MQA, Tidal and Sonos?


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Tidal is now making available a limited selection of MQA streams to its hi-fi subscribers, making it the first major streaming service to do so. Perhaps it's time to revisit the topic of whether Sonos will support MQA?

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Tidal hasn't gone belly up yet? They've been bleeding cash since they started, never attracted enough subscribers to be cashflow positive. Sonos user base on Tidal? Can't be significant enough for Sonos to want to reengineer everything for something as dubious as MQA.
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This is not intended to be a discussion about Tidal's cash flow. One might assume that other services will experiment with MQA, now that the ball is rolling. I realize Sonos is not big on sound quality innovation, but if MQA proves promising and could see wider adoption in the future, why not consider it? I have no experience with MQA; I'm merely curious about Sonos plans. An earlier discussion on the topic was shut down with the suggestion that it be revived when somebody actually offers MQA streaming. Well, that day has arrived.
(Sonos streaming users) ≫ (Sonos lossless streaming users) ≫ (Sonos TIDAL users) ≫ (Sonos TIDAL users to whom MQA matters)

In short the proportion of Sonos' customer base affected must be miniscule so, IMO, they wouldn't touch MQA even if it wasn't proprietary.

Besides Sonos have said "There are arguments you could make about deeper bit depth, but we are unable to make a meaningful argument on sample rate." MQA is primarily about sample rate.
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This is not intended to be a discussion about Tidal's cash flow. One might assume that other services will experiment with MQA, now that the ball is rolling. I realize Sonos is not big on sound quality innovation, but if MQA proves promising and could see wider adoption in the future, why not consider it? I have no experience with MQA; I'm merely curious about Sonos plans. An earlier discussion on the topic was shut down with the suggestion that it be revived when somebody actually offers MQA streaming. Well, that day has arrived.

Not really sure why you felt it necessary to state "I realize Sonos is not big on sound quality innovation". We know where Sonos are with Hi-Res audio - They have done the technical literature reviews and there own analysis and concluded, as have most others, that there simply is NO qualitative benefit to the listener by using such technology. So, if you ask me, the innovation is realising the state of the art and not following the latest and greatest fad.

Now, obviously, if the landscape changes and new codecs suddenly offer demonstrable audio quality benefits you can be sure that Sonos will be there - Actually, I also think they would be there if a significant part of the market went that way even if there were no demonstrable benefit - they haven't got to be where they are by being Luddites.

And you must know, by now, that Sonos are highly unlikely to detail their plans on this or anything else for that matter.

And for what it's worth. If Tidal are chasing the tiny market that is the Hi-Res audio crew then they are, in my opinion, struggling. Why would THOSE folks think Sonos speakers are high end enough for them?
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And many others have concluded that higher resolution audio does have benefits. I am in that camp, although I'd be the first to acknowledge that those benefits are more obvious with good headphones and a good DAC and headphone amp. I'd rather not turn this into another one of those discussions. Let's assume that there are those who disagree with you on that topic and might want to explore higher quality sound from their Sonos speakers or Connect. Clearly Sonos must also see some benefit in "chasing the tiny market that is the Hi-Res audio crew," since Sonos is the only platform to offer Deezer's higher-resolution, higher cost streaming service.
Sonos must also see some benefit in "chasing the tiny market that is the Hi-Res audio crew," since Sonos is the only platform to offer Deezer's higher-resolution, higher cost streaming service.
That doesn't follow. Deezer Elite is 'only' Red Book CD quality. Nothing to do with the tiny HiRes market.

By all means buy 'HiRes' releases for any superior mastering, but don't confuse that with a higher sampling rate and/or bit depth that only have relevance to non-humans.
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Sonos must also see some benefit in "chasing the tiny market that is the Hi-Res audio crew," since Sonos is the only platform to offer Deezer's higher-resolution, higher cost streaming service.
That doesn't follow. Deezer Elite is 'only' Red Book CD quality. Nothing to do with the tiny HiRes market.

By all means buy 'HiRes' releases for any superior mastering, but don't confuse that with a higher sampling rate and/or bit depth that only have relevance to non-humans.


You clearly want to start another "high-resolution music has no benefits discussion." This is not my intent. Not everybody shares your belief, so please proselytize elsewhere. In addition, I said "Deezer higher-resolution", not "high resolution".
I was merely challenging the suggestion that Sonos' support for Deezer Elite's lossless service (along with Tidal's and Qobuz's) implied that they'd see some benefit in going after a niche of a niche of the market.
I am a member of the club using Tidal for high quality music purposes. And yes MQA is the new hot topic I would like to use on my Sonos systems at home
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Sonos must also see some benefit in "chasing the tiny market that is the Hi-Res audio crew," since Sonos is the only platform to offer Deezer's higher-resolution, higher cost streaming service.
That doesn't follow. Deezer Elite is 'only' Red Book CD quality. Nothing to do with the tiny HiRes market.

By all means buy 'HiRes' releases for any superior mastering, but don't confuse that with a higher sampling rate and/or bit depth that only have relevance to non-humans.


You clearly want to start another "high-resolution music has no benefits discussion." This is not my intent. Not everybody shares your belief, so please proselytize elsewhere. In addition, I said "Deezer higher-resolution", not "high resolution".


Listen (pun intended). Sonos sell an audio product. If they cannot HEAR nor can any laboratories detect any benefits for this thing then what else do you expect? Hi-Res does NOT have any benefit. Well maybe it does but NOT for the listeners!
According to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Master_Quality_Authenticated#Decoders
Commercial MQA-capable playback devices require payment of a royalty to MQA Ltd per unit sold.

Based on information from Auralic, a manufacturer of Audiophile Wireless Audio Streamers, Meridian Audio prohibits digital output of unpacked MQA in any digital format, only allowing the unpacked data to be fed to an on-board MQA-compatible DAC and output in analog form. Some claim this to be a part of DRM process[citation needed], which allows a proper MQA file to be authenticated and the full quality of the signal decoded only on commercially-licensed equipment.

Royalty charge? DRM? Post-decoder digital output prohibited?

The words 'Sonos', 'barge pole' and 'not touch' come to mind, notwithstanding their stated lack of belief in HiRes on science grounds.
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Sonos must also see some benefit in "chasing the tiny market that is the Hi-Res audio crew," since Sonos is the only platform to offer Deezer's higher-resolution, higher cost streaming service.
That doesn't follow. Deezer Elite is 'only' Red Book CD quality. Nothing to do with the tiny HiRes market.

By all means buy 'HiRes' releases for any superior mastering, but don't confuse that with a higher sampling rate and/or bit depth that only have relevance to non-humans.


You clearly want to start another "high-resolution music has no benefits discussion." This is not my intent. Not everybody shares your belief, so please proselytize elsewhere. In addition, I said "Deezer higher-resolution", not "high resolution".


Listen (pun intended). Sonos sell an audio product. If they cannot HEAR nor can any laboratories detect any benefits for this thing then what else do you expect? Hi-Res does NOT have any benefit. Well maybe it does but NOT for the listeners!


That is your opinion, and perhaps that of Sonos. However, as we might speculate, Sonos could have other reasons for having that opinion. Perhaps their speakers are or are not up to the task of conveying the nuances of high-resolution audio. I don't know. Until or unless Sonos experiments with MQA, nobody will be able to judge whether it has an impact on Sonos equipment. Not you, not I. However, I am prepared to keep an open mind. You are already involved in another (current) discussion where you insist on informing the world that high-res has no benefit. And I can see from a quick search that you've been trying to tell us this for some some time. As you are well aware, this is a common discussion theme in audio forums, with believers on both sides. However, this was not intended to be a high-res vs. low-res discussion. So, respectfully, why don't you confine your opinions to a relevant discussion and let the rest of us continue, unfettered by your constant berating of high-res. We are allowed to believe that it has sonic benefits, and that MQA may have benefits. On the other hand, your comments about royalties, etc., are at least reasonable, although I would rather hear it from Meridian see "(citation needed)". Who is to say that they won't allow software unpacking in the future, if Auralic is correct? Who is to say that Aurelic is correct?
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Toolio...

I think one of the items to consider... aside from the question as to wether or not someone can hear a difference, is the practical legalities and cost structures that surround the use of some of the 'new' formats...

Ratty' comments above seem accurate...

Expecting Sonos to update all their players with abilities to decode an audio format with limited distribution where there is an expectation that every audio device enabled would require a royalty payment to enable it and then the potential restrictions on post decoding use... well, I think the business model puts this to rest before the audiophile discussion gets started.

Add to this the amount of open source work that is done in this space by audiophile/technophile geeks and I think we will see other alternatives that eliminate middle-men type organizations trying to make a buck on the control of a format.

Just a thought.
Terms like "believe" and "faith" are frequently used by the audiophile faithful. It's a religion to them. Very much like a certain odious politician, they have little use for facts. They think that their opinions are equivalent to facts. Wrong!
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I suppose "faith" would be used by the "faithful," wouldn't it? My facts are this. My Sonos equipment is for everyday, walkaround listening. For serious listening, I tend to gravitate toward my collection of headphones and DACS. Or better speakers (I spend my time in two countries; one of my homes has a much better speaker setup than the other and different headphones/DACs.) I can definitely hear the difference between redbook and 24/96 on a good headphone setup. I cannot hear the difference between 24/96 and 24/192, although I respect others' right to hear that difference. So while my Sonos gear isn't highest on the audio quality list (although I do think the Play 5 is very good for what it is) I see no harm whatsover in wondering whether MQA could make a decent Play 5 or Connect-powered system sound better.
Honestly, I have no idea because I have no experience with MQA on speakers, although one of my DACs handles MQA. Unfortunately, it is in the country in which I am not at the moment, so I'll have to wait to play around with Tidal MQA on headphones.
Nobody has presented any "facts" here about MQA and Sonos sound quality because nobody has any--with the possible exception of Sonos, who won't be saying anything. There have been some valid comments about royalties, other issues, and possible future alternatives to MQA. That's the kind of discussion I was hoping to start.
I can definitely hear the difference between redbook and 24/96 on a good headphone setup.
Double blind, level matched? From the same master?

That's the kind of discussion I was hoping to start.
Hydrogen Audio wouldn't countenance such a discussion unless it was backed up by ABX results. It's not unreasonable for 'believers' in HiRes to be similarly challenged here.
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Yes to all the usual questions. Yes to "Double blind, level matched? From the same master?" Quite a few times in quite a few different places, ranging from my home to audio meets and over many years. Been there done that, participated in this discussion many times elsewhere. I don't think the difference is tremendous, but it exists (although it depends on the type of music; female vocals and recordings with defined instrumentation, such as jazz, seem to me to be the biggest beneficiaries).
I have no objection to "believers" being challenged; I am saying this discussion was not intended to be one of those discussions. There are many other discussions about this in the Sonos community and hundreds of them in other audio communities.
I asked a simple question at the top of this discussion and it appears to have been pushed down the same old road. I accept that you can't hear the difference; you'll have to accept that I and others can.
I accept that you can't hear the difference; you'll have to accept that I and others can.
Forgive me if that comes across as a bit of the standard "emperor's new clothes" elitism which seems to be a hallmark of the subjectivist faction. The published results of a scientifically controlled test in which a representative sample of listeners can consistently differentiate would be helpful input to the debate.
Or just the results of a foobar comparison. Plenty of those on Hydrogen Audio. I've yet to see one that supports your claim, but would be greatly interested...
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I accept that you can't hear the difference; you'll have to accept that I and others can.
Forgive me if that comes across as a bit of the standard "emperor's new clothes" elitism which seems to be a hallmark of the subjectivist faction. The published results of a scientifically controlled test in which a representative sample of listeners can consistently differentiate would be helpful input to the debate.

What debate?
There should be no debate here. I asked a question about Sonos and MQA and now you think this is a debate about whether I or others can hear the difference in sound quality at different resolutions? Keep that "debate" elsewhere and leave this discussion on-topic. How many times, and in now many places, do you want to have the same discussion? It is ongoing in other threads in this community.
I have participated in dozens, if not hundreds of threads about the high-resolution issue in audio forums over the years. I am not going to do so here because some participants are hell-bent on hijacking yet another discussion. Had this been my intention, I would have asked a different question.
You appear to be a reasonably intelligent person, therefore I can only assume that you are aware that your request strays far from the original intent of this topic. However, I must tip my hat to your turn of phrase: "the standard "emperor's new clothes" elitism which seems to be a hallmark of the subjectivist faction." Where I see black and white boxes that produce sound, other see a "subjectivist faction" lol.
You appear to have made a virtual career out of this forum with 20566 replies, yet you do not have enough respect to allow a discussion to continue without going on and on about the same off-topic assertions. If you can't hear the difference, you can't hear the difference. Nobody is berating you for that. It is, however, unfortunate.
(Sonos streaming users) ≫ (Sonos lossless streaming users) ≫ (Sonos TIDAL users) ≫ (Sonos TIDAL users to whom MQA matters)

In short the proportion of Sonos' customer base affected must be miniscule so, IMO, they wouldn't touch MQA even if it wasn't proprietary.

Besides Sonos have said "There are arguments you could make about deeper bit depth, but we are unable to make a meaningful argument on sample rate." MQA is primarily about sample rate.


Pretty much sums it up. MQA is a huge snooze. Echo Dots have been selling like hot cakes. Sonos is correctly concentrating on AWS, highly doubt they'll waste precious resources on something with the relatively tiny market appeal and dubious benefits of MQA.
You appear to be a reasonably intelligent person
How gracious!

You appear to have made a virtual career out of this forum with 20566 replies, yet you do not have enough respect to allow a discussion to continue without going on and on about the same off-topic assertions.
Much of that post count was accumulated during 5 years of moderating the old forums, a good bit of which was spent discouraging members from tearing chunks out of one another. I'll accordingly ignore the 'not enough respect' gibe. Seen that one before too.

Sonos can answer for themselves -- or not given their traditional reticence -- as to whether they'd consider MQA, but it's hardly 'off-topic' to question the logic of such a strategy.
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Toolio. To use MQA the device needs an MQA compatible DAC. Sonos speakers don't have this DAC. Ergo. End of discussion.
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Toolio. To use MQA the device needs an MQA compatible DAC. Sonos speakers don't have this DAC. Ergo. End of discussion.
At the moment, yes, and that's a good point. But that doesn't mean the situation won't change. I am far from an expert on MQA, but it was my impression from discussions elsewhere that MQA stream "unpacking" can be also done at the software level. Whether that will be sanctioned by MQA developers is another issue. And whether Sonos could, or would, produce firmware to accomplish that task is another. Also, as pointed out above, that could lead to royalty requests.
From an interview with the MQA honcho:

We already have software decoders for a number of hardware, portable and mobile platforms. In these three cases the decoder has the benefit of precise knowledge of the DAC and associated hardware.
See A42, there is no inherent quality difference between MQA decoders unless they are operating in designated power-saving modes. However, it is inevitable that a properly designed hardware product, incorporating the decoder and DAC will give the better result. The performance level that MQA enables, allows hardware makers an even better environment on which to stretch their skills. For the audiophile, this should be very exciting.
We do anticipate a program to enable such applications, but the requirement for tight DAC coupling and the obligation to match the previewed audio (in the studio) means that several combinations and options are still being explored with both DAC makers and creators of software players. We will make announcements in due course.
No, Sonos is not going to implement a codec requiring a license fee, for a niche of a niche of a niche market, for an auditory benefit they have publicly stated they do not believe exists. Not going to happen, time to shop elsewhere.

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