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Podcast #893: Master Quality Authenticated - MQA

We recently received an email from Scott in Pine Arizona asking us to talk about MQA (Master Quality Authenticated) audio. We’ll take a look at it from a 30,000 foot level in the hopes that you take a deeper look on your own.

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Master Quality Authenticated - MQA

We recently received an email from Scott in Pine Arizona asking us to talk about MQA (Master Quality Authenticated) audio. We’ll take a look at it from a 30,000 foot level in the hopes that you take a deeper look on your own.

What is MQA

MQA is an audio codec using lossy compression and a form of file fingerprinting, intended for high fidelity digital audio internet streaming and file download that was developed by the co-founder of Meridian Audio, Bob Stuart.

A good way to look at this compression is mailing a letter in an envelope.  A 8 ½ X 11 sheet of paper won't fit into a standard envelope as it is. So if you have written a letter taking up the entire sheet you could come up with a short hand that would fit on a smaller sheet of paper and the reader would then have to decode the letter. They would probably get most of the letter correct but may miss a word here or there. Not enough to change the meaning of what you have written but it would not be the exact letter as you wrote it.

The alternative would be to take the full letter and fold it up and place it in the envelope. The reader would then unfold the letter and read it without any loss of meaning. MQA call this their ‘Origami’ folding technology. This is a very high level explanation of the process. The technical details and more precise explanation is found on their website (MQA Playback).

What Services Support MQA



What Players Support MQA

Streamers - Partial List

  • Onkyo

  • Pioneer

  • TEAC

  • NAD

There are many more devices, including smartphones and portable players, that can help in the “unfolding” of the MQA file. Please check out the MQA website for more details (MQA Partners).  

Finally there are MQA CDs. The website features six titles including the Doors Waiting for the Sun which has been remastered. The two CD and one LP set will run you $50. We looked and found it difficult to find MQA CDs but we figured why buy the disc when the downloads have no difference in quality.  With that said we tried to download some Van Halen albums but were told that did not have rights to sell the album in the US.

There are other alternatives to MQA. For instance offers high quality tracks that are not encoded with MQA. We found our Van Halen album available there in 96/24 and 192/24 for $17.98 and $24.98 respectively.

Hi-Res Audio is something that won’t appeal to everyone. The music costs more and you need equipment that can handle the higher resolution files. Then there is the debate whether you can hear the difference or, at a minimum, is the difference is worth the added cost. Regardless, for the majority of us, there is no reason to bother. However, for a few of us, it's the only way to listen to music.



Download Episode #893

Reader Comments (1)

Re: the new Harmony Express offering. I, too, am struggling with the price as I'm currently using the combination of a Harmony Hub and the Harmony skill on an Echo to do virtually the same thing for about 1/2 the cost. Plus I can just walk into the room and ask to have the A/V system come on to the desired channel or inputs which you can't do with the Express since you have to find it first and then press the Alexa button. However, it suggests it offers some add'l capability to search for content (like other offerings) although that's not a native Alexa skill and maybe not really possible. Braden made the comment that an Echo by itself could do what the Express is doing but I believe this is not by itself and only when paired with a Harmony hub. Harmony has had physical remotes and even phone apps which can allow you to simplify A/V environments but when a Harmony Hub is paired with an Echo, there's no longer even a need to look for the remote or app. This is especially handy where you have a kitchen next to a family room and you're catching some news while making/having lunch and you can verbally change channels; mute the TV; pause a video; etc. Plus via other Echo skills, you can also verbally control other home automation .. lights, fans, etc. Harmony remotes also have limited home automation assignable buttons but not as flexible as with voice.
Keep up the good work.

April 26, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterIan R.

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