2L MQA-CD | The Vinyl Anachronist






2L MQA-CD

When I received this 2L MQA-CD in my mailbox just before the holidays, I took one look at the back cover and knew I’d have to explain my position on the MQA (Master Quality Authenticated) technology. Let’s face it–things got weird around MQA for a while. Sides were immediately drawn, and the issue suddenly became politicized. I certainly moved on to other matters in high-end audio, ones far more interesting to me personally, so I’m not the one to explain it all to you.

Here’s my experience with MQA:

  • I once attended a demo of the MQA technology at a high-end-audio show, in Sunil Merchant‘s room. It was a satisfying demo, and I gave it some good press.
  • Jana Dagdagan once interviewed me on camera concerning my opinion on MQA. I gave a neutral and somewhat dim comment about giving it a fair chance when I could.
  • I wrote a Vinyl Anachronist column on Perfect Sound Forever that merely announced the new technology in the context of the ongoing format wars in digital audio.
  • 2L Recordings in Norway, one of my favorite record labels in the world, employs MQA and believes in it–as evidenced by this new sampler, 2L MQA-CD.

This might be the lone reason why I haven’t written MQA off. Morten Lindberg of 2L is at the forefront of so many recording technologies–Dolby Atmos, surround, Blu-ray Audio and MQA and much, much more. He’s also the person who puts wooden logs underneath pianos to capture the sound of the immense Norwegian churches where most of his recordings take place. 2L MQA-CD is a sampler, the first one I’ve received from 2L Recordings, and it focuses on a variety of tracks from recent releases, most of which I’ve reviewed right here. 2L MQA-CD is designed to show off the MQA technology so that you compare for yourself.

As explained in the 2L MQA-CD liner notes:

“This collection from the 2L catalogue was initiated as a cover mount MQA-CD for the December 2020 edition of AUDIO Magazine. Each track has been “white-glove” treated from its original master source to MQA encoding by Bob Stuart and Morten Lindberg.”

If I was still an intrepid blogger, digging deep into what’s happening in the world of audiophile recordings, 2L MQA-CD would be a truly excellent way to discover the advantages or disadvantages of MQA. If you listen to MQA, or you’re curious about it, this is the best tool you’ll probably find out there. I’ve already fallen in love with this music once, since I own most of the 2L catalog, so I’ll prefer to just relax and enjoy this incredible music without wondering the tech behind it.

That said, 2L MQA-CD is a worthwhile addition to your 2L Recordings collection, simply because this is an outstanding way to introduce new listeners to this amazing label. I sat back, listened, and was utterly charmed by both the content and that amazing 2L sound. 2L MQA-CD sounds fantastic, and that’s all I care about.

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9 Comments

  1. Marc, enjoy MQA while you can. At some point the investors and labels are going to realize they flushed $80 million dollars down the toliet.

      • Marc, MQA has been political since the 2014 CES. Sides were drawn. One side was MQA Ltd, the record labels and the audio press. On the other side were a few members of the audiophile community with the best critical thinking skills. Pretty obvious which side is winning.

        For you to write about MQA in 2022 is a political act. MQA’s streaming market is too small to objectively be worth discussing. Somewhere around 0.06%.

      • Once again, this is what I mean by “politicizing MQA.” It wasn’t a political act on my behalf since the entire point of the article was to skirt around that and concentrate on the quality of the recording. I thought I made that very clear.

  2. I love this: “He’s also the person who puts wooden logs underneath pianos to capture the sound of the immense Norwegian churches”

    Once you get the sound in the logs, though, then what? Do I need to invest in a log player? I vaguely remembering some or another audiophile claiming that Norwegian log recordings sound even better than vinyl and claiming that this is what the Beatles meant when they sang about “Norwegian Wood”.

    • Are you trying to say that placing wooden logs underneath a piano doesn’t change its sound? Would you like to conduct an experiment and then come back and report your findings to us, Bill?

      • No, I liked the idea that the logs themselves somehow captured the sound. I was thinking about the way that kitchens sometimes smell of the thousands of meals cooked in them, barrels used to age whisk(e)y often are selected because of the flavors that they captured in their lifetimes, and lume on watches seems to capture light. Of course, I get this is how modern recording and acoustics work as well, but somehow your turn of phrase made it so much more evocative to me.

        Years ago, I walked into a very old church and it was utterly silent (not anechoic silent, but very quiet) and I could just barely sense (hear?) the thousand years of songs sung there.

        Then I thought, this is an audiophile blog! Do I need to get a log playing machine that somehow amplifies the subtle traces of sound captured in the wood? Is this the next thing?

        Anyway, I like these kinds of transmedia meditations. Good fun.

  3. Did you use a CD capable of decoding the full MQA experience? A more complicated question, for you I guess…we’re you able to compare the MQA versions- full vs partial vs no decoding?
    Or did you listen only on a non MQA CD player? I can’t resist one more question… how does this compare with your SACD discs?
    I have always enjoyed the better resolution that MQA brings to the sound of music just in case you’re wondering am I antagonistic or agnostic, I’m supportive.

    • As I mention in the article, I’ve done all that. The whole point of the article was to explain that 2L Recordings are spectacular no matter which technology you choose.

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