It has been a while since I have been able to post. We have been exceptionally busy building amps and like everyone, dealing with some covid related challenges.
On to the subject of this post. At March Audio we assessed the claims of MQA some years ago and found it didnt stand up to scrutiny, technically or subjectively. Considering this, the engineering effort to implement, and the licensing fees, it didnt make sense to get involved. I havent really thought about MQA in a long time, however some recent developments have prompted me to comment and pass on links to a few videos. If anyone is unfamiliar with MQA, what it is and what it is claimed to do, then you can visit the MQA website here:
Short version is that MQA claims their proprietary processing delivers a lossless high resolution version of the original studio master recording using much less bandwidth than an uncompressed PCM delivery. There are a few flaws immediately obvious with this assertion.
Assuming the MQA process does work transparently, this reduction in data rate should provide benefits when using streaming services such as Tidal. When streaming a 192kHz 24 bit PCM file the data rate is around 9Mbits/s. However using the free FLAC lossless compression (as Tidal does) this can be reduced by maybe 50% to under 5Mbits/s. So basically if you can stream Netflix you can stream 192kHz 24bit audio. So is MQAs file size reduction necessary? Seems not.
Next question is regarding whether MQA actually does what is claims. MQA have been conspicuous by their refusal to allow independent technical assessment of their encoders efficacy. This can become a very technical discussion, but the bottom line is that it is not lossless as they originally claimed, and it adds significant unwanted noise. This will be covered in the videos linked below.
Final issue is related to the MQA business strategy. Licensing is required to use MQA. It adds cost to products that use it. It adds costs to the music distribution chain. These costs get passed onto you the consumer. Do you really want to pay for something thats of no benefit? I certainly dont. It appears this is a "land grab" to attempt to monetise the music distribution chain.
There has been a long running debate on various audio forums regarding MQA. There are many more issues surrounding it than I have covered above. One place to browse is the Audiophilestyle site, its now over 900 pages of discussion on the subject!
Recently a member called Goldenone published a video detailing his investigation into MQA. He recorded some audio, including test signals, and managed to get it processed with MQA and published on Tidal. This bypassed MQAs refusal to allow third party testing. His post can be seen here:
His excellent video runs through the technical tests that examine MQAs efficacy. Excuse the title, there is nothing wrong with FLAC, Goldenone was referring to the file size reduction in MQA which is not as effective as FLAC.
MQA got somewhat upset by all this and issued a response which Goldenone covers here
Final video is of a presentation Chris Connaker, the founder of Audiophilestyle (formerly Computer Audiophile), attempted to give at RMAF 2018 on the subject of MQA. When I say attempted I am referring to the fact that it was continuously and disrespectfully disrupted by several MQA employees.
Its clear to me that MQA have been trying to obfuscate the truth about MQAs efficacy and operation. I will leave you to decide for yourself if its something you want to use.