MQA Review - Technical Analysis

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

  1. YMO

    YMO it's not drinking alone if you're on Zoom

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    Steve Hoffman pressing is jizz. I know, I have it and it is nipple rubbing good. However, the album burnout from audio stores playing it over and over is real.

    Or you can be @yotacowboy who will point out a tape dip in Black Cow saying we are all fools.

    It's shit, I heard it. I hate some of these MQA CD releases since they love to increase the treble for da details.
     
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  2. Josh83

    Josh83 Friend

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    I still think the Hoffman is my favorite, but it’s a close call between it and the MQA CD. The SACD isn’t bad either. The MQA actually is very, very similar in EQ to the Hoffman, but I think it might be a slightly better transfer, given the AD advances since the ‘80s.
     
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  3. Merrick

    Merrick A lidless ear

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    I’ve talked to Steve Hoffman about AD advances since the 80s to the mid 2010s. They are depressingly small, and far outweighed by tape degradation. You can actually hear this in some of the Steely Dan SACDs, where the master tape has audible wear or damage not present on earlier masterings. The Bowie hi-res remasters have several tape issues not found on previous releases too. That doesn’t mean all new remasters automatically sound worse, but in general I’ll take an 80s transfer of a clean tape over a recent transfer of a worn tape.
     
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  4. atomicbob

    atomicbob dScope Yoda

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    My take on all this can be found in what I'm listening to now here
     
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  5. k1arg

    k1arg Facebook Friend

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    I find it interesting that the message seems to be spreading more broadly. See e.g. a GSMArena post about Apple's upcoming lossless support, which includes the following quote that categorizes MQA as "lossy" without further ado:

    > It's probably worth clarifying further that lossless audio and Hi-Res audio aren't the same thing. You can have Hi-Res audio in lossless (FLAC, ALAC) or lossy (MQA) codecs.
     
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  6. Thad E Ginathom

    Thad E Ginathom Friend

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    Goodness. MP3 used to be the dirty word for lossy music, partly due to its use at high compression rates, poor software and proprietary nature. MQA queuing up for that role?

    Mind you, I doubt that MQA will ever be even heard of by the numbers that were familiar with, and used MP3. For all its faults, MP3 was part of the history of mass music listening: MQA is destined to never be more than one of the things audiophiles once argued about.
     
  7. bboris77

    bboris77 Friend

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    It’s kind of funny how MQA is now claiming that their encoder is better than lossless after saying that it was lossless for years. The inevitable conclusion is that they were deliberately misrepresenting their codec for all these years by using their own definition of lossless, meaning “subjectively and perceptually lossless according to us, we swear on a stack of Bibles.” Now, they are claiming ignorance by saying: oh, you guys meant THAT lossless, well our “lossless TM” is even better than that old-fashioned, mathematical one. Get with the program, duh.”

    It’s implausible, disingenuous and unbelievable. @GoldenOne, or should I say “GoldenEye” as affectionately referred to at ASR, I think you’ve killed a few birds with one stone here. Any self-respecting audio person with an ounce of integrity must see what MQA has done here regardless whether they can admit it publically or not. Even if their codec eventually proves to be the best lossy codec in the world, that is beside the point now, especially as the demand for lossy encoding is diminishing with every passing day.
     
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    Last edited: May 28, 2021
  8. Josh83

    Josh83 Friend

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    I've actually been thinking of doing an article on this tape wear versus AD technology debate. In the course of writing some other articles, I've asked various mastering engineers their take on it, and they definitely don't all agree with Hoffman. Most have told me they think current AD technology is light years ahead of where it was in the '80s. The question always seems to be how the tapes were taken care of (or not) in the intervening years. For tapes that were stored properly, they should be as good as they were in the '80s. If tapes weren't cared for properly, then you're probably better off with an '80s transfer. The sense that I got was that most mastering engineers think that if the tape was stored properly a modern transfer would sound better.

    With Steely Dan, in particular, one has to be careful to compare analog transfers from the past with analog transfers from the present. The vast majority of Steely Dan digital releases have used Roger Nichols's early-'80s digital tape transfers as their source, not the original analog master tapes. Those Nichols transfers fixed some dropouts and other issues. So it's not necessarily that the analog masters have gotten worse since the '80s; it's that many of the '80s CDs were based on a digital tape where those dropouts were digitally repaired. (If you listen closely, however, those digital tapes also added some clicks and other noises not found on releases sourced from the analog masters.)*

    IMHO, it's really hard to generalize in terms of what release will sound best (which is why I write my column over at AS). For some albums, it's going to be an old '80s or early-'90s CD. For others, it's going to be a newer release. There are just so many variables that I never really hazard a guess until I've done a bunch of A/B/etc listening with level-matched files.

    *I think Nichols is a genius, but a column he wrote for EQ really confused things. He said that the analog tapes were inferior to his digital transfers. He also said that the Gaucho MFSL CD was too fast/sharp. However, the Gaucho MFSL CD is actually slower/lower than the CDs based on his digital transfer, and if you line up a rip of the original Gaucho vinyl with the MFSL and the CDs based on his digital transfer, the MFSL is the same speed as the original vinyl!
     
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  9. Merrick

    Merrick A lidless ear

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    You’re right Josh, it is more nuanced than I made it sound. I will say that many of the best sounding music I own on any format is from ‘80s CDs, which I’m sure is due to a combination of mindful mastering and high quality, cared for tapes, but I don’t hear anything in those transfers that make me think the AD converters were holding things back. I do love great modern masterings like the recent Paul McCartney, Tom Petty, Grateful Dead, Bruce Springsteen, and CSNY remasters that all sound fantastic and are often my choice for preferred mastering.
     
  10. Scubadude

    Scubadude Almost "Made"

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    How can something as dry as this be this entertaining?
     
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  11. Beefy

    Beefy Almost "Made"

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    Bewildering is a better word than entertaining.

    What gets me is that those audio 'scientists' simply have no goddamn clue about science. Some dude made a comment about how scientific journals never reveal the identity of peer reviewers. Well that's just bullshit. The Open Access publishing movement is very much pushing towards an un-blinding of the peer review process to simultaneously get rid of cronyism that gets crappy work published, and to prevent people tanking work they don't like. Frontiers, Biomed Central, Baishideng, Hindawi..... and a lot of journals under the umbrella of traditional publishers allow/encourage reviewers to make themselves known to authors after articles have been accepted for publication.

    I should also add, within the realm of hard sciences, the expectation is that you make your code available with your scientific paper, or it will not get published. Any scientific paper published by the folks behind MQA that doesn't make code and raw data available in an open access repository is practically worthless in academic circles.
     
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  12. Biodegraded

    Biodegraded Friend

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    Or before. In my (now former) field most of the journals left it entirely up to the reviewer whether they wanted to be known to the author, but strongly encouraged it. My own view is that any reviewer having the courage of their convictions should make themselves known, especially if they gave an unfavourable review and/or recommended not to publish. I always did.
     
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  13. Beefy

    Beefy Almost "Made"

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    As an early/mid career researcher, I still like the ability to anonymously trash 'sacred cows' when their work is sub par. This is important, because criticising certain people can still be career suicide!
     
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  14. GoldenOne

    GoldenOne Friend

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    In this particular case, where Bob Stuart clearly is going to have extensive friends and contacts in the industry, I can't see how anonymity of peer review is acceptable to be honest
     
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  15. Merrick

    Merrick A lidless ear

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    I sincerely hope this half in/half out defense of MQA Amir is doing tanks him. MQA has been obvious snake oil the moment any details of the process came out. Find my posts on this going back to the first posts about it here, on the Steve Hoffman Forums, I probably posted about it on HF too. The most basic description of the MQA process made it clear it was lossy, and not desirable over actual lossless (or as Amir likes to say, “mathematically lossless”), and the only defense of it that hasn’t completely fallen apart is the wholly subjective argument that some people prefer the sound. So for Amir to try and defend something as indefensible as MQA, whose only compelling argument is purely subjective, should end his career if his followers were actually committed to so-called audio objectivism.
     
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  16. Elnrik

    Elnrik Super Friendly

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    It is nearly impossible to use logic to dissuade someone from a belief, when that belief was not founded in logic in the first place.
     
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  17. Merrick

    Merrick A lidless ear

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    I do understand that. Guess I’m hoping for an “Emperor has no clothes” moment, and MQA is contentious enough to actually cause such a flashpoint.
     
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  18. Elnrik

    Elnrik Super Friendly

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    I want that as well. I see it as a cancer, a thing limiting the joy to be had from the hobby for so many.

    Or maybe I'm wrong and ignorance the thoughtless acceptance of anything your audio cult leader says is bliss.

    I dunno.
     
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  19. gepardcv

    gepardcv Almost "Made"

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    A bunch of you keep saying the members are catching on to the bullshit and anti-scientific hypocrisy and turning on ASR. I don’t see it.

    I only skim a couple of surrounding pages of threads on ASR when they’re linked elsewhere, so I don’t read much of it, but from what I do read, I run into far more comments along these lines: https://www.audiosciencereview.com/...-music-on-tidal-to-test-mqa.22549/post-797283 — people staunchly defending whatever the ASR founder says. Which makes sense. People closely self-identify with a doctrine that makes them think they’re smarter and better than others, and they will not willingly listen to arguments that challenge this identity.

    PS: I (obviously!) haven’t done the data analysis to figure out which commenting members are more established, which comments are critical or supportive of ASR or MQA, and which comments attract more “likes”. I also sure as shit hope no one wastes time doing something like this for something so dumb and useless.

    Edit: I couldn’t help it, went back and read a couple of more pages of the thread on ASR. Not gonna do that again. It made me think of that quote about looking into an abyss. But (1) I hold to my view that the members broadly support the ASR line, and (2) the bulk of the current assault on @GoldenOne has to do with him misstating the peer-review status of a paper he cited in his video, a mistake he has now corrected. Yeah…

    Hey, out of curiosity, @GoldenOne: when you stirred the MQA pot, you must have expected drama. Did you expect the opposition to have come so strongly from ASR? Is it the focal point of the shitstorm you’re dealing with now?
     
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    Last edited: May 28, 2021
  20. Merrick

    Merrick A lidless ear

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    I did notice one member, who I can only assume is a longtime member, basically argued that the site is a communal effort so objecting to Amir is tantamount to objecting the entire community. Yikes!
     
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