Reasonable definition of ‘hi-res’ music

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.

Let me ask a hypothetical question to satisfy my own curiosity.

Qobuz and Tidal are relatively small players when compared to the giants like Apple or Spotify. Neither Apple nor Spotify support hi-res streaming. Indeed, they don’t support lossless streaming of any quality, nor do they show any interest in doing so. Why is this? In my opinion it is because of two things: Firstly, switching from compressed MP3 (or the Apple equivalent) to lossless FLAC or hi-res would be too big an overhead, and secondly because the vast majority of their subscribers have no interest whatsoever in what most of us on this forum would label ‘high sound quality’. I have to assume that most people who are members of this forum have an interest in high sound quality - or am I wrong?

I cannot see Spotify or Apple supporting standard ‘hi-res’ in the future, but there is a possibility (however remote) that they might be prepared to adopt MQA to support mass ‘hi-res’ streaming.

In the event that both Tidal and Qobuz succumbed to the pressures of Spotify & Apple and went under, would you prefer to have the option of MQA streaming from Spotify, or would you prefer it and be perfectly happy if they continued to stream only in lossy MP3 format?

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Sorry, I can not satisfy your couriosity.
Time will tell how things evolve.

Actually the former is far more likely with apple if they thought hi-res was even remotely needed on a mobile devices.

Apple doesn’t like being held hostage by closed proprietary formats especially with licensing fees.

Their internal library is mostly high-res as it has been a requirement for “Mastered for iTunes” for quite some time. All they have to do is flick a switch.

This is a point Tim that I have not thought of - if you use Roon’s Radio functionality then you have to stream MQA. As you say, “…the Roon team should seriously consider the request for a setting to keep Radio from streaming MQA tracks”. The tagging is there, the functionality is there - everything is there for Roon to do what Roon does.

I can see industry and user arguments against MQA. But is MQA so heinous that actually hearing it through Radio is worth that development effort? I mean if you were listening to actual radio you’d never know if the station played one format or another.

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I think the issue here is that for many decriers of MQA (but I’m sure not necessarily for all) it’s a matter of principle that they have nothing to do with MQA rather than anything directly related to sound quality. To me, it just feels a little like the disdain that some vegan stalwarts have for vegetarianism and vegetarians.

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Hmm but their happy to have their own proprietary crap. Still have some albums I bought via iTunes many moons again that still have their DRM that I cant play. They never added the DRM free version to the itunes so I could not swap them out.

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Yes this is directly my issue with MQA. Don’t need something that is not widely compatible (and please don’t suggest that undecoded MQA is such a thing).

Just a little housekeeping before I offer my opinion on why investing in new hardware ( MQA Capable DAC(s) ) makes sense to me.

I appreciate that MQA is not the same as 192/24 hi-res and is most similar to but not the same as 96/24. I do consider it better than CD quality. Since the release of Roon 1.6 I’ve seen a few threads where people have compared MQA to both 96/24 and 192/24 Qobuz tracks with some people preferring MQA and some preferring the pure hi-res tracks. I don’t consider these posts definitive in any way but I appreciate that they seem to indicate that the differences are not huge except perhaps for those with much better hearing than most and that considering MQA better than CD quality is not unreasonable.

Now why I don’t consider purchasing an MQA compatible DAC unreasonable.

I subscribed to Roon and Tidal in May of last year hoping that once full MQA support was rolled out I would have the opportunity listen to content better than CD quality without having to purchase hi-res downloads. While Roon can perform the first unfold having an MQA compatible DAC that can either render what Roon sends it or unfold and render gives one the best that MQA can provide.

Investing in an MQA compatible DAC seems like an easy choice since the savings from Tidal can pay for it many times over. I’ve had Tidal for 9 months and added 513 albums to my library at an average cost of $0.35 per album. Of those 513 albums 236 or 39.5% are MQA which have cost me $82.81 so far. While I think it’s impossible to say with any certainty what downloading a hi-res album costs at any specific point in time I’m going to use $20 for 96/24 and $25 for 192/24 assuming that to keep the playing field level I would need to purchase at the same time I would have added the album to Tidal and might not get the best price had I waited for the next sale etc. So purchasing 236 96/24 downloads at $20 would have cost me $4,720 compared to the $82.81 I’ve paid for the MQA albums I added to Tidal. That means I’ve saved over $4,600. Had I chosen to go with 192/24 downloads at $25 I would have spent $5,900 so choosing MQA has saved me over $5,800.

In my case saving over $4,600 leaves plenty of money to pay for MQA compatible DAC(s). Someone more determined could probably get the average download prices down some but I don’t see any way to get it close to the $0.35 I’m paying.

I also appreciate I’m renting the MQA content and it could go away at any time. In my case I would then switch to what I considered the best streaming partner working with Roon and continue on. No desire to own so I would not start downloading if MQA/Tidal went away and I accept there might be some albums I would lose.

Assuming that I spent some of my savings on DAC(s) I would not have all of my current savings available to recover from losing MQA/Tidal and worst case even needing to purchase some new DAC(s). However, I’ve been adding 0.87 MQA albums per day since I signed up for Tidal so monthly savings compared to downloading those albums at 96/24 comes to around $515 per month or around $6,000 for every year I can continue to use MQA with Tidal.

So for me, purchasing MQA compatible DAC(s) seems very reasonable and cost effective.

Tim

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In a word, yes :wink:

Look, its just audio. Yet, think of digital ink that has been spilt on this forum in the last few weeks about the size and placement of pictures (usually pictures of silly artists, trying to look serious, in that silly way). Or think about how many have complained about the new color of the playing now bar!

Yet, with something that actually has something to do with the real sound of your system, with the control/freedom of your digital musical ecosystem like MQA, it’s too much to ask? Why would Roon then allow a focus on file type at all - is MP3 so heinous that development effort had to be spent so that you could focus away from it?

Besides, it really is no development effort at all (none to speak of). Roon was built from the ground up to do this very thing, and does it in thousands of ways already. There are other reasons why MQA is being privileged…

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Lol Tim, there is a lot of fuzzy math in there :wink:

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