Clearing up some misconceptions about MQA
is not controversial per se; there is a rather shrill, antagonistic
faction of detractors making it seem so. They tend to be either those
who have not heard MQA demonstrated in a studio/salon/show, or those
who have and feel intimidated or threatened by such a new paradigm,
somehow believing it is a threat to their stodgy business models.
Classic NIH (Not Invented Here) syndrome. They seem hell bent on
spreading mis information, out and out fabrications, and personal
attacks on Bob Stuart, the primary brains behind MQA. There is a
relatively small group behind such smear campaigns, who have managed to
rile up a small but vocal collection of shills, trolls, concern trolls,
sock puppets, fake accounts, similar to the viral dis information
campaigns of climate change deniers, anti maskers, moon landing
hoaxers, and ironically, flat earthers. Even usually reliable sources,
such as Ars Technica, Wikipedia have been inundated and caught up in
the spread of mis information about MQA.
inflammatory, volatile, confrontational and ignorant rhetoric of many
detractors says more about them than it does about MQA, from passive
aggressive concern trolls to out and out bullies. Those repeating mis-nomers ad nauseum about MQA often sound like incels arguing against tantra.
the orthodoxy, MQA seems to have elicited a violent immune response by
that same orthodoxy, as the orthodoxy misinterprets challenges to the
status quo are a threat to it's very survival. This pattern has been
going on for a very long time, the anti Darwinian mindset is fixed,
un-adaptable in the face of a shifting, evolving environment.
Yesterday's ferocious T-Rex is today's chicken sandwich.
every paradigm shift has faced similar aggressive, highly vocal
resistance; and yet, in spite of that, as haters gonna hate, paradigm
shifts are gonna paradigm shift.
electric light bulbs were introduced, the kerosene lamp industry
freaked out. When seat belts were mandated, the auto industry fought
with lobbyists and an Edward Bernays level of "public relations"
derision about those belts, eventually embracing safety features as if
they had invented them, and conveniently forgetting what a fuss they
had put up at first. The lobbies defending the satus quo of the
internal combustion engine have been trash talking about electric cars,
until it has become obvious that their old paradigm is outdated and
being replaced by electric cars. Remember Steve Ballmer, ex CEO of
Microsoft, ironically having made a fortune riding a paradigm shift,
thrashing the original iPhone: "It doesn't even have a keyboard!"
Remember Decca Records turning down The Beatles famously saying "the
Beatles have no future in show business" ? Remember Giordano Bruno, the
Italian philosopher who was burned at the stake by the orthodox Church
for the heresy of suggesting that the stars were distant Suns?
now, I would suggest: enjoy the plethora of recordings available in
MQA. Many millions of tracks have been produced, mastered, or
remastered in MQA. More every day. Those involved in the recording
process know what they are hearing.
Those familiar with the
works of Jung and Hillman may recognize the last gasp attempts of the
worm refusing to evolve to become the butterfly, and fly free. The worm
at first said of the butterfly: Don't bother it's no big deal, it's
some fringe idea that almost nobody is doing. Later the worm said:
Don't bother, it's no big deal, everybody's doing it. I looked into it,
and I like being the worm better.
To those who doubt, or are
paranoid about being fooled, or claim it's no big deal, here is the
challenge: Do your own recording of real sounds, real instruments, that
you are familiar with from scratch in 24/96 or 24/192 or even DXD, and
then have it remastered in MQA.
What is unfathomable is the
small minded, paranoid ether/or mentality of detractors. The existence
of MQA does not threaten the existence of any other format; it has the
potential to enhance any existing format.
Now some mis-nomers being spread by the small but antagonistic group of detractors:
in the 5G era, bandwidth matters. Efficiency is a good thing. Anyone
who has been the provider business will agree, it's only naive amateurs
who claim (erroneously) that "bandwidth does not matter" and "the only
reason for MQA is bandwidth and file size reduction" --- they are
categorically wrong on both counts. MQA mastering even provides
considerable sonic improvement to early digital redbook 44.1 masters.
Video soundtracks in existing 4k formats are limited to 24/48, which
MQA can fold neatly into, providing high resolution audio to match the
high resolution video.
MQA could produce de-blurred DXD files,
at 352.8 or 384 Khz sampling rate, and stop prior to the folding stage,
that would be both compatible with "hi-res" playback, and recognized as
MQA when played back, authenticated and rendered via MQA decoders. Those
would keep the bit prefect crowd happy, at a cost of roughly an order
of magnitude larger file size. However, they are audibly
indistinguishable from, and measurably equivalent to folded and decoded
MQA files at 44.1/48 Khz. Less than 4 microseconds aperture
uncertainty, and no ringing or time smear, same as 2 meters of air. So,
stop complaining, guys.
"lossy format" or "it's compressed" See the tech link, repeated here.
clear one mis conception up. Confusing data with information, and
referring to MQA a "lossy" or "compressed" format is naive at best, and
often deliberately disingenuous. The question is more appropriately: is
any format audibly transparent?
As much as lossy/lossless
appears to be a concrete left brain term with accompanying clear
definition; ironically in the real world, it is a nebulous, abstract
term that evokes strong, irrational emotional reactions with
accompanying endless circular arguments, frequently over misunderstood
or deliberately twisted semantics.
With MQA, the PCM baseband
is backwards compatible (which is categorically bit for bit lossless,
as backwards compatible within existing PCM standards); in addition the
ultrasonic information is coded and buried in the dither when folded to
baseband. Unlike MP3, AAC, DTS, the actual lossy formats which greatly
increase noise modulation while discarding audio information to save
bandwidth and file size, MQA keeps noise modulation to a minimum and
does not throw away audio information.
Repeat: MQA does NOT throw away any audio information.
versus data: What is perceptually significant in the ultrasonic
spectrum is not a crude stair-step approximation with time smear, which
traditional nyquist PCM including so called hi-res gives when close to
the nyquist frequency; rather what is important, the perceptually
significant information, is the slope and timing of the small
"squiggles" in that ultrasonic spectrum, that correlate with larger
signals in the (consciously) audible baseband spectrum.
encoded ultrasonic information is buried in the backwards compatible
baseband PCM as sonically benign dither using spread spectrum
techniques to keep noise modulation to an absolute minimum.
is a misconception that confuses, or does not understand the
distinctions between downsampling and MQA folding; and upsampling and
"it alters the master(s)."
statement is disingenuous at best, as MQA leaves the original PCM
master intact and accessible, while de blurring inherent time smear
errors inherent in all nyquist PCM masters; by removing PCM sampling
artifacts; the "altered" sound is closer to the live microphone feed.
MQA remastering of existing PCM digital masters does not delete the
original files in a quest to take over the world. Stop being so
"the average person can't hear the difference." See the Art of Listening link
a Formula One design team rely on the ability or lack of ability of an
average NASCAR fan to test drive that Formula One Car when optimizing
Likewise, obtaining the cleanest, most
transparent, the "best" sound at the source is really a good idea,
which is what MQA does indeed do.
"I heard a MQA recording that I did not like as much as the CD"
I cleaned the windows and I don't like what I see outside, so I'm going to blame the clean window, and go back to dirty windows.
we are a couple generations into the nyquist PCM digital era, many
systems have been voiced to compensate for digititis aka nyquist
digital glare aka head drill resulting from the inherent time smear or
blur; as have ears and brains become accustomed to that as the new
normal. A direct microphone feed, good analog, and MQA do not have that
artifact. Analogous to someone who is accustomed to the sugar fat and
salt rush of a processed junk food diet complaining that real food
"flac versus MQA"
Either naive or
deliberately misleading. That is like comparing the jar to the honey in
the jar. Regardless of the nomenclature, flac, when set to bit perfect,
acts as a container for PCM or MQA files.
there is a video, promoted by a number of fake social media accounts,
that is a sensationalist click bait hit piece on MQA; full of techncal
errors and mis interpretations.
"It's only 17 bits resolution"
nit picking for pedantic exercise, the concern of MQA "only" giving
circa 17 bits of resolution when based on experience with traditional
nyquist PCM, going from 16 to 24 bits usually sounds better. It is not
the vertical, amplitude resolution per se, it's more finely defined
stair-stepped approximations of filters closer to the nyquist cutoff.
MQA, with matched conjugate filters that do not ring, and not relying
on the ripple effect of time smear to reconstruct the frequency domain,
is able to sound so good with 17 bits resolution, a significantly
larger improvement in sonics over 24 bit nyquist PCM than 24 bit
nyquist PCM is over 16 bit nyquist PCM.
Just about any real
world recording does not contain amplitude information below 17 bits,
there is a thermal noise floor. Unless one is standing outside
listening live near a thunderstorm, or right next to an airport runway,
which is beyond the dynamic range ears or recording equipment can
realistically capture, 17 bits is all there is. It's just noise below
that, and correctly done dither, which MQA does, is important for good
sonics. All else is pedantic.
Again, it is true, in the old
paradigm of nyquist PCM, that going from 16 to 24 bits usually results
in better sonics. However, that is the old paradigm of ringing, time
smeared nyquist steep brickwall filters, and what one was hearing was
not greater amplitude resolution, but more finely defined stairstep
approximations of the filter functions. MQA does not rely on the ripple
effect of steep filters, and provides significantly better sonics at 17
bit resolution than the old nyquist PCM systems did at 24 bits. Now you
"it just adds distortion"
A rather naive
story based on a misunderstanding of basic concepts, band limited
frequencies; or a deliberate misconstrue of the ultrasonic components
of any wide band musical recording, that MQA accurately reproduces with
sufficient time resolution.
"it has DRM and is going to lock down all your music."
Just not so. There is no provision to scramble or lock an MQA file.
it's not. Maybe such claims are based on a lack of understanding of a
new paradigm. Detailed descriptions of the process are described here
and elsewhere. Some specifics are proprietary, as with any endeavour.
Most will politely describe what their products or processes do, but
not specifics of how they do it. While you are at it, contact Halcro,
Mark Levinson, Spectral Audio, Constellation Audio, Lavardin, and
demand they share schematics, boms, along with explanations of both for
current production models. When, not if, but when they refuse, publicly
berate them for being secretive and even accuse them of being scams.
"it's irrelevant with the availability of hi-res digital audio files" or "it solves problems that no longer exist"
Similar dismissals are often said about paradigm shifts by those who do not understand what they are casually dismissing.
MQA is a systemic approach that does way more than just fold high bit rate audio files down to baseband.
is the only digital audio system or format that can reproduce audio
with 4 microseconds aperture uncertainty, which is what current
neurobiology indicates is the time resolution of the ear/brain. That is
as transparent as about 2 meters (6 feet for the USA) of air. No other
system or format even comes close. If digital audio was tested with the
same scrutiny that is placed on analog components, only MQA would pass
"how is that even possible?" and "it has no reason to exist"
telling me a 5 ton heavier than air contraption can fly? How is that
even possible? Besides, it has no reason to exist when this is the
golden age of utility airships and luxury dirigibles.
"It's snake oil/hoax/scam"
is a common troll fallback, a paranoid conspiracy projection akin to
Apollo Moon landing deniers. Tell that to the Royal Society of
Engineering, or Bob Ludwig, or Peter McGrath, or George Massenberg, or
Morten Lindberg, or ESS Tech, or Deutch Grammaphone, or ECM or 2L, or WEA records or…
Which is more plausable?
A: All of us who appreciate MQA are under some hypnotic spell by a master mesmerizer across the pond...
B: MQA is an elegant breakthrough, a paradigm shift that greatly improves digital audio quality.
You get to decide.
Gratitude to countless generations of Artisans
who listened to the Grand Muse; who practiced,
even mastered the Art of expressing the resonance
and coherence of the Universal Aum;
who crafted these and other Singing Bowls.
memory lives on.