‘I do!’: MQA, Kripton in wedlock at Fujiya Avic Autumn 2016

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hpfes2016-200Pew pew! The Nakano Sun Plaza’s 6th floor houses a chapel with all the trimmings: stage, organ, flowers and drapes. When hosting the Tokyo Headphone festival however, the chapel is used for press launches and presentations. On Sunday afternoon, Bob Stuart plays bridegroom to Kripton’s bride. Stuart’s local handler (and best man!), ‘Bike’ H. Suzuki translates Stuart’s speech for the benefit of the Japanese congregation.

Kripton, a local company, is the latest to offer an MQA-equipped product. Not a DAC or streamer but a pair of active loudspeakers with in-built D/A conversion. The KS-9Multi are sized for the small apartments, often seen on home turf, or the computer desktops of elsewhere. Inputs enumerate as follows: TOSLINK, USB, 3.5mm analogue and – most welcome for Gen 4 Apple TV users – HDMI.

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On transducer specifics, Kripton option a pair of 40w digital amplifiers for each box’s 3cm ‘ring diaphragm’ tweeter and 8.5cm mid/bass driver. Pricing per pair comes in at ¥280,000 – that’s around US$2700 but availability outside of Japan remains TBC.

Despite 1) the Sun Plaza chapel’s heavy echo and 2) my sitting off centre, Kripton’s Vivaldi-driven MQA A/B demo easily revealed the Bob Stuart’s format’s more easeful, less strident handling of strings – the hallmark of good digital playback for this commentator.

This is the fourth time I’ve heard an MQA compared to the original PCM file. Each time, in each different room and with a hardware configuration, MQA sounds more enjoyable…to me.

To the reception! Chatting over a two-hour sushi set lunch with Bob Stuart, I am reminded that the man is in talks with more streaming services than Tidal, enjoys a growing number of DAC manufacturers who have added MQA code to their XMOS chips and that he has the entire Warner catalogue in the bag. Albums that don’t demand MQA’s white glove treatment can apparently be processed “in minutes”.

Even more so than post-RMAF, it is becoming increasingly evident that MQA take up isn’t just a pie-in-the-sky fantasy for Stuart and his team. It is happening.

Also discussed was Neil Young’s Harvest Moon, which according to Stuart sounds markedly better once MQA-d despite the studio master topping out at 44.1kHz. Such are the benefits of MQA correcting for the time domain smear of early (read: 1980s-made) A/D converters. This somewhat jaded Young fan cannot wait to hear it for himself.

Further information: MQA

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Written by John H. Darko

John lives in Berlin, Germany. He derives an income from the ad revenues of DAR. John is also a very occasional staff writer for Stereophile, 6moons and TONEAudio.

Twitter: DarkoAudio
Instagram: DarkoAudio
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  1. Question,
    I’ve added a Bluesound Nose 2 to my hifi, which does full MQA decoding and I subscribe to Deezer and Tidal.
    Audio and music reviewers have been listening to MQA since the beginning of the year, but what about consumers? when will we hear it?

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