How Is MQA Fareing?

 In another thread here are posters are making comments about MQA suggesting that it isn't a big commercial success, that is should be called DOA, etc.  Yet there are always announcements about companies adopting MQA, testimonials from happy Tidal streamers, etc.
  I'm neutral on MQA but having witnessed more than a few formats go down in flames in my time, and still puzzling over the resurgence of vinyl, I wonder how one measures the marketplace progress of MQA.  Do we look at Tidal subscriptions?  Sales of MQA compatible DACs?  The size of Bob Stuart's house?
I think the fact that any forum you go to there is a lot of talk about MQA bad and good. That certainly indicates that people are interested. Whether it will last or grows or increases subscribers to Tidal or makes money for Meridian it is really to early to tell. I don't really understand the DOA guys. If they don't like it then don't buy into it. Stop lecturing everybody else on how evil MQA is. We don't really care what you think
So far, so good.  Two of the three major record companies (conglomerates Universal Music Group and Warner Music Group) have  signed on with MQA and end users seem to be happy with it.  

Streaming seems to be where music sales are going.  The major labels have long wanted to find a way to rent music rather than sell it.  So it just needs enough people to sign up for Tidal Masters to make it profitable enough for everyone involved.  That's the hard part.  $20/month is the introductory rate.  That's sure to be jacked up in the future if it catches on.
No idea about MQA progress but Tidal Masters often sound excellent and that is what I am very happy about.

I have a theory that high frequencies generated in excessively high resolution help with DAC performance ....a kind of dither if you like as none of thse excessively high frequencies are actually audible but the audible audio spectrum often sounds better at higher sample rates.
+1 arh

I am enjoying the subtle audible improvements everytime I cue up a MQA recording on Tidal and very excited about MQA prospect. 

Having said that, I believe most major manufacturer of DAC's are still on the fence or lagging behind which is IMO, quite discouraging.  Any new format (software) success or failure largely depends on compatible hardware availability.  

Let's hope we see more MQA compatiable DAC's in second half of the year. 
To arh:
Dear "arh" - you're entirely wrong and  we don't really care what you think.

All specialists (aware of Bob's "doings") are obligated to inform audiophiles about all that they know about MQA - in order to make right decision: to buy or not to buy MQA.
I am very pleased with MQA and the TIDAL delivery of it. The amount of MQA albums is increasing each week. Audible improvements of listening to a 24 bit 44,48,96,176, 196 and even 382 is very audible. It depends on the Master source and record label of course, but some albums by 2L are outstanding and MQA is impressive and sounds as good as the DXD master itself.
2L recordings sound impressive enough through non MQA equipment.  For me the question would be how does regular, non Audiophile recordings fare?  
PS Audio just joined in. That has to say something. I respect Paul McGowan very much for what he has seen and done for the "high end". 
I don’t know how well MQA is doing. I, like many, see a growing number of companies now offering MQA playback integrated into their streaming devices.

When I bought a Bluesound Node 2, it was in the back of my mind to try the MQA playback. But foremost I wanted to integrate my Itunes library, made of mostly of ripped CD’s, as well as Spotify playback all organized into one playback device. I do NOT like using a computer to do this. So my Iphone or Ipad became my controller, with all music stored on a MyCloud HDD off in another room. Works very well for me but recently I started my subscription to Tidal again and had the opportunity to play some Tidal MQA albums. WOW I was not prepared for how well it sounded, I was amazed. Granted I have NOT listened to FLAC files in anything like 192k/24 bit PCM or DSD files, therefore I don’t know how good they sound. But to my ears, MQA files sound fantastic. The sound has rich tone, great clarity and detail, a large soundstage and a smooth transition across a very wide frequency band. I am hearing much more information from the recordings. Maybe it’s my imagination but I think not. 
@bkmaxey,  thanks for sharing the article. Very informative indeed. The article concluded on a very positive (hopeful)  note, 

"In the end I’m confident that the free, readily available, high quality, open-source alternatives will win out. Lock down, centralisation and profiteering has a tendency towards failure".

@bkmaxeyVery interesting.  Thank you posting that.  
You'll never see that point of view in Stereophile or The Absolute Sound.
To 2psyop - but I CAN hear the difference between Tidal Masters and the same original albums - not MQA encoded. For me, original albums sounds more like vinyl via tube ?
It's always good to hear an alternate point of view, but it sounds like Linn just doesn't want to pay Meridian whatever costs they might incur in implementing MQA.  Linn can always develop a better/cheaper way of streaming hi-res files if they want.

Tidal streaming is the main source for MQA listening right now.  Tidal also streams cd quality and mp3.  You pay more if you want higher quality or less if you want lower quality.  The choice is yours.

I think streaming is the future for digital audio. If enough people find MQA worth paying extra for, it will succeed, if not, it will fail.  I don't see it as a conspiracy to harm music.
Recently upgraded my MSB Analog DAC with the new MQA module. I was previously streaming Tidal Master and it sounded good but to actually decode the MQA is much much better. I am happy with it and expect that MQA will continue to grow. 
MQA - is not worth time and effort. Consensus with my audiophile contacts is some things sound a bit 'better' will others a bit worse! Mostly it just makes things sound slightly different and NOT better. When I recorded tracks 20-30 years ago, we would take a mix and run out to our car and listen to see how it came across on the vehicle's cassette player. This was an effort to see how things sounded in the real world and our final mixes were adjusted accordingly. Getting that mix prior to that step does not improve anything. 
When we are taking about streaming in hight quality. Why not do as the streaming company Qobuz. They deliver streaming with flac files and noting else is needed then a dac that can use as 192kHz 24bit.
it cost more of cause. But in the end it is better. Or?
2 posts
07-29-2017 3:29am
MQA - is not worth time and effort. Consensus with my audiophile contacts is some things sound a bit 'better' will others a bit worse! Mostly it just makes things sound slightly different and NOT better. When I recorded tracks 20-30 years ago, we would take a mix and run out to our car and listen to see how it came across on the vehicle's cassette player. This was an effort to see how things sounded in the real world and our final mixes were adjusted accordingly. Getting that mix prior to that step does not improve anything.
Hmm, really technical (as in accurate LOL) then. I get your drift, but poor analogy. Studios use a mini monitor for 'radio' check, and full range (hopefully good) speakers for sound check. But as in all things, some studios were better than others, and we have all come across hideously harsh or bright recording, even recently clipping recording in the digital domain (Metallica as an example). My view is anything that gives us access to 'better' sounding albums, then good news. The ones I have tried do seems a bit cleaner and more dynamic, though I am using 96K tracks to a non MQA DAC, so got got the 'whole' MQA bounce. But it is an improvement to me.

And yes, lets stop the MQA bashing for the sake of it, way too much of that political / corporate nervosa going on. And IMO if more pay for Tidal Masters, the price will drop not go up, and Amazon and others might offer a similar service to help drive it down.
Sorry, have to bash Apple though, they had their chance with 'Apple Music' service, it was / is dire. Forget Apple, they are too into selling mp3 at garbage quality for 99p a track. That is on the way out and will die soon I am convinced.
It's true I do not have the technical expertise to bring to the the table but with 40 years earning my living as a performing musician and the last 20 endlessly experimenting with various combinations of high end audiophile equipment, my opinion more than counts, it supercedes. 

Whether MQA 'sounds' better or not will always be a matter of opinion highly reliant on your own equipment and personal mixing preferences for the last particular track you heard. If that kind of jumbled mess is the criteria for progress, you've got me beat. 

note: My audiophile friends mostly agree but there is one hold out - the non musician. 
Love MQA through my ARC system and Blusound Vault 2... When I can find music that I want to listen to...
I Don't like the concept of "renting" music though and find the Tidal music channel appears to be pushing lots of its own musical genre that I don't find interesting. That said, when I dig in and search for music that is to my liking it often is not in the MQA format which makes the $20 monthly fee questionable.  I do feel MQA is an entertaining high quality musical source with audible pleasantries to be sure.  Some recordings sound more intimate and come alive in MQA... I do find myself wishing that there were some quality alternatives to Tidal as a distribution channel.
Bottom line though is regardless of how good it sounds (or potentially can sound given the original master), MQA is a "lossy compression". For those such as myself who primarily listen to bands - such as but not limited to the Grateful Dead - whose live recordings are readily available in "lossless" compression formats such as flac or shn, why would I ever want to stream MQA when I can just download the lossless files and play those?
Meh. I agree. If I own lossless hi-res, I have zero need for MQA. I have Tidal but find I rarely use it. Comparing a hi-res track to its MQA equivalent (like the Warner releases) is something to check out, since most likely the mastering is the same. MQA sounds OK but something is slightly off about it compared to the lossless file. 

I agree with Linn only that the technology should not be a locked-in proprietary format. And to be honest, all of the audiophile press gushing positive about this is somewhat suspect. End users are more split in their opinions. Some see it as a money grab since DVD-Audio sank (some discs used MLP--Meridian Lossless Packing--to shrink the size of the data).

And think about it. Anytime Meridian is asked how it works, they either dodge the question or launch into technobabble. They hide "lossy" under the word "unfolding." Their argument for their brand of lossy is that they are throwing away data for sounds we aren't able to hear. This is EXACTLY what Sony said about their failed ATRAC compression (used for MiniDisc), and I believe even lowly MP3 was also described as such. 

I do think there is a use for a compacted data version of hi-res for streaming, but it needs to be "open." And given Tidal's uncertain future (they are in poor shape financially), another streaming service would be needed to deliver it. And there aren't enough audiophiles to support one at an affordable cost, sadly.

BTW, I think Tidal is a bargain. Think about it. Even without MQA, for the cost of a new CD or two each month, we get access to a lot of lossless CD-quality music. Great way to sample something before buying, or provide music for guests. Owning a $10k+ system and complaining about $20/month seems a bit silly, no?
I did  A , B    Tidal Hifi with MQA  Aurender I won't make any changes.  I really notice my CDP up against Tidal
Hifi. CDP blows it away 
 But the convince edges 
Tidal in first place 

Lots of back & forth about SQ improvements of MQA on TIDAL. IMHO, I've only heard improvement when comparing MQA to CD Redbook (lossless) tracks on TIDAL and that's only with the initial unfold to 48k/24-bit. Admittedly, improvement on some tracks is very slight but I've never heard worst. Perhaps some of the naysayers can list some examples of worst sounding MQA tracks on TIDAL.

However, your point about the current TIDAL HiFi cost of $20 being an introductory rate is interesting. The economics of MQA are going to be critical to its adoption. 

From TIDAL's perspective, there's no need for them to increase their subscription fee. From an infrastructure perspective, MQA tracks take the same amount of server throughput, disk storage and streaming rates as lossless Redbook CD tracks. 

There's no reason for the major record companies need to charge more as they're just selling 0 & 1 bits. I admit I'm not an expert re: any extra cost for the record companies to produce MQA files vs. Redbook CD files.   

Meridian will already be charging hardware and software player manufacturers to decode MQA tracks. If Meridian decides to also tack on some sort of MQA fee to the record companies, then they're killing their own potential Golden Goose.

Then we need to consider the greed factor of either TIDAL, the big 3 record companies or Meridian. I can't imagine that us audiophiles move the TIDAL user subscription needle, so if TIDAL decides to charge more for MQA, how much extra revenue do they project. I doubt it would amount to $1M per year. They'd be better off with a marketing pitch stating they provide MQA for the same current HiFi cost.

That leaves the greed factor of either the record companies or Meridian. If either wants to kill MQA adoption, go ahead and raise costs that affect the monthly streaming price. 
To JazzDC: I don't understand your comment about it not being good that MQA could remove the step where you adjusted recording mixes so they would sound good in a car. Isn't that exactly what would benefit, at least, audiophiles? Adjusting the mix to sound good in a car would be unlikely to make a recording sound more like the original event on a high end home system. Maybe I'm missing your point...
This week I noticed that MQA content from Universal Music has been added to Tidal.
I have a PS Audio DirectStream DAC, which I love, but MQA sounds dull when output to the DAC, even when I have Tidal doing the I bought a Mytek Brooklyn DAC just for streaming Tidal MQA, and with many (but not all) MQA mastered albums the sound is excellent.  I especially noticed how well recorded acoustic piano, ride cymbals and well recorded vocals sound more "realistic".
My DirectStream DAC coupled with my DirectStream transport with most SACDs and many "regular" CDs sound excellent as well, in many cases, sound better than the MQA remasters.
So, I think the "jury's out" on MQA and its ultimate commercial success.

I was thinking about purchasing the Brooklyn DAC to realize the true potential of MQA recordings. 

Would you say, a well recorded MQA recording provides substantial audible upgrade with Brooklyn DAC over their 16bit/44.1kHz counterpart on Tidal HiFi.  One such album is Stepping Out by Diana Krall. The 'Body and Soul' and 'Jimmie' tracks are absolute joy! 

I own a ARC DAC9 and both MQA and Tidal HiFi sounds pretty darn good. I do hear bit more depth and clarity in upsample (384kHz) mode when I am listening to a well recorded album or a track. FYI, DAC9 does not have MQA decoding on board. 

I would say "yes" to the question of whether a well mastered MQA version sounds "better" than a previously mastered CD quality version might sound, not all the time, but more times than not.

When well mastered, with MQA I find the bass is better defined, vocals sound more "analog" as do acoustic instruments (particularly well recorded piano), and as a former rock and roll drummer, the "timbre" of striking a ride cymbal gives you a visceral experience that I haven't heard from "regular" CDs.

I also don't think the major benefit from MQA is the "unfolding" into a higher resolution file, though that's definitely a bonus.  I feel the major benefit is the "deblurring" that only full end-to-end MQA decoding offers, only from an MQA DAC.  There are some MQA albums that report they are CD quality (where the DAC reports they are 44.1/16bit) but the "deblurring" makes for a sound which is not "edgy", as some PCM can sound.

The DAC chip in the Brooklyn is very good, but not what my PS Audio DirectStream DAC offers (at three times the price, I might add), but when listening to MQA thru the Brooklyn, I'd say the sound quality is comparable to the DirectStream DAC playing "regular" CD quality, oftentimes superior.

I appreciate your candid feedback. I can totally relate to above as I experience these very same attributes while listening to my 24bit/192kHz downloads vs. Tidal HiFi. I must add, as good as Tidal HiFi is on 16bit/44.1kHz recordings, high res files are just so much better especially when your system is capable of revealing every last ounce of detail.

I don't wanna continue buying high res downloads so I will give Brooklyn a try and hopefully it’s a keeper in my system.


BTW, the Brooklyn has a really good headphone amp, with lots of power to drive the most inefficient headphones, a real bonus.

It also has the ability to hook a turntable (something I don't own) and from what I've read that capability is well done as well.

That's good to know. But I don't own a headphone or turntable. Like yourself I am very content with spinning my modest and rare collection of SACD's, XRCD's and K2HD's.  

I got into digital streaming couple of year back for the sheer convenience but now more focused on improving that experience.  
For the benefit of those still unclear about how MQA works, this is a very nice article about demystifying the ambiguity surrounding the MQA,


Thanks. It explains things without explaining anything.

How lossy is the unfolded data? Obviously taking a 24 bit 196KHz original and compressing to 24 bit 48 KHz file means that there is some lossy compression.

Also de-ringing implies DSP???

I thought the article was pretty self explanatory on how MQA files are being decoded through non-MQA and MQA compatible DAC's. 

If you want to learn more about MQA, there are plenty of articles related to MQA on worldwide web. 



MQA is a black box. I guess the benefits depend on whether the MQA lossy de-ringing processed 24bit 192KHz file is better than a lossless bit perfect 24bit 48 KHz file....

In the words of Peter McGrath, an accomplished recording engineer, A/B comparison between unprocessed hi-rez files of his orchestral recordings, followed by the time-corrected MQA versions, the differences were quite profound. The MQA versions had greater image solidity and three-dimensionality, and wider perceived dynamics.

I am sure you read this not too long ago ~ ’Listening is the only way to judge audio devices’. So do us a favor; beg, borrow or steal a black box and only then report your findings.

I see - so there is a time correction and even with lossy compression it sounds better than the original raw full resolution file. Sounds magical!
MQA..fully unfolded through my Lumin A1 is amazing. There are more albums available daily. Tidal..accessed through the Lumin app...shows all MQA albums when searched for artist or composer..Easy to find new music. The comparison of MOST MQA vs Tidal HD Masters albums shows MQA to be the winner most every time..
MQA needs a midline non USB  ( $400. - $1200 ) DAC. All I keep hearing in TAS and SP is MQA, MQA, MQA. You either have low end USB portable Dacs. Or high priced Dacs ( Brookly, Manhattan) .  Even Meridians mid priced "direct dac" is not MQA ready. I'm glad my Node2 does have full MQA unfolding thru it's internal dac. Hopefully, Teac, peachtree,Cambridge will come on board soon
Has the MQA format made any further inroads, since this discussion's last post?   I've not heard it yet, as I'm waiting for updates regarding it's availability/industry acceptance/popularity.   
Rodman99999- Good question about the inroads. I have noticed that on Tidal’s MQA masters there are more and more albums added every day. I have been listening through the budget Bluesound Node 2 and have noticed some albums sound truly fantastic, others clearly the same as red book CD, still others not worth the time of day. Even some old albums like Ray Charles, “The Genius of Ray Charles” can be transformed by MQA masters. I have a Schiit DAC and an older Benchmark DAC that I can use. Even so the internal DAC on the Bluesound Node 2 sounds better with the well done MQA albums than those external DACs.
As with all opinions, I think one should listen to a streamer/ DAC of the complete unfolded MQA music before a judgement is made on quality of the sound.
How Is MQA Fareing?

Stereophile started off being very pro MQA.
But in the last three or four issues there were substantial hearing/lab test done in two part articles that spanned over two issues in which MQA didn’t come across as pro as what they first believed.

Then this that was the last article headed
"MQA Contexualized" with this picture below.

Cheers George

Its a good streaming option, but it wont make a slik purse out of a sow's ear!

It better to to great non MQA Dac than an average MQA one. The first (cut) unfold is the deepest.

This week, at Mobile World Congress, wireless heavyweights will talk about the emerging 5G standard ...that looks like it will deliver 10x current bandwidth.  
So by the year 2020 we will be able to stream lossless 24/192k audio to our phones.
Any impact MQA makes will be short lived.

Good article, the author seems to be without a strong technical background (gets a few things wrong or confused and some misunderstandings) but overall a good critique with solid concerns about MQA. A bit wordy. TLDR.

Here is a technical summary in short version:

MQA is all hand waving BS and has absolutely no sound technical basis. It consists of manipulation of the audio file to give up some bit depth (loss of about 6 bits resolution) in exchange for a higher sample rate (a portion of higher sample rate data is buried in the lost bit depth data). Lots of hand waving to say that this is a beneficial trade off which is dubious as the greater bit depth has proven benefits (dynamic range) and the benefits of ultra high frequency stuff is useless or dubious at best. As anyone can see - you are almost certainly better off without this lossy form of compression.