MQA Review - Technical Analysis

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

  1. Gazny

    Gazny Almost "Made"

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    MQA sucks, it doesn't even do DRM right.
    I am going to watermark my music to make my friends dacs glow so they think my music is hifi.

    Yall can make arguments about the how MQA aligns the stars so my brain can't hear the highest octave of digital noise it adds, but guess what, I got enough noise in my system I don't need more. My wallet has chosen bandcamp for AIFF and CDs for wav, and vinyl for AAA.

    MQA is marketing, and is the anthesis of audio nervosa. It isn't worth arguing who understands the best theories or defending marketing. You can argue about the time domain filter optimization and the optimal methods, this isn't alien technology, it might not even be implemented in all songs! seems like Vapor ware to me.

    Its a light on a box.
    :pirate07:
     
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  2. nishan99

    nishan99 Friend

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    The wankers aren't having it LOL.


    [​IMG]
     
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  3. SSL

    SSL Friend

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    I wouldn't either, but the average consumer has no idea. Which is where it transitions into scam territory, imo. The format is being pushed to consumers on merits not present in the real world, and which are impossible to verify even if they were.

    The problem is, there is potential incentive for streaming services to adpot MQA, since it allows for more economical distribution of hi-res content. The streaming services and MQA only need for consumers to believe it provides improved quality.
     
  4. bboris77

    bboris77 Friend

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    Which FB group is that Ken Worthing quote from?

    I cannot believe that Tidal is doubling down on MQA even after it has been thoroughly and conclusively exposed for what it is - a marketing ploy with inferior sound quality to PCM. If they think that people were subscribing to Tidal mainly because of MQA and that this was the most important way in which they differentiated from other online music services, their management is out to lunch. I subscribed to them because of their excellent music library, the fact that they said they offered uncompressed PCM and because their desktop client included a bit-perfect mode.

    The only way for Tidal to continue to exist and prosper at this point is to quietly drop MQA, reinstate lossless FLAC across the board, apologize to everyone for misrepresenting things and offer a goodwill discount to the affected users to preempt a class-action lawsuit. Since this is not going to happen, they will probably go the way of Blockbuster.
     
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  5. bilboda

    bilboda Florida boomer

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    Dorsey censors. Go Qobuz, fauc Tidal. whatever they got that Qobuz doesn't is just a fix that you don't need. The world's music library is far greater then you will ever be able to hear. Keep Tidal, you keep their marketing and you have no right to complain.
     
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  6. earnmyturns

    earnmyturns Smartest friend

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    Listening to the lovely Turas album, Fergus McCreadie Trio, which takes us back to our magical 5 years in Scotland. Fergus McCreadie is an amazing young Scottish pianist who wisely distributes his music via Bandcamp (directly or now via Edition Records). No coding silliness, just clean, delightfully recorded 44.1/16. There's so much good new music without wankery that I'll run out of hearing and life well before I run out of new tunes to enjoy.
     
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  7. dllmsch

    dllmsch Friend

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    I think @GoldenOne has shown that the noise created by MQA processing is up to -40dBFS in the audible frequency? Roughly 12min in his video. That is effectively 7bits, which is terrible. Their claim of 14bits undisturbed dynamic range seems to be, just a claim.
    From my understanding, if you cannot reconstruct whatever signal you threw in, must be lossy.
     
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  8. m17xr2b

    m17xr2b Friend

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    From a practical sense, the highest quality Tidal songs always had a haze, loss of focus compared to local flac files. This can blamed on many things but my last test, on the Rockna Wavedream NET with roon playing multiple Tidal vs local Flac, local always won, it was so obvious double blind wasn't needed. This showed me there's some fuckery about tidal and their claim of master is pure bull and why I never had a subscription for long. Nice to see the math and in depth analysis to back it up.

    If someone wouldn't be able to tell the difference would all of this matter?

    2nd, it's this sort of snake oil which lowers user confidence in hifi but more so takes away from what could be potential actual improvements. Users can only try and pay for so much. MQA is the spearhead of an industry going wrong.
     
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  9. iFi audio

    iFi audio MOT iFi Audio

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    Point taken, but the fact that your iDSD Nano BL can handle MQA doesn't change it in any way in particular. This product simply has enough computing power to handle MQA and that's it, this functionality doesn't affect anything else :)

    Or is it about the fact that your Nano has anything to do with MQA :) ?
     
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  10. shambles

    shambles Acquaintance

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    I really wish that were true, but I think for some people (myself included) it's probably not. The fact that any of these services have more music than you could possibly consume is irrelevant - what is important is whether it has the music that you personally want to listen to. That's like saying it doesn't matter if the supermarket doesn't have the things you really wanted to buy because they have more food than you could possibly eat anyway.

    I have been a Tidal subscriber for the last 3+ years since I dropped Spotify and do not particularly like the company, especially their links with MQA which I have always assumed is snake oil of the highest order. Closed proprietary formats like MQA take the music (and hifi) industries in the wrong direction and a little part of my soul dies when I pay them each month knowing I am indirectly lining the pockets of the Wanker in Chief and his associates. The asshats even charge me more per month than Qobuz would for the privilege.

    Based on your comment I finally activated the 3 month trial of Qobuz I got with Audirvana, really hoping that it could replace Tidal for me. I use streaming primarily to filter and decide whether I am going to buy an album or not, rather than as my primary way of listening. Perhaps Qobuz's library is broader in the US, but with a UK-based account (via VPN) a non-negligible proportion of the albums I have liked enough on Tidal to buy in the last 12 months are not on Qobuz. The library is by no means bad at all, but I am glad I did not miss out on those specific albums I discovered via Tidal. Anyway, I'll use it alongside Tidal until my trial ends and see how I feel at the end.
     
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  11. Thad E Ginathom

    Thad E Ginathom Friend

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    So all the arguments and discussions, interesting though they may be, relate, in this context, to .001% of that music. And the rest is a computer-science compression issue which, assuming the software allows the input file to be decoded (and I bet MQA doesn't and won't?), could be answered without ears: checksum, cmp, etc. Bit difference, or not.

    Compression is really, really hard. It is as hard as encryption, which, in a sense, it is. Lossy compression, working with psycho-acoustics and stuff, to make the result loose masked sounds, and loose mostly-inaudible frequencies, I think, is work for geniuses. The guys who came up with MP3 were absolutely brilliant. And don't blame them for the horrors of listening to 32-bit stuff. They made it possible, they didn't say we had to use it for music. (wasn't this stuff originally done for telecommunications, where if one could hear and identifiable and intelligible, croaking noise, it passed as a decent phone call?)

    Casual listening to mp3, ogg, etc... who can tell? When I want to throw a heap of music onto my phone memory card, I do not use FLAC. To listen in a hotel room, on my cheap earbuds, why would I?

    But the makers of those lossy encoders, even if the technique was a trade secret, were open and honest about what they gave the world. IIRC, the MP3 guys were employees who never made money out that. OGG is FOSS.

    Where does BS stand with those people. The guy who made something inferior ...and was the one who got rich?

    Heyho, it never was a fair world.
     
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  12. Biodegraded

    Biodegraded Friend

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    That. This customer would really prefer that your company stopped feeding the sharks.
     
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  13. GoldenOne

    GoldenOne Friend

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    Officially the term Lossless is defined as "not involving the loss of data" https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/lossless

    The problem being that this could be interpreted in a few different ways. Some could argue that because MQA technically 'restores' the original info, and only adds noise/unwanted effects, it's still "lossless" because it has added stuff but not necessarily taken anything away.

    I would disagree. If you cannot recstore the original digital information exactly as the master had it then it is not lossless. I happily admit that PCM isn't perfect, and different reconstruction techniques yield different results. BUT, if I provide a PCM master to a publisher, I as an artist would expect the result to be the same as the master I provided.

    What happens in the analog domain and what is perceptually/subjectively the best is an entirely different question, and there is wiggle room, for all the same reasons we don't all go out and buy the same DACs that were used in production.

    The debate around alternatives to PCM and how to improve things such as time-domain performance are completely valid, but this is not the way to solve it. This is a black box providing a potential perceptual improvement, marketing itself as an objectively lossless and unquestionably 'better' format. Which it is not, and the company refuses to provide evidence or means of testing for.

    I did have a look at these. They also were not lossless in the audible band. I also didn't wish to look too closely at these for the video because its not clear if these have been "White-Gloved". I wanted my video to be representative of the "average" MQA release. To show the issues the majority of releases may encounter.

    Part of the issue with MQA is that they have a lot of different scenarios and parts to the product.

    I personally think the idea behind the white glove service is really cool, but it isn't representative of MQA's core product. (And I don't believe it'd be possible to do on most modern recordings anyway)

    Additionally, as I mentioned in the video, its entirely possible that the "Studio Tools" MQA makes mention of help to improve some of the issues demonstrated in my video. But there is no transparency, we have no idea what they are, what they do, who has access to them, which releases were made using them.

    My track authenticates as "MQA Studio" so that gives no indication of if the "Studio Tools" were used either.

    And with stuff like those 2lno tracks, why wouldn't anyone just use the native hires master/original format recording?
    This 100%
    MQA has crafted an absolutely perfect marketing soup of descriptions and explanations.
    Providing enough that the avg consumer can see enough info/technobabble to be convinced it is better and be ok with not fully understanding it, but not enough for people to provide objective evidence to disprove it.

    Combine that with the fact that their claims change as time goes on and people's understanding of what MQA is/does is mixed to say the least.

    This isn't limited to consumers either. Since posting the video I've actually had people from TWO manufacturers contact me to express their frustration working with MQA, one who does have a product which incorporates MQA, and another who was going to have one but dropped MQA development after MQA pretty much refused to provide them any concrete testing/development tools until they signed agreements locking them in.

    In the end all they could do was do blind tests and they decided MQA wasn't worth it.

    So it seems MQA is difficult and vague not only with consumers, but manufacturers as well.
    To be clear, this was an unusually high level, and I do suspect its due to the high level of ultrasonic content my tracks had.
    But given as MQA took down all my content and blocked the track where I was going to test a more "realistic" spectrum content selection, its their own fault that the current information looks this bad.

    If their claims were true, then transparency and honesty would allow me and anyone else to happily test and agree with their claims. If they respond in a hostile manner like this, its an unusual behaviour for a company with nothing to hide.
     
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  14. Senorx12562

    Senorx12562 Case of the mondays

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    For my purposes, anything over Redbook is pointless. I pay for Amazon to stream Redbook, not anything higher, which is a bonus, but a bonus without value to me. If Spotify ends up being "merely" Redbook flac and the price stays the same, I will most likely will go back to them. Especially for mobile use, Spotify was actually sufficient for me at 320 kbps, and if Amazon were the price of Tidal, I would still have it. But for an extra $2/mo., I'm OK with it. And their algorithms are getting better all the time. Not convinced about an improvement in sound though, at least consistently. And definitely not on the go. The noise floor is just to high for me to get any benefit over 320 kbps files.
     
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  15. iFi audio

    iFi audio MOT iFi Audio

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    Although I totally get why you dislike MQA, the odds of iFi jumping off the MQA wagon are rather slim.

    We see MQA as yet another way of listening to music. It's an option one can either use or not, and as a company we're all about options. But that aside, I think there was a firmware for nano iDSD BL that didn't have MQA at all.
     
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  16. Pancakes

    Pancakes Almost "Made"

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    Why not make non-MQA versions and pass the licensing savings onto customers who don't want it?
     
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  17. bixby

    bixby Friend

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    Probably same normal logic as why no cassette recorder makers offered a non Dolby B version at $10 less.

    MQA like DVD-A, ELCassette, DBX, Laser disk, etc. will in time pass. The candle can only burn so low. :p
     
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  18. earnmyturns

    earnmyturns Smartest friend

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    Perceptual audio coding research had multiple sources (Bell Labs, Dolby Labs, Fraunhofer). While some of the Bell Labs work derived from earlier psychoacoustic research related to telecom, the basic inventions in MP3 and AAC were directed at media. I know because I was there at Bell Labs when some of it was going on and I knew some of the principals, although my work was on a somewhat different area.
     
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  19. iFi audio

    iFi audio MOT iFi Audio

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    OK, let me exaplin this differently. Our older machines weren't MQA ready for quite a while, but their hardware with enough computing power is the only thing that made them fit for MQA. A simple firmware flash was all it took to unlock MQA on these products, but neither their prices went up because of that, nor their non-MQA firmware became unaccessible.

    In short, the difference between having the MQA/non-MQA version of our DACs is up to you. We understand that some people dislike MQA and that's fine, but some want it. And we, the manufacturer, do the best we can to please everyone.

    But OK, firmware aside let's say that a product that has anything to do with MQA is a reason good enough for a user to stay away from it. Let's say that this user will take into consideration only a DAC that physically can't do MQA. To truly make our products not fit for this task, we'd have to either replace our own USB receivers with something far less powerful, or artificially truncate their abilities. Now why on Earth would we do that :cool: ?

    This is somewhat similar to having an issue with Macs because you can install Windows on them if you like... :)
     
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  20. Biodegraded

    Biodegraded Friend

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    Yes, version 5.2 is non-MQA and still available on your site. Ifi control panel tells me I'm still using 5.00.
     

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