Benchmark weighs in on MQA, John Siao is pretty direct here


#1

https://benchmarkmedia.com/blogs/application_notes/163302855-is-mqa-doa


#2

Great read : Thanks for posting . One of the best arguments so far why MQA is bad for audiophiles, aside from Meridiens horrible proprietary implementation


#3

+1


#4

Benchmark has a very good overall view of how things work as they are very strong in pro audio/recording as well as proficient on the audiophile end. (Bryston, Pass Labs, Grace Design, B&W are also in this category).


#5
Bob said https://benchmarkmedia.com/blogs/application_notes/163302855-is-mqa-doa
Ouch. Like Scotty said, "The more they overthink the plumbing, the easier it is to stop up the drain."

–SSW


#6

Okay, it took me a while to read through this, including a few click through extensions to the information. This confirms my reservations about MQA and unfortunately indicates that it is worse than I thought. Overall, it does not bode well for the long term life of MQA, and (in my opinion) it would be better if it would die a quick death - at least in its current incarnation.

The compression component of MQA might do well for streaming 24/88~24/96 material, IFF they removed the DSP components and subsequent requirements for decoding / unfolding / processing within the DAC. This seems unlikely to happen, as it would reduce their royalty revenue stream. Unfortunately, I think that they are looking at this all wrong and letting greed rule their game. In the long term, they might well make more off of it with just the revenue from just the folding compression, and the format having a much longer and richer life that I believe that it will with their ‘all the way, my way or the highway end-to-end’ mindset.

J.P.


#7

Some things are pretty clear:

Benchmark doesn’t want to play with MQA because they don’t want to pay. It has nothing to do with MQA being valid. It has nothing to do with MQA sounding better.

They want to kill MQA, because if they DON’T kill it…they will be forced to join the movement…and pay the royalties.

This is politics. The article published is a vain attempt to “sink the competition” or “sink the movement”. They don’t want to pay to play. Period. Benchmark doesn’t believe in streaming either…and that is the inevitable outcome of MQA full implementation. It would kill digital downloads…which is exactly the only foundation Benchmark is standing on. Their products RELY on digital downloads. Ummm…I wonder why they are motivated to try and kill MQA? Hmmm.

I guess I have a VERY RESOLVING SYSTEM…because I can hear (as well as friends, family, and kids friends) a VERY OBVIOUS benefit to MQA via my Bluesound Node2. It is about timing, and instruments sounding more natural because the timing is no longer “smeared”. The decay of strings, cymbals and vocals is WONDERFULLY more natural…and thus the music sounds so lush, organic and real it is undeniably better. There isn’t a hint of digital glare, nor the flatness/hardness of standard digital sound (created by conventional A-D converter technology).

I hope everyone gets to experience MQA’s undeniable goodness. I sincerely hope the political fighting among companies and the predictable smear campaigns doesn’t result in the failure of this revelation in audio.

p.s. I know all the professional reviews of MQA have to be WRONG (such as this one => https://mqa-production.s3.amazonaws.com/default/0001/01/6a10f3ba2385770ac3658df2cadc537ffcd09cd3.pdf ). I’m sure they are just faking their enthusiasm after hearing it themselves because they are all a bunch of biased quacks and are just crazy audiophiles. I’m positive we should all just ignore our own ears, their ears…and trust what Benchmark has to say…they obviously have no reason to sell us a lie and no political or economic reason to dismiss MQA’s greatness :wink: Heavy sarcasm fully intended.


#8

An impressive rant. And intriguing as a first post.

uthaman said It would kill digital downloads...which is exactly the only foundation Benchmark is standing on. Their products RELY on digital downloads.
Huh? Apparently you are both unfamiliar with Benchmark and failed to read the John Siao's paper. :)
p.s. I know all the professional reviews of MQA have to be WRONG (such as this one => . . .
Robert Harley has never met a digital scheme or processing he does not adore.

What MQA sources are you streaming through your Bluesound Node 2 which sound so wonderful?


#9

You know… Harley has forgotten vastly more about electronics than I will ever know. But I have been struck, and more than once, by the extreme tendentiousness of what he’s been writing about MQA. I assume that he is an honest man and not intentionally shilling, if only because no one who was intentionally shilling would be that obvious about it. But he has really turned me into a cynic on this whole thing; I am thinking, just to pull one example out of my memory banks, about his statement (it was him, right?) that distribution of digital music as it stands now is simply “broken.” He pretty much lost me for good right then and there.

I have yet to hear MQA and I am trying to remain completely agnostic about it. I suppose in a sense the fact that it’s turned people like Harley into fawning acolytes incapable of even seeing any possible negatives ought to make me look at MQA harder, since, really, I do try to be fair. But at this point, if this is all a marketing campaign, it’s more likely to drive me away than not.

As it happens, I am about to pull the trigger on a Bluesound node for the wife… so I suppose at some point I will get to hear it through that. Not doing so because of MQA though really; it just happens to be the right product for her needs overall, and I can support it remotely, which is a huge plus.


#10
uthaman said Some things are pretty clear:

Benchmark doesn’t want to play with MQA because they don’t want to pay. It has nothing to do with MQA being valid. It has nothing to do with MQA sounding better.

They want to kill MQA, because if they DON’T kill it…they will be forced to join the movement…and pay the royalties.

This is politics. The article published is a vain attempt to “sink the competition” or “sink the movement”. They don’t want to pay to play. Period. Benchmark doesn’t believe in streaming either…and that is the inevitable outcome of MQA full implementation. It would kill digital downloads…which is exactly the only foundation Benchmark is standing on. Their products RELY on digital downloads. Ummm…I wonder why they are motivated to try and kill MQA? Hmmm.

I guess I have a VERY RESOLVING SYSTEM…because I can hear (as well as friends, family, and kids friends) a VERY OBVIOUS benefit to MQA via my Bluesound Node2. It is about timing, and instruments sounding more natural because the timing is no longer “smeared”. The decay of strings, cymbals and vocals is WONDERFULLY more natural…and thus the music sounds so lush, organic and real it is undeniably better. There isn’t a hint of digital glare, nor the flatness/hardness of standard digital sound (created by conventional A-D converter technology).

I hope everyone gets to experience MQA’s undeniable goodness. I sincerely hope the political fighting among companies and the predictable smear campaigns doesn’t result in the failure of this revelation in audio.

p.s. I know all the professional reviews of MQA have to be WRONG (such as this one => https://mqa-production.s3.amazonaws.com/default/0001/01/6a10f3ba2385770ac3658df2cadc537ffcd09cd3.pdf ). I’m sure they are just faking their enthusiasm after hearing it themselves because they are all a bunch of biased quacks and are just crazy audiophiles. I’m positive we should all just ignore our own ears, their ears…and trust what Benchmark has to say…they obviously have no reason to sell us a lie and no political or economic reason to dismiss MQA’s greatness :wink: Heavy sarcasm fully intended.


I can tell you our point of view, if you’re interested. So far, we too will not support MQA.

It has nothing to do with costs. Which makes sense, if you think about it. What they charge is a big secret and we have yet to be let in on it, but they tell us it won’t “be much”. Fair enough. Let’s call it $10. Heck, call it $20 though I doubt that’s the case.

Do you think $20 more for us or Benchmark matters if it helps sell DACs? Neither we nor any of the manufacturers I know would care about that. Sure, $20 is real money, but in the grand scheme of things, it’s chump change.

I do believe that MQA can make many DACs sound better. You’ve heard it yourself - as has Harley.

But that doesn’t mean IT is a miracle. It only means exactly what it means - that some DACs are helped. Others, like our own, are harmed.

We have taken a great deal of time to play with MQA. Their hardware’s been available to us for quite some time - and in every case our DAC sounds worse. That’s why we haven’t implemented it. There’s nothing anyone could say that would make us add a feature or perceived benefit that would in any way damage what we do. Ain’t gonna happen.

Bob Stuart has an open invitation to show us MQA can work in our DAC. If he or his team does, we’d be the first in line.

It isn’t about cost. It’s about performance. And if the performance isn’t there, then we’re not interested.

Hope that helps you understand another point of view.


#11

Thanks for the honest insight and your perspective, Paul. I believe you are sincere about your position. I hope Bob Stuart takes you up on your open invitation.


#12

Knowing John Siao, I am certain he is as sincere.


#13
uthaman said Thanks for the honest insight and your perspective, Paul. I believe you are sincere about your position. I hope Bob Stuart takes you up on your open invitation.
Thanks for the understanding. I was truly excited about MQA. I went to the first demos in Munich and listened with interest, the differences presented at the demo were obvious. What a great idea! We were first in line for one of the decoders and began playing early on.

As you’re likely aware, we like innovative solutions.

And MQA is innovative. I like it for that.

I too hope MQA is able to apply to more than a few DACs.

BTW, I like a good cab too. drinking-39_gif


#14

When mentioning performance I guess it is all about the DAC internal architecture?

It might be that MQA could work wonders on the PWD but not on the DS?


#15

ELK -

As you know, there isn’t a heck of a lot of MQA material available besides the 2L library…and that is mostly Classical.

I did find two albums of Jazz that were offered in MQA on the Highresaudio.com

I really like these two:

Tingvall Trio - “Beat”

Mark Egan “Direction Home”, a particular favorite track is “Mountain People”.

BOB -

I highly recommend an upgraded power cable for the Bluesound Node2…it did wonders for the sound when I hooked it up with a much nicer cable. The sound was a bit thin and a little tending towards brittle on the stock cord. It is a great sounding and easy to use product for the price.


#16

Not being argumentative, but asking for clarification: these two recordings are what you base your opinion MQA is obviously better?

Are you able to turn MQA off or otherwise directly compare with and without MQA?


#17

Also, are you using the DAC internal to the Node, or using an external DAC? As I understand it, the Bluesound Node will do the unfolding to feed an external DAC even though MQA enforces unfolding and DSP being done within the DAC for everyone else that I know of.

J.P.


#18

Uthaman, thanks, i have plenty of aftermarket power cables in my man drawer so will for sure try some of them (though really I suppose i might as well get something more flexible than my Shunyatas and PS Audios… I have liked the cheaper Wireworlds in the past, maybe one of those…)

Wingsounds13, that is interesting to hear. Was actually just thinking of trying it into my Hegel H160’s internal DAC, which doesn’t of course do MQA but sounds extremely good. But that is potentially useful to know…


#19

ELK:

On the topic of John Siao also being “sincere”…I would like to say the approach Paul has taken is quite different. Paul has stated in this post he was initially very excited, then disappointed, but remains optimistic. He considers MQA an innovation, and wants to see if a partnership with those pitching the new technology could result in a better sounding product for his customers. That is a “sincere” approach and one that I respect. John on the other hand, doesn’t seem to have this mindset as I read a paper published with the title “Is MQA dead on arrival?”. These are highly contrasting attitudes towards the advancement of MQA. I remain convinced in my original argument the John Siao is “sincerely” not wanting MQA to be successful…whatever the reasons.

Okay - to your question on side-by-side listening of Non-MQA versus MQA music. I have downloaded and listened to multiple tracks offered by 2L in this regard. I listened to Non-MQA carefully, then MQA, then Non-MQA. When I first played the MQA version, the benefits jumped out on my system. I have a deep love for music as I’m a musician and I mix music as a hobby. My highly trained ear that is accustomed to the sound of natural instruments, immediately picked up the improvement in timing/decay of the signal. What I heard was much more “natural” decay of cymbals, strings, percussion transients and other instruments. The perception of both depth and air improved. The music sounded less “hard” more relaxed and organic. That is what I heard.

That led me to purchase the two albums mentioned. While I did not A-B compare those albums to their Non-MQA variants, I did experience the same qualities (actually even more so due to the style of music). I’ve listened to dozens upon dozens of well-recorded 24/96 and 24/192 recordings on my system…and while quite good, none of them have these qualities as dramatically.

But I believe the differences will be even more dramatic on less carefully mastered recordings from 80s/90s which utilized A/D converters from that period. That is why I too am anxious for MQA and Warner Music and Tidal to begin offering such mainstream titles for streaming. I’ve listened to certain songs from those decades so many times it is hard to count. I want to hear those songs in standard original CD quality, then hear the MQA version. That will be the ultimate proof for me, and if as good as I expect…will bring me great satisfaction as I will be able to enjoy beloved mainstream songs from the past in a way that hasn’t been previously possible. I’m a big proponent of streaming and the monthly subscription model. I really hate downloading songs, managing those songs and having to pay by-the-album. I know there are others who feel exactly the opposite…but streaming is my preference. I love being able to tap into vast libraries of music so easily. It has really increased my enjoyment, as well as expanded my appreciation of a much broader selection of artists and genres. Since I know how great hi-rez recordings can sound, I am more than anxious for a viable hi-rez streaming option. To me, MQA is the enabler for that. Thus as a music lover and consumer…I’m a fan and rooting for it to be wildly successful.


#20

My feeling is that if MQA is to be successful, it will have to be implemented in the various music players like JRiver and Roon.

I own a Benchmark Dac2 HGC. I recently got to participate in the beta testing of the LANRover. My dac and PC combination was one of the few that showed no improvements. I now believe it is due to the way Benchmark designed its usb input. Waldrep tested the Regen and found no improvements. Both of these products have shown great improvements in those using other dacs, the DS included.

I would own a Directstream if I could afford it, so unless my financial situation changes, I won’t be buying a new dac to get MQA, and there is where the problem lies. Not many will be willing to replace their dacs to get MQA. If they include it in the software of players, it might have a chance, otherwise my money is on it being a fringe format.