MQA: a non-hostile takeover?


Publisher’s note: MQA promises much. I’ve heard it at home, away from show conditions, and I like what I hear. That doesn’t diminish issues surrounding MQA’s teeny-tiny content pool and hardware certification. Unsure about what MQA is, how it works or how it sounds? Click those links to catch-up on the why, the how and the what. Here Alex from Metal-Fi tackles the issue of MQA as an ecosystem. Comments are invited below but remember: the right to be heard (or to be right) does not supplant the responsibility to be polite.

Since its formal introduction in 2014, MQA has been the talk of the audiophile town. That’s in spite of very few specifics spilling until this year. A barrage of information about MQA’s technology has come down the pike in the last few months: John’s own excellent coverage and Computer Audiophile’s exhaustive Q&A with MQA’s co-inventor and chief evangelist, Bob Stuart. Through each of these discussions though, one aspect of MQA is now abundantly clear: it is more than just a new file format or a codec but an entirely new design philosophy on how to handle digital audio from the studio to hoe.

In the aforementioned CA article, Mr. Stuart asserts that the main thrust behind MQA is to throw out traditional first principles about hi-res playback and instead combine “the statistics of musical signals with modern methods in sampling theory and insights from human neuroscience.” (Is that not what the MP3 steering committee did in developing its own psychoacoustic model?).

Stuart then goes on to the claim that we all need to think beyond Nyquist and try to exploit aspects of both the transmitted signal (for this listener, presently Coroner and the recently released Vektor record), and the playback chain itself, vis-à-vis the DAC, to make our favourite set of PCM bits sound more alive. And MQA is that answer.

However, in order to realise MQA’s full potential, it needs to be incorporated into every aspect of digital audio playback. Stuart readily admits this in the way he defines MQA itself – by stating that it is “a hierarchical method and set of specifications for recording, archiving, archive recovery and efficient distribution of high quality audio.”

And as an upstanding audiophile, that statement gives me the willies.

Let us put aside the various licensing issues surrounding MQA or whether or not MQA is a cleverly disguised form of DRM or that Stuart and Co. are basically inviting those who don’t yet stream audio to re-buy their favourite recordings once more or even whether or not MQA even works. Let us focus instead on a much larger in-room elephant: vendor lock-in.

Stuart intends for the music industry to adopt his vision of the digital playback chain en masse – from how masters are produced (MQA Studio) to how they are distributed (“frequency folding origami”) to playback in the home with MQA-certified hardware.

The format has a legacy mode that permits playback of MQA encapsulated files through non-MQA certified DACs but possibly only exists because Stuart knows that trying to push a new way of taking digital audio from studio to home without any backwards compatibility would glue it to the starting blocks. And yet given the optimising nature of your average audiophile, reality might say otherwise: that we will wait for that light to turn blue, alerting us to the presence of complete MQA unpacking and decoding.

Bob Stuart [right] talks MQA at CES 2016.
That doesn’t make Bob Stuart the audiophile world’s Dr. Evil but I would assert that MQA’s broader aims are equivalent to a non-hostile takeover of the digital playback chain; the man and his team are actively petitioning content providers (labels), distributors (Tidal), hardware vendors (DAC manufacturers) and audiophiles to buy into his vision of the future.

If “Buy It Now” is clicked in sufficient numbers, will we not find ourselves wedded to the MQA ecosystem – for richer or poorer, in sickness and health – with MQA (the company) controlling how all bits travel from studio to ear?

Some people have described the MQA ecosystem as a walled garden – I agree. Walled gardens and vendor lock-in go hand-in-hand. Yet Bob Stuart has summarily dismissed the notion that MQA is a walled garden because you can still play MQA encapsulated files on non-MQA certified hardware.

It’s an answer that skirts the issue at hand: if we follow Stuart’s logic, any content or hardware living outside the MQA bubble offers an effectively degraded listening experience. Stuart might counter that playing MQA-processed files through a non-MQA DAC still sound better than the originals. However, it can also be somewhat lossy too. Very few have been privy to A/B tests that show whether (or not) sacrificing a few bits is really worth a few extra percentage points in fidelity. Bits are bits and I don’t generally sacrifice mine if I don’t have to.

“We didn’t want to do public A-B tests, because they are completely uncontrolled. You know what it’s like – you put three audiophiles in a room and you get nine opinions. In fact, we do A-B tests all the time, with people who understand the context. So, for example, whenever we were with someone who had made the recording, we’d do the A-B test on the spot,” Stuart told Alan Sircom at Hifi Plus.

Does that not suggest that improvements are marginal (at best)?

What I find most fascinating about MQA is it isn’t the first solution to try to address the digital playback chain proper.

Several years ago, Apple got into the post-production business with Master for iTunes (MFiT), a program that offers mastering engineers a set of free tools and guidelines on how optimise their masters for the AAC encoding process. The driving force behind MFiT was to guarantee a certain level of playback fidelity for the masters which, when processed in a certain way, would yield discernible artefacts once compressed with Apple’s AAC.


MQA takes this concept to a whole new level: now your entire post production and playback chain relies solely on the technology of one vendor. Not to function but to function optimally. That’s quite the step beyond MFiT. Apple doesn’t mandate MFiT and any content deploying it plays equally well on all AAC compatible devices (putting hardware differences aside).

Moreover, MFiT is an open specification (MPEG-4 part 3). Anyone can write software to encode or decode it. At time of publication, there has been no indication from Team MQA that they intend to release the MQA encoder/decoder as an open specification.

Any technology that comes with vendor lock-in built into its design remains suspicious. I just don’t believe that any single vendor should have too much control over the signal path as it tends to lead to less competition, higher end-user costs and a stunting of innovation. I also believe that for any new technology to reach any kind of critical mass, it should be built upon open standards and an industry consensus, not NDAs and nebulous licensing models.

In the end, MQA’s success hinges on Bob Stuart’s ability to convince the industry as a whole that both the audible and monetary benefits offered by his vision of what the digital audio playback chain should look like outweigh the many possible downsides of a solution that arrives with vendor lock-in baked into the model.

If the audio industry is anything like the software industry, Stuart has his work more than cut out for him no matter how good it sounds.

Further information: MQA

You can read more of Alex’s thoughts on audio over at his own Metal-Fi.

Written by Alex M-Fi

Alex M-Fi

Alex is co-founder and Chief Editor of, a website dedicated to the head-banging audiophile. His blood type is Type O Negative. Alex derives his income from writing software.


Leave a Reply
  1. A great summary of some of the potential issues of MQA. While I’m trying to have an open mind, the closed nature of everything I’ve heard of MQA so far makes that difficult. I’ll continue to monitor out of curiosity, but I have no plans to add MQA content or hardware to any of my playback systems at this time…probably ever.

  2. I have a couple of MFiT albums from the ECM label in my iTunes library and they sound bloomin’ fantastic over the wireless multi-room and headphones. On the other hand I must admit that anything from the ECM label sounds superb even at the ‘lowly’ 256 VBR AAC.

    If Bob Stuart can better that, then good on him.

  3. The tenor of this article appears to be a. that a – z solutions are inherently bad/evil/a plot; and b. that Bob Stuart’s a bastard for trying to make money out of his invention. IF (big IF) it results in a worthwhile improvement to sound quality, good luck to him. If other manufacturers don’t want to join it, they don’t have to. If they do, they should pay for it. They don’t get their capacitors, DACs, transformers, etc. for free; why this?

  4. Like your view on the subject and we have to wait and see at least I-tune(MFiT) is moving a bit in the right direction and as it is Apple it will be successful .If MQA ever has a change to be successful Mr. Stewart has to give access to the software and makes it available for a reasonable price ( record lables etc.)
    As it is a small company compairing to Apple they better get their sale strategy right and don’t wait to long !

  5. Good views of which I share. I would go one step further and say whilst MQA is a good visionary idea the NDA and closed source will surely consign it to the ‘good idea but didn’t take off bin’. I think it’s DOA, pity.

  6. The thing that attracted me to MQA was the ability to stream Hi-Res Audio but not at the cost of higher bandwidth ie Tidal and the ability to reduce the size of Hi-Res files also appealed.

    As much as it is obvious why MQA require a start to finish to implement this format to work best, the licencing and the control required by the team has no doubt led to the limited uptake.

    I am watching the MQA progress with interest and enjoying content on my Onkyo DP-X1 an MQA enabled DAP

    Thanks for the article

    • Fair points, but it’s hard for me to excited about a small amount of bandwidth savings and smaller file sizes in 2016 since bandwidth and storage have become so inexpensive. Of course, I’m thinking high-rez PCM, not DSD. I did the math on creating an upsampled copy of my modest music library to DSD256 and quickly decided that was not something I have space or time to do just now. Roughly 7GB per album starts to add up. 🙂

  7. Would your tune be different if Tidal went out of business and MQA was the only thing capable of convincing Spotify or Apple to offer premium CD quality streams?

    I see this possibility as potentially being not far off. Tidal’s viability seems suspect at best and MQA may be the only thing capable of getting one of the big boys to stream CD quality. Most likely, Apple will never do MQA and never allow Roon compatability. MQA on Spotify may be the only thing that keeps high res streaming available at all and Roon streaming alive in the long run.

    Putting a dagger thru MQA’s heart now does not seem prudent to me.

    • Certainly no streaming service “needs” MQA to do 16/44.1 lossless CD quality streaming. MQA doesn’t seem to be targeting this market anyway, their target appears to be 24/96 quality at reduced bit-rates, which based on the sample files out there, is still significantly higher than what is required for lossless 16/44.1.

      Even if MQA is capable of (and allows) 16/44.1 quality at reduced bit-rates, due to the opacity of their business model, we have no way of knowing if and when the cost for a streaming service to implement MQA is offset by whatever storage and streaming cost reductions (whose respective cost per bit or byte is falling year over year regardless) MQA enables.

  8. “Absolute power, corrupts absolutely.” I didn’t coin it or anything, but… That does not mean it is any less applicable today, than when it was first uttered.

  9. I call BS on MQA. I’ve read the articles, as well as Benchmark and PS Audio’s blog rebuttals. We can sit and argue forever about the reams of technology, and I call BS. Why? Because I have yet to hear an MQA recording that actually sounds better, or different.

    As I have asked for elsewhere, please point me to where I can download MQA and non-MQA tracks you feel are fabulous representations of MQA and I’ll host an open listening party near San Francisco. So far no one has done so. Up until now the only one’s with access to these magical tracks are approved members of the media or dealers.

    I’m open to the idea. I really am, but where is it? The longer this goes with only some people hearing the magic the more snake-oil and marketing flavor. What I expect will happen is that first it will be “transformational and obviously superior” until it dwindles down to “only superhero listeners with approved equipment stacks will hear the difference.”

    Prove me wrong. I have a Mytek Brooklyn, an objectively neutral speaker system with low distortion and response beyond 30kHz with some AKG 7xx series headphones as backup. Where do I get these tracks?

    Don’t make me look for “better” with a microscope and tweezers. If this is any good at all it needs to come out and slap me across the face.



    • Good point, Erik.
      This remains as true now as when it was first written:
      “Why push back against 24/192? Because it’s a solution to a problem that doesn’t exist, a business model based on wilful ignorance and scamming people. The more that pseudoscience goes unchecked in the world at large, the harder it is for truth to overcome truthiness… even if this is a small and relatively insignificant example”

    • When an album is released in a high-rez format (24-bit PCM, DSD, DXD, or MQA), the implication (to consumers) is that the master is fresh from “the original tapes” or close to the source and is of the highest mixing/mastering quality and therefore worthy of the extra bits. Sadly, too often this is not the case. I’m sure that all of us have stories to tell of HDtracks or similar “high-rez” download purchases that sound considerably worse than our old CD or vinyl versions of the same album. The Cars, Heartbeat City currently on HDtracks in 24/192 is a “high-rez” version of the master created for earbud listeners–pumped-up bass and crushed dynamic range vs. previous masters. It’s useless for audiophiles due to poor sound and irrelevant to earbud listeners who don’t care about the extra bits!

      If you want the sound quality to “come out and slap [you] across the face”, it’s not going to happen via the tiny differences that release formats make. That’s only going to happen with great (re)mastering. This has been the case forever with CD vs. SACD vs. vinyl comparisons. Listeners think they are comparing playback formats when in fact they are almost always listening to very different masters. If MQA inspires labels to create fresh masters from the original sources that have high dynamic range and are truly excellent, it has some value, but re-encoding earbud masters is pointless.

      MQA stands for “Master Quality Authenticated”; which is nice but in the current “garbage in/garbage out” pipeline, this just means that the garbage was not altered in any way from the time it left the label to the time it was pumped into your listening space. I’d much rather see “Mastering Quality Authenticated” which is more difficult to quantify but would indicate that you’re listening to a high-quality transcription from the original master tapes…like Mobile Fidelity Sound Labs remasters.

      • David,

        You are totally right. 🙂 Though I am grooving on some acoustic DSD right now from Blue Coast Records, the difference in post-production mastering is currently the single most important factor in the chain. I think Cookie’s engineering talent is very very good, but I can’t tell when I accidentally play it as PCM that I’m no longer hearing DSD.

        Meridian claims to have solved several existing problems and others are claiming it’s a “startling” benefit. I’m just asking for the proof. Otherwise I’m calling it BS.



  10. Oh, forgot Schiit’s also has posted about not supporting MQA as well. Benchmark, PS Audio, and Schiit’s works speak for themselves.

  11. A thoughtful write-up and I agree. MQA’s approach just feels very icky and smarmy to me.. At a bare minimum MQA should allow (and ideally open-source) unfolding in software players like Roon, Jriver, HQplayer, etc. so anyone who buys MQA content is not locked into buying MQA-certified hardware now and forever just to playback content that was bought as hi-res content.

  12. DSD has been around in one form or another since 1999. Granted it’s a bit apples and oranges, but there are some parallels. To use modern DSD files, you need either a server that supports DSD playback, or a computer and software that supports DoP, and a DAC with DSD decoding. If you don’t have that you can still listen to the files by doing a DSD > PCM conversion prior to playback, giving you the same sort of “compromise” that you get with MQA files if you don’t have an MQA capable DAC, the idea being that DSD > PCM is still better than nothing if the DSD starting point sounds better than the native PCM equivalent.

    There’s one major difference though – DAC manufacturers that choose to support native DSD conversion and DoP don’t need to show anyone their work. They can spend years and throw tons of money into R&D to create a completely custom DAC architecture that includes support for DSD, and still protect their IP. They don’t have to enter a Faustian bargain with Meridian.

    My major concern with MQA is that it presents a real threat to innovation, because I think it encourages the use of mass production sigma-delta chips over custom R2R or FPGA based solutions. I imagine companies like Chord and PS will be very reluctant to add MQA support, and Schiit has already given a flat out no.

    I think MQA is very likely to remain an extreme niche format, with services like Spotify and Apple being by far the dominant players, and I don’t see either of them supporting MQA anytime soon. I also don’t see MQA convincing vinyl listeners to go digital any more than HDCD, SACD, or DVD-A did.

    • Hi Dave, I have more the impression that it will be the opposite and those DAC manufacturers who are using FPGA configurations will have less (technical) problems with implementing the MQA algorithm. It’s all about Digital Signal Processing and requires a fast processor with lots of headroom available. That is the reason why Bluesound and NAD are one of the first companies adopting MQA. NAD M2 and the younger C390DD chipset is described in this article as FPGA:

      The M2’s DSP that performed the PCM-to-PWM conversion was a general purpose field-programmable gate array. In fact, the FPGA was the technology’s development platform. The C 390DD now supports a dedicated integrated circuit that is more efficient. The chip has additional DSP power that is put to good use with bass and treble controls,
      room equalization, subwoofer output, and other features.


  13. “Any technology that comes with vendor lock-in built into its design remains suspicious.”

    Exactly. Does anyone remember Dolby B noise reduction? It was marketed so effectively, one could not buy (or sell) a cassette deck that did not include the respective chip. (I thought it sounded dull.) If MQA similarly becomes a quasi-standard, consumers can expect history to repeat itself, with Meridian -err, MQA Ltd. – extracting years of royalties in return for a modest (at best) improvement in sound quality.

  14. Dolby A (which I’m one of the few people to actually work with 😉 ) and B actually did solve important problems, related to limitations of fidelity, and I would put them closer to the RIAA phonograph curve and dbx dynamic range compression (used by all TV broadcasts now) than I would MQA.

    Tapes and motion picture film had notoriously poor frequency dependent noise. That is, they were really noisy at the top end of the spectrum, and, properly implemented and calibrated, offered a lossless playback EQ and noise gating. It was popular because it worked. No panacea, but it made slow, narrow tapes act like hi-fi, and same for the optical tracks on film.

    MQA however is proposing a set of problems few can fully appreciate, and selling a solution that I can’t tell has any benefit at all.



  15. “…your entire post production and playback chain relies solely on the technology of one vendor” truly is the center issue and hurdle for MQA. It smells of monopoly which often end up retarding innovation and progress.

    I believe MQA has a serious offering that could change the production and consumption chain for the better but I would rather do without than see one company charing licensing fees and the intellectual property from here on out.

  16. At beginning of the audio chain is the artist with a digital audio workstation. I don’t see MQA making any headway here. Biggest obstacle is Apple, I don’t see them licensing MQA for GarageBand ever. Neither do I see much interest in MQA in studios. As of today I don’t see a path for MQA to get control of front end of the playback chain. Next the content providers are not showing any enthusiasm for licensing MQA. Until Sony and Universal are licensees I can conclude that Bob Stuart has not made a convincing argument that MQA benefits record companies. Finally at the user end MQA has six partners licensed to build playback equipment. It also has an uncomfortable number of DAC manufacturers who would like to be licenses but can’t get the information and licensing agreements to do so. Add in three DAC manufactures who are vocal critics of MQA and what do you have? You have something worse than vaporware. A lot of resources expended with no way to recoup the investment in licensing fees.

  17. Putting aside any questions about the actual improvements MQA offers (I have not heard anything myself) I think that the concerns raised in this article are based on fears which, though not entirely unreasonable, are almost certainly overblown. It seems to me that in order to deliver the sort of sound quality outcomes we desire that an end to end approach to the chain is required. For that to happen then everyone engaged (including the consumer) has to agree to colour inside the lines at every stage. Does that require compromises by everyone, of course it does. But it also enables a truly holistic approach too. And although it is darkly hinted that the current automatic ‘opt out’ that enables non-MQA consumers to simply play the files au naturel will possibly be withdrawn there is no evidence I have seen that this is supported by anything MQA has ever said.

    I say bring it on and let the user/market decide. If the results are mixed or MQA overplays its hand then the market will quickly bring this project to a halt. Apple have been enormously successful in building a ‘walled garden’ model because they have given the people what they want. People (not myself) like this approach and are happy to pay a premium for the experiences Apple provide. I currently pay a similar premium for the Tidal/Roon experience and do not expect or require these applications to ‘open source’ their offerings before I will buy into them.

    No one is forcing anyone to do anything. No need for tinfoil hats on this one.

    • “And although it is darkly hinted that the current automatic ‘opt out’ that enables non-MQA consumers to simply play the files au naturel will possibly be withdrawn there is no evidence I have seen that this is supported by anything MQA has ever said.”

      The most honest commentator about this aspect of MQA (i.e. in the future a required {found in the license agreement you agreed to when you made the purchase} “upgrade” to “MQA 2.0” will impose a more obvious/hard DRM) has been Robert Harley over at Absolute Sound. He explicitly talks about the “broken business model” and how that some “end to end” management (which means end user management and control) is a kind of holy grail to the industry (i.e to artists, labels, etc.).

      So when you talk of “tinfoil” and what MQA “has said” I find it a bit strange, sort of like you expect someone who is going to rob your house to call you up and give you a warning in advance. As Robert Harley argues, it is not the SQ aspects of MQA that the industry is really interested in, it is rather the “end to end” control that they after (and which they think is the solution to their problems)…

      • I don’t count speculation by Rob Harley as evidence. Actually I don’t think he is even qualified to comment on anyone’s business model let alone whether it might be’broken’. Again, I believe that these concerns about what nefarious plans the ‘industry’ might be cooking up to be very overstated and a teensy bit paranoid. I don’t see anything that is not already embraced by consumers in dozens of different segments today. The idea that MQA is some audiophile equivalent to Black Helicopters on the White House lawn is laughable.

      • I was thinking this morning that, in 2016, for a new format to be widely adopted, it really needs to be open. For example, I should be able to set up a few mics, do a multi-track recording of a local quartet, mix down to two tracks, master, and distribute the final product as MQA files on SoundCloud or my own website. I assume that the tracking, mixing, and mastering chain must be entirely MQA (or whatever intermediate formats are required) to preserve the benefits of MQA.

        I can do this sort of thing today with FLAC, MP3, CD, and DVD-Audio, and to a limited extent with DSD. Will regular people be able to license MQA production tools, or will these be so costly that only major labels can afford to participate in the production and distribution chain? If MQA was a compelling option for Indie artists, that might go a long way towards helping it gain popularity.

  18. Bob Stuart was co-founder of Meridian as we all know. (He was also co-founder of the short-lived ‘Lecson’ HiFi products, mainly known for their ‘modern’ appearance and unreliability.)
    What you may NOT know is that it has never been anything but a minor player in the UK HiFi industry, so small in an already small industry as to be almost invisible.
    Its products, while certainly not ‘bad’ tend to be grossly overpriced and are not in any way outstanding in sound quality. They look nice is about all, despite Stuart’s so-called ‘White Papers’.

    It was taken over by some Swiss ‘fashionable expensive products’ outfit and would have been unlikely to survive otherwise. Having apparently lost interest in Sooloos (some of who’s redundant employees started Roon) it tries MQA.

    It’s all hot air. Give it another year at most and it will have vanished.

  19. I’ve seen a long list of hi-fi formats that have withered on the vine and died. I needn’t list them all, but quadrophinic LP’s through a whole series of digital formats (many promising audio nirvana), have come and gone. In the meantime, the studios pump out music which has been compressed and trampled on to make it sound great on a pair of Beats and a phone (FM radio did the same trick decades ago, making ‘pop’ music sound okay on ‘trannies’).

    Where is the demand for HQ music that will see MQA get lift off? It’s not there; it’s never existed. MQA = DOA, there’s no market for it.

    • There does seem to be a growing interest in so-called ‘hi res’ music, Bob.
      This is reflected in surging sales of blingy DAP’s and DAC’s that handle files with huge sampling rates. Someone somewhere wants the best SQ money can buy and Bob Stuart may just tap into this if he can make superb sounding files; I mean who on earth is buying this Chord stuff that commands stunning prices…?

      • Could it be that people who are buying this stuff are primarily doing so to make their 16/44 lossless sound better? Think of it this way: would multi-thousand dollar DAPs and DAC/amps sell as strongly if they ONLY handled hi-res files?

        • Better than what?
          Anything above 16/44 is in their dreams 🙂
          ‘Golden ears’ don’t exist and Nyquist is a theoreM, not a theorY. Which means it’s proven, just the same as 2+2 is.

          And Stuart, the same as everyone else in the business, doesn’t like blind tests – he said so.

          “Sell strongly”? They don’t. HiFi is a tiny, to the point of being near invisible, fringe of the audio market.

          (You know why ALL HiFi manufacturers don’t like blind tests? Because they will show that there is no distinguishable difference between a 500 dollar amplifier (provided it is reasonably well designed/built) and a 50,000 dollar one.
          “Distinguishable” and “difference” being the key point . You can’t say one is “better” unless you can tell the difference. And “better” is entirely subjective het being able to tell a difference is entirely objective. And there isn’t one unless one of the devices under test is broken. 16/44 or, for example, the lowest -cost Naim power amp aren’t.)

        • Very good point, Mister Darko, and one that we have discussed in previous articles.
          I bought a little pair of Dragonflies to improve my 16/44.1 classical library out of an iPod Touch, following your reviews, and I’m thrilled with the results.
          And this is coming from an arch-sceptic who resisted up-grading and accused those who claimed to hear a difference of ‘confirmation bias’.
          Boy, was I wrong! Trouble is, I now want a powered desk-top DAC/Amp!
          I’ve been infected…and I love it!!!

  20. MQA really sound better than any other digital format out there – I know this from personal experience. I therefore would like to challenge all of you to witness it’s capabilities and then judge if it is worthwhile to embrace the concept or not. The 16/44 redbook CD format was also a closed format managed by the ‘powerful’ companies Sony and Philips, but no one complained that time when it was launched. So what is the fear for something which is so innovative that it can easily outperform old A/D mastertapes from the early ages of digital recording? Are we more in love with the monopolists and record labels who are re-issuing over and over again ‘remasters’ in HD format, knowing that it intrinsically contains old A/D errors? MQA is a stunning innovation which brings us all much closer to the original recording in the studio than ever before. Only those who are afraid to loose grip and power and do not care about their consumers, will continue to spread rumors and fear with false accusations regarding MQA’s algorithm feasibility and MQA marketing. Let this time a small company lead this breakthrough I would say. Better this than to stay on the leach of HDtracks or other ‘value added re-seller’ who are reselling unrepairable flaws of the past when they will not apply this intelligent MQA solution.

    • What I find fascinating about this comment is this line:

      “Are we more in love with the monopolists and record labels who are re-issuing over and over again ‘remasters’ in HD format, knowing that it intrinsically contains old A/D errors?”

      So you are advocating for swapping out one monopolist for another? That’s what is clearly on the table if content producers, distributors, and DAC vendors all buy into MQA with it’s current nebulous licensing model (Mr. Stuart was asked several times about software only players, artists who want to master music but produce at home as well as open source integration and he had no answers to really offer).

      But in your MQA utopia everyone has to pay to play ONE company who controls the format in perpetuity. Like I said, that right there gives me the willies.

      As far as CD goes, I’ll let Wikipedia do the talking:

      “As a result, in 1979, Sony and Philips set up a joint task force of engineers to design a new digital audio disc. Led by engineers Kees Schouhamer Immink and Toshitada Doi, the research pushed forward laser and optical disc technology.[17] After a year of experimentation and discussion, the task force produced the Red Book CD-DA standard. First published in 1980, the standard was formally adopted by the IEC as an international standard in 1987, with various amendments becoming part of the standard in 1996.”

      So unless MQA LTD. sets up of an industry wide task force to work on making it an open standard, I beg to differ that MQA is even remotely like the CD at this stage of the game. The CD was not “a closed format” by an stretch of the imagination. On the contrary, Sony and Phillip had every intention to make it an open one to in fact broaden its adoption. I just don’t see that from the MQA Camp at this point.

      • Hi Alex, as long as MQA can prove that their process is improving the sound quality of both old recordings and new ones, then I say YES, I have no problem for them to monopolize the market with their unique algorithm. It is like with HDCD, Dolby and DBX in the past a development which cannot be ignored or left out just because someone invented this and wants to make a fair profit from its usage.

        • Hi Peter, I have no problem with Mr. Stuart et al. making profits from their hard earned work. However, I do believe that one company trying to monopolize the digital audio playback chain is ultimately bad for all of us. But again, that’s just me.

    • Peter:

      I’m afraid that in my case you are throwing strawman arguments out. I could get into the misrepresentations, but it’s not worth it. Let’s cut to the chase?

      I’m completely open and unafraid, and unimpressed. I have an MQA capable DAC in search for any single track that demonstrates it’s benefits, which I can either A/B with high res non-MQA files or at least listen to and say “Wow, that’s better than anything in my collection.”

      The few that I have heard were completely unimpressive, but they were all from 2L. Where are the great tracks?

      Mind, you I expect to be stunned. If I have to hunt for the benefits with a magnifying glass and pair of tweezers it will remain unproven BS.



      • Hi Erik, there is much more MQA material available which will enable you to compare. I personally listen to MQA via a NAD C390DD with integrated BluOS module Bluesound streamer which defolds MQA files to max. 24/192 resolution. I agree that most 2L material is not perfect comparison material and have been looking around for more as well. The best impression what MQA is capable of was during the introduction of the Meridian Ultradac with Avid loudspeakers. On this setup I heard larger SQ improvement, since they played familiar music like Frank Sinatra ( mono recording..fantastic realism) and The Doors ( less impressive, but it showed how important it is to have access to the true, 1st generation original master recording..just MQA processing is insufficient if this is not certified..)

        This website from David Elias offers affordable MQA albums and an interesting 5 USD MQA sampler:

        David’s opinion regarding the MQA encoding process is intersting as well:
        When the master being encoded as MQA is CD quality at 16/44.1, the MQA time resolution repairs done to the master which remove the audible pre-echo ringing and maybe some post-echo ringing are distinctly heard as huge improvements to the sound, ALL WITHOUT USING ANY SPECIAL EQUIPMENT.

        17 complete MQA ‘remasters’ (actually a wrong definition, it is better to uses words like re-processed or de-blurred) can be purchased here:

        Much more interesting MQA albums (including the MQA version of Buena Vista Social Club !) can be found here on this website: scroll all the way down at the page and click MQA and you will find 160 MQA albums ( and growing each day )

        • Thanks for the sources, Peter. I would realy like to do a comparison with the Buena Vista Social club, does anyone have any idea about the provenance ? IS this “deblurred” MQA, or actual we went back to the masters MQA?

          I’ve started a discussion under the Music forums at AudioGon to discuss MQA music exclusively.



          • Hi Erik,
            I will check with the owner of Highresaudio and get back to you with regard to the Buena Vista Social Club MQA remaster
            What I do know that it is indeed deblurred since this is what the MQA encoding process is all about. What I see on the Bluesound App on my under technical details that it mentions:
            Sample frequency: 48.000 Hz
            Sample Size: 24 bits
            MQA orig. resolution: 96.000 Hz
            But what I cannot trace is from which source this automated, algorithmic MQA process was being made of, but probably it was a 24/96 remaster album..

        • Pray explain why “2L material is not perfect comparison material”? Is that because the benefits of MQA are more apparent on crappier recordings?

          I don’t have MQA, but have been blown away by the sheer beauty of these 2L recordings. Arnesen’s Magnificat is now one of my favorite albums. I already have the non-MQA equipment to enjoy these albums in DXD (24/352.8), their original recording resolution.

          For me it is really simple: based on the gushing praise I hear of MQA, I would expect these already stellar DXD tracks to sound even better due to the time de-blurring and other MQA magic.

          It sounds like that’s not going to be the case.

    • Whether it “stunning” or not is purely subjective.
      And I ask – stunning compared to what?
      You MUST hear a DIFFERENCE before you can make a QUALITY comparison between MQA and a ‘regular’ recording.
      And that difference does not exist, as below:
      Unless the orchestra, singer, band, or whatever were recorded SIMULTANEOUSLY using the MQA process and the standard process there is no way to compare.
      That did not happen
      You just liked whatever was played is all. No more than that.

      Your comment re ‘big corporations’ and 16/44 CDs is also invalid.

      They did NOT control the recording process, only the media, and so you had a choice and still do – CD SACD, DSD, downloads, even vinyl. .. MQA does.

      • Ok Mark, stunning is indeed a subjective terminology which describes perfectly my personal experience when I heard it for the first time. The algorithm is capable to deblur time errors which are intrinsically present in every digital recording. This aspect is the most convincing part to me and it works with past recordings and new ones. It is as if a haze is being lifted form the soundstage. Please just listen yourself and you will see.. 🙂

        • Peter,
          as there is a lot of dispute about whether it is any good or not the ‘improvement’ (if it exists at all) must be very small. Obviously.

          Hear it? I don’t need to – see above. When the ‘man in the street’ (which we ALL are except when we are using our professional expertise) says MQA is ‘better’ then I will listen to it.
          At present, unless I am willing to spend money on an MQA-certified DAC, I CAN’T listen to it. All I can do is decide whether it is ‘no worse on’ a ‘regular’ DAC than what I listen to now. And why should I want to do that?

          Go to a show to see it being demonstrated? The very fact that I am willing to travel to a show, and pay any entrance fee, is indicative that I am in a ‘receptive’ mood. Thus it is impossible for any of us ‘unpaid’ people to make an objective judgement under those circumstances, even more so as the MQA people refuse to play ‘reular’ stuff on ‘regular’ equipment so we can compare.

          ‘Professional’ opinions? The people reviewing HiFi on audio sites and paper magazines such as Stereophile, The Absolute Sound, HiFi News, etc. are PAID to keep the ‘stereo pot boiling’. So, reasonably enough they do. If they usually said “I can’t tell any difference between X and Y” they would soon be out of a job.
          So I don’t usually believe them. Nobody else would believe them either if they understood their motivation (making a living) behind such comments and reviews 🙂

          • Mark – do you have proof that the publications that you list are paid to “keep the pot boiling” i.e. that there is a link between their advertising dollars and their editorial?

            If you DO have proof, I, as well as many others, would love to see it. Otherwise, please desist with such baseless allegations.

          • Hi Mark, why are you so suspicious? The world is not only lead by money and greed, but also by love and passion. Enjoying music is an important factor in life for ‘us’ audiophiles and can bring strong positive emotions and joy of life. Maybe this is part of the reason why many discussions regarding sound quality improvement by new technology is dominated by fear and prejudice, since it confronts us that our audio gear might not be sufficient enough anymore to bring us the joy we require. Please do not over react I would say and on the other hand, I personally might also be over reacting a bit with my enthusiasm of what MQA is bringing to me in my little audiophile hobby. If I have to choose between new high-end MQA gear and never allowed to listen to old records or choose for my musical history on my car radio in MP3, I will choose for the last. Just check how MQA sounds on regular gear like the Bluesound products for example and judge yourself if it is worthwhile to dive into. The journalist who indeed make their money with writing articles and developers and pioneers like Bob Stuart, are also normal people like you and me. They have passion and a job, but also knowledge and a huge ‘database’ in their minds. Experienced listeners, who are in many cases granted early access to new technology for review. I appreciate these articles very much, it is part of the hobby an passion, appetizing our audiophile needs to search for ‘the truth’ all within our personal budget levels. It is like cooking a fine meal, pepper and salt to tune it to your personal taste to make it best. Cheers!

        • Keep in mind, that most speakers will add quite a bit of such “blurring” so in terms of scale, while I appreciate the technical benefits, I cannot assess practical benefits without finding a track.

          • John,

            On The Enthusiast Network website (Stereophile):
            “At TEN, we help brands connect with a powerful, active, and influential group of passionate enthusiasts. Our massive scale across all platforms allows our partners unmatched reach.”

            And “Content Experts” “It’s at the core of who we are. We do it for our own brands. We do it for our advertisers.”

            Unlike a lot of others on this site I regularly read content from Motor Trend, Hot Rod, Street Rodder and Hot Rod Deluxe. Advertisers and content is linked in these publications and should be.

            What you are saying is the boys and girls in New York (Stereophile) didn’t get the memo from corporate in El Segundo California.

          • Did you have a chance to listen to it Erik? I encourage you to do so, otherwise this is a paper discussion and taste is the proof of the pudding.

        • Time errors; isn’t that what asynchronous DAC’s are supposed to clear up…?

          (I know I’m way in out of my depth here…)

  21. Didn’t someone named Dolby invent this same type of scheme for tapes a few decades ago? The fact that you need to caution commenters says it all. MQA = DOA

    • Patrick,

      Your points are well taken. According to Wikipedia, yes. Dolby A came out in 1965 but never made it to consumer gear. Dolby B in 1968, which to me, enabled the era of the cassette deck. Dolby A by the way was in use in theaters until the era of Dolby Digital and DTS finally killed it.

      dbx came out in 1971, I always liked it more, but wasn’t popular in consumer gear until stereo TV broadcasts. No one knows it’s there really. 🙂

      However, for all three of these, the benefits were OBVIOUS! If you did A/B comparisons they would totally hear the difference. They enabled film and cassettes to sound like the cutting edge. Or at least closer. If you can hear tape hiss, you could hear the benefits. I did not require $30,000 gear and a treated room. Anyone with a Walkman could tell.

      If I’m going to take MQA seriously it has to be at least that good. By the way, if the benefits as written by Meridian / Stuart are tangible you don’t even need music. Just a pair of mics recording two people having a conversation, or sex, or cats fighting, should show the benefits.



  22. Like I said, I hear that it’s vastly superior, with no proof to play on my system. If it’s that great, the technology really won’t matter.

    It’s like apple pie. If I take it out of the oven and I have to defend it from my friends, family, and passing black bears until after dinner, it’s a good pie. If I have to write a book to explain to people why they are about to eat the best pie ever made, it’s a complete failure.

  23. So I’ve reached out to the local audiophile community that had a chance to listen to MQA in San Rafael, CA and other locations. Besides negative comments on the way the presentations were made the comments on the sound quality have ranged from “I couldn’t tell a difference” to “It hurt my head to listen to it”

    Still I plan on doing a listener-organized MQA listening event later this year. But it seems the people actually willing to say MQA is all that who aren’t industry insiders is quite small.

    At least from the samples I have around me, the idea that everyone can hear an improvement in sound quality is unsubstantiated fluff so far.

  24. Alex,

    Hell Yeah! This is exactly what I’ve been screaming.

    MQA is a licensing scheme in the same vein as Dolby labs.
    While I don’t doubt that it offers certain benefits in sound quality, I cannot see where this benefit outweighs the risk of Meridian/ Stuart/ MQA holding a proprietary license over both content and OEM… Essentially cradle to grave control.

    The “audible benefits” logic was the jumping off point for Dolby labs too. Dolby’s initial market thrust was cinematic audio noise reduction. Their initial promise was that they’ll make everything sound better, and they did. Just like I a sure MQA makes things sound marginally better.

    Then the promise was that consumers could have access to a true cinematic experience through… (surprise surprise) Dolby licensed hardware that could decode their dolby licensed movie codecs.
    These days Dolby can, and sometimes does, just create arbitrary newer versions of the same tech to force content creators and OEM’s to license a new system. Dolby Stereo, Dolby Surround, Dolby Digital, Dolby Pro Logic, Dolby TrueHD, Dolby 5.1, Dolby 7.1, Dolby 9.1, Dolby Atmos etc…

    If Bob Stuart really is doing this as a philanthropic effort to make music sound better, (which he has certainly implied in previous statements), then release MQA as an Open Source standard.

    Otherwise its just a business plan to make profit, its not really about “Music lovers needing to no longer be shortchanged” “Finally we can all hear exactly what the musicians recorded.”

    From where I am sitting, my music sounds pretty fantastic as is.
    Why are so many audiophile always in such a state of discontent? You could argue that audiophiles are doing half of Stuarts work for him….

    Anyway, great post Alex. I’m with ya!

    • Small correction, while you may have been first aware of Dolby (Dolby Surround) in theaters, Dolby A was already successful in multi-track studios. Dolby A was also LAST used in theaters. By the time analog movie sound died the studios had long ago gone 99.9% fully digital for their multi-tracks.

      Dolby A was a small part of motion picture sound process by the way. The Dolby Surround processing included noise reduction (Dolby A) as well as EQ and de-matrix, what most users know of as “Pro-Logic”. Magnetic sound tracks, which were rare, and usually only in 70mm Film still used Dolby A but had discrete tracks, so there was no de-matrix applied. By discrete, I mean as discrete as magnetic tape can be.

      Sorry, I know I’m off on a personal tangent on memory lane. I hope I didn’t just break the Internet. Sorry John.

  25. Bear with me folks, real life is intervening, and honestly, I’m having a difficult time finding a set of tracks I could really do a fair comparison with.

    Either the tracks are merely re-processed (and could claim not best examples), or re-mixed (which could be juiced). When the first DSD releases came out they were also re-mixed and showed significant disparity in choices made by the mastering engineers. The first CD’s were reversed, with high compression and low channel separation compared to LP’s.

    Does anyone have a set of tracks they think are really good, and examples of why MQA should matter to me? This is for you to John. 🙂 If you have tracks which you’d um, lend me…. or could point me to where I should purchase them that you think would be good examples, please let me know.

    I’d rather not spend hundreds of dollars dowloading stuff if I don’t have to. 🙂



    • Hi Erik, we can make a connection on Facebook if you like and share thoughts etc.or send me an e-mail

      Please understand that I am not only positively biased through personal listening experience and reading those reviews in Absolute Sound, Stereophile, the large Q&A with Bob Stuart on and overhere at Johny Darko’s blogs , but also intrigued with the technology itself.

      One of the major questions I have is if MQA reprocessed albums from the early ages of A/D recording are indeed deblurred and therefore clean and free of A/D time-smearing effects. If this is already audible on standard D/A converters, then it will already satisfy a lot of audiophiles and they will not need to invest in expensive (UltraDAC, Mytek and other MQA certified) DAC or less expensive (Bluesound) DAC / PowerDAC systems.

      What I still do not understand is why the MQA algorithm seems to be functional only (?) as an end-to-end process, so I asked the MQA team the following questions:

      Q: Is the MQA algorithm capable always to deblur ‘intrinsically’ the current DAC’s performance? This would be a logical extra feature and will enhance the DAC’s performance also when playing standard non-MQA encoded FLAC and WAV files.

      A: MQA is an end-to-end process whereby the playback processing is relying on information from the encoder to produce the best possible match to the DAC output. Without that knowledge the decoder would be “guessing” as to the right formula for your DAC and for any particular track. So the answer unfortunately is no. When the content reverts to standard PCM audio, MQA relinquishes all control back to the standard playback device.
      Kind regards, MQA Team

      Q:I still have one question which is still bothering me: Is the MQA algorithm capable always to deblur ‘intrinsically’ the current DAC’s performance? This would be a logical extra feature and will enhance the DAC’s performance also when playing standard non-MQA encoded FLAC and WAV files. Looking forward to your answer 🙂

      This last question I asked july 1st, still waiting for reply.. They are very busy chasing record labels and studio’s to purchase MQA licences I suppose. It is a tough game for such a small company, but they recently hired Mike Jbara from Warner Music, so I assume this will help getting other music labels supporting MQA.

      A new question which I would like to raise is if it is possible to apply the MQA deblurring also for re-issuing old and recent digital recordings in clean Analog form onto Vinyl or Analog Tape..?

      So my personal interest is focused to get access to re-processed MQA certified musical gems from the past, more than new albums and recordings. If the algorithm works only end-to-end in the digital domain is it because of the defolding aspect of the algorithm, or also because of a complex mathematical analysis of intrinsic A/D errors in the source in combination with intrinsic D/A errors in the DAC..? So the timing error correction is a continuous process, but if this is correct, than it means that a MQA remaster is not fully deblurred..

      So there is still some mystery around the MQA algorithm and the MQA certification process of DAC’s. I personally cannot escape the impression that a MQA accredited DAC has undergone an intrinsic correction and compensation for its D/A time error behavior.. This also explains why it is impossible to perform a truly objective A/B comparison of older 16/44 digital recordings (with lots of time smear in it..) and the MQA reprocessed version. It is listening to 2 compensated variables at once. Therefore I am so intrigued that any DAC which is MQA accredited, will probably sound better also when playing standard 16/44 WAV or FLAC files, since the D/A time smear has been minimized already by the accreditation process… But the MQA team’s answer to this assumption is clear, it seems not to be the case, which is strange to me, but OK, let’s wait until someone capable to measure blurring effects via an oscilloscope before and after accreditation I would suggest… I suppose that for example mr. John Atkinson from Stereophile, or other well known journalists out there will have enough access to instrumentation and analysis to show us how the MQA deblurring process really works.

      I am also very interested how long the MQA encoding process takes. In theory, it is imaginable that we all can do this reprocessing at home, like using a Dolby or DBX system.. That would be nice and in that way, we do not need to wait for the Music Industry to accept the new MQA ‘shell’ around all old and new recordings..:-)

      in case the MQA licensing takes much too much time and hostility wins.. then I would start offering such a solution to the market in one nice hardware package and make money and return-on-investment in another way. I suppose Sony Music and others will have to understand that technology progress cannot be stopped.. let’s see.. Better to have TIDAL / 7L digital offering all of us MQA reprocessed music soon!

      Until then, I encourage everyone just to take more time to listen in a relaxed atmosphere ( probably not Audio Shows..;-)) to MQA

      Listen and you will See ( an old one from B&W music, but still valid)

    • So Erik, what *was* your experience with the 2L test bench tracks with your Brooklyn? You didn’t compare because none of it was to your taste?

      If I had a Brooklyn handy, I would take a track like Ola Gjeilo: Ubi Caritas – piano improvisation
      Ola Gjeilo – and do the following listening comparisons:
      a) establish a baseline with the 16/44.1 version
      b) then listen to the MQA (24/44.1) version:
      i) with MQA turned off. In this mode you would be verifying the claim that even without MQA decoding, the MQA track sounds better than the 16/44.1 due to the higher bit depth and “temporal deblurring.”
      ii) with MQA ON: this should be audio nirvana according to the MQA fans
      c) finally, listen to the DXD version.
      Does the MQA decoded track sound better than the DXD? Again, this is what the MQA proponents would claim.

      If you don’t like Ola Gjeilo, try the really eclectic Frode Fjellheim: Kyrie
      Cantus & Frode Fjellheim. Or my favorite – but this is firmly in the choral genre – Arnesen: MAGNIFICAT 4. Et misericordia.

      • Hi Austinpop,

        I actually did compare the tracks I got from 2L. I listened to the following tracks on 96/24 and MQA:

        Vivaldi: Recitative and Aria from Cantata RV 679, “Che giova il sospirar, povero core”
        Tone Wik & Barokkanerne (period instruments)

        I chose them because they are roughly the same file size, so it was a good comparison of byte efficiency.

        In terms of MQA vs. non, I could tell no difference at all. No benefit, no worsening. While the MQA reported 384k vs. 96 for PCM, I could not hear any real difference.

        In terms of music, I found the treble really congested and busy. Like all the mics were too close to the instruments and never gelled like they would if you were listening in person. It was pretty distracting, and difficult for me, so I didn’t try to go back.

        Over the next week or so I”ll try to get BVSC or the Mozart violin concertos, but it’s my understanding both are re-mixes.



        • Erik,

          No wonder – I don’t particularly care for that Vivaldi sample. It, and the Mozart Violin Concerto sample seem to have excessive treble energy. The Britten sample is better, but still a bit tizzy.

          Try the 3 tracks I mentioned. Outstanding SQ and recordings. Another excellent one is Jan Gunnar Hoff: LIVING.

          As for comparisons, please consider the ones I proposed (CD vs MQA-off vs MQA-on vs DXD), which are a superset of the ones listed in the 2L supplementary listener notes (

          For me, I could reliably hear the improvement in each step: CD < MQA-off < DXD. The missing piece, of course is MQA-on. Where does it fit? In one of the cases listed in the link above, Mortensen actually preferred the MQA-on version to the DXD version.

          Also, for me CD < MQA-off is not surprising. CD is 16/44.1, MQA-off is 24/44.1 + temporal deblurring. You would expect an SQ bump from 16 to 24 bit alone. So how can one isolate the SQ due to the deblurring alone?

          Anyway, with the Brooklyn, you have access to that precious MQA-ON configuration. Use it wisely! The key comparison for me is always: MQA-On vs. DXD (at least in the case of the DXD samples). Because ultimately, the DXD version is what I can buy and enjoy today with non-MQA equipment. The only way to justify the expense of a new MQA DAC is if the SQ of the MQA ON SQ exceeds even the DXD. This is what has been claimed in the audiophile press. I'm skeptical.

          That's my perspective.

  26. Oops, I made a small error in copying in my last question to the MQA team:

    Well..thanks for your answer dear MQA team.

    But I am still ‘puzzled’ since my assumption does contain some logic and would be feasible if the MQA decoder would get a standard instruction that if no MQA signal enters the DAC, the algorithm should adjust ‘only’ for D/A deblurring effects… Maybe mr. Bob Stuart can enlighten many audiophiles out there with some further detailed clarification how the end-to-end process works and how past errors are detected. I am truly fascinated by this stunning achievement .

    But I am even more looking forward to a streaming (near?) future with all MQA encoded flac files..

    All the best!

  27. Darko,
    For some reason I don’t see a ‘reply’ below your comment.

    No, I am not saying it is advertising revenue. (Though in another field, radio controlled model planes, I never see any ‘reviews’ that ever makes the smallest criticism of some rubbish Chinese model plane made out of packing foam I don’t see that in HiFi magazines which are aimed at a more mature audience.)

    What I AM saying, purely using ‘logic’ is that the ‘top’ reviewers obtain their income by ‘keeping the stereo pot boiling, just as I posted. I don’t have any financial stake in this stuff, and maybe you don’t either. But many do – they are taken as a ‘reference’. And they will only maintain that probably lucrative position (they don’t write articles in the top magazines for free, do they?) by constantly saying things like MQA are ‘good’. It might well be. But they say this with all new things that come along. Thus to a discriminating person (I am not claiming to be one) they lose all credibility.

    Their motivation is to keep us all talking and so encourage us to buy the advert-filled magazines which are the source of their income.. That is what they are paid for. We should always bear that in mind

  28. Peter,

    In you ‘passion’ point.

    I broadly agree. But I have reached a state of satisfaction with my equipment that I feel any further change will make little difference. With the possible exception of absolutely ‘top’ speakers., though I don’t intend to buy any. To me there is a limit, whether you can afford new things or not.

    Another interest of mine is cars. Myself and my wife have a ‘regular’ at each, quite expensive ones, but going further I pointless.
    So I purchased a 1991 Maserati Biturbo Spider (convertible) for 15,000 UK pounds. Because I liked the look of it and its known relatively high performance.. It has been described by reviewers as the worst ‘modern’ car ever made. But it works well enough, its ability exceeds my driving skill it does 160 mph, is a ‘toy’ and there is room for some shopping. The reviewers at the time said its reliability is questionable if you use it as a ‘regular’ car and it is skittish on a wet road. Do I care? No

    Thus I don’t care what ‘reviewers’ think and won’t even bother to try MQA. It’s my money so I can take whatever view I like, as can others when spending their money. Or not, as the case may be.It’s just another bandwagon. Interesting for what is said about it and the possible motivations for its existence but that’s all.

    Meridian and Bob Stuart’s near invisible position in the already small world of UK HiFi sales, the near giving up of the ludicrously priced (not the speakers) and ‘proprietary’ Sooloos systems, his many ‘white papers’, etc. makes me even more interested.

    • Hi Mark,
      Fair enough, I do recognize your perception and feeling towards ‘satisfied sound quality lover’ and am also quite careful, even critical when I visit audio shows or demonstrations of high-end gear. But part of the passion is that with even small changes, sometimes a large positive contribution can be made to the presentation of both new and familiar music at home. My purpose of visiting such audio shows, friends with the same hobby (and nice setup) demonstrations and reading audio magazines and blogs etc. is not because I am not satisfied with what I am able to achieve at home, but is of these reasons:

      1. Listen carefully to the presentation and trying to grasp and memorize if what I hear is more interesting, fitting my taste better or just become flabbergasted and impressed.
      2. Try to re-calibrate my mind with this improved sound as being my personal reference
      3. Get back home again, check what I assume what is missing and start tweaking if necessary (and in most cases, still being happy!)
      4. In case something new reaches the market, which is affordable and a logical product for SQ improvement, I will buy it. Recent purchases are the Audioquest Jitterbug, the Bybee quantum signal enhancer, and some iFi products for cleaning up the (horrible..) USB interface RFI.
      5. In case a real breakthrough comes on my path, which fascinates me from the start, then I will start thinking of investing in new gear. My experience with soundshows and demonstrations is that when a perfectly tuned system and proper setup, I can hear already outside the demonstration room that what is inside is of interest.. This happens unfortunately not enough, but when it does, my ears start to grow a bit.. But 3 years ago, I did witness a new technology over here in The Netherlands.. Mr leo de Klerk is A sound engineer developed inverted loudspeakers, the omniwave, in a Blumlein setup.. The company is called Bloomline and the impact of what I heard is still puzzling me until today. It misses some ‘slam and bass-power’ but for the rest is is fully 3D, resonance free and super natural. Since then something high on my wish-list, although it has to stay within financially acceptable limits as well.
      6. Soundshows and friends etc. are a great source of finding new music! That’s a major part of the passion I must say 🙂

      In my 55 living years, I regard myself as a moderate, but critical audiophile and collected some nice new and second hand gear, which I sometimes upgrade with tweaks or cables or even ‘voodoo’ stuff like the Bybee enhancer. But as long as it improves my enjoyment it’s fine with me. Music is passion and emotion and personal taste cannot always be explained.
      This week I receive an interesting e-mail from Paul Mcgowan from PSaudio, who perfectly describes that sometimes explainable improvements are being neutralized by the logical brain.. Really funny.

      With regard to your post in reaction to the MQA developments, you can also ask yourself why it was of interest for you to respond a bit harsh and negative towards this innovation and the journalists in general who promote innovations like these. If you are really satisfied with your hifi setup and your Maserati ( excellent choice by the way), then you should not get upset when someone else reports about innovations and SQ improvements.. It is the same as with reviewing tweaks, although MQA touches something more fundamental.. Potentially a technology which is really able to take away the veil of a beautiful (sound) picture… I look at it like someone else described in Darko’s former post, as if a restoration is done on a Rembrandt, Picasso or other masterpiece. If this is indeed the case, we should all be able to hear it, otherwise it makes no sense.

      The vast amount of 24/96 or 24/192 remastered albums seem to be filling a need for many audiophiles to get a step closer to their musical past. The fact that many audiophiles and ‘normal’ listeners still prefer the sound of Vinyl records, tells me something that there is something wrong with digital audio in general. But besides jitter, time-smear and unnatural pre-ringing effects, it is also very convenient to have access to an nonvenomous database filled with music.

      Music is timeless, our memory seems to store music in a different location than other information. Listening to music is a teleportation in time, so for me, a proper hifi or high-end setup is if as looking through a time-window. The cleaner the window is, the better my perception of presence.

      If MQA is able to improve this feeling of being present, than it is something which we all should be glad with and cherish I would say. But is should be affordable as well, not only for the happy few…Therefore the concept of applying MQA with TIDAL is a very interesting and very affordable approach I would say. Let’s hope it will work out as promised and let’s see how DAC manufacturers will respond. Until now, there is a lot of skepticism, which is not uncommon in the audiophile scene. But I dislike prejudiced comments of persons who have not ever witnessed it..It is nothing more of fear of change to come.
      Cheers and all the best with your passions!

      • Peter,
        “Harsh and negative” about Meridian and MQA, and “fear of change to come”?

        No. I am just going by Bob Stuart’s history. He was the co-founder of Lecson.
        Their equipment looks very ‘modern’ but it was all ‘design’ and no ‘performance’.
        They sounded fine but the power amplifier was disastrously unreliable. The preamp looked great (rather like some of the B&O stuff) but the ‘sliding’ controls were stuck on with double-sided sticky tape and quickly fell off.
        They did no last long!

        So he started Meridian. Initially they made ‘improved’ versions of the early Philips CD players. 50% more expensive but in practice sounded very little different.
        Next was a ‘modular’ integrated amplifier. It looked good, but performed poorly for its price and many of the promised modules, such as the FM tuner, never appeared. All we got was more promises but no action.
        Then a line of very expensive CD players that only sold in tiny numbers as I n practice they sounded little better than any other CD player.
        Sooloos. Sales were very low as it was far too expensive for what it was – a ‘regular’ PC in a fancy case and a NAS that was five times the price of a similar Seagate, Synology, etc.
        Sooloos is now almost dead. A few of its redundant, thus unemployed, systems people have started Roon.

        Now MQA. It appears from reports that they won’t do any A/B demonstrations. And Stuart has spoken out saying he does not like A/B demos as the results cannot be relied on. Which can only mean that the difference is SO SMALL that few people hear it.

        Despite all Stuart’s many so-called ‘White Papers’ on many HiFi subjects his products do not sound notably good and have all been a failure in the HiFi market. In their home country, the UK, where I live they at invisible. Not a Meridian dealer within 100 Km of me. But there are more than 20 good HiFi dealers within 40 Km.,

        Thus Meridian’s history is entirely BS and little performance. Thus I expect the same with MQA.

        • Bob Stuart has almost certainly done more for the high quality reproduction of music since breakfast than you have accomplished in your entire 55 years. So you don’t like his products, fine. Don’t buy them. If you have an issue with his many ‘White Papers’ perhaps you could commit some of your own research to paper to put him straight.

          Meridian have produced many fine and ground breaking products over their long history. You my friend have produced a long and unfocussed whinge along the lines that you don’t get MQA (so presumably it must be a trick).

          • Sure he has done more for….etc. That’s his job.
            And similarly so have I in my job. Hardware and operating system design of some of the world’s biggest computers. The sort that actually RUN the world – you don’t think the world’s banking systems, the airlines or the National Security Agency run on a PC or a Mac, do you? 🙂
            And now the world’s only operational ‘Quantum Computer’. You can actually sign on it for free and use it. It has already done some calculations in a few minutes that would take a billion years plus on ‘classical’ computers, no matter how big.
            Not all by myself of course. But I DO have my skills. I don’t expect Stuart does all the Meridian/MQA stuff by himself either.

            I am simply pointing out the quick failure of Lecson, and some of the unfulfilled ‘promises’ (there have been others – DVDA was Meridians Codec. It failed on the market. as did their ‘Ferrari’ radio) and near zero market penetration of Meridian.

            So in PRACTICE Lecson’s and Meridian’s performance doesn’t even come close to matching the ‘theoretical’ stuff in Stuart’s frequent ‘White Papers’.

            What’s hard to understand about that?

          • Mark, a big thank you to you (and your colleagues) that have built some of these gargantuan and immensely useful piece of infrastructure. However, even if Bob Stuarts shortcomings as a businessman were as severe as you suggest I still think that his ideas and vision is something that justifies the interest it is generating. You have yourself confirmed there is no obvious sonic downside for the non MQA enabled so can you just humour those who want to give this thing a chance rather than see it strangled in the crib. IBM famously forecast a world wide requirement for about 11 mainframes, dismissed the PC and failed to grasp the importance of the internet for a Very Long Time. They have recovered from those mistakes and the world has benefited enormously since then. Bob Stuarts time may have finally come.

        • Mark, so by analyzing someone’s track record and judging his failures you seem to be able to judge how MQA sounds… To me, such a conclusion is not credible, sorry.
          With regard to the reported reluctance during MQA demonstrations of A/B comparisons, I mentioned earlier that there might be a logical reason for it, of which I would like to receive some answers from either the MQA team or the professional audio journalists out there. My assumption is that a MQA accredited DAC might have undergone a transformation which compensates for all D/A time-smearing effects, so also non-MQA music files will sound better. But according to the MQA team this is incorrect, and the algorithm is an end-to-end process. I personally have the impression that the performance of my DAC has improved substantially also for 16/44 wav and flac files after the MQA upgrade. But when playing encoded MQA files, the decoding and defolding process does it work and it sounds better then ever before. But I am repeating myself, please take the opportunity to listen first before judging it.

  29. I’m a recording engineer and bit streaming aside I really don’t really see what impact MQA will have on the way records are made. Recording studio’s are stilll going to release product the way they always have. If Meridian wants to slap some additional encoding and decoding process on the end product to make it more accessible to stream in a smaller container, let them have at it.

  30. Guys, I’ve tried a couple of more tracks from 2L. I’ve yet to hear any difference between Redbook CD tracks (44.1/16) and MQA, and in fact am discovering Iike DSD more than I thought I did.

    I’m also not really liking the mixing done at 2L. From harsh, congested treble to ham-fisted level changes. I do hear differences in a remix. I do not hear a deblurring of any sort.

    To me this has just become the search for the Chupacabra. If anyone can put one in a cage and it’s not actlually Batboy (whom we already know) I look forward to it.



    • Hi Erik, maybe you should check out also David Elias website and MQA remasters. A friend of mine shared a comment he received from David regarding MQA and my Facebook timeline.
      one sentence which confirms MQA statements:

      I have found some of the biggest MQA sonic improvements on the sound quality of my masters were on the lower res CD masters 16/44.1.

      • Peter,

        The effects of MQA on 44.1 is really the thing I care about the very least. I’m looking to compare it to high resolution. So far, comparing Redbook to MQA there’s been no difference at all that was not actually part of the remix. I’m not spending a penny to find out more. If anyone has free tracks, I’ll be happy to go listen, when I have time. At this point it’s nonsense. 5

        From my understanding, this alleged deblurring could just be from more dither being added in the lowest bits. I wouldn’t be surprised if the same effect could not be achieved by just increasing the amount of dither added to the signal.



          • I’m using a Mytek Brooklyn, which does in fact have MQA decoding. MQA is absolute nonsense. It’s not even noticeably better than Redbook.

            In fact, “low resolution” DSD sounds better to me, and I don’t even own more than a couple of DSD albums.


          • Ok Erik, I have a totally different experience and judgement with MQA decoded albums on my DAC and loudspeakers, but cannot compare to DSD. A friend of mine did an extensive comparison of 2L DSD tracks and the MQA versions on a non-MQA accredited DAC and had a similar impression as yours. He favors DSD, but since he listened to the MQA encoded tracks from David Elias website, his opinion is becoming less negative. Biggest problem with MQA is that there still is insufficient music available and A/B comparisons seem to be difficult or (technically?) Impossible…Did you purchase your Mytek brooklyn including the MQA ‘upgrade’ off-the-shelf or did you receive a firmware ugrade? I am very interested if you have heard a difference of your DAC after the MQA upgrade when playing normal WAV and FLAC files or not.

  31. Vendor lock-in and technical issues certainly are questions in MQA. But isn’t sound quality far and away the biggest factor? Some of the most reputable listeners are saying that MQA is a big step toward “real.” Look at what we spend–or aspire to spend–for a new/improved DAC, or any other component. If MQA delivers $10,000 performance for a couple thousand, and a new level of realism for $10,000, that is a very big deal. For consumers, where’s the downside, other than a new DAC, which those who care would buy anyway, sooner or later? Well, the downside is the high prices being charged for high-res music downloads. C’mon: $25 for a high-res file transfer? Is an MQA counterpart going to be same or more? The guy on the street isn’t going to pay that. However, it is also said that once MQA streaming and decoding are in place, it can enhance everything from car radios to hearing aids. That is an exciting prospect.

  32. Earlier today I replied to Peter’s post about ‘passion’.

    I stated that from the quickly failed Lecson’s, and still existent Meridian’s history, mostly of ‘market failure’ (if we define market failure as very few potential paying customers took/take any notice of anything they ever claim[d] and actually purchase[d] their equipment) and general market invisibility – they had/have near zero HiFi market penetration in the UK, their home country) I do not think MQA will come to anything so I am not going to bother to even listen.

    Why not?
    Because Stuart says MQA ‘authenticated’ and encoded material, if played via a standard non-MQA DAC will be not degrade the sound quality.
    If true, fine.
    No point whatsoever.

    And then buy an MQA-capable DAC to hear the full enchilada on the strength of his ‘promise’ that it will sound better?

    Not a * chance. And I expect most other people will feel the same.

  33. Try for yourselves, dear hifi public. I have, and was thrilled by the analog – like sound mqa enables. No format will last forever. Mqa will probably not be the last standard.Yes, we will probably buy our most beloved albums several times in the next twenty years in ever changing formats. Who cares. The conceptual thinking at mqa has for now brought us a very nice platform. So divide your time between typing comments and actually listening to mqa. Try it, it’s an involving sound.

  34. Since yesterday curiosity has got the better of me. Despite that I said I was not interested I have downloaded some ‘MQA’ tracks of some 2L music I am familiar with and like. Using the dCS Debussy DAC I use all the time.
    It is not an ‘MQA’ DAC and I hear no difference from the non-MQA recordings. So for me, Stuart’s comments that it will sound no worse appears to be true.

    BUT: I am not going to buy an ‘MQA’ DAC just on his promises, there being so little material available.

    dCS? All their DACs are ‘original’ – they don’t use any standard DAC chips or standard filters. Everything is implemented in their own firmware and upgrades can be downloaded to your dCS DAC for free or at very low cost.

    So if ever they set them up to be ‘MQA accredited’ it won’t cost much for the ‘upgrade’. Presumably they are waiting for the record and streaming company ‘majors’ to take it up or it is simply not worth dCS putting any effort into it.

    So it is a ‘chicken and egg’ situation as we all know. My money is on that MQA will get no further than the egg.

    In a years time we will know who is right.

    • Hi Mark, it seems dCS will encorporate MQA. Knowing the brand, this is not for marketing reasons.

      dCS is currently working with MQA to enable MQA support in Rossini, Vivaldi and future dCS products. This is scheduled for 2016 and we expect to announce more details in the Summer. The current situation is that our development team have prototyped an MQA solution inside a dCS DAC but this “software only” mode of enabling MQA has hit some challenges. We are working with the MQA development team to identify solutions to these technical challenges and this work may result in us changing our architecture from software only to a hybrid software and hardware solution.

  35. David Hill,
    I don’t disagree with your reply at all. We all have our skills, I can fix old British motorbikes and catch trout too, it’s not just computers, where I am only a small cog in a very big business. Can Bob Stuart do those things? Maybe he can 🙂

    My ‘historical’ comments on Lecson (long deceased) and Meridian are totally factual and can be checked by anyone. And my opinions of MQA’s survival is based on those facts. My particular interest in Meridian is that I came close to buying two of their products – in the 1970s and 80s there was a Meridian dealer nearby. But the CD player I had in mind was 1000 UK pounds whereas most others were 200-350 pounds and to me sounded just as good. And the amplifier I mentioned looked terrific, had ‘slide on’ modules so it got longer and longer as you added them, which I thought was neat 🙂

    But when reviewed at the time by John Atkinson and separately by Martin Colloms they BOTH said its performance was only ‘average’ – no better than other amplifiers at half the price.
    AND THE PROMISED EXTRA MODULES NEVER APPEARED despite Meridian’s continual ‘promises’ and several irate ‘Letters to the Editor’ in the two leading UK magazines from people who had purchased it.

    That, coupled with other failures (Sooloos was hardly a ‘success’, nor were some other things) so I am leery of MQA. It has, to me, with its absence of ‘straight talking’, a hint of ‘desperation’ about it. I wonder if their parent company, Richemont, a Swiss company that also owns other ‘general luxury’ companies, such as Breitling, Vacheron Constantin, and other very expensive watch, pen, and jewellery companies has told them to come up with something sellable or be closed down.
    Meridian is a ‘luxury’ company owned by a ‘luxury’ holding company. Its products rarely appeal to the ‘regular’ HiFi buyers such s ourselves. And MQA appears to be an offshoot of Meridian, whether they claim independence or not.

    Can it succeed? It does not depend on you or me. It depends utterly on the major record companies and the still struggling ‘streaming’ outfits. And both of those are interested ONLY in the mass market.
    A mass market comment I saw earlier today on the excellent Chord Mojo portable DAC – “You people are morons to even think of spending 400 pounds plus earphones or speakers on top. My iPod connected wirelessly to my Bose Soundlink gives all the quality anyone will ever need.”

    And THAT is the view of 99% of music listeners and is what the record companies and ‘streamers’ are aiming at. The ‘streamers’ half-hearted attempt to cater for anything other than low res MP3/AAC appear to be a sign that they are so weak they are attempting to grab any tiny market they can, no matter how small. It’s not as if the extra bandwidth needed costs them anything – if it succeeds the listeners have to pay for that via the increased monthly ‘high-res’ charges..

    It’s all just ‘product’ and other than FM radio and ‘fixed’ home-based Internet radio Apple owns it all. Whether we like it or not.

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