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

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DDF

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I've been in this hobby for 40 years and a professional engineer for 30 including 15 in audio (highly complex aspects including codecs) and have always left room for the audio press indulgences. This is the final straw. While there are flaws in goldenboys test methods, the overall conclusions that MQA reduces bit depth, fabricates ultrasonics and reduces the fidelity of unwrapped files seems beyond dispute. Like so much of the press today, the audio press thinks their job is to offer opinion but without the constraint of investigation, skepticism or even rudimentary validation. Anyone with even a modest engineering background could have ran these tests years ago. I'm not ready to call the audio press deceitful, I truly think that's unfair. Irresponsible seems fair and accurate. As gate keepers of audio quality they sat mute for years while quietly behind the scenes our long awaited lossless streaming files became butchered with no visibility. If they had any repute they wouldn't be doing damage control, but instead saying "thank you" and running with this to help get to the bottom of it. Shameful.
 
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John Atkinson

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Why expect an audio press untrained in engineering to weigh in on audio engineering matters?
Oh dear. More unsupported conjecture :)

John Atkinson, B.Sc (Hons); Postgraduate qualification as a high school science teacher; Full Member AES; Associate Member IEEE; former voting member NARAS Engineers & Producers Wing; Distinguished Richard C. Heyser Memorial Lecturer, Audio Engineering Society 2011 Convention; and Technical Editor, Stereophile (not that I would ever argue by credential, of course)
 

DDF

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Oh dear. More unsupported conjecture :)

John Atkinson, B.Sc (Hons); Postgraduate qualification as a high school science teacher; Full Member AES; Associate Member IEEE; former voting member NARAS Engineers & Producers Wing; Distinguished Richard C. Heyser Memorial Lecturer, Audio Engineering Society 2011 Convention; and Technical Editor, Stereophile (not that I would ever argue by credential, of course)
I've worked in very advanced professional audio engineering teams for years. I've also worked in other advanced technology engineering teams for years and worked in the 90's on technology now rolled out into Google Nest and Home Pods, these even use one of my patents. An appeal to authority means nothing to me.

I salute your hard work in earning these credentials, but when the rubber hits the road this all resulted in an epic fail in analyzing MQA and educating the public about it's true nature. Why did it take an amateur to unveil these aspects of MQA, Tidal and Warner's roll out after years of investigation by your outfit and other so called credentialed bodies? Because these paper credentials weren't put to work. It's your organization, not goldenboy, that asks to be paid to inform the public.

I always found room for the audio press' entertaining and often misguided nonsense. It was theatre, art, eloquent mythology. But this really frankly steams me, because we always had a choice to avoid any nonsense peddled but this is taking away our lossless streaming files we spent decades building our systems to play. And your mag and others provided cover the whole way.
 
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restorer-john

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...but this is taking away our lossless files we spent decades building our systems to play...
How so? You have the lossless files. You have likely multiple D/A converters that will play the files perfectly with no MQA adulteration. What exactly is being taken away from you at this point?

MQA was obviously a filthy scam from day one. Those who tentatively or actively extolled its virtues will be banished from the High Fidelity landscape as pariahs in the future. And those who had the platform to call it for what it is, and didn't do so, will be judged harshly in my opinion.

MQA is a retrograde step, a poor attempt at putting the genie back in the bottle. Thing is, Genie likes being outside the bottle and we like her that way too.

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The entire fiasco has put a nasty stench on high fidelity as a whole. I will never purchase a product with MQA decoding built in, or media with encoding. If that means I play my CDs for the rest of my life, I'm happy. Whatever music I want, will be available on the secondary market on original media for decades to come as there are billions out there. I have well over 10,000 CDs and enough players and D/A converters to last forever.
 

DDF

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How so? You have the lossless files. You have likely multiple D/A converters that will play the files perfectly with no MQA adulteration. What exactly is being taken away from you at this point?
I edited my post to add the word "streaming". As shown in this long trail of posts, true lossless files (HiFi setting) are being replaced on Tidal by adulterated files adding the MQA fold in the bottom 3 bits. And as posted earlier, it appears they will be delivered this way by the record companies. My real fear is that this will infect Quobuz etc, even the 320 AAC files.

BTW, nice touch with Barbara Eden. We must be the same age.
 

Raindog123

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I salute your hard work in earning these credentials,
Your are a nice person, but I would not let Mr Atkinson escape with his credentials so easy.

Unfortunately, its more of the same snake-oil, if you scratch the surface: bachelor degree... full AES membership is anyone’s for only $115/year, IEEE membership - $104/year, ‘former NARAS member’ - all one need is two artists for buddies and a couple of articles in those ‘highly engineering’ Stereophile pages... Totally petty, I know, but that‘s what it is, and Mr. Atkinson started it. (I have zero affiliation with audio industry and my audio credentials are more impressive. So total sham - bringing such credentials as an argument for in-depth technical discussion.)
 
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PierreV

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I understand there is a lot of polarization around the issue, but attacks on the character/competence of people are a bit excessive, no?

I wasn't very happy when amir described MQA critics as persons recruited by the competition or tools. I am not happy either to see Mr Atkinson called a sham. Let's not forget he has been one of the most rational Stereophile authors and a source of quality measurements for ages (and yes, there often is a disconnect between his measurements and his prose, but he usually leaves fairly obvious clues).
 

restorer-john

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Let's not forget he has been one of the most rational Stereophile authors and a source of quality measurements for ages
Absolutely true. The magazine is worthless without JA's decades of measurements.
 

Raindog123

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Mr Atkinson called a sham.
To clarify, I am/was not calling Mr Atkinson a sham. I do not know Mr Atkinson, so he might be a fine, genuine person. I leave it up to readers to decide.

What I was solely rebutting is that an AES, IEEE, etc. memberships - that Mr Atkins happened to bring to the discussion - are hardly a "hard earned credential". I apologize for the confusion, and clarified it (while standing behind my position).
 
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DDF

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Absolutely true. The magazine is worthless without JA's decades of measurements.
I also appreciate Kal's multi channel music reviews. Mr. Atkinson has also contributed interesting articles on speaker measurement in the past, one in particular that resulted in follow up for me. He is committed and honest. But I stand behind every word I wrote.
 

ThatM1key

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I always had doubts about MQA. This was also the last straw for me. I mean, yeah you can move to qobuz and deezer for real flacs but the problem is that most of the time, those flacs suffer from the loudness wars. Personally I use these steaming services as a "fun but not serious" listening experience. You can directly get the files to measure and compare, I would tell you how but you know reasons. Its easy to find the tools anyways. If you want to see DR/Loudness war measurements, you can see my thread here. One last thing, its kind of funny seeing MQA in a pair of gaming headphones, the model is the "asus rog delta s"
 
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To clarify, I am/was not calling Mr Atkinson a sham. I do not know Mr Atkinson, so he might be a fine, genuine person. I leave it up to readers to decide.

What I was solely rebutting is that an AES, IEEE, etc. memberships - that Mr Atkins happened to bring to the discussion - are hardly a "hard earned credential". I apologize for the confusion, and clarified it (while standing behind my position).
For clarity on the issue of IEEE membership (I'm a full member, as I know are a number of others posting here), to quote from the IEEE website: "Associate member grade is designed for technical and non-technical individuals who do not meet the qualifications for member grade but who wish to benefit from membership and partnership in IEEE, and for those who are progressing, through continuing education and work experience, toward qualifications for member grade." (https://www.ieee.org/membership/qualifications.html)
 

TheBatsEar

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The entire [MQA] fiasco has put a nasty stench on high fidelity as a whole.
For me it was the cables. Stereophile saw nothing wrong with them either.

Stereophile should have told us about MQA years ago, not OP, who is a layman. Stereophile should have told us that they reduce 16 to 13 bit and don't add anything positive.
 
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restorer-john

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Stereophile should have told us that they reduce 16 to 13 bit and add nothing positive anywhere else.
If MQA and Stereophile (and other leading publications) had been perfectly up front about the bit reduction (and consequent THD increase, reduction in S/N and FR), things would be different. Tell it for what it is. The "master" will never leave the hands of the creators ever again, and audiophiles and consumers will never again get the true performance they pay for. This (MQA) is the 'best' you are going to get from now on.

They also forget, as their memories are short. We paid an absolute fortune as early adopters to obtain the 'master' quality on CD. We bankrolled the early days at $30 per disc. We paid for those rights and brought about the second coming in obscene profits for the record companies. I own not a single copied/burnt or bootleg CD. I paid my way. Over and over.

With MQA, they lied through their collective teeth, and that is what leaves a bad taste that will never go away. They attempted to deceive their core audience, underestimated their intelligence and mistreated their customers and future revenue stream. An utterly stupid course of action.
 

muslhead

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I have no dog in this fight (other than i hope MQA fails miserably) but I see Mr JA wrote some articles on MQA ................ 3+years ago ...... that were (in my interpretation) "somewhat" balanced. Not against, but instead "for" MQA with some concern/reservation (again my interpretation). The basis for being in the "for it" camp were MQA's supposed benefits (lossless, smaller files, etc). But, here we are 3 years later and no change or update to that original position since? This is concerning because the prior position was based upon being, at least partially, factually wrong. Why is that? It makes one wonder. Without clarity and openness, we are left to making our own conclusions which is not positive since you are clearly aware of the new information contradicts your prior article and MQA benefits. To some, this is unfortunate as it points to ones character and why you are likely getting less than favorable responses. It appears as if JA fell for the lies (sorry, non-truths for the PC crowd) and the MQA story instead of actually doing the necessary work by testing to determine the real story. Where are the updates, any testing since 2018? This seems to be regularly done by Stereophile for other things when incorrect information is provided or new information becomes known. But not for MQA, Why? I don't know the answer but it should not be surprising to anyone when responses from forum members point to less favorable personally bad moral or ethical reasons (money and advertising revenue come to mind first). It doesn't mean its right, it just should not surprise anyone. Those responses by members are likely wrong (or at least I hope so) but Mr JA should not be surprised that they come up as he has left the door open for everyone's interpretation as to why. To correct this it would be as simple as updating your article with the new info (even if that means your position has not changed from 2018). Just be warned that an updated position is still based upon non-facts (like your prior articles from 2018) then don't complain when you are barraged with less than favorable responses in an online forum.

BTW - Putting up your credentials does nothing to get you respect and instead makes it seem like you are hiding behind them to avoid something. Is that being avoided because it would require an admission of being wrong or as a minimum being embarrassed for not doing the necessary work (testing) to support that prior position and instead, basing it on a story provided by the MQA consortium? You should know, respect is earned, not just given due to a list of credentials.

I did not read every article Mr JA has written on MQA, only those that came up in the link he provided. That link apparently brings up an historical search for MQA articles from Stereophile mag. If I missed anything, I apologize (and admit my error) but can only point to the provided link (or site search engine) being incomplete.
 
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PierreV

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If MQA and Stereophile (and other leading publications) had been perfectly up front about the bit reduction (and consequent THD increase, reduction in S/N and FR), things would be different.
MQA has an upgrade path though.
MQA 2.0 will lose 2 bits at twice the licensing cost.
MQA 3.0 will lose 1 bit at four times the licensing cost.

Then we'll get SuperMQA, which will lose zero bit at 8 times the licensing cost. At that point, there will be critics who will say it is awfully similar to some olds standards. People won't know, because the device will still be a black box. Critics will be dismissed as shills paid by the competition.

It is worth noting, now that we are 66 pages into this thread, that while we have seen attacks on the criticism, dismissal of critics and, ad-hominems, we haven't seen a single message about a benefit of MQA for customers.
 

mansr

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Oh dear. More unsupported conjecture :)

John Atkinson, B.Sc (Hons); Postgraduate qualification as a high school science teacher; Full Member AES; Associate Member IEEE; former voting member NARAS Engineers & Producers Wing; Distinguished Richard C. Heyser Memorial Lecturer, Audio Engineering Society 2011 Convention; and Technical Editor, Stereophile (not that I would ever argue by credential, of course)
This just proves that it is possible to have a bunch of credentials and be wrong at the same time.
 

acbarn

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With MQA, they lied through their collective teeth, and that is what leaves a bad taste that will never go away. They attempted to deceive their core audience, underestimated their intelligence and mistreated their customers and future revenue stream. An utterly stupid course of action.
Sadly, this is normal operating procedure for so many companies that cater to audiophiles. I hate to blame the victim here, but I can’t help but feel as if audiophiles themselves are at least partially to blame for this because of their long history of believing in magical claims and buying into snake oil.
 
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