MQA according to new Stereophile "loudness button" and "tweaking EQ in presence region"


Stereophile’s May 2017 review of the Mytek Brooklyn DAC (Herb Reichert) states that "in every comparison, MQA made the original recording sound more dynamic and transparent, but only sometimes more temporaly precise."

Seems positive, right? But the next sentence reads....

"After a while the MQA versions began to remind me of those old Loudness Contour buttons on 1960’s receivers, which used equalization to compensate for loss of treble and bass at low listening levels."

Now for the bombshell.....


"Consistently, MQA sounded as though it was tweaking the EQ in the presence region."

"I also noticed that most of the MQA versions sounded rounded off and smoother than the originals."

My opinion is that we gullible audiophiles have been fooled in the past by supposed new technologies, similar to what supposedly early mobile fidelity pressings did with EQ to make listeners think they were hearing an improvement.

In my mind, an alteration of the source is distortion.

Just as TV’S in stores set to torch mode are often preferred on first glance, and speakers that at first grab you with some spectacular aspect can become tiresome over time, as accuracy and neutrality become preferred as one's ear becomes more refined.

The frightening thing is that 2 major music entities have signed on, seemingly to make MQA the defacto standard of how music will made available.


While I haven’t been able to do this comparison myself, reading a highly regarded golden ear admit this in print is warning enough for me.


Just like the sugary drink that tastes so good on first experience, our advanced society knows that consuming it regularly leads to diabetes, heart disease and worse.

Does this revelation reveal MQA to be the parlor trick that it appears to be?
emailists
Interesting post.  I just was researching MQA, Roon, and PS Audio. Paul from PS Audio said he was open to a partial MQA implementation in the Bridge II, the network card in their top PWD or DSD dacs, but would not be fully implementing MQA in the dac itself as it made it sound poorer and could limit PS Audio's firmware upgrade options. This is a simplification of what Paul said in his post, for the full skinning you can read more online, but this does add a little credibility to your suspicion about MQA being suspect.
I haven't heard MQA so I shouldn't comment, but of course that won't stop me.  I also raised my eyebrows when I read that.  I've seen some on line posts that confirmed what The review stated; it sounds different but somewhat artificial.  My present setup sounds good enough to me so I won't be checking out the Emperor's New Clothes
Well, a parlor trick it may be but his conclusion seems to say otherwise:

"For now, I’m happily addicted to MQA, Tidal Masters, and the Mytek Brooklyn. Together, this trio delivered more plaisir and jouissance than I’m used to experiencing with streamed digital music. These milestone products have, each in its own way, brought computer audio to a hip new place in which I could hunker down for years, just having fun."

As with all things audio, I think you need to hear it for yourself and decide only then whether or not to move in that direction. My experience with MQA (via Bluesound Node 2) has been positive and I'm happy to have the capability in my system. Can I live without it? Yes, but I don't need to.
It is also possible that what is being heard is the performance of the Brooklyn dac and not MQA.  So far all my experiences with MQA are very positive both with a Meridian Explorer2 with full MQA decoding or with my Master 7 using partial decoding from the Tidal player. We still need more MQA files from UMG and Sony for further evaluation. Just last week I had a conversation with Robert Harley and he likes MQA a lot.The gentleman above who comments on MQA without ever hearing it is typical of many of the negative comments. Listen to it and then comment. It will give some credibility to your comments.
Alan
I haven't heard a full blown MQA setup, but listening to Tidal's Masters with their version of MQA is quite seductive.Call it a parlor trick or whatever, the sound is still extremely good. Do all recordings sound good with MQA? No, not really, but the majority of those that do are quite good. The reviewer can have his opinion, but relying on just his opinion about a music medium is no better than totally relying on his opinion about an audio component. If you haven't listened to MQA, you should really give it a try before condemning it due to a reviewer's suspicions. Sometimes you have to take off your "purist cap" and just sit down and listen to the beauty of the music that MQA can bring.
" Just like the sugary drink that tastes so good on first experience, our advanced society knows that consuming it regularly leads to diabetes, heart disease and worse."

First of all, when it comes to buying anything audio related, the most qualified person to judge products is you.

As for the golden ears, next time we have a big marker correction and you're hungry, don't cut off the ears. Knock some teeth out instead. Its the only way to get precious metals out of them.
This also reminds me of so many signal processor boxes that were touted as improving ones system.  How many of those are still being used today.  
The emperor's new line of clothes. It sounds like audio comfort food for those who don't like the real thing. Tweak it, massage it, and fiddle with it 'till it sounds pleasing to the ears.

Add some hype and licensing fees and Bob's your rich uncle.

All the best,
Nonoise
another worthless opinion based on selectively reading part of a review...
go back to your finely etched pre ring....

i formed my opinion by actually listening .... not that difficult to do

as for not being able to discern temporal changes, it might help if reviewers and listeners used speakers capable of that - there are few....

Before others get all sorts of breathless -- like the OP -- I'd suggest that folk read the whole of the piece by Mr. Reichart. It was, by any reasonable measure, exceedingly positive. It contained no "bombshell." Read. Listen. Think.
It's not always easy. But, in the end,  it beats the hell out of ridiculous hyperbole.
I've not yet heard MQA, but I'm looking forward to checking it out. With an open mind. Perhaps that's how we all should proceed.

That's rich: borders on audio derp. MQA has been suspect for some time now with manufacturers complaining about altering/modifying their software and the licensing fees for quite some time now. That, and an almost non-existent content to listen to.

I've yet to hear it but will at the LA Audio Show next month but some very respected innovators like BenchmarkPS AudioLinnSchiit, and Archimago's take on it have convinced me to go in with open ears and not fall for the first pretty note I hear. Granted, some have their own axes to grind but they all seem to agree on the basic misconceptions that have been touted by the press, who have their own axes to grind, monetarily speaking.

All the best,
Nonoise
Hey Folks,

I have heard lots of loudness circuits.  I have heard MQA through the Explorer2 and Tidal and Audirvana's  software decoding.

MQA does not sound like an EQ circuit.  I believe it was Robert Harley who said it takes you closer.  That is exactly what I experience on most of the MQA titles I have heard.  The old reviewer line about a veil is lifted is what I usually hear.

I have a subscription and read Herb's Followup review.  I immediately found it odd and still do.  If MQA was doing EQ then all MQA titles would reflect the presence boost. They do not.

As for the Brooklyn,  I am seriously considering buying one.  NO reviewer has mentioned any EQ effect with non MQA material and Herb is the only one that mentioned it at all.  However, two things bother me about the Brooklyn, the circuit appears to use op amps in the output and the DAC chip should be a newer ESS version.  Perhaps it was a long gestation and the newer chips were not ready during development.

Hope y'all have some fun,
Robert
Sounds great on my rig with Tidal. Love it! 
BTW,  there is plenty of content on Tidal.  The problem is you cannot buy most of it for some reason.

Robert
What are you're Tidal/Dac equipment grannyring ? Thanks...
Sound Science Music Vault Ultra II. Came with Lifetime Roon. Curious USB cable into my Lyngdorf 2170 dac/amp/room correction unit. Love the Lyngdorf selling off about $20,000 worth of separates and cables:) 

AZ Crescendo speakers. Simple system that is as musical as anything I have owner....perhaps even more so! 
Listening to Tidal right now. Fingerpainting ... The music of Herbie Hancock. Sounds better than a CD on my past Luxman DA06 dac and PS Audio Pectfectwave Memory transport. Roon combined with Tidal is just a joy. 
"MQA does not sound like an EQ circuit."

From what I have read, Doing EQ IS one of the features of MQA.
Mr. Stuart believes he can correct the sins of recorders past.
As long as he knows the make and model of the recorder used, MQA can compensate for "well known" (my quotes) deficiencies and set things straight (a very lofty goal).
 
"If MQA was doing EQ then all MQA titles would reflect the presence boost. They do not."

This statement would be true if ALL digital recording was done on the same machine. A number of different recorders were used -each having their own sonic profile. Some need correction (remastering?) and some don't. 
I have not heard MQA but it is predicated on the idea that you need all that high frequency sound above 48KHz to fully appreciate the music (even if you can’t hear it). We have had SACD and now DSD and I still find all these arguments for greater range way beyond human hearing dubious.

I don’t buy it from a technical perspective - despite the hand waving "smearing" that Bob Stuart imagines. I don’t really care about all that ultra HF noise for playback. Give me well recorded and well mastered 24 bit 96KHz and I am a happy camper as that really is about as good as it needs to get. 16 bit is the biggest weakness of CD IMHO as most studio gear can achieve 22 bit. Having 96KHz means a less aggressive brick wall filter and is a nice to have.
Personally I like the relaxed and analog type sound of DSD.   Some people think it sounds soft but on my system, it's sounds right and some PCM sounds like it has a bit of an edge. 

how many of you have one or more A to D converters and have listened to discern the often massive differences between them ? In my live recording work i will almost always take two converters...I would love to learn what Bob is actually doing..but then that is his intellectual property that he developed..
we live in a world where everybody wants everything for free...and yet defend the capitalist as deserving of fair rents at every turn,,,
which is it ?
me, I will pay of better...to my ears it is better

ya everybody has an axe to grind. My DAC manufacturer for whatever reason is silent on the matter..even tho it is FPGA so change should be relatively easy..any of you flat earthers want to buy my Pandora Sig ???? Has some wicked Nos tubes in it...
oh thats right not all the respected believe in tubes..

As for throwing out the many respected are against it list, there are just as many respected in the pro MQA camp including Brinkman and DCs, MSB....

enjoy the music

i hope I have offended none, that was not my intent


+1, tomic601.
Regarding, " . . . an alteration of the source is distortion," it was my understanding that MQA supposedly offers the truest source, as it backs out subsequent alterations to the sound imposed by equipment and/or production. Am I wrong about this?

This raises the question of whether or not alterations by the sound engineer or others from the original source are valid. Is the finished product the source? Or the raw version as first recorded?

 Or, am I talking out of my a$$, because I really don't know what I'm talking about . . . A real possibility!
Version the musician wanted or engineer or studio or record label...
Tomic, from what I’ve read as far as another DAC with fpga, getting compatible with MQA is not exactly easy, and have to make sure they don’t compromise the sound of other codecs, and requires back and forth with Mqa including code so they approve it.

i read early reports of mastering engineers saying running signal through mqa  sounds "better" than the master.

In my mind this is highly suspect. Just like the DBX expander I used to use on my system in high school.  Sure it was supposed to expand the dynamics Osee back to reality, but like countless boxes over time promising to enhance the original, they eventually sit collecting dust. 

However, Something like the Plangent process, on the other hand looks at carrier tone of analog masters and digitally slows or speeds to account for tape wow and flutter. The results are excellent, but they are not changing or enhancing the sound in any way other than timing fixing. IMHO this is the process that major labels should have considered, for their analog sourced releases.

The springsteen remasters used this (grateful dead were early adopters) and I can hear the solidity in general and steadiness of piano sustains, etc..


IME, the whole dac/server/streamer has an artificial factor to it.
For now, this is where developers are on this technology. Remember when the (gulp) mp3 originated?  Many felt it was the greatest thing in Audio.

Excellent points- emailists
its all a downhill ride from the origional acoustic event...

seriously lats assume for simplicity the analog master represents what the artist wanted us to hear at that time.

Plangent - the fruits of which I have heard and for most part agree does improve sound - a boon to the hyper pitch sensitive for sure.

so post plangent we still have an A to D converter to deal with....they are not artifact free - this is just factual. My Wadia ( actually both of them ) and Ayre are nite and day different. Why object to cleaning up those artifacts - many temporal - and as I believe MQA requires somebody ( label, producer, artist  ) sign off on those changes..

Diana Krall stops by my house every time I roll tubes in the preamp...


re the point about FPGA is that it is advertised as somewhat future proof vs implemented in H/ W which is somewhat more difficult to change..

IMO both DCS and Brinkman have been pretty transparent about plans for MQA...Aesthetix not so much. IMO Jim White is brilliant designer who offers an upgrade path - I am holding off on the next level upgrade because I want to know what the plan is...versus silent fence sitting

"the whole dac/server/streamer has an artificial factor to it"

@jafant, what is your setup my friend? You couldn't be anymore wrong on this....in a right setup, Tidal HiFi is just as good as Vinyl if not better.  

@tomic601, +1 on Diana Krall being in the house. 
Jayfant, surprised to see your post? I am enjoying the best sounding music I have ever experienced in my home with Tidal/ Roon and ripped cds. My how music playback is just sounding better and better with all the new innovations. Exciting times for sure.
+1 Jafant.

I am slow to adopt new technology because of this artificial factor - no DSD or USB for me. I am using a PC optical Toslink out to a jitter resistant Benchmark DAC 2 - archaic approach but incredibly solid solid solid in performance. I don’t trust USB and PC - too many bugs in software and hardware - that is why optical is pretty safe approach as far as I am concerned (essentially I rely on hardware and firmware on a 30 year old standard. I don't care much to be at the full mercy of software and USB and other novel interfaces. recall how long it took to discover the jitter problems with CD playback)
Missing out on some great music and top notch sound. Innovation is your friend in this case. Understand why some don't like change however. 
I will remain in the CD and SACD camp my audiophile friends.
Nice points! shadorne
Reichert wrote:

"Back in the 1960s, I bought every Dylan record . . but all his records sound opaque, annoyingly hard, and overly compressed. Every time I listen to Dylan, I ask myself, Why must they sound like this? I felt this way until I heard Zimmy in MQA via the Mytek Brooklyn: The clarity, suppleness, and transparency were so unbelievable . . "

Distortion, pure and simple. MQA is the 21st Century’s answer to Dynagroove! As RCA said at the time, "adding brilliance and clarity, realistic presence, full-bodied tone , yadda yadda . . ."

Stereo Review loved it then; Stereophile loves it now.
"Back in the 1960s, I bought every Dylan record . . but all his records sound opaque, annoyingly hard, and overly compressed. Every time I listen to Dylan, I ask myself, Why must they sound like this? I felt this way until I heard Zimmy in MQA via the Mytek Brooklyn: The clarity, suppleness, and transparency were so unbelievable . . "

In fact, as can be observed in the dynamic range database, almost all of Bob Dylan’s recordings - but especially the early ones - are surprising high in dynamic range, I.e., high in the GREEN numbers, with few exceptions. And if I may be so bold his early recordings were the model of naturalness and clarity. So I have no idea what the author of the statement above was smoking.

http://dr.loudness-war.info/album/list?artist=Bob+Dylan&album=



As Yoda of Star Wars proclaimed, "You do, or you do not." The same analogy can be said of listening to  MQA. Why do all the nay sayers treat MQA as it were some sort of disease? Give it a listen. Have an open mind. It's not just about resolution. Listen to the width and depth of the soundstage. The natural dynamics that, until now, only a master tape could produce. Distortion artifacts will not reveal these things. Remastering of recordings for vinyl or Cd's is no different. The recording engineer is making changes in frequency and dynamics to suit his taste in sound. So why isn't that considered distortion by the people against or at least suspicious of MQA. If I were forced to listen to the "what goes in, must come out camp" I think I would probably give up the hobby. Fortunately, I have a choice......
The editor of Stereophile sent a recording he had made to MQA to be MQAd. When he got it back he couldn’t readily distinguish this recording, very familiar to him, from the MQA version. He tried, under very carefully controlled conditions.

Many MQA recordings are being compared

It’s a hoax IMO, one that is all about $$$ and not about audio--with very limited exceptions. And most of the leading DAC manufacturers are staying away.

Hey, a lot of people, in the day, raved about Dynagroove.
@melm .. have you taken a look at their partners page? Some heavy hitters there including MSB, dCS, and Mytek:

http://www.mqa.co.uk/customer/our-partners


@melm - If there is nothing wrong with the recording, MQA won't fix it. It will, however reduce a monster size Hi-Rez file into something you can stream in a heartbeat. Any value there?
Are there many new recordings coming out in mqa or mostly remastering old stuff ?
And some heavy hitters are not (yet?) offering MQA:  Ayre Acoustics, Benchmark Media Systems, Boulder Amplifiers, Bryston, Chord Electronics, dCS, EMM Labs, Hegel Music Systems, Marantz, Meitner, PS Audio, Schiit Audio, Simaudio, and Soulution, for example.

In fact, many, if not most, DAC manufacturers on the MQA partner list do not YET offer MQA in their devices. That includes the heavier hitters among them.  My guess is that they have signed on, but have their fingers to the wind before they commit to hardware.

IMO MQA may have some limited positive application where the deficiencies of an original recording ADC are known and can be compensated for.  But general application across the board is a crap shoot.  What MQA does is take the original digital file, changes it, and charges a royalty, .That cannot generally be good.

When comparing MQA files to a non-MQA file, it must first be known that the original files were identical.  Often, what has happened is that the MQA file has been prepared from a high res file and is being compared to red book.  Also MQA compression is not lossless, though it does, of course speed up downloads.  That's why Tidal loves it.
My unpopular opinion: Most older DAC’s sounded significantly better with high resolution files.

There are a lot of DAC’s introduced in the last 5 years which sound great regardless of sourse, from Redbook to DSD.

My need for high resolution files is just not there anymore with the Mytek. All resolutions sound really good, and if I can save the hard disk space, that is a good thing.

The Mytek plays MQA as well and I simply don’t hear a benefit. Everything I hear that is allegedly better with MQA is also attributable to better mastering.

Best,

E
OK, I have a PS Audio DirectStream DAC...and a Mytek Brooklyn DAC as well, the latter just for MQA streaming from Tidal, the former for everything else.
To Erik's point, I think that the MQA I enjoy more is likely the result of the remastering, not just the MQA, but I must say, some albums (to me) sound much better...and the DirectStream DAC is no "slouch".
All the gnashing of teeth over MQA seems much ado about nothing for those of us who have moved past music acquisition and into streaming. For folks who still want to acquire a library of music beyond what they already own, yes, it may be a concern. Maybe. No doubt most music labels couldn't care less about audiophile wants/needs and see their future in streaming. MQA allows for them to produce 1 file for distribution (streaming, downloading, and MQA CDs) for all types of music lovers from audiophiles to casual listeners. Seems to be a good business decision for them and plenty of audiophiles seem to like what they hear. Like it or not I think it's here to stay.
No one’s debating music streaming vs. Owning.

The issue for me is that MQA Maybe doing something other than just providing hires music in a smaller file and correcting d/a Flaws, but playing a sonic trick on us by basterdizing the master files, not being a better delivery system.

Anyone can goose the bass and treble of a file and have people prefer it over the original. That’s not the objective for me. I prefer raw food to junk food and my palette has adapted to crave that. I often like the sound of unmastered (uncompressed) recordings, rough mixes, etc because I find they sound better than the homogenized version. But that’s just my taste.

Personally the idea of a ubiquitous file delivery system that changes the sound and could be the only way every one eventually gets their music digitally (because that the only way it’s being offered) to be abhorrent and the very antithesis of the audiophile experience.

And it seems indeed like the audiophile press is responsible for the adoption of this new format before it went mainstream, by giving mqa it’s blessing.
If Stereophile noticed right away and wrote that MQA wasn’t the master it was proported to be, but a fructose enhanced version of it, i think things might have played out differently. 

MQA has waffled back and forth saying it can be unpackeed outside the dac, then no it can’t, then yes It can but only partially, etc.
It may have well indeed been public outcry in forums like these, that forced their hand to have a more open architecture.

So you can imagine why I'm skeptical of  the powers behind this new format and their motivations for the future of music.  
emailists,
You can correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't see anywhere in this thread that says you have actually listened to MQA. Most people will tell you if you have not listened to it, you don't have an opinion. Try listening to MQA with your own ears..... instead of your taste buds....
Back when I was in high school and college, I was a drummer in some very busy rock & roll bands.  I remember the sound and visceral experience of the "timbre" from playing that 22" Zildjan ride cymbal.  I've only experienced that same visceral experience from some of the MQA albums on Tidal, never experienced that same feeling from even hi-res "traditional" digital files.
Also, there is something really "pure" about the sound of a well-recorded acoustic piano, something that sounds better to me on MQA.
I wouldn't say it's a "blanket improvement", as not all MQA albums on Tidal (to me) sound "better", "different" yes, "better" not so sure.
Hello fellow music lovers. So here’s the deal: The Brooklyn is a nice DA, very punchy. However, it has a low bump and a high mid bump to it, and that’s what he heard as the "loudness" curve. I would highly recommend the Manhattan II if you can afford it. I helped them to design it and it’s very nice, punchy like the Brooklyn yet also linear, no hype to the curve. Not as elegant as the Bricasti M1 SE (since the Feb 2016 upgrade to the filtering, when I also helped them to tweak the presentation.)

MQA: I’ve heard my work from 24 bits to MQA ... it has a high mids push, and is thinner on the bottom, with some added distortion of course, and most painfully, mid forward so a loss of width and shape. The High Mid comes forward with the MID section vs the SIDE, and it’s lean and of course narrow. This is based on my work using Pacific Microsonics AD at 24 44.1 and reduced to MQA 16 44.1 I would hate to know what it does with higher rates, but my peers tell me it’s no better.

I’m sorry to tell you that this is not the future of great audio. The labels all see money, so they are on board, and because you all are hip to see that LED and can’t hear the source to compare, many of you are suckered in. This review is the first I have seen to admit the truth, the bias, etc.

There is no free lunch in digital audio, and nothing with less data is more. Similarly, more data is not always better, and one should not be suckered in to the idea that 96k or higher is some kind of gold standard. What matters is the hardware and the engineering skill. Great hardware at 44.1 is not less than 96k, although weak hardware can sound better at higher rates and higher rates are good for mixers (plug ins).

This idea of deblurring is total hype. There is no perfection in audio, it’s all about musical approximations and everything in the way of distortion in an approved master has been adjusted to deal with the inherent artifacts in that record, and gone over by a dozen people. The margin for error is small with changing this highly compressed and limited (non classical in my world) music master and MQA is not respectful in the way it needs to be to satisfy their sales pitch. More of an Aphex Aural Exciter in digital garb, or like one of the automated mastering services with huge backing. The high mid bump is seductive, as in the classic SM57 and the Telefunken 251 mics. Or 15 ips 2" tape. MQA has the bump, is thin, and Mid forward. The overall harmonic distortion is audible, not less than, worse than.

If it was a 320 mp3 size file I would say well done. Yet even then it’s not a mile better than MFiT, which is harmonically cold and shortens the groove by losing the low volume low end info.

If you want the source, listen to the master, no matter the rate, it’s the real deal. Nothing else compares.

I have told them all of this, and nothing here is from privileged info. Yes I signed their NDA, then stopped communicating with them once I heard it. My opinion has not changed with their tech sales pitch and my opinion is not for sale.

MQA founders likely need an income stream since their video business has dried up and this is a way to get a few endorsements and corporations on board and tell everyone that a rock is still a diamond, only smaller, because there is a blue light, and a mid forward presence push.

Credentials: I’m a full time mastering engineer based in Los Angeles. I work in every style, 7 days a week, over 500 clients a year, six Grammy winners and many international gold and platinum records, partial credits are here: http://www.allmusic.com/artist/brian-lucey-mn0002167192 website is here: www.magicgardenmastering.com

Room: I use Mytek 8x192 to feed my analog chain which has Fairman TMEQ, Elysia Alpha Ser #001, Etc ... router is Crane Song Avocet, and I use Bricasti M1 SE DA x 2 for monitoring pre and post processing. Birch ply (older) Sonics Allegras by Joahim Gerhardt powered by highly modified Cary Audio 211 FE fed by Sequoia software. the room is fantastic, come by next time in LA to hear it.

Thanks for truly listening and spending money on the system of your dreams. The system is your art form, and we appreciate you.


Somebody needs a Snicker's Bar ...