HD-AUDIO — 14 March 2019

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I watched a 20-minute YouTube video this morning titled, “Battle of the Streams: Tidal vs. Qobuz!” produced and presented by The Seltzertron and was surprised to hear my name mentioned during the discussion of hi-res music. He participated in the HD-Audio Challenge and came to the conclusion like so many others that he couldn’t pick out the hi-res versions from the CD spec downconversions. Nobody can. The Seltertron tried to explain what high-resolution is, the merits of delivering music in hi-res, the differences between TIDAL and Qobuz, and his personal take on MQA.

…the hoax that is MQA with its “origami” unfolding of ultrasonics and nonsense about “temporal smearing” continues to motivate audio hucksters in their quest to get audiophiles to spent more money!

And just this morning, a FB link to an article by John Darko called The inconvenient truth about MQA on iOS got me motivated to finish this article — one I started a couple of weeks ago. The continuing insistence by writers, delivery companies, organization, the labels, and equipment makers that “hi-res audio” available on TIDAL’s premium level or the newly arrived Qobuz streaming music service — regardless of the device reproducing it — enhances fidelity and leads to a better listening experience is very troubling. To add insult to injury, the hoax that is MQA with its “origami” unfolding of ultrasonics and nonsense about “temporal smearing” continues to motivate audio hucksters in their quest to get audiophiles to spent more money! It simply has to stop! Facts matter.

For those that haven’t taken the HD-Audio Challenge I uploaded some months ago, here is the link once again. Many of you have already downloaded the six files (over 4000 readers!), carefully listened on your own equipment, and discovered that the HD vs. CD versions are indistinguishable from one another. Yes, a few people got all of them correct — but most got about 50%— the same as guessing. As hard as it is for me to admit being a long time supporter and producer of real high-resolution music, whatever differences there are between a real 96/24-bit ultra high fidelity original and a version carefully downconverted to CD-spec are so slight that they don’t matter — even on the most expensive, “high resolving” systems. Deal with it.

When audiophiles and other advocates of “hi-res music” rave about the tremendous enhancement to the fidelity of a hi-res file, they aren’t comparing two different versions of the same original master! The newly digitized masters weren’t made at the same time as the CD version.

Without rehashing the “merits” — or demerits — of MQA (or mentioning the profit-driven reason why it exists), the truth about high-res music makes any system that purports to allow “hi-res audio” (again most authors mistakenly use the hardware term to describe the content) streaming moot. All of these enterprises make the incorrect assumption that the original content being streamed on TIDAL, Qobuz, or encoded using MQA on CDs is bona fide hi-res music! If there’s nothing to magically “fold” into the available CD bandwidth, then what possible fidelity enhancements can be attributed to frequencies that don’t exist? The MQA process requires that the source recording have ultrasonic frequencies to fold — unfortunately, virtually all of the masters in the TIDAL MQA or Qobuz catalogs didn’t start from hi-res masters! See illustration below.

Commercial recordings DO NOT HAVE ultrasonic frequencies that can be “folded” by MQA.

The nonsense about “temporal blurring or smearing” only affects frequencies that are beyond our ability to hear — just like pre-ringing. The use of techno jargon sounds great but means nothing in the recordings of great masters.

The era of “so-called” high-resolution streaming is a current hot topic and with TIDAL premium, Qobuz and the Neil Young archives coming online, I wondered whether their claims of high-resolution streaming holds up. So I downloaded a few tracks from these services and compared the “normal” 320 kbps versions and the “so-called” hi-res versions — the ones that cost an extra $10 per month. I’ll show you what I discovered in my next post but you can probably already guess the results.

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My brother Lee and his beautiful family.

My younger brother is in need of some help. This isn’t the place or platform to relate the details of his current situation but I thought some of you might consider making a contribution to the GoFundMe campaign I started for him once you read the narrative. In fact, since I posted this a couple of weeks ago, readers have given generously. Together we’ve raised over $3500! We can’t thank you enough.

I wouldn’t make this appeal if I didn’t feel his circumstance was compelling and my younger brother very worthy. If you want to read more, please click the link below — and please consider making a contribution.

To thank anyone that makes a donation of $100 or more, I will send a signed copy of my “Music and Audio: A User Guide to Better Sound” (with Blu-ray Demo disc) AND a FREE copy of the latest AIX Records sampler— a $25 value. If you contribute $50 – $100, I’ll send the eBook, downloadable files, and the AIX sampler. Finally, for a donation of $25 – $50, you’ll receive the eBook and demo files.

I will cover all shipping expenses for domestic orders. International shipping will be additional.

Click here to be taken to the GoFundMe page.

Please do not share this link. Thanks for your consideration. And thanks to those that have generously contributed to the GoFundMe campaign!

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