The MQA company has a new logo and a new website. They were doing demos and pitching their new technology at the Venetian Hotel during CES 2016 and I spent about 60 minutes chatting with members of their team. I spent some time with Robert Stuart, the inventor of the technology, after he returned from one of the high-res sessions. It was just a year ago that I spent time with Bob and Spencer Chrislu, MQA’s Director of Content Services, in a similar suite at the Venetian and experienced MQA for the first time. I wrote about the experience of hearing Ray Charles and Bob Dylan in the MQA format in a couple of posts. You can check out the articles by clicking here.
The company has made tremendous progress during the intervening 12 months. They have finalized the tools that will used to encode source audio into MQA compatible files. I learned a little about them during the California Audio Show because my table partner was Jonathan Reichbach, the head of Sonic Studios. He’s a very smart guy and has spent decades working with audio digital signal processing and developing professional tools for mastering facilities. I have known him and used his software since I started Pacific Coast Sound Works way back in 1989. He’s the guy behind Amarra, the high-end playback software. MQA has also secured some important strategic “playback partners” including Pioneer, Mytek, Onkyo, Bluesound, Meridian (no big surprise there!), Auralic, Aurender, Ixion, Kripton, Berkeley Audio Design, and Imagination.
I also spoke with Michal Jurewicz, the head of Mytek about MQA and why he believes it’s important for his DACs to include this new technology. His latest DAC is a masterpiece and compatible with virtually every format currently available. It’s called “Brooklyn” and is compatible with virtually every format and sample rate currently available to audiophiles. I’ll share more of my conversation and his thoughts on the “sound” of MQA when I review his DAC. Who knows…by then MQA will have encoded the files that I shared with them many months ago and sent them back. That’s a listening session that I’m looking forward to.
My first encounter in the MQA suite was with Spencer, a long time acquaintance from our days working on DVD-Audio. He was working at Warner Brothers at the time. He insisted that the MQA technology improves the fidelity of any source audio selection. This statement runs counter to the assurances I got from Bob back at the Newport Show in June. At that time, Bob told me that MQA minimizes any loss of fidelity that happens from the original analog transfer to digital through to the final reproduction. That’s different than what Spencer and others have claimed. And it’s important to a record producer and record company owner. I don’t want the fidelity or sound of my source files (which were natively recorded and processed at 96 kHz/24-bits) altered in any way. I like the way they sound when played back in my studio or the demo setups that I’ve realized at AXPONA and other trade shows.
If my recordings are suffering from “time smear” or “time blur” due to recent discoveries in neuroscience, I certainly don’t hear these deficiencies. Is it possible to improve the entire signal path? Yes. But I’m not convinced that a recording made using my all high-resolution digital process warrants the use of MQA. I’m looking forward to hearing some examples so that I offer an informed opinion.
To be continued…