CES 2017…as it happened…not much

I’m not in Las Vegas covering CES 2017 but that doesn’t mean I’m not keeping tabs on audio-related announcements. This (sticky) post will see ongoing updates as press releases land in the DAR inbox. The limitation being that I know no more than that which features below…

1. MQA

This first one’s a big’un: Tidal have launched a new ‘master’ audio feature and will be offering MQA music to all Tidal HiFi subscribers. In other words, (some) MQA streaming is coming to Tidal. At last, mainstream artists: David Bowie! Fleetwood Mac! Flo Rida!

From the press release:

A wide variety of content from labels and artists, including Warner Music Group’s world-renowned music catalogue, is now available in Master audio across all of TIDAL’s available markets worldwide.

 TIDAL has integrated MQA, the award-winning technology that enables this innovation, and has offered it to all TIDAL HiFi tier subscribers under a new ‘Master’ listing. Initially available on desktop, a wide range of recordings are already available and the collection will grow rapidly.

 “TIDAL is committed to bringing members closer to their favorite musicians and offering MQA sound quality will allow subscribers to hear music just as it was recorded in the studio,” said a TIDAL representative. “We’re thrilled to bring master quality sound to our members.”

 Mike Jbara, MQA CEO, said, “TIDAL is an artist-centric music company. We could not be more excited that they share our vision of having fans hear the authentic performance of their favorite music.”

And yes, MQA is streaming right now for those with Tidal Hifi accounts. AudioStream is reporting the availability of 30,000 tracks.

MQA’s time domain correction of the A/D conversion process means listeners without an MQA DAC should also hear a difference.

For the full MQA experience, including hi-res unpacking, an MQA DAC is required.

Further information: Tidal Masters

Want to try MQA for yourself but don’t want to drop a small fortune on a new DAC? AudioQuest have today announced a software-installable firmware update that will add MQA support to their DragonFly Black (US$99) and Red (US$199) USB DACs.

Some more press release copy/paste:

“AudioQuest, are also announcing MQA implementation in their USB DAC products, DragonFly Red and Black. MQA will be available to AudioQuest customers later this month via a free software update. Steve Silberman, VP of Development, commented:

“AudioQuest aims to deliver amazing sound quality and MQA implementation in our products demonstrates this commitment. We’re very excited to offer AudioQuest customers the best possible audio experience.” MQA demonstrations will be in the AudioQuest Venetian suites 30-105 and 30-106, and at the Hi-Res Audio Pavilion.

Finally, MQA capabilities will also come to the forthcoming v3.0 of Audirvana Plus, due to land in “early 2017”.

2. Panasonic/Technics

Remember how, a year ago at CES 2016, Panasonic/Technics re-launched the legendary SL-1200 as an audiophile-aimed turntable? And remember how the mainstream press threw up their hands in disbelief at how the new model/s had forsaken the DJ world; a world that inked the SL-1200’s reputation as the goto plattenspieler for everyone from bedroom bangers to pro circuit workers? The SL-1200G’s US$4000 price tag had many publications aghast – ironic given these same publications’ penchant for 4K, curved TVs and computers that edge into similar financial territory. Doubly ironic was how a limited run of 1200 GAE units sold out in a matter of hours. Vindication for Panasonic’s re-aligned crosshairs.

Well this year, at CES 2017, Panasonic/Technics are back with another SL-1200 – a “standard version” – only this time their messaging is crisper and cleaner: it’s 100% not for DJs.

The SL-1200GR inherits the coreless direct-drive motor, precise motor control technology, high-rigidity platter and high-sensitivity tonearm” of its predecessors, will be priced at ~US$2000 (unconfirmed) and will begin shipping in June. 

This all new Technics SL-1200GR lands with direct-drive talk right next to the belt-driven Rega RP8 and Shinola Runwell. Panasonic’s press release (here) is rich with technical detail.

DJs wanting a more affordable robust, direct-drive DJ ‘table should look at the Pioneer PLX-1000 or the numerous Hanpin clones doing the rounds these days.

Further information: Panasonic

3. Chord Electronics

This British company’s D/A converters eschew off-the-shelf chips in favour of an FPGA loaded with Rob Watts’ WTA filter. Their sound is clean, sometimes a little lean and big on soundstage depth.

2015’s Mojo moved the Hugo’s battery powered, FPGA-hosted conversion technology into palm-sized portable with the promise that it would transform the sound of any hard-wired smartphone.

Whilst the Mojo met its SQ-ameliorating brief head on (and then some), tying phone and Mojo together in one tidy bundle proved problematic; rubber straps render the source device’s touchscreen unusable. This problem challenge begat the Mojo extender block, launched at CanJam SoCal in March 2016.

During that same SoCal conversation, Chord CEO John Franks talked me through a product that would put a smartphone-controllable Wifi/Bluetooth streamer and SD card reader inside the same ‘extender’ chassis. Now the Mojo and phone would no longer need to be joined by wire. Franks then promptly asked me to keep Mum about the whole thing. Boo.

Nine months later, that product is now here. The 9-hour battery-powered Poly clips onto the Mojo and passes recharge power through to its host for DLNA, AirPlay and Bluetooth streaming. SDcard hosting and remote control comes via Music Player Daemon and its associated remote apps. The Poly will handle up to PCM 768kHz and DSD512.

Poly’s press release fails to specify the source of Roon compatibility: AirPlay or Roon’s own RAAT protocol? Hopefully we’ll know before the new device starts shipping in “early 2017”. Poly will sell for £499.

Chord’s CES 2017 product announcements don’t end there. The Hugo 2 is a ‘remastered’ take on the original: revised aluminium casework; remote control; longer battery life; new user-selectable filters that promise “warm and soft” or “transparent and incisive” presentations; an improved output stage; lower measured distortion. The latest iteration of Watts’ WTA filter has also been included.

One of the predecessor’s two micro-USB ports has been handed over to battery recharge minus the wall-wart leaving four other digital inputs: HD USB, TOSLINK, coaxial and “extended range” aptX Bluetooth (AAC support remains TBC). 

Hugo 2 will start shipping in “early 2017”. Black or silver. Yours for £1800.

Further information: Chord Electronics

4. ELAC

We know Andrew Jones can make terrific high end loudspeakers – see the TAD CE1 – and we can also know he can make kick ass entry-level models – Pioneer SP-BS22LR, ELAC Debut Series and Uni-Fi series – but this time around Jones could be seen showing something a little more luxurious. Next to spill from ELAC are the Adante, which feature entirely new 5″ concentric drivers augmented by a new bass driver.

Adante speaker demonstration given by Andrew Jones at CES 2017. #ELAC #expectinnovation #CES2017

Posted by ELAC on Sunday, January 8, 2017

Still in its prototype phase, this Las Vegas showing from Jones and ELAC is more a teaser trailer than a fully-fledged product announcement. However, when Adante being shipping in the back half of 2017, we can expect to see pricing come in at around US$2500/pair for the standmounts and around US$5000/pair for the floorstanding version. CNET’s Ty Pendlebury has the skinny.

Further information: ELAC

5. GoldenEar Technology

Sandy Gross e-mailed a few weeks ahead of CES 2017 with a Vegas dinner invite and the heads-up on Golden Ear’s forthcoming flagship loudspeaker: “Hi John, I trust that you are having a wonderful holiday season. All is well here. We are excitedly preparing for CES, where we will show something really exciting: Triton Reference! This is a step up from Triton One, and it is quite the signature piece, both sonically, aesthetically, technologically and, well, authoritatively.”

From said press release: All the components in the Reference – the active sub-bass drivers, upper-bass/midrange drivers, and high-velocity folded ribbon tweeter – are new, and have been specifically developed for use in the Reference. The fully balanced crossover is, of course, specially engineered for the Reference, and the powerful subwoofer amplifier and 56-bit DSP control unit are an evolution of those used in the Triton One and our SuperSubs.”

Like other, GoldenEar designs, the Triton Reference’s complement ditches the traditional box and its possible finishes and shaves megabucks from what elsewhere would sell for tens of thousands of dollars. This top shelf offering sells for a mere US$8500. Talk about keeping it honest. The high-end loudspeaker world is a far more interesting (and competitive) place with GoldenEar a key member.

Further information: GoldenEar Technology


Is that really all she wrote? When it comes to hitherto unseen products and audio-related tech announcements, it would appear so. Pro-Ject, Naim, NAD and dCS all served up new models; new to the USA but not necessarily to the rest of the world. Much of it we’d already caught sight of at 2016 events like Munich High-End, RMAF or in Hong Kong.

There’s has been much talk of the death of high-end audio at CES. And just as headphone exhibitors tend to favour Head-Fi’s CanJam in Denver, the majority prefer to show at CES’ noisy, hectic Las Vegas Convention Centre where they seem to do quite well.

What follows is one industry veteran’s take on the state of high-end audio exhibitors at CES 2017:

“Traditionally, high-end audio exhibitors occupy the upper tier of the Venetian Tower – levels 29-31 with a few big suites on 34 and 35 – and a handful of ballrooms down below.
 
This year, level 29 had 72 of 89 rooms filled, 8 of which were apparently non-audio exhibitors. That gives us a sub-total of 64 audio exhibit rooms.

Level 30 had 80 of 88 rooms filled but 32 of those were non-audio exhibitors including AARP, Simmons Bedding, Conde Nast Publishing, a couple of robotics companies and a bunch 
of electronic component vendors. For audio rooms on this floor, our sub-total is 48.

Level 31 had no audio exhibitors other than a couple of DSP OEMs. Level 34 had nothing. Level 35 had McIntosh, YG Acoustics, Astell & Kern, and two rooms of Lamm. Other exhibitors on this floor included Chamberlain garage door openers. Sub-total? 5 audio exhibit rooms.

This year, a grand total of zero ballrooms were booked by high-end audio companies.

All up, that’s a grand total of 117 audio exhibit rooms (or thereabouts)”.

The takeaway is that, when it came down to exhibitor numbers, CES 2017 was a long way short of the slimmer RMAF 2016 and many of the smaller regional Stateside shows. It’s an open secret that many manufacturers now favour Munich High-End as the number one destination for product launches and to meet their international distributors.

From where I sit here in Berlin, audio news spilling from Las Vegas this month seemed so thin on the ground that, pending a serious organisational shakeup, I doubt I’ll ever attend another CES.

Written by John H. Darko

John is the editor/publisher of DAR from which he derives an income from its ad revenues. John is also an occasional contributor to 6moons and AudioStream and lives in Berlin, Germany.

Twitter: DarkoAudio
Instagram: DarkoAudio
Facebook: DAR

64 Comments

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  1. So does this Audirvana Plus MQA capability mean that by using this software MQA files can be played with all the sonic benefits of MQA on any DAC? That would be huge!

    • I suspect (but don’t know) that A+ will only unfold the hi-res content but that any MQA DAC chip correction code will still need to sit on the DAC’s USB receiver chip.

  2. To me, the Audirvana announcement creates more questions about MQA? What would be the purpose of MQA software decoding if it’s not an end-to-end process from ADC to the DAC?

    • MQA software decoding in Tidal and Audirvana (and also Roon soon) means that the unfolding of the encoded higher bit rate data will happen in software – ie no MQA DAC required. Tidal also offers a “passthrough” option to have MQA decoded in an MQA DAC. The difference, as far as I can tell from MQA’s information over time, is that in the case of DAC decoding, additional optimization can be accomplished by profiling the decoding hardware. However, software decoding means you get both the initial ADC “time de-smearing” of the high res file PLUS the “unfolding” of the high res data in the 24/48 file. The only thing you don’t get with software decoding is the DAC profiling.

      • You need proper filtering in the DAC for the de-smearing to work which is the most and really the only important aspect of MQA! Microseconds make a difference! Any old DAC can’t perform the proper de-emphasis. That’s why they have the little MQA light on certified DACs. Anyone smart enough could come up with DSP de-smearing process if it was as simple software decoding. They could do the correction to any digital file as it’s played back regardless if it’s encoded with MQA or not.

        The compression thing never mattered to audiophiles! It’s not needed unless you’re streaming. Nothing wrong with large files! I’d rather have nothing thrown away then have someone tell me that lossy compression is lossless. Leave it in and do the de-smearing. But they won’t because it would seem too simple and nobody would want to pay for that!

        IMO MQA wants to corner the market in digital audio even with downloads. And that’s bad. Spencer Chrislu of MQA, along with a magazine editor who I won’t mention, are touting the fact that with MQA, record companies don’t have to give up their crown jewels? Why would this matter if MQA was better than everything? Because it isn’t! It may be better than MP3 or CD but It’s not better than the best 192KHZ or 384khz masterings! The difference is negligible in blind tests. It’s not better than DSD256! It doesn’t work with Dirac! MQA stifles innovation in digital audio. The best thing that could happen to MQA, is that it fails.

          • I think hi-res music is used by only a small percentage of people. Streaming or otherwise. I like classis rock and I don’t want to pay to download some of the garbage that’s in so called hi-res downloads with no provenance. I certainly don’t want to lease the same garbage that Bob Stuart and Co. ran through a DSP process.

  3. I just called Audioquest (as I have a Dragonfly Red), and was told there is no firmware upgrade for MQA; in fact, I was told they are still looking into it, but haven’t confirmed yet whether or not they would eventually offer it.

    Not sure what to make of that?

    George

    • That’s odd – from an official MQA PR email: “AudioQuest, are also announcing MQA implementation in their USB DAC products, DragonFly Red and Black. MQA will be available to AudioQuest customers later this month via a free software update.”

      • Hm, perhaps the gentleman I spoke with is mis-informed. I will keep a look-out!

        Thanks!

        PS – I have also asked Audeze if they plan on upgrading their Cipher cables to enable MQA encoding…keeping my fingers crossed.

        • Coincidentally, the resolution limit on the cypher cables is determined by Apple’s decision to limit it to 24bit/48KHz, which is the format of the MQA files. However, these files are FLAC as far as I know so you would need a separate player – unless ALAC encoded files retain all of the MQA info.

      • I read the same news on “enjoythemusic.com”. Apparently, Steve Silberman of Audioquest made the announcement. So whoever answers the phone probably hasn’t been informed of the news yet. Maybe won’t until the day it becomes available.

  4. Well, it is as feared. Tidal is simply *replacing* the 16/44 Redbook version of said albums with the MQA (i.e. DRM) version. For now, they are indicating this by replacing the “HIFI” indicator with “MASTER” (a bit of damage control perhaps – not actually using the “MQA” moniker?), so at least you know you are getting some DRM shoved down your throat. I don’t normally listen to much of the music that has been DRMed, but of the 199 albums (that as of this morning are loading up here in USA) I notice a real diversity – Miles Davis, Pat Metheny, and Rokia Traore have all had 16/44 versions of certain albums removed that I have enjoyed in the past.

    For me (and all those who oppose the DRMing of our digital musical ecosystem) the question is now what? Tidal for me is more of a artist/music/album discovery service, as when I find something I would actually play more than once or twice I usually end up purchasing the 16/44 or High Res version. Switching to 320 Spotify would not make too much of a sonic difference to me – though I do have the ear and equipment to resolve the difference between 320 and 16/44. Also, given that industry desperatly wants DRM they will probably be releasing only MQA versions to Spotify in the future (which will be then compressed with a lossy codec to you the customer), this is probably not a long term solution.

    I certainly won’t be purchasing any DRM software (i.e. MQA music), so if artists/labels start releasing music in only this form they won’t be getting any of my $money$. Today I have also decided I am also not going to purchase any Hi Fi equipment that supports DRM. I was seriously thinking about a MyTek DAC/preamp recently but their full-throated support (which amounts to promotion) means they are on the wrong side of of digital musical history.

    In the end, I think the DRMing of our music is probably inevitable (which would probably drive me to vinyl, or simply out of new music all together) but we don’t have to $support$ it with our complacency…

    • A DRM irony from the world of video: The only people who see FBI’s anti-piracy warning on blu-ray discs are the ones who rent them legally, or buy them legally. People who pirate blu-rays don’t see the anti-piracy warning.

    • It doesn’t look like Tidal is actually replacing the 16/44 versions. If I do a search on artist name via Roon or the Tidal OSX app I see many albums doubled up. Playing them, one is 16/44 (“HIFI”), the other 24/48(“MASTER”). An example would be Miles Davis’ “Tutu.”

      BTW I’m listening with a Schiit Bifrost Multibit through a Schiit Lyr 2 with Sennheiser HD650s. The 24/48 tracks I’ve listened to from Tidal sound better than the 16/44 ones, either from Tidal or from flac rips of my own cds. To my ears, anyway.

  5. Listening to Tidal Master through Roon with my Devialet 120, which don’t have MQA. I find the sound quality superior to regular Tidal HiFi. So an upgrade even for us that lack an MQA dac’s

  6. In Audirvana I’m now seeing albums that are available in MQA appear twice. e.g. Lemonade, Like a Virgin, A Head Full of Dreams. I wonder if one is the MQA encoded FLAC and the other is PCM? Doesn’t appear to be a way to tell which is which. May allow for comparisons?

    • Actually there is a way to tell the difference. When the MQA track is played Audirvana shows FLAC 24/44.1 kHz on the top right, instead of 16/44.1 kHz.

      Let the comparisons begin!

  7. I read the Panasonic press release for the sl 1200 and the specs are quite impressive. Also interested to hear MQA via my red.

  8. It looks like the desktop Tidal app now includes built-in MQA decoding. Does that mean that we get the full resolution audio even without an MQA-enabled DAC? There’s a new “Passthrough MQA” setting in the app which turns the decoding off.

      • You need an MQA DAC –only– for the very final step of DAC profiling – which we never had when playing high res previously anyway. The software decoder will decode information above 48KHz sampling.

        • Yes, for DAC chip time domain compensation, not for hi-res unfolding. But that DAC ‘pre-distortion’ is still part of the MQA experience.

          • Exactly. So all you miss with software decoding is the very last step of “DAC profiling” where it adjusts for DAC chip shortcomings. I’m perfectly fine giving that up.

    • I believe that TIDAL does partial software decoding, perhaps as a business necessity on the part of Meridian. All tracks are unpacked to a max of 24/96 and sound improved compared to the pass through of the MQA file alone. Because of that I suspect MQA dacs will be able to decode to the higher, original bitrates… some users have posted images of their MQA dacs rendering TIDAL at variable frequencies depending on the track, even up to 24/356.

  9. That’s cool news from AQ as I have the Red.. But it’s a bummer that there’s still no Tidal here to compete against Spotify.

    John ,

    How’s your Zu hot rodded SL1200 coming along? I’ve read good things about The Wand tonearm from NZ as an upgrade for the stock Technics arm. You might want to check it out.

  10. Having the Dragonfly Red and using Tidal as my primary music source, this is pretty exciting news and will be looking forward to the MQA update in the coming weeks. I am no MQA expert but I never would have thought that the Red (and Black) would even have the capability. Was actually thinking in my head when reading #1/Tidal’s announcement that I wish Audioquest was on the cusp of announcing a MQA-capable Dragonfly.

    I also read something recently regarding the birth of the Hi-Res Audio “Stream the Studio” campaign and mentioned Tidal would be supporting it along with Napster (which I had no idea was still around), Pandora and HD Tracks. Is there any relation between this and Tidal starting to offer MQA streaming or is “Hi-Res Audio” independent of MQA?

      • Hopefully it won’t be the -only- method offered by the labels signing on with MQA.

        That being said and considering hi-res audio remains a very niche business, I don’t see the major labels internally justifying distribution of more than one (i.e. MQA) hi-res formats. While MQA’s T’s & C’s remain hidden from public scrutiny, I’m sure the labels will make more / pay less from / to MQA with increased volume… so whether MQA exclusivity is written in or not, I fully expect all hi-res eggs to wind up in the MQA basket and the major labels to call it good.

        The only good news here is that ‘software unfolding’ may actually happen rather than remaining “on the roadmap” indefinitely. We don’t need a Dolby wanna-be clogging up digital audio innovation with a hardware certification process prioritized on inter-company politics and unit volume.

  11. The reason I cant yet get excited about MQA is that it would mean giving up Dirac Live.

    I did hear an improvement in sound quality when I demo’d MQA with and without MQA-enabled dacs, but I find the improvement is marginal compared to the re-phasing done by Dirac (aside from the improvements offered by way of FR correction)

    Hoping one day I’ll be able to jump on the MQA and Roon wagon.

    • You make an important point about how pragmatism beats idealism every time. If you pick up more from Dirac than you surrender from not having MQA, then that’s what’s best for you. 🙂

    • You will not have to give up Dirac Live, I don’t think. Now that they have reversed course on software decoding, after decoding you will get a higher resolution PCM stream that you could in principle run through Dirac Live.

  12. I don’t have an MQA DAC, but streaming side-by-side albums on Tidal via Roon (Bowie, Mitchell, Davis) tonight is really surprisingly no contest. The MQA files win hands down to my ears every time. Makes me kind of interested in checking out an MQA compatible DAC to see how much better it might sound on top of this. Like some others who have already posted, I will probably wait till my audioquest dragonfly red gets it’s MQA update then try that out and place of my iFi for a bit. The biggest difference I can tell is a more defined low-end like you typically see with Hi-Rez files compared to red book files. There is probably more going on then just that, but that is what I noticed almost immediately when I hit play. Let’s hope this format catches on and it stays included for free via our Tidal hi-fi subscriptions!

  13. I have been amazed about the public response in regard of pricing the SL-1200G(AE). New York Times is propably the only magazine so far which has noticed same as me. By carefully inspecting the “explosion pictures” of the SL-1200G(AE), watching the manufacturing promotional video and finally assessing the tolerances in flesh… Panasonic is not making profit with the table. MBOM alone for the unit is way higher than for many cottage industry High End turntables sold for triple and quadruple MRSP.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2017/01/01/business/panasonic-technics-hiphop-turntable.html?_r=0
    “the turntable may not make any money for Panasonic, instead serving as a loss leader for other Technics products.”

    People are so spoiled by the prices of mass produced electronics in third world countries that they don´t understand the cost of tight tolerance engineering (especially in developed countries).

    Cost vs. manufacturing tolerances is not a “straight line on a plane”. Just google for it and see the graphs if reading of engineering articles is boring.

    I got one SL-1200G immediately once I realized what sort of an engineering marvel and design statement Technics has launched.

    Hifi-News did a lab test for the SL-1200GAE and compared the performance with TechDAS AirForce One and SME30. It is wrestling in a heavy weight category.

    I have been laughing my ### off when reading some magazines commenting that there so much competition in the “same price point” or something similar. That just makes the knowledge of the article editor very questionable. And raises questions in general about the whole snake oil industry…

    Marc Phillips has given very high credits for the new SL-1200G as well and he is known for bashing the original unit for years…

    This was not for John but for those who don´t get this side of the coin.

    • I recently heard vinyl being played on a Clearaudio turntable. It sounded so organic. I plan to get a turntable when I can afford it – for now I am sticking to digital

  14. Not sure if it’s right to put it here – could John take a look and see if it’s suitable? Just a PSA that this might be of interest for those who have yet to subscribe to Tidal’s lossless HiFi service, and want an extended trial period.

    I used this method this afternoon and it is still valid. My trial end date is 6/4/17 and it is for the lossless tier @ $19.99 monthly once the trial is over.

    “Tidal offers three months (90 days) HiFi/lossless streaming subscription for free if signed up using the Sennheiser promotion. Download the Sennheiser CapTune app on Android / iOS and sign up through the app. There is no need to own a Sennheiser product to use the promotion.”

    Have a good weekend!

  15. I am interested in MQA. I have the Dragonfly Red DAC on my home system, and so I will apply the firmware update when it is available and after I confirm it doesn’t introduce any problems. I noticed Onkyo is selling MQA album downloads (only 33 now), ranging from 16/44 to 24/382. My DAC plays up to 24/96 and downsamples above that to 24/96. I can preview songs on Onkyo’s website, but not its MQA songs.

    The prospect of being able to purchase MQA downloads in high resolution without them gobbling up huge amounts of storage space is appealing. One reason I have not been using FLAC for high resolution downloads is the inconsistent album artwork support, whereas AIFF downloads almost always have album artwork that displays on all of my devices. So, I download AIFF files and then watch as the 256 GB card in my Song ZX2 Walkman rapidly fills (one AIFF album can be 2 GBs). I only have 35 GB left on the card, and that has led to my settling for Apple ACC or 320 mp3 files sometimes in an effort to save space. I wonder how big the file sizes are for MQA 24/382 files? If MQA 24/382 files are the size of 24/192 files, that is still way too big. Is anyone selling 24/96 or 24/48 MQA files (downloads, not streaming)?

    I am not interested in streaming very much yet. I do not like the idea of building a Tidal offline playlist of MQA or whatever files, when the possibility of Tidal going belly up is a real risk. I have apps from Spotify, Pandora, and a few others on my iPad Pro and iPhone 6, but I rarely listen with them. For music discovery, I go to websites such as Audiostream or Quiteus or NPR, and then I download from 7Digital, Onkyo, HD Tracks, Apple, and formerly Pono. Maybe in a few years I will get into streaming. Right now I like having 3,900 downloads on my iMac, Sony Walkman, iPad, and iPhone and listening at home, in my car, at work, and when I travel, and never having to worry about having an internet connection or Tidal closing forever.

  16. Really would like to hear a MQA quality of Bowie’s Low. The streaming versions I’ve heard of this album are garbage

  17. I see the Poly as a battery-powerd, on-the-go, version of the Sonore microRendu. If that is true, and if it works as well, the price point is actually good. What would make it even more versatile is a “dongle” that will allow the Poly to connect with other DACs that are not Mojo.

    Did you hear that Chord? 😉

  18. I just had a look at the file size being streamed between the two versions of the Beyonce song Formation:

    PCM: 24.8 MB
    MQA: 42.9MB

    So definitely a lot more data in the MQA (which is good). Could be argued that the size is only slightly smaller than a 24/96kHz PCM FLAC.

    • I knew the file size would be bigger being that it is a 24/48 stream, but that is a lot bigger. Increased storage and streaming costs without charging more makes me even more concerned for Tidal’s long-term financial viability.

      Who knows, maybe the MQA marketing machine will convince all the “Premium” Tidal subs to finally upgrade to “HiFi” and hear JayZ the way JayZ’s recording engineer intended.

      • I think Tidal’s storage costs will fall as a result of MQA. No need to store red book and hires versions when one MQA file takes care of both.

  19. Well… Finally the moment of glory for Bob Stuart and his MQA Team..!

    MQA is not DOA and everyone with even the cheapest DAC is able to witness the audible improvements which the MQA algorithm is able to achieve. The proof is the taste of the pudding and I was most curious to listen to famous albums recorded in the early 80’s in the era when the first 12- or 14-bit digital recorders have been used in studios. Madonna’s first album is an example and for the first time it is possible to hear her young voice without annoying s-t–f artifacts. The soundstage improved, but also pace and rhythm. What strikes me as well is that it is much easier to separate and judge the sound of individual instruments. I do not remember which older album it was which I listened to in MQA quality yesterday, but I immediately noticed that the piano used was false sounding 🙂 very interesting proof that something fundamentally has changed with regard to sound reproduction of the album! MQA will change the outlook of both the music- and audiophile industry significantly. All criticizers and non-believers have to admit that this is a landslide change..!

    • Are you implying that Madonna’s “first” album was a digital recording? Because I’m fairly certain that it wasn’t.

      However, it’s pretty common knowledge that her second album, “Like A Virgin” was recorded using the Sony 3324 DASH recorder which had 16 bit resolution. So which 12 or 14 bit digital recording systems are you referring to in the early 80’s? All the popular digital recording systems by 3M, Soundstream and Sony were 16 bit by the late 70’s.

      As much as some people like to gush about MQA like it’s the holy grail(which it probably isn’t), using misinformation & exaggeration, I only hope record labels continue to offer choice and don’t go entirely MQA without the option for plain vanilla 24-192 resolution & DSD.

      • Hi Larry, you are correct, it was 16 bit. Anyway, I am impressed what MQA is capable to restore this album in better SQ than ever before 🙂

  20. Vandersteen makes excellent speakers which play at lower frequencies than similarly priced floorstanders also are not terribly difficult to drive.

    Pair the Vandersteens with some amplification from NAD, many of which are going to be Roon-ready with an add-on module, and you are golden.

    In case of problems, Vandersteen can do repairs for very reasonable cost. All this comes without marketing BS.

    While we should celebrate newer entrants like Elac into the budget speaker category, let’s not ignore established names like Vandersteen. A speaker company doesn’t last 40 years without having something special to offer to its customers.

    I have no affiliation with Vandersteen, just my $0.02.

      • Vandersteen is exhibiting at CES with Brinkmann analog and digital gear, but have nothing new to show.

        It’s just that it’s easy to forget what is time-tested when newer, slimmer and sexier gear shows up. Vandersteen doesn’t advertise all that much, but they have a strong dealer network in USA and Europe

        People shopping in the budget end of the market may overlook affordable floorstander as an option. When you add cost of stands and a subwoofer, a floorstander from Vandersteen can be better from a price and physical footprint perspective.

        Just general thoughts…

        • Sure thing. Appreciate the sentiment but this post is concerned with (the paucity of) new gear being launched at CES.

  21. Can the Poly connect to both a BT streaming device and BT headphones? And does the Poly really cost more than the Mojo or is £499 for the bundle? I would have expected an updated Mojo with improved battery life and BT AptX support in the ~same form factor rather than a side-car that increases the size of the Mojo by 50% and more than doubles the price.

    • Afaik, BT is input, not output. And 499GBP is for Poly alone. May I ask: Why are you so keen to have aptX? What phone do you use?

  22. Beside the hoard of people and the endless sea of electronic possibility at the convention centers, the Venetian Audiophile suites were a pleasure to visit. I was most impressed with the Audioquest staff and their enthusiasm, Dynaudio’s display and Texas Instruments absolute stunning fidelity of their 1/2 watt processor technology.

  23. Didnt see that coming – I’ll be able to add MQA capability to my 149AUD DFB. Thanks for this snippet, John – Dragonfly owners have waited a very long time for something to appear on that firmware upgrade / ‘Desktop App’ page. ‘Coming Soon’ has been a bit of a standing joke, to put it mildly.

    Have to hand it to AQ – VFM just gets better when you can get added functionality for something that cost so little upfront and has done sterling service over the last 12 months. Most of the paint has flaked off my DFB but I dont mind – it reminds me of the wear on the M16 assault rifles we had in the armory during my days in the green machine.

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