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INTERNET BLIND TEST: MQA Core Decoding vs. Standard Hi-Res Audio

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Posted on July 15, 2017 at 08:21:46
Archimago
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Hi everyone. If you're curious about MQA and want to have a listen for yourself the effect it makes / doesn't make, come check out a little blind test I'm conducting.

Link below. Download the files, have a listen, complete my survey!

Will be interested in what you, the listener perceives...

BTW: Test will close for survey entries on September 8th, 2017.

Enjoy!
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Archimago's Musings: A 'more objective' audiophile blog.

 

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Seems an odd comparison..., posted on July 15, 2017 at 08:59:19
Ivan303
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MQA vs Hi Rez comparisons seems like the wrong comparison to make.

How could an MQA version (admittedly lossey) of a Hi Rez file be expected to sound 'better' than the original without some added (unwanted) digital manipulation or other DSP?

MQA encoding of a Hi Rez file vs Redbook (16/44.1) version of that same recording would be a much better comparison because it seems like a real-world choice.

Maybe worth the effort to decode the MQA file if it indeed sounds better.





 

Question, posted on July 15, 2017 at 10:13:55
E-Stat
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If an MQA capable DAC isn't required for your test, which one was used to decode the MQA "original resolution" as recommended by 2L, et. al.?

 

RE: Question, posted on July 16, 2017 at 09:54:08
ahendler
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That would be my question
If you just downloaded sample MQA files from the 2L site and play them you are getting no MQA decoding. How are you accomplishing at least the 1st level of decoding like Tidal software does?
Alan

 

RE: INTERNET BLIND TEST: MQA Core Decoding vs. Standard Hi-Res Audio, posted on July 16, 2017 at 15:03:17
PAR
I have read and re-read your introduction to your test several times. I still have no idea what you are trying to do. However it doesn't really matter anyway as the result will be totally meaningless.

NB : A clue; It isn't a test.

 

Not to me, posted on July 17, 2017 at 11:42:50
Dave_K
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I think MQA vs. Redbook is kind of pointless because they are generally made from different masterings. For example, a lot of the MQA I've seen or heard so far has come from Warner titles that were remastered for DVD-A release and subsequently offered for hi-res download. These sound obviously different from their Redbook counterparts regardless of delivery format. I also think it's the wrong comparison because MQA isn't really competing against Redbook. MQA is trying to be the preferred format for hi-res, so it's natural to compare it to other popular hi-res formats such as LPCM in FLAC or AIFF, DSD.

 

RE: Question, posted on July 17, 2017 at 12:37:57
Dave_K
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In the past, he has used the Tidal app and captured the decoded 24/96 stream on playback.

 

RE: Question, posted on July 17, 2017 at 17:05:00
AbeCollins
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How did he 'capture' the stream? As a digital file directly out of Tidal, or analog output to his own A/D?



 

RE: "MQA is trying to be the preferred format for hi-res"..., posted on July 17, 2017 at 17:19:23
Ivan303
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Trying, but that's about it.

I understand why MQA wants us to compare it to Hi Rez, I just don't agree that it's is a candidate to be a 'preferred format for hi rez' because it's NOT hi rez, it's a compression of hi rez and a lossy one at that.

Yes, it's better than 16/44.1 Lossless FLAC (or TIDAL thinks so) as long as the master it is taken from is better sounding that Redbook CD. I don't disagree.

But given the choice of a paid download of a 24/96, 24/192, or even a 24/48 file and an MQA file, guess which one I'm taking?

Hint: Not the one that requires a special DAC and/or a computer algorithm to play it.

So it really doesn't matter to me if the MQA file sounds a lot like a real, no kidding hi rez file because in any and all cases, I'll take the real thing.

The ONLY use-case for MQA that I can see is when the choice is MQA or Redbook CD, which is the current TIDAL use-case.

As far as 'different masters', yes, the Redbook CD you bought in the 80's is likely from a different master than the remastered one being sold as a download in any format from 16/44.1 - 24/96 - 24/192 and/or DSD. A surprising amount of stuff recorded long ago and sold on vinyl or sold in the 80's on CD has been recently remastered and sold as a re-issue on CD and streams on TIDAL, DEEZER Elite and QOBUZ in 16/44.1 Lossless FLAC, so these comparisons with MQA are valid.

For example, most of the early catalog of the group "Dead Can Dance" (Neoclassical dark wave, world music, ethereal wave, art rock, gothic rock, pagan rock, post-punk, you-pick-the-genre) was remastered 2008 and issued on SACD (now out of print). The SACDs currently sell for outrageous prices. TIDAL will stream the re-mastered albums in lossless FLAC 16/44.1 and it sounds SO much better than the original CD of the 80's. Would MQA sound better? Sadly we don't know because TIDAL's MQA catalog is still pretty thin. :-(

ONE POSSIBLE EXCEPTION: Hi Rez Download @ $12.50 vs. MQA Download FREE!

But that's ONLY because I currently have a Meridian Explorer 2 MQA enabled DAC. ;-)













 

RE: Question, posted on July 18, 2017 at 05:50:28
Dave_K
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He was capturing the PCM stream out of the Tidal app. I'd have to go back and read through blog posts to see exactly what he did, but there are multiple ways to do this. On a Mac, for example, check out Rogue Amoeba software (https://rogueamoeba.com/). There's similar stuff for Windows, e.g. TotalRecorder. Or if you have a sound card with digital inputs and outputs you can use a cable to connect an output to an input.

 

Thanks..., posted on July 18, 2017 at 06:08:00
E-Stat
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For example, most of the early catalog of the group "Dead Can Dance" (Neoclassical dark wave, world music, ethereal wave, art rock, gothic rock, pagan rock, post-punk, you-pick-the-genre) was remastered 2008...

I wasn't aware of that. Indeed, the original masters were thin sounding and devoid of any depth - especially when played back at Sea Cliff!

It appears HDTracks has 44/16 downloads from the remasters. :)

 

RE: INTERNET BLIND TEST: MQA Core Decoding vs. Standard Hi-Res Audio, posted on July 18, 2017 at 06:10:37
Todd Krieger
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I would suggest decompressing the FLAC files to WAV or AIFF format before listening. (I know, it would make the already-huge files even bigger.) I believe lossless compression decoded in real time compromises playback fidelity (correlated jitter- attenuates vibrato and inflections), and would taint any listening comparison.

 

Best one is missing...., posted on July 18, 2017 at 07:38:52
Ivan303
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Into the Labyrinth, above.

At least IMNSHO.

Have heard both the Redbook layer ripped off of the SACD of the above compared to the SACD on a VERY good system and can say that the Redbook of this re-mastering is worth the money.







 

Yep!, posted on July 18, 2017 at 08:10:18
E-Stat
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Warped minds think alike! ;)

Really like Yulinga. I'll try one of the other albums out - have all of them already.

 

RE: "MQA is trying to be the preferred format for hi-res"..., posted on July 19, 2017 at 09:11:09
AbeCollins
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"But given the choice of a paid download of a 24/96, 24/192, or even a 24/48 file and an MQA file, guess which one I'm taking?"

Yup. MQA is mainly a play for licensing revenue on a proprietary technology that no one needs.





 

RE: "MQA is trying to be the preferred format for hi-res"..., posted on July 19, 2017 at 17:10:16
ahendler
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For those of us that only stream and can hear some improvement in sound from MQA then I want it. If you don't need it fine. So why talk about it?
Alan

 

Depends on what one is talking about..., posted on July 19, 2017 at 18:15:57
Ivan303
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My comments were regarding MQA making little sense is in reference to paid downloads, MQA vs Hi Rez files. Abe was just agreeing

Streaming, where the choices are 16/44.1 Lossless FLAC vs. MQA is a valid use-case for MQA in my opinion.

That's why my original post above stated that a better comparison might be 16/44.1 Lossless FLAC vs. MQA.





 

RE: Depends on what one is talking about..., posted on July 19, 2017 at 19:23:54
AbeCollins
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The only case I can see for MQA is streaming, and it's a bit of a weak case at that. Downloads? No need for MQA at all IMHO.



 

RE: Depends on what one is talking about..., posted on July 19, 2017 at 21:25:44
ahendler
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"it's a bit of a weak case at that."
Only if you don't think it sounds better
Alan

 

Yep, that's really all that matters..., posted on July 19, 2017 at 21:49:30
Ivan303
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Especially in the case of streaming, where MQA costs no more than 16/44.1 Lossless FLAC and to my ears sounds better.





 

The problem is, posted on July 20, 2017 at 07:31:02
AbeCollins
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you don't truly know what's being compared. Or do you?

Are there solid examples of MQA streams that are also available as non-MQA in hi-rez, both from the same master?

I'm already convinced that there's no need for MQA downloads so the only place for comparison might be streaming.


 

I do when I stream the SAME recording..., posted on July 20, 2017 at 08:01:55
Ivan303
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Whether an newer release (2015) like the above, or a re-mastering of an older release (DOORS 50th Anniversary edition for example).

Tidal and QOBUZ both include release dates so if the album cover is identical and the release date is exactly the same and I stream the Lossless FLAC then the MQA Master I am pretty sure both came from the same master.

Most of the recent MQA stuff that I see in the classical catalog on TIDAL (and there isn't much) is stuff Warners is also re-releasing in CD(and paid downloads). A quick glance over at AMAZON usually confirms this.

Warners seems to be releasing a lot of old Erato stuff that they own. If it's recent and ends up on TIDAL a lot of it is also available in MQA. Again, release dates match for Lossless FLAC, MQA and the same album sold on AMAZON so I'm again guessing it was all taken from the same master, old tapes or re-mastered, who knows?









 

*2 weeks* left to go!, posted on August 29, 2017 at 17:37:25
Archimago
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Just a reminder - about 2 weeks left to go with the blind test.

Thanks for those who have submitted the survey results already!

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Archimago's Musings: A 'more objective' audiophile blog.

 

RE: INTERNET BLIND TEST: MQA Core Decoding vs. Standard Hi-Res Audio, posted on September 20, 2017 at 07:48:28
knewton
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I don't believe that Archimago's assumption that the DAC does not need to be MQA enabled is correct for conducting a proper test. MQA is intended to be an time-doamin optimized format. It takes a holistic view of the reproduction chain, from recording all the way through playback. The DAC is part of that chain. If the DAC is not also time-domain optimized then the overall chain is not time-domian optimized. Listening to MQA without an MQA enabled DAC is not proper test of MQA as a system format.
_
Ken Newton

 

RE: INTERNET BLIND TEST: MQA Core Decoding vs. Standard Hi-Res Audio, posted on September 23, 2017 at 09:47:27
Archimago
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Time for results folks... See link below...
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Archimago's Musings: A 'more objective' audiophile blog.

 

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