MQA-Compatible DACs for Everything?

To Doug Schneider,

If MQA is capable of compensating for time smearing, does this mean that a certified DAC will have enhanced performance also when playing non-MQA FLAC or WAV files? It would be an extra benefit if such a certification process will actually enable improved impulse-response performance in all situations.

Of course, the full potential of MQA recordings should sound even better, but getting a “free” apodizing filter upgrade or something like that should actually be available in the standard package. Don’t you feel likewise?

Best regards,
Peter Veth
The Netherlands

The people at MQA make numerous claims about their supposed time-smearing fix, which involves encoding information about the recording equipment right into music files, then using that information to apply corrections when it’s being decoded by an MQA-capable DAC. Impressive stuff if it works. However, as far as I know, they have yet to do a public A/B comparison to prove their claims that they’re correcting what they say they are. Brent Butterworth called them out about that in an article he wrote for us at High End 2016, which we published on SoundStage! Global. Because of that article, the company arranged a private A/B demo for him at T.H.E. Show Newport 2016, which he also wrote about on Global. I encourage you to read the article, but I’ll mention now that he didn’t hear much of a difference between non-MQA and MQA files. I still have yet to hear an A/B comparison. As a result, from my point of view, the jury is still out with regards to whether they’re doing anything relevant at all.

Insofar as non-MQA files go, there are already numerous non-MQA DACs on the market with apodizing filters, as well as DACs whose designers claim have a near-perfect impulse response. With what I know about the MQA process, I can’t see why an MQA-equipped DAC would perform any better with non-MQA files than those DACs. . . . Doug Schneider