Qobuz vs Tidal MQA

I have been using Qobuz for a while. A few days ago I decided to try the Tidal service. I tried listening to some of Pat Metheny’s albums. I love this artist. Especially early albums. On Tidal, many of these albums are encoded in the MQA. Some albums on Tidal MQA have a green circle. The listening sound had a clear degradation at high frequencies. For listening I use a MacBook from Audirvana, as well as SMSL m500 and Beyerdynamic DT-990Pro. Conclusion - MQA with a green circle is not suitable for listening. One of Metheny’s latest albums was encoded in the MQA with a blue circle. I compared this to an uncompressed Qobuz broadcast. I found differences in the sound of jumping hairs from the bow when playing the double bass. On Qobuz, the sound was natural and spatial; when the MQA was compressed, this sound lost its spatial dimension and became lifeless. When I heard this, the question of what to use to play the sound immediately disappeared. My obvious choice is Qobuz broadcast without any compression or any changes in sound material. I will spend my money on this service. For me, the choice is certain. I am disappointed that some of Pat Metheny’s albums have died when using MQA compression.

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I’m pretty sure they must have the same CD not MQA, no?

Listen to this. On Tidal lies the MQA version of Metheny’s “From this Place” album. This is a recent release. I think it’s recorded and mixed well. And I found the differences between the track from Qobuz and the MQA from Tidal. I don’t understand why this mockery of sound, when Internet channels now do not interfere with broadcasts of excellent sound quality. And I will pay a service that distributes music, that makes it convenient, that pays for musicians. I get high, for this I owe other people!

For my taste MQA only is decent when played with a DAC that acts as native ´MQA decoder´. I clearly prefer the humble CD version to MQA ´rendering´ (e.g. at Tidal app or Audirvana) virtually every time.

It would be a good idea if you learn a bit about MQA, before you make strange statements here.
You did not mention if your DAC /Steamer/Digital Preamp is MQA compatible or not. If not why don’t you use TIDAL CD /HiFi resolution instead of the - most of times - new MQA Mastering , which of course is meant to serve MQA DACs. About your wrong accusation of “compression” for MQA, you can read many articles and reviews how it really works, not only on MQA.co.uk. Hint: NO Compression up to 48 kHz and above that only parts of signals are compressed which are NOT carrying any music or room signal, because higher tones or reverbs only occur in very low volume.

If I understand correctly, there is a special MQA mastering different from the original. Exactly as the artist intended? And the extra bandwidth above 48 kHz is not necessary, because this is not audible. But is it great that MQA has restored the information here?

Whenever the artist or record label decides to produce a MQA version of the album/track the original masters or remasters are listened to and the artist or owner of music ( strange enough that this can be different) decides which one is “the best” , or if there is one more remastering. MQA takes into consideration which original digital equipment was in use and what kind of deficit is known through todays measuring technology, to correct this deficits as much as possible. Extra bandwith above 48 kHz CAN BE necessary, due to the fact that even if we don’t hear tones higher than 20 kHz ( in case of older guys like me this goes down to 12kHz or less) , but we can hear positioning differences much smaller than guessed before, and this delays between left and right ear can ask for frequencies much higher than 48 kHz. Modern research can be found in the web. If its great can only be heard , and I trust my ears and that of major artists in case of recording /mastering like Bob Katz or Morten Lindberg from 2L.

Apologies for this delayed response.

I don’t trust anyone who tells me what to believe. And I don’t believe my senses. Especially not if there is a business model behind it.

I cannot wait for scientific evidence for the working principles of MQA.

I watched this video. He makes some assumptions that are just wrong. An example of this is he embeds the synewave at 31KHz and expects it to be reconstructed after MQA decoding. That’s just not how it works. The increase in sampling frequency is not to improve the frequency response beyond 20KHz. It designed to improve time domain accuracy, something MQA calls “de-blurring”. This is where the compression is lossy, because it’s not designed to accurately encode the part of the spectrum that is not audible anyway.

As far as noise is concerned, DSD has the same issue. There are heaps of high energy noise beyond the audible spectrum that if not properly filtered can cause issues with amplifiers.

Trying to debunk MQA with the oscilloscope is wrong approach. After all MQA is designed to encode music. It appears that some people who know thing or two about music like it, and some profoundly dislike it (mostly on philosophical grounds).

Ultimately, MQA will probably fail just like HDCD failed and DSD failed. The problem is that CD quality is just so damn good and that was introduced some 40 years ago. It’s hard to improve on that so much that people start to care.

For me personally, the endless (technical) discussion doesn’t matter that much. But I would love to see well-executed tests. Verifiable by third parties.

It is a format that adds nothing to the consumer. Then why should it be there?
It is irrelevant to 99.9% of the people who listen to music. For the people who find quality important, MQA only makes things more complicated.

I don’t know about that. It’s like AAC for audiophiles. If it really works, it saves the space on the HDD and it reduces the amount of data that needs to be transferred while streaming. In addition to that it claims to authenticate the source, and address the conversion artefacts on both ends (recording and playback). So there is a benefit.

In my experience it doesn’t sound worse than CD quality, regardless of if it’s played through MQA capable DAC or not. I’m not fully sold on other benefits beyond those I just mentioned. Two of the DACs I own support MQA and I have one MQA album. I don’t subscribe to Tidal so MQA is pretty much irrelevant to me. Still I find it interesting. It’s a new approach to extract more life out of PCM.

I hope one day somebody will come with a novel way of encoding audio that is not PCM and is not DSD, that is more storage space efficient than DSD and sounds better than CD quality PCM. MQA was attempting just that, but maybe completely new joint approach is necessary from the titans of the industry like Sony, Philips and others. Some people will probably also hate that, because for sure it won’t be open and free (like in freedom).

This video has been debunked many times for now , he made a lot of mistakes AND wrong input to the process , which of course results in artefacts. The fact is, that this does never happen with real music signals. Nobody tells you what to believe, but if you think that e.g. Manfred Eicher from ECM , or Morten Lindberg from 2L or Bob Katz are all wrong, you are not very credible, sorry. Read all AES papers about MQA and its predecessors if you look for scientific evidence. And if you would have met Bob Stuart once , you would know that accusing him for business greed is just plain stupid.

I have no idea what to do with these arguments. I just have to believe it without proof? Sorry this really feels like a cult.

Again for the vast majority of consumers, there is no benefit to MQA. And yet we have to pay when we use it.

I don’t really care what you think of me. We don’t know each other and you don’t communicate in a way that makes me want to.

And most of the arguments from MQA have also been debunked over time. Nice interesting endless discussion to keep saying that everything has been debunked.

Which I especially do not understand. If this is such a great solution for the consumer. Why is it so incredibly difficult to explain?

MQA is freemiumware. If you don’t care about it you can play the MQA files as CD like quality FLACs. If you do care and you have MQA capable system you get all what they are promising (assuming it’s true).

It’s difficult to explain because it’s technically complicated. Most people wouldn’t understand how PCM works if you explained it to them.

Hans Beekhuyzen did a 2 part video on the subject some time ago. It’s explained in layman terms. I would recommend to watch it.

You don’t have to convince me with standard marketing. In recent years I have seen all these videos and explanations.

I think it should be easy to explain what the benefit is for the user, even though the technology is complex.

In the beginning I was enthusiastic about the concept. But I see no real advantages in either simple arguments or technically. We don’t need it.

And please don’t repeat the MQA arguments again. Various forum pages, web pages and YouTube videos have already been filled with this.

I am certainly not an expert, but not an average user either. For years I have worked as a sound engineer in theater, events and radio. Visited various recording studios and learned from various specialists about all facets of audio during the Soundseminar (Rotterdam).

I understand the process from musician to user quite well. In recent years I am only a consumer. And with an (far) above-average set of equipment. I am open to all kinds of tweaks and improvements. That is the hobby that still makes me happy.

The longer I read about MQA the more it confirms that it is a great idea in theory. but in practice it adds nothing for the consumer.

The benefit is quite easy to explain, you get better than CD quality at CD like bandwidth with quality assurance.

Whether you believe this objective has been achieved is another matter. Some competent people think it has. Some others don’t.

Of course if you’re into DSD, MQA is just a distraction and waste if energy.

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Don’t you think it matters if it is actually delivered? Not only as marketing truth.

Especially because MQA is only successful as a product when the entire chain from studio to consumer is managed.

FLAC already exists for compression. That seems to me to be an excellent solution without the negative side effects of MQA.

Quality Assurance is worthless as long as I cannot see what happened. If there was an opportunity to see which master version has been used and which person has approved it. Then it would be valuable instead of an empty promise.

I don’t listen to formats but to music. For me, DSD, PCM, (Vinyl, Tape, etc) doesn’t really matter. I am always interested in new developments. And do not find it a problem to spend money on it. MQA is not a format but a complete distribution to the end user. And that with a clear advantage for record companies and MQA. And without any benefit to the consumer.

If you are such an expert, why dont you just listen to it with and without MQA and decide. And price of “CD Quality” and “MQA quality” on Tidal is same, so you don’t have to pay extra. And nobody forces you to buy MQA CD if you are happy with standard CD. There is enough material available on the web, in which ways MQA addresses improvements for equipment and transport. And if you don’t like it, fine for me too. But don’t spread misinformation that average user has no benefit or must pay extra.

Why am I spreading misinformation? We have a discussion on one niche forum about what the added value of MQA is. I am nowhere in the wide world active to promote anything. That seems like an exaggerated response.

I am not an expert (it says (??)), but I am an enthusiast with a background in one part of the audio industry.

Roon has to pay per decode and the alternative is to buy MQA hardware. In the beginning I tried Tidal with Roon and it was not worth it to me.

It would be really great if music were treated with a lot more love and craftsmanship during recording and master process. I would even pay extra for it. But MQA does not provide this guarantee.