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MQA is Vaporware

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MQA was launched on December 2014. It is now January 2, 2017 so let’s see where MQA is at today.

 

Remember all the people who said that MQA was not Digital Rights Management? Well Utimaco disagrees. “MQA turned to Utimaco, a leading manufacturer of hardware-based security solutions that provide the root of trust to keep cryptographic keys safe, secure critical digital infrastructures and protect high value data assets. “ “Critical to the continued success and monetization of the streaming and download services of the entertainment industry, is the ability to secure and safeguard end-to-end transmission of intellectual property. A market leader in hardened encryption, Utimaco is at the forefront of enabling the authenticated delivery needed to drive next-generation entertainment consumption.”

 

Now turn to content. As of today there is no music in the genres 80% of American buy, Rock, R&B/Hip Hop, Pop and Country. Add Latin and EDM and you are at about 9 out of ten people buying music in America have no MQA encoded music to purchase. Don’t wait for licensee Warner Music Group to suddenly turn a switch and their music become available because they told the SEC in their latest financial statements they haven’t figured out how to distribute digital music.

 

There are 10 companies that produce equipment with MQA decoders. None of the products have enough units in the hands of consumers to make any impact. Many companies announced they would not support the format. The view of companies neither producing products nor announcing they would not support the format is indifference. Hardly a must have feature.

 

I said earlier this year that I would need 200 artists producing new music in the genres I regularly buy for MQA to be viable a viable format for me. I don’t see any interest by those artists in recording high resolution much less with MQA encoding. Those genres are rock, alt rock, alt country and bluegrass. And personally I will not test any MQA equipment until eight of the nine albums I use as my reference are available in MQA.

 

The Doors “Riders on the Storm “was used as demo of MQA not realizing there was no master to authenticate. Something that was well known but apparently unknown to the MQA people and audio journalists.

 

As of January 2, 2017 two years after its splashy launch we have a lot of audiophile press about MQA, announcements and demonstrations. But there is a limited supply of equipment to decode MQA files and no music encoded for nine out ten American music buyers, classic vaporware.

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GUTB   

I figured MQA was dead on arrival. The concept of authenticating high resolution music all the way from mastering to the end user is a good one -- but we are talking about an industry that can't even make surround sound DACs or take HDMI audio, and anyone thinks they will go along with the MQA certification scheme? You can't even get the mainstream producers to sell us their high resolution masters!

 

 

Sent from my iPad using Computer Audiophile

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Apple was the first successful company to create true end-to-end encryption/DRM on a consumer hand-held device. This was a pre-condition from the labels (who were dealing with the Napster issue around the same time). This is why the original iPod had only the Apple proprietary connector (no USB).

 

It's an achievement that's going to be very difficult to replicate. Plus the average consumer doesn't know what "master" means :-)

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Miska   
Apple was the first successful company to create true end-to-end encryption/DRM on a consumer hand-held device. This was a pre-condition from the labels (who were dealing with the Napster issue around the same time). This is why the original iPod had only the Apple proprietary connector (no USB).

 

And then already long ago removed DRM from the music content in order for the iTunes music store to really take off... :D

 

I have purchased new, non-DRM protected hires Pink Floyd, David Gilmour, Mark Knopfler, etc music content, no MQA either, don't need it.

 

I don't need "authentication", especially because I can already see from the few MQA hires files I have that some are plain upsamples of 44.1k content. I also especially don't need technologies that are designed to prevent things like digital room correction, digital headphone cross-feed/3D processing, etc.

 

Plus, comparing the original non-MQA versions to the decoded MQA versions, one can conclude that it is lossy and really obviously not the original. Even more, without decoder there's quite severe quality degradation.

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MQA was launched on December 2014. It is now January 2, 2017 so let’s see where MQA is at today.

 

Remember all the people who said that MQA was not Digital Rights Management? Well Utimaco disagrees. “MQA turned to Utimaco, a leading manufacturer of hardware-based security solutions that provide the root of trust to keep cryptographic keys safe, secure critical digital infrastructures and protect high value data assets. “ “Critical to the continued success and monetization of the streaming and download services of the entertainment industry, is the ability to secure and safeguard end-to-end transmission of intellectual property. A market leader in hardened encryption, Utimaco is at the forefront of enabling the authenticated delivery needed to drive next-generation entertainment consumption.”

 

Now turn to content. As of today there is no music in the genres 80% of American buy, Rock, R&B/Hip Hop, Pop and Country. Add Latin and EDM and you are at about 9 out of ten people buying music in America have no MQA encoded music to purchase. Don’t wait for licensee Warner Music Group to suddenly turn a switch and their music become available because they told the SEC in their latest financial statements they haven’t figured out how to distribute digital music.

 

There are 10 companies that produce equipment with MQA decoders. None of the products have enough units in the hands of consumers to make any impact. Many companies announced they would not support the format. The view of companies neither producing products nor announcing they would not support the format is indifference. Hardly a must have feature.

 

I said earlier this year that I would need 200 artists producing new music in the genres I regularly buy for MQA to be viable a viable format for me. I don’t see any interest by those artists in recording high resolution much less with MQA encoding. Those genres are rock, alt rock, alt country and bluegrass. And personally I will not test any MQA equipment until eight of the nine albums I use as my reference are available in MQA.

 

The Doors “Riders on the Storm “was used as demo of MQA not realizing there was no master to authenticate. Something that was well known but apparently unknown to the MQA people and audio journalists.

 

As of January 2, 2017 two years after its splashy launch we have a lot of audiophile press about MQA, announcements and demonstrations. But there is a limited supply of equipment to decode MQA files and no music encoded for nine out ten American music buyers, classic vaporware.

A couple of items.

 

Thanks for the Utimaco mention. I linked the PDF above. I like it when we can use facts for the discussion.

 

As I said to you at RMAF, I believe the SEC filings are a red herring. If Warner said it hasn't "figured out how to distribute digital music," that has nothing to do with MQA. Warner is a record label, not a distributor. The company is doing fine providing material to the likes of Spotify and Apple, who are the distributors.

 

Warner may be required to mention items that will majorly effect earnings, in SEC filings, but so is Apple. I'm willing to bet mention of the iPhone 8 won't be in an SEC filing until the last minute. In addition, who knows if there is an immediate return on MQA for the labels. Maybe it's a long game for them.

 

With respect to content, it will help put this into perspective if we compare MQA to DSD. Not technically, but the amount of content. You said, "As of today there is no music in the genres 80% of American buy, Rock, R&B/Hip Hop, Pop and Country. Add Latin and EDM and you are at about 9 out of ten people buying music in America have no MQA encoded music to purchase." I believe we could replace the letters MQA with the letters DSD and end up in the same place.

 

Do you feel the same about DSD as you do MQA, with respect to it being vaporware?

 

Not trying to debate the merits of either, just searching for perspective.

The Doors: There doesn't have to be an original master in order to create an MQA version. The term Master is thrown around a lot and most people have no clue what it really means. In fact, it means different things to people in the industry as well. When remasters are made, are they using the master, running master, safety master, etc... MQA doesn't purport to be using the original master. It's master quality, not copied from the master. I believe labels will shoot for the best quality available for some releases. If that's from a safety master, who cares?

 

I'm not supporting MQA with my statements above. Just trying to get facts out and perspective in place. Based on classic definitions of the term vaporware, MQA is most certainly vaporware.

 

Vaporware - "software or hardware that has been advertised but is not yet available to buy, either because it is only a concept or because it is still being written or designed."

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Jud   
Plus, comparing the original non-MQA versions to the decoded MQA versions, one can conclude that it is lossy and really obviously not the original. Even more, without decoder there's quite severe quality degradation.

I don't like use of the term "lossy" in the discussion because it is not the same as "severe quality degradation" but people think it is.

 

"Lossy" just means you can't mathematically recover the original, and that is true of the majority of upsampling/filtering algorithms and modulators used in software players such as HQPlayer. I would guess you would consider some of your "lossy" upsampling/filtering algorithms to be sonically your best ones.

 

"Quality degradation" is of course a different ballgame, and use of those sorts of words I don't mind at all, because everyone is absolutely clear about what it means.

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Jud   
If you shoot for the moon you might at least hit the top of the telephone pole. Why rain on the parade?

 

And the mixed metaphor award goes to.... ;)

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Miska   
I don't like use of the term "lossy" in the discussion because it is not the same as "severe quality degradation" but people think it is.

 

"Quality degradation" is of course a different ballgame, and use of those sorts of words I don't mind at all, because everyone is absolutely clear about what it means.

 

Yes, I agree that it is ambiguous in general terms.

 

In the context where audio codecs are usually categorized into two bins, lossy (MP3, AAC-LC/AAC-HE, Vorbis) and lossless (FLAC, ALAC). Where the definition is strictly whether the decoded content in bit-by-bit copy of the original. Sonically there are still differences too, AAC-LC is very likely to be sonically better than MP3. So in that respect, MQA belongs to the lossy-family. The tricky part here being that now if you buy MQA content you sort of have like "MP3-in-a-FLAC-file" although such comparison is not exactly accurate either.

 

Then another aspect is "quality degradation" which is less black and white and to some extent subjective. With MQA decoder employed, there is "quality degradation" while without MQA decoder there is "severe quality degradation" meaning that it is worse than carefully made RedBook version would be.

 

For example when I look at decoded MQA hires output compared to original hires version I can see some increase in noise/noise modulation and loss of high frequency harmonics. In many cases those high frequency harmonics precisely represent the waveform details of fast transients... Essentially hires becomes less hires. So what does the "master quality" mean? If I make a recording with my brand new awesome RME ADI-2 Pro at 768 kHz rate or DSD256, and make MQA version out of it, it is not what I heard at my studio when I played back the original. Instead it begins to roll off already around 30 kHz.

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I don't like use of the term "lossy" in the discussion because it is not the same as "severe quality degradation" but people think it is.

 

"Lossy" just means you can't mathematically recover the original, and that is true of the majority of upsampling/filtering algorithms and modulators used in software players such as HQPlayer. I would guess you would consider some of your "lossy" upsampling/filtering algorithms to be sonically your best ones.

 

"Quality degradation" is of course a different ballgame, and use of those sorts of words I don't mind at all, because everyone is absolutely clear about what it means.

 

Bravo. I think this is a very important insight. Most of the flurry of outraged audiophile objections to MQA seem to come down to the logic that "it's lossy, therefore it self evidently compromises quality". But, you have hit the nail on the head: two different things.

 

I know, I know. MQA has taken forever and a day since initial announcements. It still might be a complete flop. I certainly am not ready to invest a nickel in it. And, I still have not heard it, nor am I in any hurry. But, I am willing to be shown what it can or cannot do in the fullness of time.

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Ralf11   

I am not a fan of DRM (though I do believe in the concept of Intellectual Property and think it should be protected).

 

re SQ of MQA - I have not heard it (!) so I am not going to trash it.

 

I am as reluctant to suppose that Bob Stuart would involve himself in a consumer fraud production chain as to suppose the same for Nelson Pass in amplification chains.

 

OTOH, some of his explanations or hand wavings do seem a bit vague ...

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I have asked this before, and to this day haven't seen any satisfactory answer: what, from a music customer perspective, is the problem MQA is trying to solve? Unless I ever get a good answer to this, I'm just going to skip this entire technology.

 

And as pointed out in the OPs post, the requirement for new hardware makes this an "installed base" issue. So even if we eventually see some credible consumer benefit, it needs to be big enough to get enough people to upgrade their equipment. This may well be the next Betamax.

 

 

Sent from my iPhone using Computer Audiophile

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GUTB   

MQA's primary technical benefit to an audiophile is its ability to correct analog-to-digital equipment jitter. I'd be game to adopt the format, even if only a few labels I like bother to use it in the manner intended (i.e., 2L).

 

The problem is, the audiophile industry is too backwards and hidebound to get onboard with the MQA certification scheme. If MQA is more than just adding an IC to the circuit or a Sabre feature, the industry won't adopt it.

 

As far as mass consumer penetration, forget it. The average consumer listens to trash, and don't appear to place a very high value in improvements.

 

 

Sent from my iPad using Computer Audiophile

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I have asked this before, and to this day haven't seen any satisfactory answer: what, from a music customer perspective, is the problem MQA is trying to solve? Unless I ever get a good answer to this, I'm just going to skip this entire technology.

 

And as pointed out in the OPs post, the requirement for new hardware makes this an "installed base" issue. So even if we eventually see some credible consumer benefit, it needs to be big enough to get enough people to upgrade their equipment. This may well be the next Betamax.

 

 

Sent from my iPhone using Computer Audiophile

 

I can't help with the problem it's trying to solve for end users, but the install base issue is simple. MQA can be decoded in software for mobile phones. An easy update to Tidal, Spotify, and Apple music would increase the install base by 50 million "overnight."

 

I've often thought MQA is a solution looking for a problem, but that problem may not be one the end user is facing. Perhaps it's a solution for content owners first and foremost.

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Mordikai   
I have asked this before, and to this day haven't seen any satisfactory answer: what, from a music customer perspective, is the problem MQA is trying to solve? Unless I ever get a good answer to this, I'm just going to skip this entire technology.

 

And as pointed out in the OPs post, the requirement for new hardware makes this an "installed base" issue. So even if we eventually see some credible consumer benefit, it needs to be big enough to get enough people to upgrade their equipment. This may well be the next Betamax.

Sent from my iPhone using Computer Audiophile

Agree with this completely. The recording industry already has the ability to give us better recordings that don't require any new hardware, they just don't care and neither do most consumers.

If they want a scam that the consumers might go for, how bout a streaming service that streams from original source vinyl? Lol

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A couple of items.

 

Thanks for the Utimaco mention. I linked the PDF above. I like it when we can use facts for the discussion.

 

As I said to you at RMAF, I believe the SEC filings are a red herring. If Warner said it hasn't "figured out how to distribute digital music," that has nothing to do with MQA. Warner is a record label, not a distributor. The company is doing fine providing material to the likes of Spotify and Apple, who are the distributors.

 

Warner may be required to mention items that will majorly effect earnings, in SEC filings, but so is Apple. I'm willing to bet mention of the iPhone 8 won't be in an SEC filing until the last minute. In addition, who knows if there is an immediate return on MQA for the labels. Maybe it's a long game for them.

 

With respect to content, it will help put this into perspective if we compare MQA to DSD. Not technically, but the amount of content. You said, "As of today there is no music in the genres 80% of American buy, Rock, R&B/Hip Hop, Pop and Country. Add Latin and EDM and you are at about 9 out of ten people buying music in America have no MQA encoded music to purchase." I believe we could replace the letters MQA with the letters DSD and end up in the same place.

 

Do you feel the same about DSD as you do MQA, with respect to it being vaporware?

 

Not trying to debate the merits of either, just searching for perspective.

The Doors: There doesn't have to be an original master in order to create an MQA version. The term Master is thrown around a lot and most people have no clue what it really means. In fact, it means different things to people in the industry as well. When remasters are made, are they using the master, running master, safety master, etc... MQA doesn't purport to be using the original master. It's master quality, not copied from the master. I believe labels will shoot for the best quality available for some releases. If that's from a safety master, who cares?

 

I'm not supporting MQA with my statements above. Just trying to get facts out and perspective in place. Based on classic definitions of the term vaporware, MQA is most certainly vaporware.

 

Vaporware - "software or hardware that has been advertised but is not yet available to buy, either because it is only a concept or because it is still being written or designed."

 

 

You’re welcome on the Utimaco information. I’ve been sitting on it for a while to see if anyone noticed in the audiophile world they hadn’t. MQA I believe has stated that there is no DRM in MQA. I think we can say this is false and question why their story was bought so easily.

 

A minor accounting point Warner Music Group is a distributor. Apple is a retailer as are Target, Walmart, Amazon and Google Play. These five retailers are specifically mentioned in the latest SEC filing as having the power to influence the pricing of the content they buy from WMG. Notice how the record companies brought vinyl back into their companies? They wanted more than the fees they got for allowing other to make and sell records. They want to do the same for digital.

 

A common sense accounting point Warner Music Group is very concerned about piracy. Record Companies love vinyl because you can’t copy it. It all goes downhill from there because people are copying everything else including streaming. MQA is a way to control copying if it can be accepted by the mainstream. If MQA is not a mainstream product soon then the royalty stream is going to be very small.

 

A major accounting point if you license or buy a technology like MQA the SEC accounting rules say if it is significant you must disclose it. That is different than if you internally develop a product like the iPhone you just have to disclose research and development costs on broad basis. And Apple discloses when they acquire companies to get technology. What WMG not disclosing the MQA licensing agreement says to me is they don’t think today MQA is a mainstream product.

 

I’ve said in prior posts that DSD is not a commercially viable format and doesn’t work for my purposes and music tastes. And as Sony promoted format it has no chance to ever be a successful format. Mainstream America (Joe Six Pack) has shown they will not accept any Sony promoted musical format. I could say it is vaporware and make some good arguments to support it is. But the thing that keeps DSD from being vaporware in my view is it is supported on so many DAC chips. In the audio world I think you have to have both nonexistent hardware and nonexistent content to be vaporware.

 

My point with The Doors was there wasn’t a master of the complete song to use. There should be two rain sounds and there aren’t. MQA was claiming it was master when it wasn’t. The song was recorded on an 8 track machine and the tracks were maxed out so the sound effect rain and thunder were added in the mixing according to the engineer Bruce Botnick. MQA didn’t start saying they were going to use the best available master until after this was discussed around time of T.H.E. Show at Newport this year.

 

Why this matters is MQA and its supporters in the audio press have misled us.

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This is an ambitious project and if they can send MQA streams via Tidal and all I need is a $300 meridian explorer dac I'm game. Not a very big risk IMO. I am all for anyone that is trying to improve digital.

 

I think Tidal is going to charge you something extra to stream MQA. I was told by MQA representatives at RMAF 2016 that it would cost $40 a month.

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NOMBEDES   
(EDIT)

If they want a scam that the consumers might go for, how bout a streaming service that streams from original source vinyl? Lol

They used to have such an animal.... FM radio.....right?

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Miska   

In my car, I listen to FM radio, Spotify and Tidal. In that order.

 

But the claim about streaming bandwidth requirements is non-problem. At home I get about 50/35 Mbps over 4G (mobile handset), while my subscription has theoretical max of 300 Mbps. And pretty much anywhere I go here I get at least 30/10 Mbps. Plenty enough to stream DXD FLAC and at home enough to stream 5.1 channel DXD FLAC...

 

With your 4G router that has better antennas I can get 100 Mbps download speeds.

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I think Tidal is going to charge you something extra to stream MQA. I was told by MQA representatives at RMAF 2016 that it would cost $40 a month.

 

I just very much hope they weren't serious about this if they want ANY customer at all.

 

Redbook streaming is already twice the price of compressed offers, limiting this offer to some crazy audiophiles like us (very small numbers) willing to pay for this premium for what is in absolute terms not a huge improvement in SQ.

 

I've never heard MQA but even if it is an improvement over redbook who in their right mind would pay 4x Spotify Premium or 2x the price of full resolution redbook streaming?

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Jud   
Mainstream America (Joe Six Pack) has shown they will not accept any Sony promoted musical format.

 

 

I hear there was once a thing called a Walkman that was pretty popular. (Sony didn't invent the cassette format - that was Philips - but it certainly "promoted" it via the Walkman.)

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Norton   
just trying to get facts out and perspective in place. Based on classic definitions of the term vaporware, MQA is most certainly vaporware.

 

Vaporware - "software or hardware that has been advertised but is not yet available to buy, either because it is only a concept or because it is still being written or designed."

 

I'm not an advocate for MQA as I'm not interested in streaming services and I can't see that MQA downloads would better existing hi res PCM and DSD formats. But, I can walk to my local HIFi dealer in the UK and buy an MQA DAC today and download MQA music from 2l right now if I wanted to, so it most certainly is not vaporware according to that definition.

 

As I understand it, the consumer is free to make multiple identical copies of an MQA download, the "drm" angle only comes into play in: 1. assuring the provenance of the file and 2. that you need a MQA licensed player/DAC to get the apparent full SQ potential. The former seems a completely benign application of DRM; as for the latter, is there anything wrong in the owner of intellectual and artistic property seeking to protect their work and investment? I don't work for free and judging by the disposable income on display here, neither do/did most members of this forum.

 

If you don't like MQA, don't buy it. I have no plans to, but am open minded enough that if the results vs other formats merited it (which I doubt) I would happily buy into a "closed" system. Just as I did with SACD until the advent of reliable ripping.

 

Also the idea that DSD/SACD is also a failed or non-viable format is nonsense. I buy on average 5-10 recent releases on SACD and download each month; for me it's the default digital format for classical music.

Edited by Norton

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