Australian HIFI - - CONTENTS -

Want to start a fight in an au­dio­phile bar? Ed­i­tor Greg Bor­row­man says you can do with just three words… or let­ters.

It’s al­ways been easy to start a fight in an au­dio­phile bar, pretty much from back when Edi­son in­vented the phono­graph (well, his ver­sion of it, but that’s a tale for an­other time). Back in those times, au­dio­philes (but they called them mu­sic-lovers back then) would ar­gue about which nee­dles sounded the best, the ones made of bam­boo, or those made of steel. (And they did call them nee­dles back then… the word ‘sty­lus’ only came along many years later.)

When the phono­gram was elec­tri­fied, the op­por­tu­ni­ties to start fights in au­dio­phile bars in­creased enor­mously. Di­rect drive vs. idler (rim) drive. Belt drive vs. di­rect drive. Tri­odes vs. pen­todes. Valves vs. solid-state. Class A vs. Class AB. Class A vs. all the other am­pli­fier Classes (Class-D, Class-H, Class G, etc). And who could for­get CD vs. LP? That one’s still rag­ing. Cas­sette vs. El­caset. CD vs. MiniDisc.

And then there was MiniDisc vs. DCC. The so-called ‘Dig­i­tal Com­pact Cas­sette’ wins my dou­ble prize for the worst for­mat ever in­vented as well as the most short-lived for­mat ever re­leased. It was also prob­a­bly solely re­spon­si­ble for Philips’ down­fall in the field of con­sumer elec­tron­ics. To be ac­cu­rate, I don’t think any­one ever fought about DCC. Ev­ery­one ex­cept Philips could see that it was doomed even be­fore the first (and al­most only prod­uct) em­body­ing it went on sale. Fun­nily enough, a bar would be a good place to ar­gue about DCC be­cause although the tech­nol­ogy failed, a tech­nol­ogy in­vented to man­u­fac­ture the spe­cial record/play heads re­quired by the DCC for­mat is now used to man­u­fac­ture the fil­ters used to re­move yeast par­ti­cles from beer, which has re­sulted in clearer, bet­ter-tast­ing brews.

But if you want to start a fight in an au­dio­phile bar in 2018 you just need to stand up and yell out: ‘I hate MQA!’ John Atkin­son, the ed­i­tor of

Stereophile magazine, who’s been ref­er­ee­ing au­dio­phile bar fights for more than 35 years, says he’s wit­nessed more an­gry ar­gu­ments about MQA than just about any other sub­ject. Google MQA and the first page will give you one link to a Forbes Magazine ar­ti­cle say­ing how MQA is de­liv­er­ing ‘Stu­dio Qual­ity sound’ and an­other to an ar­ti­cle on Linn Prod­ucts’ web­site ti­tled ‘MQA is Bad for Mu­sic. Here’s why.’ Click on an­other of the links and you’ll get told that MQA is ‘a method of dig­i­tally stor­ing recorded mu­sic as a file that’s small and con­ve­nient enough to down­load or stream with­out the sonic sac­ri­fices tra­di­tion­ally as­so­ci­ated with com­pressed files’ and that when you play an MQA file, you’ll hear mu­sic ‘ex­actly as the mas­ter­ing en­gi­neer heard it in the stu­dio.’ (Mmm, that one sounds eerily fa­mil­iar.)

Jim Collinson, of Linn, ex­plains MQA this way (para­phrased, be­cause he takes two pages to do it): ‘You have to pay MQA for a li­cence to build record­ing equip­ment us­ing the process. You can’t make soft­ware that pro­cesses MQA with­out pay­ing for a li­cense. Artists have to pay to use the MQA logo. Ser­vice providers who stream MQA have to pay for a li­cence. Hi-fi man­u­fac­tur­ers sell­ing MQA-com­pat­i­ble com­po­nents have to pay for a li­cence.’ Collinson’s con­clu­sion? ‘ MQA is an at­tempt to con­trol and ex­tract

rev­enue from ev­ery part of the (mu­sic) sup­ply chain.’ Sup­port­ers of MQA like to claim that MQA files can be played back with­out MQA-equipped equip­ment. John Siau of Bench­mark Me­dia Sys­tems says this is true, but if you do, sound qual­ity suf­fers. ‘ If you try to play MQA au­dio in an in­com­pat­i­ble en­vi­ron­ment, you are left with 1–3 bits of semi-cor­re­lated pseudo-ran­dom noise,’ he writes on his web­site, adding ‘ that has the po­ten­tial to di­min­ish your ex­pe­ri­ence.’ You can read Siau’s tech­ni­cal anal­y­sis of MQA at www.tinyurl.com/siaumqa. And I’d sug­gest read­ing it care­fully be­fore you pick your next fight in an au­dio­phile bar. greg bor­row­man

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.