Reasonable definition of ‘hi-res’ music

I don’t respect your opinion. I respect you as a person, but your opinion is in error in many ways. As just one example, you have many “beliefs” about MQA that are contradicted by the facts - both on a technical level, and on a market level (e.g. around the history of formats/standards since the dawn of digital, and the explicit desires/goals of the labels and other players in the industry). You keep asking for others “respect my right to hold a different opinion”. We do (and even if we did not, it would not matter), but that does not mean we respect the opinion itself. Some opinions are in error, and not worth having.

Here is what I think happened: many music lovers and "audiophiles" piled onto the MQA band wagon early on. Why not, do not all the smart people at audiophile trade publications say it is "the birth of a new world”, it must be so. Most said they could "hear" an obvious positive difference. Then reality set it. After some sleuthing by technically capable music lovers (and NOT the so called audiophile "press") it turns out that almost none of the very overstated marketing points from MQA are even true. A few turn out to be half true.

Now what? Well, almost everybody has egg on their face. People do what people do, and continue to say all sorts of things, such as "but but but, I like what I hear" and "you have your opinion and I have mine", but it does not really make any sense - there is nothing in MQA that would justify any of these opinions.

Of course, the "debate" will continue, but like many "debates" this one is not worth having. On the point of this thread, here is the hard truth: MQA is not hi res.


I would have to agree that I’m not listening to MQA by that definition. I’ve heard MQA through a Dragonfly Red (software decoded in Roon), but not through an MQA DAC.

So I don’t use MQA content to listen to MQA, but I do regard MQA content (above 44.1/48 fs) as having higher resolution than CD. It may not be bit perfect with orthodox hi-res (a description I prefer to lossy, which implies mp3 like omissions), but it does have more content than CD. Upsampling works better with more content.

All true Jeff. In my case I use a Holo Audio Spring which has separate R2R boards for PCM and DSD, rather than a delta sigma chip. It also has a NOS setting to bypass all internal filters, so the DSD signal from HQP runs straight into the R2R ladder (well, after an mR Ethernet/USB and Matrix Audio USB/IIS conversion).

Hum. If you are upsampling MQA, your listening to MQA. What else would you be listening to? Upsampling does not change what came before it…if I upsample a 16/44, or an mp3 file, I am still “hearing” that file/format.

Also, just a point technical point, most sigma delta chip dacs (what most folks have/purchase) do not actually convert internally to 1 bit DSD, rather they convert to something around 5 or 6 bits at a still relatively high sample rate. You can check Miska’s HQPlayer web site for a list of chips that go all the way to 1 bit. Going from memory but I believe you are correct that your Hollo Spring is one of those DACs that is a true 1 bit converter…

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Because they either can’t hear a difference, their systems can’t handle a better format, or they don’t want to spend $$ to upgrade their system to support MQA, so they bad mouth what they can’t have.

Not everyone who isn’t persuaded MQA capability is worth the bucks badmouths MQA.

That’s not likely true for the vast majority of posters and if it was it would be hitting below the belt.

Discussion of MQA has nothing to do with sour grapes or financial capabilities.

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Well at least it’s a new reason other than repeating MQA marketing.

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Help me out. Please share the facts you know that make you conclude my opinions are erroneous. These are the opinions I’ve expressed in my last few posts:

  1. MQA is “Lossy” but that is no reason to listen to it if you like it
  2. I like MQA so I listen to it
  3. Anyone who likes MQA should listen to it
  4. MQA is higher resolution than CD quality
  5. How it sounds to someone is the ultimate decider
  6. MQA’s current implementation is not DRM
  7. If the studios decide to bring back DRM why would they only target MQA when it has no market share
  8. Streaming is the future
  9. Streaming outside the US is probably responsible for 75% of music revenue like it is in the US
  10. MQA was created in the hope the big streaming providers would adopt it to offer a premium tier
  11. I see no chance the big streaming providers will adopt MQA due to no demand from their customers
  12. MQA is and will always be a niche product until it goes away on its own or due to Tidal’s demise
    13 Regardless of MQA’s aspirations to take over the music business I don’t see that happening
  13. In the unlikely ( pigs flying over frozen lakes in Hell much more likely as far as I am concerned ) event MQA takes over the music business I still see true hi-res downloads being available since they are so profitable

Hopefully I didn’t overlook anything significant. Looking forward to seeing your facts.


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When I saw this I realized I was not sure what it meant or if I had any MQA albums with an ORFS of 48 kHz or below in my library. I found that I had The Last Waltz by The Band in my library and just as you said Roon unfolds it to 96 kHz 24 bit and then sends it to my DAC which then outputs it as ORFS 48 kHz. I then did a few Google searches using ORFS 48 kHz and found that most of the top references were to you here on this forum.

So, if you don’t know what it actually is I guess no one does :sunglasses:

Have you considered replacing MQA albums encoded at ORFS 48 kHz or lower in your library with a CD Quality version if one is available so your hi-res bookmark would not find them?

In the case of The Last Waltz Tidal has a CD Quality album with 4 discs and 54 tracks while the MQA version is a single disc with 30 tracks. I don’t use Qobuz so I don’t know what they have.


I’m not too fussed by any particular album. I tend to choose straight CD for these albums, unless the MQA version is a better remastering (wider dynamic range).

Brian mentioned to me once that it is a bit more than simply upsampling, but I didn’t ask him to explain in detail. It may be that there are constraints on what he can say.

The Albums that make me nervous are those that only have MQA versions. I’m glad Qobuz are streaming native hi-res.

And you don’t even listen to MQA with an MQA DAC, so any comments on a pure MQA sound quality are invalid as I see it.

I don’t think I’ve made any ?

Andy’s would be valued, IMO. He has allot of experience with filters and vast knowledge on how they work.

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You’ll have to educate us on why the “freemium” model implies MQA has DRM. If that were true, FLAC has DRM, at least as delivered by Tidal. I pay Tidal an extra monthly fee for a “HiFi” plan that delivers music to me in FLAC form. It also delivers MQA for the same price. Ergo, FLAC has DRM, at least according to the “freemium” definition of DRM.

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Another thread completely derailed then, are we some how in a school playground? Certainly feels like one.

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Lol. I don’t think this thread has been derailed. We were put in this pen when we derailed a different thread.

So, no facts just a really odd fascination with eggs. Oh well, it appears we live in alternate realities.

I truly cannot understand your views regarding “liking how something sounds” or “choosing what to listen to based on how it sounds and choosing what sounds best to you”. It seems to me that you feel that someone wanting to listen to a specific track that they have in MQA and like how it sounds but also have in another format they don’t like as well as the MQA version should choose the non MQA version just because it is not MQA. I don’t have any words appropriate for posting on this forum to describe how messed up that seems to me.

There are many people on this forum who have spent tens of thousands of dollars to create a system that plays the music they like and sounds they way they like it to sound. Do we need to tell them they have wasted their money because having their music sound the way they like it is not relevant?

I looked up DRM on Wikipedia and they have this to say about it:

Digital rights management ( DRM ) is a set of access control technologies for restricting the use of proprietary hardware and copyrighted works.[1] DRM technologies try to control the use, modification, and distribution of copyrighted works (such as software and multimedia content), as well as systems within devices that enforce these policies.[2]

Their information on DRM for Muusic seems dated but that’s not unexpected since DRM for Music ended about 10 years ago.

As far as I can see MQA in its current form only comes close in that it does require an MQA capable DAC to get the most out of the content but it does not block access to the content if no MQA capable DAC is used. And for Roon / Tidal users ( presumably the focus of our discussion ) they get the first unfold to a better than CD Quality sample rate without the need for an MQA capable DAC which many seem to be happy with.

Do we need to say that hi-res download formats like 352/24 and DSD ( 2.8, 5.6 or greater ) employ DRM because they require a DAC that can support them to be played natively? Of course not.

I looked up Freemium on Webopedia and found this:

Freemium is an amalgamation of the words “free” and “premium” that refers to services, software programs or mobile apps that are offered to users free of charge, but typically with limited functionality, advertiser support or additional features that are only available for a premium charge

As Steven posted a couple of hours ago MQA doesn’t seem to qualify for this designation either. Putting aside the fact that Roon / Tidal users get the first unfold to better than CD Quality without having to purchase anything extra while someone who decided to purchase an MQA capable DAC only has to do so once. With apps like those in the Apple App store the Webopedia piece refers to if you bought a feature for App A and then decided you also wanted that same feature in App B you would need to buy it again.

So, it seems we are back to my original premise. MQA is a format currently available to Tidal users that many like and think it can sound better than CD Quality. Don’t let others make up your mind for you, try it and if you like it listen to it and if you don’t ignore it. Don’t fear the EGG!


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FLAC does not “have” DRM. FLAC ("Free
Lossless Audio Codec) is also not a format or standard like MQA, PCM, DSD, etc. (as is commonly misunderstood). FLAC is comparable to a zip file on your computer - it compresses contents, but is not itself the contents (in this case PCM). When folks refer to FLAC as a format as they often do here on this forum and throughout the online audio world, this is a misunderstanding.

MQA takes PCM (24/48) and adds a proprietary layer. Even if you were to reverse engineer this proprietary layer and build your own decoder, you would do so illegally. In MQA’s case, the end users Rights are being Managed, Digitally (DRM) via the freemium model. Yes, the end user can decode the non proprietary PCM in the MQA file through what Bob Stuart calls his or her “legacy DAC” (instructive language that). This is the “free” part of model. If you and/or your manufacturer and/or your streaming company $pay$, then you can have a license to decode the “premium” and proprietary part of the file. In MQA’s case, this gets you access to the lossy compressed 48 to 96 spectrum, as well as lock-in to a digital filtering scheme that is very slow, passes significant imaging, and apparently always has some upper frequency digititus (the “15khz hump”).

None of this is a matter of “opinion”, unless I have made a factual error. All of this is important because of the place standards and formats have in all things digital. You are at this very moment reading this text through a complicated digital ecosystem. At the bottom of this ecosystem are several important digital standards, such as HTML and TCP/IP. On top of those standards rest proprietary software (as well as other open standards), such as your OS (Apple, Windows, etc.) and your web browser. Nobody who uses HTML and TCP/IP has to reverse engineer it, or license it. Now, imagine if someone came along and created a DRMed version, a freemium model of TCP/IP or HTML (tangent: Microsoft for example tried this very thing in the late 1990’s around HTML)? This would not be the same as yet-another proprietary software product.

MQA selling itself as just another audio product among audio products (and not what it really is - a format/standard, though Bob S himself occasionally slips when he uses honest language like “legacy DAC”) is one of their smarter marketing moves. Several reasons why this was successful in the “audiophile” world, none of them positive in my opinion

You can call this DRM if you like. I call it licensing. Just like Dolby, DTS, etc. I don’t see everyone up in arms about paying a licensing fee to Dolby or DTS to decode their proprietary formats. This is called capitalism and the free market. You produce a proprietary format that you claim has some advantages. If people like it, they pay the licensing fee and get to decode the format. If not enough people like the format, the format dies.

The anti-MQA folks claim that Bob Stuart wants to take away their freedom of choice because he wants MQA to be the only hi-res format. In fact, it is the virulent anti-MQA people who want to take away our freedom of choice. They don’t just want to choose not to use MQA; they want to kill it so that I can’t choose to use it. And don’t tell me that everyone will be forced to pay for it, use it or not. Every home theater receiver sold in the last 20 years decodes proprietary formats that half the owners don’t use.

I once heard the CEO of some company say, “I happen to think our fair share of the market is 100%”. That’s a perfectly legit point of view. What’s implicitly understood in that remark is that you have to go out and compete for that and let the market decide.


The last 2 blog posts here are an interesting take on high res.