[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.

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Comments
HenrikStevn
Gig Goer

(This is going to be a long post, but please take the time to read it thoroughly. Don't just skim it, please. It's important.)

 

"Hi-res" is actually a misnomer, and a bit of marketing BS to make people believe they're getting a "more accurate" signal. 24/192 does not have higher resolution than 16/44.1. What it does have is extended range. The higher samplerate allows higher frequencies to be recorded, but the precision in the audibly range (<20 kHz) is the exact same. Similarly, the higher bit depth makes the noise floor quieter, but it doesn't give you any additional precision above the 16 bit noise floor of roughly -96 dBFS.

 

This extended range is useful when mixing and mastering sound, as it can push the audible artifacts of various filters and effects way off into the inaudible ranges. But for playback, it's utterly pointless, and a complete waste of space and bandwidth.

 

And yes, this all comes from personal experience, and from professional experience working with electronics. "Hi-res" for playback is pointless, pure and simple.

 

Why? Because the only thing a higher samplerate gives you is extended frequency response. However, humans cannot hear above 20kHz anyway, and most can't hear above 16-17kHz or so. I'm sure you're going to claim something about spatial cues and whatnot, due to ultrasonic frequencies "shaping" the sound. First off, no one has been able to actually prove that theory. Secondly, even if it was possible, that shaping would be baked into the audible frequency range in the recording anyway.

 

As for increased bit depth, all that does is move the noise floor downwards, theoretically -144 dBFS for 24-bit (but more realistically around -120 dBFS, due to the thermal self-noise inherent to all electronics). However, to even hear the noise floor in 16-bit audio (-96 dBFS, without noise shaping dither) in a normal listening room (ambient noise of usually 30-40 dB), you would have to play so loudly that the peaks were hitting 126 dB, at the very least. Needless to say, I hope you don't do this at home, both for the sake of your own hearing, and for the sake of your neighbors.

 

That is literally all a higher sample rate and increased bit depth will do for playback. They do not affect "depth, timber, details, transients, imaging, spacing" at all. Claiming so is a gross violation of how digital sampling works, as per the Nyquist-Shannon sampling theorem. If you can actually prove those claimed benefits, you would achieve enourmous fame in the scientific community, for disproving probably the most well-established and highly-respected theorem of them all, in the field of signal processing.

 

No music ever released comes even close to the limits of 16-bit PCM audio. Most popular music regrettably has a dynamic range of maybe 10 dB if you're really lucky, but probably more like 4-5dB. Even the most dynamic recordings of classical music hardly reach 40 dB of dynamic range, well within the capabilites of 16 bit PCM.

 

You say you can hear a difference between two files you have, one is CD-quality and the other is "hi-res". You say they're identical and from the same master, but how do you know this? How can you prove the provenance of these files? Do you know what filter settings were used for the downsampling? Are you 100% certain that no additional EQ or other filtering was done? Can you be 100% certain that they are the same volume? You cannot trust your ears for determining volume difference, as small differences less than 0.5 dB will be heard as quality or "fullness" differences, not volume differences.

 

The only way to be sure, is to convert the files yourself, using a known good downsampler (such as SoX or SRC, or a good DAW). Similarly for comparing lossless with MP3 or some other lossy format. You must do the conversion yourself, in order to be certain. And no, in 99.999% of the cases, lossless and high-quality MP3 (CBR 320 or VBR V0) are utterly indistinguishable. For more modern formats (such as Ogg Vorbis, AAC, Opus) the required bitrate for complete audible transparency are much lower, as low as 160 kbps for Opus.

 

This brings us to one of the biggest problems with MQA. It is impossible to do a proper and fair comparison of MQA versus other formats, as the encoder/decoder are not freely available. You have to sign an NDA and pay a licensing fee in order to get the toolchain, and the NDA very handily prohibits you from publishing your results.

 

This very handily prevents anyone from performing a fair comparison. The only comparisons so far have been sighted listening tests (flawed, by their very definition), strictly set up and controlled by MQA inc., with absolutely no proof of the provenance of the files they use. I should have to tell you how ridiculously easy it is to rig a "test" like that.

 

TL;DR: We don't need "hi-res" for playback, and we certainly don't need MQA. CD quality PCM audio is perfectly capable of reproducing sound that is comfortably beyond the limits of human hearing. What we do need is better mixing and mastering, and an end to the loudness war. CD quality audio has enormous untapped potential, if people would just use all of it.

fuzzychaos
Newbie

Lossless FLAC, yes. MQA, NO!!!!

 

https://www.linn.co.uk/blog/mqa-is-bad-for-music

 

 

Route-66
Newbie

I recently decided to opt for quality over quantity and I've left Spotify. I now stream using Tidal because their lossless sounds so much better than Spotify Premium. If Spotify even decided to offer a lossless option, I'll be back with them the same day. 

sohho
Newbie

You know streaming is about library & sound quality. We all want the best sound quality possible, (otherwise I wouldn´t be paying Premium right now). High quality audio streaming, and MQA for the matter, are here to stay, so either you take the lead or just wait for Tidal (or any other streamer for the case) to catch up with your library... at the end, it comes down to that choice... I´d rather stay with you... your call.

fuzzychaos
Newbie
Deezer just made a deal for MQA.
seamuswarren
Casual Listener

I was introduced to Tidal HiFi (MQA?) when I purchased some Bluesound devices and it was refreshing to hear at least CD quality sound again after many years listening to “thin” MP3 audio.

 

Currently trialling Spotify Premium to see if the drop in audio quality is acceptable when weighed against the lower monthly fee plus a free data incentive (when using Spotify) from my provider, Optus.

russellh1
Music Fan

I would be happy if you could please just get rid of the audible watermark that all Universal Music Group owned labels seem to put on their tracks.  This is especially bad with classical recordings (piano can sound awful).

 

https://www.mattmontag.com/music/universals-audible-watermark

 

I would rather live with 320k lossy compression and no watermark, than watermarked lossless.

 

It seems that MQA encoded tracks may have an inaudible watermark.  Maybe the orifingal watermarked tracks can be replaced with MQA tracks?

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.