Why is everyone so down on MQA?

Ok. MQA is a little bit complicated to understand without doing a little research. First of all: MQA is not technically a lossy format. The way it works is very unique. The original master tape (Holy grail of SQ) is folded or compressed into a smaller format. It is later unfolded through a process I don’t claim to understand. The fully processed final version is lossless! It is the song version from the original master tape. FYI, original master tapes are usually the best sounding, they are also the truest version of any song- they are painstakingly produced along with the artist in the studio during the recording process. Ask anyone, they are the real deal. For some reason most people hate the sound quality! One caveat, the folding/unfolding process is usually carried out at one time by a dac. But some dacs only compress and do not unfold….I think Meridian should explain dac/ streamer compatibility issue. When your hardware supports the single step the sound quality is pretty amazing. They should have explained in more detail what the format is all about.


I have a Mytek Brooklyn which is fully MQA capable but after a lot of listening, and talking to members of the San Francisco audiophile society I have left it off.

There are three problems for me:

  1. Lossy
  2. Tries fixing a problem we no longer have
  3. Not that great sounding

The lossy/lossless part of MQA is to me the least interesting, but please see the great write-up from Benchmark (below) on this point.  Apparently it is quite lossy.

The bigger issue in my mind is that it's attempting to solve problems from the 1990s.  High resolution music transmission.  That problem was solved by cheap Internet and high speed Ethernet.  I don't need more compression.

Lastly, it just doesn't sound that good.  The biggest audio related issue I can detect is the use of an apodizing digital filter, which is not perfect but attempts to solve pre-ringing artifacts.  To my ears it also severely softens the music sound and I prefer steep roll-off filters.




I had MQA via my Mytek Brooklyn Bridge. When streaming from Tidal, MQA gave me slightly sharper images and slightly more air (OK, treble). Lyrics were slightly more understandable. All told, though, when it came time for me to choose between Tidal and Qobuz as my streamer of choice I opted for the non MQA Qobuz. Qobuz just sounded better than Tidal, whether MQA was engaged or not. Qobuz offered Classical, which Tidal didn't. Long story short, I no longer have MQA and I don't miss it.

walkenfan2013"The fully processed final version is lossless! "

No it is a compressed, lossy, compromised signal in an era of which bandwidth is available rendering lossy methods unnecessary and obsolete.

+1, edcyn. I experimented between Tidal and QoBuz and decided to keep QoBuz and drop Tidal. QoBuz sounded better and I really like their many playlists. I also enjoy QoBuz Hi-Res albums.

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MQA, in my opinion, wants to be what Dolby did in the 80's-become a 'bespoke' audio influencer that controls what is being recorded/played back. And, like Dolby, really doesn't make things sound better, but applies a band-aid to a wound best not treated.



Here's a great takedown on MQA and there's a follow up video on their reply (non reply):

All the best,

First off , as a person interested in this topic, I appreciate the contributions as they are sound and based on listening trials. My experience with MQA and only a couple of DAC’s is that I wasn’t impressed. Also since my main DAC is a Shitt Yiggy, I haven’t gone as deep into this. I’ve had to base my comparison with my Cambridge DAC and Audeeze headphones. But I have been able to tell differences. I tend to look for overall tonality and depth and distinctive space within the music. One of my favorite albums is Supertramp’s Chrime of the Century, on Tidal. With a standard , remaster, and MQA I can compare. I’m also interested in the contributing members that prefer Qbuzz. At this point my next step is to trial Qbuzz and compare that to Tidal. So thanks to the Op for asking , and much respect to the mature responses. Merry Christmas and Happy Listening, Mike B. 

Quboz gave me listening fatigue, Tidal sounded better, both on flac and MQA and Atmos. I find the vocals with MQA sound more like an actual person in the room than with any other format.

For overall "you are there" dynamics I prefer upsampling to DSD with my Sony DAC or my Onkyo DAP.

Quboz is not nor never has supported MQA. 
 Different strokes. 


I think the premis of the OP is a little much.


It isn't like I hate MQA.  It is more like I prefer not to use it.

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All's fair in love, war and listening. Do what your ears tell you to. And if you eventually reassess your choice, let it happen...unless, of course the change will make you go bankrupt.

MQA was a great idea that, I think it just came too late. ten years earlier it would have been a huge hit. Bandwidth is now cheap. It does not sound terrible it sounds great… but higher resolution files are now common. Folks around here like to get all emotional if they can find a way to be disappointed or refute a claim.

You guys crack me up!

So the theory proves it must sound dreadful.

The truth is it's both good and bad. Extremely bad in the recording studio, and particularly good for the end listener. Perhaps with one caveat; only for those that don't bother with hi-res files or streaming and prefer CDs. In that regard, it edges out SACD by a small margin.

MQA files are an absurd proposition, and the only reason for MQA to exist is for MQA-CDs. The number of MQA-CD releases is disappointing (about 700). MQA comes into it's own with classical music, so it's understandable that style occupies most releases.

My understanding is that MQA is a successor to HDCD.  HDCD was originally developed as attempt to add resolution above 44.1k on CDs.  Higher frequency information is encoded (hopefully inaudibly on non-HDCD compliant devices) into the CD data, and removed, decoded & added back to the 44.1k data in the DAC.

It made some sense then, but we're not limited to CD Redbook anymore and often have access to even higher rez files.  Now it just seems like marketing to the gullible.

I agree with the Dolby comparison, unless you have a ‘decoder’ MQA sounds about as good as MP3’s, if you can even play them at all ‘folded’. The MQA fees are just profit for the MQA ‘group’ and does not go to nor help musicians. I also agree that there is no longer a need for it. In some ways, it’s just another failed attempt at copy protection.  

I like that MQA burns the files from the master tape, if that was the only step they took I would be happy. I loaded two of the same albums into a playlist (one HIFI, one MQA) and hit shuffle, closed my eyes, I can pick the MQA track every time, works for me. 

Because it has been proven to be a fraud that introduces distortion. 

You are forgiven for asking a forward question. Check You Tube for in depth answers. Anyone that likes it is most welcome to it. I have no money for the licensers.

I'm pretty much glad that I don't have hearing that prefers it.

The biggest beneficiary of MQA besides its owners is Tidal. Because MQA files are much smaller, they require far less hard drive storage. I agree with those who’ve noted the technology is at least ten years too late.

Having compared Tidal MQA files and Qobuz high res files of some of my favorite albums, I canceled Tidal and kept Qobuz. I have had no trouble streaming the far larger Qobuz files even when my Internet service was only at 150 mps. 

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Shortly after MQA came out with more and more artists using MQA, along with hires/dsd, I sold all my vinyl and TT setup and have never regretted it.

I went thru this same issue almost 20 years ago when people were arguing that sacd sucked, which it didn’t and that was superior to the other formats.

IMO, most people that hate new technology don’t want change or they don’t want to upgrade their equipment to support the new feature.

I also tested Qobuz against tidal and for what I listen to (artists/genre), MQA, and sq, I prefer tidal.

Radio Paradise had two channels. One plays 16/44 and the other plays MQA and for the life of me, I can’t hear the difference. 

MQA sounds processed - no surprise there as that's what it is - heavily processed at that.

As multiple posters above have said, in an era when there is no problem streaming high sample rate / word length files, MQA is obsolete.

That's along with the fact that the majority of the recordings out there are 16 bit and 44 or 48khz masters, for which MQA is completely irrelevant.

Radio Paradise had two channels. One plays 16/44 and the other plays MQA and for the life of me, I can’t hear the difference. 

I can, but then my Bluesound has been fitted with a DC power card and I have an overkill external power supply (5 amp instead of the recommended 3A) so there's no chance of the slightest voltage drop or ripple. A shielded power cable connects the two. I also have a top notch interconnect to my amplifier. Without these, I agree they sound very similar.

It's all about achieving the best you can with the equipment you have before looking to go down replacement rabbit hole.

I really am surprised MQA has lasted so long. Back in 2017 I gave it 5 years tops, and it is still going. Very strange. 

As said above, "MQA sounds processed." Does not sound like real music. For me that's where it starts and ends. Tried Tidal, loathed MQA, switched to Qobuz, happy ever since. Knowing the history, the technology, the rationales is worthwhile. But if you enjoy listening to a vaguely realistic rendering of actual musical sound performed in real space, you need only a pair of mediocre ears to determine that MQA is not your ticket. 

MQA lol! I thought this solution looking for a problem would have died already as well. And it does sound overly processed.

Hey, quit bashing on MQA. I think we can all agree it sounds better than: MP3, YouTube, Spotify, Apple Music, Prime Music, AM Radio in your car and a Bose speaker covered with a black garbage bag.


I like how you think.  MQA's motto should be "At least we don't suck!"

Perhaps we should be asking the doomsdayers what did you use to decode MQA that led you to your conclusion, or are you merely guilty jumping on the derogative bandwagon because you're a theorist and that's all theorists are capable of doing?

People are mostly down on MQA because:

(A) Tidal encoded significant number of 44/16, that is, CD-quality files, with MQA. This was not a smart move, because compression inherent in MQA took its toll on a format that wasn’t highly resolving to start with.

(B) MQA is a proprietary lossy DRM-enabled format. This adds friction to its use, as one needs to have a compatible streamer to fully unlock the MQA data. Moreover, MQA licensing cost naturally makes such streamers more expensive.

MQA’s sweet spot would be streaming of 192/24 and 384/24 files. Compression could be beneficial for the provider’s expenditures on bandwidth, loss of sound quality would be imperceptible, and pirating of essentially full-resolution studio masters would be inhibited.

MQA was not really a solution for a problem that didn't exist; to my mind, it was a thinly veiled, cynical attempt to ring fence and monopolise the streaming market. It was never about giving the end user a superior listening experience.



MQA was not really a solution for a problem that didn't exist; to my mind, it was a thinly veiled, cynical attempt to ring fence and monopolise the streaming market. It was never about giving the end user a superior listening experience.

MQA solves two problems:

(1) High bandwidth costs. A streaming provider has to either eat the significantly increased expenditures (~6.5x for 192/24 PCM/FLAC as compared to 44/16 PCM/FLAC), or to start charging customers significantly more and thus lose market share.

In places like US, Europe, South Korea, Japan, this may appear to be an insignificant concern, because streaming subscription is relatively inexpensive in comparison to average incomes. In some other countries, things are different. 

(2) Pirating. In countries such as China and India pirating of music is still a big concern. MQA mitigates this issue: without full MQA decoding a pirate will only get a diminished, lower-quality version of a master.

Also, I would not be surprised to learn that MQA uses watermarking, extending to decoded analog signal, which could enable tracing of pirated copies. That would explain stubborn refusal of MQA people to provide their encoding device for non-commercial testing. 

Tidal MQA sounds fine and I'm not sure how much unfolding is happening (Schiit Bifrost 2/64 multibit upgrade), but then my system sort of makes everything sound from fine to outstanding...and that's how it should be. 

I am a firm believer in letting the free market decide.... eventually those that have poor value propositions will just disappear !  It's capitalism at its best. 

I'm not so sure about that. A good example is the video tape format war. Betamax was the vastly superior format yet it lost of the inferior VHS. WFT? Maybe it was only superior with the PAL system and there was very little benefit with NTSC. Years ago I was informed it really stood for Never The Same Colour twice. LOL. NTSC was forced upon you and there was never an option of going with PAL.


MQA is confusing when it comes to the software and hardware needed to process the unfolds - 1st unfold, 2nd unfold, all-in-one unfold and then we have decoder, renderer, and full decoder. Curious if everyone is/had been using a full decoder to come to their conclusions about MQA? I had mixed results with MQA; some albums and tracks sounded really great, while others not so much. Personally, I find the technology a little fascinating, but still over my head.

OP: I know you haven’t stepped into streaming yet, but from your post hx it seems like you have a good handle on how it all works. The Node is what brought me back into music/audio. I think a good portion of us on this thread probably started out with the Node.

Engineering wunderkind Bob Carver was not impressed. That's enough for me. He says only a bat might hear a slight difference now. That MQA was changed from its demonstration algorithm when it first rolled out to how it is being currently implemented. 

More damning to me is that once the purveyors of it convinced some labels of its value, they took the licensing money and ran off into the sunset. 

Bob's engineering white paper is at this URL here:


For me, the decision wound up being made by my choice of DAC (I use Tidal).  I fell in love with the Benchmark DAC3 (no MQA) - the improvement in sound was just amazing.  Figured that difference in DAC was larger than the difference in MQA, so went with a good DAC that lacked MQA support

Just an explanation of the path I took and my own finding that the DAC made more difference for me than MQA (and Benchmark readily supports Hi-Rez downloads for music that I particularly enjoy - digital equivalent of buying LPs just for particularly beloved music. Perhaps if I had better ears or more expensive equipment I’d have a finer point of view on MQA vs redbook stream)

LOL Human perception is easily fooled.

Ya lost me there.

Surely perception has a lot to do with they way we hear, and if it's configured to help provide the best listening experience, then that's perfectly fine by me. Only a theorist would dare disagree.

Sounds like something a technophile might say and use as a reason to pick fault.


I am a professional symphony orchestra musician. I know music and I know good sound. I love MQA, and have yet to hear a recording using this format that does not sound better than CD redbook. It sounds more natural, and is easier to stream. I will not buy a streamer or DAC that does not support it. To the post who said there is no classical music on Tidal, I'm afraid you are incorrect. There is a ton of classical music available on Tidal. I have always found any recording I'm looking for on Tidal. 

I listen to Tidal with only initial unfolding and it sounds fine to me. I also had Qobuz for a few months and compared them both and finally decided on Tidal. I couldn't tell much of a difference between the two. Honestly, I think much of the hate against MQA is silly and I'm not buying into it! Make your own choices and get what sounds best to you.

Someone who knows live music and loves MQA for what it is and ignores the theory.

Brilliant and thank you!

@paulrandall -- I'm the guy who couldn't find much classical on Tidal. If you are having no trouble finding what you want, though, hey, great.  All I can guess is that maybe they added all the classical after I gave up the ghost on 'em..