Meridian Audio Launches MQA (Master Quality Authenticated)


#1

http://www.musicischanging.com/

Not sure what it is and if it is better than DSD…


#2

Vague but interesting. They are obviously dribbling out information.


#3

It appears to be a “compression” format that will enable the streaming of larger hi-res music files to ANY receiver by encapsulating them in the format and without any SQ loss. the “decoding” system seems to let your “player” play any format you want including the original or even lossy [for a phone]. This is yet another step towards enabling a streaming service to replace our libraries. For we, over 50, dinosaurs this may be an act of war but it is the future of consumer music distribution. Imagine if we had grown up with 4xDSD streaming and some dealer tried to convince us to buy a NAS or HD and spend a small fortune on lps, cd, dvd, JRMC, servers, yada yada. would we not ask WTF?

The future is HERE, and the young’uns will teach us how to enjoy it differently.

NOW, just wait till the streaming libraries have more A/V versions where the hi-res audio can be enjoyed with the added sensory involvement of video.We asked for WE ARE THERE, well, here it comes.


#4

Robert Harley Listens to Meridian MQA

http://www.theabsolutesound.com/articles/robert-harley-listens-to-meridian-mqa/

The description reminds me a bit of HDCD. Now, the question is, assuming this is any good in real life and source material becomes available, can the firmware in my DS and/or Aries be upgraded to be compatible?


#5

I believe it’s a container, so then it’s the player/decoder that needs to know about it: e.g. the bridge, not the DS


#6

Thanks Ted. I wonder if Bridge 2 (or even Bridge 1) firmware could be revised to handle it. (I know, not you’re department. kiss)


#7
Ted Smith said I believe it's a container, so then it's the player/decoder that needs to know about it: e.g. the bridge, not the DS
yah

Seems like whatever is “streamed” in an MQA container would have to be decoded Before the DS or supported by the Bridge. Too late for Bridge2 perhaps [ unless MQA can be done in software and B2 can carry it. Possibly Not too late to take a serious look at it for Bridge-ina-Box though.


#8

“In essence, MQA is a proprietary digital-encoding technology used in the recording or mastering stage. When an MQA-encoded recording is played back through a consumer-audio product with MQA decoding, the result is, according to Meridian, a vast improvement in sound quality over even the highest-resolution formats extant.”

So to appreciate the new sound quality, 1) the music/musicians must record in the studio/stage using MQA mastering technology, or transfer from existing master tapes to MQA, and 2) listeners use audio products (DAC?) with MQA decoding technology?

Ted Smith mentioned “container.” Then a typical DAC unpacks the digital info in a chosen “container” and converts that info to an analog signal?


#9

Here is something with more detail:

http://www.stereophile.com/how-is-ted-coding-the-fpgaent/ive-heard-future-streaming-meridians-mqa


#10

Thanks Ted. Very interesting (not to say that I understood all of it but at least more than I had before). I’m curious as to how this fits in with PSA’s plans, if at all.


#11

So I read the Stereophile article and thought “that’s clever”. The problem is that the author of that article (John Atkinson) seems to think MQA is revolutionary. He speaks as though he is witnessing the dawn of mankind (think opening scene from 2001 Space Odyssey).

It’s not revolutionary. It’s a clever container for Hi Rez PCM. If it sounds great it’s because he has some great Hi Rez recordings and a good system to listen to them on. It (very cleverly) solves exactly one problem as far as I can tell. It solves the problem of needing to fit a Hi Rez PCM bitstream into a container about the size of a Redbook CD PCM file. It isn’t a “universal container”. It imposes a modest increase in size if you present it with a 16/44.1 PCM bitstream. It bursts into tears if you present it with a DSD bitstream. Our existing transports aren’t likely to regard it as so awesome (after licensing the technology from Meridian) that they will all forget the world’s existing containers for digital music.

When the Internet was “small” we declared lossy 128Kb/s MP3 as the best way to download digital music. Now that the Internet is “big” we have at least one company that is counting on there being enough people with sufficient bandwidth (and 20/month burning a hole in their pockets) to stream 16/44.1. (Don’t get me wrong, the service is great. I certainly subscribed).

For MQA to be relevant, the following things will have to happen:

  1. The Hi Rez PCM vs. DSD war will have to be decided in favor of Hi Rez PCM.
  2. The small dedicated audiophiles will have to convince (a large portion of) the vast public that this is a worthwhile upgrade.
  3. The recording companies will have to start producing a whole pile of new recordings in Hi Rez PCM
  4. The Internet will have to persistently limit people's available bandwidth such that 16/44.1 works great but 24/96 or 24/192 is untenable. It will have to stay like that long enough for 1-3 to happen.
I'm not holding my breath. Even with Stereophile's apparent desire to serve as Merdian's marketing arm I don't see this as the 'next great thing'. Just my two cents.

#12

The improvement in sound may be “revolutionary” in an audiophile sense, an improvement equivalent to the introduction of DSD and high resolution PCM. The general public, as always, will not be so impressed nor even care.

As many have now experienced with the DS, precise timing in the processing of digital signals produces very audible benefits. Meridian explains processing with MQA uses Meridian’s “apodizing filter” but fine-tuned to the actual A/D converter originally used. The asserted result is a leading edge uncertainty of only 4µs, and zero pre- or post-ringing.

This is both incredibly cool as a concept, and astounding. Our ears are exquisitely sensitive to timing accuracy. This accuracy would indeed improve the sound over even typical high resolution reproduction in both the increased precision and the adjustment to the specific A/D.

A huge advantage: in addition to the vastly decreased bandwidth, the record company need only release one format. To a DAC or player that doesn’t have MQA decoding, the MQA file will play as a normal 16-bit file. Thus, the general public need not buy anything new nor accept the format.

BTW, John makes a lousy shill. I appreciate the cynicism, but having worked a bit with John on a recording, chatting and exchanging a good amount of notes, I know he calls things as he sees them. He brings both a great deal of experience and an openness to new ideas - a rare trait in this hobby. As a group we are remarkably conservative and resistant to change.


#13

So without the benefit of knowing John Atkinson personally I will allow that his enormous enthusiasm as expressed in the article might be a genuine response to an exciting new technology. That said, I will remain a bit more reserved in my interest here, especially if the claimed sonic benefits start with a trip back to the recording studio. Some of favorite musicians are way too dead to make the trip.

One thing I remained confused on is your statement:

A huge advantage: in addition to the vastly decreased bandwidth, the record company need only release one format. To a DAC or player that doesn't have MQA decoding, the MQA file will play as a normal 16-bit file. Thus, the general public need not buy anything new nor accept the format.
What am I missing? Even we agree it is possible to read out the 16-bit portion of the PCM encoding above the MQE encoded data lying below the sound floor, to do this you would need to minimally understand the new container format. Once you know this, why not just decode the rest of the MQA recording? Isn't the general public's audio equipment going to see a weird looking 24/48 PCM file?

#14
andrewnewman said . . . especially if the claimed sonic benefits start with a trip back to the recording studio. Some of favorite musicians are way too dead to make the trip.
You misunderstand the technology. One does not go back to the recording studio, you apply the technology to existing recordings. And one of the chief benefits, fixing the inherent timing inaccuracies in the A/D converter originally used, will improve any recording.

(We know what ADC was used as this is something recording and mastering engineers track, and many studios used only one for considerable periods - especially early on. Remember the steely sound of early digital - a lot of this is due to timing issues. Just imagined these problems fixed. :) )

What am I missing? Even we agree it is possible to read out the 16-bit portion of the PCM encoding above the MQE encoded data lying below the sound floor, to do this you would need to minimally understand the new container format.
What your missing is that to a DAC without MQE the file looks just like a normal 16 bit file. Such a DAC just plays the standard 16-bit component. Thus, it is backward compatible.

Lower bandwidth and better quality sound. What’s not to like?


#15

TANSTAAFL


#16

laugh

Very, very true.

I am most interested in the claim that at least some of the time smearing can be removed. If this is true, existing recordings could indeed sound better. Unfortunately, I do not believe there is any way to remove the jitter encoded into the recordings. I would love to be wrong.

The Origami part raises the greatest amount of questions. This seems to good to be true - but let’s wait and listen.


#17

I’m pretty sure they are talking about apodizing filters which are all the rage. What it boils down to is that the worst damage in the filtering chain (including the A/D’s antialiasing filter) is often done by the filter with the lowest cutoff. By being the filter with the lowest cutoff you can better shape the damage. In particular the apodizing filter can cut off the portion of the frequency response that contains the worst damage to the waveshape (e.g. the part that caused the preringing) and replace it with less objectionable artifacts. For 44.1k (and to a lesser extent 48k) this involves a “softer” rolloff. I’m not convinced that this is the best approach - but a lot of people are. (FWIW my approach is to try to get the same sound the mastering engineer heard, a/d artifacts and all.)


#18

Makes sense, and I bet you are correct - as usual. :)

I generally agree with the philosophy of let’s hear what the mastering engineer heard. But there is perhaps a good exception for recordings mastered in analog and then transferred to digital. If we could get rid of digital artifacts in this circumstance this strikes me as a good thing.


#19

Yes, but those are usually done with higher sample rates these days where the issue is much less of a problem. While there are plenty of CDs mastered in analog I suspect that most of them were being (at least at some point) monitored in digital.


#20

Sorry folks. I realize I’m probably the least informed person on this thread but I’m trying my best to understand MQA in terms of overall value proposition. Sounds like there are two parts:

One part “fixes” poorly produced early digital recordings using apodizing digital audio processing filters “in front of” (?) the ringing artifacts from a poorly done high slope low pass filter. If one has access to a 24 bit higher sample rate (96 or 192) original master with a “nicer” low pass filter employed does this technique still improve things?

The other part is the digital origami part. If I understand correctly, that part allows you to easily recover a 16-bit PCM bitstream that is no worse than the original release and can be fed directly to a current generation DAC from just about any manufacturer.

So I’m thinking about how Merdian might choose to license this technology as it helps me imagine a future with MQA.

In a streaming scenario, the hypothetical streaming service has a lo-rez and a hi-rez stream (possibly available for different subscription rates with the last one requiring an MQA-enabled DAC at the receiving end) but the streaming service only needs to license and manage a single digital file to derive both streams and they take up an equivalent amount of bandwidth on the network.

In a music distribution scenario you have, again, one artifact to download and store. Here you still need some software to derive the 16-bit portion but assuming Meridian doesn’t regard that derivation as a licensable technology, some good soul (heck, maybe me) will write a relatively simple utility that allows you to re-encode the 16-bit portion into, say, an ALAC format and stick it in iTunes. Any other use of the original file requires that you have an MQA DAC with licensed Meridian technology in it to derive the benefit.

Am I getting any closer? I’m trying to contextualize this technology in terms of the audio industry as a whole and am, admittedly, having difficulty. I don’t think I’m the only one. In another forum, Paul admitted that while Sprout was advertised as having the CSR AptX codec, it turns out since PS Audio didn’t pay the licensing fees to CSR, the codec is currently disabled on the Sprout. He has graciously agreed to make this right with a field upgrade but it will cost PS Audio some licensing fees to accomplish this.