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post #1 of 49 Old 12-05-2014, 10:55 PM - Thread Starter
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Meridian MQA Promises Revolution in Recorded Music Quality and Convenience



Convenience or quality? With Meridian's new Master Quality Authenticated technology, you can have both.

As most AVS members know, the balance between quality and convenience in music recordings has shifted dramatically toward convenience in the last decade or so. Highly data-compressed MP3 and other types of files dominate the music marketplace, allowing quick downloads, low-bandwidth streaming, and many thousands of songs to be stored on small players. But the cost of this convenience is too high for those of us who value quality—as much as 90% of the information in a music recording is discarded in the compression process, taking much of the music's emotional impact with it, as indicated by recent research.

As if in response to this trend, uncompressed (or losslessly compressed) high-resolution recordings are becoming an essential part of audiophiles' libraries. In many cases, however, much of the potential of high-res audio (HRA) goes unused because the original source material has no information beyond what can be fully captured with CD specs (44.1 kHz sampling rate, 16-bit resolution), thus wasting storage and bandwidth. Even worse, the provenance of a recording—how it was originally recorded and how it was processed to become the final product—is often unknown, making it difficult to know if you're really hearing what the artist intended.

At a launch event in London on December 4, British high-end audio company Meridian announced that it has developed a new technology called Master Quality Authenticated (MQA) to address these issues. MQA is said to bring together the ideals of studio-quality sound, convenience, and end-to-end authenticity. According to Meridian, "it uses a completely new concept of capturing the total essence of an original recording and conveying it all the way to the listener, assuring that what they are hearing is identical to the original master recording."

MQA starts with the original master recording that has been approved by the artist and producer. A new sampling method Meridian calls Encapsulation can resolve the finest time divisions we can hear to capture every subtlety of the recording. The process is informed by the latest research in neuroscience and psychoacoustics that reveals how we identify and locate sounds, and that timing details of a few microseconds are important.

Next, MQA uses innovative lossless processing to create a file that encodes and delivers the details of the recording and instructions for the decoder and DAC (digital-to-analog converter) about how to re-create an authenticated, exact reconstruction of the original signal. This highly efficient encoding results in smaller file sizes than super-high sampling-rate systems, allowing easy downloading and streaming while preserving all the sound of the original. And MQA can be delivered in any lossless container, such as WAV, FLAC, or ALAC.

The decoder—which can be implemented as an app, a software player, or in hardware—is said to be quite simple, and it reconstructs the exact sound approved in the studio along with an indicator to authenticate that what you're hearing is a true rendition of the original master recording. And the system works with all masters at sampling rates from 44.1 to 768 kHz. If you don't have a decoder available, an MQA file will play on conventional equipment at CD quality.

Bob Stuart, co-founder of Meridian and creator of MQA (seen in a photo from the launch event at the top of this post), says, "Music lovers need no longer be shortchanged; finally we can all hear exactly what the musicians recorded. MQA gives a clear, accurate and authentic path from the recording studio all the way to any listening environment—at home, in the car, or on the go. And we didn't sacrifice convenience. The announcement of MQA is really about the future of recorded music. Music is important to us all. When the sound is authentic, it is more involving, we understand it better and enjoy it longer. MQA is already receiving broad support from the music industry, artists, recording and mastering engineers, and record labels."

MQA is incredibly interesting, and I'm eager to learn more about its technical underpinnings. Even more important, I can't wait to hear it for myself at CES next month. MQA will available in early 2015; for more info, visit musicischanging.com.

Here's a short video about the launch of MQA featuring Bob Stuart and Mike Jbara from Warner Music Group:


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post #2 of 49 Old 12-06-2014, 04:42 AM
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I too am very interested in this tech but frankly, it would have been better had it come out 10 years ago. Now, with storage so cheap and faster and faster download speeds, it is not as important now to have small containers. This tech will not give you better sound than we can get now, just smaller file sizes which will be easier to download and store. Plus, you will need a new AVR or DAC to use this tech. Thankly, my DAC is fully upgradeable and hopefully the company will have a new card ready to take advantage of this tech in 2015.

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post #3 of 49 Old 12-06-2014, 04:50 AM
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Meridian has been in the forefront of digital audio for quite some time - excellent engineering and products. The trouble is that their systems are proprietary in nature and expensive, so the market for their inventions is limited to, well, Meridian.
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post #4 of 49 Old 12-06-2014, 05:54 AM
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Sounds like a good concept but when I saw this: LP better quality than everything else is pure BS. This is why the last time I own a Meridian system was back in college decades ago. They don't seem to progress....
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post #5 of 49 Old 12-06-2014, 06:46 AM
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now if only they allow their decoder to be made mainstream and easy to incorporate into other products...

In the meantime I still want to consider their Media Library product but they haven't added multi-artist or multi-genre delimiting. Their system is WAY to expensive not to have stuff that has been standard in media monkey and Jrivers media center for over a decade.

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post #6 of 49 Old 12-06-2014, 06:49 AM
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^
I agree the above graph doesn't make sense, but for another reason.. Yes the LP does sound better than the CD, but how is SACD less convenient than CD?
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post #7 of 49 Old 12-06-2014, 06:49 AM
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A pity that Neil Young wasn't at Meridian's launch.

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post #8 of 49 Old 12-06-2014, 07:16 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Veda View Post


Sounds like a good concept but when I saw this: LP better quality than everything else is pure BS. This is why the last time I own a Meridian system was back in college decades ago. They don't seem to progress....

I believe you misread the graph. It doesn't want to show which format is better, only showing the different formats along the timeline for when the choice for quality would give way for the choice of convenience. Even though, as some have said already, bandwidth and costs come down, 95% of users are happy with crappy 192 kbps
MP3's/AAC quality.
I think it is very useful to bring the container size down so that more users will go for the "good stuff", if their player can play it of course.

Thx Scott for the informative report.
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post #9 of 49 Old 12-06-2014, 07:39 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Veda View Post


Sounds like a good concept but when I saw this: LP better quality than everything else is pure BS. This is why the last time I own a Meridian system was back in college decades ago. They don't seem to progress....
i would even start with BS.

how hard do they need so spread wrong informations?

a cassette is as good as a brought DL you can buy DLs with specs like 24 bit/192 khz.

if they are going to release audio that is not DRC to death. yeah fine but no need to spread informations like this.
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post #10 of 49 Old 12-06-2014, 08:28 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Veda View Post


Sounds like a good concept but when I saw this: LP better quality than everything else is pure BS. This is why the last time I own a Meridian system was back in college decades ago. They don't seem to progress....

I must take opinion with the graph - how can tape be a better medium than LP or even loss less dvd audio? Tape has a little issue called hiss, that cannot be stopped it makes contact with the heads. This = noise. I would put my copy of "Morph the kat" up against any tape machine and it will sound better. ( any newly recorded digital master)
Also, I have issue with the quality statement-most will sit and listen with inferior speakers/ and amplification device's. It makes little sense to me, but for those who know how to use it properly a great advantage to music.

Any word on multichannel?
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post #11 of 49 Old 12-06-2014, 09:37 AM
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New lossless audio codec with
- core audio stream that'll play on existing equipment
- additional info that'll play through newer processors

Sounds like the Dolby and DTS lossless tech. Diff company, diff codec, possibly DRM, diff hardware, diff royalty receiver.

Didn't watch the video. Is the "authentication indicator" safe from being spoofed or just being made up by the HRA seller? If somebody just up-converts CDs and sells them as HRA, they might also make up this indicator. Can the tech prevent that?
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post #12 of 49 Old 12-06-2014, 10:32 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by boguspomp View Post
I believe you misread the graph. It doesn't want to show which format is better, only showing the different formats along the timeline for when the choice for quality would give way for the choice of convenience.
Thanks for that clarification; now the graph makes more sense.
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post #13 of 49 Old 12-06-2014, 11:18 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by classicrecording View Post
^
I agree the above graph doesn't make sense, but for another reason.. Yes the LP does sound better than the CD, but how is SACD less convenient than CD?

I bet to differ. The LP may sound better to you but not to me. I would say different. I find the CD to be more accurate and the LP to be more shall we say..... euphonic. The good thing today as we now have more choices than before with LPs being more available that 10 years ago but at rather high prices for the most part. If you need the LP you can get them.

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post #14 of 49 Old 12-06-2014, 11:22 AM
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So it's a new lossy compression method?
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post #15 of 49 Old 12-06-2014, 11:27 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mike_carton View Post
***Sounds like the Dolby and DTS lossless tech. Diff company, diff codec, possibly DRM, diff hardware, diff royalty receiver.
Not exactly. My understanding of Dolby TrueHD is that it's based on Stuart's earlier "Meridian Lossless Packing."

That said, I'm skeptical that this setup will offer anything better from a technical perspective. If it requires more rigorous mastering guidelines, then it could have real value there.

Bur the digital stuff is just a smokescreen/dog whistle. Consider that we have idiot buffoons like that Fleischmann character at Sound & Vision who isn't smart enough to know the difference between an AES preprint (no peer review) and an actual JAES article (peer reviewed), and writes intellectually dishonest blowhard commentary based on the hopes that his readers are rubes like him.

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post #16 of 49 Old 12-06-2014, 11:54 AM
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As intriguing as this may be to have one high quality container for all, it still does not address the true crux for High Fidelity Audio and that is the decisions made during engineering/mastering of the content.

When proper mastering is universally practiced and there is actually some compelling dynamic range to actually enjoy that does not all reside in the area that should be reserved solely for headroom rather than content then I will be excited; otherwise it is all much ado about nothing.

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post #17 of 49 Old 12-06-2014, 01:15 PM
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I bet to differ. The LP may sound better to you but not to me. I would say different. I find the CD to be more accurate and the LP to be more shall we say..... euphonic.
And the Meridian guys should have objected as well seeing that they tried to be the digital pioneer since the beginning of time.
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post #18 of 49 Old 12-06-2014, 01:38 PM
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[QUOTE=DS-21;29663274]Not exactly. My understanding of Dolby TrueHD is that it's based on Stuart's earlier "Meridian Lossless Packing."
QUOTE]
I didn't mean this is using MLP. I meant the technique or idea is the same. Core audio stream with additional audio data in an additional stream to cater to different hardware capabilities. This is different codec as I said and hence a different royalty receiver.
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post #19 of 49 Old 12-06-2014, 04:03 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by quad4.0 View Post
I must take opinion with the graph - how can tape be a better medium than LP or even loss less dvd audio? Tape has a little issue called hiss, that cannot be stopped it makes contact with the heads. This = noise. I would put my copy of "Morph the kat" up against any tape machine and it will sound better. ( any newly recorded digital master)
Also, I have issue with the quality statement-most will sit and listen with inferior speakers/ and amplification device's. It makes little sense to me, but for those who know how to use it properly a great advantage to music.

Any word on multichannel?
The secret to a great tape recording is using a LOT of recording media to make the recording. The finest recordings ever made are generally considered to be analog recordings made using 1/2 inch tape at 30ips with no noise reduction. This gets expensive in a hurry.
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One observation. Running tape at 30 ips, while reducing tape hiss and extending HF response, also causes issues with low frequency response. 15 ips was the sweet spot. There are trade-offs in everything.
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post #21 of 49 Old 12-06-2014, 06:29 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mike_carton View Post
I didn't mean this is using MLP. I meant the technique or idea is the same. Core audio stream with additional audio data in an additional stream to cater to different hardware capabilities. This is different codec as I said and hence a different royalty receiver.
I didn't, either. I meant that it's the same royalty receiver as MLP: Meridian.

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post #22 of 49 Old 12-07-2014, 05:27 AM
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"Even worse, the provenance of a recording—how it was originally recorded and how it was processed to become the final product—is often unknown, making it difficult to know if you're really hearing what the artist intended...

MQA starts with the original master recording that has been approved by the artist and producer."

The active involvement of the people who were actually present in the recording studio is, for me, the most significant differentiator for MQA releases. As @KMFDMvsEnya said, let's hope that they use this opportunity to remaster the recordings with a greater dynamic range: one that doesn't contribute to the 'loudness war'. Even better would be if they released the pre-master stems and multitracks, as Trent Reznor sometimes does with his various projects.

I, dabotsonline / Nicholas Polydor, am part of Panasonic UK's 'VIERA VIP Club': a group of six bloggers and forum posters receiving special access to information and events for the TV product range. Costs for activities are covered by Panasonic (no cash is involved). However, I can assure that this will never compromise my integrity or objectivity as an ethical conscience is something I have always and will forever hold very dear to my heart.
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post #23 of 49 Old 12-07-2014, 10:14 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DS-21 View Post
Not exactly. My understanding of Dolby TrueHD is that it's based on Stuart's earlier "Meridian Lossless Packing."

That said, I'm skeptical that this setup will offer anything better from a technical perspective. If it requires more rigorous mastering guidelines, then it could have real value there.

Bur the digital stuff is just a smokescreen/dog whistle. Consider that we have idiot buffoons like that Fleischmann character at Sound & Vision who isn't smart enough to know the difference between an AES preprint (no peer review) and an actual JAES article (peer reviewed), and writes intellectually dishonest blowhard commentary based on the hopes that his readers are rubes like him.
Well said, I've read that "article" too in S&V, it's amazing what gets published these days.

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post #24 of 49 Old 12-07-2014, 10:19 AM
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[quote=mike_carton;29666914]
Quote:
Originally Posted by DS-21 View Post
Not exactly. My understanding of Dolby TrueHD is that it's based on Stuart's earlier "Meridian Lossless Packing."
QUOTE]
I didn't mean this is using MLP. I meant the technique or idea is the same. Core audio stream with additional audio data in an additional stream to cater to different hardware capabilities.
Except that DTHD don't have a lossy core, like DTS has, neither is MLP, which is what DTHD was modeled after.

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post #25 of 49 Old 12-07-2014, 10:00 PM
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Another trend riding up on the ignorance of the masses.

"It goes to 384kHz so that your neighbor bat can hear it!"

"Millions of bits are available to you so that you'll know they're there!"

This BS won't cut it no more.
I need real value to shed the dough.
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post #26 of 49 Old 12-10-2014, 12:30 AM
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We don't need better quality music recordings, we need better musicians.
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post #27 of 49 Old 12-10-2014, 09:35 AM
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There are always fine musicians recording things. We don't need better musicians, we need better mastering of consumer products. We shouldn't need a proprietary 'hi rez' format to get that.

We also need better acoustics at home, but that's not the industry's fault (except when it pushes twaddle like MQA instead of things that will actually make a big difference to the user's listening experience)
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post #28 of 49 Old 12-10-2014, 09:44 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DS-21 View Post
Not exactly. My understanding of Dolby TrueHD is that it's based on Stuart's earlier "Meridian Lossless Packing."

That said, I'm skeptical that this setup will offer anything better from a technical perspective. If it requires more rigorous mastering guidelines, then it could have real value there.

Bur the digital stuff is just a smokescreen/dog whistle. Consider that we have idiot buffoons like that Fleischmann character at Sound & Vision who isn't smart enough to know the difference between an AES preprint (no peer review) and an actual JAES article (peer reviewed), and writes intellectually dishonest blowhard commentary based on the hopes that his readers are rubes like him.
As it happens, a subset of AES convention papers ('preprints') *are* now peer-reviewed (the whole paper, not just the abstract) -- this is a fairly recent thing. Meridian's recent convention paper at AES about 'audibility of digital filters' for example, is one. This was brought to my attention by our AVSF's own indefatigable hi-rez booster, amirm . Here's the details; see Category 1 and the explanation in the 2nd paragraph:

http://www.aes.org/events/137/author...lForPapers.pdf
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Then we just need more and better studio recording/mastering music engineers. ...Like from Chesky studios in New York, and ECM studios in Europe.
...Reference Recordings and Channel Classics and FIM music record labels.

♦ Solid music ♪ mediums like CD, SACD (DSD), DXD, XRCD24, Blu-ray Audio, ... and mixed/mastered by the pros.

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post #30 of 49 Old 12-11-2014, 12:08 PM
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Like the internet itself, the cat is not going back in the bag. The consumers who support the market are happy with 320kps mp3's. They want it on their phones, car media players, tablets, etc. Purchase, download, and go. audiophile types will not be able to sway consumers who listen to most stuff in earbuds, tablet speakers, bluetooth speakers, and cars with the subwoofers bangin'. No one is sitting in an acoustically tuned room with $20k audio systems listening to adele or Lorde. There will be a small niche audiophile market for these types of high rez files but the consumers will continue to pass.

Also, tape was never the magic elixir people romanticize it to be nowadays. We did everything possible to workaround it's short comings. The process used back then was key. Tracked to 2" tape through $750k console. Mixed off of 2" tape thru $750k console with analog gear inserted all mixed down to 1/2" or 1" 2 trk tape at 30ips. 15ips made the bottom too tubby and killed the highs. Every time you re-wound the 2" during the 16-24hr mixing process you lost some high end. Not very noticeable until the end of the mix. usually a GML or Sontec eq on mixbus before hitting 1/2" brought back the lost sheen. Dealing with the noise floor, maintenance, calibration, tape costs and storage were other issues. James Brown would have been James Brown without analog tape.

Many great songs were made when the process removed all analog tape and replaced it with sony 48trk 1/2" digital tape and mixed down to DAT. Panasonic DATs had great converters. Many of us kept our 1/2" mixdown machines because of the "glue" it provided the mix. You can use less compression on mixbus. But that thing hasn't been patched in for years here. The HD rigs prevalent in past 15 years suffered from bad conversion early on and some lack of knowledge on dealing with digital that led to some harsh sounding releases.

OT, I never felt like vinyl sounded "better" than CDs. But vinyl's steep high end roll off starting at 15khz that gets worse the more you play the vinyl is more pleasing to some than the open high end of digital. Never liked pops and crackles. And if you had an album with over 10 songs the vinyl is mastered with much lower volume and sounds thinner than an actual vinyl single. Plus the darn storage. I used to keep a storage unit just for vinyl. Did that for 5 years.

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