96/24 vs cd 44/16…really?

MQA might or might not be Hi Res but the more important point is that it is lossy, unlike pretty well anything else that is described as high resolution or high definition, because they are mostly lossless.

MQA could be seen as more similar to MP3 than FLAC or WAV, for example. Some people are happy listening to MP3 and no doubt some are happy listening to MQA.

Interesting in your example that MQA could be seen as more similar to MP3, it’s the first time I’ve seen that comparison. If you listen to MP3 compared to MQA it is very obvious that they are not similar in sound quality.
I think the most important point is to compare the sound quality of MQA against other streamed Hi-Res material using exactly the same equipment (i.e. MQA compatible streamer/dacs) and switching between them using the same test songs.
I have done this four times with different streamer/dacs with all other equipment being the same and comparing Tidal MQA against Qobuz Hi-Res and my experience doing this is that there is very little difference between them, sometimes I marginally preferred the Qobuz version and other times the MQA version and I think it’s nitpicking at best to say one is any better than the other, it’s all down to personal preference.


Well I was being a little provocative comparing it with MP3. But MQA does discard some high frequency information to make space for the folding. You can never get that back. So it is lossy, unlike FLAC, ALAC and WAV which are lossless.

Anyway each to their own.

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i tend to agree with you. MQA is constantly critisised here but quite only by persons who don’t have an MQA dac . Other do the first unfold using Roon, which is completly not the same.

Yes, I find this to be true - there are many MQA haters who have never ever heard MQA playback via a full MQA decoding pipeline. It’s a bit like those cable deniers who are adamant they are right but have never tried nice cables themselves because they “don’t need to”.

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My own take on streaming: it can sound incredible however folks often spend a lot more on their vinyl or CD playback pipeline than on their streaming setup and then moan that streaming sounds worse. My experience is that to get the best from streaming can take effort and research - not all streamers are made equal, and it is quite an art getting every piece of the jigsaw optimal. My own journey has seen me upgrade my network switch to the EE8 switch powered by a linear power supply for example, and the introduction of good digital cables including Ethernet. Many will laugh but I even have a linear power supply on my router. In my Setup streaming usually matches or exceeds CD playback IF the content is good - there are still poor masters/remasters out there on streaming platforms, just as there are with CDs. Have I noticed a consistent pattern that hi res is worse or better than 16/44 red book? Not really, it’s down to mix and mastering. I find there are good and bad hi res recordings. For example I find myself quite disappointed with the hi res versions on Tidal and Qobuz of quite a few The Who albums, where I instead prefer my own FLAC rips from my CDs of older versions of the albums. But sometimes you find hi res albums that are standout, such as much of the material from the label 2L, who produce some of the best MQA content out there and who record in hi res formats. Take the 2L album “Magnificat” for example. I do think that to fully appreciate Tidal MQA albums you need a full MQA decoding DAC and that if you haven’t got one you’re better off using Qobuz for hi res content.


First of all, as mentioned by others, any comparison is meaningless unless from the same master and high res file, with the 16/44 version simply derived from that. For a fair comparison of different resolutions there used to be a great resource of high quality files in various resolutions from the same source, specifically to enable real comparison (see DSD, where and why do we use it? - #11 by Innocent_Bystander), but having just checked I note it is currently unavailable, with return uncertain.

From reading numerous descriptions over several years, the consensus of opinion where files are from the same high resolution master seems to be that there is a subtle difference, in terms of more “air” or better ambience to recordings, rather than anything more distinct like increased detail or altered soundstage. My own impression varies from something consistent with this to, sometimes, no discernible difference at all. As I have yet to run out of storage space I do tend to buy the highest resolution files that are available, unless a silly premium price, on the basis that they could sound better and won’t sound worse. However if the mastering is different, which seems not to be uncommon, either could sound better.

The same of course is true when comparing, say, vinyl with CD- and the futility of direct comparisons unless mastering is known to be the same was brought home to me some years ago when a friend and I had apparently identical CD releases of the same album, which sounded distinctly different: scrutinising the discs and liner the only discernible physical difference was that one said made in UK, the other made in Germany. They must have been mastered differently.

N.B. In terms of serious listening and sound quality I only stream from my own local store, online streaming only being for sampling new material to decide whether or not to buy, when sound quality is not a major consideration, the free services being quite adequate.

The Chord MScaler changed my view on how good the old red book can sound all this so called HiRes stuff well…

I don’t get too hung up on the technical aspects of MQA, FLAC or WAV etc, to me they are just the vehicles that transmit the audio signals and what’s more important to me is the end result, which is the sound quality coming out of the speakers.
Others on this thread and on other threads have said that the mastering of the source material has a significant influence on the sound quality and my experience agree’s with that after comparing internet streamed music to my CD’s and Hi-Res Pure Audio BluRay discs.
I stick with Tidal because in addition to Hi-Res they also stream music video’s and songs from concerts which I really enjoy.
However, if Qobuz or another streaming service also streamed video’s, I would re-evaluate my Tidal subscription as currently Qobuz is way cheaper for a Hi-Res subscription than Tidal.
Unfortunately MQA get’s a lot of criticism on the forum, some of it fair enough and some of it not. If those critic’s took the time and effort to listen to MQA and fairly compared it to other Hi-Res internet streaming, I think they would be surprised to find that the sound quality of MQA is actually very good, although I would be very surprised if many people would bother to make the effort.
As has previously been said, each to their own.

Exactly, same for audiophile switches, expensive Ethernet cables, non Naca 5 cables, audiophile powerblocks….and other things that Naim don’t produce.

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After a few days of intense shuffling and optimizing, I have come to the conclusion that my initial statement is not pertinent.
Of course masterings can vary across resolutions, as many other parameters, so that you always compare dissimilar items.
Additionally my mistake was to assume that my “system” plays both hirez & cd quality equally like when you play 2 cds one after the other and compare…
My conclusion is that remote hirez is much more sensitive to all the “electromagnetic” noises, cable dressing, plug order, entreq grounding etc, than cd quality.
So in a moderately optimal setup local streaming which is less « sensitive » is better “served” and wins.
After I went through all the naim set up basics, corrected a few, tweaked some cable chaining, spaced the plugs in the right order, my system is now much more transparent than when I started the post. And now in fact I take back my initial statement, and agree that hirez is superior or equal to cd 44/16. In fact, it is a good test of one’s system: if hi rez doesn’t sound better then probably there is a gremlin lurking somewhere in your system causing underoptimization, and you need to catch it. At least it was the case for me!

Maybe not the best MQA DAC, but I did have the chance to use an iFi MQA DAC for a period of time, the soundstage is altered, the sound is changed compared to high resolution FLAC and LP records. My record deck is a Pink Triangle, AO modified RB300, Mitchel Tecnoweight, Rega Elys 2 Cartridge. I have yet to hear a digital source, in my home, that beats the LP, although, there isn’t much in it with DSD.

MQA was designed at a time when bandwidth, memory, storage and other components where at a premium, it is not needed today. It was for the last century, not this one.

If MQA was as good as people rave then why has Linn/Naim not produced a device to stream it?


Hi @MoonDrifter ,

Archimago has done what looks like a reasonable analysis of MQA:


Goldensound did some work where he produced a file and managed to get it published, which gave some insight into the production methods:

Does any of this impact on your impressions when you listen to it. Bob Stuart will talk about Psycho Acoustics, which some will call just Psycho Babble.

I confess I have not chased this down simply because it is a closed standard and I enjoy the music I get via Qobuz.

The problem is that all reviews, be it Stereophile, Absolute Sound, Hificritic, and many more which are generally reliable, point generally the superiority in sound of MQA vs 16/44 Flac , when the DAC is fully MQA capable. Sometimes MQA are not better, like Hires, but more often reviewers point that they sound better.

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Hi @frenchrooster ,

Yes. If I was using a Meridian DAC it might attract me a bit more. Frequently with any technology it comes down to the software that is available in the format. That is why I prefer open standards, there is likely to be more music that I like available.


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I use the Lumin P1, same as @MoonDrifter. I also have the Tidal Hifi subscription, which gives me full MQA playback.
It’s hard to say if it’s the MQA, or just the Lumin that is really good, but it sounds great to me.
I don’t worry about lossless, or lossy when I listen to it.
I have no option to subscribe to Qobuz in Canada, so until Spotify or Apple go Hi- res, or just 16/44.1…it works for me.

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It’s widely acknowledged amongst the audio reviewer community and I suspect a large part of the manufacturer community too that the only reason MQA exists is as a licensing revenue stream or pension fund for Bob Stuart when he tired of designing new Meridian hardware (most of which was excellent by the way)…

With high bandwidth internet now ubiquitous and data storage capacity essentially free there’s simply no use case for a lossy compression algorithm. Why wouldn’t you want to play or download the lossless WAV or FLAC file given high bandwidth and almost no storage cost?

The truth is MQA sounds better than MP3 usually but it’s a solution looking for a problem in today’s world.


Have you heard a streamer that does full MQA?

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When I had Tidal, I found not just MQA but even their flacs to sound ‘exciting!’ and ‘hifi!’ Sounds fun at first, but grew fatiguing (and that was with a full MQA unfold DAC I had at the time). I much prefer Qobuz, which sounds neutral to me, not to mention their curation vs Tidal. YMMV of course.

Well as stated above… NO Qobuz in Canada, so that option does not exist.:man_shrugging: