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MQA discussion at Denver RMAF Effects Pedals, Units & Accessories
Old 28th August 2017
  #1
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MQA discussion at Denver RMAF

Have been asked to sit on a panel to discuss MQA Oct 7th.

Please help me out with links to any info pro or con that would add value to that discussion.

Last edited by lucey; 28th August 2017 at 08:24 AM..
Old 28th August 2017
  #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lucey View Post
Have been asked to sit on a panel to discuss MQA Oct 7th.

Please help me out with links to any info pro or con that would add value to that discussion.

Hi Brian,

most of the stuff I have to offer on MQA is probably nothing new to you but here we go:


The Hifi-company & record label Linn has published an open letter on MQA which should be read by anybody working in the music industry:

https://www.linn.co.uk/blog/mqa-is-bad-for-music

Andreas Koch who worked at Studer & Dolby, was part of the SACD-team at Sony and now is an OEM-designer of DACs at AK-Design has given a clever interview on the topic:

MQA


The most up-to-date discussion and technical analysis of MQA happening on the Computer Audiophile Forum. It sometimes get's lively there but overall keeps a good S/N ratio:

https://www.computeraudiophile.com/f...-is-vaporware/

Look especially for posts by Charles Hansen and by Mansr on ca. the last 5-6 pages of the thread. Earlier in the thread (pages 120 up) there are also interesting contributions by user Soxr.

Charles Hansen designs electronics incl. DACs for the hifi-company Ayre and talks shop on MQA as well the audiophile-hardware industry in general. Some of his claims are to be taken with a grain of salt but it's absolutely read-worthy stuff. His posts start at page 146.

User Mansr has done work de-compiling MQA. Same with Soxr.

Belgian audio-programmer Frederic Vanden Poel has gone public with his critique on MQA here:

KIH #46 - MQA's missing link? | DAR__KO

This was also discussed on Computer Audiophile in another thread worth a look:

https://www.computeraudiophile.com/f...y-another-pro/

It might be worthwhile to get in touch with Ebean from the 6Moons website too.

Blogger Archimago working closely with aforementioned Mansr has an MQA listening test up and is a very knowledgeable source on MQA:

Archimago's Musings: INTERNET BLIND TEST: MQA Core Decoding vs. Standard Hi-Res Audio

Audio software vendor Xivero published a technical white paper on MQA available here:

https://www.xivero.com/de/hypothesis...y-mqa-limited/


All of the above is more recent. Looking back to 2016 there were two important public statements on MQA.

DAC manufacturer Benchmark to my knowledge was first out of the door with their critique on MQA:

https://benchmarkmedia.com/blogs/app...855-is-mqa-doa

Followed up by hifi company Schiit:

Schiit Audio, Headphone amps and DACs made in USA.


An up-to-date list of audio hardware/software-vendors who have expressed concern about MQA would be nice. By my own count these would be:

AK Designs (DACs & software)
Ayre (Hifi)
Benchmark (DACs)
Klinktbetter (Hifi software)
Linn (Hifi)
Schiit (Hifi)
Xivero (Studio software)

Daniel Weiss seems to be on the fence on the issue, at least thats the gist of an interview he has given in Switzerland. Apparently Dan Lavry has spoken critical about MQA too but I can't find a credible source online.

As for the arguments in favor of MQA you'll find these easily peppered across the Computer Audiophile threads...


Last edited by mcgilroy; 31st August 2017 at 09:07 AM.. Reason: Edit: spelling, proper salutation.
Old 28th August 2017
  #3
DAH
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I do not understand how any LOSSY format should be discussed at all in this broadband FLAC/ALAC-available era.
Old 28th August 2017
  #4
My guess is that this irrational hype will disappear as quickly as Pono.
Old 30th August 2017
  #5
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Hi Brian,

About a year ago I wrote up a series of questions about MQA. Since then there has been a lot of reverse-engineering by some very clever programmers that fills in many of the missing questions. The attached PDF is pretty long, but should be a good start. I'll try to make a revised version that includes the latest findings in the next week or two.

Cheers,
audio_truth
Attached Files
File Type: pdf MQA - technical questions v0.pdf (83.4 KB, 124 views)
Old 30th August 2017
  #6
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You can also add Bryston to the list of manufacturers rejecting MQA. Auralic and PS Audio are also mentioned: MQA Discussion Group
Old 30th August 2017
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My condolences to you Brian.....
Old 30th August 2017
  #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DSD_Mastering View Post
My condolences to you Brian.....
I'm happy to be there Bruce Don't understand the joke, please clarify.

If you want your name added to the CON list, I'm happy to do that.

Last edited by lucey; 31st August 2017 at 12:34 AM..
Old 30th August 2017
  #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by audio_truth View Post
Hi Brian,

About a year ago I wrote up a series of questions about MQA. Since then there has been a lot of reverse-engineering by some very clever programmers that fills in many of the missing questions. The attached PDF is pretty long, but should be a good start. I'll try to make a revised version that includes the latest findings in the next week or two.

Cheers,
audio_truth
Please do ... a concise list would be helpful


Quote:
Originally Posted by zoom25 View Post
You can also add Bryston to the list of manufacturers rejecting MQA. Auralic and PS Audio are also mentioned: MQA Discussion Group
Can you add to this list everyone you have seen who is on the CON list?


Bryston
Auralic
PS Audio


AK Designs (DACs & software)
Ayre (Hifi)
Benchmark (DACs)
Klinktbetter (Hifi software)
Linn (Hifi)
Shiit (Hifi)
Xivero (Studio software)
Old 30th August 2017
  #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by FabienTDR View Post
My guess is that this irrational hype will disappear as quickly as Pono.
Not really the same.

There are labels, major corporations who are of course PRO seeing money to make, and there is the hi fi media world which is PRO, both because of the ad revenue, and the little blue light which excites their audiophile readers ... and mostly because they can't AB the source or have the skill to get past a loudness bump from harmonics/compression or brighter mids.
Old 30th August 2017
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Old 30th August 2017
  #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lucey View Post
Not really the same.

There are labels, major corporations who are of course PRO seeing money to make, and there is the hi fi media world which is PRO, both because of the ad revenue, and the little blue light which excites their audiophile readers ... and mostly because they can't AB the source or have the skill to get past a loudness bump from harmonics/compression or brighter mids.
Then the constructive thing would be: OK, Major Corporations, make money off the ignorant hi fi media audiophile readers, but leave the rest of the music lovers alone.
Old 30th August 2017
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DAH View Post
Then the constructive thing would be: OK, Major Corporations, make money off the ignorant hi fi media audiophile readers, but leave the rest of the music lovers alone.
I'd like to avoid getting into a debate about MQA in this thread if we can.

It's not quite that simple, but I hear you
Old 31st August 2017
  #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lucey View Post
I'd like to avoid getting into a debate about MQA in this thread if we can.

It's not quite that simple, but I hear you
Thank you for not being rude in responding to me and hearing (not just me but I think US - get my drift? ), I seem to understand your situation, take care and definitely all well to you! We all see what happens in this New Brave World, when (they're trying) changing old natural paradigmas.
Old 31st August 2017
  #15
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pro: recorded music is tech driven. new tech = new forms of expression. the music business is in bad shape, 2017 is the first year in my entire life i haven't purchased one single album. any tech that could push quality in a different direction is welcome. doubling sample rates ad infinitum achieves little.

con: applying 'dumb' processing on material that has been produced with standard digital in mind - also - achieves little.

more interesting to me is the potential with regards to dsp. i have 5000 plugins that i never ever use. perhaps, with some development we could have some new interesting dsp, working within an mqa architecture. as is well known, dsp is not currently possible with dsd.
Old 31st August 2017
  #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lucey View Post
Please do ... a concise list would be helpful

Can you add to this list everyone you have seen who is on the CON list?

Bryston
Auralic
PS Audio

AK Designs (DACs & software)
Ayre (Hifi)
Benchmark (DACs)
Klinktbetter (Hifi software)
Linn (Hifi)
Shiit (Hifi)
Xivero (Studio software)
AK Designs is Andreas Koch who worked with Ed Meitner to build the early DSD recorders/players for Sony/Philips. His current hardware company is called Playback Design. First-rate digital engineer.

Not that it affects the way its pronounced, but the correct spelling is Schiit (with a "c" between the "s" and "h"). The digital designer there is Mike Moffat, who co-founded Theta Digital, who (arguably) made the first external DAC for CD players.

Others include:

MBL (Hi-Fi) is based in Berlin and builds everything from DACs to loudspeakers. Their digital engineer is Juergen Reis, another first-rate digital designer, also anti-MQA.

Exogal (DACs and power amps) is based in Wisconsin and is a descendant of Wadia (another early Hi-Fi DAC manufacturer). Their digital engineer is Jim Kinne

Naim (Hi-Fi) is a UK-based company similar to Linn. They have many different digital engineers (large company) and are also anti-MQA.

Chord Electronics (Hi-Fi) is a UK-based company. Their digital engineer is Rob Watts and he is anti-MQA.

In general it seems that there is a line that divides the pro-MQA camp from the anti-MQA camp when it comes to hardware manufacturers:

1) Those who have the technical skills and abilities to design their own custom digital filters, using either FPGAs or DSP chips. This group has pretty much zero interest in MQA, with the possible exception of dCS (UK).

2) Those who have no clue about designing digital filters and just use whatever is built into the DAC chip they purchase. This group tends to be pretty much all on board.

I believe the reason for this difference simply boils down to the technical chops of the digital engineer. If they are smart enough to design their own digital filter, they realize that MQA is promising free lunches, and there ain't no such thing. Plus once you know how to build a digital filter, there is zero reason to pay licensing and royalty fees to some greedy third party that wants to create a monopoly.

The companies that don't know how to build digital filters are happy to pay MQA a license and royalty to get a digital filter that likely sounds better than the one that comes for free with the DAC chip. It's not like the DAC chip makers sit around and listen to different digital filters to see what sounds best... That explains the manufacturer's interest (or lack thereof).

There is some small benefit to the streaming companies because the file size is reduced about 20% from a 96/24 FLAC. A bigger deal for the lossless streaming companies is the fact that they have to have three copies of every file - one in lossy for the low-priced tier, and then two in lossless - ALAC for Apple and FLAC for Windows. With MQA they would only have to store one file, sending out the "16-bit" version for the entry level (only 13 bits of actual resolution!) and then the "24-bit" version for the premium tier (only 17 bits of actual resolution). This could all change soon as there are a lot of rumors that Apple will finally wake up and include FLAC decoding in iOS 11.

Which leaves the record labels. It appears that the main benefit for the record labels is the fact that MQA allows them to sneak in DRM. This would perfectly explain the post in this thread:

https://www.gearslutz.com/board/12732261-post17.html

I think DAH hit the nail on the head with this one.

I'll work on both a revised version of the MQA document and also a condensed one. Have fun in Colorado!

Cheers,
audio_truth
Old 31st August 2017
  #17
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Bryston
Auralic
PS Audio

AK Designs (DACs & software)
Ayre (Hifi)
Benchmark (DACs)
Klinktbetter (Hifi software)
Linn (Hifi)
Shiit (Hifi)
Xivero (Studio software)

MBL (Hi-Fi) is based in Berlin and builds everything from DACs to loudspeakers. Their digital engineer is Juergen Reis, another first-rate digital designer, also anti-MQA.

Exogal (DACs and power amps) is based in Wisconsin and is a descendant of Wadia (another early Hi-Fi DAC manufacturer). Their digital engineer is Jim Kinne

Naim (Hi-Fi) is a UK-based company similar to Linn. They have many different digital engineers (large company) and are also anti-MQA.

Chord Electronics (Hi-Fi) is a UK-based company. Their digital engineer is Rob Watts and he is anti-MQA.

-----------------

I would add as a "doing MQA reluctantly" ... Bricasti and Parasound. Not pro not con, just annoyed and serving demand.



The only company that counters your theory on filter makers (which makes good sense) is Berkeley Audio Design, the same people as Pacific Micosonics. I've spoken with the owner Michael at length and his view is that if there is MQA AD on par with the Model Two at 192 in a smaller data package ... and the DA side both, it can work. He also agreed that the roll out marketing is not what it could be, to be kind about it and respect his comments.

Berkeley used in-house proprietary digital files made from 24 192 AD on the Model Two ... then they were given all the MQA DA tools to set up the decode as they pleased.

I think he said they turned off the DeBlur, that's a gimmick. They tested and listened for countless hours and say that ONLY IF there is a MQA AD, which they were promised would happen and which I seriously doubt as it's a loss leader like the Pacific Micro ADs were at the time, then it can be a "clear glass" on both ends.

If no AD ... then it can't work. BAD has top measuring tech and top ears and I'm with him on the tests they did in principle.

The issue is the highly dynamic music they used is the 1%, (single mic source, or highly dynamic simply jazz/classical recordings made on Model Two) vs, pop, which is most music.

So for the 1% of most natural and dynamic music and the 1% of best best playback we must all go this route ... if what he said is true about their tests? That's a lot of work for the 0.01%
Old 31st August 2017
  #18
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Please keep it coming

Pro or Con articles or links or written summaries all welcome ...
Old 31st August 2017
  #19
Quote:
Originally Posted by lucey View Post
I think he said they turned off the DeBlur, that's a gimmick.
Worth pointing out that the whole idea of "Blur" bases on an intuitive misunderstanding of how filters affect a signal. The concept of "Blur" implies that a filter negatively affects what it passes in the form of a "time-smear". This idea is brutally wrong.

Filters fulfill their task by spreading the stopband (what they remove) over time. Not what they preserve! (the passband).

In case of a steep linear phase LP filter at say, 1kHz, this smear is very audible. That's because the stopband content itself was very audible from the beginning on. Say, 3kHz content is now spread over time, and this is easy to hear.

But, in case of MQA or DAs in general, we are messing with Nyquist filters purely removing content generously beyond the bandwidth limit of our perception. 20kHz and above. This ultrasonic content, no matter how strong it is and how strong it gets spread over time, can never ever become audible during filtering! It would require a linear filter to change pitch of the signal, which is completely impossible.

Filter blur is reality, but only with filters operating within the audible range. Nyquist filters typically do not! AD blur is nonsense.



The whole habit of nyquist filter impulse response plot interpretation is charlatanry. Not more, not less. It is a central aspect of MQA's argumentation. :D
Old 31st August 2017
  #20
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Very interesting observation audio-truth!

Will the chip-OEMs react, if so how?

As for the list of manufacturers and personalities having voiced concern about MQA: please include a link to the respective statement. I can't find J├╝rgen Reis and Rob Watts statements for example.

I also think Aureliac has an unclear stance on MQA.
Old 31st August 2017
  #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by zoom25 View Post
Add JRiver (from the Audiocircle link I posted above) and Schiit as well.

Schiit Audio, Headphone amps and DACs made in USA.

EDIT: Schiit's been posted above. Might want to correct the spelling.
Thx, did correct the spelling in original post.
Old 31st August 2017
  #22
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lucey View Post
Bryston
I think he said they turned off the DeBlur, that's a gimmick.
Which would be a devastating statement in the context of MQA marketing. It literally hinges on the "temporal blur" narrative.

Is there any on the record statement by BAD on this?
Old 31st August 2017
  #23
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When going back to basics no one (except some MQA Meridean endorsed flagship labels?) records MQA, everyone records WAV or DSD. I don't see the whole foodchain change quickly. This means that MQA at this moment in time adds nothing more than a redundant container serving marketing purposes, actually missleading "high end" end users. The MQA file IS NOT what left the studio. It's just another encoded format, solely developed to reinvigorate backcatalogue and push certification licensing down the foodchain. Rather than discussing the technicalities of the format, it's plain misleading marketing based on the current state of the business.
Old 31st August 2017
  #24
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the MQA thing seems like a total waste of time and effort to me,

reinventing a wheel that doesnt need it.

that said, the smart playa might embrace it and ride the money & hype for a few years,

much like the HDCD thing of the 1990s.

best, jt

addendum: but I'll reserve judgement until i've actually heard it.

Last edited by Jerry Tubb; 14th September 2017 at 10:32 AM.. Reason: addendum
Old 2nd September 2017
  #25
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mcgilroy View Post
I also think Aureliac has an unclear stance on MQA.
Auralic and Klinkt Beter figured out you can use the sox library to process MQA files. Sox is a high quality resampling and DSP library.

What we found is when upsampling the 24/44.1 MQA distribution files from 2L.no with sox, the sound difference with he original DXD masters tends to be very small. Some prefer the DXD, some prefer the upsampled distribution files.

This was on done on Amphion's best speaker, the Krypton 3, which goes further than the Amphion Two 18, which is a great studio speaker.

When comparing DXD with MQA on a mytek, there's more echo & reverb. Voices sound polished.

KIH #46 - MQA's missing link? | DAR__KO

MQA does not encode frequencies higher than 48 Khz as their format is basically 24/96 or 24/88.2 where the lower half of the 48 Khz or 44.1 Khz audio band is sampled at 17 bits, and the upper band is lossy, borrowing encrypted bits from the remaining 7 bits, which only an MQA decoder can decode.

Not all agree on the 17+7 bits distribution, some claim it's 15+9, some say 16+8.
For MQA cd, it's 13+3 which is for sure.

So for sampling at multiples of 44.1K

- MQA is max 17 bits
- audio frequency range stops just below half of 88.2 Khz sampling = 44.1 Khz
- any ultrasonic content above 44.1 Khz is lost
- ultrasonics are lossy


So for sampling at multiples of 48K

- MQA is max 17 bits
- audio frequency range stops just below half of 96 Khz sampling = 48 Khz
- any ultrasonic content above 48 Khz is lost
- ultrasonics are lossy

So MQA can never describe a 50 Khz ultrasonic tone.

So what happens with MQA files based on source files that were in a higher sample rate than 24/88.2 or 24/96 ?

From the first unfold which renders a 24/88.2 or 24/96 PCM format with an effective resolution of only 17 bits, MQA upsamples using a very simple minimum phase upsampler to the original resolution that can run on the very cheap processor inside an AudioQuest dragonfly.

They also apply weird anti-ringing filters which kills the post-ringing tail of the minimum phase upsampler. They have 32 filters to do this, and the MQA files knows which pre-defined filter to use:

http://www.digitalaudioreview.net/wp..._2-580x563.png

This filter is what makes MQA sound thinner, with more distortion. They are trading one mistake for another.

So the alternative is to upsample MQA files directly with a high-quality minimum phase upsampler instead, and ignore the weird filters that try to get rid of post-ringing.

Post-ringing is not the problem, pre-ringing is, as our hearing is sensitive to pre-ringing, not post-ringing.

What we found is when upsampling MQA with minimum phase, without using an official decoder, it sounds more true to the original, than when running it through an official MQA dac like the Mytek Brooklyn.

We used files from 2L.no to do this test, as they have both the original DXD files which have been sitting there for years, and since recent, the MQA versions.
Old 3rd September 2017
  #26
DAH
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Quote:
Originally Posted by soxr View Post
Auralic and Klinkt Beter figured out you can use the sox library to process MQA files. Sox is a high quality resampling and DSP library.

What we found is when upsampling the 24/44.1 MQA distribution files from 2L.no with sox, the sound difference with he original DXD masters tends to be very small. Some prefer the DXD, some prefer the upsampled distribution files.

This was on done on Amphion's best speaker, the Krypton 3, which goes further than the Amphion Two 18, which is a great studio speaker.

When comparing DXD with MQA on a mytek, there's more echo & reverb. Voices sound polished.

KIH #46 - MQA's missing link? | DAR__KO

MQA does not encode frequencies higher than 48 Khz as their format is basically 24/96 or 24/88.2 where the lower half of the 48 Khz or 44.1 Khz audio band is sampled at 17 bits, and the upper band is lossy, borrowing encrypted bits from the remaining 7 bits, which only an MQA decoder can decode.

Not all agree on the 17+7 bits distribution, some claim it's 15+9, some say 16+8.
For MQA cd, it's 13+3 which is for sure.

So for sampling at multiples of 44.1K

- MQA is max 17 bits
- audio frequency range stops just below half of 88.2 Khz sampling = 44.1 Khz
- any ultrasonic content above 44.1 Khz is lost
- ultrasonics are lossy


So for sampling at multiples of 48K

- MQA is max 17 bits
- audio frequency range stops just below half of 96 Khz sampling = 48 Khz
- any ultrasonic content above 48 Khz is lost
- ultrasonics are lossy

So MQA can never describe a 50 Khz ultrasonic tone.

So what happens with MQA files based on source files that were in a higher sample rate than 24/88.2 or 24/96 ?

From the first unfold which renders a 24/88.2 or 24/96 PCM format with an effective resolution of only 17 bits, MQA upsamples using a very simple minimum phase upsampler to the original resolution that can run on the very cheap processor inside an AudioQuest dragonfly.

They also apply weird anti-ringing filters which kills the post-ringing tail of the minimum phase upsampler. They have 32 filters to do this, and the MQA files knows which pre-defined filter to use:

http://www.digitalaudioreview.net/wp..._2-580x563.png

This filter is what makes MQA sound thinner, with more distortion. They are trading one mistake for another.

So the alternative is to upsample MQA files directly with a high-quality minimum phase upsampler instead, and ignore the weird filters that try to get rid of post-ringing.

Post-ringing is not the problem, pre-ringing is, as our hearing is sensitive to pre-ringing, not post-ringing.

What we found is when upsampling MQA with minimum phase, without using an official decoder, it sounds more true to the original, than when running it through an official MQA dac like the Mytek Brooklyn.

We used files from 2L.no to do this test, as they have both the original DXD files which have been sitting there for years, and since recent, the MQA versions.
Why are you testing a new mp3 at all?
Old 3rd September 2017
  #27
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mcgilroy View Post
Which would be a devastating statement in the context of MQA marketing. It literally hinges on the "temporal blur" narrative.

Is there any on the record statement by BAD on this?
Phone call with BAD

They stand behind MQA ASSUMING THE AD is as good as a Model Two at 24 192
Old 3rd September 2017
  #28
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lucey View Post
Phone call with BAD

They stand behind MQA ASSUMING THE AD is as good as a Model Two at 24 192
Ain't that essentially self marketing?! Our pedigree is that legendary DAC from way back...

A MQA ADC is vaporware for the time being and I wonder how should one function anyways. Also what interest can an ADC-manufacturer relying on open standards have in being tied into a proprietary technology coming with licensing baggage?

I'll take BADs stance with a grain of salt.
Old 4th September 2017
  #29
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lucey View Post
I'm happy to be there Bruce Don't understand the joke, please clarify.

If you want your name added to the CON list, I'm happy to do that.


Brian,

Bruce has been empanelled at high-end audio shows, previously.
Perhaps, I should have written -- impaled.
Old 4th September 2017
  #30
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Add Jim Hagerman of Hagerman Labs to the list of MQA sceptics:

https://www.stereophile.com/content/...man-audio-labs

Q: Any opinions on MQA? It doesn't make you want to revisit digital?

JH: No opinion other than it looks like a really clever technology. I don't know how it sounds but it's a clever way to combine everything and be compatible. I've heard some horrible stories about MQA and licensing. They're brutal with their licensing for manufacturers who want to use it and employ it. They sting you. For the small guy like me, I don't think I could afford to get into that business.

Read more at https://www.stereophile.com/content/...DRMeHyaC72Q.99
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