“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.
Want to try MQA Masters for 90-days? TIDAL has a free subscription trial (you have to cancel to avoid paying after 90 days). Once I signed up I went to the Account and upgraded the subscription to the “HiFi” version. It says $19.99/mo but under the trial it didn’t charge me for the upgrade. I then actually cancelled the subscription so it wouldn’t charge PayPal after 90 days. I can always sign up later again and start paying :)
[NOTE: If that 90-day offer special for Beyonce goes away here is there standard trial signup page for 30-days trial: http://tidal.com/us/try-now-b — Select the trial for the HiFi-Masters program on the right. ]
Then download the TIDAL player from here — you need the desktop app to stream MQA masters (it says the Chrome browser will do it as well but I didn’t try that).
Choose the browser app (leftmost) to allow Master MQA playback from your computer.
Once you are in the player you can find MQA under “What’s New” then scroll a page down and you’ll see “Masters” (I highlighted in yellow) in the center of the screen. Choose it to get to the MQA mastered titles. Then you can choose “Show All” to view all the albums available. I have quickly picked over 500 titles (choosing entire albums) and 36 hours of music to try this.
If you have an MQA DAC (Meridian, Mytek,…) you can choose “Masters” again in the lower right corner of the player to popup the setup. You can pick your MQA DAC if it sees the driver. If not, you can use the TIDAL app to decode MQA within its limits whatever they are.
In order to use my Meridian Explorer2 I also had to hover over the driver name then pick the Gear icon setup that allowed me to set the player in “Passthrough” mode which means it hands the audio to my MQA DAC for decoding. I prefer this because it supports up to 24/192k which I see for example on James Taylor’s “Mud Slide Slim” album playback. Amazing! Also choose the “Exclusive Mode” option too as a suggestion.
I bought that LP when I was little more than 10 years old. I still listen to it a lot. Wore out a number of vinyl copies over the years. CD versions of this are never good at all, but the MQA playback at 24/192 streaming from TIDAL (all 3 LEDs and Blue Light) is incredibly good!
I added titles in my playlist from Joni, Jethro Tull, Sabbath, The Dead, Tom Petty, Emmylou Harris, The Band, Jackson Browne…many others. They have some great stuff up there already. I then added Mott The Hoople, Todd Rundgren, Bowie, Dwight Yoakam, Mudcrutch, Mark Knopfler, CSN, Doors. All albums, not songs. I’ve heard some of these CDs with distaste for decades! They sound great through the lossless streaming on TIDAL. What more can I say.
I have a slow Internet sometimes and buffering (stutter) has been a bit of a problem but when the skies are clear, the sound streams fine. This is a great way to try MQA masters lossless quality online without buying any new gear as the TIDAL player will decode the MQA for you. There may be advantages to having your own DAC at some point but not required… Enjoy!
Aloha! – DE
Christmas Blue on YouTube
David Elias – Christmas Blue – YouTube HD
From the brand new “David Elias – Christmas 2016 Sampler (Format Agnostic!)“ playlist online at http://davidelias.bandcamp.com
Lots of hard to find and hard to reach or capture on film places on the Big Island in Hawaii visited here including the peaks of Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea (with snow!), remote beaches at the bottom of steep Pali’s, and the rare explosive Lava Lake that appeared for a few weeks last year on Kilauea Volcano at the Halema’uma’u Crater.
“Christmas 2016 Sampler” is a format agnostic playlist of originals that were created using everything from a stock iPhone, to 2 mics setup in the room at a band studio rehearsal, to the house board at San Francisco’s Great American Music Hall, to a single stereo mic in front of the band performing in a pub/hall, to the uber quality Sonoma DSD workstation from SuperAudioCenter.com.
Careful recording, mixing and mastering allow wide varieties of sources to all co-reside on albums and playlists.
You can preview and download the 10-track Sampler here:
Thanks for listening and sharing music.
Independent Acoustic online since 1995
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
You Came To The Right Place…
Aloha to All – Wishing you the best with a 30% Sale on all titles through Christmas.
Use this Promo Code when you purchase: TAKE30
The Catalog for PCM downloads is here: http://davidelias.bandcamp.com
Remember that these MQA encoded files will play through any software media player or burned to a CD! The sound quality is very good to me and many others at this point no matter how they get played.
You can also download my entire PCM catalog below online (19 albums/titles) for a 55% discount. Just select that option from any of the album pages you click on. These are the PCM/MQA Masters only, not DSD.
Buying albums/tracks on Bandcamp also entitles you to stream the same tracks from a web browser or smartphone forever from the Bandcamp page or smarphone app with surprisingly good quality too.
About MQA – Hi-Res
My hi-res tracks gets unfolded up to 352.8k by an MQA DAC. But the DAC isn’t required to play the hi-res files (SACD gurus think of the hybrid layer, it acts in a similar way).
Just be sure to choose any of the Bandcamp “Lossless” formats: FLAC, ALAC, WAV or AIF. That’s it. It plays no matter which you choose. You can also download any format anytime on titles you’ve purchased.
You can send these as gifts too…choose the “Send as Gift” link.
Mele Kalikimaka! Be Well!
Back in the Store – Oct 9th (Sun) and 14th (Fri) – San Gregorio, Calif.
There’s nothing like a good old General Store that serves beverages and hosts live music to help an autumn weekend out on the Northern California Coast.
I’m back visiting San G. in October – Please come with some friends and family to the shows there on Sunday October 9th (2pm to 5pm) and Friday October 14th (5pm to 7pm).
Here’s their schedule and directions online: SanGregorioStore.com
CD Masters – $5 downloads (with MQA encoding for best sound quality)
To make it offishal, for the next 30 days you can download any of the first 4 CDs I created back in the day (1995 to 2000) as CD Master downloads for $5.
$5 for any of these titles using the discount code for each album shown below.
Lost in the Green – acoustic coffeehouse first CD release 1995/96 – album cover photograph is San G. above the Store off Stage Rd. (same location as scenic pan in this email!).
Use this code: LITG75
Time Forgets – kind of LITG Part 2, some electric instruments added 1997/98 – album cover photo is from one of the annual Greenpeace weekend concerts that went on for 20+ years there.
Use this code: TF75
The Blue Planet – a concept recorded for the planet in 1998 – album cover photo is a blue disc :)
Use this code: BP50
Half An Hour Away – acoustic trio with mando and flute – live session 2000/01 – album cover photo is from Inverness on Tomales Bay near Pt. Reyes Nat’l. Seashore.
Use this code: HAHA75
You can preview the songs on each album page. The downloads are the CD masters with MQA encoding and will play on any media player or you can burn a CD with it.
For the best sound quality, please avoid the Bandcamp default of MP3 format and select one of these from the dropdown list to dowload: FLAC, ALAC, WAV, AIF. You can always download any of the formats anytime after purchase. You can also always stream from the album page online using your smartphone, tablet or computer.
Hope all’s well and wishing you Aloha! Hope to see some of you again in October.
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,
The stereo mixes I’ve done for everything always use “the room” in the mix which is usually largely based on 2 or more rear wall mics capturing those reflections at “the source” (ie the wall) as well as high up (ie, the ceiling).
So I mix the stereo as well as multichannel using those tracks (2 stereo or sometimes 3 with 1 mono). In that way I avoid having to use artificial reverb and delay which is so commonly used (both analog and digital versions of these) in studios that most engineers/producers don’t think twice about it.
By using ambient sound in the mix to bring back the natural reverb and delay (slapback sounds from the wall vs the stage) I can recreate a very authentic reproduction that has nothing artificial added. Just EQ and panning (right and left) during the mix to restore the original sounds and locations in the room.
I started doing this on my own on my very first CD in 1995 (Lost in the Green). I went on to record several other CDs in that fashion through 2001 with Half An Hour Away which I recorded myself in an acoustically beautiful small performance theater in Half Moon Bay on the SF Coast on Hwy 1. Me and my trio at the time (Gary on flute/tenor sax, Lisa on mandolin) played live in the otherwise empty hall for about 4 hours one afternoon with (local fan) director Michael’s permission. I had mics in the audience front rows as well as back at the high seats in the rear wall row. I mixed the 8 total tracks to stereo analog and printed it.
Within a year or two I was planning and then recording “The Window” to DSD in a fancy studio in Boulder using the same approach. They (local engineers) said I couldn’t do it and shouldn’t try — putting all musicians in the same room without isolation (no real traps between musicians!) and creating the live session with as few mics as possible in the room. But I said we should try it just to see what happened so they shrugged and said ok…….. rest is good history for me :)
I think (my ears tell me) that MQA is exactly what was needed to round out the edges imposed by PCM which is how I recorded and mastered those original CDs. It is the coup de gras for returning the original ambient sound characteristics of the room and performance.