Hate Mail (#9): MQA

Daniel Maarat forwarded me an email saying that this guy Murdo, some shill hired by MQA Ltd, was mad I called the lossy Master Quality Authenticated file format the pathetic cash grab that it truly is:

Dear Death Metal Underground Editorial,

Black Sabbath box set article – MQA facts

I work with MQA here in the UK, and recently read your article covering the new Black Sabbath box set. Further to that, would you be kind enough to correct the below noted MQA technical inaccuracies.

‘The box also comes with a USB stick with some shitty MP3 derivative called Mastering Quality Authenticated (MQA), etc.’
Technical correction 1: Master Quality Authenticated
Technical correction 2: MQA is not a derivative of MP3. MQA is new technology; one which – amongst other aspects – corrects timing inaccuracies. (It also delivers the 90% of the musical information thrown away by MP3.)

‘which is another attempt by the failing mainstream record labels to sell you copy-protected crap, etc.’
Technical correction 3: MQA has no form of copy protection.

I do also take issue with the article’s sentiments re the box set, including what MQA has to offer, but, hey, that’s your take. Nevertheless I would urge you to further investigate MQA here and here. I also encourage you to listen to MQA music via downloads and/or via TIDAL’s Masters service.

Thanks for your time.

Best regards,


MQA (Master Quality Authenticated) is another lossily compressed format that promises improvements over MP3s in the same way that Apple’s AAC did over a decade ago. It is most similar to the failed HDCD (High Definition Compatible Digital) encoder scam that was attempted in the 90s if you are old enough to remember HDCD stamped on pricier CD players and receivers back then with all the other crap like Dolby. HDCD tried to encode more dynamic range onto a standard CD. Jim Lesurf wrote a good article a while back on how HDCD worked theoretically and in practice but the format was mostly a scam to get audio hardware manufacturers to pay for and license HDCD encoders to make discs that consumers would have to buy HDCD compatible devices (whose manufacturers also paid a fee) to properly play back. HDCD’s makers, Pacific Microsonic, eventually cashed out by selling their IP to Micro$oft.

The MQA format, is similarly hitting up manufacturers for money for the equipment and codecs to create their own little proprietary format that sounds worse than regular CDs (and FLAC rips of them) in practice. Digital audio gear manufacturers Benchmark, Linn, and Schiit all laid out exactly how MQA Ltd is attempting to profit as a useless middleman.

I briefly tried MQA a few months ago on a free trial of the Tidal streaming service. It sounds rather odd and not as good as the normal CD quality 16-bit, 441000 kHz PCM losslessly compressed in a FLAC file that from CD rips and websites such as Bandcamp. The MQA sound is almost weirdly bloated, the stereo imaging is messed with (easy to hear with metal’s twin hard-panned guitars), and something just sounded plain wrong to me.

This isn’t surprising given that MQA does not use a typical linear phase, sharp roll off filter but instead uses one that resembles those found in non-oversampling (NOS) digital to analog converters (DAC), claiming that the inherent pre and post ringing of good linear-phase filters is bad despite that the ringing will always be masked by louder sounds unless there is a initial sharp transient like a loud snare hit on the recording. Here’s some “schiit”-eating limey from MQA attempting to explain with snazzy computer graphics how if you pay him, his magical lower fidelity filtering technology that messes with the signal will make your sound more “natural” like the wood-grain on a vintage stereo:

Minimum phase filters on otherwise standard oversampling DACs and NOS DACs (these all have major roll off after 10 kHz) mangle both the frequency response and phase of the recording. They’re not very high-fidelity and usually used by old farts who want to fall asleep to music as everything sounds like it’s coming off a worn old record being amplified by some dying old tube amp from the 60s. MQA sounds worse than these as you can’t even doze off to Sodom and Blasphemy using it. No with MQA, you are just limited to mainstream music that will sound off and worse than the CD copies you might already own.

The real point of MQA is for this limey to pickpocket both manufacturers and consumers like a bad Guy Ritchie movie. Several large corporations have already joined his circlejerking gang. If these MQA shills and sleazy corporate suits actually cared about sound quality, they would be encouraging better recording, mixing, and mastering practices rather than trying to rob everyone. Metalheads (and everyone else who actually likes music) should stick to normal CDs.

Tags: , , , ,

16 thoughts on “Hate Mail (#9): MQA”

  1. Marc Defranco says:

    Wouldn’t really count this as hate mail. The guy said thank you and shit

  2. Murdo @ MQA, Ltd. says:

    I am nice.

    1. Care Bear says:

      hey guys don’t forget about me

  3. you're gay says:

    so the format DOESN’T have copy-protection?

  4. Imposition says:


    See? Nobody cares…

  5. neutronhammer says:

    George is quickly becoming my favourite writer on here

    1. Trysh Stero says:

      Yes more George less faagot lmao

  6. GGALLIN1776 says:

    I doze off to show no mercy just fine in 320 mp3 format, i think that high pitched hiss is what lulls me off to nightmare land.

    Flac *does* sound slightly better but alas my leaking lcd screen 5th gen ipod won’t play that format so I have to download in both formats. That pos only plays mp3 & mp4 as far as I know, everything else I try to load just says “incompatible file format”.

    1. Imposition says:

      If anyone tells me they can hear an actual difference between 320 and FLAC, I think they are:

      a) lying
      b) confabulating

      The only good reason to keep FLAC is if you buy/obtain digital, and want the option of re-encoding years down the track when other compressed formats might replace MP3

      1. It’s incredibly easy to hear a difference between MP3 and FLAC (or CDs) if you just listen to the drum hits, instrumental spacing, and distortion.

        1. Imposition says:

          Have you done the blind tests?

            1. Nom de plume says:

              Interesting, I thought I could at least tell the difference between a 224 and a 320 kbps rip, but after those blind tests I think I need to invest in dedicated sound card and maybe an amp as well.
              BTW could you list your gear? headphones, IEMs?

        2. Imposition says:

          The following doesn’t speak to your particular case, but it’s relevant to my initial claim:


    2. HessianMurdererOfBlackDeath says:

      Convert your FLAC to ALAC. ALAC is lossless and works on Apple computers.

      1. you're gay says:


Comments are closed.

Classic reviews: