MQA according to new Stereophile "loudness button" and "tweaking EQ in presence region"


#1

Stereophile’s May 2017 review of the Mytek Brooklyn DAC (Herb Reichert) states that “in every comparison, MQA made the original recording sound more dynamic and transparent, but only sometimes more temporaly precise.”

Seems positive, right? But the next sentence reads…

“After a while the MQA versions began to remind me of those old Loudness Contour buttons on 1960’s receivers, which used equalization to compensate for loss of treble and bass at low listening levels.”

Now for the bombshell…

“Consistently, MQA sounded as though it was tweaking the EQ in the presence region.”

“I also noticed that most of the MQA versions sounded rounded off and smoother than the originals.”

My opinion is that we gullible audiophiles have been fooled in the past by supposed new technologies, similar to what supposedly early mobile fidelity pressings did with EQ to make listeners think they were hearing an improvement.

In my mind, an alteration of the source is distortion.

Just as TV’S in stores set to torch mode are often preferred on first glance, and speakers that at first grab you with some spectacular aspect can become tiresome over time, as accuracy and neutrality become preferred as ones ear becomes more refined.

The frightening thing is that 2 major music entities have signed on, seemingly to make MQA the defacto standard of how music will made available.

While I haven’t been able to do this comparison myself, reading a highly regarded golden ear admit this in print is warning enough for me.

Just like the sugary drink that tastes so good on first experience, our advanced society knows that consuming it regularly leads to diabetes, heart disease and worse.

Does this revelation reveal MQA to be the parlor trick that it appears to be?


#2

One of the fascinating things I’ve seen on my audiophile “journey” in the past decade is how much people know what they like and like what they know. I saw more than one person declare as clearly superior a digital source with markedly (and audibly) higher jitter than the newer device it was being compared to. Many people find the colorations/limitations of turntables and valves essential to their enjoyment of music. Some folks recoil upon hearing speakers that minimise cabinet resonance, calling them dry or clinical, while for me they are a clearer window into the recording.

The good news about what Stereophile has published is that MQA sounds different – there is actually a comparison to be made, a preference to be formed. It’s interesting to see how this reviewer’s opinion lands, but I’m going to reserve my judgement until I’ve had a good listen for myself.

I would so love to hear some high res audio which is processed solely with MQA’s “de-blurring” algorithm but not folded and unfolded using their “origami” compression. That would help to reveal the sonic signature of each of those components. They’re claiming that the de-blurring is a dramatic improvement and that the compression losses are negligible – but people are doubting either or both claim. How much of that doubt can be attributed to it sounding different to what people currently think is “good”?

Looking forward to Huron’s release so I can form my own impression.


#3

What is surprising to me is how many early reviews by “golden eared” folks spun off into hype. This one sounds like a rational assessment. I have only heard full MQA on the little DAC, which was not dramatic/barely different on the source material we had (the 2L stuff), and the Tidal “first unfold” (or whatever it is) which sounds like EQ.


#4

If they (MQA) are tweaking EQ to sweeten the sound, apparently only effective for some listeners but including a lot of heavy-hitters in the industry, why do we have to accept reported, uncontrolled listening tests for information? Surely if there are audible deviations in frequency it can be measured. I’m not a “measure over listen” guy at all, but comparing the analog waveforms can surely be done.

If there are clear and consistent alterations of EQ, the emperor’s birthday suit should be on parade.


#5

They are clearly changing it from the original if they sound different, whether one thinks it’s an improvement or not. I don’t think they are suggesting that an MQA file is identical to the original - they claim to be improving it, right?

One of the telling things so far has been that their demos are not comparisons - they just tend to play MQA files, usually with a DAC that clearly displays the fact in large, glowing text. So the folks at the show are thinking to themselves, “Ooo, I’m hearing MQA!” I have heard it multiple times at shows, and have not heard a song with which I was familiar. And even if I had, it was on equipment and in a room with which I was not familiar.


#6

This is why it will be so enlightening for those of use who own a DS DAC + Bridge, once the Huron/Bridge-MQA firmware is released. We will finally be able to make those comparisons for ourselves – assuming we can get our hands on some appropriate, reliably sourced test files.


#7

Ay, there’s the rub - how are we going to know what they were sourced from, and if we can buy that separately? ; )

Then, if it’s the same as, say, the 24/96 version we already own - and it sounds as good - then what? Hey, it’s smaller!?


#8

I think our DS decoding of Mqa is unique in its topology so who knows what we will end up hearing .


#9
emailists said

“After a while the MQA versions began to remind me of those old Loudness Contour buttons on 1960’s receivers, which used equalization to compensate for loss of treble and bass at low listening levels.”

Now for the bombshell…

“Consistently, MQA sounded as though it was tweaking the EQ in the presence region.”

“I also noticed that most of the MQA versions sounded rounded off and smoother than the originals.”

This has been my concern; that there is more than encoding going on. It is pretty easy to make a recording sound "better" by making a few changes.

#10

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Happy Qobuz is still going strong in Europe !!

[edit] just subscribed, works like a charm 41_gif