DE ON MQA
An Artist's Opinion
The best part of MQA is ironically the antithesis of what it gets discredited for all the time in the press and on forums and social media. It is labeled vaporware with no sound improvements which I find hard to impossible to believe of anyone who has really listened and compared an original CD master to its MQA encoded counterpart remaster.
MQA is then labeled a DRM scheme to extract costs from the buyer with the inability to copy the files elsewhere. This is flat out false in every regard. Anyone can copy the MQA encoded audio files to anything and still play them with no loss of sound quality or MQA authentication.
As far as sound quality improvements, 80% or so of the spatially cleaner and more natural sounding MQA audio to my ear are complete and available to any listener or buyer without investing a single penny in more audio gear or software. Anyone and any player can play an MQA encoded song file on the existing gear.
MQA plays on any music player, Period. It plays or streams as fully encoded MQA in the high quality CD or better (24/44.1, 24/48) format without any restrictions to the listener. The same is true of MQA CD's at 16/44.1k.
The full complement of MQA hi-res decoding up to 24/384 with additional sound quality improvements applied based on the listener's DAC can be experienced with the proper MQA player and/or DAC gear.
Furthermore, it can be archived or even converted from its source audio format (FLAC, ALAC, WAV, AIF) to any other lossless format without restrictions or complications making it simple to play on any computer or smartphone and easy and free to archive or convert.
The pre-ringing echo and other spatial and time domain artifacts of PCM in general and the typical brickwall filter applied with steeply rising and hard cutoffs at 20kHz mathematically/algorithmically force distinctly disruptive and repeated echoes of the pulse prior to its arrival to the listener's ears, hence called pre-ringing echoes. These echoes throw the human ear off tremendously as our sensory audio radar for location and timing is much more aware of and sensitive to the time domain than the frequency (pitch) domain, thank you Darwin.
So ear fatigue and compressed, edgy unnatural sounds of PCM masters especially 16/44.1 CD can be interpreted as largely based on these incessant ringing and phase distortions with every pulse in the music. A lot can be read on this subject as documented well outside of MQA's technology and products, but these are the problems MQA addresses and corrects with hugely impressive results improving PCM's playback sound quality.
The other long standing obstacle MQA overcomes for PCM hi-res is its ability to transmit as download or streaming any of the high PCM bit rates up to 24/384 in the compact 24/44.1k and 24/48k folded FLAC or other lossless format containers.
Anyone can listen to the MQA encoded PCM without any special gear or software of any kind. It still sounds very very good, better, as many say including myself, than CD. The same song file (FLAC or other lossless format) can then be unfolded (think origami) to reveal the higher resolutions in the source master that are absent from non-MQA decoded 24/44.1 or 24/48 playback but actually still exist hidden under the MQA file's noise floor, for proper MQA software or DACs to decode and unfold in realtime during playback.
Any MQA PCM recording can stream at around 1Mbps or less (FLAC, ALAC) and provide the listener with a pre- and post-ringing corrected DXD/PCM 352.8 or 384k final presentation through their MQA decoding setup.
So MQA is something for everyone listening to lossles PCM audio formats and costs the consumer listener absolutely nothing more in the form of licensing nor has any copy protection or DRM restrictions to that listener.
If your audio streaming service is TIDAL you can listen to my MQA masters of "Crossing", "The Window" and "Acoustic Trio" as MQA in the TIDAL lossless HiFi Masters [M] format. Links to play MQA on TIDAL are here.
My lossless PCM hi-res is also on Qobuz and 7Digital.
My entire CD and MQA Masters catalog is online at https://davidelias.bandcamp.com