Audio Statesman: Meridian Founder Bob Stuart Page 3

S&V: MQA sounds like a no-brainer. You have this technology that allows you to increase sound quality across the board. It’s sort of like why wouldn’t you...
Stuart: Right, why wouldn’t you? When we say MQA captures the actual sound of the studio—the sound of the microphone—we really mean that. It allows artists and labels to make a better archive and make a better recording. One of the fascinating things is you introduce MQA to the mastering guy and he says, this is so good I’d like to go in and change the recording. (laughs)

So we have to build the archives. It’s a long term project and a very noble one to make the archive better so we can re-release recordings and try to set up a situation where music companies and the artists have a way to re-excite people about their music. In addition, we can bury all this information. We can put in metadata, we can bury URLs and artist’s signatures so when the light comes on and you know what you’re hearing is what they signed off on. So it’s a very big idea.

S&V: What kind of feedback are you getting from the artists?
Stuart: It’s absolutely brilliant. We’re getting all sorts of reactions—from “it sounds like it did in the studio” or “I’ve never heard it like this out of the studio” to “what’s not to like” or “it sounds like the piano tuner came.”

People who are in charge of important music catalogues come in and say, “I don’t know how you did this but I’ve heard this tape a hundred times and now you’ve actually captured what we had in the studio.” Nobody in the whole area has argued. They’re saying it’s better, it’s efficient. It’s like…wow. Okay.

One of the things that’s controversial about MQA is we’re saying if you resample like this, things like the numbers you once focused on are less important, you know, because you go from 96 to 192 to 384 to 768 kHz. It gets a little bit better every time. But MQA takes you straight to the top—768 kHz—at a lower data rate.

It’s disruptive in the sense that if you go to a download store now, there’s a price scale. You pay a different price for 192 and 96 files. And we say, no, actually there’s just one version of the truth—and it’s authenticated. And that‘s what it was like when the vinyl record was around, not because we’re supporting vinyl, but because the labels made one thing and you bought it.

S&V: Where do you think you’ll be a year from now with MQA. How quickly will things move?
Stuart: I think pretty quickly. We’ve got a hundred companies signed up. And once the majors are all issuing and we have a few streaming stores, it’s a matter of a steady build.

MQA is a revolutionary technology where we’ve examined the fundamentals based on the science of how we hear and we’ve managed to put the actual sound of the real event into a sensible size file.

S&V: When a lay person asks about MQA, how do you describe it?
Stuart: We say it’s a revolutionary technology where we’ve examined the fundamentals based on the science of how we hear and we’ve managed to put the actual sound of the real event into a sensible size file. And the insights that lead to it are fascinating because we’ve learned over the last decade that our hearing is incredibly sensitive to timing detail, which tells us about where something is, how far away, and what size it is. Everything just sounds natural if you don’t blur the picture.

S&V: What person or company in today’s home entertainment space do you most admire?
Stuart: I admire people who take the effort to make great recordings. There are a couple of labels—one in Japan called Una Mas and one in Norway called 2L. They have extremely good standards.

S&V: What’s your passion music-wise?
Stuart: Classical. Chamber music. Music of all eras, really. When I have time to listen and when I’m not listening to things because we’re encoding them, I like listening to music of the classical romantic eras and choral music from the Renaissance onwards…

S&V: What do you consider to be your most important accomplishment to date? Or what product or technology are you most proud of?
Stuart: Building a brand was cool. I think the MQA is kind of the culmination of the work on format making, which was quite a milestone, and of the bringing together of analog and digital engineering with psychoacoustics neuroscience. All those things together.

Yes, of course, I’m a designer and my latest thing is always the best. (chuckles) But it’s also significant because we felt that the story behind it—the things we discovered—were so important that this had to be brought out irrespective of how successful it was but obviously we’re hoping that it will be successful.

S&V: What is the most significant change you expect to see in home entertainment over the next decade? Where is it heading?
Stuart: There’s a tremendous confluence there, isn’t there? It’s hard to say. All predictions are wrong. (laughs) We’ve got a very different generation that’s growing up. The values that we espouse here of getting great performance sounds recorded and played back is about music and listening to music. It’s not about having a virtual reality headset and mashing up two songs together, which is where the technology can take you. So, yeah, it’s very interesting but it’s hard to say where it will end up. Clearly, hearing sound in more than two dimensions is important but I think something like headsets and virtual reality could get it there. And that will be incredible.

S&V: What to you think about the new object-based sound formats, Dolby Atmos, or Auro-3D?
Stuart: I think they’re better than we’ve had before because they have height. But there’s always been very good technology for that in the Ambisonic technology. Auro-3D gives the highest resolution in 3D sound. The problem is, from a music point of view, no one is recording very much. I mean, yeah, there are a few labels. Maybe in the whole world there are 50 people who are recording in Auro-3D and it’s very hard to get the music labels interested in that. I’ve been pretty focused on music but that area is interesting. The consumer experience is more about video, I think, and companies are rebranding themselves media companies so there is definitely convergence.

S&V: Thank you.


fbnm's picture

I'm wondering about the timing issues mentioned in the article. Nyqvist theorem states that all information below 1/2 of the sample rate is preserved, INCLUDING the timing. Modern AD / DA with oversampling should not change the timing as well... right? And what's the advantage of higher sampling rates as we can not hear those frequencies? The disadvantages are known (e.g. modulation problems). But in the end t's about the proof in reality... I'm really curious to read about serious blind testing on MQA.