Why is MQA not supported by Naim?

The title says it all, I don’t get it, Naim is all about sound quality, why is the best format not supported?


I have an Uniti Atom, which sounds excellent, but I would like to be able to play Tidal Master.



Moi aussi! (On a 272).
Don’t get me wrong - the 272 is a wonderful machine and it sings very sweetly.
It’s just a bit of a shame that I’d have to get Lumin and Audrivana and other things to even get a third of an unfold of Tidal Masters.
One way is to wait a few years and hope that Tidal also start uploading hires non-MQA files.
But could Naim do anything to help the thousands of us who (for various reasons) need to use native Tidal long-term and would like to enjoy Tidal Masters?
Could there be some kind of software and/or hardware fix that could be installed (at a price) to get the full unfold. I suspect this would be a very popular item, which would sell well and make a lot of loyal Naim lovers very proud of the company that they love and use every day.

Is this an informed judgement based on listening, or an assumption based on MQA marketing?

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Logic suggests that higher resolution is better, or am I wrong?

All Naim has ever said on this that it was not a priority for them and that there needed to be wide industry adoption. I guess they would argue that the latter has still not happened. On the beta thread , testers were asked for their thoughts on what they thought Naim should be working on. We were promised feedback…interesting to see if there was much mqa support.

Perhaps, but then logic alone might also suggest that lossless is better than lossy, so now you have a dilemma to deal with. I think listening has to be the best way to assess this, and the results might vary depending on the hardware and software implementation of MQA.

Oh yes, lossless is better than lossy, I can clearly hear the difference between Tidal Hifi and a MP3 file, both using my speakers, but also using headphones. Even my girlfriend can hear it, and that says it all, ha, ha :slight_smile:

just for info, MQA is an high resolution LOSSY codec

Do not put in the same boat as aac or MP3 lossy or not, as it’s significantly better. I for one for a lot of titles can’t discern any difference between MQA and hires counterpart, some I do prefer mqa, some I prefer hires pcm, others do here differences for all MQA and prefer hires pcm much like any thing else in this mad hobby of ours there is much division. Personally people hear the word lossy and instantly through the toys out of the pram and refuse it cant sound as good.

There are haters and lovers of it all right in their own way. Some its the way it’s been thrust upon us, some because it’s lossy and others the confusion it’s brought by their marketing. In the end one has to make your own mind up as to if you feel it offers the best quality and your happy with it. I am it cost me no more as I get it already with my Tidal subscription. Although the cost of it is likely past on into products that support it.

Hi CrystalGipsy, I have purchased me too some MQA files from 2L and they sound good indeed, my precisation was only for aswering to the claim of MQA is the best format etc.

From my perspective, and I don’t understand MQA perfectly, only from the marketing blurbs, it isn’t “the best format” at all. 24 bit/192 kHz or 96kHz FLAC/ALAC are lossless high resolution. MQA is not, and therefore necessarily worse than these (even if the differences might be hard to hear). From a theoretical standpoint, MQA begins by saying you can’t hear dynamic range better than CD (anything over 16 bits), so they use the last 8 bits in a 24 bit word, to describe low-resolution ultrasonic content up to 96 kHz. That’s the folding part. In other words: they sacrifice one half of high-res music (resolution) to preserve the other (ultrasonics). This is “free” because computers handle larger words more easily than larger sampling rates.

Naim DACs and preamps specifically emphasize bit depth (up to 32), over ultrasonics (which the preamp section rolls off - admittedly at double redbook’s 20 kHz range). So MQA would be incompatible with the Naim approach, as it gives you CD resolution in band, with worse than CD out of band. And it limits the band into the DAC (wrong approach), rather than out of the pre (right approach).

Beyond that there’s the marketing, middleman, and other concerns. Linn has a nice article about this online.

Given that modern networks can easily handle high-res FLAC/ALAC, I think MQA is a scam that may benefit streaming services (in the same way all lossy compression formats do), with no discernible benefit to the end user, artist, or HiFi company. Naim is right to ignore the standard.

Yes. Manufacturers are faced with “stacking” royalties. Each bit of third-party in-licensed technology that they add to their product carries a fee. It does slowly add up. If a manufacturer pays a license fee on 100% of the units they sell, they’d like a high percentage of their customers to actually use and value the in-licensed technology. Otherwise the value proposition isn’t there.

Thus, manufacturers can’t just in-license and pay for every bit of new technology that comes along. Or they can . . . and hope that they are guessing right that the value is there (or just charge so much that their target margins still are reached).

Sorry just cant agree. MQA benefits me in that I can stream HiIRes on the go without using all my data limit on one album. Try that with PCM and see how far you get. It also sounds equal to PCM for the most part to me on my home system so it gives me something I would have to pay another 5 quid a month for on another service with less of the material I like. For you it seems of no worth but to me and the OP it offers much. To discount MQA based on the fact its lossy is just so wrong, unless you have extensively listened to it and then discounted it on SQ grounds but not based on what you read in the press either positive or not.

Oh absolutely. I wasn’t comparing MQA to redbook. So it may benefit you. I was comparing it to hi-res FLAC/ALAC in a home setup, and doing so in response to the “best format” comment. Particularly for those using Naim equipment as per the OP, and Naim don’t make on the go equipment.

I have to disagree with this remark. MQA is certainly not a scam, and although modern home networks can easily handle high-res FLAC, many broadband connections cannot. I agree with much of what CrystalGipsy has said in that MQA also potentially benefits me in that I too can now stream Hi-Res from Tidal (at no additional cost over my existing subscription). What is not to like about that?

One of the big problems with modern hi-fi (perhaps a reflection of our society) is that views tend to become polarised. A perfect example of this in this context is the use of the word ‘Lossy’ in a pejorative way in order to dismiss MQA as not worthy of consideration. but as CrystalGipsy has stated above - MQA is not just another form of compression like MP3. Actually, I feel much more strongly about some of the other claims about DRM and in some instances threats made by those zealots on other forums who appear spend most of their time on their vendetta against MQA. Witness the decision by Sonore to hold an MQA upgrade to their systems. The upgrade was ready to go live but has been held back indefinitely because of negative publicity and threats.

From my perspective things are simple. In my systems, I believe that hi-res files can often (but not always) sound better than CD quality equivalents when it is possible to compare identical masters of the two formats. MQA masters from Tidal often (but not always) sound better than the non MQA equivalents (or CD rips on my NAS) when played through my MQA enabled Mytek Brooklyn+ DAC. I strongly suspect that MQA files would also sound better than non MQA equivalents when played on much better DACs than my Brooklyn+ - for example the Meridian Ultra or on of the more expensive DCS DACs. So there isn’t really a downside for me, and I can’t understand why some people get so worked up one way or the other about MQA.

The end game for me is not so straightforward, because irrespective of the format I feed it my Mytek Brooklyn+ is not as good (by quite a long way) as my Linn Klimax DS/1 which doesn’t support MQA. Similarly, I am also (I think) coming to the conclusion that for most music I also prefer my Chord Hugo (1) to the Brooklyn+. So, despite being relatively enthusiastic about MQA I may well end up without a DAC than can carry out the MQA full unfold on either of my systems.

However, I do intend to subscribe to Roon, so I will experiment with some of the options available there for the first MQA unfold for both of my systems.

I would be very happy were Linn and Chord to change their minds about support for MQA, but this isn’t going to happen - although Linn did eventually sort of cave in in respect of DSD which they originally disparaged in much the same way as they now do MQA. MQA, in my opinion is definitely not the ‘evil’ interloper some seem to think it is.


Sorry, I’m not explaining myself very well. I don’t think anyone is disputing that MQA may be better than redbook. But folks into high-res streaming (like Naim) are trying to hit a higher bar. Mathematically, high-res FLAC/ALAC are better than MQA, and have no associated hidden fees and hardware. So why support MQA?

Separately, many including the OP claim that MQA is the “best format.” That is demonstrably false. I was trying to explain why.

If you’re happy with MQA, by all means enjoy it. But I do understand why a company focusing on the last word in digital music (i.e. Naim), will bypass a format that is both expensive, and inferior at that stated focus to lossless and higher res formats (e.g. FLAC/ALAC/Wave).

I think the reality is that MQA may have been designed when people in general had far worse broadband, and for those of us who can stream hi-res FLAC/ALAC without issue it isn’t necessary, and the licensing aspects add a kind of DRM to the files too, which thankfully we’re spared when we purchase hi-res audio from most vendors in non-protected formats.

Very easy to forget, and Apple always to this with their everything ‘in the cloud’ mantra, that many people in the UK and elsewhere who would happily pay for hi-res audio streaming or purchases simply do not have access to decent broadband because of poor infrastructure where they live. For them higher quality lossy formats may reduce bandwidth requirements to levels that work for streaming.

Mobile coverage is another thing I suppose but most do not have large data plans, though personally I would tend not to use hi-res on the go unless (in my case) I’d already downloaded hi-res files to the device.

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Hi perizoqui,

Sorry - I realised from your last post that this was your position, and it is a perfectly reasonable position to take. I agree with your comment about claims that MQA is ‘the best’ format. In ‘mathematical’ terms it certainly shouldn’t be, but that isn’t to say that it can’t sound better than ‘standard’ or if you like ‘full’ hi-res.

Some fairly well respected (and independent - as far as I am aware) reviewers have indicated that MQA files on the best MQA enabled equipment can sound to their ears better than standard hi-res. Personally, I haven’t heard this in my own listening experience with my Mytek Brooklyn DAC, but then I haven’t heard any of the really top flight DACs that support MQA.

There are a number of high end DAC manufacturers out there who compete in the Naim ND555 and Linn Klimax quality ranges and arguably above who are choosing to support MQA.

I wouldn’t be too concerned about MQAs as I’m sure you could improve your sound quality way more with room acoustics, speaker position, hifi rack, better cables etc and listen to 16/44 files. You would be surprised how superior a simple CD or flac file can sound in a room with good acoustics (carpet, curtains…), elaborate speaker positioning. High res files and especially MQAs would be the very last thing I would worry about. There is so much more you could easily improve. Don’t get me wrong, this is just a well-meant advice.

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I agree to an extent.

However these hi-res files would sound even better once you have tweaked your system in other ways. I have to admit though that some of my best ‘sounding’ music comes from CD rips on my NAS.

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