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Archimago

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  1. Just commenting on the question posed in this thread of whether people can be persuaded by evidence, IMO, YES. Of course. Maybe not for the "hardcore" but the aim is not to persuade everyone. The dyed-in-the-wool "faithful" or perfectionist that believes 0.1dB here and there makes a significant difference are a tiny part of the population anyway. The vast majority will not care because this is not going to impact their appreciation of the music nor the joy derived. IMO, I like to aim for those in the middle and have dialogue with those who are reasonable, open-minded, willing to take on the middle ground; that's the silent majority who might never post a comment on audiophile forums but willing to look around and build a decent sound system that's not just good enough but excellent compared to basic consumer-level gear. Over the years, I've had personal friends as well as "virtual" friends online contact me and say they've changed their position when they took on a blind challenge or read information online. I believe it takes ego strength to admit that one has been wrong about things. I certainly had to change my viewpoint on things like cables and such over the years. BTW, when I started in this hobby I was very much enthralled by all those cable reviews and DIY solutions, 20 years ago spending hours braiding and making my own because it was said to be better... Even tried the green pen thing and got Peter Belt's foils stuck to my equipment! But then I started reading articles from the engineering side, trying my own blind tests, borrowing cable, putting my own home-made Internet-touted DIY cables to the test, and "room tuning" (stuff like the Totem Acoustic Beak back in the day) devices to recognize that these things made no meaningful impact despite how much they were promoted. IMO it's more important to impact the majority and hopefully catalyze a cultural shift in a small hobby like audiophilia than focus on any one person. There will always be folks on the fringe. Folks on the extremes. Individuals who will never accept evidence no matter what. Yet they themselves can never produce evidence to forward their beliefs other than promote faith. That IMO can be safely ignored because there is literally nothing to argue about and these folks know it, they feeeeel it. It's like arguing with delusional individuals - nothing good can come of it... Might as well "agree to disagree" and move on since there are so many other good people to talk to and derive fruitful discussions with.
  2. Archimago

    MQA CD -- Dead in the Water?

    Interesting video... Left a message on the comments. I'm amazed that UHQCD is being called "snake oil" but not MQA itself! Surely the reviewer must be a little suspicious of the claims of hi-res on 16/44!? Especially when he's showing "352k" on that Pro-Ject DAC for Dire Straits 🤨.
  3. Thanks for the note Mitch. Alas, the Oppo can't do gapless DLNA streaming. 🤨 Likewise, wonderful to see you expanding into the head-fi gear. Looks like you'll need to get yourself a dummy head/ears soon!
  4. Whoa... Nice writeup and work Mitch! 👍 Now this, IMO, along with Tyll's work over the years is what reviewing headphones is about; creatively utilizing both the objective and subjective modes of evaluation into a coherent, mindful conclusion without unnecessary flowery prose nor "lifestyle" meanderings. Taking the opportunity to educate along the way. Looks like we have the beginnings of more useful headphone reviews to come... 😁
  5. Correct. IMO, if we just focused on a 1st unfold as done by the software Tidal decoder to 88.2/96kHz is all that's needed with these files. The rest of it is just for show. For example, the silly "original sampling rate" claim is just further upsampling so the DAC can show big numbers on the display like "352.8kHz" to wow those who are impressionable 😵.
  6. Hi Em2016, Whether intentional (probably) or not, MQA has provided so many twists and turns to the "technology" that as others have said sometimes makes it difficult to appreciate whether there might be some value to parts of the technique or total BS. In the context of that post linked, yeah, the songs I looked at and listened to did maintain their 24/96 characteristics... But that's not exactly a full endorsement because most of them were not "true" hi-res albums. Madonna's "Material World", Led Zeppelin's "Good Times Bad Times", Joni Mitchell's "A Case of You" are either old analogue recordings or in the case of Madonna, looks to be at least partially digitally sampled. The Buena Vista track might be the only one with a decent hi-res provenance. Ultimately we're back to the basic MQA tradeoff. Sacrifice available bitdepth for reconstruction of the ultrasonic octave. So long as the music's noise floor is high enough that those lower bits can be sacrificed, it's unlikely to be missed by listeners. Given today's storage costs and availability of high bitrate streaming, plus for audiophiles interested in the best full lossless resolution, MQA IMO just isn't needed or would be inferior to the original studio master. I wouldn't use the word "fake" either. It does render a pretty decent looking 1st unfold whether we believe there is benefit in that or not. I have much more trouble believing in the whole "deblurring" thing whether as a DSP during encoding or if they're claiming it's performed by those filters. Plus the nonsensical need for "authentication" and of course all the silly hype perpetuated over years...
  7. Archimago

    MQA is Vaporware

    Good point Fokus. Well @ARQuint, I suggest you get a copy of the article then and divine what "necessarily" means. That's a quote from the article so it's the author's words. Feel free to E-mail: mariane.generale@mail.mcgill.ca as a journalist to get the full scoop. IMO, reading between the lines, I think the article was written with a bit of a bias towards not making MQA look too bad. I think the author was genuinely appreciative of MQA and Bob Stuart for providing the encoding. Whether one philosophically agrees with A/B testing, I think common sense tells us that if we are to describe something as being a "paradigm shift" as TAS did, there should have been a little more audible difference, don't you think? Surely these results do not fit the magnitude of that description, right?!
  8. Archimago

    MQA is Vaporware

    Blinded A/B, they had an on-screen GUI to choose which excerpt sounded "clearer". They referenced other research on dimensions of "timbre", "clarity", and "depth". Looks like they decided on this attribute as it presumably would reflect the "de-blur" process.
  9. Archimago

    MQA is Vaporware

    Yeah... 30 second excerpts isn't much. I at least gave you guys ~2 minutes with my test 😉. I think only the audiophiles ogle over these impulse responses and obsess over the subtleties of those filters. On the other hand, it's good that the "civilian enthusiasts" here were not involved in any reviewing. Otherwise the audiophile "old guard" would be crying foul!
  10. Archimago

    MQA is Vaporware

    Thanks to one of the members here for letting me have a look at the McGill article. Can't put it up in its entirety for obvious reasons, but I'll summarize... A good read and they certainly spent quite a bit of time getting this done. Here are the "vital stats" from the paper "A Comparison of Clarity in MQA Encoded Files vs. Their Unprocessed State...": - 24/96 PCM sources. 3 pieces of music: pop "Right On Time" (Jerry Douglas & Marc Cohn), jazz "Trampolin" (Chick Corea), classical "Shostakovich 5th, 1st Movement" (Andris Nelsons & Boston SO). 24/96 PCM vs. 24/48 MQA encode by MQA themselves. 30-second segments used. Samples checked for level match of course. They didn't say if they checked that the Brooklyn DAC wasn't accidentally using MQA filters for PCM playback! - Hardware: ITU-R BS. 775-1 standard room, speakers B&W 802D, headphones Sennheiser HD800. Some audio switching based on MIDI control, 2 independent laptops playing either PCM or MQA to 2 Brooklyn Mytek DACs. SM Pro PM8 passive summing box --> Crookwood C10 monitor controller for switching. Alas, switching added 500ms of silence rather than more instantaneous transition. - Listeners: 3 sets of 10 subjects. The 3 sets: "Expert listeners" from McGill graduate music program, "Musicians" mostly with university level training, and "Casual listeners" (presumably some students and employees). Average age in all 3 groups in their late 20's (~25-29). Didn't mention what the men:women ratio was. - Test: A/B testing, asked to choose which sample seemed "clearer" as in "all details of a performance can be clearly perceived; the opposite of 'muddy'; the subjective impression that all details of the performance can be clearly perceived". 15 trials using the headphones, 15 trials with speakers; total ~45 minutes doing the test. - Results: When averaged out, the 3 groups showed nothing significant. I wish I could post Figure 5 - that's all you need to see :-). With multi-way analysis, "engineers" tended to like MQA pieces on headphones, "musicians" preferred the PCM jazz piece on speakers. Casual listeners rated MQA higher for the jazz piece on headphones and the PCM classical piece on speakers. As for individual analysis, 6 listeners tended to choose one over the other - even split of 3 preferring MQA, 3 preferring PCM (but this was before Bonferroni correction which took away the statistical significance)! Bottom line: The conclusion of course addressed a few of the issues like the 500ms silence introduced in the switch... Maybe other pieces of music would have been better... Maybe something other than "clarity" needs to be assessed. 1. "The de-blurring processing in MQA encoding does not necessarily provide additional clarity over the original" 2. "MQA is successful in providing a smaller, more easily streamable copy of the source WAV file, while maintaining a very similar level of clarity" No surprise, and basically my conclusions last year as well... Too bad they didn't comment if the Brooklyn DAC was stuck on the MQA filter when playing back the hi-res PCM! In fact, they didn't mention the word "filter" at all in the paper. Should have passed the paper to an audiophile familiar with all these MQA discussions to provide feedback :-). No evidence of "revolution", "paradigm shifts", "birth of new worlds", etc... etc... @AQuint - there's your formal listening test results of "how MQA actually sounds". Happy now that it's not just "civilian enthusiasts" talking about MQA's lack of sonic superiority?
  11. Archimago

    MQA is Vaporware

    Yeah... At the end of the day, limitations are obvious for this kind of distributed testing. ABX would be good and any of those individuals who thought they heard a difference could have done the ABX themselves but I would not be able to compel them to do it. Nonetheless, despite the limitations, we at least now have 2 independent sets of results that point to the same thing. Furthermore, these results are consistent with null tests / digital subtraction results between MQA-Core decoding and original lossless files showing little difference for the same mastering. They converge on the same conclusion... There is no evidence of a "revolution" in sound quality. Folks do not seem to be "missing out" on some special level of auditory pleasure by not signing up for MQA. At best, MQA provides a bit of data compression for streaming of "hi-res" assuming one even hears an improvement compared to lossless 16/44. Of course, I'd be open and would love to see results from MQA Ltd. or others who refute these findings. But curiously, we have seen nothing but sighted listening in the media. As for the company itself, remember that they avoided any A/B comparison for years. I still contend that if they wanted to, they could just release a 24/192 lossless original and 24/192 MQA-decoded version today and allow all to listen with their hi-res DAC the wonderful abilities of their "de-blurring" algorithm.
  12. Archimago

    MQA is Vaporware

    Fair enough point. Which is why the follow-up question was one of magnitude of difference heard. Track #1 - 66% said either they heard no difference or slight ("Subtle and hard to tell apart!") Track #2 - 73% Track #3 - 67% So basically the majority of people (83 respondents total) felt the difference was either absent or minimal. The other options were "moderate difference" and "clear" difference. In none of the tracks did >10% of people think there was a "clear" difference. And in every one of the cases, those who said "no difference" easily outnumbered the "clear difference" group by >2:1. Ultimately I think that's a far cry from obvious differences being reported by the typical audiophile magazine writer or Darko's "inconvenient truth" that MQA sounds better. Would be interesting to see the results of the vanilla vs. chocolate test when asked how many people thought there was no difference in taste or the difference was subtle even if preference for one or the other is 50:50 in the general population 😉. I'd love to see the text of the McGill University study: http://www.aes.org/e-lib/browse.cfm?elib=19396 While the methodology is of course different, sounds like the result is similar with listeners unable to overall significantly discriminate MQA vs. unprocessed file.
  13. Curious Kirk... What's the limit of AirPlay 2? Is it native 16/44.1? Will there be some upsampling to 48kHz? I can't seem to find any clarity about this. I assume since there's no fanfare about "hi-res", Apple's still not interested in 24-bit or >48kHz.
  14. Archimago

    MQA is Vaporware

    A shame he closed off the comments. Didn't see any new revelations. Same old claims.
  15. Wow @mitchco! That's one heck of an article :-). Indeed a labour of love and generosity to the hobby and audiophiles at large. Man, now that's what I call a kickass looking rock 'n roll sound room! Impressed at the level of optimization you've achieved with that combination of hardware and software. I'm sure the new curtains have "unveiled" another level of fidelity to the sound you're achieving... Beautiful how you've also combined thoughts on the "Trinity" of what comprises good sound for the 21st Century audiophile who's willing to do some "work" to optimize what they have: 1. Great, sane equipment that one doesn't have to sell a kidney for. 2. Room correction - digital & physical. Of course the room has to be reasonable to begin with! 3. Well recorded music that actually was made to sound good - especially music that does not lose the emotionality embedded within the nuances in the expression of dynamics. Dad-Rock rulez in this regard! Looking forward to your followup articles...
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