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

Hi keiserrg,

Don’t worry, I am happy to agree to disagree, but all technical proof and disproof aside.

If users prefer the MQA versions over the normal version, even if the only thing Tidal added was the use of cables sprinkled with stardust, it still is a better format to them.

The discussion lossless or lossy is valid, and to me. MQA is lossy, but a very clever lossy and with the main reason to lower bandwidth, add something good to it (the theory behind the smearing) and yes make money. I actually have more problems with the business mentality of Jay-Z behind Tidal and all the negative reports.

But that is behind us as Jay-Z sold his 80% share in Tidal two months ago for a whopping $350m, not bad for an investment of $56m 5 years ago. In my opinion most of that money should go to the artists that are available on Tidal.

But going back to making money. Dolby did the same with their noise reduction decades ago. Not exactly the same, but apply a filter to increase the high frequency level at recording and do the opposite at playback to remove band noise especially for low speed very narrow tape like a tape cassette. It was based on the fact that in music there is no full-scale information at 15kHz, so no risk at overloading the tape when applying gain at high frequencies. Was that lossless? No there is no such thing as a lossless analog recording and you can as well debate if the extra filters that were in the chain added artefacts. But still it was perceived as better audio. And Dolby made a lot of money doing that … I can only respect that.

My Audio Research LS28 tube pre-amp measures less good on our Audio Precision System 2 than my previous Audionet solid state based pre-amp I had before. So in fact the LS28 is more lossy than the Audionet. But I prefer the LS28, and I am not a tube lover perse, it just sounded better and yes it was double the price (not in cost for sure).

Do we pay for MQA? Tidal family costs 29,95 Euro/m and Qobuz family costs $29,16 Euro/m in the Netherlands. Both allowing for 6 users, so I miss the point that we have to pay extra for it.

And I am not debating one over the other, do what you like and foremost enjoy the music.

What am I missing here?


1 Like

Since you have asked: “What am I missing here?” I will give a short reply:

MQA markets its product as an authenticated Master. This is a lie. An easily provable lie. It’s definitely not an authenticated Master. It is a lossy rendition of the master. As a result, MQA and Tidal’s entire marketing scheme is a lie. This is on Tidal’s website right now:

“TIDAL HiFi Plus is the only service that allows you to listen to music in lossless high fidelity audio, Authenticated Master Quality audio, and immersive audio formats all in one place.”

If people want to enjoy compressed, lossy formats, great, do that. It’s (partially) a free world (in the West), and people should do what they like. Buy a Rossini and run Mahler in MP3! It’s your equipment and I’m sure it will sound “great.”

Just don’t go to the studios, lie to them and the public, and try to force a lossy standard on the world at the expense of true high res audio.

That’s what MQA is doing and that’s the problem.

1 Like

I’m sorry, that’s simply not true. Their DAC processes MQA just fine with their Network Bridge II card installed. And inasmuch as their DAC utilizes a FPGA, it enjoys quite regular upgradeability (more than we see with our dCS equipment, BTW). Both physical and software upgrades. Hmm. Sounds plenty flexible to me.

Paul and PSA have always made it clear that they don’t like the MQA biz model, but that they would support it for their customers. It’s really not appropriate to slur other manufacturers based on inaccurate data.


Hi Keiserrg,
I hope we can agree to disagree.
A lot of MQA users prefer the MQA file over other files, I do as well.
In the end that is what counts … marketing outings aside.
Bob does very clearly react to the article above here:

(I am not debating your statement here, but the false results of the original article)
Take care,
1 Like

Okay, I misunderstood.
I thought Paul stated that their streamer is MQA compatible (not a real achievement) but their DACs would not have any unfolding or rendering as that would jeopardize the quality of non MQA streams (which is absolute not true)

1 Like

I read the posted response you reference. In my opinion this is more of the same BS, consistent with other reviewer. Bob’s response–the post–points the reader to footnote 1, which in turn directs the reader to three more sources.

This is how MQA itself chooses to address two very simple question of it’s lossy codec:

a) Is MQA really lossless?

• b) MQA isn’t lossless?

Answers: • a & b) This question often seems to assume that lossless is always best but in fact all “lossless” does is to take some bits and to reproduce those same bits at another time or place. It that’s all you wanted to do, FLAC would be fine and there would be no need for MQA. The team behind MQA understand not only lossless compression but also lossless processing and data burying. [3][11][13][21] (footnote 7)

There is a fundamental difficulty if we focus solely on strict lossless delivery. It is understood that a digital distribution system (including MQA) can be lossless in distribution and therefore requires lossless delivery. The problem is that the result is not delivered today; current DACs do not have lossless behavior in the digital domain and all behave differently. Also the replay chain has several (sometimes unintended) places where losslessness breaks down. This is covered in our papers. [1][2].

Why not simply:
(a) publish the bit stream from a source file
(b) compare it to the unfolded MQA bit stream
© release the results

When someone is telling the truth they answer questions directly, succinctly, not with paragraphs and paragraphs of BS and more and more obtuse references to their own research, and never to independent reviews.

New video from Paul, CEO of PS Audio: “MQA is a lossy compression scheme.”

1 Like

Just so. MQA, as a company, does not act or speak transparently. That is very [pun intended] clear. That doesn’t mean that people can’t enjoy the product. Two different things. And here, yes we can agree to disagree. Before I ditched Tidal, I heard some MQA that didn’t sound bad. But no longer. And while it is conceivable that the bits MQA chooses to discard are inaudible, it doesn’t change the fact that it’s not lossless. I prefer not to have others make those decisions for me.

1 Like

A long time ago (but still in this galaxy) I adopted the position of not putting my ego in front of my wallet. It certainly worked great for business, but I’ve since adapted it to other domains, such as, among others, music. Life is tremendously short and I have nothing to gain by discounting technologies like MQA purely on account of what it may or may not be doing internally. If my eardrums are tickled in a pleasant way, I’ll take that as a win and carry on happily :slight_smile:


I think that’s good advice, but I don’t think it’s ego we’re talking about here. For me, it’s just principle. I don’t always have the luxury of choosing to do business only with ethical companies. In the case of MQA, I do. So far.

1 Like

Sound quality debates aside, in my very personal opinion, based on Meridian’s early statements when MQA was first launched, their real motivation was to try and lock the music streaming industry into a licensing scheme similar to what Meridian tried to do with MLP for DVD-Audio.

Arguably, they haven’t “invented” anything that can’t be achieved through other standards and techniques that existed well before MQA; FLAC, HDCD, MPEG-4 SLS, etc etc.


Agreed. Thanks for your response Greg, I know you are one of the most knowledgeable people on this forum.

It would seem to me that DCS itself would actually be in a very good position to resolve this issue in a data-driven manner, by releasing a graph of the bit stream from a lossless, un-altered, high res track, and comparing it to the same from an “unfolded” MQA track… Surely DCS must have these data.

I would be very curious @support

Seconding @PaleRider here. This has nothing to do with ego.

One company, MQA, is trying to force a proprietary, lossy codec on the entire music industry, by representing that it is lossless and “The Highest Quality Audio Available” (see Tidal homepage, “About”).

This is a lie, an easily demonstrable lie.

If you prefer MQA, enjoy!, have at it, just don’t force me to do the same. That’s why people are so upset, and passionate about this topic.

One may think they are technically in a good position. However as a business and as a licensee of MQA ( no doubt with NDA in place) such a thing would be inadvisable given the necessity of maintaining a business relationship subsequently and a risk of litigation.

Further, how would you or dCS know that the lossless track and the MQA track are from the same master ( a long standing question over provenance exists when making such comparisons)? NB: AFAIK dCS have no access to MQA encoding only decoding so could not make their own test samples.

1 Like

I wasn’t offering advice, and far be it from me to impose on others what they should or should not do. I actually don’t care one lossy bit about MQA’s (or others’ for that matter) technology and how/why they are encoding. I only care about my ears. If they like what they hear, then great! If I cared about figures on a sheet or plots on a scope I’d have saved a lot of money by just going with the best-measured device over at audiosciencereview. Then again, I don’t drink distilled water either for the sake of pure water.

Pete nailed it here. Technically, many manufacturers could provide the data, and while some have been very outspoken, most have chosen not to make this an all-out war.So long as consuming MQA remains a choice consumers can freely make, that’s probably as it should be. I just don’t want to be forced to consume or pay for MQA beyond the amortized cost for the license and technology in the products I buy.

But it can be very good for proper espresso. :wink:

I don’t always brew espresso, but when I do, I use unicorn tears.

1 Like

Actually, distilled water would be unimaginably bad for espresso. You need a certain amount of minerals to interact with the coffee.

1 Like

Yes, it’s not optimal, but “unimaginably bad” is a bit of an exaggeration. Actual distilled water, if you’ve ever tasted it, tastes sort of flat. It lacks the crispness of “natural” water. Our well water tastes great, and the plants love it. And I would not buy actual distilled water for a metal-pipe coffee system; it would gradually leach metal out of the pipes (that’s the real reason to avoid it). Good quality water makes better espresso. When I lived in the Bay Area, we had exceptional municipal water. Great for brewing espresso and beer. When I did the latter, very little mineral adjustment was required with my East Bay water for IPAs, while some porters and stouts benefitted from some added minerals. [Coors was right; it’s the water. And Coors also proved that great water does not perforce make great beer. :wink:]

But out here in the Central Valley, our well water is “off the charts” hard. [Not an exaggeration; test strips and even a good meter literally don’t have the scale to measure the hardness.] The water tastes great, but it’s not good for pipes, laundry, etc. It’s so hard that, without proper treatment, it will calcify and start dissolving a concrete pool over time. And even with treatment, we still have to drain and have our pool scrubbed every 3-5 years. So most homes require a whole-house softening system. We have a huge one that I jokingly refer to as our ICBM installation. Unfortunately, that softened water is also not good for espresso making, and I don’t love the taste. But that system, combined with an RO/DI unit produces water that is not actually distilled, but has a significantly reduced mineral content, about 50ppm of total hardness. That’s less than ideal (100-120 would be better), but it has a great taste and it works well for brewing. And my problem is that if it swings too far the other way, it’s much worse for the systems. The RO/DI units (we have two) have to be serviced every 6 months because of the significant wear that our water inflicts.)

I have a Slayer and a Speedster in my home. Both are fed the softened water that’s run through the RO/DI unit. We tried running them straight, softened, and filtered. Straight required machine descaling within 72 hours, and two of the Slayer valves had to be rebuilt. That’s a nightmare. Softened tasted bleh (technical term). What we might call “partial RO/DI” turned out to be the best Goldilocks compromise. So that what matters most now are good beans and proper pressure profiling. :coffee:


I love this forum :grin:

ICBMs, coffee, and encoding formats. Now that’s variety!

To put it back on topic: if taking one of those off the face of the planet were possible, I’d lose ICBMs before MQA, even though I’m an automatic-check-to-see-if-Qobuz-has-it-instead-of-MQA kind of person. I hope coffee can stay…