MQA = Master Quality Authenticated.
Maybe you don’t keep up on this stuff. I don’t always either…But MQA has been something gnawing at my good sound quality curiosity for awhile now. It is a mysterious (to some anyway) approach to getting better sounding audio from just about any source including typical downloads (compared often to iTunes), streaming (compared often to Pandora) and even CDs (compared often to “the industry”).
So… enter MQA, not anytime that recently, as they (MQA Ltd. spun from Meridian-Audio.com) have been at this research and development for some years now.
My short version is:
Yes, in order to get the hi-res unfolded benefits of MQA encoded audio files you need a DAC that is MQA enabled. There are a few for sale out there now.
Yes, MQA is being supported by some large streaming providers including 7Digital. Others with interest may follow.
Yes, MQA might eventually be deployed in software media players so the need for DAC compatibility could become optional.
Yes, MQA folds the hi-res audio data such that the transport of the data whether streaming or downloaded as a file is a much smaller image than what hi-res files cost today in bandwidth. MQA is always not much bigger than a normal CD to download or stream. But you can get the big hi-res unfolded quality when you play it! If you don’t have the MQA DAC, it still sounds good and is playable on what you might have today.
Yes, MQA playback can sound a lot better to my ears than what I usually hear from PCM masters. The biggest improvement in my unlearned opinion comes from what is referred to as a reduction in the temporal or time blurring of the playback. There is a better focus and location of each instrument in the mix. It is also a more relaxed, natural sound losing some of the PCM edge that I have become pretty sensitive to picking up over the years.
It is more ambient and to me, more DSD-like. It is also more 3-dimensional. I described it to an audiophile friend as a pyramid of sound with the point of the pyramid pointed slightly towards the listener, not straight up in the air. So the image of a band performing the song came to mind very readily, with the back edge of the stage raised and tilted slightly towards me.
So I developed MQA masters of my hi-res albums and my newest CD release “Rare To Go – December Solstice” to allow easier and faster downloads of my masters to be accessed by those who are not especially interested in DSD, or just are maybe just especially interested in MQA or better sounding PCM masters.
Trying to download a 24/352.8 audio file is a “good luck” proposition normally. But MQA allows this to be easily done where the total album is still just around 1GB of data. That’s it.
However the playback sounds excellent with an MQA DAC in use. I am using the Meridian Explorer2 which retails for $299. It does not play DSD files, just PCM at all bit rates.
My MQA Promo…Go here for 2-for-1 MQA downloads…
If you are listening to MQA today and want to hear how my albums sound with that encoding, I will give you a free title of your choice when you buy any of the four 24/352.8k releases: “The Window”, “Crossing”, “Acoustic Trio”, “Coffeehouse Playlist”.
It’s Memorial Day Tomorrow! You can get the Buy 1 Get 1 Free deal until May 15, 2016
If you have questions about MQA feel free to reply to this message, it just goes to me.
I have been working with MQA Ltd. in the UK on getting my DSD masters converted to DXD and then having the PCM masters encoded as MQA. All the work was done by MQA Ltd. and the results have been very and sometimes surprisingly excellent.
I like good sound. If it sounds good, it is good. I don’t have to go too much beyond that for my own sonic barometer. Good job MQA.
I’ve always maintained that DSD is the magic sauce behind many many great sounding recordings and master tape transfers. That’s still 100% true to my ears. How can it be delivered through PCM channels including streaming? The hybrid SACD was and still is a good but only partial solution with the Redbook CD layer.
But what about hi-res DSD conversions as well as native PCM hi-res masters at 24/96 and above?
PCM needs help.
Large hi-res file downloads (DSD and PCM) need help saving time and the ISP’s gigabyte limit for many.
Streaming needs help sounding a lot better than it has from most big sites.
Regular CD download quality needs help sounding a lot better than it has since the beginning, especially when it’s in the form of lossy compressed formats like MP3 and AAC from iTunes, but even as it’s delivered on a typical CD.
MQA helps… Mahalo!