Dr. AIX's POSTS — 14 September 2017


MQA continues to spin their thread of sonic improvements through “origami” and removing “time smear” with high-end equipment manufacturers, audiophile reviewers, and streaming services. Among professional audio engineers and equipment designers, the jury is still out on the merits of MQA. I’ve made my position pretty clear over the past couple of years — they have developed solution to a non problem. There is no need to enhance fidelity beyond high-resolution PCM, FLAC encodes are DRM free and open to everyone and deliver better compression, and virtually all tracks consumed on disc or via streams aren’t high-resolution to start with and therefore can’t possibly benefit from MQA. Not to mention the minor detail that Robert Stuart and his team offered to encode a number of my own high-resolution tracks, lend me an MQA capable DAC, and let me evaluate the before and after for myself. I uploaded a bunch of AIX Records files almost 3 years ago and stopped pestering Robert and other company representatives many months ago. I gave up.

In my humble opinion, the only people that will benefit from MQA are the principals at MQA, their investors, audiophile writers (they have something new to write about), and content companies that will be able to resell their catalogs once again at premium prices.

A recent chapter in the debate happened without anyone knowing about it. I turns out that the head of a very well respected manufacturer suggested that he would like to be the moderator for an informative seminar on MQA with panelists representing informed points of view at the upcoming Rocky Mountain Audio Fest. He offered to do this given the high level of interest in this topic. Show attendees would welcome the opportunity to learn more about MQA and this would benefit the show. Both pro and con representatives were approached and politely asked to participate. I was asked to participate and accepted the offer as did LA mastering engineer Brian Lucey. After several false positives, everyone from MQA declined. I was asked if I knew others — both pro and con — that might want to be part of what would ultimately be a very informative event at RMAF. I passed along a number of names: audio engineers, mastering engineers, high-end equipment designers (that have included MQA and others that refuse to), record company executives, and bloggers. With a few exceptions, everyone declined.

The following are some quotes from the email exchange that I had with the moderator:

“Anonymous…is another very intelligent designer who has no use for MQA.”

MQA wrote “that they wouldn’t have any presence at RMAF this year according to Spencer Chrislu, an MQA representative.”

One pair of electrical engineers and designers, “…sent thoughtful individual messages declining because they don’t want to dignify MQA with their presence. They both think it is a total scam and their positions are already on record.”

Mike Jbara, head of MQA,”subsequently decided not to have anyone participate because of the intemperate tone of prior MQA groups.”

So the organizers decided to cancel the Saturday noon panel on MQA. Frankly, I was surprised and more than a little disappointed. It seems MQA is fine with one-sided presentations and photo ops — I been to several of Robert’s presentations, seen the photos of Mytek and MQA, and viewed testimonials videos on YouTube by Grammy winning engineers. But if it comes down to an open and honest discussion between intelligent individuals on both sides of the issue, they get cold feet. MQA and their promotional strategy nedd to be willing to debate others that oppose their technology. Apparently, some in their camp don’t believe that their message can survive critical analysis and open debate.

I sent the article above to the moderator for his review and approval. He granted his consent and asked that I include the following additional information:

“There is one point that I’d ask you to include. Before I pitched this seminar to RMAF I assumed that MQA would be represented on the panel. I reached out to Spencer on August 16th. He wrote back that he wasn’t certain that anyone from MQA would be going to RMAF and not to count on someone from MQA participating.

I wrote back the same day:
“I’m sorry you won’t be at RMAF. Could you please suggest a few people who can best advocate for MQA on the merits of the technology?” On September 5th, Spencer wrote that he was still searching for a name. Shortly after that I expressed my concerns to the show that a seminar wouldn’t viable without someone from MQA. I am certain this is why the show cancelled it.”

There you have it — a look from the inside of the MQA debate.


Don’t forget to stop by the YARRA 3DX Kickstarter campaign page. The first three days have been very encouraging. If you’re in the market for a great sounding, immersive sound bar, this unit offers things others don’t. Visit the campaign and consider backing our campaign by clicking here.

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About Author


Mark Waldrep, aka Dr. AIX, has been producing and engineering music for over 40 years. He learned electronics as a teenager from his HAM radio father while learning to play the guitar. Mark received the first doctorate in music composition from UCLA in 1986 for a "binaural" electronic music composition. Other advanced degrees include an MS in computer science, an MFA/MA in music, BM in music and a BA in art. As an engineer and producer, Mark has worked on projects for the Rolling Stones, 311, Tool, KISS, Blink 182, Blues Traveler, Britney Spears, the San Francisco Symphony, The Dover Quartet, Willie Nelson, Paul Williams, The Allman Brothers, Bad Company and many more. Dr. Waldrep has been an innovator when it comes to multimedia and music. He created the first enhanced CDs in the 90s, the first DVD-Videos released in the U.S., the first web-connected DVD, the first DVD-Audio title, the first music Blu-ray disc and the first 3D Music Album. Additionally, he launched the first High Definition Music Download site in 2007 called iTrax.com. A frequency speaker at audio events, author of numerous articles, Dr. Waldrep is currently writing a book on the production and reproduction of high-end music called, "High-End Audio: A Practical Guide to Production and Playback". The book should be completed in the fall of 2013.

(47) Readers Comments

  1. Mark,

    I guess you haven’t been writing much on the topic of high-res audio in general lately, including MQA, because you’ve said your piece many, many times over. Perhaps Bob Stuart can’t find time for you because you have clearly already made up your mind.

    As for finding a “solution to a non problem”, acting as a shill for the soundbar – no matter how good you think it sounds – puts you in exactly the same position as, oh say, proponents of any other new tech or hardware. You can’t point the finger at others for doing the same.

    Unsubscribing today. Thanks for the newsletters over the past few years. I still look forward to one day soon receiving the book.


    • Mike, I’m sorry to see you go. I’ve been focused on the book, health, and family more over the past few months. And yes, I’ve contributed to the YARRA 3DX effort, which does deliver a new and state-of-the-art technology to listeners. When I see a sightless gamer run through several levels of a game based solely on sound localization, I’m impressed. I don’t considered myself a “shill” as you say because the area of sound field modelling AND my passion for surround music presentations are enhanced with this simple speaker unit. MQA is something quite different.

      The book is due back from the printer in about 10 days. I will be shipping them to backers by the end of the month.

    • “As for finding a “solution to a non problem”, acting as a shill for the soundbar – no matter how good you think it sounds – puts you in exactly the same position as, oh say, proponents of any other new tech or hardware. You can’t point the finger at others for doing the same.”

      That’s a really cheap shot. Here’s why: Mark isn’t afraid of putting it out there for critique for one. For another he mixes in SURROUND. Wave beaming technologies are right up his alley wrt the sound reproduction side. I have a news flash: His job IS to shill his product and anything that really shows it off. Don’t be naive.

      Most of his content is pretty vendor agnostic but I don’t believe for a minute that it’s always going to be so.

      • Thanks Mark.

    • My take on MQA is that is a quality stamp like THX for the masses. It’s a master recording signed off by the artist. I think that’s something some people would want. It’s like having a digital autograph in the form of an album that each artist is happy to give when they approve of the copy made from the master recording.

      It’s not a new format. It’s an artists approval of what copies sound like coming from the original, no matter what the format. That’s better than a label signing off on an album without the artist’s approval.

      • It is a new format and one that involves lossy encoding. There are other — none proprietary ways — to accomplish the same thing. MQA is a business concept and does nothing for audio fidelity.

  2. Certainly not boding well for the MQA department. I havn’t even bothered following it closely. I suspect you are right Mark. Wouldn’t upgrading recording studio’s methods and digital formats be a more productive road.

    I had reason to listen to a CD album recorded in New Zealand 10 years ago on basic studio equipment with little tweaking at mastering level. Boy does it sound great, just has more music on it, fills the room with no effort. In comparison to an International recent CD album release which sounds lifeless and bright. The life has been sucked out of this recording in the process!!!!! Turning it up just sounds worse!!!!!!


    • Robert, you’re exactly right about where fidelity could be improved. I was talking to a prominent mastering engineer the other day and he described his process for “finalizing” commercial CD releases. He’s not interested in fidelity but in creating a sound that enhances the music for the target audience. He will deliberately clip a signal, add distortion, and reduce fidelity in the interest of the music. He operate entirely at 44.1 kHz/24-bits.

  3. Hello Mark,

    Thanks for the additional information on the cancellation by MQA on what surely would have been one of the most highly-attended seminars at the RMAF. I am frankly quite surprised by this decision from MQA, as the CES has declined in relevance to high-performance audio sharply in the past few years. All of the manufacturers that I know don’t have the resources to promote every single one of the currently high number of regional US shows, and instead focus on the Munich show to meet international dealers and press, and then select one (or at most two) regional shows to support.

    The RMAF has steadily grown from humble beginnings into what is arguably the most relevant show for high-performance audio in the US. (Some would point to CEDIA, but not only is that aimed at the custom-install crowd – automated lighting, curtains, home security, and video in addition to audio, but they seem to have lost their rudder and recently sold the show to an independent group with virtually no experience in the field. 2017 was the last hurrah for the CEDIA as run by itself. In 2018 it will be completely run by a company whose sole business i putting on trade shows, but has no experience whatsoever with either audio or video. Not many are optimistic about a good outcome going forward.)

    In contrast, RMAF has a lot going for it – central location, spectacular scenery and weather, plenty of great food and accommodations, and normally a big presence from the headphone community (Can-Jam). I really don’t know of any other domestic show with the track record of both excellent attendance and excellent press coverage. MQA’s decision to completely ignore this opportunity to promote their technology is completely baffling to me, and leaves me wondering if there is more to the story than has been let on. Thanks again for a well-written, informative article.

    • Hi Charles…and thanks for coming by. I’ve been offline for too long dealing with life and focusing on completing my book, which is done and headed to customers very soon. I have always liked the RMAF and recall fondly sharing a lunch with Al years ago. I hadn’t heard the CEDIA has become a corporate event. The AXPONA show, which was started by my good friend Steve Davis and his lovely wife Carmen, was a great show for many years until a large entity came along and purchased it. They’ve tried to maintain the quality but it’s all about money and growth when dollars are involved. AIX Records put on a full 5.1 surround demonstration room every year to rave reviews. But this year, I’m going to pass…they just keep raising the costs and the audiences get smaller. Thanks again.

      I’d be interested in your thoughts about beamforming speakers like the unit my friends at Comhear are offering. Surround sound without all of the hardware AND cost. Sound field modelling is the way of the future — at least for the masses.

  4. I’ve been emailing back and forth with audio journalist Michael Fremer lately about MQA. He’s adamant that we’d all be instant believers if only we heard Bob Stuart’s demo. I explained to Mike repeatedly that if his demo really does sound different than CD-quality 44/16, then he must be using trickery. I added:

    “I don’t need to hear an MQA demo to know that 44/16 recording is perfectly transparent. As a professional recording engineer I do this all the time! I hear a microphone source, then hear the playback. The playback is fine. It’s perfect. It sounds just like the source. When you say ‘CD has horrible problems that are easy to hear [and Bob Stuart’s demo reveals this],’ it’s clear you’re either exaggerating or just unable to tell good sound from bad. Since you think vinyl sounds better than digital, that’s my guess.”

    I just emailed Mike again with a link to this post, and hopefully he’ll chime in to educate us all. :->)

    • Nothing personal against Mr. Fremer, but why do we care what a non-engineer has to say about technical stuff he doesn’t understand? (I believe Mr. Fremer’s degree is in labor relations.) He’s important because of his platform running a major audiophile site. And his going-ballistic behavior, comments-wise, when anyone criticizes vinyl, is actually rather endearing. But none of these guys have what the lawyers would say is “standing” to comment on this stuff.

      I believe we shouldn’t waste time trying to educate the uneducable. Would your brain surgeon spend time trying to disabuse you of errors you might have in your understanding of neurobiology? No! That’s why he went to medical school. Me, I went to engineering school, and my one comment in that regard relevant to MQA is, digital filters was not a trivial course.

      One cannot expect someone off the street w/out a tech background to understand that stuff in any meaningful way. So right away they lack knowledge of a key domain relevant to the MQA discussion. And many of them have also demonstrated that they believe Information Theory (Nyquist, Shannon) is just a “theory,” same way some folks think evolution, climate change etc. are fungible “theories” which one can interpret at will.

    • How can you have any respect for a man who demagnetizes plastic phonograph records?

      I know the usual audiophile answer. If you haven’t heard it, how can you know it doesn’t work. Well as a scientist and an engineer who knows a lot about material science, electrical and magnetic fields I just do. But John Atkinson said he heard it under very dubious conditions that were completely uncontrolled. How disappointing but unsurprising that the man didn’t have even the curiosity to take it into his lab to perform even one before and after test that he could measure and assess even using his limited knowledge and skill to draw some conclusion to base an opinion on. That’s the trouble with audiophiles. They don’t know anything and believe they know everything. Corresponding with Fremer strikes me as a complete waste of time. He has nothing to say that could possibly interest me as someone who has experimented with this technology for over 50 years.

    • Can all these audio reviewer genus, get an ear test by a expert audiologist, or ear doctor, and publish the results. I’d specifically love to see how bad MF is, at around 70, of curse he hears how wall outlets sound, yet couldn’t hear a mis wired $20,000 Cd only player years ago, which was out of phase, and he just loved it, for it’s sound. The BS, never ends, publish hearing tests, so we all have a baseline for what these reviewers have, JA MEASUREMENTS proved Fremer is a deluded fool. It cost $20K, it has to be great, and so it was written, as is everything by all these blowhard half deaf, “reviewers”Paid by the word?

      • I can’t say I disagree but I would prefer not bash individuals on this site and focus on the merits of the technology. The world of audiophile writers is filled with “journalists” with dubious credentials and minimal qualifications. But I guess it is their job.

      • RE: Hearing Test ?

        What makes you think that a hearing test (I’m assuming you wish to “see” any high-frequency attenuation -as on a visual graph -that you will likely “frame” as the proof you types so desperately require.)

        Listen to your words: ” …ear test by a expert audiologist, or ear doctor, and publish the results. I’d specifically love to see how bad MF is, at around 70″.

        Did you ever consider that perhaps great sound resides in the 0-2 KHz, 2-4 and 4-7 KHz. region ? The only thing you equate with high-precision sound is high-frequency extension (because this has been used -falsely- as “the” arbiter of sound for the past 50-years ?

        It’s time for all to learn some maturity -and sensibility. It’s also correct in pointing out flaws in published material -particularly if that information has a significant impact upon consumers.
        The term “Collective Wisdom/Experience” is credible -even when lacking ‘specifications’ saying so. It’s precisely the reason respected cable company’s (for example) such as Kimber SELECT, Acoustic Zen, Siltech (and others of course) have maintained a viable business for the past 20-30 + years.

        What specification shows it to be so superior to lamp cord ? Have you ever heard/experienced a Kimber SELECT speaker wire -or equivalent. A really crappy system or deeply impaired hearing/brain disorder must be considered if one walks away from such a demo not impressed.

        Admittedly, I find the current vinyl interest (or its reluctance to disappear) amazing. Yet , I will not, cannot lump them all into the ‘lunatic’ camp -there must be something very compelling for these folks. Mercifully, digital reached a state of listen-ability for me nearly 20-years after CD’s introduction to the consumer market in 1982. Never looked back. Never regretted. (Saved my Fave-100 however -from nearly 2,000.)

        I am shocked at how good ‘Streaming’ music can be -even at 128-320 Kb/s ! With a nice DAC, cables (AC power supply), even CD’s (16/44) can be wonderful. I suspect 18-24-bit/88-96-188-192 KHz even more so.

        I vividly recall how shockingly saddened realizing it was impossible to set-up a great sounding hi-fi with CD as the front-end (circa 1989). It never happened. It sounded like shite. I couldn’t believe it. Mercifully, ten-years on things began to improve -significantly. And continues to this day.

        So, remember, digital audio had its darkest decades (for music/SQ lovers) for quite the run -thank goodness Vinyl/Tables remained available. Think about it; we were told how great CD’s were (all the data to prove it),yet for some reason it was decided to be improved ? Why ? (Do you think the Lab-Coat Rats were shouting about its inferiority ?). No, it was critical listeners with nothing other than there sensible and qualified listening skills that pushed the envelope. Really think about that for a moment.

        The day shall come when the data/graphs will be there for all you ‘science types’ to wallow in. Meanwhile, countless others (not nearly as insecure) had been enjoying great sound (with great gear, cables, etc.) for decades -and continue to as the others desperately cling to their spread-sheets for answers.

        peter jasz

  5. Oh for sure, it’s impossible to get through to Mikey. He takes “willfully ignorant” to a whole new level. I’ve been trying for years to let me visit him in person. He’s about two hours away from me, and I’ve offered to drive all the way there to let him prove to me that he can hear the differences between wires, and demagnetizing vinyl and CDs, and all the other obvious bullshit he promotes. Of course he’ll never agree because then his entire house of cards will fall down. He KNOWS he can’t pass such a test so his response is always “I don’t need to prove anything to you.” Then he spends another few thousand words trying to convince me how good his hearing is. I don’t know if I’d call him “endearing,” but it is fun arguing with him. And I still hope that some day he’ll muster the intellectual honesty to agree to meet in person. But I’m not really very hopeful. He needs to believe in his own fantasy.

    • Ethan, you and I have been around this business for a long time. There are people that I respect and trust and there are others that will never earn either one. The audiophile market is full of hyperbole and outright dishonesty AND people that depend on talking a good story. You have to pick and choose your battles.

  6. So the organizers at RMAF need to have a bit more of a sense of humor concerning this. They should have treated MQA’s refusal to participate like the Top Gear guys did with Rolls-Royce a number of years ago. Rolls pulled out of a planed segment with them so the TG guys went and got a Yugo and put a Rolls hood ornament on it and performed all of their tests on that vehicle LOL. Rolls was not pleased but it was their own fault for bailing on the event in the first place and/or refusing to participate. You could put cardboard cut outs up on the stage of the MQA guys or do the listening tests with 96kb MP3 files ha ha.

    I was reading one of the other audio magazines the other day and in part of the magazine they were extolling the virtues of MQA and in another section of the magazine really disparaging the sound quality of Sirius radio. I wrote them and suggested they talk to MQA about marrying those two technologies that might actually be beneficial and my radio might actually sound better. Of course that would require a paid firmware update or me buying a new vehicle with MQA/Sirius in it.

    Personally I have yet to hear anything MQA and while I am skeptical that it’s not needed with properly set up equipment I am at least willing to give it a listen. For me it has to be material I am familiar with, not hand picked music that would emphasize things I would never normally listen to.

    • That certainly would have been fun.

  7. Is it possible that commercial releases of recordings of vinyl phonograph records can be more pleasing to listen to than corresponding CD releases? Yes for a variety of reasons that have nothing to do with the relative merits of the technologies. Within the audio passband of 20 kHz RBCD beats vinyl phonograph records in every way by a country mile. In fact they are orders of magnitude apart. But how the technologies are used can make a big difference and sometimes favor the vinyl version. One way to prove RBCD technology is superior to vinyl is to note the fact that even with uncalibrated consumer grade equipment you can burn a CD from any vinyl record and the copy will be indistinguishable or at worst extremely close. The opposite cannot be done.

    How could vinyl sound better? Several reasons. One reason is dynamic compression. Sounds strange to audiophiles but the fact is that on current sound reproducing systems the end of each musical phrase gets louder increasing the apparent reverberation before the next phrase begins. This gives the vinyl an “airier” sound. Degradation of the master tapes. Over decades, tapes even kept in cans in a climate controlled vault degrade over time. Different mastering. A great deal of effort goes into manipulating a phonograph record to get the best possible sound within the limitations of the medium. Often reissues of recordings on CDs were done fast and dirty to get product to market fast and cheap. Increased distortion. Vinyl records have orders of magnitude of distortion greater than CDs cut from digital masters. That distortion, especially even harmonics may be pleasing to listen to. How many other reasons can you think of?

    Both vinyl and CDs are supposed to be storage media for electrical analogs of music (they’re not very good analogs but that’s another story.) Comparison of the input to the cutter head and cartridge output will show far more linear distortion, non linear distortion, and noise for vinyl than a well made CD of the same signal. The vinyl will invariably degrade over time for many reasons including wear from playing it. Estimates of audible degradation changes during the vinyl era between played records and unplayed duplicates ranged from 15 playings, 7 playings, 3 playings, and 1 playing. Different testers got different results.

    My best phonograph is an Empire 698 turntable with a Shure V 15 type V MR cartridge. Playing the recording of Carol Rosenberger playing water music on a Bosendorfer piano on direct comparison with the same disc from the factory on the Delos label played on a Toshiba $30 DVD 192 kHz 24 bit player, the sounds were indistinguishable. That is not generally true for all CD reissues but having over 3000 vinyl records and over 3000 CDs mostly classical music I rarely listen to vinyl anymore. BTW, I would not trade my turntable or cartridge for anything on the market today. When I get something I like, I keep it. Fremer’s record player is a joke compared to mine. One problem with it is that like most record players his does not have a dynamically balanced tone arm like mine does. The center of gravity of my tonearm is the pivot point. Tracking force is applied by a clock mainspring, not a mass imbalance. This reduces the required tracking force. He also probably doesn’t have a moving magnet cartridge. His cartridge has comparatively high dynamic mass of moving coil cartridge, low compliance, low output signal, and requires far more tracking force, probably 2 grams or more. His statically balanced tonearm makes it even worse. I have other turntables and tonearms. The Empire 4000 D/III, a CD4 cartridge with an FR out to 45 KHz sounds identical to my ears to my Empire 999VE that only extends to 20 kHz.

    My last hearing self test which may not be valid shows I can still hear to 14 kHz. It may go higher, the test conditions may have been a limiting factor. A year previously showed I could still hear to 16 kHz. What can Fremer hear out to?

    Can cables alter sound? Theoretically yes. Cables are a distributed parameter filter network that can be replaced by a lump sum filter for analysis described in the Telegrapher’s equation. Solving the network equations for the source impedance, cable, and load impedance will predict the network FR. Not in the equation is the effect of reverse EMF due to poor power supplies and small gage wire. This tends to exaggerate a bass resonance characteristic of the speaker by reduced amplifier damping. Also not in the equation is skin effect resistance which can increase voltage drop at higher frequencies. All of it can be compensated for with an equalizer which is why the industry has to persuade audiophiles they are the devil’s work. They are profit killers yielding effective predictable, repeatable, adjustable results at low cost.

    • Good analysis. Certainly vinyl LPs deliver remarkable sound given the archaic technology. And devotees will remain devotees forever.

  8. Just to clarify Soundmind’s excellent post:

    1) In most situations with a low output impedance, a wire would have to be mighty long to affect the response within the audible range. Yes, it might be possible, especially with 100 feet of lousy (high capacitance) wire. But good wire can be had for pennies per foot, so there’s no need to even consider lousy wire.

    2) Skin effect is even less likely to affect the audible range of high frequencies. Certainly not with small signal levels, and still very unlikely with speaker level wiring where actual power is transferred.

  9. Can skin effect cause a change to audio signals that are audible? Frankly I don’t know, it probably depends on he circumstances but I have no interest or experience with audiophile wires. However here’s what I do know about skin effect that may indicate that it’s a possibility. In industrial power systems, the most common device for adjusting the speed of motors is called a variable frequency drive or VFD for short. As you know, almost all fixed speed AC motors operate at 60 hz in the US and 50 hz in other parts of the world. in recent years the mainstream wire industry has marketed a new kind of product to deal with harmonics from VFDs that can cause substantial losses in wire at high frequencies due to skin effect resistance. VFDs generate harmonics of the frequencies they operate at as they are highly efficient switching mode power supplies. To overcome this problem mainstream wire manufacturers have developed special VFD wire. They are differentiated from normal wire in several ways. They are invariably 3 phase circuits in a single outer jacket. The wired is tinned to reduce skin effect resistance and therefore power losses due to harmonic frequencies. Not relevant to audiophiles, they have special insulation to reduce damage of corona effect of harmonics in 480 volt circuits. The insulation is rated at 2000 volts instead of the customary 600 volts. Finally they optionally contain a pair of signal wires for tachometer signals from the motor back to the VFD or PLC. Therefore high frequency losses are possible due to skin effect resistance in audio speaker wires.

    I adjust the overall FR of my system using equalizers. My wire source for speaker wire is the Home Depot, 16 gage speaker wire in the electrical department runs around 20 cents per foot and usually carry the label GE or RCA. My source for interconnects is the Dollar Store. I like the Trisonic brand because this generic wire has predictable sound. I had a bad experience once with a “gift” someone gave me, Monster Cable interconnects. They were a problem until I remembered them and replaced them. I haven’t figured out what’s wrong with them and frankly I don’t care.

    For those who say, well he’s not an audiophile, he can’t hear the difference anyway, I claim the best home sound reproducing system in the world, the only prototype of the Electronic Environmental Acoustic Simulator I patented in 1982 That I’m aware of. It works on entirely different principles that do not depend on optimizing the performance of the elements of conventional sound systems and its powerful unique effect is apparent immediately to anyone with normal hearing.

  10. What’s the switching frequency?

  11. Hi Mark,

    I did not receive the e-mail that you sent out on the 12th of September with regard to the Kickstarter campaign, and the upcoming release of your book – really looking forward to reading it.

    I am on the mailing list and have received your posts as always, on the 12th, 13th and 14th of September, but not the one for the Kickstarter Campaign you mentioned would be sent out at noon on the 12th. I checked my Spam folder just in case and unfortunately didn’t find it there either.

    I would appreciate if you could take a look to see if there has been a problem or if I was not included in the mailing list on the 12th.

    Many thanks in advance,


  12. The more I think about this origami technique, the more skeptical I’m becoming that it works. It’s been almost 50 years since I studied information theory as an electrical engineering student but the underlying principles haven’t changed. This MQA technique as I understand it consists of “folding over” out of band signals by downshifting them in frequency and mixing them with the in band audio signals at different voltage levels….twice. It is claimed the signal is then unfolded by segregating them and the components upshifted in frequency and reintegrated with the in band signal to reconstruct the original signal. But this process means the two folded components must share the same time with the in band signal. Unless the components of each can be shortened by at least one third each and the aggregate still somehow remain in the 20 kHz passband I’m not sure how that can work. Yes, the Shannon Nyquist criteria still holds, there is no getting around it. I recently worked at Bell Labs and a year ago they held a celebration called the “Shannon Event” noting the 100th anniversary of the birth of Shannon who developed his theories there. So having watched the video of MQA, I’d like more technical information about how this works consistent with the firmly established and uncontested by anyone except know nothing audiophiles of the Shannon Nyquist criteria. An actual demonstration showing oscilloscope photographs of waveforms and spectral analysis of the before folding, after folding, and after unfolding reconstructed signals would be convincing if it came from a reliable source. Until then I’m going to remain skeptical that it works at all. There seems to me to be an obvious inconsistency here.

    • Mark, I too am quite skeptical of MQA and its claims. My book has a long chapter on the process. The principals at MQA offered to encode some of my files and let me evaluate them. That was over three years ago and I’m still waiting. I understand that some of my productions were encoded in MQA and reportedly sound amazing — according to the people at MQA.

      • There are many ways to manipulate sound effectively that have nothing to do with what is purported by MQA. I’m talking about the basic theory they claim that you can somehow compress a large bandwidth information channel into a smaller one using the method as I understand the explanation they offered. Maybe they can but it defies what I know about it and that was considerable. Although 50 years have passed since I did the math, I remember the understanding it gave me and while I’d made no comment about MQA’s qualities except to agree that it cannot create information that didn’t exist in the first place (at least not by this method) I now question whether the theory is correct at all. My problem is that based on my understanding the whole thing does not ring true. This is not like dynamic compression and expansion of analog signals or zipping and unzipping of digital files. So until I see a far more detailed explanation of the theory that makes sense to me, I’m going to remain a skeptic. Even if it worked I wouldn’t think it to be of any value as you now I’m also unconvinced about the merits of HD but that is a different issue.

        Bandwidth is the currency of communications networks. I know. I worked for Bell Communications Research for 12 years while the best research scientists, engineers, and software developers in the business tried desperately to somehow salvage the so called “copper network” which was actually the twisted pair network that was almost all of the wire the RBOCs had in the ground, their major transmission line capital investment. They faced the onslaught of the cable companies where even coaxial cable beat them to a pulp. I must have seen several dozen digital efforts to compress a single NTSC quality video signal though the twisted pair network and every one of them failed leaving frequent and obvious digital artifacts, that is errors of one kind or another. These were the technical people who were reassigned from Bell Telephone Laboratories at the 1984 divestiture because they happened to be working on local telephone exchange projects. If they couldn’t do it, no one could. The company started on day one with 8000 employees and a billion dollars a year budget.

  13. Mark did you ever write a piece on if you listened to MQA and what gear was used , and what music MQA was compared to ( LP, CD, 24/192 or DSD ) ? thanks

    • Dave, I did write about my MQA listening experiences at the CES 2015 and subsequent audiophile trade shows. I’ve written over a dozen posts on the topic. And there is an entire chapter in my Music and Audio book dedicated to the topic as well as a Q&A with Robert Stuart.

  14. In short, to sum up what I said above, MQA appears to violate the Shannon Nyquist Theorem. The only people who challenge this theorem are audiophiles who know NOTHING about the technical aspects of the subject. Whatever changes MQA creates to the sound of recordings has nothing to do with its claims if my conclusion about Shannon Nyquist is correct. Before you can criticize Shannon Nyquist, you have to study it, do the math, understand it and only then is your opinion of any merit. I suggest a four year course in electrical engineering followed by a masters degree. Then come back and we’ll discuss it with some degree of intelligence.

  15. Archimago posted his results of the blind MQA/PCM evaluation and his result is that people are guessing when attempting to state if a track is MQA or high bit/sample rate PCM.

  16. Mark,

    even if you want to avoid confrontation – the battle goes on.
    Robert Harley of “The Absolute Sound” recently launched an article on MQA showing how powerful the MQA lobbyists are. RH answered to a comment of his article ( http://www.theabsolutesound.com/articles/let-the-revolution-begin/ ) chat claimed he has no credentials in this area “ero credentials, eh? I have a degree in recording engineering, have taught a college degree program in that field, have worked as a CD mastering engineer, was part of a team that built a CD mastering machine from scratch (and for which I also wrote the operation and service manuals with technical descriptions down to the component level), have written or co-written three Audio Engineering Society papers, wrote the chapters on how CD-ROM works for the McGraw-Hill CD-ROM Handbook, designed and built recording studios, engineered albums that were on the national charts, engineered the world’s first direct-to-CD recording, and have written three books on audio that have sold more than 300,000 copies in five languages.” RH also claimed “You are an opponent of MQA because “MQA doesn’t pass the smell test, call it a gut feel maybe.” I’m a proponent of MQA because I’ve read all the technical papers and spent hundreds of hours listening to it, including comparisons between the original master recording and the MQA version created from that original master. Some of these comparisons were made with recordings that I had engineered. I was astonished to listen to recordings I’d made (that had been released on CD) and heard countless times over the years take on a smoothness, dimensionality, and transient fidelity that was far beyond the original. It’s counter-intuitive to think that a digital process can improve upon an original master, particularly when the resulting bitstream is a fraction of the bandwidth of the original. But that’s exactly what happens. It’s not just my experience, but also that of other audio writers and many of the recording industry’s most respected figures. It’s that research into how MQA works, and countless hours of listening under the microscope of a reference-quality system (and indeed, on my desktop system) that have led me to the conclusion that MQA is a real advance and a boon for music lovers.” Keeping this in mind especially that he’s read all technical papers – let me say I hope he’s read all the papers MQA referred on – I must say he does not understand.
    When it comes to MQA I found some statements that are so ridiculous that they are not worth mentioned again.
    For me with not a single doubt THERE IS NO NEED FOR MQA in a time with faster growing internet speed.
    Returning to the beginning of my comment – the lobbyists will continue promoting MQA until all the insecure audiophiles believe them and pay the extra buck for nothing.

    Greetings from Germany

    • I have been staying somewhat on the sidelines of the MQA issue because I have dedicated almost 50 pages to it in the upcoming book. Robert Harley is the editor of one of the top audiophile magazines and therefore has an undeniable interest in keeping readers and engaging with new readers. I don’t feel I need to list my educational background or professional experience in this case. I’ve polled many industry professionals, equipment designers, and audio engineers. Their collective knowledge dwarfs my own and that of Mr. Harley. He’s simply wrong about a lot of what he states regarding MQA. His recent response to a comment stated that MQA wasn’t a lossy process…but it is. So who do you trust? I don’t place much stock in editorials from the major magazines. I don’t trust organizations to provide unbiased information. I trust those that are living and breathing the design and production of equipment, running sessions, and striving for the best fidelity possible. MQA is a business opportunity for its inventors and backers — nothing more.

  17. The more I think about it, the more I just don’t understand how Audio Origami works. I can understand dynamic compression and expansion. I can even understand frequency compression and expansion. But that is not what this is. This is frequency shifting without frequency compression from what I can tell. As a result the bandwidth required for a given analog bandwidth remains constrained by the Shannon Nyquist criteria which as I pointed out is accepted by virtually every serious communications engineer and scientist in the world except some of those who are audiophiles. This is not a matter of opinion, it is now bedrock science and mathematics. Changing the loudness level of some of the components and then downshifting them without frequency compression of all three components does not change the required bandwidth to transmit or store the information. Additionally as you pointed out, except for a relatively few recently made recordings including yours, there is little or no information above 20 khz due to the technology added. Whether I agree that these ultrasonic sounds are useful or not is besides the point. If they don’t exist in the recording, they can’t be put there by MQA and even if the process works all you get is a lot of extra expensive zeros. If the sound is different it cannot be attributed to HD recording technology. Other factors in the process that are much more mundane are responsible. This is just an out and out fraud IMO;

  18. I just posted this here.


    It appears that it can’t work because it violates the Shannon Nyquist criteria. As I posted in my comments on part one, Fourier showed us that frequency and time are interchangeable and gave us formulas for the transfer functions back and forth. By changing the level of the information above 20 kilohertz to a lower amplitude level and downshifting it in frequency it must share the same time as the signal below 20 khz but Shannon Nyquist says it cant. The only way this could be done would be frequency compression in much the same way Dolby noise reduction uses amplitude compression. But this can’t work in the digital domain and if performed in the analog domain would result in horrendous distortion as pitch discrimination of as little as 1% change is audible. This is between a quarter and an eighth of a half tone as each half tone is a change of about 6%. So by trying to squeeze the information above 20 khz into the same space at any amplitude level you’d have to shorten the pulse lengths by a factor of at least 3 which in this case gets us back to 96 khz. Whatever changes to the signal occur, this is not the explanation for how or why MQA does it IMO. As I see it the concept is fatally flawed. The good news is that all of this outband signal is of no value to the user and the 2 to 10 microseconds you referred to in part one has to do with the difference of time of arrival of the same sound between your two ears used to detect direction of the source, not to the highest audible frequency which remains 20 khz at best. Most of the music recorded has little if any information above 20 khz as it was recorded at a time when technology was not capable of it and it was considered of no importance anyway. It still appears to be of no importance. Dr. Mark Waldrep gave a lecture to the LA Audio Society about HD audio. Waldrep actually produces recordings where all of the signals above 20 khz up to 46 khz are recorded throughout the chain using equipment capable of it, among the relatively few according to him that do. He claims no one including other recording engineers could hear any difference between his HD audio playback and the same signals downconverted to RBCD standards. When I threw his own words at him on his web site he said that I had too much time on my hands. He could not even defend his own product. We’re talking about someone who has a PHD in recording technology, not a tyro like most of the people i this industry. These results are entirely consistent with well established scientific principles and are accepted by everyone in all technical fields except some audiophiles. I point out that for a 20 khz sine wave, the time between the zero point and the next peak of the sine wave is 1/80,000 of a second, one quarter of the period of the wave at that frequency.

  19. Mr. Waldrep: If your concerns (about MQA) were two-years ago, I’d understand. But, it’s dated September, of this year (2017) !

    If I’m not mistaken, MQA has been professional, open and insightful regarding the MQA process over the past couple years. In fact, their response to some naysayers was appropriately (and highly detailed) in a follow-up Stereophile article (August, 2016); https://www.stereophile.com/content/mqa-questions-and-answers

    I suspect this was in response to previous (and or piling-up complaints/uncertainties) and so a thorough reply was presented by Stuart (& MQA company). And, an excellent one at that.

    How often do you think MQA should stand listening to folk with not nearly the depth and breadth of Mr. Bob Stuart’s credentials ? after a while, it becomes frustrating,. After a while (MQA folk -as I would and in fact do now) must say “enough of this nonsense -some cannot seem to grasp the scope (of MQA) no matter how many times they’re hit over the head with it.

    To suggest Mr. Stuart (or MQA staffers) are afraid to confront a angry group of middle-aged dinosaurs is giving yourselves far too much credit. Nothing cold be further from the truth.
    He’s spoken -endlessly. He’s presented data, graphs, insight. He’s answered questions. Time and time again.

    It’s therefore unwise, unprofessional and untrue stating MQA is “hiding” (or however you presented it) or ingenuous.

    I’m not invested one way or the other. You on the other hand, very much so. Instead of fighting (or worse accusing) the competition of under-handed maneuvers or worse, deceit (a foolish and amateurish move), concede that MQA is a respectable format for high temporal precision audio within restricted data rates. Or say nothing at all. Or, I’ll let the market decide”. Or, “Many professionals feel the full-bandwidth approach (taken by your company/product) remains the finest, unrestricted, high-resolution format”. End of story.
    Yet, you decide to do battle (with a very highly respected -and long serving- digital audio expert ?
    Let me ask you Mr. Waldrep, where do your contributions lie ?

    That you feel threatened by MQA’s dominance is clear to read. You could have taken another approach, as I indicated above. Instead, you believe that (dime-a-dozen) forum banter holds some significance ? It will terrify readers from MQA and approach MQA files/software with cross in hand -held chest high out in front ? Or it will sway interested folks from evaluating its merits -or lack thereof ?

    If it “stinks”, other options shall remain available. If it’s (MQA) better than advertised -options shall remain. Some will. Some won’t. Many will continue on as usual -without even knowing MQA exists, or what it is. There IS room for everything Mark.

    Your comment is quoted here:

    ” MQA and their promotional strategy nedd to be willing to debate others that oppose their technology. Apparently, some in their camp don’t believe that their message can survive critical analysis and open debate.”

    That is a weak and desperate measure for reasons not entirely clear. You may wish to give the above some further thought moving forward.

    peter jasz

    • Peter, it seems you have a great deal of free time to type comments on my blog. It’s difficult to get a real line on your thinking but of course, you’re entitled to your opinion. There are plenty of other qualified designers and audio experts that agree with me on the value of MQA…it’s a solution to a non-existent problem.

  20. Once again, its about enjoying the music, of any format. After 10 months of listening to MQA streaming via Tidal, I I am convinced that the MQA tracks do not sound inferior to any of the Flac files on Tidal. In most cases, the increase in soundstage, vocal clarity, and 5.1 like sound of the MQA music is reason enough to have me spend hours searching for new MQA albums to wet my ears too. Upgrading to a MQA DAC at the entry level, Bluesound Node, cost me a extra $100 over my Sonos/Deezer device. A Meridan Explorer 2 will set you back $200. A extra 5$ a month for rental of almost 10,000 MQA albums is a no brainer. I am listening to music again because of MQA. I have a unlimited Data plan and 1000 mb/s Bell Fibe into the house, so until they stream full resolution music on any service, Tidal/MQA is a good starting point for all audiophiles. Mark I am looking forward to your 5.1 BR, might have to upgrade my Player.

    • Glen, if you’re enjoying the “sound” of MQA encoded audio files that’s great. But the beneficial attributes you describe aren’t things that MQA enhances. As described to me by the inventor, MQA is not supposed to change the sound of the master at all. If is does, it’s violating its own concept. They MQA process is a solution to a problem that doesn’t exist. It is driven by profit motives and not by audio enhancement. It is possible — and preferable — to use non proprietary audio formats to achieve master quality sound. I would point you to the numerous articles by engineering professionals that support this position.

  21. FYI, JA over at Stereophile, is back on the MQA bandwagon. Maybe you could ask him why MQA won’t encode your files for review.

    • The “authorities” at the major magazines are advocating for MQA because of the cult of personality surround Robert Stuart — and he certainly deserves tremendous credit for advancing digital audio. But I believe he’s wrong on this count.

  22. MQA went from being vigorously discussed and debated on internet forums to….dead silence. Take a hint, Hifi print media: Nobody cares anymore. The MQA hype campaign from “The Absolute Sound” magazine so severely tainted the magazine’s credibility, that I opted to not re-subscribe. Predictably, to maintain their circulation numbers (which are used to justify their advertising rates), they continue to send the magazine to me anyhow.
    The Hifi media continues its attack against collectors of physical music media, and other music fans who want to permanently posess music, infering that we’re dinosaurs. But we collectors will contuinue to enjoy our favorite music, after you streaming consumers lose your favorite music when your favorite artists throw a tantrum and remove their music from streaming services over some monetary dispute. Streaming customers pay their money and, ultimately end up with nothing.

    • Not nice to censor me, by squelching my post from appearing.

      • Philip, I didn’t “squelch” your post…I haven’t been on the site in a while because I was very busy with other things. I happen to agree with you that MQA is a non-starter for most qualified audio professionals, experienced equipment designers, and recording industry people. The only advocates are those that have a vested interest in the success of this unneeded technology.

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