I’m sorry, I didn’t mean in any way to imply that you said or thought MQA was awful, it was meant to be a response to some of the criticisms I’ve seen of MQA elsewhere.
I’m inclined to agree with your point on their business model, while I don’t know enough about their commercial contracts to describe the company that licenses/owns the MQA IP as evil, it would seem that their business model wasn’t in their own interests either.
I don’t think this is likely to happen, but a good outcome (I think for everyone but the investors) might be to take the best bits of MQA (such as ADC correction) and make the technology open.
The vendors that already pay licensing fees would lose the obligation to pay them, their investment in the technology wouldn’t be completely written-off as albums could continue to be made using the tech and they could probably ensure this happens by buying the IP between them at minimal cost given the company is in administration.
[A possible alternative is a troll buys them at minimal cost, hikes the license fees if they can and everyone lives unhappily ever after!]
I don’t believe there’s any kind of universal agreement that MQA’s “ADC correction” does anything really beneficial. On top of which, IMHO, MQA’s opaqueness and subterfuge around the technology played a key part in their imminent demise
Arguably, anyone with “white glove” handling of a master could produce amazing sounding results - just look at what JVC was able to accomplish with their K2 technology in the early 2000s; redbook discs that could almost compete toe-to-toe with SACDs and DVD-Audio at the time.
"However, in a recent AMA (ask me anything) Reddit session Tidal CEO Jesse Dorogusker answered numerous queries about the company’s future plans for MQA. According to Dorogusker: ‘We will be introducing hi-res FLAC for our HiFi Plus subscribers soon. It’s lossless and an open standard.’ "
Its unfortunate IMO whenever any thing like this happens. It adds to the suppression of growing the overall base of new audiophiles and therefore investment quality of great HiFi equipment real improvement in the future. I have been a music lover and hobbyist for most of my 7 decades. I have spend the price of several cars i’m sure over the years on music systems and loved most all of them. But the curse of format wars and never ending tech claims is an enormous put off to people who want good quality audio and not always on the inexpensive side. They simply HATE feeling there excitement around a good piece of gear seems to be challenged in short cycles making them feel that after spending thousands they may not have the quality or best tech they thought they had when they made their purchase. Now to be clear tech evolves and gets better all the time thats as it should be. Take smart phones as an example . they got better and better and buyers can make the choice if they see value in Iphone 14 over Iphone 13 or Galaxy s21 vs s23. But after you buy one , in the next cycle of development apple or samsung does not then open debate on the actual function of their previous features or tech disputing their previous claims of performance say like, The rip format wars, Streaming specs,etc they are exhausting to keep up with. I spent countless hours ripping 1000’s of CD’s in one format to then learn data that contradicts that chosen. format for another. For example I chose to rip to aff files over flac when i had apple music files then went to wav so it was total lossless but less meta data etc I had meridian MQA equipment just recently then moved the DCS lina stack , Tidal because of MQA now i’m not sure I want to use it etc etc etc.
By example, my Son has done well and can afford most any audio equipment he would want fortunately. He is also a music lover. In a recent visit to his home I saw he was using a Sonos player for playback. I was shocked as we always trade information and purchase on the latest audio gear. I said wow why are you using a Sonos with Apple music? He said Dad, I’m exhausted and don’t have the time to keep up with all the changes, I’m tired of spending thousands only to feel I may have not made the best choices. As for dealers help its hit and miss. This is simple, easy and I can forget about all the other stuff and just hear music when I want to. Yes is no where the same quality but in the big scheme of things like i said I am exhausted with the chase and its costs never really feeling satisfied…
Sorry for the length, its kind of a prayer to the industry leaders from someone who just dropped $$ on a Bartok, then Lina stack with AB 1266 and Susvara and still feel like i may be missing something…even my tidal sub choice for MQA file time investments may not be the best??? How can equipment at this level ever go beyond the fortunate few…
It’s great to hear the perspective of someone with that much experience in audio. Thank you for sharing a small part of your journey Anthony!
You make a number of important points about the format wars, which I can certainly identify with. No one likes investing in equipment for a certain format capability (Puccini / DSD-capable transport, in my case) to have these capabilities restricted in the new model (Rossini Player, fortunately, now resolved w Rossini transport).
However, in the case of MQA, I and many others see this as a very different case (reference GoldenSound’s 500k view exposé of MQA on YouTube).
MQA made a brazen attempt to convince the public, the studios, and equipment manufacturers that their lossy, proprietary, rent-extracting format was better than existing lossless, open, free, high-res formats.
A very small number of manufacturers had the courage to speak up, namely Linn (see below). However, with The Absolute Sound and Tidal’s as very vocal cheerleaders, hundreds of thousands (millions?) of users became wrongly convinced that MQA was superior to existing high res formats.
Fortunately they were eventually exposed and the truth won, so in the case, I believe their demise was good for the industry.
To my knowledge, Bob Stuart didn’t claim that 16 bit, 44kHz MQA was better than 24 bit, 352kHz PCM (although, reading some comments, it appears many may have inferred that).
It could be argued that some people don’t like what they did to squeeze the lower of the sampling rates of MQA into the relatively low bitstream rate of Red Book (after all, MQA can be streamed at different data rates). Similarly, it could (equally) be argued that some don’t like upsampling.
Audio formats have many similar debates going on (analogue vs digital, DSD vs PCM). But, isn’t that the nature of innovation? If we stifle innovation (whether the idea survives or not), we’ll never move forward.
FWIW As someone who has followed Meridian for many years, I believe Bob Stuart’s driving force was the music and appeared to be a genuine passion of his
There are approx 5m Tidal users worldwide compared to several hundred million users of other streaming services .
So one could argue the MQA platform has very limited scale.
And yet nearly every major DAC manufacturer has incorporated MQA ( apart from Linn, Naim and Chord ).
My question is , why would any company ( including dCS ) take the time and effort to be MQA compatible when the number of MQA users is so much smaller ? Could it be that the engineers and technicians at these esteemed companies understand and appreciate the technology a little better than a YouTube blogger ?
My personal experience with MQA has been very positive. If I play a DSD file from my Astell Kern SP1000 DAP / Audeze LCDi4 earphones and then compare it to the same MQA track streamed from Tidal to my router and then wifi transmitted to the same DAP I can’t hear any difference . And I think that’s quite remarkable . Note I have my hearing tested every year.
Where I think MQA is open to criticism is the marketing hyperbole (it was never meant to sound better than high res , just transmitted more efficiently ) and poor communication eg explaining what is a decoder / renderer and what is being folded / unfolded .
Personally I hope the technology survives one way or the another.
Actually, in that post I wasn’t debating the merits of MQA or otherwise. All I was stating is that Bob, despite his stellar credentials, felt the need to obscure the fact that MQA is lossy (at least to consumers, no doubt manufactures who implemented MQA knew full well). Once the truth came out, he didn’t deny it.
Like Jeremy, I’m an ex-Meridian component owner (CD transport), and I have a lot of respect for Bob Stuart, especially his work at the AES with Peter Craven.
While I can understand the technical merits of MQA, in my view, there were non-proprietary technology available at the time of MQA’s inception to do everything that MQA attempted to do. Bob & team chose to go down the proprietary path for what seems to be purely commercial interest. I’m guessing the private equity folks were no doubt putting pressure on Meridian.
The Absolute Sound wrote glowing reviews, and Tidal’s marketing convinced millions of audiophiles that MQA was “better than” high res. Users started demanding it, and many manufacturers therefore gave it to them, meeting demand. 5MM users is not a lot to Spotify, you are correct, but it is a huge amount to dCS.
No. And if you have the occasion to speak to some of those engineers, and they are candid, many will absolutely torch MQA.
If I am being most generous, MQA elegantly solved a bandwidth problem. The vast majority of the developed world does not have a bandwidth problem.
When MQA was being developed, I suspect it was still an issue (both on CD’s and with streaming across the internet). However, the diminishing need for this was mentioned as a caution in their last accounts.
I still believe that the work they tried to do to account for imperfect frequency response in the original analogue to digital convertors used is to be applauded. As did their admission that the sampling rate needed increasing to maximise the stereo imaging (for a long time, they’d said that 96kHz was all you needed).
Whatever ultimately happens with MQA, I think the discussion that ensued helped move the industry forward.
I’ve always judged MQA on how it sounds in reality through my Meridian system, rather than its technical prowess, and don’t yet have enough information on the technical side of MQA to form an opinion on what Bob Stuart was saying in this video.
What I would say, however, is that he did (separately) make the point that all digital audio is lossy. My feeling is the boundary could become blurred when adding compressed information that otherwise wouldn’t be there on a 16 bit CD (vs MP3 which throws information away) and is recovered when playing back music through an MQA decoder.
On the other hand, an MQA CD that has information hidden in noise beneath the sound floor, but reduces the resolution to somewhere a little above 15 bits might pee some off if they don’t have an MQA decoder. Yet, isn’t this what dithering does anyway (adding low level noise to the least significant bit)?
I’m sure I’ll be more informed when I’ve been able to watch more of the videos on this topic, however it might all become a moot point if MQA did fail.
The subject of this thread is MQA being placed in administration . Whether or not it sounds any good or to what extent it is lossy are not the main subjects. What is is an annual turnover of £ 660K against annual administrative cost of £4.5m. Something comparable year after year. The main ( sole?) investor gives a period to allow rectification and when this expires walks.
I think it’s reasonable for people to explore some potential reasons behind MQA Ltd being placed in administration, however I agree wholeheartedly that the ~£4 million annual loss would likely be a significant factor.