Tag Archives: hi-res

The Fading Audiophile Armchair

(This post excerpt comes in part from an email response to my friend Harold in the Netherlands. He was curious about our discussion related to my early MP3 work as an online musician through the 90’s into 2000’s and how and why my MP3s could have sounded so good back then to literally everyone who heard them. At the same time in another email to audiophile Dez in LA how the audio gear available today has removed ‘computer’ from the delivery of ‘computer audio’. Of course smartphones are all computers too but what we usually mean by computer is a desktop, laptop, or even tablet. The network is becoming transparent. Music libraries can exist in many places and a single playlist can reference any or all of them at will. The quality of the audio delivered to headphones and speakers can be streamed at studio master DXD quality using little more than 1mbps (1024kbps) which even my iffy satellite connection in Hawaii can support. This unfolds to 24/352.8k on my MQA Masters via TIDAL also on 7Digital, Deezer, Qobuz and other streaming lossless services.

If you can listen to studio masters from anywhere at anytime there’s no need for a sweet spot in a single room to go to when you want to hear your good sounding music. You don’t have to lug it around on computers with you either. It is a new audiophile armchair-less world in these ways these days.)


There are too many ways to hear music today. It creates lots of confusion and uncertainty about what any music listener should buy for equipment or should subscribe to for service. How much does good sounding music matter? How much does convenience in listening to the music that you like matter no matter where your are including the BART or car or plane or hotel or work? How much does it cost to do either or both (have good sounding mobile music)? These are the questions of the day.

In the past 2 years I’ve observed huge gains towards a convergent path for these things that has never existed before. One can even look back at the introduction of CD in the consumer market at the beginning of the 80’s with the clear intent by Sony to disable and destroy the vinyl LP market it hoped to capture with new digital audio. It was cleaner and didn’t hiss like tape or skip and pop like vinyl. Boo hoo. It also made the listener mobile with the first CD Walkman.

20 years later the masses at all age levels particularly young generations have flocked back to vinyl as something that actually sounds good so they produce it as artists and buy it as listeners. The production for vinyl can’t keep up with the demand to print the good old 12″ discs. Despite the fact that cassette was born along with early FM radio and lived with vinyl through the 70’s and long beyond, it has stayed a huge favorite for younger generations making music through the Bandcamp explosion and many other outlets. Vinyl and Cassette win there. Analog wins! Sound Quality wins! CD is the dinosaur.  Downloads and streaming are necessary conveniences and work when they need to.

Good sounding music always wins. That’s what I say. Convenience comes in second after the thrill is gone, which can take a decade or more no doubt. Still, sound quality wins.

When I started working with DSD as an independent artist and was invited and treated kindly beyond words by some of the Sony SACD Project team to participate with their newly evolving DSD gear, I was able to record and hear what my natural acoustic singer-songwriter material really sounded like on excellent digital recording and reproduction setups. I’d been doing things with my songs as recordings from the early 4-track Tascam cassette players in the 80’s to the then current mid-90’s 16/44.1 and 16/48k PCM multitrack (usually up to 8) recorders. I had cut my teeth on this approach with 4 self-produced and released home studio CDs in the market on CDBaby (I was one of first 50 artists signed up there) and online via my websites since 1995 where I was handwriting HTML to code the pages using Windows Notepad because Dreamweaver and the rest of the WYSIWYG tools hadn’t been invented yet.

DSD instantly solved everything I didn’t like about recording digital, even not thrilled with results from some 24-bit leading edge workstations I was able to test things on like the early Waveframe. It was always a compressed sounding result and lacked natural sustain on notes and breath released and didn’t have any warm cozy acoustic ambient cushion to place the real song and real performance onto for listening to the playback, not matter how much work was done trying to fix that in the mixes using EQ or effects like compression, reverb and delay and the rest.

So DSD was the instant magic sauce for me. I heard it first used on early Sony legacy jazz and folk/rock archive tapes transferred from analog masters to DSD64. It was played from a prototype Sony archive workstation into my home studio setup which of course I knew the sound characteristics of. And what I heard through my speakers then changed the way I listen to music to this day. It’s been elaborated on and compounded more than I ever imagined and I’m still working on the art of listening which in a large part involves unlearning a lot of old habits for listening based on compressed sliced and diced CD and other digital recordings since the 80’s. It’s hard to unlearn how to listen but one has to to let really good recordings seep into our ears and brain’s recognition of sounds correctly to enjoy fully. Spatial and temporal issues are at the heart of much of the problems with standard PCM recordings rendering them unnatural sounding and hard to listen to for hours and hours and hours without getting fatigued and maybe suddenly hating having any sound in your ears at all.  DSD, MQA, and now iFi Audio’s GTO filter (along with other earlier minimum phase and apodized filters) all address these big problems in different ways.

When I was able to take some of the early DSD recordings I had (2002 – 2006) and convert them to a format that I could deliver to some of the online musician forums I was participating in to share my work in its best sounding quality, it was of course not in the native DSD format they were recorded in. This was in 2000. The world had barely advanced to the wonders of 33.6k and 56k dialup modems to get to the internet. ISDN tests on the public network by the phone companies had already all but come and gone. What was left was early ADSL (DSL) at max. around 1.2mbps in the US for download and far less upstream speeds, and the early cable modems at maybe around 5mbps. But the cable modems were then as they are now shared so you couldn’t rely on any fixed throughput for downloading anything when your neighbors or coworkers were online nearby.

There wasn’t much audio streaming then.  It was all about new ideas of how to download music for a price per song or album (iTunes) onto your PC or Mac to play later at will. You built a CD library by ripping yours and your friends’ CDs and downloading MP3s or AACs at 128k or less from Apple and a few others or wherever you could find a Napster or the like. Crappy sounding music for the most part yes at rates up to 128. Pandora was and still I believe streams at 64kbps. Very crappy sounding, which is not a knock against MP3, just the low bit rates used by almost everyone even today except Bandcamp, Spotify and a few others not serving lossless streaming. How so many others using the same old low MP3/AAC streaming bit rates get away with it, I have no idea. Maybe their customers have never listened anything better and expect it to be the way it has always been. MP3 sampled at 256kbps and 320kbps on the other hand is often hard to distinguish from CD quality and in fact may have fewer errors in the sound file and could even sound better than the source. Another subject for another day. I’m not a a big fan of either high sample rate MP3 or Red Book CD but what I mean to say here is that a lot of much worse quality has been clogging the ether pipes for a good 25 years now and still is. Shame on some.

So with my 4 released CDs (“Lost in the Green”, “Time Forgets”, “Half An Hour Away”, “The Blue Planet”) and lots and lots of unreleased songs as digital masters I wanted my stuff to sound as good as it could online in the forums. A good example of the forums (before Myspace – don’t get me started) was a place called Mixsposure. I think a version of Mixsposure may still exist and for all I know some of my songs might still be up there I really don’t know.

But it was a great collection of musicians from all countries sharing their original work and getting listened to and reviewed and rated to some extent through the forum. Those were days of truly constructive (not destructive) criticism with common interests in self-producing good sounding albums with good songs.  Lots of music to hear and some really nice friendships made long distance in those early music online days. I enjoyed it and participated quite a bit. It wasn’t the only site I went on over those years, there were tons coming and going and I tried to try all of them to see what I preferred. But Mixposure kept its cool while others crashed and burned or got nasty as in Myspace.

So my DSD conversions to MP3-128 and MP3-256 were uploaded slowly slowly slowly over DSL to Mixposure et. al. and posted for everyone to take listens to. The results were always surprisingly and even embarrassingly strong and forward. Musicians online in  2002, 2003 heard things I’d created for my “The Window” SACD release using DSD and simply converted to MP3 using PCM converted test mixes of my DSD 2-track and multitrack to stereo projects along with PC tools like Audiograbber and others to create the MP3s with the LAME encoder. Then early versions of Audiogate from Korg appeared in 2006 which I used as a main tool for lots of DSD mastering and exporting to other formats including MP3. Audiogate was also the way I worked with Gus Skinas at superaudiocenter.com to create the first Sony DSD Disc download (as a zipped ISO image for DVD burning) in 2009. “The Window” DSD stereo master was then getting downloaded into Sony Playstation3’s for native playback as well as on some special Sony and Onkyo players with USB inputs.

These ~2GB album files were no easy match to download for many people, as the cable modem world hadn’t expanded greatly beyond some of the same early 5-10mbps limits. But hell, we had to wait an hour for a CD to download 10 years before at 33.6k dialup so fair is fair, right? Netflix had the same problem with their early streaming in 2009 as well when they begged their customers to make sure they had at least 5mbps download speeds at home so the movies would not hiccup and stall and stutter in the middle. (Does any one else get the little chime going off in their head for audio that points to MQA’s design to stream at often under 1mbps and still deliver a 24/384k studio bit perfect master unfolded and decoded at the listener’s end — I do. They are a killer vending machine of their own with their design.)

WHY DID MY ARTIST TRACKS ON MIXPOSURE SOUND SO GOOD AS MP3

There is a word that the industry has come to use called “provenance”. I don’t know where its use in audio came from and don’t particularly like the word’s implications and confusing context definitions in Websters, but for audio it simply refers to the quality and care used in making the source studio or live recording. It’s what goes into making a good master. Provenance is completely agnostic to all the media types and equipment types used. It (the recording) just has to be done well.

Provenance has always been at the top of my list, regardless of  the term used to refer to sound quality or the media used. (I made one CD “Voice Memo: Songs From Hawai’i” in the past few years with 30 tunes all recorded on my iPhone using the smartphone’s stock Voice Memo app. Then I mastered it all on PC and released it on CD and download. I used provenance including the phone’s mono mic proximity for voice and guitar, levels, upsample and mastering on PC using Audacity, to the maximum capabilities of the environment I chose to make that album in. The album idea was to capture the process of songwriting as since 2007 I often record new songs I’m writing onto my iPhone to capture the true original song and remember how I wrote and played and sang it as I was writing it.)

Anyone can make a terrible recording using DSD, just as they can do so using an iPhone. As I’ve written before online, the things that make all the difference to what the listeners end up valuing are in my mind staged in a very particular order of precedence:

First is the performance of the musicians. This trumps all else in my opinion. Along these lines but much more subjective is the quality of the song itself. Good songs sound better, kind of a no brainer, but what constitutes a good song is of course up to everyone to decide for themselves. Still there are many commonalities the public has had about what good songs are, otherwise there would be no Billboard or Grammys, or CMAs, but don’t get me started there. Suffice to say that finding good songs is not always as easy as looking up Billboard, or lookup up the Grammy or CMA winners or reading a magazine’s best-of. It never was that easy and never will be in today’s exploded quantity of music world.

Next important is the quality of the engineering used in whatever setting the music is recorded in (studio, field recording, concert, kitchen table…). Proper selection and use of microphones and any preamp or other gear in line to the recording device is an incredibly important factor on delivering a good result. Setting up these devices properly which includes things like proximity (where to place the microphone and how to angle it) are all tasks for qualified sound and recording engineers. Anyone can do it but not everyone can do it well.

Third important is the gear to record the music such as analog tape machines including reel-to-reel (R2R), cassette, and digital machines like MP3 or CD/HD portable, studio quality PCM/DXD or DSD workstations. This has to be done correctly without clipping and all the other problems that can arise.

Fourth is the art of mixing and mastering. This is critical as it can both destroy a perfectly perfect recording by doing things (to my ears) like adding compression, unneeded effects, overdubs and edits and otherwise chopping apart the sonic values of the performance and turning it into something else much more manufactured sounding. On top of the, the nature of mixing is to literally create the environment (2D, 3D) that the listener will experience a multitrack recorded album in their setup. Good mixes are just that and vice versa. All art, no bull. Nearly all my recordings took just part of one day or just a few days to record and then many months to mix and then master. I’m not saying my albums are automatically good because of that, I’m saying that mixing and mastering are no bull.

Fifth is the media delivery which can include streaming or downloads as lossy or lossless with extra improvements in the proper circumstances such as MQA decoding at the listener’s end, or gear like the iFi Pro iDSD to do such reconstruction on its own during playback in the forms of GTO filters and then DSD1024 upsampling to further allow the music to sound more analog like in very very real and distinctive ways to the listener.

Those are the 5 steps in order that I think need to be addressed to result in a media portable recording that can literally be played or sprayed through the ether anywhere to any device and still sound very very good within the context of how it is being played.


Doing these things above correctly to the fullest extent allows low converted (downsampled) streaming or downloaded 128k MP3s, CDs or anything else to sound better than any other low quality 128 MP3 tracks, CDs or anything else, as far as sound quality at least. It only gets better from there with the higher res formats for delivery.  And if the listener is setup for hi-res reproduction in the native format of the source recording (say DSD64, 128, 256 or MQA 192, 352, 384) guess what, they will be blown away ever time.

So if a golden master is created with high degrees of provenance, then its good sound to all listeners travels from its source master (DSD64, DSD128, DSD256, DSD512, or DXD (352.8 or 384), MQA (DXD with MQA encoding, or MQA CD 16.44.1 PCM with MQA encoding) to any other downsampled format such as MP3 for say downloads or streaming on Bandcamp or Soundcloud, or Garageband or LastFM, or Streaming on Spotify (which can use 320k and sounds very good) or any other use, even Pandora at 64kbps.

In my world MQA PCM always qualifies as significantly improved provenance to the source PCM without MQA so this applies equally to MQA CD and and 24-bit encoded PCM remaster at different bit rates 48k, 88.2, 176.4, 192.

Bandwidth, cost, OTG lilfestyle issues, are just some of the reasons music has to be available in many formats today. The transparency of the network itself is essential and critical. That includes gear, music players as apps on phones, tablets and computers, wires or wireless protocols (Bluetooth vs WiFi, Airplay vs Google Cast), and finally the output devices (wireless/wired speakers or headphones/earbuds) is essential and critical. The details of HOW and WHERE one listens to THEIR MUSIC has to become less and less and less and eventually invisible with the requirement to still have very very good sounding music coming through to our ears.

So once again my point for all of this post is in the paragraph above. With that becoming an advanced reality more and more each day, the armchair requirement of the dated audiophile of the 80’s and 90’s is becoming a non sequitur and so the armchair audiophile in a single room with a limited library of music has all but faded to the past.

Amen to that since it also means that the burden of finding a single sweet spot in a room to listen to great sounding music is not quite the burden it has been in the past for all of us, nor does it cost as much to find just about anywhere. This is just as true for diehard audiophiles as for anyone else.

Live Long!

~ DE, January 11, 2020
Cover Photo © 2020 David Elias, “Standing Waves”

 

It’s Getting Green Up Over

It’s Getting Green Up Over.

Spring is still working above the equator, gotta be thankful there. Along with new budding leaves and flowers the interest in MQA as a great way to deliver CD quallity and hi-res PCM to ears via downloads or streaming or CDs continues to grow as well.

Right now you can try a pristine acoustic recording originally mastered as native DSD, and since converted to DXD and encoded as MQA for downloads. It plays on any music player!

If you have an MQA decoder it can unfold the hi-res to 24/352.8kHz. The original master was encoded for MQA by MQA Ltd. as FLAC. The audio files are small and download fast.

Go here to get the 50% off Acoustic Trio….Album of the Week!

Use the code AcousticTrio50 on checkout to get the 50% off.

Have a Happy Spring and thanks for Listening!

~ DE

Streaming Hi-Res… “Crossing”

Something I’ve wanted to do for a long time…

https://store.cdbaby.com/cd/davidelias24

David-Elias-Crossing-1400px-MQA

…is present high fidelity recordings of my stuff to as many people as possible. In the past this has been done using special gear which used to be a lot more expensive than it is today but still requires quite a bit of knowledge and interest in buying and setting up hi-res fidelity.

Today that has improved because they are ways to stream hi-res that don’t require any special hardware at all. I’ve been an MQA partner (artist/content) for over a year now and released a lot of 24-bit downloads of my work.

Now for the first time I have a streaming 16-bit CD version of the hi-res that will soon be on TIDAL and 7Digital/Onkyo as well as Deezer as remastered MQA. This was folded from the 16/352.8kHz DXD remaster.

On TIDAL’s HiFi subscription ($19.99/mo) you can hear full MQA masters and other 24/96 masters from thousands of titles coming from Warner. This includes the likes of Tom Petty, Costello, Black Sabbath, JT, Joni, CSNY, Talking Heads, Emmylou, Albert King, Alice Cooper, Bowie, America, The Who, The Doors, The Band…you get the idea.

With the 16-bit streaming version of hi-res MQA I can print the CDs that will sound just as good. Anyone with MQA decoding at their end will hear the full resolution on these hi-res albums as they get released.

For now, you can try streaming the whole album at the link! It’s not lossless MQA streaming from CDBaby like it is on TIDAL but maybe that’s the point cause it still sounds good.

Aloha!

Crossing-BackCover.JPG

Try TIDAL’s offer for 90 days – Hi-Res, MQA Masters streaming to your desktop

Want to try MQA Masters for 90-days? TIDAL has a free subscription trial (you have to cancel to avoid paying after 90 days). Once I signed up I went to the Account and upgraded the subscription to the “HiFi” version. It says $19.99/mo but under the trial it didn’t charge me for the upgrade.  I then actually cancelled the subscription so it wouldn’t charge PayPal after 90 days. I can always sign up later again and start paying :)

http://tidal.com/us/lemonade-offer

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[NOTE: If that 90-day offer special for Beyonce goes away here is there standard trial signup page for 30-days trial: http://tidal.com/us/try-now-b  — Select the trial for the HiFi-Masters program on the right. ]

Then download the TIDAL player from here — you need the desktop app to stream MQA masters (it says the Chrome browser will do it as well but I didn’t try that).
http://tidal.com/us/download

Choose the browser app (leftmost) to allow Master MQA playback from your computer.

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Once you are in the player you can find MQA under “What’s New” then scroll a page down and you’ll see “Masters” (I highlighted in yellow) in the center of the screen. Choose it to get to the MQA mastered titles. Then you can choose “Show All” to view all the albums available. I have quickly picked over 500 titles (choosing entire albums) and 36 hours of music to try this.

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If you have an MQA DAC (Meridian, Mytek,…) you can choose “Masters” again in the lower right corner of the player to popup the setup. You can pick your MQA DAC if it sees the driver. If not, you can use the TIDAL app to decode MQA within its limits whatever they are.

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In order to use my Meridian Explorer2 I also had to hover over the driver name then pick the Gear icon setup that allowed me to set the player in “Passthrough” mode which means it hands the audio to my MQA DAC for decoding. I prefer this because it supports up to 24/192k which I see for example on James Taylor’s “Mud Slide Slim” album playback. Amazing! Also choose the “Exclusive Mode” option too as a suggestion.

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I bought that LP when I was little more than 10 years old. I still listen to it a lot. Wore out a number of vinyl copies over the years. CD versions of this are never good at all, but the MQA playback at 24/192 streaming from TIDAL (all 3 LEDs and Blue Light) is incredibly good!

I added titles in my playlist from Joni, Jethro Tull, Sabbath, The Dead, Tom Petty, Emmylou Harris, The Band, Jackson Browne…many others. They have some great stuff up there already. I then added Mott The Hoople, Todd Rundgren, Bowie, Dwight Yoakam, Mudcrutch, Mark Knopfler, CSN, Doors.  All albums, not songs. I’ve heard some of these CDs with distaste for decades! They sound great through the lossless streaming on TIDAL. What more can I say.

I have a slow Internet sometimes and buffering (stutter) has been a bit of a problem but when the skies are clear, the sound streams fine. This is a great way to try MQA masters lossless quality online without buying any new gear as the TIDAL player will decode the MQA for you. There may be advantages to having your own DAC at some point but not required… Enjoy!

Aloha! – DE

MQA – When Two Faced Is A Whole

I’ve come to think of MQA as two completely different faces in one container. This appears to be fully misunderstood by many.

On one hand MQA is a time coherence correction tool that makes quantum leaps in restoring the ambient synchronization of frequency and location arrival of sound to the listener. It does this with both analog recording ADC and playback DAC knowledge applied to remove pre- and post-ringing echoes that typically create huge miscues to the listener’s ear on what was played when, and from where in the room on the recording. These miscues are cause for endless fatiguing analysis and corrections done by the human ear which is monumentally sensitive to timing and location, much more so than to pitch (frequency) itself.

The other face (unrelated entirely) of MQA is its ingenious methods of folding hi-res recordings (up to 24/384kHz) to nothing greater than 24/48kHz in any lossless PCM format including the popular file compressed formats of FLAC (PC) and ALAC (Mac). This allows the full spectrum of sound and air/harmonics to be restored on playback by MQA enabled DACs using little more than, or even less than 1mbps bandwidth on transport and delivery to the DAC.

Folding is 100% lossless with regard to the noise floor in the recording. No ambiguities there whatsoever. The fast (compressed) delivery of the data reduces the time and space required to allow quick and easy transport over Internet for downloads or streaming as well as on standard CD capacity disks. This is almost 20x smaller than the data/bandwidth footprint of a WAV or AIF hi-res PCM download at 24/384k and the popular DXD (24/352.8k). The latter monstrous file sizes prohibit downloads for almost everyone and streaming is not possible at all. MQA solves this problem with 100% bit perfect accuracy in a package almost 20 times smaller on delivery.

So MQA’s two-faced solution restores an edgeless natural enjoyable ambient sound to PCM masters at any resolution by removing brickwall filter imposed edges as time smearing. And MQA delivers in a package (PCM format) that fully accommodates all known media requirements for users including (I hope!) future wireless lossless full resolution transmissions.

All this is done with full portability by the user to any and all media devices for playback including non-MQA equipment. CD ripping and format conversions (e.g., between FLAC, ALAC, WAV, AIF) can be done by anyone at anytime with the full preservation of the MQA encoding. Royalties are paid by the sources (record labels, MQA compatible equipment mfgs, streaming services) not unlike CD, Dolby, DTS, and many other popular digital audio technologies used by the recording and film industries for many decades.

What’s not to like?
– DE,  http://davidelias-mqa.com

Take 30, or Get 55…Happy Holidays

You Came To The Right Place…

Happy Holidays!

Aloha to All – Wishing you the best with a 30% Sale on all titles through Christmas.

Use this Promo Code when you purchase:  TAKE30

The Catalog for PCM downloads is here:  http://davidelias.bandcamp.com

Remember that these MQA encoded files will play through any software media player or burned to a CD!  The sound quality is very good to me and many others at this point no matter how they get played.

You can also download my entire PCM catalog below online (19 albums/titles) for a 55% discount.  Just select that option from any of the album pages you click on. These are the PCM/MQA Masters only, not DSD.

Entire Discography of DE Masters (19 titles) at 55% Off

Buying albums/tracks on Bandcamp also entitles you to stream the same tracks from a web browser or smartphone forever from the Bandcamp page or smarphone app with surprisingly good quality too.

About MQA – Hi-Res
My hi-res tracks gets unfolded up to 352.8k by an MQA DAC.  But the DAC isn’t required to play the hi-res files (SACD gurus think of the hybrid layer, it acts in a similar way).


Just be sure to choose any of the Bandcamp “Lossless” formats: FLAC, ALAC, WAV or AIF.  That’s it.  It plays no matter which you choose. You can also download any format anytime on titles you’ve purchased.


You can send these as gifts too…choose the “Send as Gift” link.


Mele Kalikimaka!  Be Well!

DE

David Elias - CD and Hi-Res Catalog - 30% Sale

Getting Back to the Source…Back in the room with MQA

The stereo mixes I’ve done for everything always use “the room” in the mix which is usually largely based on 2 or more rear wall mics capturing those reflections at “the source” (ie the wall) as well as high up (ie, the ceiling).

So I mix the stereo as well as multichannel using those tracks (2 stereo or sometimes 3 with 1 mono). In that way I avoid having to use artificial reverb and delay which is so commonly used (both analog and digital versions of these) in studios that most engineers/producers don’t think twice about it.

By using ambient sound in the mix to bring back the natural reverb and delay (slapback sounds from the wall vs the stage) I can recreate a very authentic reproduction that has nothing artificial added.  Just EQ and panning (right and left) during the mix to restore the original sounds and locations in the room.

I started doing this on my own on my very first CD in 1995 (Lost in the Green). I went on to record several other CDs in that fashion through 2001 with Half An Hour Away which I recorded myself in an acoustically beautiful small performance theater in Half Moon Bay on the SF Coast on Hwy 1. Me and my trio at the time (Gary on flute/tenor sax, Lisa on mandolin) played live in the otherwise empty hall for about 4 hours one afternoon with (local fan) director Michael’s permission.  I had mics in the audience front rows as well as back at the high seats in the rear wall row. I mixed the 8 total tracks to stereo analog and printed it.

Within a year or two I was planning and then recording “The Window” to DSD in a fancy studio in Boulder using the same approach. They (local engineers) said I couldn’t do it and shouldn’t try — putting all musicians in the same room without isolation (no real traps between musicians!) and creating the live session with as few mics as possible in the room. But I said we should try it just to see what happened so they shrugged and said ok……..  rest is good history for me :)

I think (my ears tell me) that MQA is exactly what was needed to round out the edges imposed by PCM which is how I recorded and mastered those original CDs. It is the coup de gras for returning the original ambient sound characteristics of the room and performance.

– DE

4 MQA Songs to Try (1 Free) – CD to Hi-Res

Introducing you to MQA with 4 songs.

UPDATED Jan 18, 2017
These 4 songs now download for $4. There is 1 free track available
——————————————————

Here is how MQA Ltd. described me in their newsletter this week (emphasis is mine):

MQA Artist Release
Sound quality has been a driving motivation for singer-songwriter David Elias since he started recording his music digitally more than 20 years ago. On listening to some of his earliest recordings encoded with MQA, David noted, “The original intention and sounds are much more accurately represented [with MQA] and are therefore much, much more enjoyable to listen to. The convenience of MQA’s smaller file size is an additional no-brainer.” 

This paragraph says a lot for me because I’ve lived with CD and its problems with sound quality as long as everyone else. In fact I had no CDs long after many did, sticking to vinyl and even my own mix tape cassettes (analog ruled) for years after the CD deluge. It sounded better. I liked album covers. What can I say.

I broke my teeth on CD quality recording in 1995 making my first CD in a home studio setup. I recorded to Hi-8 Video Tape at 16/48 on an 8-track Tascam DA-88. I’d recorded myself at times on various tape machines and a few digital boxes for almost 20 years but this was much different.

I listened to a lot of everything I put on tape through that whole process of recording, mixing analog (lengend original Mackie 1202!) to 16/44.1 (Sony TCD-10 DAT) and then mastered on a DyaxisII Workstation. It sounded good and in fact better in the studio than on the final CD that was printed.

Those early CDs and many later recordings were either created or converted to PCM to be moved online one way or another. All my released songs are on YouTube Music now for example, as audio, as well as lots of other places, like 50 or more. The more they travel in the Etherspace the worse they sound generally.  They get downsampled and converted into whatever suits the retailer or streaming radio like Pandora (one of my least favorites for sound quality).

But shoots, I want to get heard…otherwise I wouldn’t put music I write out there in the first place.

Enter MQA… I started listening to it in February on hi-res converted music from 2L in Norway. Classical works. I knew some of them from 10+ years prior as SACDs I had actually been given by Morten Lindberg there. 2L put MQA converted masters (DXD conversions which are PCM at 24/352.8) online to try as well as other hi-res formats. I was using a Meridian Explorer2 MQA DAC connected to my Dell Windows 10 notebook running the latest JRiver.

All I can say is I didn’t hear anything I didn’t like, and in some cases heard some things I really really liked.

So I started listening to other MQA encoded tracks. MQA is not a new audio format. It is still linear PCM, just has its own corrections (aka filtering) applied to the encoding of the music.

 What I started paying attention to more and more and hearing more and more were the timing coherence corrections in the playback. What PCM has always done to my ears, along with countless others, is present a very sharp unnatural edge to the sound that can get worse for me the louder or harder the music is played. It doesn’t flow like vinyl, cassette, or DSD. Usually it kind of attacks quickly, then disappears. It’s not relaxing, let me put it that way.

MQA encoded tracks I listened to had lost much of that sharp attack, no decay characteristic. They were well presented and much easier to listen to. They positioned things more clearly in the stereo space noticeably including the front and back locations in addition to left and right. The soundstage was then more 2 dimensional with depth as well as 3 dimensional with up and down.

This listening started with a lot of music I didn’t know, yet I was happy to listen to it with open ears so to speak.

Over the next few months, I decided I wanted to hear some of my PCM recordings as MQA and started making inquiries as to how I might do that. In the end, I became an MQA artist partner and have converted my catalog and archives to MQA encoded PCM.

I’ve actually had most of my catalog online as PCM on the Bandcamp site (http://davidelias.bandcamp.com) as CD quality up to 24/88.2 for a couple years now. Now most of that has been updated to download in the smaller FLAC or ALAC MQA encoded files.

Overall, MQA sounded better to me than any CD or hi-res PCM master I had. It doesn’t need much more proof to me. I have read a lot about the “what it is” and “why it works” to understand that better, but after my intro through reading and some YouTubes, I just started listening a lot. I still am.

What About The 4 Songs…  The first album on the page at the link above is a free download. You can also stream it as much as you want. Bandcamp lets you download songs in a variety of formats. The default is MP3.  Don’t download it as MP3! 

MQA requires what’s called a lossless format — The 4 big lossless formats being used out there are the original WAV (PC) and AIF (Mac) and their file (not audio) compressed counterparts FLAC (PC) and ALAC (Mac).  Choose one of those when you download from anywhere no matter what the site or music! It is not missing some of its music from the original like MP3!

FLAC and ALAC are roughly 1/2 the size of WAV and AIF. They sound identical and are better at carrying the magic metadata or tags that include all the song and album info for the media player to display when playing the track.

MP3 and Apple’s AAC use math to remove audio data in an original CD or hi-res audio master to make it a much smaller file (in general about 1/10th the size). That was the strategy from the beginning when everyone was dialing up the Internet on modems. It made sense then as one didn’t want to stay online for hours or days to download an album. Apple cemented that approach since iTunes Store came online in 2004. How long will that go on? As long as people buy it I guess.

 Excuse Me, What About The 4 Songs…  Ok, I have a lot of MQA encoded music I am really kind of hearing for the first time myself. This includes both very good and some not so great recordings (like live public hall stuff through a single $99 Sony stereo mic to DAT).

Most of it got created as a PCM recording. The MQA encoded versions of these tracks changed how they sound to me and took me a lot closer to the original performance whether was studio or live stage. It sounds more like the sound in the room at the time and what was played and I am relaxed when I listen to it because of that.

Go here and try 4 songs at 3 different PCM resolutions, all encoded as MQA

https://davidelias.bandcamp.com/album/mqa-track-sampler-any-player-works-1-free-track

If I went into too much detail this email might get long :)

Here’s the (short) not so fine print:

1) If you have an MQA DAC you can hear the full resolution up to 24/352.8 or the limits of your MQA DAC.

2) If you don’t have an MQA DAC you can just play it anyway at 16/44.1, 24/44.1 or 24/48 depending on source track

3) If you get an MQA DAC later (or the media players do it for you) you’ll hear the hi-res then

 The song audio resolutions range from CD (16/44.1) hi-res (24/96) to DXD (24/352.8). They are all only about as big as a CD file to download (about 700MB), maybe a little bigger.

CD’s sound better as MQA to me with or without the MQA DAC gear. You can just play them. I’ve had different people tell me the same thing about my stuff. So far I have heard its biggest benefits on the lowest res recordings. I might even know why.

If you have questions you can reply to this email, it just comes to me…I hope you try downloading the tracks. If you have an MQA DAC, don’t stream them, download them!

Thanks For Listening!

DE
http://www.davidelias-mqa.com (MQA Downloads)
http://www.davidelias.com/dsd_downloads (DSD Downloads)
http://youtube.com/davideliasvideo

David Elias MQA 24/352 Masters

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!

– DE

Tired of Poor MP3 Sound?

Revelation Station - $599

FREE DSD album download!
David Elias “Coffeehouse DSD Playlist #1” with all orders for the Revelation Station ~ Bestselling DSD Download Tracks

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Brought to you by Rev9

The Revelation Station setup - you provide the iPhone

The Revelation Station setup – you provide the iPhone

Rev9 did the research and the careful listening. We were interested in solving the problem of getting really good sound reproduction from audio files into a portable setup that anyone could use whether they were at home or elsewhere.

We found the solution… We call it the Revelation Station.It is a Hi-Rez Kit for your iPhone, brought to you by Rev9.

  • Pro quality DAC supports DSD and all HRA PCM bit rates
  • Pro quality headphones capable of delivering great music
  • Connectors for iPhone / DAC
  • iPhone app HRA player supporting DSD and PCM
  • DSD album download “Coffeehouse DSD Playlist #1”
  • Shipping USPS Priority Mail with Tracking (US orders only please)
  • ….kid gloves for the “how-to” when needed….

It is a handheld or pocket friendly portable configuration for anyone with an iPhone iOS7 that likes to listen to music. We have selected small but professional hardware components and the best software available to allow any type of audio file to be played with outrageously good quality to your ears.

DSD download files, our Holy Grail of sonic bliss are supported in the Revelation Station configuration. So are all other PCM formats of tracks you have already downloaded and are listening to.

This plays from the iPhone but doesn’t sound like iTunes sounds…If you are tired of the poor sound of MP3’s and AAC’s you are ready for the Revelation Station.

PS – Don’t worry – we’ll help you set it up if you need us.