More for some less for others…
If you don’t want to read this and just want to check it out:
Many of us including me started downloading MP3 music online in the mid 90’s. It sucked then. We used 33k or then advanced 56k modems over telephone dialup lines. This means we were getting our audio file data at the rates of 4.2KB, or 7.2KB per second.
Everything about download or transfer speed today is measured in either MB/s or even GB/s. An MB/s is 1000 times faster than a KB/s. A GB/s is 1,000,000 times faster than a KB/s. I feel old.
Songs in MP3 format were then and are still often 1MB data per minute of music. So a 4 minute song (4MB data) took anywhere from say 16 minutes to maybe 10 minutes top speed to download…. zzzz …. zzzz ….. zzzz …… one song, not one album.
A CD version of that same song as a WAV or AIF off the disc took about 10 times as long to download! Now you see why MP3 was so popular even though it didn’t sound great, and why iTunes took advantage of that when they opened their store for downloads in 2004.
(Oops I forgot to mention that by 2004 there was plenty of Cable Modem and DSL and other much much faster internet to the home, but Apple and everyone else was used to MP3 crappy lossy quality by then….so no one adapted to the fact that good quality was also pretty easy to download. Then FLAC format came along and compressed the WAV file size by around half without loss of any music info. Still no one disrupted the money machine called iTunes, even when they made their own FLAC and called it ALAC and could have delivered CD quality back then no problem and no cost.)
Fast Forward to 2009. I started offering DSD downloads of my SACDs to mostly the owners of Sony Playstation3’s since most of the SACD players of that day could not play what was called a DSD Disc (data disc with DSD files) as defined by Sony then.
The DSD Disc was literally a DVD data disc burned with the DSD song files (as DSF types with tags or DFF without tags) in a specific folder hierarchy that allowed players of the day to read the data files and play the music. It broke the mold Sony had created for watermarked copy protection on SACD. You still couldn’t rip SACDs (one can today with the right gear and software).
No one came…
Well a few did, but even though Internet was overall speedy by then (cable modem download speed in Hilo in 2009 was about 650KB/s) it still was not mainstream or always easy to download the large ISO image (to burn the DVD with) for many out there.
My download then was a single 2GB image (zipped ISO file) to burn a DVD disc with to play the audio files on something, either on your computer or on the DVD Disc playing in your Playstation3 or special Sony or Onkyo SACD players that handled DSD Disc as well as SACD.
Rapid Forward to 2017 when Hilo’s Time Warner Cable Modem in some people’s homes breaks the speed meter on speedtest.net at 20MB/s and above as high as maybe 26MB/s.
So while it is easy for some to download hi-res audio, it’s not easy for others. Lots of others. Worldwide. In fact 5 miles up the road from Hilo here in East Hawaii many people may not even be able to get cable modems from Time Warner and so use a much slower and costlier satellite confiugration. If they are in the forest blocking the satellite option and more than a few miles from the nearest telephone wire center (for DSL), forget about it.
By 2011 I moved away from the DSD Disc (ISO) format and just started offering to download the DSF files from my website. Then in 2013 a number of retailers came online to offer DSD downloads and that was great.
Nothing against large file downloads (I guess averages of my stereo DSD files are somewhere around 200MB per song and multichannel maybe 500 per song) but a lot of people around the world and in the US still have trouble with this today. Those files can be hard to retrieve and they take up a lot of space if you have a lot of music. (And they are hard to fit more than a small number into your smartphone.)
Problems often come from slow or interrupted Internet links, confusion on what to even do with files once they are downloaded, or combinations of other things like Safari browsers that insert .TXT file extensions on downloaded files because the server they got the (DSD) file from (like Dropbox) does not properly identify the MIME type for .DSF and .DFF music files.
Aren’t you sorry you asked?
It’s enough to … … … …. ………
A few years ago I thought I’d offer to make downloads and their problems go away for those not interested in the challenge but who wanted the music. So I provided a way to purchase the music as a little USB stick I would then mail to you. You get the USB stick, put it in your computer or BDP player and get right to it.
No one came….
Today I am offering a similar thing but this time using DVD discs as data.
These are just the same kind of good quality DVD discs anyone could burn files to off their PC/Mac for either video or just data. A blank single layer (SL), single sided disc has a 4.7 GB capacity. A double layer (DL) has twice that or 8.5GB. My multichannel SACDs require either 2 SL DVDs or 1 DL DVD.
Why would I do that you ask?
If you don’t like downloading large files but want to listen to the excellent qualities of DSD as the native source format for the hi-res recordings I have released, you might try buying the DVD version and just getting it in the mail.
The sound files are 100% identical to what is online for download. They are the same as what is/was on the SACDs for that matter. Many of my DSD titles were never SACD. These are now all available on DVD disc as well, not just as downloads.
You just pop the DVD into your OPPO or Sony or other Blu-ray/SACD/DVD/CD player (aka BDP for Blu-ray Disc Player) and select Music from from the menu. On my OPPO 103 this is the first icon after the disc (audio CD/video DVD) icon and is called “Music”.
The DVD will then show up on your screen as a “Data Disc” choice (as opposed to, say “USB”). Selecting the Data Disc media then shows the album song list just as it would from a CD or SACD.
Click on a song, play and enjoy. It continues to play songs from there to the end of the list like any CD/SACD.
If you like (and highly suggested by me), just copy the original DVD data to your computer or any backup media you use. In other words, back it up when it’s brand new. No DRM – if you don’t know what that means, good on you.
You can also play the files on your computer from your software media player through your DAC as DoP like any other DSD download. Just put the disc in the computer CD/DVD drive (just a CD drive won’t work) and select those files from your media player software (JRiver, Amarra, Audirvana….). They then play DSD through your external DSD DAC (Mytek, iFi Audio, OPPO….).
DSD on DVD Data Discs. Hope this helps.
Questions about DVD Data Discs? Post a reply and I’ll answer you best I can.
NOTE: I’m not a gear reviewer, just a serious listener for my own enjoyment as well as recording artist trying to get the best sounds on my budget for preparing and editing my own music.
I’ve always had the need to buy things that were on the economy side as much as possible. But my needs for high quality in a lot of the things I am most fond of, particularly music never wants to bend to economics.
So over the years I’ve become persistently good at finding the right products in my price ranges that give me the best sound and best operation overall for music. In our world of virtual realities this is true of guitars, computers, software, microphones, DACs, Preamps/Amplifiers, Internet access, speakers and other disparate things never lumped together in the past so intimately.
I have some favorites for listening to good recordings!
Feel free to contact me via my web page if you have questions about anything I wrote about here. The revolving product I have to buy every 3-5 years that is not listed below is the PC notebook I use for computer audio, a huge part of my world. I spend $250 to $400 on these and can always find the high end portable notebook I need (currently 6GB RAM, i5 Intel quad core 2.6gHz, 1TB 7200rpm drive, 3 USB, 1 HDMI, 14″ screen, CD/DVD RW, Win7 Pro x64).
OPPO HA-2 – $299
While this product has been updated at OPPO by the HA-2SE model at the same price, I have been using the portable HA-2 headphone amplifier, DSD/PCM DAC, iPhone recharger for several years now since its release.
It might be easier to describe this beauty in terms of what it doesn’t do as an optimal mobile HRA device (my term), since it has so many interrelated functions. Overall it is the perfect mobile or home device to handle the digital to analog conversion of music on your computer or iPhone/Android and deliver it to either your headphones/earbuds or wired home stereo/studio.
In addition it has a good 4+ hours of battery that will provide DC voltage to your iPhone while traveling in airplanes and the like. It is portable enough to fit in a shirt pocket or banded together (they provide the thick bands…) with your iPhone in a jean jacket.
The HA-2 charges my iPhone 5S at least 1.5 times during travel, so a fully charged iPhone to begin with can play music with the HA-2 handling DSD64 or 128 and any bitrate PCM you throw at it for flights across the mainland or to Hawaii.
The software player I use to handle hi-res audio files I load onto the iPhone is Onkyo’s HF Player. You download the free version first, then upgrade for $9.99 to handle the hi-res which hands DSD audio to the HA-2 using DoP up to DSD128. All PCM and MP3/AAC can be upsampled to DSD in this mode. Nice! High Precision gives you better signal to noise ratio (i.e., better sound) at a battery use price.
Onkyo’s HF Player app is accessed from the iTunes setup of your iPhone to load the hi-res files (beware this is klunky but can be done). Otherwise it easily finds and plays all your iTunes songs on your iPhone better than the stock Apple music app (reread the upsample to DSD above).
All in all the HA-2 is an incredible value for delivering the highest quality digital audio to your headphones or your home stereo setup. There is both a line out and headphone jack. The analog volume control gives you precise control over gain on the headphone side. I use it this way to feed my preamp too.
Here’s the PDF user guide:
Oh, and it has a patented fast charging AC adapter that recharges the HA-2 in no time.
Meridian Explorer2 MQA DAC – $299
This is the product that for me broke the floodgates of what a listener can actually experience with PCM masters, from CD to hi-res DXD at 24/352.8 or 24/384. It was the first DAC to hit the streets that decoded MQA in lossless PCM master files of any format (WAV, AIF, FLAC, ALAC, etc.).
In 2015 I’d been reading about MQA and all the trials and tribulations of its definition and promises for producing digital audio content as artists and producers had at least heard it in their mastering studio, if not necessarily intended (my humor). It was interesting reading to say the least and the more I read the more interest I had in hearing it.
Using the Explorer2 beginning in February 2016, I started hearing masters created by some of the highest regarded studios in the world, including Norway’s 2L. I was familiar with and owned 2L’s early SACD releases and now saw some of those titles released as MQA DXD downloads.
What I then heard was unlike any PCM master I’d listened to before in the natural sounding reproduction of especially acoustic sounds (my favorite kind).
For $299, the listener had a full PCM DAC up to 24/192 with two outputs for headphones as well as line level to a home stereo/studio setup. That price hasn’t changed as I write this.
This portable (very small and weightless) convenient way of hearing excellent quality PCM of any quality recordings can now be attached via its USB connector to any computer and used to decode streaming music from TIDAL at full “unfolded” rates.
So the streaming bitrate is roughly that of a CD (1.411mbps) depending on the master format (FLAC/ALAC are typically <1.0mbps), but the unfolded bit rate can be as hi-res as 24/192k (9.4mbps, upper limit of the Explorer2, not the limit of all MQA DACs).
My one complaint is the finicky USB connection for this DAC. It seems to lose its USB connection to the PC at the slightest movement. No substituted USB cables seem to improve this condition. It is also slightly annoyingly upside down based on the USB connector orientation which leaves the LEDs facing down.
I believed in the authenticity and comfortable enjoyable listening of what I heard as PCM using the Explorer2 so much that I became an MQA Ltd. artist/content partner and with their help converted all my CD and hi-res masters to MQA encoding for others to download or stream.
OPPO PM-3 Closed Planar Magnetic Headphones – $399
Prices for headphones are as volatile in ranges as the Dow month to month. What sounds good sometimes works for some, even as studio/industry standards, but either costs at least twice the PM-3 price, or just doesn’t sound as good to others.
What I found with this comfortable setup is a highly unintrusive sounding headphone that shields me from outside noise distractions (I hate those) and is comfortable enough to wear for a few hours at a time. They have a clean alive sound that isn’t biased towards either sizzling highs or thumping bass lines and kick drum samples.
OPPO loves good sound as represented by all of their products and these are no exception in a price range many can afford compared to other big names in studio quality headphones. A single stereo 1/8″ cable comes with this which is convenient for wearing as well.
You can read about planar magnetic approaches to speakers and headphones elsewhere. I like them because of their flat honest sound reproduction abilities.
Zipbuds Pro – about $25
I found and ordered these a couple years back on a whim based on price and the description of the product which included reference to a military grade fibers that don’t decompose in the weather and rain (Hawaii weather decomposes everything from cars to houses to electronic gear in no time).
Also descriptions of the care taken to complete the audio quality as well as patented zipper approach to no-tangle were attractive. A (very very good) noise cancelling mic for iPhone use was a coup de gras. For $25 what the heck (list may be closer to $50 but easy to find online for $25 or so).
I had hated earbuds forever, but Zipbuds allowed me to recover from that remarkably. Their product description did not even mention solving one crucial factor that has had me rejecting all earbuds since the earliest Apple iPhone set in 2007: They really hurt my ears to wear.
Zipbuds fit your ears at an angle. There is a soft rubberized attachment fitted in the 3 sizes (SML) they include. The angular thing greatly helps both comfort and sound problems. I never take the Zipbuds out because they are starting to hurt my ears. That is remarkable.
There is clearly a left and right for fit and sound (which changes dramatically if they are reversed). While the R/L is not well marked on the Zipbuds themselves you just need the logo on the zipper facing out and you got it right.
I have also found more than subtle differences in SQ based on how firmly the Zipbuds are inserted in my ears. If I want more bass, I simply push them in a little further. Is that design or simply the convenience of fate?
I’ve shared these as gifts with lots of people, strict audiophiles and otherwise. Without exception they have been received with the same enthusiasm as I have for them. My second or third set came with a note in the box with the CEO Rob’s phone number saying to call if I wanted.
So I did call Rob one day and had a great conversation with him about hi-res in general. They are working hard to make it feel and sound right for their customers and have been at it a good long time now in Internet years.
For travel and on the go, nothing beats Zipbuds for quality of sound and convenience. I eagerly participated in their 2016 Kickstarter campaign for their new Catalyst product which is not shipping yet (ok, they are late by a month or two so far…).
Catalyst is a very high quality Bluetooth wireless set of balanced (fitted/weighted) earbuds that deploy AptX and AAC for lossless delivery of sound to the listener without wires. Check it out.
No wires – 16 hrs battery for playtime, lossless sound quality, comfortable fit. Wireless is where I’m headed in every aspect of what I’m doing with electronics.
iFi Audio Micro iTube preamp/buffer – $329
Another great product I have is the original version of this product. It refers to itself as the Swiss Army Knife of Audio.
An iTube2 was just released by this highly innovative and nimble company. iFi-Audio.com has some killer products they deliver to audio lovers at great economy worldwide. Everything from portable DSD/PCM DACs to headphone amps to USB filters and special cables.
Here’s the relatively new setup I now buy into with my ears: Tube preamplifiers are the best staging device for any good solid state amplifier.
I place the iFi-Audio iTube in between my OPPO 103 SACD/DVD/Blu-ray player and the amplifier I am using (currently NAD 906 multichannel). Having used other preamps and AV processors (all solid state) I immediately found the tube result to be a much more natural sounding delivery from the amp to the speakers.
Everything just sounds better but most noticeable was the serious bottom coming through my Monitor Audio Gold Series towers. I can’t get that acoustic upright or electric bass and kick drum to sound any more coincidentally solid and spacious in the room (wood floors and ceilings) any other way. Voices and instruments also lost edges and yes, even shimmered.
Another huge benefit here for the $329 price is that it will allow many who are mistakenly playing DSD as converted PCM in a player such as the OPPO 103 to now correctly configure the OPPO to convert native DSD directly to analog to send to the iTube preamp.
NOTE WITH CAUTION: To do this make sure OPPO is set to play SACD as “DSD” not “PCM” and disable Audio on HDMI. ****** Be sure not to set SACD playback to DSD unless you have volume control through a preamp or other means – Otherwise you can send 100% gain to your amplifier and do some damage to your speakers, ears and maybe more.******
You can read more on this from my post in 2013: Bartender, Give Me A Sandwich.
I typically use the iTube “Digital Antidote” feature that notably reduces ringing and digital distortion. I typically do not use the 3D Holographic sound feature.
This new release of all new tracks on CD, all solo acoustic, is encoded with MQA. That means if you play the CD in a computer audio or CD player setup that decodes MQA, you will get the full sound quality of the tracks.
You can Two Track Mind – Solo Acoustic” here at CD Baby: http://cdbaby.com/cd/davidelias19
However it can play on any CD player including in your car. It sounds great. The MQA encoding is beneficial especially to my ears at CD quality resolution regardless whether it is decoded or not. There is no hi-res to unfold on this master so there is nothing missing!
Just a new way of creating good sounding CDs. You’ll may see a lot more MQA CDs out there in the future…
You can rip this CD like any other. The MQA is preserved as long as you rip to a lossless format like FLAC or ALAC or WAV or AIF. The ripped tracks are then identical to what’s on the disc.
A new world in digital music no doubt. Mahalo!
“MQA is a revolution that comes along once in a lifetime.” – Robert Hartley, TAS, July 2015
Since CES 2017 a week ago a lot of people have become a lot more curious about MQA.
I started reading a lot of detail about MQA in the latter part of 2015. I started listening to it in Feb. 2016 with a Meridian Explorer2 MQA DAC.
I became an MQA Ltd. content/artist partner a few months after that and released my first MQA titles as DXD (24/352.8) encoded with MQA and folded to 24/44.1 in June 2016.
I now have at least 20 CD to hi-res MQA master titles, mostly albums online at http://davidelias-mqa.com for preview and download. MQA sound quality has allowed me to release many things I’ve had in my back catalog as wonderfully natural sounding acoustic recordings. So yes, the way they were intended.
It was the PCM solution to good sound I had been looking for with a very tiny footprint to boot for downloading and hopefully streaming someday (like today). It didn’t replace DSD for me, it fixed PCM.
While a lot has been written about MQA in the past 18 months, I’ve found much of it to be highly politicized and not even always reported correctly.
I find that this article written by Robert Hartley a year an a half ago still serves as one of the best concise (not complete as he states) summaries of what is behind MQA sonically, not politically.
Hearing MQA is still what many have yet to do. But this article helps clearly explain “what” it is, not “why” it is.
I’m no expert no doubt but here’s something I can wholly suggest reading if you are seeking a better understanding of the MQA machinery finally at work in the market today.
If you are on TIDAL’s free trial or paid subscription and want to hear 2 excellent acoustic albums that have been with me my whole life, try James Taylor’s “Mud Slide Slim” and Joni Mitchell’s “Blue”. This was 1970 if I remember right.
These two albums in my history with popular music were the very sparks of what went on to define what became the “singer-songwriter” genre some 25 years later.
JT’s master on TIDAL unfolds streaming to 24/192 with an MQA DAC (TIDAL player in passthrough mode) and sounds fantastic. Again if I remember right, “Blue” unfolds to 24/96. Just a truly amazing singer and her guitar or piano or dulcimer.
I’ve come to think of MQA as two completely different faces in one container. This appears to be fully misunderstood by many.
On one hand MQA is a time coherence correction tool that makes quantum leaps in restoring the ambient synchronization of frequency and location arrival of sound to the listener. It does this with both analog recording ADC and playback DAC knowledge applied to remove pre- and post-ringing echoes that typically create huge miscues to the listener’s ear on what was played when, and from where in the room on the recording. These miscues are cause for endless fatiguing analysis and corrections done by the human ear which is monumentally sensitive to timing and location, much more so than to pitch (frequency) itself.
The other face (unrelated entirely) of MQA is its ingenious methods of folding hi-res recordings (up to 24/384kHz) to nothing greater than 24/48kHz in any lossless PCM format including the popular file compressed formats of FLAC (PC) and ALAC (Mac). This allows the full spectrum of sound and air/harmonics to be restored on playback by MQA enabled DACs using little more than, or even less than 1mbps bandwidth on transport and delivery to the DAC.
Folding is 100% lossless with regard to the noise floor in the recording. No ambiguities there whatsoever. The fast (compressed) delivery of the data reduces the time and space required to allow quick and easy transport over Internet for downloads or streaming as well as on standard CD capacity disks. This is almost 20x smaller than the data/bandwidth footprint of a WAV or AIF hi-res PCM download at 24/384k and the popular DXD (24/352.8k). The latter monstrous file sizes prohibit downloads for almost everyone and streaming is not possible at all. MQA solves this problem with 100% bit perfect accuracy in a package almost 20 times smaller on delivery.
So MQA’s two-faced solution restores an edgeless natural enjoyable ambient sound to PCM masters at any resolution by removing brickwall filter imposed edges as time smearing. And MQA delivers in a package (PCM format) that fully accommodates all known media requirements for users including (I hope!) future wireless lossless full resolution transmissions.
All this is done with full portability by the user to any and all media devices for playback including non-MQA equipment. CD ripping and format conversions (e.g., between FLAC, ALAC, WAV, AIF) can be done by anyone at anytime with the full preservation of the MQA encoding. Royalties are paid by the sources (record labels, MQA compatible equipment mfgs, streaming services) not unlike CD, Dolby, DTS, and many other popular digital audio technologies used by the recording and film industries for many decades.
What’s not to like?
– DE, http://davidelias-mqa.com
Lucky $7 Sale – Aloha to Lester…
We were quite lucky in Hawaii this Labor Day weekend with the oncoming Cat 4 hurricane Lester (2nd approaching in consecutive weekends) when it chose (with Pele’s urging) to move north and bypass all islands. Here it is as of this morning. Bad ass!
I have a Lucky $7 album download price on all of my hi-res albums that are now encoded as PCM using MQA to improve the PCM sound quality as well as reduce the size of the files you download.
Here’s the deal – When you buy any of these album downloads online at http://davidelias-mqa.com you can checkout using the “code name” below to get 70% off. That will adjust the price of the album to $7.
These are all hi-res! If you have an MQA DAC today it will unfold the Studio Authenticated MQA hi-res audio above 24/44.1 (up to 352.8kHz) and play it.
If you don’t have a MQA DAC today, you can still play these great sounding recordings on any player you have (iTunes, smartphone, JRiver, Audirvana, Amarra, foobar2000). If you get the MQA DAC later or it becomes available in the player you are using later (based on whoever makes the media player adopting MQA) it will unfold the hi-res at that time.
Either way, you can download the albums for $7 now until midnight (UTC which is Greenwich Mean Time) on Tuesday September 6th.
Use the code above (like: labor2016sampler) for the album you are buying and it will discount the price by 70% which will be $7.
You can checkout using a credit card or PayPal account, both are secure encrypted by PayPal.
(“Name Your Price” is an option as well, up to you or leave blank to keep price at $7.)
When it comes to actually downloading the files make sure you choose one of these formats (click the dropdown arrow to see all the choices on download): FLAC, ALAC, AIFF, WAV.
I recommend FLAC which is the original master uploaded. MQA works fine in the 3 other lossless formats as well but keeping it as FLAC is the simplest I’ve found in a few cases. Bandcamp lets you down any or all of the formats it offers so you can try more than one. If you want an MP3 copy for your phone or whatever that’s ok too, just be aware it won’t play as MQA authenticated.
The other nice thing here is that Bandcamp allows you to stream the albums you buy forever after from the website page — or download their smartphone app (iPhone/Android).
Mahalo to All and Happy Holiday – anywhere you go, you always take the weather :)
(questions reply to this message and I get it, no one else does)
MQA – The Room – Lo-Res got better…
The press on MQA is full of a lot of things but not too many of them have to do with how it sounds. I’ve been listening to CDs since you have, since the beginning, early 80’s. I wouldn’t even buy them until the 90’s cause they didn’t sound good. My cassettes made from my vinyl sounded a lot better to me.
I didn’t have to read about it to know that then.
In fact I didn’t like digital audio until I got introduced to DSD in 1999. It finally sounded better than anything I had heard before!
But CDs and CD quality (and worse: MP3, AAC) didn’t go away. I tried :)
I have made a lot of recordings over the years since the 80’s. Even the 70’s. They started on tape, 1/4″. Even multitrack cassette. So so quality. Good times. Then 8 track digital (not 8-tracks, well yes in my bus in the 70’s) at 16/48. Not bad and way good enough for early DIY and online 1995…
I made those recordings for early CDs, unreleased stuff, and then started recording shows using 1-bit Sony TCD-8 and TCD-10 DAT machines at 48kHz. Not bad! Often these were recorded through a single strereo mic I setup in the room in front of the band. To capture the sound we were making that day with those sets (which weren’t written down usually).
Guess how MQA Ltd describes their tech/product:
“MQA is a revolutionary new technology borne from a simple desire: to bring the listener as close as possible to the artist’s original performance.”
Was I interested in how that sounded when I first read about it? Yes I sure was!
So I have gone back to most if not all my earlier digital recordings and even some tape transfers to PCM and worked with MQA Ltd. to have them encoded as MQA. It sounds a lot better than what I had listened to as CD masters and the like before. Sometimes a lot better.
Here’s what I don’t read the press saying about MQA, but that I find extremely valuable about this technology…
When the master being encoded as MQA is CD quality at 16/44.1, the MQA time resolution repairs (my term) done to the master which remove the audible pre-echo ringing and maybe some post-echo ringing are distinctly heard as huge improvements to the sound, ALL WITHOUT USING ANY SPECIAL EQUIPMENT.
No one has to buy anything such as new audio gear to hear these improvements on the natural sound of the recording. You don’t need a new software media player or a new DAC or wires or computer or anything else. You just play it through what you usually play music through (computer, phone) or burn it to CD! I think you will hear the difference.
An MQA DAC such as the Meridian Explorer2 (PCM up to 192k for $299 US) will unfold hi-res masters to restore and play the higher frequencies. These sound great too!
This is in addition to what I mentioned earlier. But for CDs as masters (original 16/44.1 recordings) there was no hi-res (high frequencies) recorded or mastered. I find the MQA DAC further improves even these (CD) masters somewhat, but it’s not required.
Here’s what a recent listener who was comparing my “Time Forgets” MQA Master against the original CD said. This was on a Macbook, with no DAC or any other special gear, just iTunes playing the 2 versions of the album, alternating and comparing each song:
“oh wow – oh my god
clearer crisp sharp, gawd!! no question
wow! you can hear everything better, everything being all the instruments
sharper clearer you can hear every distinctive instrument, awesome”
I’ve gotten a lot of comments like these from both straight A music lovers as well as from hard core audiophiles.
So I am offering you a 75% discount on the $20 MQA Master download of a live recording of a full band made on a TCD-8 using a single $99 Sony stereo mic setup on a mic stand maybe 6-8 feet in front of the band playing.
Illegal Copy #2 – David Elias & The Great Unknown
Recorded in San Gregorio General Store, 2002
Click Here To Preview or Download the Illegal Copy #2 album…
These 9 songs were a lot of fun to play in the Store that day and were recorded at 48kHz then mastered by me at 44.1kHz. What you can download for $5 is the MQA version of the master encoded by MQA Ltd. (http://www.mqa.co.uk).
I made some bootleg copies of the recording back then for some friends and the musicians but it didn’t sound quite good enough to me to release as a CD. The energy and performance were good, just the sound wasn’t really “the room”. Now it is. Close enough for an illegalized copy :)
This is a roots low-level basic recording. It’s not hi-res. But it sounds like the room when I hear it now after all these years. I’ve had audiphile comments on this same recording expressing their appreciation and enjoyment of the natural honest and ambient characteristics of this master. That’s all I could hope for.
Use this PROMO CODE for 75% off: illegalized (no capital letters necessary).
Share this with anyone you want. The PROMO expires on midnight (UTC) 8/31/2016. The CD download is $5.
I now have 17 MQA Mastered titles (mostly albums) online to preview and download here:
Aloha to all and thanks for listening,
Introducing you to MQA with 4 songs.
UPDATED Jan 18, 2017
These 4 songs now download for $4. There is 1 free track available
Here is how MQA Ltd. described me in their newsletter this week (emphasis is mine):
MQA Artist Release
Sound quality has been a driving motivation for singer-songwriter David Elias since he started recording his music digitally more than 20 years ago. On listening to some of his earliest recordings encoded with MQA, David noted, “The original intention and sounds are much more accurately represented [with MQA] and are therefore much, much more enjoyable to listen to. The convenience of MQA’s smaller file size is an additional no-brainer.”
This paragraph says a lot for me because I’ve lived with CD and its problems with sound quality as long as everyone else. In fact I had no CDs long after many did, sticking to vinyl and even my own mix tape cassettes (analog ruled) for years after the CD deluge. It sounded better. I liked album covers. What can I say.
I broke my teeth on CD quality recording in 1995 making my first CD in a home studio setup. I recorded to Hi-8 Video Tape at 16/48 on an 8-track Tascam DA-88. I’d recorded myself at times on various tape machines and a few digital boxes for almost 20 years but this was much different.
I listened to a lot of everything I put on tape through that whole process of recording, mixing analog (lengend original Mackie 1202!) to 16/44.1 (Sony TCD-10 DAT) and then mastered on a DyaxisII Workstation. It sounded good and in fact better in the studio than on the final CD that was printed.
Those early CDs and many later recordings were either created or converted to PCM to be moved online one way or another. All my released songs are on YouTube Music now for example, as audio, as well as lots of other places, like 50 or more. The more they travel in the Etherspace the worse they sound generally. They get downsampled and converted into whatever suits the retailer or streaming radio like Pandora (one of my least favorites for sound quality).
But shoots, I want to get heard…otherwise I wouldn’t put music I write out there in the first place.
Enter MQA… I started listening to it in February on hi-res converted music from 2L in Norway. Classical works. I knew some of them from 10+ years prior as SACDs I had actually been given by Morten Lindberg there. 2L put MQA converted masters (DXD conversions which are PCM at 24/352.8) online to try as well as other hi-res formats. I was using a Meridian Explorer2 MQA DAC connected to my Dell Windows 10 notebook running the latest JRiver.
All I can say is I didn’t hear anything I didn’t like, and in some cases heard some things I really really liked.
So I started listening to other MQA encoded tracks. MQA is not a new audio format. It is still linear PCM, just has its own corrections (aka filtering) applied to the encoding of the music.
What I started paying attention to more and more and hearing more and more were the timing coherence corrections in the playback. What PCM has always done to my ears, along with countless others, is present a very sharp unnatural edge to the sound that can get worse for me the louder or harder the music is played. It doesn’t flow like vinyl, cassette, or DSD. Usually it kind of attacks quickly, then disappears. It’s not relaxing, let me put it that way.
MQA encoded tracks I listened to had lost much of that sharp attack, no decay characteristic. They were well presented and much easier to listen to. They positioned things more clearly in the stereo space noticeably including the front and back locations in addition to left and right. The soundstage was then more 2 dimensional with depth as well as 3 dimensional with up and down.
This listening started with a lot of music I didn’t know, yet I was happy to listen to it with open ears so to speak.
Over the next few months, I decided I wanted to hear some of my PCM recordings as MQA and started making inquiries as to how I might do that. In the end, I became an MQA artist partner and have converted my catalog and archives to MQA encoded PCM.
I’ve actually had most of my catalog online as PCM on the Bandcamp site (http://davidelias.bandcamp.com) as CD quality up to 24/88.2 for a couple years now. Now most of that has been updated to download in the smaller FLAC or ALAC MQA encoded files.
Overall, MQA sounded better to me than any CD or hi-res PCM master I had. It doesn’t need much more proof to me. I have read a lot about the “what it is” and “why it works” to understand that better, but after my intro through reading and some YouTubes, I just started listening a lot. I still am.
What About The 4 Songs… The first album on the page at the link above is a free download. You can also stream it as much as you want. Bandcamp lets you download songs in a variety of formats. The default is MP3. Don’t download it as MP3!
MQA requires what’s called a lossless format — The 4 big lossless formats being used out there are the original WAV (PC) and AIF (Mac) and their file (not audio) compressed counterparts FLAC (PC) and ALAC (Mac). Choose one of those when you download from anywhere no matter what the site or music! It is not missing some of its music from the original like MP3!
FLAC and ALAC are roughly 1/2 the size of WAV and AIF. They sound identical and are better at carrying the magic metadata or tags that include all the song and album info for the media player to display when playing the track.
MP3 and Apple’s AAC use math to remove audio data in an original CD or hi-res audio master to make it a much smaller file (in general about 1/10th the size). That was the strategy from the beginning when everyone was dialing up the Internet on modems. It made sense then as one didn’t want to stay online for hours or days to download an album. Apple cemented that approach since iTunes Store came online in 2004. How long will that go on? As long as people buy it I guess.
Excuse Me, What About The 4 Songs… Ok, I have a lot of MQA encoded music I am really kind of hearing for the first time myself. This includes both very good and some not so great recordings (like live public hall stuff through a single $99 Sony stereo mic to DAT).
Most of it got created as a PCM recording. The MQA encoded versions of these tracks changed how they sound to me and took me a lot closer to the original performance whether was studio or live stage. It sounds more like the sound in the room at the time and what was played and I am relaxed when I listen to it because of that.
Go here and try 4 songs at 3 different PCM resolutions, all encoded as MQA
If I went into too much detail this email might get long :)
Here’s the (short) not so fine print:
1) If you have an MQA DAC you can hear the full resolution up to 24/352.8 or the limits of your MQA DAC.
2) If you don’t have an MQA DAC you can just play it anyway at 16/44.1, 24/44.1 or 24/48 depending on source track
3) If you get an MQA DAC later (or the media players do it for you) you’ll hear the hi-res then
The song audio resolutions range from CD (16/44.1) hi-res (24/96) to DXD (24/352.8). They are all only about as big as a CD file to download (about 700MB), maybe a little bigger.
CD’s sound better as MQA to me with or without the MQA DAC gear. You can just play them. I’ve had different people tell me the same thing about my stuff. So far I have heard its biggest benefits on the lowest res recordings. I might even know why.
If you have questions you can reply to this email, it just comes to me…I hope you try downloading the tracks. If you have an MQA DAC, don’t stream them, download them!
Thanks For Listening!