Septermber 30th, 2016
By: Carlin "Rick" Smith
When sitting down with a cup of coffee this week and reading through some of my favorite Audiophile web sites I came across a link where an artist I like David Elias was offering many recordings encoded with MQA and even better offering four free sample tracks. I have been largely following MQA and many of the recordings I have seen were classical which normally isn't my cup of tea. So I took the opportunity to grab not only the sample tracks but a few others and I must say they sound fabulous on my 2-channel system and have not even exercised the MQA encoding yet.
Subsequently in an e-mail conversation with David he shared some insights into his thoughts on recording and MQA in general and I thought I would share some excerpts.
"No effects, no edits, no overdubs, no compression... That's all my stuff really. The Acoustic Trio was recorded in less than 4 hrs in a single session. Our trio standing arm's length with mics on the instruments and voices -- 2 mics in the room for natural reverb/delay.
I mixed on DSD workstation as DSD in one long night. Nothing was done just EQ and panning to give a listener's perspective on the trio performing the songs. It's mastered as DSD -- never been in any other format until I had MQA Ltd make the 24/352.8 DXD master with MQA. It sounds very good too :)
My records follow that approach for the most part with few exceptions since my first DIY CD in 1995. Still like the honest representation of live music (studio or otherwise) being played by people who both know how and love to do it. Great and small, no heroes. I find the 24/44.1 and 24/48 hi-res images without unfolding as you are hearing still sound pretty good. Noticeable improvements with the MQA DAC to my ears. Very good in fact.
As an artist partner with MQA Ltd., I am able to deliver much better sounding PCM to anyone. In fact, in many ways, one of the biggest advantages I see for MQA is to simply improve the whole universe of CD masters. If 16/44.1 can sound good with or without an MQA DAC (no unfolding to do) because a lot of the steep brickwall filter problems have already been improved using apodizing filters correcting the time coherence issues, then I'm all for it. It streams with lossless quality. It downloads as a CD sized image regardless of hi-res up to 24/384 (huge improvement) and it plays on any player as-is."
In a follow-up e-mail David expressed his opinion on the recording format and whether MQA is a form of DRM?
"For the record I'd also like to be understood that DSD is my #1 and preferred way to record over any PCM. From there the delivery of the music has taken many forms over the years as we've all witnessed. I think MQA does an incredibly good job delivering high quality recordings (CD up to 24/384 hi-res) on any digital media including printed CDs, streaming and downloads. All the other high bit rate formats (DSD and PCM without MQA folding) are prohibitive due to file size or streaming bandwidth requirements.
Is the MQA tech and convenience + quality worth paying someone a bit extra for (ie, the inventors)? I think so.
Is it DRM? Not at all. On my Bandcamp MQA catalog page one can download any or all of 4 different lossless formats (FLAC, ALAC, WAV, AIF). These are converted on the fly by Bandcamp's backend servers. They all preserve the MQA encoding and play with the "blue light" Studio Authenticated MQA verification (on my Meridian Explorer2 MQA DAC) upon receipt.
How DRM does that sound to you?
Have seen some issues with file naming conventions on some of the equipment out there (NAD for one) but that has nothing to do with MQA or DRM either.
I've burned and ripped CDs with MQA encoded songs. They still play with the same authentication as the original."
I highly recommend you check out David Elias´ MQA tracks on Bandcamp: http://davidelias.bandcamp.com and as a comparison the normal tracks on TIDAL.