Saturday, 28 April 2018

MUSINGS: On DRM, MQA, the (supposed) Techno-Libertarian opposition, and Honesty... [Plus a quick look at MQA-CD]

Eugène Delacroix - "La Liberté guidant le peuple" (Liberty Leading the People).
Looking around the audiophile press this past couple of weeks, we see the next installment of Jim Austin's exploration into MQA - "MQA, DRM, and Other Four-Letter Words" in the pages of Stereophile.

I asked myself after reading the article, do I and others who share my views on MQA fit the description of being "in a state" about the threat of DRM? And am I and others who oppose MQA the kind of person he generalizes about when he said this?
Because they are a certain kind of person: advocates of open-source, open-standard software. We meet them at the intersection of audiophilia and information technology. These are the Internet libertarians I mentioned earlier: audiophiles whose sensibilities were nourished in the software industry.
For this post, let's think about comments like those above, and consider some peripheral yet important aspects around freedom in audio data file formats, DRM, MQA, and more...

To a certain extent, admittedly the quote above holds some truth speaking mainly for myself of course. I appreciate open-source and open-standards especially for data files because this "opens" the door to compatibility with more hardware and software. Audio software developers can focus energies on creative features, nicer GUI, better playlist management, maybe applying advanced forms of processing like room correction, or even just investing their time into more thorough bug fixing rather than the mundane tasks of file format management which already have been addressed by open-source solutions.

Having said this, while I think data formats lend themselves to be open, I'm certainly not a strict cyber-libertarian though and appreciate all the excellent commercial software out there (if I were a strict free-software user, I'd be using Linux primarily). No doubt the profit motive is a powerful force that leads to excellence and quality all around us and enterprising individuals who can genuinely bring something worthwhile into this world should be rewarded.

Back in October 2016, I said that MQA is a "partially lossy CODEC". Indeed, that is the simple truth. We can actually extend the description a bit more; MQA is a partially lossy bastardized PCM-based CODEC that's typically losslessly compressed in open-standard file formats. For example, the adulterated PCM data (that is MQA) is almost always seen compressed or streamed with FLAC (APE, WV, ALAC, etc. would all be fine). Ironic isn't it that they have basically introduced a proprietary PCM-looking data stream with DRM elements into an open-source lossless file format?!

Open-source software is at the heart of so much we take for granted these days that it would be hypocritical to suggest that any audiophile who uses modern devices would not have "sensibilities" aligned in some way with the open software movement out of gratitude. [Essentially any player or firmware will borrow open-source decoding components and the cottage industry of many audiophile devices like the Sonore Rendu are based on open-source software with customizations.]

As a consumer (and audiophile who appreciates hi-res options), what are some "ideal" characteristics for a data format? Is it not something well-designed that:
1. Includes desired features (eg. tagging, compression, error detection). 
2. Is "open" for compatibility reasons - so it can be played by all of one's devices today and those in the future. 
3. Encourages competition in the marketplace for consumer dollars - no antitrust or  issues with excessive control / monopolization when a format is open and free for any company to support.
And specifically as an audiophile:
4. Uncompromised lossless quality - able to accommodate the different actual resolutions losslessly (16/24-bits, 44.1/48/88.2/96/176.4/192+ kHz). You simply cannot achieve better than the original "studio master" resolutions.
We have had these features and capabilities for more than a decade using standard PCM and FLAC. The standard PCM/FLAC "format" continues to grow in popularity; even Apple is supporting it these days to some extent although sadly not with iTunes natively yet. Another open file format, WavPack 5 (.wv) can even handle both PCM and DSD as discussed last year, including 32-bit integer/floating point resolutions.

So why should audiophile consumers want MQA as opposed to standard PCM when it's now (finally) widely admitted to be lossy and as I discussed previously, consists of elements that can be seen as technically questionable and ultimately diminish sonic resolution compared to a true "original" resolution? No good reason as far as I can tell!

The bottom line is that Jim Austin is yet again arguing for Industry interests which adds cost to the consumer for no real benefit. IMO, MQA Ltd. and the audiophile press tried to "sugar coat" the story of MQA initially by not admitting to the facts: that it has lossy elements, is not a "one-stop-shop" (there are already 3 MQA bitrates out there - 16/44.1 MQA-CD, 24/44.1, and 24/48), tried to razzle-dazzle folks with unsubstantiated filter designs, insisted on audible benefits of questionable "time domain" improvements, and even claimed that they could achieve "better" sound than an original "studio master". This last claim is of course impossible unless they're claiming that the DSP process results in consistently superior sound than what the artists and engineers came out with from the studio. Now, they want to soften the fact that there are "Authentication" elements that obviously allow control over the playback mechanism as "not DRM". As I have said before, I agree that what they're doing today is simply a weak, proprietary scheme that is not copy protection. But with a control mechanism in place, it does open the door to other kinds of creative implementations which would not benefit consumer freedom (again, as discussed previously).

I have in fact over the years on various forums expressed that I can accept DRM and do not insist that all music must be "open" PCM/DSD even though I don't think DRM is a good idea for consumers. I still buy the occasional SACD which is copy protected though circumventable these days, and I accept that DRM is incorporated into the (UHD) Blu-Rays I buy. Yes, "freedom" is good, but when I think about MQA, there is something else that I think gets the informed consumer into more of "a state" than simply DRM.

I believe that if MQA had been more honest, the public reception would not have been so poor.

Imagine if one day the record companies decide that they've had enough of releasing new music in an open file format and that they want to follow the lead of the video industry. DRM in their opinion needs to be implemented for both downloads and streaming contents. So the Industry spokesperson invites the press for a huge announcement one evening over cocktails and hors d'oeuvres (say, at The Shard :-):
Ladies & gentlemen of the press. As you know, we in the music industry feel that piracy has severely damaged profitability. We, the largest music labels in the world have decided to announce a new initiative. Over the next 24 months, we will be gradually releasing all lossless resolution music in Lossless-Audio-Super-Transport (LAST) format.
LAST is a state-of-the-art CODEC and file format that incorporates the latest in extensible features like deep metadata. It will have one of the highest lossless compression ratios. It can handle DSD and PCM audio at full resolutions. Music producers have signed on to include consistent and detailed metadata for user convenience. Production standards have been agreed upon to limit severe dynamic range compression to elevate audio quality. Code for dynamic transcoding for lower bitrate streaming has also been written and will be made available to commercial parties. Finally, the LAST data format will also incorporate HAD (Hyper-Authentication-DRM) to track unauthorized playback and ensure complete data integrity with a blue indicator on your device or DAC. 
We will work with all software and hardware partners to incorporate the necessary decoding in their products. The licensing cost will be extremely reasonable as we want rapid implementation. While we regret that not all devices can be upgraded for LAST compatibility depending on the hardware capabilities, we will make every effort to accommodate legacy devices. 
I will now ask Dr. Haggert to come and discuss the technical aspects with his graphs and comparison charts. Live long and prosper.
An announcement like that, while likely unwelcomed by many would at least be honest and if they actually showed some effort to limit the "Loudness War", maybe then we could at least hope for an attempt at actually improving sound quality (instead of the nonsensical push with copious pseudo-Hi-Res albums that are a waste of storage). No wrestling with the semantics of what is or is not "lossless", or what constitutes "DRM". No specious claims of "better" sound compared to the "studio master". No need to ask the audiophile magazine evangelists to promote the ridiculous hype with weak, subjective hand-waving (further reducing already marginal credibility). And certainly no need to issue any "revolutionary new technology" self-proclamations! Deal head-on with the public openly, "objectively", and most of all honestly.

I hope that magazines and audio writers can appreciate that ultimately, the negative responses toward MQA are multifactorial. "DRM" is not necessarily the main "four-letter word" objection although it practically does affect consumer options and an advanced audiophile's opportunity to apply DSP to the full resolution audio data. It simply comes down to the fact that here in 2018, MQA brings nothing desirable, the technical explanations by the company are unconvincing, the evangelists are not credible, it costs more money, and the attempts at selling this product appear - dare I say - deceptive.

--------------------------------------------

In the evenings, I have been enjoying some quality listening time with my Oppo UDP-205. I see that stock of the product must have sold out and the price on places like Amazon and eBay are getting jacked up. No doubt the device is very well made and at an MSRP of US$1,300, it's not a "steal" but certainly a very reasonable value compared to devices from niche companies. Remember, in the world of audiophilia, compared to luxury purchases such as this likely with zero utilitarian benefit over something one could get "free", the relative value of the Oppo is essentially infinite! :-)

Here's a picture of my TV as I play an "MQA Studio" file off a USB stick on the Oppo (you can see the red USB stick at bottom left inserted into the UDP-205's front USB connector).


As far as I can tell, the device's MQA implementation does not handle the "Rendering" function like the Audioquest Dragonfly products or with the Mytek Brooklyn DAC. Remember that currently, this device is not able to decode MQA as a USB DAC; just when playing back from storage devices plugged into the USB-A ports or playing an MQA-CD. I also notice that it will not see a ripped 16/44.1 "MQA-CD" FLAC file as having the MQA content.

And here's what MQA-CD playback looks like on the Oppo UDP-205 - it's playing the Steve Reich Pulse/Quartet CD:

As you can see, the "original" resolution according to the MQA decoder is 24/88.2kHz. Since we know a thing or two about MQA already, it's no surprise that 16/44.1 CD-resolution data does not have enough bits to lossy encode the upper octave. The question is, then, do we see the use of "leaky" filters with playback? I recorded ~60 seconds of the analogue output of the track "Pulse" in 24/192.


Yes! Indeed... The tell-tale signs of the use of those weak, slow roll-off "leaky" filters could be seen throughout this piece. A couple examples are shown in that screen captures above. The playback through the MQA decoder happened to conveniently add a 22.05kHz tone throughout much of the music even though I don't see this 22.05kHz in the undecoded file. We can see the imaging artifact beyond Nyquist show up like a "mirror image" of the actual signal on either side of the Nyquist frequency. As you know, there is no real high-resolution content with CD-quality (16/44) MQA. The stuff beyond 22.05kHz is clearly nothing like what the "original" 88.2kHz would have looked like. Remember, the fact that there are only 16-bits means there's no lower 8-bits as we typically see in 24-bit MQA to use for the lossy reconstruction of the "unfolded" upper octave.

Watching the FFT display in realtime as the MQA-CD was being played, it looked like there were portions where the artifacts were not as strong. It looks to me like perhaps the decoder was switching between different filter settings in the music - at times like above with a very slow roll-off filter, other times I see what looks like a steeper filter active without as much ultrasonic leakage. For example, the "Quartet" tracks on this MQA-CD appeared to be using a stronger filter setting than the "Pulse" track.

You might be wondering - does MQA-CD sound that different?

Playing the decoded MQA-CD vs. non-decoded FLAC rip over my system at night on the Oppo UDP-205, the simple answer is no. Remember, we're basically looking at 16-bit audio with different digital filter settings and noise-shaped dithering applied in playback.

Obviously, one cannot be expecting a miraculous transformation in fidelity!



Hope you're all enjoying the music... :-)

ADDENDUM:
Okay, just to better clarify what I heard/saw with the Pulse/Quartet MQA-CD and be more specific, here are some graphs of what I meant by seeing the effects from different filters used in the decoding process.


"Linear Phase Fast" refers to one of the 7 selectable digital filters available in the Oppo UDP-205 settings menu.
Notice that the "Pulse" track uses a filter setting with significantly more ultrasonic leakage than the "Quartet" track. The other obvious thing to notice is that over 30 seconds, the decoded/undecoded tracings almost exactly overlapped except above ~18kHz where the frequencies dissociated for both tracks. This actually confirms my subjective impression that whatever "difference" in sound MQA-CD makes with this album is negligible.

If someone claims to be able to hear a significant difference with MQA using a CD like this (perhaps this guy?), it's worth asking the question... Do I have faith in the testimony of Golden Ears? :-)

33 comments:

  1. Of course, you happen to post this at 16:44:00. :) All the proof one needs that CD is indeed "perfect sound forever" :D

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    1. Wow!

      I didn't notice that Stalepie - certainly was not done on purpose. Friends, we have just witnessed a miracle.

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    2. Damned spooky, if you ask me.

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    3. Yes... Some things may not be measurable or objectively explicable :-).

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  2. CD sound is not perfect. Filtering at majority of DACs at 44.1 rate has its compromises. 24/48 FLAC would be better as a new universal distribution format.

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    1. *CD sound is not perfect*

      Well, yeah, it's 2 channels/stereo, so a highly imperfect construct, like anything else 2 channels.

      *Filtering at majority of DACs at 44.1 rate has its compromises*

      For human perception? Evidence please.

      *24/48 FLAC would be better as a new universal distribution format*

      Technically speaking, sure. But the only folks complaining about 16/44 are a bunch of dotards with audio jewelry, zero critical thinking skills and often poor hearing/systems that are far exceeded by 16/44 capability, except in their hyperactive imaginations.
      16/44 is more than sufficient for 99.999999999% of earths population.
      Ok, I made up that stat, but you get the idea.

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    2. Hey guys,

      At the end of the day, 44.1 vs. 48kHz isn't a huge difference and unless the
      music was recorded with >16-bits actual resolution and the final mix actually has decent dynamics, 16-bits are all we need no matter how great our playback chain and room...

      I don't think it's unfair to say that if 16/44 is all we could ever have in a consumer format, and albums were recorded to take advantage of what that could offer, I doubt anyone would complain of being badly cheated with inferior sound.

      Even for the most perfectionistic, obsessive audiophile, I tend to think of 24/88 (or 24/96 if one prefers) as superior by far than the hearing acuity for any human being.

      High quality 24/96, multichannel album played on accurate calibrated hardware in an excellent room with very low ambient noise. Ears cleaned, cochlea and mind functioning at the level of my youth :-). That's my dream for "perfect sound forever".

      Of course, getting accurate hardware and a decent sound room are the easier parts to that equation! Finding truly awesome recordings worthy of the resolution potential is hard. And getting my brain and ears to function at the level of my 20-year-old self alas is the impossible part.

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    3. Guess we might have to buy a Novage for our ears, lol.

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    4. 24/96 is for studio masters, can be used for playback too but needn't be. For playback 24/48 is enough, or 16/48 created by one step resampling and low shaped dither from studio masters.

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    5. And of course 16/44.1 is very close, especially when DAC filters are set well, e.g. no alias and steep slope from 20-21 kHz.

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  3. Sorry, but I couldn't resist quoting from the Hi-Fi+ article you linked to.
    "EVO3 Ascension brings a hush to your system like an audience preparing for a concert. It’s like the system is running a little quieter, and sounds rise from a quieter, darker background."
    Don't these people realise what a joke they are, that they seem to be blissfully ignorant of the clichés they keep using?

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    1. Hi Otto,

      I have never been a subscriber to either HiFi+ and TAS although over the years I have purchased maybe a handful of issues to oggle at the ultra-slick photos. That was many years back.

      I imagine for most audiophiles these days, it's quite clear that those magazines are just an extension of the advertising department for "high end" manufacturers. Most of the articles are basically manufacturer specs and features dressed up in some entertaining anecdote. I find the "interviews" particularly funny and the vacuousness of the questions and responses of the enlightened "designers" profiled are even more entertaining! Let's see...

      http://archimago.blogspot.ca/2016/03/musings-cable-claims-testimony-buyers.html

      Ahhh, there's my article about Hi-Fi+'s buyer's guide to cables :-).

      IMO, these magazines are like a millstone hung around the neck of a drowning "old skool" audiophile hobby. They're a reminder to the ridiculousness of the purely subjective philosophy with those clichés only acting to scare reasonable potential hobbyists away.

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    2. Same here. I've never subscribed to HF+, just bought the odd issue when it had several reviews that interested me. I became very disillusioned when the cable reviews became laughable, and even more so when the editor, Roy Gregory, left to join Nordost. When Alan Sircom took over I expected a change for the better as I had a lot of time for him when he wrote for Hi-Fi Review (did you get that mag over there?) in the late 80s-early 90s. Sadly that hasn't happened and the absurdity continues...

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  4. So MQA-CDs don't have any digital origami (hard to imagine that they could, with only 16 bits available) and just specify a set of digital filters to apply? That's interesting to know.

    What I find disconcerting, though, is that there seems to be discernable differences in "undecoded" versus "decoded" versions of "Pulse" in the audio band above 16KHz. How audible those differences would be (and, to the extent they're audible, which spectrograph is the "right" one) is a question bearing further investigation.

    In that light, however, I find it disturbing that there is absolutely no indication on the Amazon page, that you linked to, that the CD in question is "MQA-encoded". What are consumers to do?

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    1. Hi blog,
      Yup, as far as I can tell, there's no lossy reconstruction of the next octave up with the Pulse/Quartet album.

      Indeed, in the "Pulse" track, we can start seeing deviations from 16kHz onwards. Looking at the CD booklet and back cover, there is nothing to tell me that this went through the MQA process. No attempt to advertise MQA, no special section to talk about any processing done or "What is MQA?"

      I guess we just have to be mindful that Bob Ludwig works with MQA and that "Mastered by Robert C. Ludwig at Gateway Mastering Studios, Portland, ME" might be up to MQA shenanigans :-).

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  5. Greetings Arch,

    This talk of digital origami and the seductive draw to free-ride on those helpless little pinky-bits reminds me that was twice tried before with vinyl. A guy on YouTube made a couple interesting videos on it, which readers may appreciate if they've not already come across them.

    DBX encoding boasted vinyl albums w/ 90-100 dB of Dynamic Range:
    https://youtu.be/1qtxPSR8q98

    ... wow, to think consumers once cared about Dynamic Range, and, double-wow, music studios used it as a marketing point.

    Next, like MQA, albeit w/o the suspicious DRM ulterior motives, CX encoding was the backwards compatible solution to the age-old legacy installed base problem:
    https://youtu.be/E5XCvsNUkmI

    ~~~
    Next, changing topics slightly, your comments the other day with all those links to portable DAC's made it occur to me that you have an incredible wealth of knowledge somewhat buried in your old posts. I don't know if you have the desire to play digital archivist and pull a page or three together summarizing all the hardware you've reviewed, the software you use, your listening set-ups, etc, and including links past posts that talked about it, then put those summaries as perma-links on your side-bar, that might be handy to a lot of folks.

    (The other thing that prompted the thought was spending some time in the Computer Audiophile forums the last couple weeks and remembering how much I dislike the technical ignorance that comes out of about half the audio-nerds that are out there. Like I said before, you & Ken Rockwell are the only audio blogs I've found and stayed with over the years.)

    OTOH, if this is not a new thought to you, and you have no desire to mine through your archives, no worries. I completely understand. I'm definitely not trying to be one of those guys that tells other people how they should spend their finite hobby time... just throwing it out there in case the thought had never occurred to you.

    ~~~
    Yet further afield, I've been spending some quality time with the Sony HAP-S1 I got at the beginning of April. Well, I wouldn't call it a swing and a miss for what I wanted, but... it's not the single-box solution to all my music problems that I had hoped it would be. I'd be happy to share a full review (sans technical measurements unfortunately) if you're interested, but the long and short of it is its features are somewhat lacking. Convenience factor for playing ripped CD's is through the roof, which is nice, but I thought I'd be able to get a little bit more utility out of it than that one use-case, and it's not looking like I'm going to. It's the classic problem where there's just not the perfect all-in-one solution for what you really want. Well, at least for me it's the classic problem.

    What I can say is after a few hours of critical listening with Beyerdynamic DT-1350 headphones, 256 VBR MP3 and FLAC played from it are all but indistinguishable from CD's played from my 25 yo Kenwood 5 disk CD changer-player. I used headphone-out jack on both. Could be limitation of my source material (Pink Floyd, Crosby Stills & Nash box set, Eric Clapton box set, selected high DR tracks). But to my mind, that's actually a good thing... the music I love the most sounds the same some 99% of the time, irrespective of my playback device. A lot of people are always chasing the next bigger and better $$$ thing. I'm about flipping it. Do a little careful A-B testing and chase the /cheapest/ thing that sounds indistinguishable from the bigger and better kit.

    All my best. I really appreciate your blog. I figured this lengthy comment would be a small give-back. (Hope blogger it takes it, and doesn't flag it as spam.)

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    1. Ken Rockwell? Isn't that the dude who fell for Benchmark's marketing and measures amp's output THD with connected phones? Just prooves he did not understood what he is doing. Solderdude to the rescue, please...

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    2. I missed that one. Got a link? Thx.

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    3. Thanks for the note Allan,

      Yeah, I've had a look at Rockwell's posts over the years also. Back in the early-mid 2000's, I loved the amount of work he did on digital camera reviews! Of course over the years, with digital getting to be so good, I was just happy with my Nikon D800 and Sony A600 :-).

      I guess like my satisfaction with digital cameras, such is the case for the vast majority of folks when it comes to their music playback devices!

      I do like your suggestion about collating the information. I'll certainly consider doing that on the side bar! Coming up to 275 posts on the blog so there is quite a bit of stuff to wade through. Frankly I'm amazed that I kept the pace with these long blog posts.

      Hey would love to have "guest posts" if you'd like to put up a review for your Sony! Especially in the next while I'll be very busy at work. PM me on Computer Audiophile and we'll chat...

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    4. I shall do my best, sir. :)

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  6. MP3 and FLAC are surely well distinguishable. Some AACs are very close to FLAC. Still with todays storage capacities is wise to listen to FLAC whenever we have the possibility to do so. If not that then AACs at ITunes are well created from 24 bit masters.

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    1. I have NEVER seen a blind test where 256+ Kbps MP3's were reliably distinguishable from FLAC, or WAV for that matter.

      In fact, funnily enough, literally last night YouTube served up this vid in my "up next" side bar.
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YgEjI5PZa78

      (BTW, that's some deep-packet inspection right there as I had never seen or heard of that guy before, and excepting TechMoan's vid's on legacy hifi kit, I haven't been watching or web searching lossless vs. lossy formats & comparisons. Just visiting this site, Computer Audiophile forums, and very recently catching up on Mark Waldrep (Dr. AIX). Indeed, so recently, that I regrettably missed a 50% off his book and speaker deal which he ran until the end of April. I probably would have taken a flyer on them had I see them in time. Bummer. Anyway... )

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    2. I also do not recognize 320 kbps MP3 in ABX test to 16/44.1 FLAC. But when I listen to whole song e.g. in 24/48 FLAC (or even 16/44.1 but with 24/48 it is more recognizable), and know how it sounds like, and then switch to MP3 of the same song (with same volume etc.), it is there. It is about longer listening and knowing that song, not about flip/flop comparation.

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    3. This morning I was listening to Crowded House and I thought it sounded a bit bright, even harsh. Turns out I had two copies of the same album in my music folder, one in MP3 (320k) the other in Flac - I definitely heard the difference, as I had no idea I was listening to MP3s until I looked in the folder.
      Also - regarding the video posted by Allan, Rick Beato points out the a lot of the current engineers are in their 50's and 60's - I wonder if this is another reason why modern music mixes can sound bright? He reckons these engineers "know what sounds right" due to experience, but I don't buy that.
      One has to wonder if these engineers are compensating for the loss of top end hearing by boosting the treble in their mixes....

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    4. @Honza -- Fair enough. I'll test that out.

      I will admit to being a bit conflicted on how to proceed though ripping my back-catalog. The perfectionist in me thinks FLAC. The practical, KISS side can't help noticing the significantly smaller file sizes and the almost guaranteed trivial inter-op -- back in the day I ripped a bunch of CD's to Apple Lossless, big mistake. Years later, after picking up some non-Apple portables, I was screwed, and it wasn't even DRM that got me. /sigh/

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    5. Why was ALAC such a big mistake? You can convert to FLAC with several free apps and the files remain lossless.

      I don't know much about Android but aren't there any apps that will play ALAC? After all, most streamers will play ALAC these days.

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    6. @Otto -- I was a few hundred miles and 4 hours into being two weeks from home when I realized a bunch of songs I hastily threw onto an SD card before leaving couldn't be played on my Android-based device. That sucked.

      I didn't know there were ALAC to FLAC conversion tools. I guess that makes sense, but the thought never occurred to me.

      I suppose knowing that, mitigates this down from big mistake to big PIA. :)

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    7. Yes, it sucks when things don't "just work", but I don't get why you didn't look for a suitable player on the Google Play store. Even if it cost you a few $ it would have been worth it.

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    8. I say again, the thought never occurred to me.

      It is a proprietary format. Apple is not known for sharing nicely with folks outside their walled garden. If it didn't work out-of-the-box with the native player, it wouldn't occur to me that a 3rd party developer may reverse engineer the format and offer an app that could playback ALAC.

      If I had been on a linux workstation and with the time and motivation, I probably would have looked into it more deeply -- necessity is the mother of invention. But as it was, I was traveling and busy and all the music I'd brought for passing the time was locked-up to me. So I made due in other ways.

      When I got home I just resigned myself to not having all of my music on my portables. It doesn't come up that often for me, and I substitute with other things, like podcasts.

      HTH.

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    9. Yes, I get that, but ALAC doesn't require reverse engineering. Apple made it open and royalty-free in 2011, so all decent streamers (even cheap Kodi boxes) can play it and hi-res download sites such as Linn and Naim use it. Anyway, I hope you can now play what you want, when you want. :-)

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  7. As usual Archimago, you cut to the chase with some great insight. I am almost entirely a Tidal HiFi streamer, and I am enjoying the MQA content. I have a small library of BR's music concerts, and have been trying to justify the 205 purchase. Have you tried any of the AIX 5.1 records, I only have the demo disc that came with Dr. Mark Waldrep’s new text. Music and Audio: A User Guide to Better Sound. I was thinking about buying his collection, I was wondering if you have sampled his 5.1 records and bluerays??

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    1. Hi Glen. Thanks for the note...

      Yes, I have AIX's Guitar Noir DVD-A and Goldberg Variations Acoustica in 3D Blu-Ray when it was cool to watch 3D :-).

      No doubt AIX/Mark Waldrep does amazing work with the recordings and the sound quality is superb. Doubly more so on a good multichannel system! Certainly check out a demo Blu-Ray and see if the label's music appeals to you.

      I think the loss of Oppo is sad and does represent the end of an "era" of sorts for audio/video-philes who desire high quality at a fair price. The 205 is obviously not "cheap" and as a fairly priced device, it certainly does not feel "cheap" and I can say without reservation that objectively, the performance at least on the audio side is superb as was the BDP-105 previously.

      I'm glad that you're enjoying the MQA content on Tidal. The music itself is enjoyable regardless of whether one advocates for it as ultimately a good path "forward" or not :-).

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