MQA love or hate? Creator Bob Stuart speaks: AudioStream Podcast No.1

Welcome to the debut episode of the AudioStream Podcast and one we think is a real conversation starter.

Our introductory interview features none other than the legendary Bob Stuart, of cutting-edge digital hi-fi maker Meridian Audio, Life Fellow in the prestigious Audio Engineering Society (AES) and most recently the creator of the divisive music-codec technology MQA and its very public and continually unfolding story in the music and hi-fi industry.

MQA has been a cause célebre since it's inception and Bob Stuart is not a man known to back down to, or let criticism for a product he deeply believes in go unanswered. If anything Stuart is challenging the industry with a large red cape as a matador would a bull in the ring.

Add in the fact that MQA has steadily and not-so-quietly acquired some of the largest studios' music catalogs for conversion to MQA and what was once a gleam in Stuart's eye has become a full-blown juggernaut in the streaming-music industry and hi-fi in general that doesn't look to be going anywhere but total market domination.

Acolytes and outright critics abound at every turn in the industry when MQA comes up, with vitriol and eulogizing practically mixed in equal parts. In my personal experience as a music lover, high-fidelity journalist and industry watcher to not become engaged in a some vigorous exchanges on the subject of MQA is nigh impossible.

A close friend once said to me; "you know when you're getting really successful because that's when the haters come out." Is this an apt phrase to apply here? You be the judge. I consider Stuart to be an outright electronic engineering pioneer and genuine gentleman.

Stuart sits down with Brian Hunter to discuss the ins and outs, ups and downs and ones and zeros of shepherding in a new high-resolution format. The implications of the company’s folding/unfolding technology for pushing a bigger file through a smaller tube for digital audio enthusiasts is obvious, as are the possibilities for streaming.

Peppered into the show among other subjects, Mr. Stuart shares his vantage point on all things MQA, including what it's like working through the encoding process from the original tapes, through the studio and into MQA-enabled devices.

The curtain on MQA is pulled back for all to hear, enjoy the first of many podcasts coming to AudioStream.

–Rafe Arnott and Brian Hunter

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cameltow's picture

Bob and his industry insiders claimed 4 years ago that MQA would allow the listener to hear for the first time what the engineers heard in the studio.

Besides that poppy cock, we have Harley and Atkinson editors of The Absolute Sound and Stereophile selling out the high-end audio sector claiming that listening to MQA is the equivalent of experiencing the birth of a new world. Whatever that's supposed to mean.

Yet, one respected reviewer with extremely well-trained ears said that with all of MQA's sonic shortcomings and failures, he could understand why the naive listener might prefer the inferior sound of MQA.

I said then as I say now that it is impossible for MQA to be at best any more musical than any hi-rez formats already available today and at worst significantly less musical than Redbook CD.

It would seem that Stuart and other propagandists backing off of their early out-of-this-world performance claims substantiates my impossible assertion.

Because of their early outlandish performance claims, their backing away from those claims, MQA is but a joke to invoke DRM.

This might also explain why Bob spends so much time discussing the brain and its interpretation of sound, rather than MQA.

Sue's picture

While I'm not a fan of MQA, I agree with most of your comments about Bob Stuart. I also regard Bob as a legend in this industry for his decades of digital innovations from the company he co-founded, Meridian.

I reviewed one of Meridian's first flagship 808 players, and its still on my bucket list to this day. Considering the most recent itineration of the 808 (version 6, I believe) retails in excess of 20K, I'll have to be content with my Oppo player, at least for now.

PeterV's picture

Ever since Tidal started streaming music in MQA quality I am enjoying it every day. I never expected to get this at home even 105 albums in 24/352.8 MQA unfolds and almost 2000 in 24/192 MQA quality. Streaming this at home, but also in my car. fantastic! The other 10.000 albums and EP's are perfectly in sound as well. Thanks, Bob Stuart and MQA!

Sue's picture

Thanks for stopping by.

Hope you don't mind me asking, do you work for MQA or are you just an avid supporter?

I personally have never heard MQA, but would welcome the opportunity to hear a valid comparison if it were offered to me.

Sue Kraft

texanalog's picture

No soup for you!

PeterV's picture

Hi Sue, sorry for responding so late... My answer is that I am not working for Meridian or MQA, but that I am an early adopter of the 'format' and I enjoy it a lot ever since it was introduced. If you are interested to hear it, a valid comparison is best made at home and play records which you know for years. That's the way it convinced me and I was not even sitting in the sweet-spot, on the contrary.. listen to MQA music while reading a newspaper and then you realize it's a more relaxing experience. Some albums sound stunning, some are less involving, but overall it is a winner :-)

bobbmd's picture

@PeterV: Can you comment how you get MQA in your car? I only get HiFi from my self made TIDAL playlists(both MQA and nonMQA) downloaded to my iPhone or iPadPro and only a green LED on the AudioQuest DragonFly RED DAC I use with the Apple Camera Kit connector. I never directly listen to TIDAL via the iPhone so as to not incur data charges and do not have cellular on my iPad
Thanks bobbmd