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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142 replies

24bit 96khz simply sounds better.

There isn't even one single variable level matched double blind test that establishes this. I am sorry to use that many adjectives for a test, but a test of that rigour is needed to eliminate the three reasons for things sounding better:
1. Mastering quality
2. Louder - even as small as 0.2dB louder - sounds better
3. All the biases that humans are hard wired with, notably Expectation Bias and Confirmation Bias.
But if these three things are not eliminated, it is very easy for 24/96 to sound better. But so can and does my Sonos kit. It just needs the same master, and knowledge of how 2 and 3 operate in the human hearing system/brain.
Further to the above, the problem as I understand with MQA is that what can be done to obtain the same mastering quality form all other 24/96 material - by downsampling it to 16/44 - cannot be done with MQA. MQA mastered music can only be heard on Meridian hardware or that licensed by them. It is an attempt to drive higher Meridian profits, but unlikely to succeed. Any chances of success would need the scale of an organisation as large as Sony, though it would be very difficult for even Sony to pull off a stunt like this.
24bit 96khz simply sounds better. The higher sample rate fixes the timing to something closer that the human ear and brain process sound. Compare 16bit/44.1 to 24/96 and you can hear a difference. Other things to consider, the price point between SONOS and Bluesound hi-res players are not that much more.


"Fixes the timing to something closer that the human ear and brain process sound"? Sorry, but this is the biggest load of utter BS I've ever heard. Care to cite any actual scientific literature which says this? Any biological text? Any physiological study? Anything from evolutionary neuroscience which explains exactly how/why the higher sample rate more exactly mimics the way the brain processes sound?

Man, I thought I'd heard all the propaganda in the world when it comes to hi-res, but it turns out I haven't even scratched the surface. The ability of the snake oil industry to spout sheer and utter nonsense apparently has no limits.

Ask yourself, would you prefer to watch HD tv in 720p, 1080p or 4K ?? The current platform of SONOS puts us at the lowest end of hi-fi (CD quality)

Again, nonsense. Comparisons like these between video resolutions and audio resolutions show a less than bare-bones knowledge of the math, physics, and physiology involved. Increasing the sample rate of audio does not increase the "slices" or "pixels" of audio sampled. It can only increase the highest frequency contained in the samples. All it accomplishes is the ability to play back sound that is not audible to the human ear. A more proper comparison with video would be to say Hi-res audio is like a TV that shows ultraviolet light as well as the visual spectrum. But nobody is going to use that comparison because a TV reproducing ultraviolet light that no one can see is absurd (as is reproducing audio frequencies above 22 KHz that no one can hear).

You would do well to read Monty's page before speaking with such authority again:

https://people.xiph.org/~xiphmont/demo/neil-young.html
A more proper comparison with video would be to say Hi-res audio is like a TV that shows ultraviolet light as well as the visual spectrum.
Excellent way to explain this; worth keeping in mind. Actually it can be effectively used even where the video comparison has not been brought up.

Excellent way to explain this; worth keeping in mind. Actually it can be effectively used even where the video comparison has not been brought up.


Not really my analogy. Monty used it first. But yes, it is both accurate and useful (except for those who choose to ignore it).
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Everyone blathering on about science forget one major thing - it is EXTREMELY hard to do a test of human senses.

Place a color in front of a human. Remove it. Place a slightly similar color in front. Ask if they are the same - and you'll find that similar results to "blind sound tests".

The same can be demonstrated if you put the colors far apart and slowly bring them together.

It doesn't mean there is no difference - it means that humans have trouble with sensory memory.

I'm not saying that hi-resolution audio is actually better - I'm just saying that blind tests on senses are not a reliable indicator of this. It's the best known solution for testing this ... but it is far from 100% accurate and reliable.

This aside - defending Sonos for refusal to provide technology that a market segment *is* requesting is just foolish. Sonos is making a shortsighted business decision and other providers are filling in some of these gaps. Up to now - no solution has offered the simplicity of Sonos, at a comparable price point and these additional options.

But how long do you want to wait until you polish up your lineup?

Definitive Technology is offering better sound, better options but their setup and application are subpar.
Devialet is offering far better sound, far more options and a solid application - but can't compete on price.
On and on ...

How long until Sonos' strategy is to provide a more wide ranging solution?

No hi res - because they think it is pointless.
No DTS - because they think users of physical media are pointless.
No Dolby Atmos - because they think newer codecs need to be proven.

Seriously!?

I am old enough to remember when Steve Jobs said book readers were stupid because people don't read. So ... apple didn't offer it. They got shelled by competition because he was dead wrong.

I am old enough to remember when Apple decided to make a sub-par TV box that only allowed Apple architecture. They got their butts kicked and could never overcome their subpar offering ... and now Roku, Google and Amazon have pushed AppleTV into irrelevance.

Sonos is a nice product. But it is becoming Bose. A solid product that is overpriced for what you get.
I'm old enough to remember when audiophiles and the audiophile press said SACD was going to take over the market. And then DVD-A. Then 24/96 FLAC. Then Hi-Res ALAC. Then Pono. Then Bluesound. Then MQA.

Still waiting. 😃
Userlevel 3
I'm old enough to remember when audiophiles and the audiophile press said SACD was going to take over the market. And then DVD-A. Then 24/96 FLAC. Then Hi-Res ALAC. Then Pono. Then Bluesound. Then MQA.

Still waiting. :D


Cost vs Benefit.

SACDs were overpriced compared to the benefit received. The issue wasn't lack of interest - it was pricing it too high.

Additionally, a lot of this tech didn't overtake the market is the fact that the primary players, company's like Sonos, refused support it (or like above, supported it at a premium).

Compare this to televisions:

There was a marked improvement with the advent of HD. The new televisions had a premium, but the technology was so much better than the alternatives - people were willing to upgrade.

Then the TV manufacturers wanted to replicate the HD boom by offering 3D. These televisions were priced up to the peak of the market - and did not sell all that well. 3D was neat, but didn't bring the people in at that price point with only a subset of content.

Now, look at 4K televisions - they've dropped the 3d and the difference between 4K and 1080p is negligible outside of extreme conditions and has very little in the way of real content. These TVs are priced just above 1080p televisions . Televisions are selling again.

It's all about cost vs. benefit.
The market that Sonos is interested in doesn't care about Hi Res. Those people that want it, ought to go elsewhere and most do. The target market is more interested in features like voice control, home automation integration, and using streaming services via native apps, while taking existing features for granted. Hi Res is a has been; touted in product marketing only because the hardware is cheap to make now, but not supported by content availability. And it is touted by those that are unable to match Sonos on the other useful things it does better than most out there.

Thankfully Sonos also cares enough about delivering sound of a quality such that I don't need to go elsewhere to get it, while also ticking the features boxes that matter to me, which do not include voice, by the way; whenever that comes it will be just a nice to have addition. And I do not know a product at its price point - or even at a few points above - that does all that it does, as well as it does.
Hi Res is so passé now. Sonos must do MQA to survive. Or at least 48/384.
it means that humans have trouble with sensory memory.


It also means that this is a target rich environment for those that hawk snake oil.

But both on the colour comparisons, and for these tests, there are ways that address just this issue. For those that don't want to drink the hi res Kool Aid, it isn't even necessary to do a test, just understanding the science behind digital audio is enough. And where biases are concerned, some understanding of how these operate is usually enough to dissolve them.
Hi Res is so passé now. Sonos must do MQA to survive. Or at least 48/384.

Gotta love audiophiles. Anything shiny and expensive. MQA is (by their definition) inferior to 24/96 because it eliminates 24 bit bit-depth, something that shows the slimmest of benefits, if only under extremely rare conditions, in favor of higher frequency samples that either experimentally or scientifically have no benefit whatsoever. Then, in a move that went out years ago, MQA gets wrapped in not only software based, but also hardware based DRM.

And audiophiles are going gaga for it. Baaaa. 😃
Userlevel 1
Only someone with ears like Dr Spock or a bat with an ear trumpet can tell the difference between 320kbs and hi-res. Audiophiles just want to brag and justify expensive equipment. Countless tests have proved they can't tell the difference. The rest of us get on with enjoying the music and Sonos rocks.
I'll assume you meant Mr. Spock, and somewhat famous for his pointed ears. Dr. Spock was a pediatrician, and didn't have much to do with aural issues.
Only someone with ears like Dr Spock or a bat with an ear trumpet can tell the difference between 320kbs and hi-res.
An odd choice.

There's a general consensus that lossy compression is not that hard to discern, especially when played through half decent equipment. We're talking here about the difference between encoding the full music signal based on the range of human hearing, i.e. Red Book CD, and gratuitously chucking stuff away to make the file/stream smaller.

On the other hand the difference between Red Book and so-called HiRes has not been consistently demonstrated.

There's a general consensus that lossy compression is not that hard to discern

I agree the choice isn't apples and oranges, but I have to say I go against the consensus. I can't hear any difference between my CDs ripped in Apple lossless/AIFF and those from the same quality recordings bought on iTunes, in 256 kbps AAC. On both play 1 units+Sub as well as on Connect Amp driving HiFi speakers. Perhaps my ears aren't good enough, perhaps it is because I am not listening just to identify differences anymore. Whatever the reason, the outcome is very liberating and now also good on the bank balance since Apple Music provides me with the same sound quality.
Sonos has historically led the way for convenient multi-room digital and needs to offer the MQA codex in its players to maintain market leadership. MQA offers great sound and isn't that what Sonos is all about?