Reasonable definition of ‘hi-res’ music

If you consider that a reasonable definition of a ‘hi-res’ music file is that of a file that has a ‘higher resolution’ than standard CD quality files (16bit, 44.1KHz), then most MQA and Tidal MQA Master files can genuinely be described as ‘hi-res’.

There are obviously other potential debates in respect of MQA and about the merits of MQA encoded hi-res files vs ‘standard’ hi-res files, but I don’t want to get into those debates. I just want to point out that by any reasonable definition of hi-res, then almost all MQA files that have been created using a hi-res source are indeed ‘hi-res’

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No, MQA is not by reasonable definition hi res. Up until MQA, any lossy compression scheme was not hi res. MQA is, above 48khz (so 48 to 96), a lossy compressed facsimile of the data (and thus the music), and there is nothing above that (i.e. any time Roon or your DAC reports a rate above that it is pure upsampling).

MQA may have waged a successful marketing campaign to change the definition of hi res, at least among some audiophiles and industry players, but that does not make it reasonable or true.

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I am not aware that a ‘recognised standard’ definition exits for ‘Hi-res’ music files. Whether or not one does exist is really of no interest to me and I am not at all interested in semantics in respect of this argument. By my personal reckoning of what can be reasonably described as hi-res, I still assert that most MQA files fall into that category, but you are perfectly entitled to hold a different viewpoint.

I really fail to understand why some take the position that MQA is a construct of the devil and that it must be countered at all costs. My position is simple - on the whole I feel that Tidal’s MQA Masters are a worthwhile addition to its streaming service, but I am very happy to accept that other people do not agree with my assessment. Whenever 16 bit files and MQA files of the same album exist, I will choose to play the MQA version. You are perfectly entitled to take the opposing action.

Life is too short and this particular subject not of sufficient importance to warrant spending time on an evangelical crusade for or against.

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But you are interested. You made an argument that “reasonably” MQA is hi res. You disagree with the semantics of those like myself who say it is not. Like I said, up until MQA, hi res was defined specifically against several aspects of MQA.

Your rhetoric of “the devil” is just that - rhetoric. MQA is a DRMed, proprietary, lossy codec (and thus really the opposite of hi res) that sits at the bottom of our digital (musical) ecosystems. This has consequences quite apart of your belief in the satanic, crusades, etc. You might not grasp the implications of this fully, but you are interested in such things because here you are replying in this thread :wink:

IF it is just about choice, then why is Roon resistant to giving its customers a choice when it comes to what is (or is not) “hi res” when Roon is interfacing with Tidal?

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I agree with you on this one.

However:

MQA is a DRMed, proprietary, lossy codec (and thus really the opposite of hi res) that sits at the bottom of our digital (musical) ecosystems.

This to me is so way over the top and so patently ridiculous that there really is no worthwhile response. In fact it is so ludicrous that I can scarcely believe that you actually believe this yourself.

But of course I don’t know you, and I have no idea of what your motive may be.

I believe that there are legitimate arguments to be had about the benefits or potential drawbacks of MQA, but conspiracy theories are way beyond my desire to contest.

I will leave it here. You have battered me into submission, but I will get a few words in before I depart this thread. I find MQA to be a worthwhile inclusion in Tidal’s MQA Masters whether or not they can be defined as ‘hi-res’ - a position I have come to by listening to them in both my main systems (Roon MQA bypass into microRendu/Mytek Brooklyn+ and Roon MQA 1st unfold into Linn Klimax DS/1). I have no desire to force anyone into agreeing with my assessment. Listen for yourselves and make up your own minds.

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Um, your not making any sense. MQA is, factually, a proprietary, IP protected DRMed encoding that sits at the bottom of our digital musical ecosystems. None of this is even arguable - MQA themselves agree these facts (and try to sell them as positives - “end to end” digital ecosystem lock in, protection of the hi res “crown jewels” because MQA is not actually the hi res data, to note just two examples).

The rest is your post is emotionalism and rhetoric about “conspiracy” theories. I don’t need a conspiracy, I have the facts.

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The proponents of MQA on this thread would do well to read a few MQA-focused articles on Archimago’s blog. Understanding the technical truth underneath the MQA marketing is important if we’re to avoid sleepwalking into a DRM’d (and lossy) audio future.

Not to throw shade on the members of this forum, but the discussions on more technical audio sites suggest people have generally worked out that MQA is a sleight of hand trick with (less than) zero benefit to the end user. All the MQA fans seem to be congregating here instead.

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I see little to no relevance what Archimago’s blog says (and I follow his blog all the time). To many of us, MQA tracks often sound better than the corresponding 16/44 tracks. So while Archimago makes some good points, many beyond my understanding, I still know what I experience.

And I have to agree with @hmack above that @crenca’s definition of hi-res is ridiculous. It is irrelevant to the question of hi-res whether a format is DRM protected or is lossy. It is still possible for a lossy format to be hi-res. I’ll give you a simple example. Suppose I took a 24 bit file and set the low order bit of every sample to 0, effectively producing a 23 bit file. This clearly would be a lossy transformation, yet would still be a hi-res file and I suspect indistinguishable from the original file (to the ear).

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One of Archimago’s blog posts was referenced in another post a few weeks ago and while some fixated on the “not lossless / partially lossy” statements as proof that MQA is the spawn of Satan it appears they ignored the conclusion he reached in his blog post where he said:

" Bottom line: TIDAL/MQA streaming does sound like the equivalent 24/96 downloads based on what I have heard and the test results (not that I think much of the mainstream music out there is true high-resolution of course). I’d certainly be cautious about claims that the 24/44 or 24/48 files sound “better” when non-decoded compared to standard 16/44 CD or that the “deblurring” makes a significant difference. The real question is still whether the album itself sounds good and truly high-resolution to start off with."

Apparently how it sounds is not relevant to some.

Tim

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@crenca’s definition of hi-res is ridiculous”

If so, then the standard used before MQA by almost everyone is “ridiculous” (your word, not mine).

Sony:

“There is no single standard for High-Resolution Audio, but the most commonly used specifications are 24 bit/96 kHz (3.2x more data transmitted than CD) and 24 bit/192 kHz (6.5x more data transmitted than CD).”

Qobuz:

" Hi-Res (as in High-Resolution) represents the apex of digital audio. These files - obtained through lossless compression or uncompressed - deliver better sound quality than a CD. They are encoded in 24-Bit, at frequencies that can go up to 192 kHz"

Wikipedia:

" The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), in cooperation with the Consumer Electronics Association, DEG: The Digital Entertainment Group, and The Recording Academy Producers & Engineers Wing, formulated the following definition of high-resolution audio in 2014: “lossless audio capable of reproducing the full spectrum of sound from recordings which have been mastered from better than CD quality (48kHz/20-bit or higher) music sources which represent what the artists, producers and engineers originally intended.”

It would be trivial to pile up citations such as these. Also, your example is not “lossy” as this term is used. MQA however explicitly (they admit this) uses a lossy algorithm to compress and then “fold” the 48 > 86 spectrum (everything after this is pure upsampling by the MQA DAC). Compression is not the mere transform of bit depth. Example: a 4 bit, 8kHz sampled file is not lossy - it is a full representation of the waveform within its Nyquist bandwidth (i.e, 4kHz) albeit at a very shallow db range.

This stuff is technical folks, so perhaps before we start to describe how almost everyone but MQA and it’s supporters apply terms such as lossy as “ridiculous”, we probably first try to understand what they actually mean…

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“Apparently how it sounds is not relevant to some.”

see:

Also, Archimago is certainly not supporter of MQA. Not sure about what your religious characterization has to do with anything, but his reasoned approach as to why MQA is bad for consumers and bad for music is here:

My “spawn of Satan” comment was not directed at Archimago but at some of the users here on this forum. I’ve seen some pretty awful comments directed at Bob Stuart and MQA including one recent post now removed that suggested some actions on his / their part that I felt was disgusting.

Also, while I did not explicitly say it other than referring to his comments that MQA was “not lossless” / “partially lossless” anyone who read his blog post would see that he is not an MQA fan. And yet his conclusion was that " Bottom line: TIDAL/MQA streaming does sound like the equivalent 24/96 downloads based on what I have heard and the test results (not that I think much of the mainstream music out there is true high-resolution of course) ".

Tim

This is fine. But if you have to invest in new hardware just to hear that there is no difference, what’s the point?

That is a perfectly valid argument. If you don’t hear a difference between standard hi-res and an equivalent MQA ‘hi-res’ file, then the only real advantage of MQA is the fact that streaming services that would otherwise struggle with supporting mass hi-res streaming usage may (as have Tidal) be able to support a streaming service with far lower bandwidth demands.

As time goes by, then at some point bandwidth will probably no longer be a consideration.

However, you will have to form your own opinion as to whether of not standard hi-res and MQA hi-res sound the same.

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It’s not far lower bandwidth demands, it’s 20-30% savings over regular 24/96 content in a FLAC container. MQA can’t deliver content greater than 24/96 so that’s where the comparison ends.

Ha! After years of research, hard work, blood and tears, money spent, sacrifices made, capital invested, marketing efforts, licensing costs, millions of man hours re-coding software and hardware, new hardware re-investments by end users - after all this we end up…exactly where we started with a proprietary locked-in codec that is the mere equivalent of what we already had! :joy:

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Relevant yes, but only relevant. How it sounds is certainly something to be weighed in a pro vs. cons consumer matrix, but it is only one factor. For example, let’s say it was a clear sound quality gain, one on the order of how Stereophile, TAS, and most other trade publications have put it. Would it be worth its many other downsides? I argue no - not just subjectively but objectively for what it would do to the musical consumer and the market.

However, it is not a sound quality gain. If it “sounds like the equivalent 24/96” (an assessment I don’t agree with - I can hear the upper frequency hump MQA adds) then why is that an advantage? Why not go with the equivalent PCM 24/96, that does not come with any lossy compression, any intellectual property restrictions/management, no dubious filtering choices (or at least no predetermined choice if you actually like high IM min phase filtering), no “end to end” market and consumer lock in, no…(the list goes on).

The trope that those who question the value of MQA, or simply want a choice in Roon to focus on 16/44 and/or hi res instead of MQA (what this thread is about), don’t care about “how it sounds” is just that - a trope.

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The answer for me has been that I don’t want to buy content anymore. Getting unlimited “hi-res” content from Tidal for a fixed price every month is fantastic (hi-res in quotes only because I know you don’t view MQA as hi-res. The entrance of Qobuz changes the calculus a bit as we will shortly be able to rent the equivalent PCM files (delivered as FLAC, of course). This is something I’m planning to investigate; if Qobuz has a sufficient catalog of popular music, I would certainly consider switching. Although I’ve heard some MQA tracks that sound better than their CD equivalents, I’ve never heard one that’s better than it’s hi-res equivalent for the tracks I already own. Usually, I can’t tell the difference but my hearing goes to only 12 KHz, at best.

I believe everyone is entitled to their opinion. Anyone can choose to not use / dislike / hate MQA for any reason and that’s fine with me. Especially those people with much better hearing than me who hear problems I don’t, I feel for them. Unfortunately, for many in the anti MQA camp that means I also believe I’m entitled to my own opinion. For me if it sounds good to me that’s all I’m concerned about. You and many who share your views about MQA seem to think you have the right to tell me my opinion is wrong or inferior to yours. That doesn’t work for me.

Getting back to the topic of this thread I appreciate that the release of Roon 1.6’s new Radio function now means that MQA tracks may now be suggested from time while with 1.5 that did not happen assuming that anyone who did not care for MQA presumably had no MQA content in their library. I also appreciate that anyone telling Radio 1.6 to only use their library to avoid MQA content ends up with a potentially less satisfying experience with no chance for discovery of new music not in their library. Fortunately 1.6 also offered support for Qobuz so for those that have access to Qobuz they can switch from Tidal and greatly reduce the chance they will be served MQA content.

I say this knowing that there is some uncertainty regarding how Qobuz is going to deal with the apparently unexpected upload of MQA content from the 2L label or how they will react if other labels start to intentionally provide them with MQA content.

Given that Qobuz is not necessarily available everywhere Tidal is and that it may end up containing some MQA content I think the Roon team should seriously consider the request for a setting to keep Radio from streaming MQA tracks. To me seriously consider includes weighing the cost to add the feature against the potential benefit and taking into account any contractual obligations that currently exist. As I understand it they are approaching 100,000 subscribers but I have no idea how many of those use Tidal nor how many of that number are passionately opposed to MQA. Clearly if the last number is too small then it does not make sense for them to add the feature.

Tim

MQA marketing stated: We want to be the only format to distribute Highres music in the future.
This alone is to be opposed. But in addition they want to get there with a lossy, DRM ready format.
They are far from reaching critical mass and burn lots of money. Right now they are well contained within Tidal, some Japanese MQA CDs and the Label 2L. They are on the way out…if a big streamer like Apple or Spotify does not adopt them.