MQA Review - Technical Analysis

Discussion in 'General Audio Discussion' started by Woland, Apr 15, 2021.

  1. Psalmanazar

    Psalmanazar Most improved member; A+

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    DSP of audio is still in its infancy. So many coders and gear manufactures have tried the plugin market and failed horribly. Very few people have even figured out very basic things like how to program a working fast attack compressor like that which has existed since the 50s. Now a truly hard knee compressor like most VCA ones? It doesn’t really exist in digital considering the control signal sidechain needs a working rectifier (no frickin way in older dsp) and threshold detector, which is basically a clipper. To anti-alias a hard clipper needs infinite bandwidth. Meanwhile analog compressors have had microsecond attack rates since the Fairchilds in the 50s.

    Considering DACs are barely improving despite better ICs, very few people know how to make an excellent dac. 10-15 year old units are still up near the top of the heap.
     
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  2. Metro

    Metro Friend

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    I wasn't aware of this until I saw it mentioned on Head-Fi, and it was a surprise to me. If you use Tidal and have MQA software unfold turned on in Roon, they make a payment to MQA each time you play an MQA track. Probably also true for other players that support MQA (JRiver, Audirvana, etc). It's a tax that MQA wants to apply across all users.
    https://community.roonlabs.com/t/why-do-manufacturers-support-mqa/155965/294

    The terms are complicated and not worth going into, but simply put: if you don’t core decode, we don’t pay.

    When we introduced MQA support, we didn’t raise the price, so MQA has always been a cost center for us. If you core decode, we make less profit. If you don’t core decode, we make more profit. It’s almost that simple.

    But it seems there is a better new way to avoid the tax… Just stop subscribing to TIDAL “HiFi+”. Drop to the new middle tier of “HiFi” and you won’t get MQA capabilities.

    If you don't want Roon sending money to MQA, you should turn off MQA decode. The setting is buried in Roon:
    1. Go to Settings => Audio
    2. For each enabled device, click on its settings (gear icon) and select Device setup
    3. Go to the bottom and click on Show advanced
    4. Set Enable MQA core decoder to No
    Each device has separate settings and you need to repeat this for each enabled device.

    Screen Shot 2021-04-28 at 11.19.51 PM.png

    Screen Shot 2021-04-28 at 11.21.50 PM.png

    Screen Shot 2021-04-28 at 11.22.15 PM.png
     
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  3. GoldenOne

    GoldenOne Almost "Made"

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    [​IMG]

    ASR has now locked the MQA discussion thread.

    Prior to this, one of the moderators requested a phone call with me. They said (and no I am not joking) that there were too many people criticising Amir for the MQA related comments he'd made and that they couldn't keep up with the moderation, so they wanted to lock the thread and wanted me to start a new one, in which they would not allow anyone to bring up the statements Amir had made regarding MQA. Because ASR/Amir needed to "remain neutral".

    I told them that I was unwilling to do this and that censorship is not a good plan. Firstly it will just raise more questions and make ASR/Amir look suspicious, and secondly it's just morally wrong.

    If ASR/Amir wants to remain neutral, then Amir shouldn't be making statements in any direction regarding MQA.

    If they were going to lock the thread I was not going to help them make it more PR-Friendly by posting a new one and saying that it was all ok. Because it isn't.
    No one should be immune to criticism, doesn't matter if it's their forum or not. And if you don't want to be criticised, you should say nothing. (And certainly shouldn't run a forum)

    Even if there are people being un-necessarily hostile, which to be clear, some were, and that should absolutely be handled, if more moderation is needed, appoint more moderators.
    Censoring discussion and preventing people from criticizing the forum owner is just wrong. And doing it now, when the owner of the forum says something in defence of a company that is known to have attempted to censor other forums (Chris Connaker was approached by Bob Stuart asking about censoring Audiophilestyle), makes things look damn fishy.
     
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  4. crenca

    crenca Friend

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    Yet, as @GoldenOne points out if you have to play an MQA track from Tidal, itself a possibility given that they are removing their standard PCM, you will want to decode to IMD/aliasing lower. In addition, did not Roon triangulate with MQA and Tidal (so it's a MQA/Tidal/Roon SuperLeague in truth) and should they not lie in the bed they made? I say let them pay the confidence man if they are unwilling just to say "no" like Schiit and others...
     
  5. crenca

    crenca Friend

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  6. gepardcv

    gepardcv Almost "Made"

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    On the linked thread, the Roon guy writes:

    > Switching to HiFi instead of Master only instructs us to tell TIDAL what to get. Tidal has been treating both as the same for many tracks, and in some cases, they even will deliver lossy AAC when you ask for Masters or HiFi.

    https://community.roonlabs.com/t/new-tidal-tiers-and-mqa/157785/20

    So the uncompressed Red Book streaming service now sends compressed AAC or compressed MQA.

    Should we start asking if Tidal has any Red Book rips left in its catalog, delivered for the bargain-basement price of $19.99/month?
     
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  7. crenca

    crenca Friend

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    Related to this, if there are any SBAF members in Australia who are Tidal & Roon subscribers, can you confirm that the "HiFi" (as opposed to HiFi+ or "Masters" as its named in Roon) is streaming MQA content instead of PCM 16/44?
     
  8. Yethal

    Yethal Facebook Friend

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    Not in Australia but I just did that and tried streaming American Beauty (on Tidal available both in RedBook and MQA), no matter which album version I select in Versions tab I'm always served the 16/44.1 non-mqa version. However when i tried doing the same with any of the tracks from the Westworld soundtrack I was served the MQA version.
     
  9. schiit

    schiit SchiitHead

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    Because some companies don't have confidence in their own technical and communications abilities. If their designs could stand on their own, and if they had the ability to express the advantages of their own technical approach, then they wouldn't need three silly letters to satisfy their customers.

    If there are enough unconfident manufacturers, we sacrifice innovation on the altar of brand, and end up with a Dolby Atmos situation—an increasingly-meaningless name applied from $5K home theater processors to $200 tablets.
     
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  10. Aklegal

    Aklegal Almost "Made"

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    Is it possible to add @GoldenOne 's last post about the ASR thread being locked to the "ASR Review" thread? Maybe with a note for context?
     
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  11. AdvanTech

    AdvanTech Friend

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    It looks like this video made a difference. Roon is no longer showing unfolded MQA playing from my hifi account. It says TIDAL FLAC 44.1kHz 16bit 2ch and my Wavelight is no longer displaying 88k. :cool:
     
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  12. rlow

    rlow A happy woofer

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    Sweet! I just tried this too - updated settings in Roon for Tidal to streaming quality of “Hifi” rather than “Master” - the MQA decoding stuff is gone (from the same track)!

    0E7EFB02-3B2D-4F4C-9B17-F7933BEB12AB.jpeg
    Now whether it’s obfuscated under the covers somehow, who knows, but I hope it’s just the original PCM 16/44 file.

    I suspect this has more to do with the recent update to their pricing plans - not likely something they can just flip a switch on in a week or two:

    https://darko.audio/2021/04/tidal-forks-mqa/
     
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    Last edited: May 1, 2021
  13. wormcycle

    wormcycle Friend

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    Last edited: May 1, 2021
  14. GoldenOne

    GoldenOne Almost "Made"

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    We’ll have to wait and see exactly what Tidal does in regards to the source files. But it LOOKS like this is simply a pricing structure change, not actually offering the lossless files again.

    There are some instances where an album is shown on Tidal twice, one in MQA and one without. And in these instances, you USUALLY can pick the non-master one and stream lossless.
    But so far in every instance i’ve tested, any track/album marked as “Master”, you CANNOT stream a lossless version no matter what.

    This includes the tracks I published, as well as a few artists I’ve spoken to that have provided me with masters for their tracks.
    In most cases, they match the ones on qobuz/amazon HD/Deezer (though deezer has no exclusive mode and requires third party tweaks to get bitperfect output), but they do NOT match the ones on Tidal that are marked “Master”.

    Let’s take Biffy clyro’s “Many of Horror” as a quick test here.

    First, we compare the tracks streamed from the “Hifi” tier and “Master” tier:

    [​IMG]


    Absolutely bitperfect. They are the same file.

    Then let’s compare the “Hifi” version which is supposedly lossless, to the Qobuz version:

    [​IMG]


    nope!

    Ok, let’s check one where I have the original master: Suijin - Zenso

    Original master vs Tidal “Master”:

    [​IMG]



    No, not the same.
    What about the Hifi version?

    [​IMG]



    No, not the same. So you cannot actually stream this track losslessly from Tidal!
    Lastly let’s again check the MQA vs Hifi version:

    [​IMG]


    Not identical, but VERY close, differences here are most likely just the result of dithering/truncation from 24 to 16 bit.
    (Oh and by the way MQA still “unfolds” this track even though the master was 44.1khz)

    And for both of these tracks/albums, there is no non-master version on Tidal. Meaning you have absolutely no way of streaming lossless and are forced to use MQA whether you like it or not.

    I REALLY hope Tidal changes this because right now this description in various places in their marketing is a straight up lie:
    [​IMG]
     
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    Last edited: May 1, 2021
  15. crenca

    crenca Friend

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    rant on/
    Fucking Big Fat Fucking lying liars. Fuck Bob Stuart, Tidal, Roon, and everybody else who stoops to being a part of this Fucking Fat Lie
    /rant off

    Thanks for the analysis @GoldenOne. Did you see where Danny (COO of Roon) admits there are other streaming services at least playing with providing MQA streams?

    https://community.roonlabs.com/t/new-tidal-tiers-and-mqa/157785

    https://community.roonlabs.com/t/new-tidal-tiers-and-mqa/157785/21
     
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    Last edited: May 1, 2021
  16. wormcycle

    wormcycle Friend

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    Reading that helped me to understand a lot of aspects of the @GoldenOne video I did not grasp before. The paper gives the example of the MQA "folding" and "unfolding" process according to one of the MQA patent applications. It describes the artifacts that MQA folding introduces to the 20Hz-2kHz region and how they use "clever" filters to deal with it during the unfolding process:
    http://www.audiomisc.co.uk/MQA/origami/ThereAndBack.html
     
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  17. AdvanTech

    AdvanTech Friend

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    Wow, their solution to all of this is to lie about serving MQA. Tidal and Bob Stuart really are the worst. Can’t wait for Spotify’s lossless tier to go live.
     
  18. Hrodulf

    Hrodulf Prohibited from acting as an MOT until year 2050

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    Spotify and Apple will go tag team on Tidal once they release proper redbook streaming.
     
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  19. crenca

    crenca Friend

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    Is Apple/Spotify/etc. Really the good guys? Danny admits he is working with unnamed streamers who also have MQA...
     
  20. Hrodulf

    Hrodulf Prohibited from acting as an MOT until year 2050

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    Music streaming at current prices means that there can be no good guys. But at least with Spotify I get what I pay for.

    Asian streaming market is full of player not known in the West. I don't think the usual suspect streamers would use MQA. Mostly because they have no need for it.
     
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