MQA is Legit!


Ok, there is something special about MQA.  Here is my theory:  MQA=SACD.  What do I mean by this?  I mean that since there might be the "perception" it sounds better, then there is way more care put into the mastering and the recording.   Of course I have Redbook CD's that sound just as good (although they tend to be "HDCD" lol)... Bottom line:  a great recording sounds great.  I wish more labels and artists put more time into this--it's great to hear a song for the 1000th time and discover something new.  

What are your thoughts on MQA and SACD?
waltertexas
Not to be the first to comment on my own post, but MJ's "Thriller" and   Daft Punk Random Access Memories are great examples.  Every time I hear these on digital or vinyl, I somehow come across something new. 

Yes, the system has a role to play, but it's the original recording and artistry that makes it.

~W.  
MQA introduces a bunch of distortion. I have not heard a single MQA file that is an improvement on the original file. Phase distortion from minimum phase filtering is one issue. The second issue is apodizing filtering (loss of resolution).
Another angle on this is that MQA may ensure that no watermarking, with attendant deterioration of SQ, is applied to MQA downloads or streams.
@shadorne  interesting...  i haven't compared MQA to hi-res directly, but the latest tracks released on MQA native are really well done.  One album I have, the Doors, does not sound good on ANY digital format, period.  Maybe my claim is only valid for tracks and remasters over the last few years... perhaps a hi-fi Renaissance??
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I am not sure that I understand the original point here.  Is the OP saying that MQA files tend to sound better because they have been carefully remastered, and not necessarily due to any technological improvement?  If that is the case, I don’t know how to assess the merits of that claim, although I haven’t been overly impressed by the MQA that I’ve heard
MQA is not a sound quality improvement over CD IMO.

Just different mastering!

SACD can be an improvement over CD, but many SACDs are just CD conversions to DSD, so buyer beware! 
@don_c55  
 
MQA is half lossy, half high-res lossless, and since I believe 16/44.1 is all we need (before the DAC), I agree that CD is better than MQA, and nothing is stopping you getting a CD copy of an album that’s offered in MQA.
I have been listening to MQA tracks since the first day they were available on Tidal.  So my only exposure has been on the streaming side of things, but I've spent A LOT of time listening and evaluating MQA.  Since Tidal has many tracks (well, of the music I listen to anyway) available as both regular Redbook CD and MQA, it's pretty easy to compare.

I have also had several different MQA DACs through here during this time.

I find "almost" without fault that the MQA tracks sound better than their standard CD counterparts.  Not all the time, but pretty much.  Is MQA perfect, hells no, but I sure do hear an improvement.

So for me, and as always, just my opinion, I like MQA...
+1 @mofimadness and in my case, that's with just the first MQA unfold in Roon.
Big fan of mqa. I compare with the same artist on disc v. Mqa and mqa wins everyone. Even my 16 yr old son agrees and I’m sure his hearing is better than mine. 
MQA is DOA. It was debunked as a fraud and worse. Do some research. I not paying more for less. 

ray
@mofimadness

I find "almost" without fault that the MQA tracks sound better than their standard CD counterparts. Not all the time, but pretty much. Is MQA perfect, hells no, but I sure do hear an improvement.

Every MQA-compatible DAC I have seen has degredated PCM performance. It’s not the manufacturers playing a trick, one stating it simply is a drawback of merely having the capability. So it’s no wonder you hear PCM as worse if using an MQA-compatible DAC. Look at the Stereophile measurements of the Mytek Liberty when fed a 44.1kHz PCM signal, it’s filter response is absolute garbage and causes aliasing (here’s the filter response of the Chord DAVE as a reference).

I hear way too much distortion in MQA, and also inferior attack and delay.  To me, everything nautural sounds too synthetic.  
@ mzkmxcv...how many MQA DACs have you actually HEARD?  Looking at specs and listening are two different things.  I learned many, many years ago, that just because a unit tests a certain way, does NOT mean it sounds that way.  You mentioned the DACs you've "seen", but how about hearing?

I get from your posts above that you are anti-MQA and I have no problem with that as long as you have practical application, (have actually heard) these units.

I had at least, half a dozen MQA DACs here and they all have excellent PCM performance, so...
shadorne, I totally agree.  MQA, to my ears, is inferior even to Redbook CD in every aspect.  
Mofimadness, most MQAs are from different masters than the equivalent CDs.  When I have heard both from what I know to be the same master, CD always sounds substantially better.  In addition to having to be from the same master, the levels have to both be within .1dB, or the louder files tends to be perceived as better. 
I wonder how many MQA naysayers have a Tidal subscription?

I wonder how many people subscribe to Tidal only for MQA?

One of the great things about about Tidal, is that you have the choice to listen to every MQA album as 16/44.1 too.




Im not sure I have ever heard the MQA people say that it actually sounds better then CD.....Is not the primary function of MQA to deliver CD quality at a lower file size than other formats? Just wondering as my understanding of it is quite limited....
@jethro1964...

Not sure if "better" is the correct word? These were taken from the MQA website:

"MQA reveals every detail of the original recording."

"MQA captures 100% of the original studio performance. It then cleverly adapts to deliver the highest quality playback your product can support."

So the way that I read that, is that, it is supposed to sound better?

Master Quality Authentication
@ robelvick

Exactly!  I only subscribe to Tidal for MQA :)  I hear a big (positive) difference.

My point is that MQA and Redbook CD will sound identical for a given recording when played back through equivalent gear... I think that tracks that are offered up via Tidal in MQA have more to give as they tend to be better mastered and delivered via streaming in a very high quality (timing-wise and resolution) way.  In other words, i dont care much to stream non-MQA as it tends to sound too "thin".  

Bottom line: MQA=lossless reproduction @ smaller footprint + more quality (from an audiophile perspective) in production.

It is interesting how passionate this discussion has become though :)
Please pardon my ignorance on the subject...Trying to learn as a DAC and  Tidal are in the near future for me.....
"... I think that tracks that are offered up via Tidal in MQA have more to give as they tend to be better mastered"

So are you saying that all tracks offered in MQA have been remastered for MQA and not simply converted to the Format? 

@mofimadness

Measurements do show us frequency response, and every DAC that supports MQA that I know of has degredated PCM performance, in terms of their slow-sloping filter that introduces aliasing. Get a Benchmark DAC3 or Chord Qutest and compare PCM on those versus a MQA-compatable DAC (make sure they are level matched).
I'm saying that it appears to me the tracks that are in the "masters" quality selection (i.e. the MQA versions) are better than the ones that aren't.  It seems Tidal has a bit more of a quality standard for these versions of a track.  The noise floor is lower, the sound has groove (sounds "deeper" as if a really deep clean pressing on vinyl).  I wouldnt say warm, but certainly more body to the song.  So combine that with the great rendering and timing and it is delicious. 

BTW I am using the PS Audio DirectStream DAC with the Snowmass software.
@waltertexas

To my knowledge, MQA does not have a lower noise floor than 16Bit when talking <15kHz. So either your DAC performs better with MQA (highly likely) and/or it is using a different master. 
@mzkmxcv: I am convinced it is a better master.  It's more than the noise floor--it is the depth and imaging as well.  It's like the remaster of Abbey Road.. say what you will about some of these remasters but I think many of them are great.  I have a few original Abbey Road pressings and IMO they don't compare at all to the latest 180g remaster (at least in my system).  

But hey, it's great that I can stream stuff I would likely never buy and it sounds amazing.  
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If someone wants to read more about MQA Stereophile has a long Q&A about it.

https://www.stereophile.com/content/mqa-questions-and-answers

One interesting part was this:
Many recording and mastering engineers have testified that MQA improves very considerably on the conventional methods, recreating the sound they actually hear or remember from the original session or, in the case of archive material, the sound from an analogue tape recorder.
Read more at https://www.stereophile.com/content/mqa-questions-and-answers-losslessness-questions#ZAbwxAHeHziuCzF...
I have read from many sources that MQA is or can be much better than red book. I think the more important parts are around licensing, costs, DRM (does not seem to be a problem) and monopoly about an audio technology.
@dweller

MQA is half lossy and half lossless, interior to the quality of CD in my opinion, it also can’t know what happened in the mastering of the track.

A quote from someone more knowledgeable than me:

An input signal is truncated to 17 bits (and the input sample rate), and is then split into a high and low-frequency band. The lossless portion of the LF signal (13/44.1) is added as-is to a 24/44.1 container (FLAC or otherwise), and is nominally compatible with any Flac decoder. The remaining signal is a lossy encoding of the high-frequency content, and lives in the lower 8-11 bits of the FLAC. Somewhere in the encoding process, specific instructions for what reconstruction filters (low-pass filters to prevent aliasing of audio) should be used during decoding
.
Not to mention it prevents digital volume control and DSP.

The MQA ney-sayers sound exactly like the cable ney-sayers. If you compare these groups, they put down the people that can hear a difference. They state so-called facts, charts, expert comments, and whatever else they can find to support their cause. I don’t give a sh$# about so called experts opinions, charts, etc..., listen with your own 2 ears! If you don’t have good ears or a good quality system, then you probably won’t hear a difference.Hey, some people don’t think computers improve performance either! 
Redbook SQ is ok, but hi-res/SACD/MQA done right surpasses it by a large margin. MQA has sounded better than my vinyl music when I compared both. I can’t say that all hi-res/SACD/MQA cuts sound better than redbook, but I can say than neither of these formats have sounded worse.

I spent an afternoon at my friendly dealer (Martins in Norwich) switching in Tidal between all available sources, using DCS and Vitus kit. We came to a view that maybe 1/3rd were better to us with MQA, vs other formats. In my view therefore not amazingly reliable as "it all depends on the track" which is not amazingly helpful in playing a range of tracks at home at leisure. Also what is true MQA? - the source is not usually identified - we need transparency before I personally would be that bothered. 
Overall, I think Tidal's MQA Masters series recordings sound great and better than CD or traditional 44.1 Tidal hi-resolution downloads.  I don't have experience with MQA in any other format than Tidal's Masters. 

I haven't made many direct comparisons between an actual physical CD and MQA.

I'm not hearing any increase in distortion, loss of information, noise or anything. What I am hearing is a general overall improvement.  I agree with others who think there is more body to MQA and a seemingly lower noise floor.  Everything sounds more defined without added harshness to me

I get the OP's point that maybe Tidal's MQA Masters sound better just because there's attention given to making them sound better, as opposed to an improvement being solely due to the MQA format. 

For now, I'm just happy that a digital format sounds great. I simply cannot buy to try everything I'm exploring on vinyl. Tidal and a good DAC allow me to explore to no end.  I'm living in a world with great vinyl and great digital so--to me--it's a new golden age.    
@rbstehno

If you don’t have good ears or a good quality system, then you probably won’t hear a difference.

The most common and cop-out response in this area of discussion. So you are totally dismissing any fault on your end? If you hear a difference, there has to be one? Maybe you’d also recommend essential oils and ginger root over chemotherapy.

16Bit vs 8Bit test, if you can get >70% confidence with 25+ trials (I can random guess and get >70% if only say 10 trials), I’d love if you could screenshot it and link to it.

Even if you can get >70%, now imagine 16Bit vs 24Bit. 
 
Lots of claims which can be attributed simply to placebo.
"PLACEBO" has to be #1, among Audiogon’s Greatest Hits! "SNAKE OIL" is probably #2.
Placido was crowned, ’King of the Opera’, by Newsweek, in 1982. I vote PLACEBO be crowned, ’King of the Copout’, on these pages.
There is most definitely an audible difference with MQA.

Phase distortion causes the imaging to be less accurate.

Apodizing changes the timbre of transients.

Easiest thing to listen for is the hole in the middle of the soundstage. Second easiest thing to hear is the pluck of acoustic guitar strings. MQA has an unnatural sound. The pitch of the initial pluck of a stringed instrument sounds slightly lower. It is not as easy to hear unless you are trained. Some people can’t hear it - for example if you able to enjoy Michael Buble’s singing then you probably aren’t able to hear autotune pitch altering effects. Pitch sensitivity varies a lot among people but some can easily pick up as little as 5 cents....
From a technical pov MQA is quite some junk, but people like all kinds of distortions so why not make a buck on selling this junk.

https://audiophilestyle.com/ca/reviews/mqa-a-review-of-controversies-concerns-and-cautions-r701/

I think it sounds pretty good considering it's streaming through my Vault 2i.   Will Tidal replace my CDs, SACDs, DvD-A, and BluRay Audio, 24/96 material ? No way , but as a convenient hifi digital source it's pretty decent.
@seigen   wow...  this was a very cocky and bitter article: 
https://audiophilestyle.com/ca/reviews/mqa-a-review-of-controversies-concerns-and-cautions-r701/

In fact, the only reason I have Tidal and Roon is exactly because "I wanted to stream high fidelity recordings over the internet" --it seems the author clearly didn't consider me when he made the claim that no one wants that.

He can just go back to his MP3s and winamp blasting his altec lansings in the dorm room--i will in the meantime enjoy discovering new tracks on my evolving digital rig with great sounding MQA...

The MQA ney-sayers sound exactly like the cable ney-sayers. If you compare these groups, they put down the people that can hear a difference. They state so-called facts, charts, expert comments, and whatever else they can find to support their cause. I don’t give a sh$# about so called experts opinions, charts, etc..., listen with your own 2 ears! If you don’t have good ears or a good quality system, then you probably won’t hear a difference.


Well, in my case I tried it, and can't hear a difference. What's more, the consensus of the SF Audiophile society that I talked to was the same. No one could hear anything.

The glowing positive press aside, it didn't make things better in such a way I'd shell out a single dollar for.

Further, at least with the Mytek Brooklyn DAC I used, the apodizing filter removed a lot of air and sparkle from the music, so I switched to a different one which forced me to disable MQA. Never regretted it.

Best,
E
Well, in my case I tried it, and can’t hear a difference. What’s more, the consensus of the SF Audiophile society that I talked to was the same. No one could hear anything.


I find this astonishing. I wonder if most setups do not preserve phase accuracy? Certainly passive crossovers usually have serious phase issues.

On my setup, the difference is quite audible when doing A to B. Pick a random track and ask me if it is MQA or not and I would not be able to say. However A and B comparisons are quite easy once you know what to listen for.

The third easiest way to hear the difference is that MQA is slightly hotter or louder. The MQA apodizing filter tends to compress transients. Basically MQA is a mild form of CD loudness wars. This loudness compression trick is what gives the impression that MQA extracts more transient detail. Smoke and mirrors is what MQA is all about. If there were real benefits (rather than hand waving) then the technical details would not be so carefully hidden from public scrutiny. 

Compare MQA lack of transparency to the transparency regarding SACD and the CD formats. The differenc is Sony did not need to hide technical details because SACD and CD weren’t all “smoke and mirrors”.

MQA is one of the largest, most extensive, and elaborate "hustles" ever to be foisted upon the high-end community and those interested in quality music reproduction systems and it is a trojan horse for DRM!
The third easiest way to hear the difference is that MQA is slightly hotter or louder. The MQA apodizing filter tends to compress transients.



This part I heard, but since I was able to switch it off with non MQA I attributed it to the filter and not to MQA itself.

I heard it more as a softening of transients and removing of space.

Whatever difference I heard with MQA, none of it was worth money. I would not pay a premium for it. My feelings are pretty close to what I later would read from PS Audio:

https://www.psaudio.com/pauls-posts/mqa-thoughts/


Best,


E
I think the discussion has gone a bit off the rails... thanks for the PS Audio link as I am in that same camp.  My point was that I am getting this quality over a wifi connection to Tidal.  I am not going to replace my hi-res files or SACD or even my redbook cd's--im just very impressed with what I am hearing vs pandora or spotify.  I also wouldn't choose MQA over DSD for download either.
MQA might be the biggest snake oil feature broadcast by paid reviewers.
MQA = Another "smart guy'" who thinks he is smarter than you and won't be caught trying to make you believe MQA sounds better than Redbook.  Is he smarter than you? 
I actually use it and really like it. Tidal via Bluesound Node 2 to Mytek Brooklyn+ MQA DAC/Pre. 90% of the time I prefer it to 16/44, even from SSD to Bryston BDP-2 to Mytek. Don't over think it, don't be political, just listen and see what you like.

Or not. It's your dime...
There’s a reason why MQA is not adopted by many high-end DAC manufactures. By making a DAC able to handle MQA it affects all non-MQA encoded music the DAC plays negativity. The filters required for MQA have to be built into the basic infrastructure of the DAC. Hence many DAC manufacturers will not compromise for the sake of MQA. Quite right too.

The potential royalty steam for the owners of MQA (Meridian originally though now it has been spun off) is so huge given they earn on every stream and every DAC built, that it is best to be somewhat sceptical of what you read from the pro-MQA lobby. There is a lot of potential revenue at stake here and that can lead to untrustworthy sources of info and PR.