To Doug Schneider,
Thanks for the great article.
I have had an MQA-certified DAC for over six weeks now. Like you, I was skeptical about any comparisons using Tidal and chose to base my judgements on the 2L samples. To be thorough, I downloaded the MQA, hi-res, and CD versions.
1) The production on these tracks is excellent and they do sound like they were derived from the same masters.
2) It is indeed hard to hear any differences. To me, the hi-res and MQA do sound slightly better than the CD quality, but only slightly.
3) I heard no discernible difference in the hi-res and MQA versions.
I have revisited these files numerous times and my results are always the same.
I will also point out that I participated in Archimago’s “blind” MQA vs. PCM test and scored three out of three. Each time I preferred the sound of the PCM file. The pseudo-MQA files had slight distortions, which admittedly were minor and took a lot of concentration to pinpoint. The overall presentation (musicality?) of the PCM versions was just a little better. I do not fully understand the process Archimago used to “unfold” the MQA versions to PCM containers, and cannot comment if it is a valid test of MQA. I only mention my “perfect” scoring as a testament to my listening ability.
I am impressed by your skepticism about doing comparisons using Tidal masters, as well as the approaches you have taken to determine if MQA is better, worse, or different -- you’ve put more thought into and done more legwork than many audio journalists have. And, yes, it certainly appears you can hear! It also appears that you are not afraid to be honest in your assessments. After someone buys a new piece of equipment (in your case, the MQA-compatible DAC), bias comes in and they do everything in their power to believe it sounds better. It is a hard pill to swallow when it is not. Good for you! Thank you for writing in. . . . Doug Schneider