MQA again

I went to Wilson Audio demo of their new Chronosonic XVX loudspeakers at a high end dealership in NYC last Friday. It was a wonderful evening and the sound out this system was spectacular as one would expect from a system that I suspect costs close 800K US dollars and meticulously set up.D’Agostino electronics and not sure of DAC brand but was MQA compatible.
The presenter was McGrath a long term associate of Wilson Audio and an audio engineer by trade. Still records. I noted that the MQA light was on for many pieces and I asked him about it afterwards and he said that MQA was “ a game changer”. When asked about Naim he was at a loss in understanding why they haven’t embraced.When I suggested that with increasing bandwidth available to more and more listeners that MQA may not be important since we can reliably stream in HiRes with any compression, he said that that was the least of the reason for MQA.
Don’t really want to start another pros and cons of MQA thread but an FYI from a highly knowledgeable person without apparent financial interest in that technology.

McGrath is probably paid to say good things about MQA. He is overly enthusiastic about it.

MQA is the biggest sham in audio.

I don’t see the point of MQA if you can access full hi res without lossy compression, no matter how clever the reconstruction…

It’s magic, Dumbledore said so before he died.


My concern with MQA was principally in my understanding that the audio is reworked/remastered for the MQA.

Perhaps I have that wrong?

Peter is not that kind of guy. I have known him personally for many years. You could not pay him to say
something that he did not believe himself. He has lots of experience recording.


That doesn’t mean he’s not paid. It also doesn’t mean he is right.


I was at the same event. I don’t share your enthusiasm for that system but hey to each his own. Naim has never been a company to be the first to jump on the bandwagon of new digital formats and embrace them. They were one of the last companies in the high end world to come out with a CD player as you might recall. MQA has a long way to go yet and the demonstrations are getting a lot of criticism from other manufacturers. They are accused of equalizing the tracks and adding gain. Some other digital format makers that have been caught red handed are SHC and XRCD. Adding gain brightens up the signal considerably. There is also a lack of original MQA content so it’s safe to say that MQA is still in it’s infancy compared to other formats.

I’ve done many listening tests, comparing 16 bit, 24 bit, MQA, DSD (various) to each other and have found that nothing is any better than 16/44.1 khz. It’s all smoke and mirrors but nobody believes me when I say this. Extensive listening tests were done with several recording engineers and artists over a four month period and the only real difference we heard was between flac and .wav files. Uncompressed .wav files sounded much better in every test that was completed. Sample rates are bogus, bogus, bogus!! If you listen to a really good recording on my CD 555 and compare it to any up-sampled, over-sampled ‘hi res’ audio player you will discover this on your own. A Naim UntiCore used to rip a CD going into an NDS or ND555 will produce nearly same result. I have done this comparison so much I’m willing to put money on the result.


I agree with you. It is just the “higher numbers is better” game all over again. You have to do the tests to get it. Buy some good hires files and use a perfect sample-rate-converter down to 16/44 and avoid any noise-shaping dither. Be really-really sure the levels match. Make a number of copies of each with random names. Mix up. Its fully impossible to hear any diff with WAV.

It is an easy test to setup.

Thanks for your response. I generally buy or download files in lossless flac to my NAS and then my server software, Asset, transcodes to .wav “on the fly”.Is that just as good as downloading in uncompressed .wav?
I have to say that I too have had trouble distinguishing between 24bit download versus ripped CD for the most part.

.wav is .wav, there are no versions of .wav so it should not matter. They are all uncompressed audio files. The issue with downloads are that the files could be coming from several different servers all over the world. Even one album could be delivering files from different servers. Also, the way in which a CD is ripped has an effect on it’s quality of output. CD ripping should be done as carefully as playing a vinyl album. I found with several experiment and A/B comparisons that even treating CD’s prior to ripping has an effect on the sound quality. I focused on removing static electricity from the CD and found the sound to be smoother and more articulate. Static is a huge problem in the digital domain.

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Amen to that.

This is also my experience, both the drive used and the CD should be setup/treated as it were live CD playback. And different drives are different, the firmware varies.

Currently I prefer to buy CD and rip. More consistent quality and meta-data access.

I think you have it spot on… with cheaper more readily available bandwidth the benefit of MQA is hugely diminished… why go lossy when you don’t need to… and with mobile I am sure the vast majority are happy with high bit rate AAC or Ogg Vorbis… they are certainly fine for me when mobile.
Comparing hires PCM, and the processed MQA equivalent the alduteration of MQA can become quite obvious. (Using a full MQA decode DAC).
To be honest I see MQA slowly declining … it has had its day and to me the world is moving on without it.
I still have my DCC player… it too addressed a short term gap in the market but it’s inherent limitations encouraged its ultimate demise.

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Remastered from the hires PCM yes… and with MQA they can control how that MQA processed sound is unprocessed at the other end of the chain… I guess like some sort of QA to limit the occurrences of bad MQA decoders out in the field…
I just prefer to use the original hires PCM without processing, and let my DAC reconstruct the analogue without lossy digital manipulation in the digital chain.

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This is an interesting thread … I have found as my system has improved that there is a huge amount of information on well recorded 16bit (CD). The production and mastering is enormously important … I have flacs from CD 's from over 35 years ago and they sound stunning … the higher res stuff I have got certainly does not seem any better…really… Give me a well performed,recorded and mastered 16bit any day… Certainly when I talked to Naim … this was their belief as well.

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I certainly appreciate hires over CD… and indeed much new material is distributed at 24 bit from sample rates between 44.1 and 96 kHz and I can really appreciate that over the decimated CD master equivalent… which is usually also provided for compatibility. (Just compare on Qobuz for example… where you can select distribution master versions)
My question is the need for lossy hires… i suspect its uncompressed PCM master with good equipment is going to nearly always sound better.
Sure on lesser equipment, or where bandwidth is limited I can see MQA can certainly help… but to me it feels somewhat niche.

Well its strange … as the more I have improved and upgraded my system … 16 bit gets better and better…hi res is still excellent … but the gap seems to have closed … its very strange … you would think the opposite would be true… Has anybody elso found this?

Sure, don’t get me wrong, 16 bit can be very good, and to really appreciate it paradoxically in my opinion you need high end converters which I think is what you are saying… but all things being equal 24 bit is often better… you can usually hear more clearly details and subtitles in the mix… as if the recording is breathing and flowing more easily, and this seems to hold true whether it’s a compressed track of punk rock, or a subtle piano concerto.
I will always choose 24 over 16 bit if the choice is there…and as I say much new music is now released on 24 bit pcm, which makes it easier… hardly surprising as the 16bit version would have been produced in these cases almost certainly through decimation…(info discarded).

It’s also true to say not all converters behave the same with higher sample depth or bandwidths… so some converters might have a sweet spot… which could be 44.1/16…

However a good modern DAC and genuine 24 bit material I suggest you should hear a progressive improvement in resolution as you increase sample size, as you are constructing more of the original signal.

Now I wish they would release The Wall on 24 bit, that would be awesome. It’s superb in 16 bit… in fact in many ways it’s a real reference of what can be achieved in 16 bit… but a true 24 bit version would be mouth watering…