ROON + TIDAL + MQA -> LIO?

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jpm

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Re: ROON + TIDAL + MQA -> LIO?
« Reply #20 on: 11 Jan 2017, 04:50 pm »
A lot of fog cleared here in a very accessible article:

http://www.digitalaudioreview.net/2017/01/mqa-tidal-where-are-we-now/


Vinnie R.

Re: ROON + TIDAL + MQA -> LIO?
« Reply #21 on: 11 Jan 2017, 05:57 pm »
All,

It is time for an update on this, as I promised I would share my views on MQA.  Now is probably a good time to do so:

I understand that many of you want to know "will Vinnie Rossi support MQA with current / future dacs?  What is Vinnie's take on MQA?"   
The simple answer is  "I am still not sure at this time"  because I have too many questions that I need answered by MQA.  It is my responsibility to do all the due diligence required before deciding to adapt MQA in my products, and I am still working on this part if it.  I am waiting to hear back from MQA (I have signed an NDA and am supposed to be sent more information, and I would of course need to clear it with them before I can post about any specific details here). 

If this is all that you want to know, you can STOP reading here. :wink:  Below are only some of my many questions that I would like MQA to answer for me before I can make the decision to get on board, or not.

1) There is plenty of ambiguity regarding things like software vs hardware decoding, and if software decoding can now (or ever will) do "full unfolding" of MQA's "audio origami" encoding, and how it would compare to their hardware based decoding (in which I believe a chip on board the dac unit would run firmware that does the decoding, and an LED could be lit verifying what you are hearing is authentic MQA).

2) There are also many questions about how MQA is "correcting" the "time smearing" of the d/a conversion process.  The pre-ringing of a d/a converter's impulse response that they mention in their videos that causes the time smearing should not be an issue if your dac implementation uses minimal phase filtering (BTW - this is the default filter of LIO's DSD/PCM dac, so there is no pre-ringing or smearing of the impulse response.  Linear phase filters do have pre-ringing - but not minimal phase filters).  So what is the problem with the d/a conversion then?   

3) Is MQA working with various d/a chip manufacturers (e.g. TI, AKM, Analog Devices, ESS Sabre, etc) and telling them what they are dong wrong and how it should be "corrected" via MQA's hardware based decoding / correction (and the same question for all the A/D converters used in the studios when they recorded the music in the first place)?  If they have a collection of, say, 20,000 albums to encode to MQA and correct in the process, will they find the information on the A/D converters used in the original digital recorder used by the recording studio?  They would need to know what was used (define the problem) *before* encoding the files with MQA to fix the problem introduced by the A/D process that they speak of.  At least this is how I see it, but not every A/D converter is the same, so I hope it is not just a manner of applying the same algorithm to every album.  If it is not, then it is going to be a tremendous task for them!  :o  :green:

4) I know they don't like to call this "EQ'ing" or "DSP" - but it certainly sounds like DSP to me at this time.  And is the hardware MQA implementation simply doing what can be done via playback software (decoding, decompressing, authenticating) - for those who don't own playback software that does this?

My questions above, and plenty more that I have for MQA, are what I hope to have answered so I can post answers directly from MQA's mouth, and not add to all the confusion.  We may think we know the answers already, but unless it has been confirmed with MQA and is current information (MQA seems to have changed its stance here and there since it was first brought to the market.  For example - playback software decoding).  If you have been reading all the links that I have provided in this thread, you can see that there is still much confusion - even from those who are doing their independent measurement comparisons and the like. 

So at this point, my only criticism of MQA is the lack of detailed information on their website to answer all these (and more)
questions.  I believe it is important to know what is happening to the music and what we are getting. How is it being processed, changed, manipulated... whatever you want to call it.  All the confusion and speculation on the various forums and audio sites could be avoided if everything was already spelled out in a clear fashion.  I understand that not everyone understands the technicalities of digital audio and the like, but it would be helpful if MQA would post links to white papers for those of us (especially manufacturers) who are interested in this.  I'll be sure to post more when I have concrete information to share instead of just more questions. :green:


Finally - you will note above that I have not even began to discuss one of the most (if not *the* most) important MQA topic:  "How does it sound?"  I have only been using Roon / TIDAL (software decoding), so please keep this in mind.  I still have plenty more listening to do, but my initial impressions vary just like others who have posted about it:

- I have been impressed with some albums, and less so with others (more detail on that later...)
- I do love the concept of TIDAL streaming MQA for those of us who want an enhanced listening experience via streaming. 
- I certainly would not want to pay to download my music collection all over again as MQA encoded files - at least not until
we see where this all goes.  It's just too early to tell, but it sure it exciting and if it is raising more awareness to the industry regarding
how QUALITY MATTERS, then I certainly dig that aspect of it.
- Also, I currently only stream music to explore new artists.  If I really like the music, I buy it (via download on a number of different sites, or I buy the CD, or I buy the LP).  I still want to own it.  I understand the industry has been quickly moving to a "pay for access" model, and I do want to have access to as much as possible.  Who doesn't?  But for me, having access alone is not enough because there is uncertainty (e.g. What if Jay-Z / TIDAL calls it quits?). 

Thanks,

Vinnie

yardbird4

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Re: ROON + TIDAL + MQA -> LIO?
« Reply #22 on: 11 Jan 2017, 06:43 pm »
Thanks Vinnie.  I am sure your efforts we be extremely helpful to all as we try to understand and determine whether this new technology is all we wish it to be.   

Vinnie R.

Re: ROON + TIDAL + MQA -> LIO?
« Reply #23 on: 11 Jan 2017, 06:53 pm »
Thanks Vinnie.  I am sure your efforts we be extremely helpful to all as we try to understand and determine whether this new technology is all we wish it to be.

Thanks, yardbird4!   I really do need all the facts from MQA (as we all do!) before I can plot a course. 

I just spotted this interesting post, which seems to have been commented on by MQA's Bob Stuart:
http://www.audiostream.com/content/mqa-decoding-explained#VX8pdtjKmVH6uEw2.97

The comments that follow are also worth reading.  The jigsaw puzzle is starting to come together... but I still am
very curious about what their algorithms are doing to the music besides compressing and decompressing high res
files to make them more suitable for streaming.

Vinnie

jpm

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Re: ROON + TIDAL + MQA -> LIO?
« Reply #24 on: 11 Jan 2017, 07:18 pm »
Thanks for the detailed and very thoughtful update Vinnie.  Your perspective is very confidence inspiring :)

CMcGolpin

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Re: ROON + TIDAL + MQA -> LIO?
« Reply #25 on: 11 Jan 2017, 08:49 pm »
Vinnie,

Very much appreciate your holding email and your willingness to get to the bottom of this. I use Tidal in the same way you do and it is great but there is a lot of mystique around technology and like you I found little on their website bar a brochure wahooing its great qualities. Look forward to your clarifications.

Regards,
Chris.

matthewpartrick

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Re: ROON + TIDAL + MQA -> LIO?
« Reply #26 on: 14 Jan 2017, 05:28 pm »
Good points all, Vinnie.  Thanks for weighing in.

After listening to Tidal Masters via the OS desktop app, it certainly sounds awesome.  Better than my hi-res PCM?  Hard to say.  I think at this stage I believe that MQA is here to stay, at least in software form.  Whether the hardware incorporation continues remains to be seen.  Will we look back in five years and see MQA as going the way of SACD, or becoming more concrete and widespread?  Hard to say.  Like I said, I think the software will continue to grow in the market, perhaps to take over a significant share of types of files downloaded/streamed, but the hardware may continue in a <10% slice of the market.  JMHO.

I'd of course like to see Vinnie offer an MQA-compatible DAC in the future, if he's had all his "due diligence" issues answered appropriately.  This is purely selfish on my part so I could really compare some of these files to see what all the fuss is about.  So far, with one unfolding on Tidal Masters on the desktop app, it sounds pretty darn good.

Thanks again Vinnie!

matthewpartrick

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Re: ROON + TIDAL + MQA -> LIO?
« Reply #27 on: 15 Jan 2017, 01:55 am »
One other thing:. Where are people downloading MQA files these days? :)




matthewpartrick

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Re: ROON + TIDAL + MQA -> LIO?
« Reply #28 on: 15 Jan 2017, 02:57 pm »
Audioquest will offer a free software update for the Dragonfly DAC later this month.  One wonders if "just a software update" makes this DAC MQA-compatible that either

1) it's no big deal, or
2) Dragonfly DACs won't unfold to MQA's complete potential.

I have a Dragonfly Red so will update you when I get the download as to how well it works.

eric1

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Re: ROON + TIDAL + MQA -> LIO?
« Reply #29 on: 15 Jan 2017, 04:46 pm »
I'm on the MQA fence too. From what I understand (which is not much), MQA is a not a lossless compression. It has to uprez, or color the music in some manner. I believe MQA will sound great on moderate systems, and for people who have never really heard HiFi. If you have a REALLY nice DAC, MQA is in DOA. In the limited time I have had to listen to it, it does not compare to PCM through a $5K+ DAC. Then again, most people don't have DACs like that. I can see quite a market place for MQA when not compared to true high end. This is just my opinion from the limited time I've had to listen to it.

Vinnie R.

Re: ROON + TIDAL + MQA -> LIO?
« Reply #30 on: 16 Jan 2017, 05:03 pm »
All,

For those of you using TIDAL "Masters" and their MQA software decoding, I would like your feedback on these 3 albums that I tested:

Natalie Merchant's Tigerliy - What the heck happened with this album? The MQA "MASTER" version has serious issues.

For example, listen to the last track ("Seven Years") with the HIFI version (search for it in the Tidal Search) and listen to the
MASTER version.

The Master's bass is a lot more bloated, there is clearly audible distortion / clipping in quite a few spots, the sound has a echo-y / reverb quality, and most alarming to me is right before she begins the first chorus, where from silence she sings loudly "BUT FOR SEVEN YEARS....."  right before she sings that you can hear what I hear as a 'pre-echo' where you hear her sing it a few times right before she should actually begin singing it (at a lower volume level, but it's there).  This is similar to what you get when an LP has "adjacent groove distortion" or there is "print through" from tape.

Other tracks on this album sound much worse to me compared to the lossless CD version.  For example, her hit "Carnival" - the bass is much more muddy and it sounds like some artificial reverb or something was added, as if she is singing in a big tin can or something.

The big question I have is, "what the hell happened?  What went wrong?"  How is this an "authenticated master" if it has these problems?

--

Alanis Morrisette's Unplugged album.  Compare the MQA vs. the HIFI.  Use song "Unforgiven".  For me, the MQA sounds much duller, compressed, and lacks the dynamics of the non-MQA version.  Why?

---

Depeche Mode's - "Speak & Spell".   Listen to track 1 and compare MASTER to HIFI.  They sound like different versions of the same track from the same album, correct?  And Track 3 sounds much better on the HIFI version than the MQA MASTER version.  Again, more dynamic, less bloated and congested with the HIFI version.


I confirm when I play them on TIDAL that the MASTER shows FREQ on the LIO display of 88 or 96, and the HIFI version on Tidal shows 44.  So I know when I'm listening to MASTER or HIFI version (I am not mixing them up), and I know the MASTER is being MQA software decoded because I'm getting 88 or 96khz on the LIO display in the "FREQ" setting.

I really want to understand what is going on, because I do not understand how NM's Tigerlily or AM's Unplugged album should have gotten through quality control.   Please let me know your thoughts after you try. 

- In a handful of other Tidal Master albums I tried, when I compare the HIFI and MASTER, they sound pretty much the same (definitely not better, but no worse like the 3 that I mentioned above).  Most albums that are well-recorded do sound impressive with MQA.  I need more time to ultimately determine if they sound "better." 

- Does anyone have an example of an album that you find to clearly sound better with MASTER compared to HIFI in Tidal?  I'd love to try
and compare, and I'll post my findings.

And I'm still waiting to hear back from MQA.  I submitted a signed NDA on Jan. 10th and have not heard back since.  This morning I sent a follow up email... 

Vinnie

SlushPuppy

Re: ROON + TIDAL + MQA -> LIO?
« Reply #31 on: Yesterday at 03:46 am »
Vinnie,

A very good read:

http://www.tonepublications.com/review/why-mqa/

Jeff's thoughts on MQA are similar to mine. I think it sounds great, but NOTHING beats live!