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It's never been done - ML was the closest

>>>> the only way to break the protocol's spell is to perform valid level-matched A/B comparisons.<<<<

>> So, you can point to examples where this was done? <<

It's (conveniently for Bob Stuart) never been done as far as I can tell. Probably the closest were the ones done by Michael Lavorgna in his article (linked below).

In this case, ML had MQA process songs with which he was already familiar - a vastly better starting point for this type of comparison than normal MQA demos. It's unclear if Michael checked to ensure that the processed files were level matched to within ±0.1 dB, which would be necessary for the most accurate results.

The biggest problem with ML's test was that he was only able to properly compare files on two relatively low-performance DACs - the Meridian Explorer2 ($299) and the Mytek Brookly ($2000, but at least 1/3 of that goes towards all kinds of features aimed at "pro studio" - the kind in the teenager's basement - analog preamp, headphone amp, even a MM/MC phono input, not to mention 6 different digital inputs). Both are decent sounding for the money and considering the features they offer, but hardly "state of the art".

Michael points this out when first he notes "This improvement communicated itself to me immediately, obviously, as the Brooklyn drew me into the music in an emotional way that I did not experience with the Prime or Explorers, even with MQA playing end-to-end." In other words he liked the Mytek quite a bit more than any of the Meridians he had to hand. And then he goes on to note, "Is MQA/Mytek the equal of the at-present MQA-less dCS Rossini? Of course not. We're not talking miracles. What we are talking about with MQA is, according to the recordings I have, a more natural sound and the better-sounding the DAC, the more engaging the experience."

In other words, a better sounding DAC makes far more difference than does MQA processing. And it is worth noting that the Meridian DACs were of low enough resolution that Michael didn't notice the loss of resolution that MQA mandates. The original 24-bit file is reduced to no more than 17 bits of resolution, and this can be heard by careful listeners. The most obvious place I've noticed this was on perhaps the track that ML most focused on, The Doors' "Riders on the Storm", where the "whisper" overdub on the lead vocal is nearly missing on the MQA processed version. This was confirmed by a Stereophile reader as noted on the comments to their review of the Mytek Manhattan:


This makes ML's quote in his article seem somewhat ironic, "I'd never heard Jim Morrison's voice sound the way it does through the MQA version, which can be described as being more dimensional, and pleasantly softer in the mix compared to any other digital version I've heard." Apparently he prefers the loss of resolution and is mistaking the removoal of the "edginess" of the "whisper" overdub (where consonants and fricatives are emphasized) as being "more dimensional, and pleasantly softer".

This again is concordant with many reviewers (especially ML, I believe) and manufacturers who have noted that MQA is more beneficial to lower performance DACs and not so much for high-quality ones. From a manufacturer who needs to remain anonymous due to NDAs signed with MQA "Based on our listening tests, MQA can do well for cheaper converters. As converter quality increases, the need for MQA becomes less to eventually disappear." http://www.6moons.com/industryfeatures/mqa/1.html

All other "comparisons" of MQA of which I am aware have had horribly obvious flaws. So kudos to ML for doing the best he could, under ridiculously difficult circumstances.

Now that MQA allows the "unfold" to happen in software, he could repeat his test with much more accurate results. Specifically he could compare the 92/24 version and the MQA version by using Audirvana, both through his TotalDAC. There is no need to do any "correction" for the DACs filter, as in the case of the TotalDAC, there is no filter. I would assume that he has all of the original comparison files he used for his article. It would be a much more interesting and valid comparison, rather than trying to compare files through cheap and unfamiliar DACs.

Michael, are you up for it? I know your readers would appreciate it.

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