MQA Op-Ed

Discussion in 'General Audio Discussion' started by Gaspasser, Jan 29, 2017.

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  1. Gaspasser

    Gaspasser Flatulence Maestro

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    Yesterday I attended the monthly meeting of the DC Hifi Group. The main event was a lecture by Michal Jurewicz that included a demonstration of the Manhattan II on a 2-channel system. There was also a Brooklyn on a Mac laptop streaming Tidal listening with Audeze headphones and another Windows machine with another Brooklyn playing MQA files via Roon to HEX V2.


    There has already been much written here and elsewhere about the differences in the sound of MQA. The more interesting parts of the lecture came after the drawn out explanation of how it is a compressed, but still gets uncompressed. There was a whole explanation of “deblurring”, but I wanted to go listen to the headphones. However when I came back later, I stumbled into the good stuff. The most interesting part was how Mytek was approached by Meridian because of their name in the professional audio world. They were given very early access to MQA but in turn developed the Analog-Digital Converters that Warner Music Group is using to remaster their original tapes in MQA. Can anyone say “Dolla dolla bills y’all!”


    The real coup for this format is the ability to say it is high resolution yet use much smaller file sizes than any other high resolution format. This way the major labels can remaster everything in MQA and then offer those same files out for streaming. It is unusual that a format that is good for everyone is also good for audiophiles. We already know that labeling your new and remastered music as “high resolution” is a huge selling point. Look at Tidal doing MQA and now Sprint buying in. This leads me to the next interesting part that Michal Jurewicz casually mentioned was phone companies and phone makers working on phones that can process MQA.

    In terms of lowering data usage and bandwidth costs, small data files are great for cell phone customers and the companies providing the files.


    I must reveal that I didn’t buy into the whole high resolution side of digital. I only own one album of high resolution material but it is so over-compressed it sounds like crap. So I am skeptical about MQA. I was not in prime listening position (see pictures) for the 2-channel demonstration which included a solo piano track that was mastered in both MQA and DSD. The differences were there but subtle at best. The track was 24 bit/352.8 khz resolution and Michal repeatedly A/B both tracks and wanted the listener to focus on the hammers of the piano hitting the strings. There was a more “metal hitting string” sound on the MQA track, but I heard it on the DSD track too, but it was not as pronounced. HE then played the MQA track and turned the MQA processing on and off and the improvement was more obvious. He also told the crowd that a huge benefit of MQA for him is the soundstage and detail within it. The quick listens on the headphones are hard for me to draw any conclusions on. I was listening to unfamiliar headphones on unfamiliar gear. It was my first time trying Audeze headphones, but the Tidal streams I listened to at “Master” quality did sound good. I didn’t know how to turn off MQA to get a real feel for it, however as others have mentioned the real changes might be in the remastering process. The HEX V2 sounded very good through the Brooklyn with Roon playing an assortment of MQA tracks and Michal also had non-MQA 24/96 tracks available to demo, but they didn’t sound too different to me. I don’t think I would be able to tell the difference on A/B.


    So for me, it is more interesting from the business perspective. The choice of MQA or another format for high-rez streaming is going to made by cell phone companies, the huge streaming services and the major record labels. I think if Pandora and or Spotify goes MQA, then I think it will be game over for any other competing high-resolution formats. It will be interesting to see if Apple is indeed working on their own format. I doubt it, I think they are just waiting to see what pans out.


    As for me, I am looking backwards and have an old-school, big-ass Denon CDP arriving tomorrow. I am more interested in spinning all my old CDs and running them through “obsolete” Schiit gear.


    I should mention that the expensive 2-channel setup was ATC Loudspeakers P2 amplifier and ATC SCM40 speakers. The horn speakers were for the vinyl demo that didn’t happen :(


    IMG_0330.JPG IMG_0328.JPG IMG_0333.JPG IMG_0329.JPG IMG_0325.JPG
     
  2. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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    So you didn't burst into tears and cry at hearing MQA?
     
  3. gldgate

    gldgate Acquaintance

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    Thank you for your impressions. I share your opinion that MQA is first and foremost a business strategy and that the bulls eye is the mobile phone Market. I've listened for the last two weeks to MQA thru Explorer 2. Not a revelation by any means but most of the remasterings were very listenable (with maybe a touch of sharpness that brought on some longer term listener fatigue).
     
    Last edited: Jan 29, 2017
  4. ultrabike

    ultrabike Measurbator - Admin

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    Anything that gets compressed will get uncompressed. Not just MQA.

    Sounds like Obi-Wan talk. I wish more specifics were given as to why MQA is any better than MP3 or similar lossy formats. And it would have been even better if these guys came out clean and said that lossless compression is superior, in terms of fidelity, to any kind of lossy compression (MQA includes).

    I don't think that is a differentiation. MP3 can be "high resolution" and use small file sizes. The smaller the file sizes, the more compromised the fidelity. There is no such thing as a free lunch.

    If you believe it. To me MQA makes no sense.

    I think there is an app for everything. But I don't think this is going to fly in the long run.

    I actually kind of do. I just don't buy the reason for the existence of MQA. At least not yet.

    I have a feeling that in the long run the non-MQA 24/96 will sound sufficiently different to some, that they will forget they have an MQA app.

    To be honest, I doubt MQA will be able to touch MP3 and other lossy (and non-lossy) formats. Apple indeed will work with it's own formats and will likely not adopt MQA.

    LOL! We could also listen to our "obsolete" MP3s, FLACs, and so forth using our phones on the go. I'm happy that way sometimes.

    Bastids.

    Thanks for reporting in mang!
     
  5. Gaspasser

    Gaspasser Flatulence Maestro

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    So that is why that fat guy had a big box of tissues in hand at the demo ;)

    No, I really only got emotional that the MQA demo and Q&A caused the vinyl demo to get canceled. I really wanted to hear those big-ass horn speakers with 12-inch woofers.
     
    Last edited: Jan 29, 2017
  6. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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    Too bad they cancelled the vinyl / horn / big woofer system. I would have been super bummed.
     
  7. anetode

    anetode Moderator

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    Repeat after me: marketing presentation.

    What he did with the demonstration was literally priming.

    I don't mean to come off as rude, I appreciate your writeup and impressions.

    To me the DRM makes all the sense in the world ;)
     
  8. ultrabike

    ultrabike Measurbator - Admin

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    LOL! My understanding of @Gaspasser write up is that MQA with out the extra processing is extreme musical diarrhea. With all of the extra processing, it subtly sucks.
     
    Last edited: Jan 29, 2017
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  9. Cspirou

    Cspirou They call me Sparky

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    I think there are some merits to the technology. Such as embedding information about the recording to properly decode on the DAC end.

    The licensing issues however are a huge problem.
     
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  10. anetode

    anetode Moderator

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    Totally, & I don't think Gaspasser bought in, nor that you forgot about the DRM bit, just that it's worth it to be extra blunt and frame some of the bull while still early in the thread.

    The format itself won't matter too much as I doubt it will be long before there's a widely available solution to decode MQA and extract the PCM so that it can be converted to something more civilized, like FLAC.
     
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  11. landroni

    landroni Friend

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    So we're back to bit-budgets then. Last I checked my phone provider was streaming TV (70 channels, no less) on the subscribers' phones, and streaming video is considerably more bandwidth intensive than streaming, say, 24/96. On true 4G networks it's a cake.

    But hey, this can be as easily said about MP3 files, lightly edited:
    The real coup for MP3 is the ability to say it is 'almost lossless' yet use much smaller file sizes than any other 'lossless' format. In terms of lowering data usage and bandwidth costs, small data files are great for cell phone customers and the companies providing the files.

    This works because as per my understanding the "high-res" part (above and beyond redbook) in MQA is lossy... Personally I still fail to see the interest of MQA (instead of >= 24/96 PCM) for audiophiles who have bespoke gear, or of MQA (instead of 16/44.1 PCM) for general consumers who have noise generating equipment. I can see the interest for providers of streaming services (lowering bandwidth requirements) or the recording industry (providing an approximation of "high-res" under locked, DRM conditions), but this is all more about convenience than quality. Overall audiophiles seem mostly concerned with quality.
     
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  12. Grahad2

    Grahad2 Red eyes from too much anime

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    Some of them believe strongly in Meridian's "original ADC compensation" kool-aid, even though the mastering engineer would probably weep.
     
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  13. Kattefjaes

    Kattefjaes Mostly Harmless

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    I don't buy that it is. It's a way to sneak DRM in, strong-arming you to buy DACs from manufacturers who pay lock-in protection money. As you said above, dollah dollah bill y'all.

    I'd much rather use unencumbered open standards where possible, personally.
     
    Last edited: Jan 30, 2017
  14. GoodEnoughGear

    GoodEnoughGear Evil Dr. Shultz‎

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    Sometimes I wonder if I'm just getting too old for new bandwagons, but I see no real advantage in any explanation of MQA I've run across and clear vectors for lock-in. Fuck that.
     
  15. Hrodulf

    Hrodulf Friend

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    I'll be sure to do presentations like these if/when we go balls deep into audiophile market.

    But yeah, MQA is like Pono on steroids. How many of you guys are actually crying about the bandwidth requirements of current hi-rez audio content?
     
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  16. Psalmanazar

    Psalmanazar Friend

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    Is MQA an elaborate joke? Mytek's DACs sound like dogshit. They're really bad. I heard the Brooklyn. Terrible sabre implementation. Makes the X-Sabre and Grace m920 sound amazing. I don't care what DSP they run it through, their gear will turn the recording into the guy who got mutated by the toxic waste in RoboCop 1. They are the Grado of audio electronics. I'm not joking. Same made in Brooklyn crap marketing. Why should anyone believe Mytek or the major record labels who rarely release anything worthwhile which the general public knows and stopped buying their crap? Last Warner releases I bought were CD masterings made in 1989 from the Stooges.

    Mytek: "Ooh look we played something go well recorded that it even sounds acceptable with non HD Youtube compression played on laptop speakers! See our shit sounds great! Give us money Korean chaebols and Apple as we think you are stupid and don't like money!"

    In the words of Metallion the alcoholic zine writer: "Fuck Off Forever" Mytek until you at least make a DAC or interface that doesn't sound like shit and make me want to smash it with a hammer while watching super pixelized low rez rips of 80s music videos out of some Realtek instead:

    Oh yeah 240p rip probably from a VHS tape is more enjoyable than Mytek gear:
     
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  17. HitmanFluffy

    HitmanFluffy Hoping to see real genitals someday! - Friend

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    Not having the horns to show it off is a bummer, makes me less sad I missed it.
     
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  18. aufmerksam

    aufmerksam Friend

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    This is the part I understand the least. If I am caring enough about my audio source that I need to make sure the streaming service I use is as "high-res" as possible for the least possible bandwidth consumption, I have already abandoned a streaming service to use locally stored music. Put differently, if you care about the "high-res" of music so much, you should have already dispensed with the compromise of streaming it over a cellular network. Its a false dilemma, especially as local storage is ever increasing in capacity and ever dropping in price.
     
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  19. Kattefjaes

    Kattefjaes Mostly Harmless

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    Speaking as someone who carries hundreds of gigs of FLACs around, I can only agree. Also, streaming services are just another set of compromises- which masters do they have? How has it been encoded? Also, because rights owners love to play streaming services off against each other, it always seems that whichever streaming service I use, the content I want right then is on one of the others, it drives me nuts. I do not intend to pay through the nose to subscribe to every service in the hope that at least one of them will have what I want at any given time.

    That said, I am pretty sceptical that being "high-res" is the main point, having a good master and transfer matters more. I'm generally fine with lossless red book.
     
    Last edited: Jan 30, 2017
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  20. gandhisfist

    gandhisfist Acquaintance

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    Was at the same meeting. I ended up retreating from the speaker listening room while he was giving his talk because I would rather have listened to music that whole time. All the MQA stuff played sounded softened and flatter when he did the sound demos, which weren't helped by the already incredibly flat and dead sounding speakers he brought for the demo. All in all, not impressed with this MQA presentation. I also had a lengthy conversation with him afterwards about the direction he saw this stuff going in, and he seemed to think that MQA was somehow going to urge mastering engineers not to compress their recordings as much, maybe because the MQA process of "softening" already does a lot of it for them. It was an interesting sales pitch to listen to, but a pretty unconvincing demo.
     
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