• The Computer Audiophile

    MQA (for civilians)

    At CES 2017 Tidal announced it was streaming MQA masters and MQA Ltd announced software decoding of the MQA signal. Two big items for all of us who enjoy music. Immediately the questions and conjecture started flowing. It's human nature. We ask questions and make guesses about what's happening, when we don't have all the information.

     

    Shortly after the announcements I setup a meeting with MQA's Bob Stuart to get more details about decoding MQA signals. I wanted to know the differences between software and hardware decoding and where rendering comes into play, in addition to many other items.

     

    A PhD isn't required to enjoy MQA. This article is my attempt at explaining how decoding and rendering work, from a civilian perspective. Most of us have seen the music origami graphs and deep technical explanations, but have no idea what any of the information actually means for us, enjoying music at home or on the go. I want to help members of the CA community understand how to get the best sound quality out of MQA.

     

     

     

    From The Distribution File Forward

     

    Currently MQA music is offered through online stores for purchase and download, and through Tidal for streaming. I'm willing to bet more music will be available through both channels and both channels will have more outlets in the coming months.

     

    Consumers purchasing or streaming MQA music will see either 24 bit / 44.1 kHz or 24 bit / 48 kHz files without playing the audio (16 bit MQA files are outside the scope of this discussion). These are what's called the distribution files. They have been through the MQA process that deblurs and folds them into a smaller package, readying them for transport and playback on almost any device.

     

    The MQA distribution file, the file that's actually purchased or streamed, is like a chameleon. In its packaged state the files are 44.1 or 48 kHz, but decoded and rendered the files can expand into the highest supported sample rate of the digital to analog converter inside the DAC..

     

     

    Real world example:

     

    1. The studio creates a track at 24 bit / 352.8 kHz DXD.

    2. The studio uses the MQA process on the track, packaging it as 24 bit / 44.1 kHz.

    3. The consumer purchases or streams the 24 bit / 44.1 kHz track.

    4. The consumer's playback system decodes and renders the track at 24 bit / 352.8 kHz DXD.

     

     

     

    Squeezing The Best Quality From MQA Music

     

    With the aforementioned real world example in mind, let's look at how to play MQA music and how to get the best sound quality possible. There are four "ways" to play MQA music. I use the word "ways" for lack of a better, more specific term.

     

     

    A. No decoder

    B. Software / Core Decoding

    C. Software / Core Decoding with Hardware Rendering

    D. Hardware Full Decoding

     

     

     

    No Decoder

     

    Similar to a dual layer SACD that plays the CD layer in a standard CD player and the Super Audio layer in an SACD player, MQA music is playable through almost any playback system, but the highest quality is only possible with the appropriate solution.

     

    Playing MQA on a system without a decoder, will enable the consumer to hear the 24 bit / 44.1 kHz (or 24 bit / 48 kHz) version of the music in the example above. According to MQA Ltd, playing the un-decoded version still enables the consumer to benefit from the deblurring processes used in the creation or folding of the track.

     

    Examples of systems without decoders are plentiful in this early phase of record labels rolling out MQA music. JRiver Media Center, Amarra, HQPlayer and many others are applications that don't decode MQA. In addition, most hardware on Earth doesn't decode MQA at this time.

     

    One scenario that may confuse consumers, is when an MQA renderer is present without a software or hardware decoder. This will result in an un-decoded signal exactly as it would without the MQA renderer. The 44.1 or 48 kHz version of the file will play, undecoded. One example of this is the upcoming AudioQuest DragonFly (updated Red and Black versions). Without a decoder in the playback chain, an MQA renderer has no effect on the audio.

     

    No-decoder.png

     

     

     

    Software / Core Decoding

     

     

    MQA is a whole host of processes and technologies, but for purposes of this civilian discussion, let's look at it as three processes. MQA files can be 1. Fully decoded, 2. Software / core decoded, and 3. Rendered. Software decoding is capable of exactly what its name suggests, decoding MQA. Rendering must be done in hardware because it is custom matched to the DAC system.

     

    Software decoding, what MQA Ltd calls core decoding, provides what I consider to be about 90% of the MQA benefits. Decoding in software unfolds / unpacks the music to a maximum of twice the base sample rate, 88.2 or 96, for either analog or digital output.

     

    EQ, bass management, and other non-MQA DSP can take place after core decoding.

     

    Using the real world example above, the Tidal desktop application, Audirvana, and soon Roon would decode the MQA 24/44.1 distribution file and unpack it to 24/88.2. This can be output digitally to any DAC, digitally to an MQA DAC for rendering, or output as analog audio.

     

    Another example can be seen when streaming Beyonce's album Lemonade. The MQA distribution file is packed to 24/44.1 and the decoded file is also 24/44.1. The album must have been recorded at 24/44.1 and the studio is being honest with us, rather than upsampling it to 88.2 or higher.

     

    When a master is 44.1 or 48 kHz, the core decoder Authenticates, decodes full dynamic range and matches to the current PC playback settings. (Depending on the soundcard and audio configuration, the Tidal App may decode this example to 44.1k or a provide a compatible 88.2k output for smoother playlisting). If you select Passthough, the raw 44.1/24b MQA file is passed downstream to a decoder. For music where the original sample rate is 88.2k or higher, the core output is always either 88.2 or 96kHz.

     

    Note that other Apps and products implementing Tidal may be subtly different.

     

    core-decoder.png

     

     

     

     

     

    Software / Core Decoding with Hardware Rendering

     

     

    The third way to play MQA music is through a software decoder and a hardware renderer. As you read above, MQA has three process required for the full MQA experience, 1. Full Decoding, 2. Software / core decoding, and 3. Rendering. In this method of playback, a combination of software and hardware is used to deliver all that MQA has to offer. Don't ever use this as the answer to an MQA exam question, but you can think of it this way - software / core decoding serves up the file and hardware rendering hits it out of the park.

     

    Everyone looking to get the best sound from MQA music will want to use this method or the all hardware method discussed last. In this method, the core decoded MQA file is passed from a software application to the MQA hardware renderer.

     

    Using the real world example above, the Tidal desktop application, Audirvana, and soon Roon would decode the MQA 24/44.1 distribution file and unpack it to 24/88.2. This file is output from a computer via USB or S/PDIF or even a phone via Lightning or USB on-the-go, to the hardware renderer. For this example, we'll output via USB to an AudioQuest DragonFly. The core decoded file enters the DragonFly at 24/88.2, then expands to the full 24/352.8 kHz resolution of the original studio master file.

     

    Readers familiar with the DragonFly will know that the DragonFly supports audio up through 24/96. However, that's only on its USB interface. Internally the DAC goes up through 768 kHz. MQA enables the audio to duck its head to get under the door frame, before standing straight up once again. Kind of like a balloon as well. Squeeze the middle of a long balloon and the two ends will get larger while the middle shrinks. The two ends are the studio master file and the fully decoded MQA file, while the middle is the packed undecoded MQA file.

     

    The above method is a really good way to work around the lack of USB Audio Class 2 driver support in many Windows operating systems and to get around interface sample rate limitations. It's possible to play 24/352.8 on a class 1 device and without custom drivers.

     

    What happens when using software / core decoding and hardware that's capable of full decoding like the Meridian Explorer2? If desired, it's possible to use an app like Tidal to do the core decoding and send the MQA signal to the DAC for rendering only. If the Explorer2 is fed with an MQA core (decoded) signal, it only does the rendering.

     

    Note about renderers: There are no generic MQA renderers, as each one is custom designed for each piece of hardware. According to MQA Ltd, the analog output is custom tuned for each device to most closely recreate the sound heard in the studio. As always, you'll have to be the judge to see if the marketing matches the end result.

     

    One additional piece of information that fits somewhere between this section and the next, systems like Meridian that run digital to the loudspeakers, send a core decoded stream to the speakers before final rendering separately for each drive unit. This core decoding takes place in hardware / software loaded on Meridian hardware.

     

    core-decoder.png

    render.png

     

     

     

     

    Full Decoding (Hardware Only)

     

     

    There's not much more to say about this one. Full decoding is only possible in hardware and it's considered the full monty. Both aspects of core decoding and rendering are controlled by a single manufacturer and the requirements for third party software are gone. The final analog output however, is theoretically identical to a software / core decode and hardware render. We'll have to see once more opinions come in from people testing both methods.

     

    A DAC or home theater processor capable of full decoding can receive an untouched MQA file (distribution file or stream) or a core decoded file from a software decoder, for rendering only. I'm not sure why anyone would prefer to use a software decoder when s/he has a full decoder in hardware, but it's entirely possible.

     

    All details about the renderer hold true for a full decoder. Very custom and tuned to each hardware device.

     

    A note about this tuning for each DAC. I've talked to many manufacturers who have products in the process of MQA certification. Every one of them says the process is thorough and a bit demanding, often requiring many updates to hardware and firmware until everything is as close to the target as possible. This piece isn't marketing, it's all based on engineering.

     

    Using the above real world example, any software or hardware capable of sending a bit perfect audio stream to an MQA DAC with a full decoder, will work just fine. The DAC must see either a core decoded stream or undecoded stream without alteration.

     

    full-decoder.png

     

     

    Let There Be Light

     

     

    Whether playing MQA content fully decoded, core decoded and rendered, or just core decoded, an MQA DAC or application will always signal the file is true to what the record label released. If it's MQA it will illuminate a blue/green light.

     

    When I first investigated MQA I knew the blue authentication light on MQA DACs was helpful in identifying bit perfect output to the DAC, but I thought the whole authentication piece was unneeded. However, I've since learned that the music supply chain is full of challenges and less than stellar versions of our favorite albums (some related to up/down sampling). Much of this isn't malicious, it's just a matter of large companies with many people involved who may not know exactly what's going on. MQA has the ability to provide record labels with a single deliverable file and the consumer can verify this is the file s/he plays back at home. It's a cool concept.

     

    Conclusion

     

     

    Enjoying MQA music isn't rocket science, but it takes a little education to make the right choices. Obtaining the best quality MQA playback requires either a combination of software decoding and hardware rendering or a full decoding DAC. Fortunately, I believe 90% of MQA's benefits can be realized by only using a software decoder, called core decoding. Now that some of our favorite music is available in MQA, it's time we listen for a while rather than talk over the music. Set your systems up right and press play.

     

     

     

     

     

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    Edited by The Computer Audiophile

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    Because FLAC wins. MQA doesn't even try to preserve more than about 18 bits at 96 kHz. If the original is reduced to that resolution, FLAC performs better than MQA. Miska tested this quite thoroughly.

     

    May be I missed something. Why 18 bit (not other)?

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    There is an option within MQA to encrypt the entire audio stream making it completely unplayable on incompatible hardware. Is that not DRM?

     

    Again, DRM of what? Something that isn't the original anyway, and that people have repeatedly explained cannot be considered as good as the original (for some audible or inaudible value of "good"). So this isn't traditional DRM in the sense of locking away the "family jewels," when what's being locked away are rhinestones. Would you care whatsoever that arguably inferior MQA encoded content was "locked down" if you were assured of a continuing market for original RedBook and hi res and DACs to play these formats?

     

    Thus the question: If locking away content everyone would want to get at is *not* the purpose of this crypto (and in fact the crypto isn't very strong), then what *is* its purpose? I've speculated the answer may be to make a better copyright violation case. But as traditional DRM, this picture just doesn't hang together.

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    Again, DRM of what? Something that isn't the original anyway, and that people have repeatedly explained cannot be considered as good as the original (for some audible or inaudible value of "good"). So this isn't traditional DRM in the sense of locking away the "family jewels," when what's being locked away are rhinestones. Would you care whatsoever that arguably inferior MQA encoded content was "locked down" if you were assured of a continuing market for original RedBook and hi res and DACs to play these formats?

     

    Thus the question: If locking away content everyone would want to get at is *not* the purpose of this crypto (and in fact the crypto isn't very strong), then what *is* its purpose? I've speculated the answer may be to make a better copyright violation case. But as traditional DRM, this picture just doesn't hang together.

    Are you saying it's ok with DRM since it's only an inferior version of the original which they're not letting you have at all? Not only are they withholding the top quality, they're locking down (no open source players, no DSP etc.) the limited version they're willing to release, and you're somehow ok with that? I know you're not stupid, so that leaves wilfully ignorant.

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    I have no idea what you just said.

    Sorry, I left out the key words "in true high resolution". I just think that MQA will become the preferred method for the studios to provide a high resolution experience to those who desire it without having to release the actual high resolution master file. This will likely be especially true with new music from A list artists with high sales potential.

     

    Only time will tell and I could be entirely wrong but that is my guess.

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    IF (note the all caps) we are assured that there will be a continuing availability of RB CD and Hi-res and equipment, then MQA is just another proprietary format. I'm pretty well convinced, especially after the buy in by Sprint, that MQA is a play for the wireless (cellular) streaming market. Many reasons... MQA (Meridian) sure isn't going to get rich selling licenses to high end DAC manufacturers, they may be getting a royalty from Tidal but unless that goes yuuuuuuge there can't be enough $ in it, and MQA must have invested yuuuuuuuuuuuuge $ in developing this and marketing / selling it to the labels. Think of one of the few things that has yuuuuuuuuuuuge numbers of users - mobile phones. And the carriers aren't making much $ these days while continually having to invest yuuuuuge in infrastructure.

     

    We can imagine that the Sprint deal has been in the works for a long time, maybe even predating the Tidal / MQA deal. Tidal hasn't had to invest yuuuuuuuuuuge. All carriers are scraping for any increase in subscribers and revenue streams. Was Sprint talking to Tidal as the rev stream prior to MQA coming out? Because MQA was coming to Tidal? Interesting questions that may point us to the real motivations. How Sprint actually sees getting the revenue steam out of this would also be interesting to know. Tidal app pre-bundled on all their phones? Easy to write the MQA process into an app for the DACs in the phones Sprint carries - full monty decoding - and make it proprietary maybe.

     

     

    Sent from my iPad using Computer Audiophile

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    Looks like folks at Bluesound need a primer on MQA. Here is a response I got from support inquiring if Bluesound DACs are hardware decoders.

     

    -------------

    Q: Tell me about bluesound and MQA. Are BlueSound devices full hardware decoders or do they depend on software decoding on a core machine?

     

    A: Thank you for contacting Bluesound.

     

    Neither and both. Bluesound Players are the core software decoding machine. They will fully decode MQA content and render MQA using their internal DACs. If you wish to use an external DAC on the Bluesound NODE or VAULT (withe Gen1 or Gen2), they will pass decoded MQA to those DACs. MQA DACs will unfold to their fullest potential. Non MQA compliant DACs will output at 24/48.

     

    Bluesound Internal DACs will output up to 24/192.

     

    Thank you for your interest in #LivingHiFi

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    Thanks Chris

    A concise, understandable breakdown of MQA was sorely needed. All of the info is in one place now.

     

    Let me say it in even more understandable way. MQA is an elaborate coding/packaging technology where the goal is to make higher resolutions audio available in a progressive way. So that such audio can be protected from piracy. So that equipment and services can be sold. From MQA, CD quality does not require decoding, higher resolutions require proprietary decoders in a 3-step (meaning 3 price level) offerings.

     

    MQA quality is less than the originals in all of its resolution settings (including CD), but unless the users are alert with fancy equipment they probably won't notice it. It's a gamble.

     

    MQA is an audio packing technology to make money out of higher resolution recordings and associated equipment and services. Take the fear of copying out of producers, entice them with revenue opportunities. But of course owner of MQA takes a cut in everything. Just like Apple. But what do the buyers get?

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    Your comment that software core decoding gives you 90% of the benefit is, I assume, your subjective assessment. Have you compared software-decoded MQA played on a non-MQA DAC to that same distribution file played on an MQA-enabled DAC or MQA renderer after core decoding (maybe on your Berkeley Alpha DAC Reference Series 2)?

    Chris, since Berkeley has released their MQA update, can you please try to answer this question?

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    I went to CanJam NYC on Sunday. I swung by the Audioquest booth and asked when would the MQA firmware be available. Some nitwit tells me "Well it is currently with Microsoft, they want to make sure it works in the Android operating system." Idiots should be muzzled and kept in the back room! Good lord! Makes me question Audioquest as a whole!

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    Looks like folks at Bluesound need a primer on MQA. Here is a response I got from support inquiring if Bluesound DACs are hardware decoders.

     

    -------------

    Q: Tell me about bluesound and MQA. Are BlueSound devices full hardware decoders or do they depend on software decoding on a core machine?

     

    A: Thank you for contacting Bluesound.

     

    Neither and both. Bluesound Players are the core software decoding machine. They will fully decode MQA content and render MQA using their internal DACs. If you wish to use an external DAC on the Bluesound NODE or VAULT (withe Gen1 or Gen2), they will pass decoded MQA to those DACs. MQA DACs will unfold to their fullest potential. Non MQA compliant DACs will output at 24/48.

     

    Bluesound Internal DACs will output up to 24/192.

     

    Thank you for your interest in #LivingHiFi

     

     

    "Neither and both," eh?

     

     

    No doubt it is also the sound of one hand clapping (Grasshopper).

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    Looks like folks at Bluesound need a primer on MQA. Here is a response I got from support inquiring if Bluesound DACs are hardware decoders.

     

    -------------

    Q: Tell me about bluesound and MQA. Are BlueSound devices full hardware decoders or do they depend on software decoding on a core machine?

     

    A: Thank you for contacting Bluesound.

     

    Neither and both. Bluesound Players are the core software decoding machine. They will fully decode MQA content and render MQA using their internal DACs. If you wish to use an external DAC on the Bluesound NODE or VAULT (withe Gen1 or Gen2), they will pass decoded MQA to those DACs. MQA DACs will unfold to their fullest potential. Non MQA compliant DACs will output at 24/48.

     

    Bluesound Internal DACs will output up to 24/192.

     

    Thank you for your interest in #LivingHiFi

     

    The Bluesound players include a software decoder (as if there were any other kind) and renderer. They can either do a full decode/render and play on the internal DAC or pass the decoded "core" to an external DAC (with or without MQA "rendering" ability) at 24/96 (or 24/88). In principle they could output a fully "rendered" stream digitally, but presumably the MQA terms don't allow this. They never rely on an upstream decoder such as in the Tidal app.

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    I don't stream and probably won't. I also don't think audiophiles are gonna drive the market. Pono has failed. DSD isn't popular. All the publications and web sites rave about the latest technology and then it seems to go nowhere. We'll see with Tidal but the company seems to need cash infusions all the time.

     

    I'll mention that last comment first. The need for "cash infusions" may have come to an end. JayZ and his group of artist/investors plus bought TIDAL for $56 million. Former owner Aspiro did retain some percentage of ownership. The company recently sold 33% to Spirit for $200 million, a one-year ROI of nearly 1,100%. Sprint is said to have added its 45 million users to TIDAL's HiFi/Masters subscription rolls, initially at no extra cost to Sprint cellular users. To turn loose of $200M, Sprint suits must have liked what they heard. TIDAL has made a huge leap forward in viability as a streaming company. Also being reported is that Pandora and Spotify are working on improving the SQ of their product. Bottomline: this is a win-win for streaming music consumers.

    ______________________

     

    Clearly, the 'divide' among music listeners is between those who have built expensive-yet-limited digital libraries and those who have not (Streamers).

     

    I find some younger "Audiophile" types tend to link their identity and emotional well-being to feelings of superiority (pride), when they encounter or engage so-called "run-of-the-mill" music consumers (Streamers). In their mind, Streamers supposedly lack musical taste, listening skills, and technical knowledge of audio engineering. MQA threatens to blur this traditional divide/distinction.

     

    MQA also potentially threatens a huge swath of the esoteric audio hardware industry. Most of these have spent decades perfecting their 'secret sauce', upon which company and individual financial fortunes rest. Some companies who heavily marketed DSD products a year ago (e.g. PS Audio), are now 'unhighlighting' that distinction.

     

    If MQA lives up to its claims, which include a fair amount of subjective appreciation (I like the SQ I heard in a simple A/B test), then the new musical streaming reality will be around for more than a little while.

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    Chris, since Berkeley has released their MQA update, can you please try to answer this question?

     

    Where did you hear this? I don't believe it's generally available. Don't see it on their site, nor have any dealers I've spoken with received information on such a release. I'm assuming it will come in some sort of file to be used on a flash drive that is identifiable by the DAC they would make it available with documentation on their site.

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    I'll mention that last comment first. The need for "cash infusions" may have come to an end. JayZ and his group of artist/investors plus bought TIDAL for $56 million. Former owner Aspiro did retain some percentage of ownership. The company recently sold 33% to Spirit for $200 million, a one-year ROI of nearly 1,100%. Sprint is said to have added its 45 million users to TIDAL's HiFi/Masters subscription rolls, initially at no extra cost to Sprint cellular users. To turn loose of $200M, Sprint suits must have liked what they heard. TIDAL has made a huge leap forward in viability as a streaming company. Also being reported is that Pandora and Spotify are working on improving the SQ of their product. Bottomline: this is a win-win for streaming music consumers.

    ______________________

     

    Clearly, the 'divide' among music listeners is between those who have built expensive-yet-limited digital libraries and those who have not (Streamers).

     

    I find some younger "Audiophile" types tend to link their identity and emotional well-being to feelings of superiority (pride), when they encounter or engage so-called "run-of-the-mill" music consumers (Streamers). In their mind, Streamers supposedly lack musical taste, listening skills, and technical knowledge of audio engineering. MQA threatens to blur this traditional divide/distinction.

     

    MQA also potentially threatens a huge swath of the esoteric audio hardware industry. Most of these have spent decades perfecting their 'secret sauce', upon which company and individual financial fortunes rest. Some companies who heavily marketed DSD products a year ago (e.g. PS Audio), are now 'unhighlighting' that distinction.

     

    If MQA lives up to its claims, which include a fair amount of subjective appreciation (I like the SQ I heard in a simple A/B test), then the new musical streaming reality will be around for more than a little while.

     

    I don't believe the move by Sprint proves anything other than the fact that they took a risk by buying into an existing company. I don't see how providing a free service add 45 million subscribers when they don't pay. But I can see how both Sprint and Tidal will continue to hemorrhage!

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    Where did you hear this? I don't believe it's generally available. Don't see it on their site, nor have any dealers I've spoken with received information on such a release. I'm assuming it will come in some sort of file to be used on a flash drive that is identifiable by the DAC they would make it available with documentation on their site.

    My mistake. On Feb 3, Berkeley announced MQA rendering as a field installable upgrade planned for 2Q2017. There are a few details in Chris Connaker's post here

    http://www.computeraudiophile.com/f6-dac-digital-analog-conversion/berkeley-audio-design-adds-mqa-rendering-alpha-digital-analogue-converter-reference-series-2-a-31535/

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    I don't see how providing a free service add 45 million subscribers when they don't pay.

    So much cynicism and naysaying. Don't be so negative.

     

    12-13 years ago, I began using the 'free' Pandora app, then quickly switched to their nominally priced ad-free streaming and remain their loyal customer. A few years later, when MOG came along with the ability to play artists/albums, I signed up for that service as well. When MOG got mugged, I switched to TIDAL. Being retired, I stream continuously.

     

    Of the 45 million, many will become streaming music addicts like me. When 'free' runs out, they'll shop the market for a replacement, and hopefully become paid subscribers of TIDAL and its MQA quality sound. At that time, I suspect both Sprint and TIDAL will share that revenue stream.

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    So much cynicism and naysaying. Don't be so negative.

     

    12-13 years ago, I began using the 'free' Pandora app, then quickly switched to their nominally priced ad-free streaming and remain their loyal customer. A few years later, when MOG came along with the ability to play artists/albums, I signed up for that service as well. When MOG got mugged, I switched to TIDAL. Being retired, I stream continuously.

     

    Of the 45 million, many will become streaming music addicts like me. When 'free' runs out, they'll shop the market for a replacement, and hopefully become paid subscribers of TIDAL and its MQA quality sound. At that time, I suspect both Sprint and TIDAL will share that revenue stream.

     

    You're negative on the audiophile industry because you think everyone will love streaming because you're gaga over it.

     

    I hope MQA fails because I feel it will leave us with no choice but MQA only. And that's what MQA wants. I don't believe they think it's better than hi-res can be because they're touting it as saving the crown jewels.

     

    I don't do streaming because I like owning my copy of music I like, but don't think it would be bad for demoing albums I'm thinking of buying. So I'll see where it goes. But I want choice.

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    You're negative on the audiophile industry because you think everyone will love streaming because you're gaga over it.

     

    I hope MQA fails because I feel it will leave us with no choice but MQA only. And that's what MQA wants. I don't believe they think it's better than hi-res can be because they're touting it as saving the crown jewels.

     

    I don't do streaming because I like owning my copy of music I like, but don't think it would be bad for demoing albums I'm thinking of buying. So I'll see where it goes. But I want choice.

     

    Silly statements, labjr. I'm not "negative" on the audiophile industry nor do I believe streaming is for everyone. Like yourself, I'm for "choice" as well as seeing all things audio flourish. I don't see this as an either/or proposition. If folks like yourself continue to fork out $$$ for hi-res libraries, producers will continue to produce what consumers want. Under capitalism, it's supply and demand thing. I believe your fears (paranoia?) are unfounded.

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    Silly statements, labjr. I'm not "negative" on the audiophile industry nor do I believe streaming is for everyone. Like yourself, I'm for "choice" as well as seeing all things audio flourish. I don't see this as an either/or proposition. If folks like yourself continue to fork out $$$ for hi-res libraries, producers will continue to produce what consumers want. Under capitalism, it's supply and demand thing. I believe your fears (paranoia?) are unfounded.

     

    Traditionally in the music production industry several formats exists simultaneously.

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    Silly statements, labjr. I'm not "negative" on the audiophile industry nor do I believe streaming is for everyone. Like yourself, I'm for "choice" as well as seeing all things audio flourish. I don't see this as an either/or proposition. If folks like yourself continue to fork out $$$ for hi-res libraries, producers will continue to produce what consumers want. Under capitalism, it's supply and demand thing. I believe your fears (paranoia?) are unfounded.

     

    I agree very much to your position, DanSmedra. Maybe MQA promises too much, and probably there are ways to get even closer to the original, I can't tell. But from a practical point of view, and after having done some real comparisons I think that MQA core to date offers the best experience for my budget and equipment. That's it.

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    The Bluesound players include a software decoder (as if there were any other kind) and renderer. They can either do a full decode/render and play on the internal DAC or pass the decoded "core" to an external DAC (with or without MQA "rendering" ability) at 24/96 (or 24/88). In principle they could output a fully "rendered" stream digitally, but presumably the MQA terms don't allow this. They never rely on an upstream decoder such as in the Tidal app.

     

     

    You are quite right.

    Being an engineer I always visualize procedures. Therefore I elaborated some charts as visual explanation of unfolding MQA as I understood from Chris's excellent article.

     

    You can reach my visual explanation here.

     

    If anything wrong in it please do note hesitate to tell me and I will make the corrections...:)

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    It seems one of the major current tensions among audiophiles in various forums is the viability and supply of music delivery channels. Hi-res music owners clearly seem threatened and angst over streaming music becoming too popular and its SQ too good. I think their concerns are unfounded.

     

    As silly as it sounds, some forums have small groups of anti-streaming and MQA 'protestors'. I'm not sure whether they are retired, unemployed, or live in mom's basement, but they are drawn (as if with a sci-fi tractor beam) to express dissent and write denigrating comments toward that segment who enjoy streaming and who optimistically look at MQA as a possible enhancement to sound quality and musical enjoyment.

     

    Enthusiasm for TIDAL/Masters and the emerging market for MQA-certified hardware seems to make certain audiophiles downright miserable...as if music pleasure is a zero-sum equation. "It's just not 'fair'!" Really?

     

    Audio Industry Take Note. Those of us who enjoy streaming services like TIDAL, Pandora, Spotify, etc. and its ability to introduce music listeners to new artists and genre as well as replay favorites from massive cloud-based libraries, are excited about TIDAL/Masters and the future of MQA.

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