Author Topic: MQA  (Read 72574 times)

Offline SilverPS3

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Re: Meridian MQA
« Reply #45 on: June 04, 2016, 23:14 »
He said he would listen.  I doubt we would be reading the listening notes any time soon.


Offline AndrewC

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Re: Meridian MQA
« Reply #46 on: June 06, 2016, 19:04 »
He said he would listen.  I doubt we would be reading the listening notes any time soon.

Yeah, I was wondering the same thing when I read his coverage ;-) Such extensive measurements, but not a single word from him on how it sounds, and it’s own recordings!

My guess is JA is going to hedge his bets and not be so over-the-top about MQA like TAS, especially given the recent scandalous piece by AD (presumably against TAS and other WebZine’s) over their unethical review methods. I think JA will be looking to tone-down any pro-vendor pitches ;D


Interesting... Meridian is never a supporter of DSD, given the recent uptake of DSD downloads, they have no choice to make their product more competitive? There's a review of Meridian Explorer and MQA playback. Looks like MQA decoding on Explorer have trouble in achieving 24-bit resolution while PCM version 24/192 and DSD64 has the lowest noise in the audible range!


http://archimago.blogspot.sg/2016/02/measurements-impressions-meridian.html

Actually, very few DACs delivery 24 bit resolution, meaning resolution as measured (not datasheet spec) by the likes of Stereophile etc., even the very best DACs have been measured at around 19-to-21 bits at most.
 
That said, IMHO, it makes no sense to have a “next generation” format that is lossy, even if for only the very highest ultrasonic octaves. MQA justifies this via an explanation in the ’14 AES paper http://www.aes.org/e-lib/download.cfm?ID=17501 … to paraphrase, they basically say “we measured the last 60 years of recordings, none have resolution/noise-floor wider than 20bits PCM, so that’s good enough.” ::)
 
MQA is not progress for the Audio industry.
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Offline tane0019

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Re: Meridian MQA
« Reply #47 on: June 06, 2016, 22:25 »
Cheaper alternative to Meridian MQA
<a href="http://www.youtube.com/v/kfJYHhONdSI&fs=1" target="_blank" class="new_win">http://www.youtube.com/v/kfJYHhONdSI&fs=1</a>

Offline MusicEar

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Re: Meridian MQA
« Reply #48 on: June 07, 2016, 10:24 »
http://www.stereophile.com/content/inside-mqa-manufacturers-comment#HDraW96o0ZqfWlDZ.97

Why is run-out noise shot up so abruptly as the frequency response goes down for a decoded MQA? Also, compared with original WAV recording, the noise of decoded MQA is much higher. It looks to me MQA noise floor can only achieve 20-bit of resolution in the audible range despite outputting 24-bit data to the DAC. Such abnormality happens in the audible range and it does play a part in alternating the sound quality of the original WAV recordings.

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Offline AndrewC

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Re: Meridian MQA
« Reply #49 on: June 07, 2016, 11:15 »
http://www.stereophile.com/content/inside-mqa-manufacturers-comment#HDraW96o0ZqfWlDZ.97

Why is run-out noise shot up so abruptly as the frequency response goes down for a decoded MQA? Also, compared with original WAV recording, the noise of decoded MQA is much higher. It looks to me MQA noise floor can only achieve 20-bit of resolution in the audible range despite outputting 24-bit data to the DAC. Such abnormality happens in the audible range and it does play a part in alternating the sound quality of the original WAV recordings.

While these are very low-level signals (-96dB peak), I have to agree, it’s pretty lousy noise floor for a non-decoded MQA signal. With this response, Stuart has validated 3rd party reviews that say MQA scews-up original tracks when not decoded to MQA.

In other words, if your DAC doesn’t support MQA, you’re basically fcuked if your sources are all MQA encoded files or streams ;D


The noise of MQA decoded signal is not higher than the original WAV though… where did you see that it’s higher? (don’t mistakenly compare to dither noise floor references).

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Offline MusicEar

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Re: Meridian MQA
« Reply #50 on: June 08, 2016, 17:58 »
Yes, the decoded MQA followed closely to the original WAV but it seemed to me MQA can only deliver up to 20 bit and not PCM standard of 24 bit resolution. The best converters out there can easily do 22 bit. FLAC and other lossless codecs are capable of doing 24 bit way before MQA. Why limit?
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Offline AndrewC

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Re: Meridian MQA
« Reply #51 on: June 08, 2016, 22:19 »
Yes, the decoded MQA followed closely to the original WAV but it seemed to me MQA can only deliver up to 20 bit and not PCM standard of 24 bit resolution. The best converters out there can easily do 22 bit. FLAC and other lossless codecs are capable of doing 24 bit way before MQA. Why limit?

We're going round in circles a little... as I said before, you’re talking about technical spec (24bit)… whereas MQA is referencing general DAC output performance, not spec, when they say 20bit PCM resolution is “good enough”. As you yourself state, “the best” can do 22 bits today... but IMHO not “easily” - care to qualify your statement? Which DAC manufacturer(s) does "easily" 22bit of actual [Edit] measured output resolution?

But we’re on the same page, I think it’s a sham for MQA to offer  such “average” performance in this day and age.
« Last Edit: June 08, 2016, 22:37 by AndrewC »
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Offline AndrewC

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Re: Meridian MQA
« Reply #52 on: June 09, 2016, 22:47 »
Yet another gushing MQA report…

http://www.tonepublications.com/review/why-mqa/

What gets me is this part about undecoded listening…
Quote

In addition, files encoded with MQA will still sound better, cleaner on your standard digital setup even if you don’t have a DAC capable of decoding MQA. For now, let’s call the difference about 20% in terms of revealing more music in a less imposing (i.e. digital artifacts, etc) way than a non-MQA file.

If the tracks are being specially handled as part of the MQA encoding process, naturally they’re going to sound good even non-decoded… Just like XRCDs sound much better than normal redbook releases of the same album. So, not sure what the fuss is ::)


Just noticed that last week BlueSound announced firmware update to support MQA on their platform;
http://www.bluesound.com/news/2016/mqa-now-available-on-bluesound/

<a href="http://www.youtube.com/v/3064TY7DWiQ&fs=1" target="_blank" class="new_win">http://www.youtube.com/v/3064TY7DWiQ&fs=1</a>


And Highresaudio has started selling MQA encoded music; https://www.highresaudio.com/studio_master.php?fids=153&cr=MQA

Almost nothing but Classical… What a drag :P
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Offline AndrewC

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Re: Meridian MQA
« Reply #53 on: June 10, 2016, 12:44 »
Just delivered to my office in time for some weekend MQA Exploration ;D


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Offline InnocentBlood

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Re: Meridian MQA
« Reply #54 on: June 10, 2016, 23:22 »
what MQA music did you end up getting to test the Explorer2 with?
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Offline Doggie Howser

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Re: Meridian MQA
« Reply #55 on: June 11, 2016, 08:46 »
Keep us posted :)
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Offline mr.tangco

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Re: Meridian MQA
« Reply #56 on: June 11, 2016, 20:25 »
Enjoying A-B-ing MQA on bluesound pulse - to these ears I'm enjoying the 2L tracks immensely and am looking forward to hearing more MQA asap. Why not try for yourself? Bluesound Node Gen 1 costs only $399 on sale - http://lenbrook.com.sg/bluesound/30-bluesound-node-n100.html

Offline AndrewC

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Re: Meridian MQA
« Reply #57 on: June 12, 2016, 20:01 »
Let me get straight to the point… this is going to be brief.





...
Just kidding… here’s lots more ;D

SOME TECHNICAL BITS
  • While the Explorer2 uses an XMOS chip for digital signal processing, it has a  TI PCM5102 DAC chip for D/A conversion. This is a 384kHz/24bits capable DAC chip, but for whatever reason, Meridian restricts the Explorer2 to just 192k/24bits
  • The current Explorer2 ships with the latest MQA capable firmware, which is version 17.17

  • There are 3 LEDs on the top, the one closest to the printed label is multi-colour capable and shows whether you’re listening to normal PCM track (White), an MQA encoded track (Green), or an MQA Artist/Studio Authenticated track (Blue).


LISTENING TO STANDARD PCM TRACKS

I didn’t expect to spend a couple of hours with the Explorer2… but as it turned out, I did, and not because it was good. The Explorer2 sounds nicely full-bodied, but when first listened to with just standard PCM tracks, my initial thought was WTF?…Is there something wrong with my IEMs or Mac? :/

Right out of the box the Explorer2 sounds veiled and quite rolled-off, especially if you’re used to the Chord Mojo. You’ll think there’s something wrong with your IEMs, Laptop, or cables. I switched IEMs between my Westone and FitEar just in case it was some impedance compatibility issue, they both demonstrated the same issue.

I let the Explorer2 run-in for about an hour while I checked a couple of reviews online; no one describes anything remotely similar to what I heard, until I re-read Stereophile’s review from last month. Reading between the lines, Jim Austin does hint at it;
Quote
…With non-MQA music, the Explorer2 was very pleasant to listen to. It conveyed plenty of information in a relaxed way, which to me is important. It always worked, and it always made nice music. It was a big step up from the headphone jack of my MacBook Pro. Though the sound was a bit soft and rounded compared to that of much more expensive converters, it was good enough for an excellent home system.

I think he was just being polite ;D.

JA’s measurement section strangely doesn’t include a standalone frequency response chart (all other recent DAC reviews do)…  So after the hour of run-in, I did a frequency response measurement which didn’t look especially out of the ordinary (except for the interestingly different responses for the various sample rates). A closer look at the 44.1k sample-rate response though, compared to the Chord Mojo’s response, starts to hint at the issue…



The Explorer2’s roll-off from 20kHz (Red) is gentle slope which suggests it’s non-linear apodizing nature, all good, but it starts almost right at 20kHz which, depending on the filter type, could have repercussions at lower octaves. I also checked the impulse response (a one-sample 44.1k/16bit -3dBFS pulse), which shows a classic Meridian apodizing FIR filter response with no pre-ringing, but a very long ringing tail.

In JA’s measurement, he compared the Impulse Response of the original Explorer versus Explorer2 (Figure 1, vs. Figure 2 respectively). Strangely, my measurement shows my Explorer2 behaving like an original Explorer! Specifically, nearly a millisecond long post-impulse ringing, instead of about a-third of a millisecond (according to JA’s measurement anyway).

Have a look;



I wondered if it was something mistaken with my measurement/method, but I crossed checked against previous measurements taken on my other DACs at home, both linear and non-linear filters with shorter durations.

So, whatever firmware Stereophile received and JA measured with their Explorer2, seems like it’s not what the rest of us consumers are getting :o 

I didn’t measure how non-linear the phase-shift of the Explorer2’s filter is (not quite sure whats the best way to do that yet ;D).

Even though the Explorer2 came with updated MQA firmware, I re-flashed the firmware anyway using Meridian’s dedicated App.


There wasn’t any appreciable difference even after the update; an overwhelming sense of a veiled and rolled-off sound, and the impulse response wasn’t changed either. Something’s definitely off.

All of this suggest possible impact in the audible lower octaves, which I think is what I’m hearing; much of the “air” around good quality unencoded PCM recordings are missing in action. Technically, the long post-impulse ringing shouldn’t be a problem and should be filtered off naturally by our ears, but theres no clear way to know what other sonic impact this filter has. All I can tell by listening is that it doesn’t sound like a quality DAC at all. Interestingly, listening to tracks at various bit-rates, 176.4k/24bit tracks seem to sound the best, better than 192k/24.


LISTENING TO MQA ENCODED TRAKCS

I used a number of test files from 2L to test out MQA encoded tracks. They make available both the original DXD track and a MQA-encoded version of the DXD (both in FLAC), along with lower bit-rate unencoded versions.

With MQA encoded tracks (FLAC), the Explorer2 sounds significantly closer to the quality of the Mojo.



Here’s the rub;
MQA-encoded tracks decoded on the Explorer2 isn’t even on-par with Unencoded 192k versions on the Chord Mojo! It comes close, but not quite. And it gets completely smoked when compared to the DXD Unencoded version on the Chord DAC. 

In other words (“>” = “better than”);
DXD on Mojo > 192k on Mojo > DXD-MQA on Explorer2 > 96k on Mojo
And for just plain PCM, Mojo > Explorer2 at every bit rate

IMHO, if the Explorer2 is how most people are going to hear MQA, the battle’s lost. MQA can balik kampung ;D Ironically, the only attraction is the 10:1 file size reduction, which harkens back to Meridian’s MLP days (if that sort of thing is important to you rather than sound quality ;) )

There’s no way to turn-off MQA decoding on the Explorer2 and it doesn’t support DXD, so it’s a little challenging to measure anything thats apples-to-apples comparison based on currently available free MQA files (I don’t plan to buy any MQA encoded material). Achimago’s review compares DXD MQA-encoded tracks against unencoded 192k version, which IMHO is only marginally useful.


BOTTOM LINE
Like a few online commentary suggests (including on Meridian focused forums), MQA has the feel of The Emperor’s New Clothes about it.  I can’t shake the feeling that Meridian has intentionally crippled regular PCM playback on the Explorer2 in order to make MQA sound “so much better” (they probably assume that the average user won’t have another portable DAC to compare it to). If MQA becomes significantly more prevalent, like for example if all higher than Redbook streams from the likes of Tidal are exclusively MQA encoded, we’re fucked :-\

I haven’t heard another portable DAC at the same price point as the Explorer2, so, maybe it’s just my expectations being unreasonably high, but at about exactly half the price of the Chord Mojo, the Explorer2 in comparison, is IMHO significantly less than half as good. The Explorer2 is a very disappointing piece of kit from a traditionally strong vendor - I’ve owned multiple Meridian hardware in the past, so I’m not in any way biased against them.

The Explorer2 though, is highly NOT recommended, though YMMV :)

(Edit: Removed spoiler tag on request)
« Last Edit: January 28, 2017, 09:05 by AndrewC »
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Offline MusicEar

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Re: Meridian MQA
« Reply #58 on: June 17, 2016, 17:09 »
Enjoying A-B-ing MQA on bluesound pulse - to these ears I'm enjoying the 2L tracks immensely and am looking forward to hearing more MQA asap. Why not try for yourself? Bluesound Node Gen 1 costs only $399 on sale - http://lenbrook.com.sg/bluesound/30-bluesound-node-n100.html

Can tell a difference between a 24/192 and MQA mastered on same track? Does it playback fully decoded?
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Offline AndrewC

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Re: Meridian MQA
« Reply #59 on: June 20, 2016, 17:40 »
Can tell a difference between a 24/192 and MQA mastered on same track? Does it playback fully decoded?

Looks like mr.tangco is just a shill for lenbrook  ::)
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