Reasonable definition of ‘hi-res’ music

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?


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.


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.


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.



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…


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

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For some streaming can offer great value. I’ve added 513 CD Quality & MQA albums to my library in 9 months for a total cost of $180. Hard to beat.

Also worth keeping in mind that the number of people paying Tidal $20 per month and Qobuz $20 or more per month for CD Quality or better streaming make up an insignificant percentage of the the streaming population. I’ve seen estimates that say Tidal & Qobuz may each have 3 million subscribers. While I doubt that half their subscribers are paying for CD Quality or better lets start there and say they have 3 million high paying subscribers. The big streaming services may have around 1 billion total users and I’ve seen estimates that say YouTube streams to over 1 billion people per month. That means those Tidal & Qobuz users work out to 0.15% of the streaming population. Even if all their customers are paying for CD Quality or better streaming that only ups the percentage to 0.30%. Still essentially a rounding error.

The wants and needs of the average Roon user not to mention the wants and needs of hard core audiophile users are significant here in the RooniSphere but not out in the real world.

I’m not sure how long Tidal & Qobuz can survive before they get ground under by the big players. They both appeal to niche groups of users but I’m not sure that is enough. I plan to take advantage of the opportunity while it lasts and deal with the fallout if things go down the tubes in the future.


I appreciate your reasoning.

Let’s say for the sake of argument:

  1. MQA is a raging success. Everyone buys DACs with MQA unfolding. All music services (rentals and purchase) shift rapidly to MQA.

This would, in my view, mean that we have lost access to lossless music. Would I be able to tell the difference by actually listening to it? Most assuredly not. This is the “vegan” argument - i’m a raving lunatic (as we know all vegans are :wink: ) because I don’t want to be locked into a proprietary scheme. See DIVX (physical format). I think it’s safe to assume that MQA would at some point “flip the switch” and go full proprieatry and stop playback without unfolding, making MQA mandatory. It’s what I would do, simple as that.

  1. MQA withers and dies. The early adopters who bought into the format will find it increasingly difficult to aqcuire and play the format as equipment ages and MQA becomes a (more) niche format. Like how I have a SACD player and 2 spares lying around should it break.

The first option above would bother me. The second not so much. it would probably make me more interested in the format since it would be dead and niche, and both those appeal to me (like SACD, MD, DCC, DAT, HDDVD, DVD-Audio etc.).

Gosh there’s a lot here to take in. There are not many hi-res albums out there. What?.. I hear you say. For a piece of music to be hi-res it needs to have been recorded on equipment that can capture the sound in high resolution. So even if the file format is 24/196 for example but the original recording was captured say on two or four track tape there is no way the result could ever be considered hi-res.

You can remix and remaster old tape recordings as Giles Martin has done recently with the Beatles White Album. He did a fantastic job and it sounds great. The result whatever the format is not hi-res. Bloody good recording though.

A friend of mine, a real audiophile recently bought a Blueray recording of ‘A Kind of Blue,’ by Miles Davis, supposedly a hi-res offering. We did a blind test through both his speakers and headphones and we could not tell the difference between his Bluray and my remastered CD. Mine cost £4 his cost £37!! The original recording was to tape in 1958.

I know a few people in IT. They tell me that they don’t think there is any real reason why we need to squeeze music files much more. There is sufficient bandwidth and modern buffering technology to stream uncompressed files if people want them so I think the MQA raison d’être is a trifle flawed. I am sure the music sounds fine. I prefer not to stream in any case and most of the music I listen to was recorded to tape. My whole music collection in Roon is largely saved to lossless format from CD.


You got that right.

Instead Apple likes to hold other people hostage with closed proprietary formats and licensing fees - with both software and hardware.


To be fair this has worked out nicely for them. MQA thinks they can get away with something similar, and who can blame them?

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I do agree with some of what you say, and I certainly do not find that all hi-res files (standard or MQA) are ‘better’ sounding than their 16 bit equivalents. However, many do sound subtly better when played on equipment of a certain quality level.

The part of your post with which I don’t entirely agree is the argument postulated by a few of your acquaintances in IT who don’t think there is any reason to ‘squeeze music files much more’. I also happen to be in IT and I would argue that there still exist reasons why it is currently advantageous for a streaming service such as Tidal to reduce its bandwidth profile, and remember that MQA has been around for a while, so its raison d’etre (or one of them at least) was certainly valid when it was first introduced .

Audiophiles and “magic” - a combination that always leads to a nice cash flow.

The main reason for not wanting MQA is that many of the high end audio magazines, aka industry handmaidens, are in lockstep with Meridian and spill lots of ink going to bat for them. That alone should raise a big red flag.

The old expression is “build a better mousetrap and the world will beat a path to your door”, and not “run away from your door”.


I don’t accept that at all. I have seen plenty of mediocre press about Meridian products over the years. I always think they tell it as they see it.
Sure they respect Meridian, then why wouldn’t they as Meridian have been at the forefront of digital technology for years.
I’d go as far as to say, without Meridian and their research forcing rivals to up their game, we all would not have the amazing products available at very affordable prices, we have today.

But it is I can still play mqa on any product I own wether it’s mqa compatible or not. That’s a big difference.