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Another MQA thread ;)

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mashdk

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Hello everyone,

I'm new to the forum as a member, but have read threads in this forum many times before with great interest!
I can see, that the guys here are WAY above my level, so I hope you will forgive me for sounding like the amateur, I am :)

My question below is about MQA quality.
If you don't want the background, skip the pretext :cool:

Pretext ;) :
My audio equipment took an unexpected turn the last few months.
I was planning to finish my tube preamp DIY project and use it with a home-upgraded NAD power amp (changed all op-amps to Burr Brown, better PSU and all capacitors in the signal path changed to Polypropylene)... But... The PA died, and we bought a temporary solution: An NAD D3045 on sale.

So I decided to start experimenting with a more digital experience.

My equipment:
Raspberry PI with HiFiBerry Digi+ Pro I2S card (Running Volumio including Tidal)
TosLink to amp
Amp: NAD D3045 (capable of doing both first and second unfold of MQA files)
Loudspeakers: DIY

Audio sources:
1: FLAC files ripped from CD using dbPowerAmp
2: MQA from Tidal Hifi using Masters tracks.

My experience:
I have been comparing FLAC files from ripped CDs with the same MQA track from Tidal.
So far, I'd say the "results" have been mixed.
Sometimes I found the FLAC to give the best result, and sometimes actually the MQA.
And most of the time, I could find reasonable explanations for the differences.

What really confused me was listening to Rickie Lee Jones' Easy Money (1979).
Both the FLAC file and the MQA track are 44.1/16

But to me it seems, that the MQA track from Tidal is superior.
I found that it was more transparent and dynamic, high notes were more defined, and both voice and instruments were more "present".

THE QUESTION:
Why would a compressed, basically lossy MQA format sound better with a 1979 recording than the FLAC file ripped from the CD?

In my mind, I can come up with different possible explanations:
  1. It's all in my head?
  2. Tidal has gotten their hands on a better master, than what was used for the CD?
  3. The NAD D3045 DAC handles MQA better than "pure" PCM?
  4. MQA itself does actually offer something beneficial?
What are your thoughts on this?
 

SJ777

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Welcome to ASR.

I suspect that you won't find my responses particularly informative. They're not meant as flippant responses, but responses based on previous discussions on this forum.

It's all in my head?
Could be
Tidal has gotten their hands on a better master, than what was used for the CD?
Could be
The NAD D3045 DAC handles MQA better than "pure" PCM?
Unlikely
MQA itself does actually offer something beneficial?
Could be - but unlikely
 

Blumlein 88

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Did you match levels when doing this? Tiny level differences will sound like quality differences.

And most likely, your CD's don't have the same mastering as the MQA Tidal versions. Different masters sounding different isn't surprising. MQA having nothing to do with it otherwise.
 
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mashdk

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Did you match levels when doing this? Tiny level differences will sound like quality differences.

And most likely, your CD's don't have the same mastering as the MQA Tidal versions. Different masters sounding different isn't surprising. MQA having nothing to do with it otherwise.
Thanks, Blumlein 88!

Those are both very likely explanations!

Before I wrote the post, I was leaning mostly towards Tidal having a better mastering.

But you are right: There was a notable volume level difference between the two, that I tried to adjust for manually.
So no doubt, there would have been a minor level difference, while I was listening.

Thanks again!
Amazing forum :D
 

Mnyb

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Think about it this way , the mastering and/or actual version of a records is much more important than the delivery format, in that i include almost all formats :) maybe i draw the line at cassette tape or an old crummy 128kbps mp3 done with a bad decoder . Sometimes the vinyl is preferred even if the medium is technically terrible .
I always thought that particular Rickey Lee Jones recording sounded better on vinyl some CD versions are quite tinny . You made me curious I like the record and it might be a better master somewhere ? wonder if HD tracks has it .... Thanks for the heads up
 

Sal1950

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Why would a compressed, basically lossy MQA format sound better with a 1979 recording than the FLAC file ripped from the CD?
You're rating "quality" with subjective preference, what you like or enjoy the sound of.
When in truth "quality" should be rated by it's accuracy to the source.
The term High Fidelity became popular in the 50s-60s when equipment had many failings in producing accurate results. Today HiFi has lost much of it's meaning. So many systems raved about in print and web media today are far from being HiFi when measured, due to producing distortions that lend a pleasing sound to the source.
 

Roland68

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THE QUESTION:
Why would a compressed, basically lossy MQA format sound better with a 1979 recording than the FLAC file ripped from the CD?

The question that should be clarified before everyone else is whether the source, i.e. the original master, is the same at all.

Did the sound engineer at the time optimize the recording for CD pressing? So usually extremely dynamic compressed?

Does the CD come from a first pressing or is it from an umpteenth copy of the first die? Or was a new master even created from the first pressing?

Has the original recording studio recording been revised by a very capable engineer with the latest technology and only then created the file with MQA?

Without such information, a comparison is meaningless and says nothing about MQA. You can only say for yourself which file you like better.
And that's what matters.
 

SoundAndMotion

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Did you match levels when doing this? Tiny level differences will sound like quality differences.

And most likely, your CD's don't have the same mastering as the MQA Tidal versions. Different masters sounding different isn't surprising. MQA having nothing to do with it otherwise.
Bullseye
 
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mashdk

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Has the original recording studio recording been revised by a very capable engineer with the latest technology and only then created the file with MQA?

Without such information, a comparison is meaningless and says nothing about MQA. You can only say for yourself which file you like better.
And that's what matters.

You're absolutely right!
That's also why I personally suggested four different explations to my (very subjective) experience.
And I also missed a fifth explanation, noted by @Blumlein 88 : Sound levels.

It definitely makes sense, both that my CD might be dynamic compressed, and also that Tidal has access to a better mastering.

I did have a hard time accepting, that the explation would be in the MQA format or that my DAC handles MQA better than "pure" PCM.
And it obviously isn't the explanation:cool:

Thanks for all the great answers!
 

Mnyb

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Version and master is the defining factor.

In my limited experience , doing some blind test attempts on myself .

To really compare formats you must do the format conversion yourself from a hirez original you can not in most cases assume much about the differing version found bought or downloaded.

For me a telltale that we in fact have different versions/master is that you casually hear obvious differences . many audiophiles draws the opposite and wrong conclusion ?
 

mansr

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In my mind, I can come up with different possible explanations:
  1. It's all in my head?
  2. Tidal has gotten their hands on a better master, than what was used for the CD?
  3. The NAD D3045 DAC handles MQA better than "pure" PCM?
  4. MQA itself does actually offer something beneficial?
What are your thoughts on this?
Most likely a combination of 1 and 2. Some MQA tracks on Tidal are most definitely from different masters, sometimes even a different tape transfer. Others are clearly derived from the same master as the CD version. Regarding 3, bear in mind that the DAC chip in all cases is presented with plain old PCM data since that's what it understands. As for 4, that idea is simply risible.
 
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mashdk

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Are they different masterings?

Many of the MQA tracks on Tidal have been remastered.
I don't know honestly.
It's not listed in Tidal as "Remastered", but it does have the "Masters" logo.

But it seems to be very likely, that my CD and the Tidal version are two different masterings, and that is the primary explanation for the difference.
 

AdamG247

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Another MQA thread returned from the dead! Nothing new here, all discussed in previous thread that are available to read. Not going to restart the Shit Show that is MQA!

Thread returned to the grave…..
 
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