[Music] HiFi Quality: Master Quality Authenticated Lossless Streaming (MQA)

I'm a proud Spotify Premium subscriber. Also a proud audiophile with a sound system to die for. Please Spotify, Please Please Please give the world lossless streaming through your vast catalogue and music-loving community service. The MQA (Master Quality Authenticated) idea is an option the world should have. It has the potential to stream high-quality audio without hiccups or burps to everyone! Please Please Please make the audio world a better place!

Updated on 2018-12-12

Hey folks,



 

Thanks for coming to the Community, and adding your vote to this idea!



 

We're setting this idea to 'Not Right Now', as this isn't something we have any immediate plans to implement. We appreciate you sharing your thoughts.

 

If we do have any new info to share, rest assured we'll check back in here with a new status.

 



Thanks.

Comments
HenrikStevn
Gig Goer

Here is a very well-researched and level-headed article on why MQA is such a bad idea: https://www.computeraudiophile.com/ca/reviews/mqa-a-review-of-controversies-concerns-and-cautions-r7...

Route-66
Newbie

 Whether MQA is a bad idea or not, one should decide for themselves if it improves or degrades the sound of a given track. There are experts on both sides if the debate.

HenrikStevn
Gig Goer

@Route-66

 

That is a fallacious argument. The so-called "experts" in favor of MQA have not produced a single shred of credible evidence that MQA provides any benefit at all to the customers. In fact, everything that has come from that side points to massive lock-in, DRM and degradation of sound quality unless you buy into the MQA system, in which case you'll simply be getting the same sound quality as on a CD. They can't improve the real-world sound quality, so they try to degrade it for people who don't buy in to their system.

 

On the other side, massive amounts of evidence are piling up that MQA is nothing but a scam. Read the article, it's a nice summary.

Route-66
Newbie

It's obviously important to you for others to come around to your way of thinking.

 

I don't have any skin in the game. All I'm saying is that a person should make up his or her own mind with regard to MQA and trust their own ears.

 

 

HenrikStevn
Gig Goer

It's not "my way of thinking", it is simply a critical look at what the MQA format proposes to do and an analysis of what it actually does, including DRM and degradation of sound quality on "non-compliant" devices. A degradation that can be forcibly worsened over time by the record labels and/or MQA Ltd, if they feel the need to turn the screws on their customers.

 

The short of the long is that MQA brings literally nothing worthwhile to the table, and it some cases it represents a clear regression over existing standards.

seamuswarren
Casual Listener

Putting MQA aside for a moment to focus on CD quality networked audio in comparison to more compressed audio.

 

I hear depth, fidelity and warmth as I listen to Frank Sinatra’s “My Way” CD via the Tidal app. and BluOS.

 

My Pioneer SX-750 receiver and Focal speakers are by no means a high-end combo but more compressed MP3-type files do sound “thinner” over this system.

 

I suspect people raised on iPods and Earbuds don’t know what they are missing in terms of fidelity - or like me at one point - were willing to compromise for the sake of portability and access to their music libraries.

 

There is a resurgence of vinyl in part due to the quality and fidelity but also the listening experience differs. It’s more ritualistic.

 

 

russellh1
Music Fan

I am reading all these comments about hi res and FLAC and so on, but no one complains about Universal's audible watermark?  Doesn't anyone else hear it?  Classical piano sounds awful on any recording on one of the labels owned by Universal.  It doesn't matter if it is 320k ogg vorbis or 44/16 FLAC -. It sounds awful.  Tidal, Spotify, and Apple all have it.  

 

I agree that MQA seems like snake oil.  I have no specific interest in it.  I'm just hoping for something to get rid of the watermark.

 

I just want Universal to get rid of that horrible watermark.  It's on so many recrdings.  How can anyone complain about lossy 320k compression, but not be bothered by that watermark?  It sounds much worse than compression artifacts.

HenrikStevn
Gig Goer

@seamuswarren

 

That doesn't have anything to do with lossy vs. lossless. At the bitrates Spotify and other streaming services use (on the highest quality setting), there is absolutely no audible difference, which anyone can verify for themselves by encoding some tracks and double blind testing them. Once the bitrate goes over ~160kbps Ogg Vorbis/AAC or ~128kbps Opus, people just aren't able to tell any difference, even with direct comparisons and instant switching.

 

With that fact established, it is clear that you are not hearing a difference in audio formats. What you are probably hearing is a slightly different master, or it could simply be a small volume difference between the two services, they have slightly different loudness targets. A slight boost in volume is often perceived as more "depth, fidelity and warmth" as you put it, because of the effects of the differing response of our ears at different volume levels. For a proper comparison, it is vital to very accurately match volume levels, as even difference smaller than 0.5dB can throw off the test.

 

@russellh1

 

There has been some discussion of the horrible UMG watermarks, but I have no idea whether anything came from it. Very little music I listen to comes from UMG (or at least it isn't watermarked), and I haven't sought out new examples since last time.

 

It is extremely ironic that pirates listening to torrented CD rips aren't getting the watermarks, but paying customers on streaming services are forced to listen to them.

seamuswarren
Casual Listener
Maybe the difference is inaudible, yet in some way resonates in the listening space for a richer experience.

On a half-decent HiFi, Spotify audio sounds “thin” in comparison Tidal audio, for instance, which is usually at least CD quality. There is more detail.






HenrikStevn
Gig Goer

@seamuswarren

 

An inaudible part of the sound cannot (by definition) affect the listening experience. Only if it somehow creates an audible effect can it possible change anything.

 

It's an interesting speculation, but there is absolutely no proof. Countless double blind tests have been conducted during the development of lossy codecs, both under controlled conditions and on users' personal setups. Neither EQ processing nor room effects have been ignored.

 

My own system is comfortably beyond "half-decent hifi", comprised of pro studio monitors and pro sound processing. The room is as non-ideal as most living rooms, so there should be plenty of opportunity for room effects to influence the sound. Still, absolutely no difference to be heard between lossless and high-bitrate lossy formats. Lest you think my hearing is compromised, I have had it tested not too long ago (I was worried about hearing loss in my left ear after a very noisy incident), which found my hearing to be exemplary for my age. My hearing is also well-trained by a passion for both recorded and live music.

 

Also in regards to room effects, headphones are significantly more resolving of tiny differences, even relatively inexpensive headphones.

 

So what I think is actually happening, is that Tidal either has a different master (very likely, in the case of their much-hyped "Masters" editions), or apply some sort of subtle processing in their app, or they simply have a slightly different loudness target, which can make the sound seem fuller and bigger. I know I've said it before, but it does bear repeating :-)