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MQA Deep Dive - I published music on tidal to test MQA

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jensgk

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Regarding the alleged "deblurring" effect of MQA.

What I do not understand, is that If there is a sound difference between the MQA file and original PCM master file, then it is no longer the original master?

Some kind of digital FX must have been applied by MQA.

As I understand it, digitally recorded music is often heavily processed with all kinds of digital FXs until the artist approves of the result. If the artist think the tracks sounds "blurred" or has too much bass, or anything else, surely they would have changed that before the tracks were approved?

If MQA alters that, I would think that goes against the whole idea of MQA?

Why would an audio codec want to include a digital fx, applied to all music?
 

Atanasi

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What I do not understand, is that If there is a sound difference between the MQA file and original PCM master file, then it is no longer the original master?
The stated fantasy of MQA is end-to-end: recording, processing and release all in MQA. That's not reality anywhere.
 

John Atkinson

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From all the articles written about MQA at Stereophile by the cohort, not a single individual provides a personal take due to commercial conflict of interest.
What "commercial conflict of interest"? MQA doesn't advertise with Stereophile and while some manufacturers of MQA-enabled DACs do advertise, so do manufacturers like PS Audio and Schiit, whose principals are strong critics of MQA.

John Atkinson
Technical Editor, Stereophile
 

Ralph_Cramden

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dorirod

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"McGrath, in turn, said, "Listening to my recording with MQA literally brought tears to my eyes"

Lol, don't even bother listing or checking what the "before" is, listening to the same thing on same setup on FLAC, or doing anything independently, we have a weiner! The silence on saying anything bad about MQA from some speaks so loudly that we should post that OSHA occupational noise chart.
 

RichB

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You can find everything I have written about MQA at https://www.stereophile.com/category/mqa .

Thanks in advance for the page views.

John Atkinson
Technical Editor, Stereophile
Thank you for the link. I'd like to better understand some of the statements, admittedly, I may be unqualified from professional perspective. ;)

"Earlier, I wrote that the lossiness/losslessness question is beside the point. Here's what I was getting at. There certainly are differences in the MQA version of this recording, and the changes due to the MQA encoding/decoding seem to indicate some loss of resolution, even if it isn't audible. And yet, whatever the cause of the differences between the DXD and MQA versions—whether the results of origami or of some other change wrought during encoding—well, we already knew that. We already knew that MQA changes the music. MQA's goal is to make music sound better, and you can't make music sound better without changing how it sounds. Lossiness is beside the point."
How is MQA different from any other company. Benchmark's goal is to make money by demonstrably improving fidelity to the source.
Degrading fidelity is not a selling point nor does it prove efficacy.
MQA's goal is to make money but it seems not in the pursuit of measurable fidelity but in the minds of audiophiles. I think we have seen this show before.
Every multi-thousand dollar cable company makes the same claims without measurable improvements. Some measurements show degraded peformance.
Are we to trust them?

Here is your measurement from MQA Tested Part2:
MQA Tested Part 2- Into the Fold_DXDMQADiagram.jpg

This measurement shows the most dramatic departure I've seen of an MQA file from the file it was made from. The noise added by MQA begins to rise at about 10kHz—well down into the audioband—and reaches +10dB or a little more by 20kHz. The noise continues to rise above the audioband, to more than 20dB by 30kHz.

The difference between these files was so large that I thought I might be able to hear it, especially in the recording's unusually long run-in section of about four seconds. So I did what I could to minimize extraneous environmental noise, waited (and waited) for my building's boiler fan to turn off, and turned the volume up loud. I played the run-in and the first few seconds of music over and over. My RadioShack SPL meter indicated peak levels in excess of 110dB (C-rated, slow)."
It seems you have successfully proved 2 things:
1) MQA introduces distortion above 10kHz.
2) You cannot hear hear these defects.

This is hardly a ringing endorsement (excuse the pun).

From MQA Contextualized Page 2:
Does MQA give them reason to worry? I think it does. MQA is not in principle incompatible with DSP-based room correction—Bob Stuart told me that in an interview—but current implementations of it that I'm familiar with are incompatible with other DSP systems. In many other respects, MQA files are locked up pretty tight. The fact that you can't mess with the code is a selling point aimed at both music suppliers and consumers—it's not a bug but a feature. That little blue or green authentication light on your MQA-ready DAC implies that you're getting what the artist intended—although who actually signed off is, for older recordings, open to question. And Spencer Chrislu's remarks surely imply that if MQA succeeds, the "crown jewels"—open, high-rate PCM files—will be withdrawn from the market. Buy those 24/192 downloads while you can.
I think many clearly understand this point, that is well made, MQA threatens to remove the best fidelity recordings available.
Why would anyone trust a company attempting to remove access for the highest quality source.
Has MQA proved that their alterations improve fidelity to back to the record studios.
As you have pointed out, some recordings are sources from digital produced sounds. How could MQA improve that?

We should be skeptical when measurements are ignored and leu of the claim made by associates with financial interests.
MQA is an audio companies knowingly damaging files and calling it truer to the source.
How do we know this, because they are preserving the "crown jewels".
MQA knows they are degrading the records and makes that pitch.
Ignoring this is willful blindness.

However wonderful MQA may be, it is, in some ways, monolithic, and hence old-school. I miss the pre-Internet world. If I could go back, I would. But I can't. We can't. So what's the way forward? What does it look like—and sound like? Does it involve MQA?
You quote from Bob Stuart:
"We are trying to reverse the damage [wrought by the Internet] so that a whole new generation can enjoy music through better sound," Bob Stuart wrote in an e-mail to me several weeks ago. He made it clear that he was speaking of all music listeners, not audiophiles in particular. I trust his idealism. I'm sure it's genuine. He is not, as the most irresponsible online critics have maintained, a charlatan. But that doesn't make him right.
I absolutely do not trust his idealism as anything other than huckstering.
Why would anyone trust when they have began with lies and then backs for those claims when called out. Hardly the behavior of a truthful organization.
MQA tried to block PEQ/REQ and conceded when it became unsustainable, from a business point of view. So much for idealism.

I am not sure how to take the impulse testing done. There are others here far more qualified to address the timing.

Finally, DRM.
The acronym stands for Digital Rights Management and this is addressed but incompletely, IMO.

From MQA, DRM, and Other Four-Letter Words
Lately, another word—actually, an initialism—is being used in much the same way: DRM, which stands for Digital Rights Management. Like lossy codecs, DRM has a long, checkered history in and around audio. The "Red Book" set of specifications, which defines the Compact Disc, includes no DRM. At the beginning of the 1980s, when Sony and Philips came up with the CD, the Internet wasn't yet a gleam in Vint Cerf's eye, and home CD burners were still a decade or so away. Record companies have made several attempts at adding DRM to CD (footnote 1) and to other forms of digital audio, with consistently bad results: Think audible watermarks, Sony root-kits, and that iTunes DRM that, early on, made downloaded music unplayable on any device not made by Apple.
Many are confused by DRM and think it does not apply the MQA because they forget its goal is to preserve the revenue stream.
Sony's root kit was the most diabolical set on destroying a computer.
Apple is Apple, but they were upfront about it.

Both companies operated DRM to preserve revenue, one is copy protection (that ultimately always fails) and the other is locking product to hardware to preserve products. MQA is most certainly locking up hardware from decoding to preserve revenue.

Now that we understand, that DRM is used to protect the source and the hardware universe, a minor tweak is all that is needed.
DRM - Digital Revenue Management, though DRP Digital Revenue Protection is the proper term.
MQA realized that they copy protection was untenable so constructed an elaborate mechanism to extract revenue from publishers and manufacturers which is not so easily bypassed. Companies do this all the time. Dolby ATMOS is one such example, but ATMOS does not damage the quality on 7.1 systems.
This is a profound difference.

It is fine to make money when adding value, but there is sufficient evidence, some from you/Stereophile to debunk such claims.
However, it seems that neutrality is seen as a desirable goal.

No-one, should trust the Bob Stuarts idealism enough to give up access to the "crown jewels".

- Rich
 

RichB

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What "commercial conflict of interest"? MQA doesn't advertise with Stereophile and while some manufacturers of MQA-enabled DACs do advertise, so do manufacturers like PS Audio and Schiit, whose principals are strong critics of MQA.

John Atkinson
Technical Editor, Stereophile
Professional courtesy then.
Stereophile performed a great service measuring devices. I always consult them and the work is excellent.
There are times with the subjective review part is, let's say, cunningly crafted.

You are not Stereophile, but there are recommended components that clearly damaging to fidelity such as this one:
AudioQuest Oak: $3300/8' pair
AudioQuest's Oak speaker cable, available terminated for full-range, biwiring, double biwiring, or bi-amping, features double-counterspiral conductor geometry and AQ's 72V Dielectric Bias System (DBS). KR, who actually admits to not obsessing over cables—"confesses" would be more like it!—has now switched from older AudioQuest cables terminated with spade lugs to a set of Oaks terminated with AQ's SureGrip silver-plated beryllium-copper banana plugs, which "fit so tightly into the amp and speaker terminals that I can just barely insert or remove them by hand." (Vol.38 No.9 WWW)
Here is the Audioholics of the more expensive: Audioquest Thunderbird Zero Speaker Cable Review: 72V DBS Legit Science or Snake Oil.


Adding the battery increases distortion up to .1%.
Audioquest is adding noise with a claimed noise reduction battery and other claims.
All proved false.

There is room for skepticism for recommendations from Stereophile.
Caveat emptor, but unfortunately, MQA's goal is to remove my choice so we cannot all be "Switzerland".

- Rich
 

keebz28

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What "commercial conflict of interest"? MQA doesn't advertise with Stereophile and while some manufacturers of MQA-enabled DACs do advertise, so do manufacturers like PS Audio and Schiit, whose principals are strong critics of MQA.

John Atkinson
Technical Editor, Stereophile
John,

You're in the business of printed media and generating revenue from advertisers and manufacturers that put their products in your magazine. Your answer to my response was a typical "cop out" of not taking a personal or professional opinion which you are entitled to. But for the realm of audiophilia it seems to be a disservice when you pitch high dollar value "snake oil" products on subjective interpretation and taste. I do not expect any print media publication with any renown in this day and age to debunk fallacies and false claims because print media is not generating the same revenue as digital media. I also do not expect your publication to be an authority or a gate keep of audiophila, that responsibility ultimate lies with the consumer that usually is misled by false marketing.
 

John Atkinson

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There is room for skepticism for recommendations from Stereophile.
Absolutely. I have always felt that when we present our opinions, readers are free to accept or reject what we write. But I have no time for conspiracy theories or unjustified and/or unsupported conjecture about our motives.

John Atkinson
Technical Editor Stereophile
 

Kal Rubinson

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From all the articles written about MQA at Stereophile by the cohort, not a single individual provides a personal take due to commercial conflict of interest. Every single article so far on MQA at Stereophile talks up all the technical undertakings of MQA, but skepticism or professional critique is glaringly lacking. Like any other media publication in business of selling magazines, Stereophile is not a reputed source of information.
Not so. Here's my last published comment on MQA: https://www.stereophile.com/content/music-round-84-multichannel-mqa-multichannel-mqa-again
 

John Atkinson

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You're in the business of printed media and generating revenue from advertisers and manufacturers that put their products in your magazine.
Advertisers buy advertising. They don't buy opinions. Here are two quotes defining the relationship between a publication and its advertisers that have guided my career as a magazine editor:

“A newspaper can flout an advertiser...but if it alienates the buying public, it loses the one indispensable asset of its existence."—Walter Lippman, 1922

"If you tell the truth about components you review, there will always be a small percentage of companies at any one time who are not advertising in your pages. But if you publish the truth, you will have a good magazine. And if you have a good magazine, you will have readers. And as long as you have readers, disgruntled advertisers will eventually return. But if you don't tell the truth, you won't have a good magazine. And if you don't have a good magazine, you won't have readers, at least not for long. And if you don't have readers, you won't have advertisers."— John Crabbe, editor Hi-Fi News & Record Review 1965-1982

John Atkinson
Technical Editor, Stereophile
 

RichB

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Absolutely. I have always felt that when we present our opinions, readers are free to accept or reject what we write. But I have no time for conspiracy theories or unjustified and/or unsupported conjecture about our motives.

John Atkinson
Technical Editor Stereophile
For the record, I did not make claims about the motives, but room for skepticism.

However, IMO this is an unsupported conjecture about Mr. Stuarts motives:
I trust his idealism. I'm sure it's genuine. He is not, as the most irresponsible online critics have maintained, a charlatan. But that doesn't make him right.
You are welcome to trust him but, given MQA proven falsehoods, I do not trust him.

Here is why I don't want what MQA is offering:
  • Replaces CD quality with13-bit CD quality.
  • Removes the choice of filters
  • Admittedly removes the access to the "crown jewels".
For those that don't want to buy into a closed system, it reduces access to quality.

- Rich
 
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Atanasi

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I can not believe it, but just for fun (and to remember this messy propaganda):
Is MQA lossless
"I don't know what you mean by 'glory,' " Alice said.
Humpty Dumpty smiled contemptuously. "Of course you don't—till I tell you. I meant 'there's a nice knock-down argument for you!'"
"But 'glory' doesn't mean 'a nice knock-down argument'," Alice objected.
"When I use a word," Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, "it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less."
"The question is," said Alice, "whether you can make words mean so many different things."
"The question is," said Humpty Dumpty, "which is to be master—that's all."
(L. Carroll, Through the Looking-Glass)
 

RichB

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Thank you for posting this link.

Clearly, MQA would like to remove access to the crown jewels and even CD 44.1/16 bit audio.
It is fair to say, that 16-bit is necessary given often over-compressed audio but I don't think that holds for classical recordings.

MQA if successful, removes choice and full access so is detrimental to the community.
Who is to say that there might well be an adaptive filter, that first appears in computer audio, that actually selects the most pleasing filter.
This is removed by MQA.

- Rich
 

DDF

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