Every interested audiophile, equipment manufacturer, audio engineer, and content supplier should carefully read “MQA: A Review of controversies, concerns, and cautions” by Archimago, which was posted on the Computer Audiophile site back in March. I hold Archimago in the highest regard (and consider him a friend) but this article is a thorough, thoughtful, and critical analysis of the hoax that is MQA. I don’t know why I didn’t hear about it sooner — I don’t spend very much time reading CA — but kudos to Chris and Archimago for a terrific piece.
Please take the time to read the entire article — it is long but well written and painstakingly supported with illustrations, annotations, and footnotes (I was even mentioned in one of them). The first section examines the “need” for a new format — especially a lossy one that costs everyone in the supply chain and doesn’t deliver on its promises. The 50 page chapter in my book Music and Audio: A User Guide To Better Sound on MQA is called, “MQA: A Solution To What?” because the claimed ability to deliver high-resolution audio through a narrow CD-sized pipe doesn’t provide any audible benefit for the vast majority of music consumers. If you’ve read some of the articles on this website or the chapter in the book, you already know that wrapping ultrasonic frequencies (20-40 kHz) beneath the audio band sounds quite reasonable but only if the original masters have meaningful amounts of ultrasonic content — they don’t. So why bother developing a complex “origami” folding scheme when the only partials being folded are noise, hiss, recording bias, and other uncorrelated signals. If you don’t start with a bona fide high-resolution recording, then MQA is a solution to a problem that doesn’t exist. And virtually all commercial releases regardless of period are standard resolution.
Archimago confronts and dismisses every argument made by the inventors of MQA with careful technical and scientific rigor. He destroys the sycophant mainstream audiophile authors that have described this highly flawed scheme as “the most significant audio technology of my lifetime” or “MQA’s ability to deliver better than high-res quality sound” with an objective sensibility and dispassionate thoroughness. I would challenge any of these authors to refute the supported statements in Archimago’s article. They may push back with their go to, tried and true, escape hatch rationale, “it just sounds better”. But wouldn’t you think that professional journalists would want to defend what they hear with technical and scientific facts? Apparently not.
I did find the hundreds of comments on the article in support of the article a very promising sign. The investors behind the MQA quest for world domination are certainly not going to like this high profile article. Andrew Quint of TAS opened his editorial on MQA with “The codec known as MQA (Master Quality Authenticated) is clearly in its ascendancy.” As audiophiles, let’s hope he’s wrong. The world doesn’t need another lossy, DRM restricted, codec that pushes open source, free, and better formats aside. The major labels love MQA because they’ll reap additional ± and undeserved — profits from long tail catalog and MQA-equipped device makers will prompt unknowing music enthusiasts to spend stupid money on something they don’t really need.
The best thing that audiophiles around the world can do is let the major labels and everyone else the has bought into the MQA strategy know that we’re on to them. We should avoid doing business with any and all companies that want to force us into their closed world view. Read the article, share it with everyone you know, write letters to the editors, and go to social media and like every comment that resists the MQA message. Collectively we have the power. If no one buys into their nonsense, they will be forced to back off. Then we can get back to making better sounding records!