Mqa worth it in 2019

Hi all,
I thinking about switching from spofity premium to Tidal Hi-Fi.
Just have a question about MQA is really worth it?

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Well that’s opening up alot of discussion lol. I personally don’t think so, but I don’t use mqa on a daily basis. I do think the quality bump from lossless cd quality streaming is worth it, but with mqa to take full advantage imo you would want to have a mqa ready dac. I would be curious to hear from people who use mqa often though regarding what they think

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I use it daily and have a reasonably high end car audio system. There is absolutely more information in MQA files vs normal Hifi (talking Tidal specifically). Whether it’s “worth it” is up to you. I’m invested enough into it that I’m gonna buy an MQA dac for my desktop setup as well. Tidal is just very straight forward and convenient, and has 99% of everything I’ve ever searched for.


I dropped Tidal because of MQA. To me it seemed like a solution to a fictitious problem, and I didn’t want to pay to replace all my dacs (this was before the new ifi). I went with Qobuz. The library isn’t as good yet but it sounds better, even in Redbook to Redbook comparison, IMO. Is MQA worth it? Given that there are now 2 lossless streaming competitors (Qobuz, Amazon) that don’t require a specially equipped dac…


I just don’t think mqa sounds as good as a proper flac imo. The detail is there but the spatial information is kinda lacking imo


I can’t say on its sound quality. It can’t sound better than native FLAC, and I’ve heard lots of those. My issue is more philosophical. I objected to having to pay a premium for MQA dacs when there are other lossless streaming options that work to full capability with any dac I choose.

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That was another concern when it was released, because it was almost like a drm in the form of what devices you could use and where you could get it. People have figured out how to convert it to flac now, but that was a concern

Regarding the actual quality, I do think just regular flac sounds more natural to be but IDK it’s not a massive difference. I would still take mqa over some high quality mp3, but I would still prefer flac

tidal (even with just the first layer software mqa encoding) sounds loads better than spotify (Depending on the master recording, your gear, etc) in my opinion. Tidal’s hifi (cd quality) sounds actually very good.
even if your dac doesn’t support mqa i still recommend tidal.
tidal is pretty affordable if you’re a student, first responder, or military

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That’s my thing is, the Tidal app is so good, I’m willing to work with MQA vs Flac. Not saying MQA alone is better, but for me the whole package of Tidal is better than the others I’ve tried.

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i reallly want to try mqa but my wallet would not be happy with a new DAC

The more I read about it the less I like the MQA Idea. I’ve only listened to MAQ with the first layer unfolded and there’s certainly more detail in side by side comparison of songs. For example Fleetwood Mac’s Tusk, but that detail can and probably does comes from the specific remaster rather than from additional quality added via MQA.

As stated before in the thread this is clearly more about DRM and the ability to watermark content as well as getting commitment from artists and recording industry studios to insert a standard into the music that’s more for control and royalty than for actual sound.

So personally side by side same master to ear and confirming online, I think mqa sounds very similar to a lossless file at first, but where mqa struggles is recreating a space. The lossless file just seems to have more spatial information on a good setup than the mqa track did to me. Not the biggest fan of mqa. I do have some mqa files that I got, but they are only available in mqa and are modern pop or rap, where there isn’t really a space to recreate anyway

And this is the disturbing part.


I think the marketing has rather gotten away from it. I mean it’s a lossy format but it’s marketed as “MASTER! OMG so much quality”. It’s especially pointless for streaming since you only cache each song for a short time.
But I suppose it’s like tube amps, they are technically a worse sound but they can be worse in a pleasing way.

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I personally can’t think of a mqa track vs a true lossless that has been more pleasing to me than the lossless

It ought to be better than 44.1/16 lossless, since that part is lossless in MQA, and the other “signal” is mixed into the noise floor, if it’s not decompressed.
I just think chasing a lossy format at this point is stupid, and very clearly driven by licensing, and control.
It’s a pity DSD never really got any traction, it would be closer to the way tracks are mastered these days.

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I so want to get a dsd system for my studio but holy shit expensive. I would be happy to rent out and let people release something in DSD (but I’m not at the skill level to work with dsd anyway lol)


I am new to the audiophile world and therefore have a couple of questions regarding this topic:

  1. What actually happens when I play MQA though a DAC that doesn’t support MQA?
    I read that MQA will get decoded in three layers and the first one is equally to 16/44.1 (FLAC or PCM?).
    • Could someone maybe explain to me practically what happens to my file when I for example play a MQA track through my iPhone using a dongle/ DAC (MQA capable) and not MQA capable. An explanation for dummy’s would be appreciated :sweat_smile:

  2. Would I be better of to „limit“ Tidal to HiFi and therefore play my songs as a FLAC 16/44.1 and don’t worry about the MQA capability.

  3. Of topic super noop question: When looking into Dacs they always list PCM / DSD capabilities. So how I understood PCM, FLAC etc is… FLAC is the File Container/ Codec and the sample rate of that FLAC File is = to PCM?

I spent 2 years and too much money trying to maximize my value with MQA because i believed the hype about it and wanted to hear the difference it made. My primary music source TODAY is Quboz and I feel i get much better SQ value for my money using this service over MQA enabled Tidal.

To date i have maybe managed to enjoy the benefits of MQA on a dozen tracks with my best equipment, overall though it was a giant waste of my money, time and effort, and I only use it now because i get it at 50% reduced cost and the selection of modern music is superior to Quboz, it makes mixes for me i enjoy and 99% of the listening is as CD quality which is acceptable to me for $10 monthly. YMMV, since i prefer blues, jazz, folk and other vocal and instrument centric genre’s which Quboz gives me personally better quality worth in both music selection and SQ.

Having said this i have gotten superior results to both services using music that was digitally re-mastered and provided to me on FLAC files and listening to records played on very high end gear. (Well beyond my wildest budget constraints or ability to afford)

I have also taken to listening to good music on various youtube platforms and have learned to just enjoy the music more rather than chasing some sort of imagined higher quality recording, many times i just want the music i don’t want to sit there and critically listen for angels farting in the background…

Good luck in whatever you decide, in my opinion though MQA is a waste of money for my systems, effort and time.

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Why mess with MQA when you can get better sound quality with Amazon’s Ultra HD or Qobuz MAsters? and an average DAC can decode it