MQA? Very concerning assessment. Should I switch entire library from Tidal to Qobuz

Came across this assessment of what is really going on w MQA. Quite concerning. Been a Tidal customer for years and recently got a Rossini/Clock/Roon Nucleus+. Been happily adding albums and opting for MQA vs other options.

Sounds like I should actually be sticking w FLAC standard CD rez vs any MQA variant??

Yes, MQA is very controversial in the audiophile community. However whatever the technical arguments if you liked what you heard on Tidal yesterday then you can still like it today and tomorrow.

I don’t quite understand this as your subject is " Should I switch my entire library from Tidal to Qobuz". If you did so then you would not be stuck with CD standard streams but ( as available) true hi-res <24/192 FLACs without any of the MQA malarkey ( using dCS equipment that also includes gapless replay which is not available when playing MQA encoded files).

There are ways of transferring your playlists from Tidal to Qobuz .

The repertoire on Qobuz differs somewhat from territory to territory due to licensing issues so before commitment I would take advantage of the free period to check that what you want is there. Please do not, however, think that if it is not there today it will never be available. Qobuz adds around 10,000 albums a month so I understand.

The only issue may be whether or not you live in a country that is serviced by Qobuz. I cannot advise you on this as your profile here gives no location for you.

Thanks Pete. Let me try and be more precise. My understanding from the video is that even the high rez content on Tidal being MQA is potentially compromised relative to high rez files on Qobuz or something that I purchase as high rez from say HD Tracks. If that is the case, then if available flipping from MQA versions of content to straight up FLAC either on Tidal or Qobuz if available is the question. As I am in the process of ripping all my CDs and then filling in artist discography as I go via Tidal/Qobuz trying to make the best version choices I can. I am new to Rossini/Clock and while I am quite happy with overall performance, I have done extensive A/B comparisons of MQA/Non yet was was hoping for general guidance. Before this video I was ASSuming that MQA had advantage to straight up FLAC. Hope that helps clarify my questions. Cheers.

Sorry I have NOT done A/B comparisons of MQA vs Non.

As far as I am concerned the more MQA releases the better for me.

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The subject of MQA is a thorny one. The advocates and the sceptics are deeply entrenched. Let me say the following from a subjective objectivist’s point of view:

  • MQA is undeniably lossy (the MQA file is smaller) and the original PCM file cannot be reconstructed from the MQA file
  • The unfolded MQA file is close to the original file. Whether the differences can be heard is a question that you need to answer for yourself. Some people actually prefer the sound signature of MQA, while others detest it. How much of that preference is expectation bias is difficult to say
  • MQA makes several claims (such as being able to “deblur” a PCM signal) that are untenable. Whether or not that makes the whole MQA argumentation snake oil is an open question

There is no one right answer. You need to try for yourself which sounds better for you.
My personal conclusion after weighing the pros and cons: Why drink orange juice made from concentrate if you can have 100% fruit.

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That is my basic intuition as well. Appreciate the perspective.

I am unsure what you mean regarding " filling in the artist discography as I go" . If you mean adding the metadata ( titles, artist names etc.) then that seems a laborious way to go about it. When I ripped my own library I used dbpower amp plus the bundled PerfectTunes. This provides all of the metadata and album artwork automatically as you rip. With recent releases it is pretty accurate, with older ones it may be necessary to edit but even then you will find that most of the work has been done for you. Not expensive ( it is a one off purchase, not an annual subscription).

Other than that tip I agree with Rudi’s latest posting above.

I have never used Tidal or listened to an MQA file, so my answer is purely theoretical. But to me, MQA is a solution in search of a problem. Given the high-speed internet to which most people have access, there is no longer any need to fold hi-res files into a lossy form. As a result, Qobuz – which I use – has a more direct path to delivering files.

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What I mean by filling in is for example I have 4 The English Beat CDs. As I am ripping I will go and look at other albums by The English Beat that I do not physically possess and add to my ‘virtual’ collection. I have based on previous assumption gone with MQA versions on Tidal. After a better understanding of what is really happening format wise, I believe standard FLAC or true high rez (non MQA) versions are theoretically anyway a better choice. Again new to Rossini/Roon virtual streaming world but as I am sitting in my home office working (and ripping/adding to album collection) want to make best choice of which versions I add.

To be honest I wouldn’t really regard that as part of a “collection”. All that you have aside from your rips is links. Just add which albums/formats you prefer to your links ( which is all that a list of favourites or a playlist in a streaming service is). You have no commitment and they can be changed as easily as your preferences change or as titles can come and go on streaming services ( which they do and will continue to do so). So selecting the optimum version is not that important as it can always be discarded and changed for another.

If you want a bona fide personal collection then support the artist by paying for the album and downloading it. NB: everything on Qobuz can be purchased and downloaded. If you want to do it with often significant discounts then select the Studio Sublime option.

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Towards the end of the video there is the MQA response to his findings and statements. He puts them aside as being marketing bla bla…

Kudos to you if you can understand the matter, but nevertheless I think it is fair as to at least try to get the depth of where this all is about. As it is impossible to read the MQA response in the video, here it is:

This for sure is not a correct statement. FLAC is smaller than WAV, but lossless.

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ceci-nest-pas-une-pipe1-e1502441198132

Your statement is undeniably correct.
:grinning:

At the risk of contributing to making this thread grow like the ones on the Roon forum, I would like to expand a bit on what I meant (non native speaker here).

https://www.soundonsound.com/techniques/mqa-time-domain-accuracy-digital-audio-quality

Quote from the article:

Taking all of these things into account, the MQA format approaches the efficiency problem from the standpoint of matching the encoding format to the capabilities and requirements of the human auditory system, focusing on the relevant and wanted information without wasting resources on the irrelevant aspects.

The relevant words been “irrelevant aspects”.

Why is this discussion of lossy vs. lossless a subject of such controversy. It’s because the two camps use “lossy” or “lossless” in different ways.

When I say lossy, I mean that the complete high resolution PCM source signal cannot be replicated from the MQA file. Contrary to FLAC compression / decompression, the MQA origami cannot be reversed without loss of information.
When Bob Stuart says lossless, he refers to his opinion that the unfolded stream is perceptually indistinguishable from the high resolution PCM file, hence in his definition “lossless”.
No wonder this discussion can never end, as both sides implicitly use different definitions of the word lossless. MQA are very careful to never making their definition of lossless explicit.

There is a second meaning of lossless that MQA use and that is perceptual losslessness (=accuracy) over the whole recording / reproduction chain. See Bob’s discussion of the white glove treatments, where certain errors of the recording process are corrected during reproduction.

I find this white glove approach truly fascinating. Unfortunately it can only be used in very few instances. Actually only two examples were ever done.

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I’m curious about the motivation of your comment.

A well respected audiophile posts a highly technical analysis of MQA’s format, corroborating the work of many others, and pointing out what most of us have known for years: that MQA/Meridian (and Tidal) are lying to the public. MQA is absolutely not an authenticated Master, is definitely lossy, and it introduces noise into the audio stream. Your response is, effectively, the more the merrier.

Neil Young recently stated: “MQA is not my master” and pulled titles off of Tidal.

Here’s another good video on MQA, by Paul McGowan, CEO of PS Audio, at 1:05:

We support MQA in our steaming products, but not in our DACs, because MQA requires changes to our D to A converters that we are unwilling to make because we don’t want to compromise their performance or their sound.

The motivation of my comment? I have yet to find a MQA recording that sounds worse than it’s 16/44 counterpart and in virtually all cases it sounds better.

It’s too bad you seem to require the affirmation of others before you can decide whether you hear the benefits of MQA.

Your examples of Young and McGowan are not exactly individuals who represent the state of the art in audio reproduction. Their opinions will have no more impact than yours or mine as to the long term viability of MQA.

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Got it.

What are the specific benefits you see: Lossy format, noise, proprietary codec, un-authenticated master?

Why not focus on the content of the reviews. Do you have anything to refute? Any technical analysis that rebuts the published results? Any data to cite?

It’s about the end result and that is better sound The rest doesn’t matter.

Over five years in and all the complainers haven’t had any impact as we continue to get more music and more options in gear.

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Hi Forum,

As an owner of a Bartok, and in all honesty a fan of MQA, as it was one of the first methods to get hires audio streamed to the home I would like to react on this clip about this controversial streaming method.

I saw the GoldenSounds clip and it started all friendly and it looked well investigated and funded. Unfortunately, it ended in bashing Tidal and MQA what I found very unprofessional.

I read the reply from MQA attached in this thread but none of the arguments were handled by GoldenSounds. I found the reply thorough and friendly.

For me, the reasoning behind MQA makes a lot of sense. A 192/24 stream/file has a tremendous amount of unused space when filled with regular music. Anything below 120dB is not derived from the source and there is a lot of unused inaudible space in the highs. So making clever use of this “free” space or remove this unused space makes sense.

The statement that the western world has access to 5Mb/s streaming is just not true. there are plenty areas where this is the limit and considered that in the same family some members will look at Netflix, play an online game or are in a zoom meeting makes lowering the bitstream bandwidth a good thing.

MQA went a step further in correcting smearing artifacts that the AD/DA process has especially in lower cost DACs where I think MQA has the biggest effect.

I have done some extensive listening test comparing a few of my 2500 own ripped CD’s by the Tidal MQA alternatives and in most cases I preferred the MQA version, in some the difference was small with no real preference but on average more natural, less clinical. Again, in the end it is very subjective. I was not present to listen to the original Mix in the mastering studio so I have no reference which version is closest to the original. And even if I was, I think my reproduction set after the Bartok (the amp and speakers and don’t forget the room) will have a much larger influence to the final sound than the difference between MQA and non MQA.

The statement of Paul McGowan of PS Audio is just an excuse that their products cannot be upgraded.

There is no technical sound quality reason why you should avoid MQA decoding capabilities to a DAC as it will not influence non MQA signals. It means that the design lacks the additional processing power to perform the unfolding and rendering. I think dCS here can confirm this statement. If PS Audio could, they would have added it as it would mean more sales. There are buyers out there that will not buy a product that is not MQA compatible. I am one of them.

In the end it is all about the objective and subjective pleasure you get from the music and I enjoy my ripped files (incredible how some normal red-book CD sound), native HD files that I bought and the streaming services from Tidal.

Cheers,

Peter

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Respectfully Pete, I believe your post misses the point.

We already have high res audio, it’s the un-altered lossless source file in AIFF, FLAC (or other) formats.

MQA and Tidal want to replace these formats with a proprietary, lossy format, that you have to pay for.

To execute this fraud they need a “story”, enter Master Quality Authenticated. They state that this is the closest thing to the master. They - are - lying, demonstrably lying. It is not the master, it is an origami (their words) folded, lossy and unfolded version. They even write in their letter reply to GoldenSound that it’s up to the submitter to verify the quality, not them. The MQA stamp is meaningless, other than to let you know it’s an altered, lossy format. GoldenSound’s review, and countless others, point out the same thing.

As @jacobacci writes, why have orange juice from concentrate, when you can have 100% real juice.

MQA is just an attempt by one company to deceive the public and profit from it.

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