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Tidal master hi res streaming

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Al ears

Moderator
insider9 said:
davidf said:
Leeps said:
This leads me to another question. My understand is that MQA is a way of packaging and unpackaging a file within the FLAC format. So I appreciate that at some point it needs to be decoded (either by a PC using Tidal's desktop app or at some point as DavidF indicates, a Bluesound running the MQA decoding software).

So my point is, most people will want to maximise master quality files by running it into a decent system, and in particular a decent DAC. You're not going to listen to Studio Master files through your laptop speakers are you, and no offence to Bluesound, but I'm not sure how capable their own internal DACs are - they are after all just in the upmarket Sonos bracket rather than medium to high-end audio components.
I'll be able to tell you more when there products arrive here next week, but having heard them, they're a good step above Sonos due the DAC they use, and with the added bonus of being able to play hi-res...

But no, you're not likely to be getting into MQA for use on a laptop - although one of my previous Toshiba laptops had a Harman Kardon sound system, which I was stunned at how good it was for a laptop - my current cheaper one sounds naff.

I'm guessing, at some point, many MQA equipped streaming products may have the option of internal conversion to PCM to send to an external DAC, as MQA can be carried in FLAC. I'm presuming any hi-res DAC will be fine if the conversion takes place in the streamer, otherwise the DAC will need to be MQA compatible. I'm talking from an MQA n00b point of view though...
According to Whathifi article:

"Rather than being a new file type to sit alongside FLAC, WAV et al, MQA files will instead be packaged inside any lossless container such as FLAC, WAV or Apple Lossless"

Hence any DAC will be able to handle them. Streamer compatibility with Tidal is a different matter.
I think someone is misled somewhere. Believe that this may be partially true but MQA is not lossless.
 

Al ears

Moderator
paulkebab said:
into MQA as I don't think I would be able to appreciate it. However as others on here have interpreted and or misinterpreted different aspects, I may have done the same thing myself in thinking that an MQA file would interpret any given MQA DAC and adjust its response accordingly, ie the file or container would look at the DAC, determine if it was an Arcam, Audiolab etc and tweak the DAC's filters. This was in the reasoning of an MQA file giving the best audio characteristics regardless of DAC manufacturer. This seems a bit contrary to the fact that DAC manufacturers could also tweak their DACs' response to an MQA file. Or am I totally muddled too :(
Yes.

It's confusing territory, not made more intelligible by Meridian's blurb.
 

insider9

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It looks like it's a way of authenticating recordings and not a new format as e.g. mp3. It's a losslessy compressed file like FLAC/ALAC that's been authenticated to be taken from original master.

According to MQA website

"This is Master Quality Authenticated, or MQA.
MQA is a revolutionary end-to-end technology that delivers master quality audio in a file that’s small enough to stream or download. What’s more, it’s backwards compatible, so will play on any device. And because it’s fully authenticated, you can be sure you’re hearing exactly what the artist approved in the studio."

By the way just listened to Joni Mitchell "Blue" and Stone Temple Pilots "Core". Sound quality is stunning. Next up John Coltrane "Giant Steps" and R.E.M. "Unplugged" it looks like a great weekend ahead :)
 

drummerman

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insider9 said:
It looks like it's a way of authenticating recordings and not a new format as e.g. mp3. It's a losslessy compressed file like FLAC/ALAC that's been authenticated to be taken from original master.

According to MQA website

"This is Master Quality Authenticated, or MQA. MQA is a revolutionary end-to-end technology that delivers master quality audio in a file that’s small enough to stream or download. What’s more, it’s backwards compatible, so will play on any device. And because it’s fully authenticated, you can be sure you’re hearing exactly what the artist approved in the studio."

By the way just listened to Joni Mitchell "Blue" and Stone Temple Pilots "Core". Sound quality is stunning. Next up John Coltrane "Giant Steps" and R.E.M. "Unplugged" it looks like a great weekend ahead :)
Do you have a MQA enabled DAC?
 

insider9

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drummerman said:
Do you have a MQA enabled DAC?
I'm streaming to desktop PC and then via optical to Yamaha WXC-50. There is a difference in quality as compared to both FLAC and Spotify. Or it's the placebo of the highest order. The icon next to Volume on Tidal says MASTER as opposed to HIFI when non MQA albums are playing.

Like it says in the extract from MQA website "What’s more, it’s backwards compatible, so will play on any device." The only thing is Tidal only released this update for desktop and not mobile devices. There is no option on Android app to change streaming quality to Hifi/Master like on PC.

If you have a desktop/laptop to do it, try for yourself. There over 320 albums in MQA at the minute. When I installed Tidal there was only 180 I could see.
 

manicm

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insider9 said:
It looks like it's a way of authenticating recordings and not a new format as e.g. mp3. It's a losslessy compressed file like FLAC/ALAC that's been authenticated to be taken from original master.
You're wrong, technically it's actually a lossy format, and like MP3 etc you can't decompress it to the original WAV file.
 

manicm

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MajorFubar said:
insider9 said:
My understanding was that MQA was developed as a standard to in a way distribute original masters. Not remasters or some other 24-bit versions of album which there can be many.

I read it as it's meant to be a go to format if you want the original authentic recording.
Ah so they've come up with yet another format in the hope we'll all go out and buy the same albums again. I'll add it to the list of previous initiatives, such as half speed masters, 45RPM LPs, re-mastered LPs, chrome cassettes, real time duped cassettes, remastered CDs (various generations thereof), SACDs, Bluray audio discs, hi-res downloads, and probably some others I've missed.
You're both technically incorrect. In simplistic terms MQA is a new hi res successor to lossy compression ala MP3, AAC etc, i.e. yes it's technically a lossy format which starts at the high resolution master recording, and the 'compression' or more accurately encoding begins. Meridian claim to have some very advanced technique to reduce the hires master to a WAV sized file, but sound >= hires. And Meridian claim the resulting MQA often exhibits better dynamics than the normal hires file. You can go to the MQA site, though they give no secrets away on the actual encoding technique.

The MQA file can sit within any lossless container however, WAV or FLAC at least, and thus is still playable in the absence of a MQA decoder.
 

insider9

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manicm said:
insider9 said:
It looks like it's a way of authenticating recordings and not a new format as e.g. mp3. It's a losslessy compressed file like FLAC/ALAC that's been authenticated to be taken from original master.
You're wrong, technically it's actually a lossy format, and like MP3 etc you can't decompress it to the original WAV file.
Ok, I'm not claiming to be correct on this one. But it further reaffirms what others are saying that there's lots of confusion. How would you explain this taken from MQA website. Is this the digital equivalent of RIAA?



EDIT: Just noticed there's wiki about this :) indeed it is a lossy format. You've done your research, hats off!
 

Leeps

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insider9 said:
drummerman said:
Do you have a MQA enabled DAC?
I'm streaming to desktop PC and then via optical to Yamaha WXC-50. There is a difference in quality as compared to both FLAC and Spotify. Or it's the placebo of the highest order. The icon next to Volume on Tidal says MASTER as opposed to HIFI when non MQA albums are playing.

Like it says in the extract from MQA website "What’s more, it’s backwards compatible, so will play on any device." The only thing is Tidal only released this update for desktop and not mobile devices. There is no option on Android app to change streaming quality to Hifi/Master like on PC.

If you have a desktop/laptop to do it, try for yourself. There over 320 albums in MQA at the minute. When I installed Tidal there was only 180 I could see.
Insider, if you're using an optical cable from your PC to your Yamaha WXC50, then its using the Yamaha's DAC, which to my knowledge is unable to decode MQA files, so you won't be reaping the full benefit, but I certainly stand to be corrected if further information from the manufacturers is to follow that clarifies this.

But for now, it seems any benefit you're hearing is just related to more care being taken with the mastering, as is so often the case anyway.

Certainly could do with some clarification from MQA, Tidal and/or the likes of Meridian and Bluesound (whose products are marketed as MQA ready) as to whether a conventional DAC can or cannot decode MQA files WITH THE FULL BENEFIT of the 'Master Recording'.
 

MajorFubar

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Sounds like it's someone's idea of trying to market their high-brown equivalent of "Mastered for iTunes" but aiming it at hifi enthusiasts.
 
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Leeps said:
Sorry, having tech trouble, keeps logging me out when I look at page one of this thread!! Anyway, I wanted to quote DavidF's comment:

The good news is, for some, that you don't even need a PC...

Those with Bluesound products can already enjoy this MQA service as everything was already in place to do so, as long as you know which albums are MQA. I'm sure Bluesound's software will be updated at some point to show which are MQA.

This leads me to another question. My understand is that MQA is a way of packaging and unpackaging a file within the FLAC format. So I appreciate that at some point it needs to be decoded (either by a PC using Tidal's desktop app or at some point as DavidF indicates, a Bluesound running the MQA decoding software).

So my point is, most people will want to maximise master quality files by running it into a decent system, and in particular a decent DAC. You're not going to listen to Studio Master files through your laptop speakers are you, and no offence to Bluesound, but I'm not sure how capable their own internal DACs are - they are after all just in the upmarket Sonos bracket rather than medium to high-end audio components.

So, if the MQA file has been decoded by your PC or Bluesound, what happens if you then output that file into a conventional, albeit high-end DAC? Will it be able to process it? Or does the DAC ALSO need to be MQA-ready? Because if that's the case, as much as I welcome and applaud Tidal's news, it may then mean it'll take a bit longer before we'll be able to take any kind of advantage of the format using our current amps and equipment.
Hi Leeps, Good question and I have been researching Bluesound after my dismal weekend with their software and my Apple iMac. failed to play a single file, but thats another story. MQA have deemed that you cannot output unpackaged files via spdif to another DAC. As I have just invested in a quality disc player/DAC that is disappointing. Auralic have retracted from their commitment to MQA as they produce their excellent non-dac streamers. See here:

http://support.auralic.com/hc/en-us/articles/222512427-Will-MQA-support-comes-to-AURALiC-device-

Work in progress, I guess
 

insider9

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Sep 20, 2016
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Leeps said:
Insider, if you're using an optical cable from your PC to your Yamaha WXC50, then its using the Yamaha's DAC, which to my knowledge is unable to decode MQA files, so you won't be reaping the full benefit, but I certainly stand to be corrected if further information from the manufacturers is to follow that clarifies this.

But for now, it seems any benefit you're hearing is just related to more care being taken with the mastering, as is so often the case anyway.

Certainly could do with some clarification from MQA, Tidal and/or the likes of Meridian and Bluesound (whose products are marketed as MQA ready) as to whether a conventional DAC can or cannot decode MQA files WITH THE FULL BENEFIT of the 'Master Recording'.
Yes, agreed the Yamaha's DAC is doing the job. What's even more interesting is that there is an option to decode the file at software (Tidal) or hardware (DAC) level, called Passthrough MQA. I have compared both and decoding at DAC works. Not major differences if the DAC isn't compatible, then what is happening?

The question whether I get the full benefit is valid. However, I am certain when compared to other sources I have, that there is a difference for the better already even if I'm not. Considering I am using a free trail, I couldn't be more happy.
 

Barbapapa

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Interesting how everyone has a different understanding of what MQA does/is. From what I've gathered it does at least two, possibly three things:

- removing artifacts caused by the original recording equipment,

- 'folding' i.e. putting hi-res music in 16/44.1 FLAC format,

- taking into account individual DAC differences.

I'm not so sure about the last bit by now.

From reports elsewhere I understand that Tidal master is unfolded to 24/92 for non-MQA DACs and may unfold to higher formats for MQA DACs.

My experience, through the Bluesound MQA-enabled DAC and through my laptop to non-MQA DACs, is quite positive. The files streamed to me sound very clear and detailed, similar to what I've experienced with hi-res FLAC and DSD. It does sound like they cleaned up the original 16/44.1 files. Admittedly well-mastered 16/44.1 FLACs may sound similar as well. But even if they only sonically improve old files that is still a positive in my opinion.
 

Leeps

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You may want to check this out. It is a little heavy going in places, but does help answer some of the earlier questions we have raised.

The Hans Beekhuyzen Channel
MQA part 2: how does MQA work
https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=T5o6XHVK2HA

Some conclusions I obtained from this video:

1. Any DAC used within your audio system to convert MQA encoded files must be MQA ready to benefit from the MQA authenticated track.

2. Any non-MQA ready DAC will still play music from an MQA-encoded file, but you won't be benefiting from the MQA origami-style unpackaging. Some of the graphs in the video do help clearly explain how the packaging has been carried out and show why it's so necessary for DAC to be MQA ready to be able to decode the file correctly.

3. As much as a method of repackaging a file that can be easily streamed over the internet, it's also a branded authentication of quality. And it's this I think is most interesting, particularly bearing in mind the controversy surrounding so-called hi-res music that's just upsampled CD tracks. So far HI-RES labelled music has had no guarantee of quality as such, so it's largely been left to the end-user to do the research on precisely how that particular album has been mastered and whether it was worth paying extra hard-earned for. Sometimes it's been no better than a finger-in-the-wind guess. MQA does add an artist-approved authentication to the file, which is something I guess.

I can feel another thread coming on. List of MQA ready DACs anyone? Here's one for starters, the Mytek Brooklyn DAC demonstrating how it's clearly showing its MQA decoding on the display and how there's certainly plenty of MQA material already available NOW on Tidal.

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=_WjZVc2DM3o
 

insider9

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Sep 20, 2016
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Leeps said:
You may want to check this out. It is a little heavy going in places, but does help answer some of the earlier questions we have raised.
Very informative video. If I understand it correctly decoding can be done at software level giving full benefit of format. Please correct me if I'm wrong.
 

lovstromp

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insider9 said:
Leeps said:
You may want to check this out. It is a little heavy going in places, but does help answer some of the earlier questions we have raised.
Very informative video. If I understand it correctly decoding can be done at software level giving full benefit of format. Please correct me if I'm wrong.
That's my understanding as well.
 

manicm

Well-known member
May 1, 2008
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Leeps said:
insider9 said:
drummerman said:
Do you have a MQA enabled DAC?
I'm streaming to desktop PC and then via optical to Yamaha WXC-50. There is a difference in quality as compared to both FLAC and Spotify. Or it's the placebo of the highest order. The icon next to Volume on Tidal says MASTER as opposed to HIFI when non MQA albums are playing.

Like it says in the extract from MQA website "What’s more, it’s backwards compatible, so will play on any device." The only thing is Tidal only released this update for desktop and not mobile devices. There is no option on Android app to change streaming quality to Hifi/Master like on PC.

If you have a desktop/laptop to do it, try for yourself. There over 320 albums in MQA at the minute. When I installed Tidal there was only 180 I could see.
Insider, if you're using an optical cable from your PC to your Yamaha WXC50, then its using the Yamaha's DAC, which to my knowledge is unable to decode MQA files, so you won't be reaping the full benefit, but I certainly stand to be corrected if further information from the manufacturers is to follow that clarifies this.

 

But for now, it seems any benefit you're hearing is just related to more care being taken with the mastering, as is so often the case anyway.

 

Certainly could do with some clarification from MQA, Tidal and/or the likes of Meridian and Bluesound (whose products are marketed as MQA ready) as to whether a conventional DAC can or cannot decode MQA files WITH THE FULL BENEFIT of the 'Master Recording'.
A conventional DAC can play a MQA file but as a flac/wave, without a MQA decoder you will not get the sonic benefits though.
 

manicm

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May 1, 2008
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lovstromp said:
insider9 said:
Leeps said:
You may want to check this out.  It is a little heavy going in places, but does help answer some of the earlier questions we have raised.
Very informative video. If I understand it correctly decoding can be done at software level giving full benefit of format. Please correct me if I'm wrong.
That's my understanding as well.
I would say you're wrong, Meridian have stated that optimised playback had the decoding done at the DAC level.
 

manicm

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MajorFubar said:
Sounds like it's someone's idea of trying to market their high-brown equivalent of "Mastered for iTunes" but aiming it at hifi enthusiasts. 
MQA is at much higher resolution though, so it has more substance than what you suggest.

iTunes 'masters' are still only vanilla AAC - and ultimately you cannot make a silk purse from a pig's ear.

MQA claims to preserve the high resolution, hence a much bigger file than MP3/AAC etc, but at the size of a 16/44 WAV file still much smaller than FLAC compressed hires.

Btw, I find Google Play MP3 downloads to be better sounding than anything on iTunes, 'Master' or not.
 

insider9

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manicm said:
I would say you're wrong, Meridian have stated that optimised playback had the decoding done at the DAC level.
Ok, done some more readind and it looks like you're correct, again :) It's quite a bold move to expect people to replace their DAC or add extra ones for the full benefit of MQA.

What I've based this opinion is MQA under Playback Partners it lists Audirvana. It goes on to say:

"Audirvana Plus 3 (available end of January 2017) integrates the MQA Core Decoder, enabling to get the full MQA quality with MQA devices, including the renderer only ones. Users who don’t have a MQA capable device will also benefit from the 2x sample rate of MQA streams thanks to the decoder in Audirvana Plus 3 that performs the unfolding."

I'll add that at this point MQA compatible Meridian DAC is £129 so not the end of the world. Might be tempted to get one to see if there's any difference.
 

Leeps

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insider9 said:
Leeps said:
You may want to check this out. It is a little heavy going in places, but does help answer some of the earlier questions we have raised.
Very informative video. If I understand it correctly decoding can be done at software level giving full benefit of format. Please correct me if I'm wrong.
Yes, but only if that decoding is the last digital element in the chain, which brings me back to my earlier point, that you're not going to want to listen to hi-res MQA music through your laptop speakers. It's fine if the software is MQA compatible, as is the desktop Tidal app itself now, but if you then send that same signal on digitally to a non-MQA DAC before it hits your amp & speakers, then you'll still not be gaining the benefit of MQA.

So suddenly choices are becoming much more limited. But as always in these cases it's about supply and demand. Now Tidal has actually put its money where it's mouth has been for the last 12 months and actually released a significant volume of MQA albums, although I appreciate Tidal hasn't got the clout of Spotify or the marketing welly of Apple Music, it may just be significant enough a development for a whole host of other manufacturers who've already adopted Tidal (like Naim, Cyrus, Oppo and a whole host of AV receiver manufacturers) to take that next step and make their equipment MQA compatible.

I'm well out of my technical comfort zone now, but it would be interesting to know if the likes of Naim's Uniti range, which sold well and is native Tidal-compatible, could have an MQA software update, or whether MQA would only be something they could introduce on new hardware. I can't think of any obvious reason why such an update couldn't be made to their streamers, seeing they're just specialised low-noise computers anyway.
 

drummerman

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Leeps said:
insider9 said:
Leeps said:
You may want to check this out. It is a little heavy going in places, but does help answer some of the earlier questions we have raised.
Very informative video. If I understand it correctly decoding can be done at software level giving full benefit of format. Please correct me if I'm wrong.
Yes, but only if that decoding is the last digital element in the chain, which brings me back to my earlier point, that you're not going to want to listen to hi-res MQA music through your laptop speakers. It's fine if the software is MQA compatible, as is the desktop Tidal app itself now, but if you then send that same signal on digitally to a non-MQA DAC before it hits your amp & speakers, then you'll still not be gaining the benefit of MQA.

So suddenly choices are becoming much more limited. But as always in these cases it's about supply and demand. Now Tidal has actually put its money where it's mouth has been for the last 12 months and actually released a significant volume of MQA albums, although I appreciate Tidal hasn't got the clout of Spotify or the marketing welly of Apple Music, it may just be significant enough a development for a whole host of other manufacturers who've already adopted Tidal (like Naim, Cyrus, Oppo and a whole host of AV receiver manufacturers) to take that next step and make their equipment MQA compatible.

I'm well out of my technical comfort zone now, but it would be interesting to know if the likes of Naim's Uniti range, which sold well and is native Tidal-compatible, could have an MQA software update, or whether MQA would only be something they could introduce on new hardware. I can't think of any obvious reason why such an update couldn't be made to their streamers, seeing they're just specialised low-noise computers anyway.
Interesting thread going on over at PFM.

Apparently, as someone mentioned over there MQA licensing requires hardware manufacturers to drop optical out and other things such as DSD? (I think the Mytec Brooklyn DAC incorporates MQA which would make the above statement incorrect). Apart from that they will pass licensing cost without doubt on to consumers. From what I understand at the moment (not much) it looks like you need additional equipment and, if you get it, there may be limited functionality/they will be crippled in other ways because of MQA licensing requirements.

We need either Tidal or MQA to confirm the exact situation rather than guessing. Even John Westlake of Audiolab DAC fame and others is unclear at present on how Tidal could incorporate unpacking in their software.
 

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