Tidal MQA formats vs CD vs Records

I’m relatively new to digital formats aside from CD’s. A couple months back I purchased a Roon Nucleus and meticulously re-ripped about 800 of my favourite CD’s into FLAC 44.1kHz 16bit. Tonight with my wife’s assistance and a decibel meter (to match each source volume) we went through a few Songs we’re very familiar with in CD, Record, my FLAC 44.1 kHz 16bit file stored on an internal Nucleus SSD and a Tidal 48kHz 24bit MQA 192kHz stream and undoubtably the CD sounded best, Record and local FLAC next (tie) and MQA worst no question - even to my wife who is by no means picky…

I know quality of equipment and much to do with the setup matters but I was quite surprised.

For what it’s worth
Anthem AVM 60 Preamp
Paradigm Active Reference 450L/R
Nucleus for both formats of streams via HDMI
Sony CDP-CX450 Mega Changer (plain Jane)
Technics SL1500C

I’ve read others are disappointed MQA, but is my experience to be expected?

What tracks did you test?
Did you know in advance which version you were listening to?

In my experience sometimes MQA versions sound better and sometimes they sound worse but in any comparison you can never know for sure if the same mastering is being compared.

A few of my favourite tracks from Counting Crows - August and Everything After. I expected the MQA to sound best as it was 24bit 192kHz. I don’t think it has anything to do with the Nucleus as the FLAC file was playing through that as well…

I just compared Mr. Jones on Tidal MQA 96 and Qobuz 44.1 and definitely prefer the Qobuz version. I take it on a case by case basis however, as sometimes I prefer the MQA version - the Pink Floyd MQAs as an example.

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If the sampling rate multiple is different (96 = 2 x 48 vs. 44.1), they are most likely from different masters.

Not to say that preferring one master over the other isn’t valid, nor preferring an MQA encode, nor preferring PCM. Always let your ears decide.

Experiences differ: some are like you, some think it sounds fantastic, and everything in between.

One more point to consider. It’s been found repeatedly that streaming sounds worse (higher noise level) than playing local files. Even server manufacturers make that point. It might be the case, or not, for a given system. In any case, you should compare files that are both streamed or both local before attributing differences to the formats.