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MQA: A Review of controversies, concerns, and cautions

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Eirikur

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As I said, if you are a high-end brand, you have to do MQA because customers are asking for it. You just can't hide behind, "oh it costs too much." No one cares about that argument when they are buying a $10,000 piece of audio gear. I post that video of Paul saying PS Audio is doing MQA because of the same reason even though Paul says he doesn't like it.

I would argue that especially the high-end brands should strongly reject the MQA monkey business with the audio signal, and frankly I'm somewhat disappointed with your ambiguous stand on this.

There is no technical merit in encoding a filter into the source material, other than for DRM and other sales purposes, so from a technical/scientific point of view end-to-end MQA is clearly regression compared to the widely available and free lossless formats. The lock-in breaks the customers' capabilities to do any DSP of her own on the software side, how can this ever be a good thing?

Anyone is free to like the MQA filter properties, but for heaven's sake let people decide on their own filters and their own DSP chain.
 

watchnerd

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It looks like the budget end of the spectrum is now also supporting MQA. SMSL's offering:

https://apos.store/products/smsl-m5...MIp-q3n5_25AIVNBh9Ch152A_rEAAYASAAEgIStPD_BwE

If I was a high end luxury goods maker, I'd market against that:

"Oh, MQA is like MP3 for high resolution. It's fine if you're on a budget, your system isn't very resolving or you don't have the funds to pay for high bandwidth internet. But for those who can afford it, we recommend keeping high resolution lossless pure and as close to the master tapes as possible, and our Casanova Aphrodite tube-based DAC is for those who have the taste and worldliness to recognize the difference."

And then recommend some $500/pair NOS tubes as the accessory upsell.
 
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mitchco

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Hmmm. I don't understand him sometimes. He is not a high-end audiophile. Nor is his data points correct with respect to that.
...
He needs to live the high-end audio to know the high-end audio.

Huh? What does this even mean? I must say, what an odd response, especially given Arch is one of the very few objective and rational "audiophiles" out there in audio land today. Completely objectively debunked MQA, with no objective measurement rebuttal from anyone... including this thread. Recently provided perhaps the best coverage of the RMAF 2019, better than the majority of mainstream audio rags and blogs.

Yah, kinda don't get your comment and really don't want to know either. Seems like a personal judgement to me. I didn't join your forum for that.
 

amirm

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I'm not sure what would be considered high-end this context, but here's some information about his system as of July 2017:

Emotiva XPA-1L monoblocks, Emotiva XSP-1 preamp
A high-end audiophile would jump off the cliff it he owned Emotiva anything. :D
 

amirm

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Huh? What does this even mean? I must say, what an odd response, especially given Arch is one of the very few objective and rational "audiophiles" out there in audio land today.
It means what I said and you are confirming: he is NOT a high-end audiophile so he doesn't know or understand them. He doesn't buy high-res audio, and doesn't hang around people who do. So his conclusions and complaints about Robert Harley's article are incorrect in that regard.

He can talk about what these things mean to him and others like him, but can't act like an expert on who high-end audiophiles are when he is not one. And doesn't hang around with people who are.

Certainly the words "objective and rational audiophile" is not what you would use about most any high-end audiophile. They are not objectivists. They are subjectivists. They value specs of audio files like DSD, high-res, etc. Archimago does not. So I don't know how he can represent their views of who they are, and what they want. RH can speaker far better about that then he is.
 

watchnerd

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Hmmm. I don't understand him sometimes. He is not a high-end audiophile. Nor is his data points correct with respect to that. For example:

View attachment 34722

I have gone to ton of audio shows and they most definitely talk about and use high-res audio.

View attachment 34723

I bought literally thousands of dollars of high-res audio files before I signed up for Tidal. Here is an example:

View attachment 34725

In this case, horrors of horrors, it is actually massive DSD files!

I think he is focused on mainstream labels where the action is in independendent and small labels. May are vertically integrated, recording their own content and releasing it online. This is behind the come back of DSD. And high-res PCM.

He needs to live the high-end audio to know the high-end audio.

Errrr, he also says:

"If he's referring to Internet denizens like me, sure, I like my computers, and from around 2010, I did start collecting some large hi-res files"

So he basically did the same thing as you're posting about...collect a bunch of big hi-res lossless files.

I'm confused as to what the issue here is....
 

amirm

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I would argue that especially the high-end brands should strongly reject the MQA monkey business with the audio signal, and frankly I'm somewhat disappointed with your ambiguous stand on this.
You are confusing me with someone who is purely technical. I represent both technical and business aspects of these topics. And the business aspect says that when someone buys an expensive DAC, he doesn't want it to be feature deficient such as lacking MQA. Such a customer doesn't care what Archimago has to say about it either. Or the chatter about its technical aspects. He gets Tidal, listens subjective in uncontrolled environment to MQA. If he likes it, he wants it in any DAC he buys.

MQA was not designed to pull in people like Archimago that weren't the customers of high-res audio to begin with. Or vast majority of our readership or audio objectivists. It is designed to give high-res to people who want to have it.

I like high-res from the point of view of having zero need to have someone dumb it down to a dying format called a CD. Why on earth would any download of a music file have to comply with 14/44.1?

And oh, I have passed Archimago's double blind test of 24 bit versus 16 bit that he says people can't:

============

foo_abx 1.3.4 report
foobar2000 v1.3.2
2014/08/02 13:52:46

File A: C:\Users\Amir\Music\Archimago\24-bit Audio Test (Hi-Res 24-96, FLAC, 2014)\01 - Sample A - Bozza - La Voie Triomphale.flac
File B: C:\Users\Amir\Music\Archimago\24-bit Audio Test (Hi-Res 24-96, FLAC, 2014)\02 - Sample B - Bozza - La Voie Triomphale.flac

13:52:46 : Test started.
13:54:02 : 01/01 50.0%
13:54:11 : 01/02 75.0%
13:54:57 : 02/03 50.0%
13:55:08 : 03/04 31.3%
13:55:15 : 04/05 18.8%
13:55:24 : 05/06 10.9%
13:55:32 : 06/07 6.3%
13:55:38 : 07/08 3.5%
13:55:48 : 08/09 2.0%
13:56:02 : 09/10 1.1%
13:56:08 : 10/11 0.6%
13:56:28 : 11/12 0.3%
13:56:37 : 12/13 0.2%
13:56:49 : 13/14 0.1%
13:56:58 : 14/15 0.0%
13:57:05 : Test finished.

----------
Total: 14/15 (0.0%)

So 0.0% chance of guessing.

I want you guys to understand every corner of these arguments, not just one. If you don't want to, that is fine but don't ask me to throw out decades of business experience I have in getting formats adopted in the industry and just chant some party line. That is not me. I have had to live with reality of format adoptions like having to two and redundant lossless audio formats in Blu-ray for example. The world doesn't just turn on some technical argument....
 

watchnerd

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It means what I said and you are confirming: he is NOT a high-end audiophile so he doesn't know or understand them. He doesn't buy high-res audio, and doesn't hang around people who do. So his conclusions and complaints about Robert Harley's article are incorrect in that regard.

He can talk about what these things mean to him and others like him, but can't act like an expert on who high-end audiophiles are when he is not one. And doesn't hang around with people who are.

Certainly the words "objective and rational audiophile" is not what you would use about most any high-end audiophile. They are not objectivists. They are subjectivists. They value specs of audio files like DSD, high-res, etc. Archimago does not. So I don't know how he can represent their views of who they are, and what they want. RH can speaker far better about that then he is.

So are you saying Archimago has no right to critique what Robert Harley wrote because he's not as deep into the audiophile social circles as Harley is?
 

Blumlein 88

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Has there ever been an example in history where a commercial company effectively monopolized a hitherto free and open market?

If so, the MQA enthusiasts (who are interested in defending it in a discussion) have to show that MQA is fundamentally different. I think that arguments such as "High res audio is such a niche market that world domination is not on anyone's radar" fall short because they are merely using a value judgement to dismiss the argument. Clearly the people who produce and consume high res audio think that it is a sufficiently large market to bother with!

On the other hand if no commercial company has ever effectively monopolized a free and open market this would support the idea that MQA is not a threat (but there can always be a first time :)).
Dolby.
 

Rusty Shackleford

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Huh? What does this even mean? I must say, what an odd response, especially given Arch is one of the very few objective and rational "audiophiles" out there in audio land today. Completely objectively debunked MQA, with no objective measurement rebuttal from anyone... including this thread. Recently provided perhaps the best coverage of the RMAF 2019, better than the majority of mainstream audio rags and blogs.

Yah, kinda don't get your comment and really don't want to know either. Seems like a personal judgement to me. I didn't join your forum for that.

More blind appeals to authority (first Bob Stuart, now Rob Harley), rather than fact-based arguments, by Amir with regards to MQA. :rolleyes:
 

Blumlein 88

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I'm not sure what would be considered high-end this context, but here's some information about his system as of July 2017:

Emotiva XPA-1L monoblocks, Emotiva XSP-1 preamp
Technics SL-1200 turntable
Paradigm Signature S8v3 speakers

View attachment 34728
While I'm not against Archimago's argument, not a single item he has is high end.
 

Julf

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While I'm not against Archimago's argument, not a single item he has is high end.

1) Is that a bad thing? 2) How do you define "high end"?
 

amirm

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Errrr, he also says:

"If he's referring to Internet denizens like me, sure, I like my computers, and from around 2010, I did start collecting some large hi-res files"

So he basically did the same thing as you're posting about...collect a bunch of big hi-res lossless files.

I'm confused as to what the issue here is....
I quoted what the issue is:

index.php


He is saying there are no "elite" audiophiles that have massive PCM files. This can't be more wrong. He needs to hang around where these people are, not where his own den is. Here is an elite audiophiles many of us know:

1569779373018.png


20 Terabytes is crapload of large audio files.

Sites like HDTracks only exist because people want to download high-res files. How can someone say "who are the elite audiophiles that hang on to their massive PCM Files?" There are plenty of them. Except for die-hard LP fans and some that are sticking with CD, the rest of the high-end audiophile world has adopted high-res and is downloading and keeping them.
 

amirm

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So are you saying Archimago has no right to critique what Robert Harley wrote because he's not as deep into the audiophile social circles as Harley is?
He can critique RH and that would be fine. What is not fine is saying he better knows who "elite" high-end audiophiles are and proceed to give examples that are completely wrong. I mean I have been to the same high-end shows he says he has gone to. How on earth can he say high-res audio is not used or talked about? That is just wrong. He should ask them what they are playing and look at the playlists if he wants to know if they are playing high-res or not.

Let's remember: Qobuz launched high-res music service in US. Amazon has now done the same. How can anyone take the position that high-end audiophiles are not into such formats?
 

watchnerd

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I quoted what the issue is:

index.php


He is saying there are no "elite" audiophiles that have massive PCM files. This can't be more wrong. He needs to hang around where these people are, not where his own den. Here is an elite audiophiles many of us know:

View attachment 34784

20 Terabytes is crapload of large audio files.

Sites like HDTracks only exist because people want to download high-res files. How can someone say "who are the elite audiophiles that hang on to their massive PCM Files?" There are plenty of them. Except for die-hard LP fans and some that are sticking with CD, the rest of the high-end audiophile world has adopted high-res and is downloading and keeping them.

So, let me see if I get your argument straight:

1. Some elite audiophiles actually do have massive PCM file collections (sure, I can buy into that, at least for a portion of the target market; I guess I'm in that bucket)
2. MQA is not targeted at #1, but for that portion of the elite audiophile segment who weren't early adopters (Harley's proposition)
3. MQA is a good solution for #2 because they are shopping for convenience and don't really care if it's technically inferior to #1, plus they have no "sunk cost" in the form of big libraries of files

I can buy that line of argument, and it makes business sense. We'll ultimately see who wins in the market.

But I don't think it adds to the debate to make it about Archimago, as a person, whether he is part of the "high end" audiophile clique, or the modest nature of his gear.

I would encourage sticking to the relative merits of debate along the lines "easy to use, walled garden" (Mac) vs "DIY, maybe harder, but more open" (Linux) technology platforms and their respective business models, as opposed to labeling people.
 

amirm

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But I don't think it adds to the debate to make it about Archimago, as a person, whether he is part of the "high end" audiophile clique, or the modest nature of his gear.
I didn't remotely critique what gear he has. I explained that what he said of high-end elite audiophiles in his commentary piece is wrong. I have given reasons and examples of myself and others. Don't know why people are defending him as knowing high-end audio market.
 

watchnerd

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I didn't remotely critique what gear he has. I explained that what he said of high-end elite audiophiles in his commentary piece is wrong. I have given reasons and examples of myself and others. Don't know why people are defending him as knowing high-end audio market.

I didn't say you critiqued his gear.

I'm saying, while it's true no high end audiophile would be caught dead with Emotiva, it's also irrelevant to the actual debate at hand.

The actual debate, in my mind, is:

Is high end audio of the future going to be dominated by rich semi-computer-savvy techies (a la Computer Audiophile), who want to tinker with their own upsampling, convolution engines, etc, or by rich ease-of-use driven consumers, who want "high resolution" without the hassle?

Or, perhaps to be horribly stereotypical, will the market fragment into different segments for rich tech workers vs rich doctors/lawyers/bankers/lobbyists, and what does this mean for formats?
 

blueone

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You are confusing me with someone who is purely technical. I represent both technical and business aspects of these topics. And the business aspect says that when someone buys an expensive DAC, he doesn't want it to be feature deficient such as lacking MQA. Such a customer doesn't care what Archimago has to say about it either. Or the chatter about its technical aspects. He gets Tidal, listens subjective in uncontrolled environment to MQA. If he likes it, he wants it in any DAC he buys.

MQA was not designed to pull in people like Archimago that weren't the customers of high-res audio to begin with. Or vast majority of our readership or audio objectivists. It is designed to give high-res to people who want to have it.

I like high-res from the point of view of having zero need to have someone dumb it down to a dying format called a CD. Why on earth would any download of a music file have to comply with 14/44.1?

And oh, I have passed Archimago's double blind test of 24 bit versus 16 bit that he says people can't:

============

foo_abx 1.3.4 report
foobar2000 v1.3.2
2014/08/02 13:52:46

File A: C:\Users\Amir\Music\Archimago\24-bit Audio Test (Hi-Res 24-96, FLAC, 2014)\01 - Sample A - Bozza - La Voie Triomphale.flac
File B: C:\Users\Amir\Music\Archimago\24-bit Audio Test (Hi-Res 24-96, FLAC, 2014)\02 - Sample B - Bozza - La Voie Triomphale.flac

13:52:46 : Test started.
13:54:02 : 01/01 50.0%
13:54:11 : 01/02 75.0%
13:54:57 : 02/03 50.0%
13:55:08 : 03/04 31.3%
13:55:15 : 04/05 18.8%
13:55:24 : 05/06 10.9%
13:55:32 : 06/07 6.3%
13:55:38 : 07/08 3.5%
13:55:48 : 08/09 2.0%
13:56:02 : 09/10 1.1%
13:56:08 : 10/11 0.6%
13:56:28 : 11/12 0.3%
13:56:37 : 12/13 0.2%
13:56:49 : 13/14 0.1%
13:56:58 : 14/15 0.0%
13:57:05 : Test finished.

----------
Total: 14/15 (0.0%)

So 0.0% chance of guessing.

I want you guys to understand every corner of these arguments, not just one. If you don't want to, that is fine but don't ask me to throw out decades of business experience I have in getting formats adopted in the industry and just chant some party line. That is not me. I have had to live with reality of format adoptions like having to two and redundant lossless audio formats in Blu-ray for example. The world doesn't just turn on some technical argument....

Just a few questions about your post, Amir. First, I assume the 14/44.1 reference was just a typo, or are you referring to Phillips original 14/44.1 CD definition?

The two files referenced in the A/B test look like identical 24/96 versions. Was one of them really a 16/44.1 version, or a 16/48 version?

What audio equipment did you use to run the comparison testing?
 
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