debugging their system or thinking that recording just sucks. Not everyone is as skilled as you are.


They don’t need to pay a penny. The future is streaming according to all the labels.

Yes. Will you make it happen?

To listeners, I believe it has value. To the labels, it might actually mean a loss of control if the artists start to get involved directly. Anyway, all that can be changed if someone has the desire to push it through the system. Bob is trying… Maybe he needs competition?

When has anyone worried about music being manipulated along the way? When has this been a problem? Examples please!

If the future is streaming, and the labels control what is given to the streaming companies, why does anything need to be authenticated?


Anyone involved with moving content around at scale knows mistakes are made. We’ve seen enough of it.

In the early days of Roon+TIDAL, we were catching AAC files streaming on HiFi tier. We still see them once in a while and TIDAL reports them to labels and they get fixed. How do they get fixed? Unknown.

A download store in Germany ( tests and invalidates files that have suspected upsampling. While their techniques may not be 100% accurate, they do throw out content.

I have other personal experiences but I’m under NDA for those examples.

If you don’t care about provenance, why do you care so much to be so passionate about being against it? What is your agenda?

If it’s like @evand and you don’t like the MQA baggage, that’s fine, but then stop polluting a topic about MQA + provenance. Take it to an anti-MQA baggage topic.

1 Like

FLAC files have an internal checksum that can be verified at any time. So there goes that argument for places like Qobuz and getting content from the labels.

AAC files getting passed on the HiFi tier is not a provenance problem. That’s a bug…

A download store checking for tracks that have upsampling is not a provenance issue. That is a problem that happened at the label which could also happen with MQA.