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FLAC first emerged in 2001 as an open-source alternative to other lossless formats emerging at the time. These included Apple Lossless (ALAC), Microsoft's WAV (Waveform Audio Format) and WMA Lossless. But these competitive formats do have their disadvantages. While ALAC has a loyal following among iPod and iPhone users, it hasn't seen much uptake outside of Apple products. The WAV format is also popular, and it's compatible with iOS devices, but its biggest problems are that file sizes are very large, and it can't retain "tag" data -- artist, album name, lyrics, and so on -- in the way the other formats can. FLAC, on the other hand, not only supports tags but is also compatible with most music players. Apple is the only real holdout here, for while there was talk in 2017 of hardware support in both the iPhone 8 and X nothing has materialized. However, there are simple workarounds for iOS and Mac users.
However there are several major streaming services that offer very high sound quality -- Spotify, Tidal and soon Qobuz -- and depending on the record, they can be indistinguishable from the CD. While Spotify content is ripped in 320Kbps Ogg Vorbis, it's Tidal that offers the biggest alternative to personal collections as it's also based on FLAC. The company is also able to offer hi-res music by adding Meridian's MQA technology for compatible devices. By contrast, Qobuz offers hi-res FLAC streaming without the use of a proprietary wrapper, but the trade-off is much larger file sizes not suitable for the train. In the meantime, both Spotify and Tidal let you download tracks for offline listening (with a paid subscription), and both catalogs are quite impressive.
Zach, I am interested in what you are seeing for decoding times. I have seen little here on that, but much more on the encoding time unless I missed it. But as I am starting to look into some portable flac media players that may actually become an issue.
This might partly explain why we now see overlap between flak and flack. For the most part, flak remains the spelling used for the gunfire, with flack as an occasional variant that turns up slightly more frequently when referring to criticism. For the publicist/publicity senses, while flack was for a long time the preferred spelling, flak has turned up increasingly over the past decade. So, while you should err on the side of flack unless you're writing a report on military action, flak isn't technically a typo. Certainly not one you should catch flack for.
TLDR: MQA isn't lossless, is arguably worse than normal flac, and is seemingly nothing more than a (quite effective) scheme to generate licensing fees. With the frustrating addition that if you are a Tidal user, even if you have no MQA dac, and use the "Hifi" streaming quality setting, MQA encoded/lossy files will still be served to you. And the only way to avoid that being to switch to Qobuz.If you disagree with this post, or if someone from MQA/Meridian is reading this, it would be excellent if you could provide alternative evidence supporting MQA's claims. If they are true it'd be EXTREMELY simple to demonstrate/prove and so the current lack of any evidence other than marketing claims is concerning.I figured that given how aggressively Tidal has been expanding their use/incorporation of MQA (with now many redbook files coming MQA encoded even if they are not able to be unfolded to hires), and there seems to be an awful lot of debate about whether or not MQA is good or lives up to the claims, and not much testing going on, (including lack of evidence from MQA themselves), I should try to remedy that.I'd like to preface this by saying a few things:- This is not a dig at any manufacturer that incorporates MQA. MQA has been very successful from a business/marketing standpoint, and so customers are demanding it. Therefore its understandable that manufacturers like PS Audio are going to add it to their products even though they openly say they do not like MQA. - If you feel MQA sounds better, that's totally fine. Lots of things sound good and objectively perform bad, many tube amps for example. This is not addressing what sounds good to YOUR ears, this is addressing the hostile business practices and unsubstantiated marketing claims of MQA. - Further testing will be done by performing some null tests with the final unfolded analog output of an MQA dac soon, and i'll post here once that is completed. 2b1af7f3a8