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MQA, Bowie & headphones

“As they pulled you out of the oxygen tent you asked for the latest party.” – David Bowie, Diamond Dogs

If the oxygen tent is the audiophile bubble then the latest party is that thrown by MQA. Bob Stuart (of Meridian) and Peter Craven’s audio encapsulation system not only folds hi-res content down to 24bit/48kHz source files, making them streaming ready, but also applies a filter to the original file as created by an ADC and to the DAC during playback, promising to remove the “time-smearing” effects of pre-ringing from both. In short, MQA provides: 1) hi-res audio origami; 2) ADC correction; 3) DAC correction.

Zooming out, we see MQA as an end-to-end transmission system – studio to listener – where a 24bit/48kHz MQA master file can be authenticated by an MQA-certified DAC. The A in MQA is Authenticated. The M, Master.

A certified DAC’s display or LED lets the listener know that what they are hearing is the same that left the studio, after which any hi-res content is unpacked and the file returned to its original 96kHz or 192kHz (but sometimes higher) sample rate. In MQA parlance, that’s file decoding. Also residing in an MQA DAC is the filter code that optimises the downstream DAC chip’s performance – according to MQA, their apodising filter reduces pre-ringing. MQA refer to this as rendering.

MQA has also made the partial leap to software. Master file authentication and the first unfold can also now be executed out by select software apps: in Tidal’s desktop app, Audirvana+ and – soon – Amarra. Clearly the MQA ship is gaining momentum. Perhaps why some commentators have turned up the critical heat: Douglas Whales of Glasgow’s retail outlet The Music Room MQA as a ‘codec’ needed by no-one. Linn’s critique centres on MQA’s alleged money grab. On the lossy nature of MQA’s file encapsulation method, the debate continues.

One thing’s for sure, prior to numerous MQA albums landing on Tidal’s Hifi Tier in January, opinions were more numerous than first hand experience i.e. listening. Bob Stuart might justifiably feel that, at time of writing, this imbalance remains.

DAR has hitherto far covered both sides of the MQA coin: 1) What MQA technology promises but also 2) the need for a much broader catalogue; 3) How MQA sounds compared to standard hi-res but also 4) DAC manufacturer objections; 5) Licensing deals signed with major labels but 6) the potential pitfalls of a closed digital audio ecosystem; 7) MQA’s arrival on Tidal but also 8) calls for a deeper technical analysis of what’s going on under the hood.

Today’s post returns us to that process. A year ago I A/B-d MQA and standard hi-res content via a loudspeaker system: Spatial Audio Hologram M4, fronted by the MQA-certified Mytek Brooklyn DAC. Those listening sessions were conducted with content privately provided by Bob Stuart and co. In other words, audiophile music.

However, with more mainstream music now available in MQA via Tidal Hifi, streamed via Audirvana+ for maximum sound quality, and a different, more affordable MQA-certified DAC to hand – the Meridian Explorer2 (€249/US$299) – it’s time to listen again.

I wear them like a second skin: David Bowie’s gritty Diamond Dogs and plastic-souled Young Americans. The recent (2016) remasters are, to these ears at least, the finest sounding reissues to date. And they’re on Tidal. In MQA.

When either album is streamed to the Explorer2 via Audirvana+, the software confirms its validity but leaves it well alone. Audirvana+ is only licensed to carry out the first unfold (decode). For these 24bit/192kHz Bowie reissues, that limits us to 24bit/96kHz with none of the MQA-certified DAC’s filtering (rendering). Per Audirvana+’s settings panel, we tell it to forward our Bowie untouched on to the Meridian DAC – it will handle full decoding and rendering.

The Meridian tube’s blue LED confirms the stream’s ‘Studio Master’ authenticity – that it has seen zero alteration – and the twin white LEDs both illuminated tell us that the stream has been unfolded (decoded) twice, first to 24bit/96kHz and then again to 24bit/192kHz. The stream is also rendered by code residing on the Explorer2’s XMOS DSP chip. This is the full MQA monty: hi-res files filtered at source by the MQA algorithm, folded up to 24bit/48kHz for internet streaming, then unfolded and filtered again by the D/A converter.

At one end of the Explorer 2, a single mini-USB input. At the other, two 3.5mm outputs: one variable, with 0.47 Ohm output impedance, for headphones; and one fixed at 2Vrms for listeners doing the volume attenuation downstream e.g.amplifier.

The playback chain was set as follows: Macbook Air 11” w/ Audirvana+ v3.0 → Meridian Explorer2 → iFi micro iDSD Black Label → AudioQuest NightOwl Carbon / Audeze Sine.

BUT! We’re not concerned here with how the Meridian DAC’s full handling of MQA compares to that of Audirvana+ 3.0’s partial handling…yet. Nor are we concerned with how the Explorer2 compares to other DACs – hence the addition of the recently reviewed iFi micro iDSD Black Label as headphone amplifier to the Explorer2’s line level output.

These same 2016 David Bowie remasters sit on my hard drive, in 24bit/192kHz PCM, sourced from HDTracks and untouched by MQA.

My question was simple: how would MQA-d Bowie compare to the vanilla, non-MQA hi-res version?
Let’s cut to the end – in a word, it’s better. Echoing the findings of of my 2016, Australian-based loudspeaker listening tests, the horn section of “1984” sounded wetter with more abundant blat. The guitar grind of Diamond Dogs’ title cut comes off as less hard-shelled, less rigid and the drum line more dynamically supple.

Listening to “Fame”, Young Americans’ closer, I took note of a more expressive midrange, most evident on the acoustic guitar strum that precedes the track’s full swagger. Back to drums again: in MQA form, Dennis Davis sounds more alive and from Carlos Alomar’s guitar licks I heard finer gradations of tonal shading.

Also on Young Americans, “Fascination” uses additional instrumental and vocal layers to build its inner intensity. From the MQA version I was more easily able to mentally visualise the pop-up book illusion of player outlines and their positioning.

MQA makes these two Bowie albums, through this hardware combination, sound more believable. However, it doesn’t render HDTracks’ hi-res versions unlistenable. Bringing this Starman test back to earth, the audible deltas are anything but night and day.

Neither does one version ‘destroy’ the other. Such untethered hyperbole is for forum trolls. On a daily basis, away from the review job, I’d be more than content with the Redbook CD version of these recent remasters. My absolute preference, even over MQA, is to spin vinyl copies; not because they sound better but because savouring music is more than just a game of optimising sound quality.

One could argue that only the most anal-retentive listener will want to make the switch from standard hi-res to MQA; and there’s no denying there’s a little gold waiting for him should he do so. That’s assuming all things remain equal. Which they don’t. Least of all in an audiophile’s system which is more often than not in a constant state of hardware flux.

Removing the Meridian DAC from my headphone system, connecting the iFi micro iDSD Black Label to the Macbook directly via USB and having Audirvana+ handle the first unfold and without MQA DAC correction still sounded better, fuller, richer than anything heard from the previous A/B, MQA or not.

Perhaps iFi’s DAC implementation is better than Meridian’s. Or maybe, now sitting on a more proximate board, a shorter signal path between DAC and amplifier comes into play. Or maybe it’s the dispensing of the iFi supplied 3.5mm-to-3.55m flylead that did the trick. Likely that all are contributing factors. Whatever it is, piling on better hardware brings forth more satisfying audible gains than the move from vanilla hi-res to MQA alone.

The wo/man in the street using basic earbuds probably wouldn’t hear the afore-detailed differences between MQA and standard digital audio. Besides, s/he’s better off first making the jump 1) to a nicer sounding pair of headphones, 2) to a better DAC/headphone amplifier and 3) from lossy to lossless streams. Only then might MQA enter the picture.

One final wrinkle to trip us up: with Aurdirvana+ 3.0 handling the first unfold and pouring the MQA’d remasters as 24bit/96kHz into the iFi DAC/amp, Diamond Dogs and Young Americans still sound better – more supple, better separated – than HDTracks’ 24bit/192kHz versions. The delta isn’t as wide as with an MQA-certified DAC but it’s there.

Does the iFi DAC intrinsically sound better with 96kHz than 192kHz or is it Bob Stuart’s studio-level sauce – ADC time smearing correction – that has MQA sounding better even without an MQA DAC in play? Performing a similar A/B with an AudioQuest DragonFly Red tells us it’s more likely the latter; that MQA’s de-blurring filter applied to the studio master before it leaves the label/distribution house affords the listener more audible benefits than an uptick in sample rate alone.

This brings us to an unexpected MQA sweet spot for DAR readers, one that pulls from numerous directions: 1) let the digital audio hardware do the heavy SQ lifting in choosing the subjectively best DAC, MQA-certified or not, and 2) use that DAC to stream MQA content from Tidal but 3) through software that can carry out the first unfold.

In other words, your next DAC purchase should be the best sounding to your ears, irrespective of its ability to fully decode or render MQA. Reframe the latter as a bonus and not a prerequisite. Those dismissing a DAC because of its lack of MQA support are allowing the tail to wag their (diamond) dog. They’ll catch their death in the fog.

Further information: MQA | Meridian

Written by John H. Darko

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

52 Comments

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  1. I would be a very happy camper if Tidals MQA streaming library would become available at the Tidal Store. I tried Tidal Hifi for a while but I kept on buying most of the good stuff, so I switched back to Spotify for streaming (I prefere their apps).

  2. Doesn’t matter- MQA is dying a fast death.Where is the UME releases that were mentioned for Spring? Where is Sony? Where is the broader Warners catalog?

  3. Not sure I agree Tom. I think MQA’s future is finely balanced at the moment; it’s gathered momentum, particularly through Tidal adopting it. Whether this is sufficient to give it that commercial kick to the next level of mass adoption and commercial success remains to be seen.

    One thing in its favour is the ability for Spotify, Tidal etc to stream hi res without the need for more bandwidth. Which is nothing to do with MQA sound quality per se, it’s a huge commercial benefit to the providers. All we need is for hi res to be adopted by them as there default offering. Which itself is up in the air; Tidal took the first step but they’re not a major player in the commercial scheme of things so we shall have to wait and see.

    Good article though; my slightly less rigorous experience with my Meridian Explorer 2 (through Ayre / Harbeth kit, not headphones) tends to concur with John’s.

    • Yup – the MQA conversation is far more complex that “It’s the future of music!” or “It’s DOA!”. And so too are my own listening experiences. MQA sounds very good but it isn’t a magic bullet and its library size is a long way from troubling my PCM Redbook collection.

      • Agree, although if the streaming companies adopt hi res using MQA I think it’s a cert.

        Note the ‘if’.

        We audiophiles (I hate that word, it’s like inviting people to take a free punch) will tinker to optimise everything and get the last drop of sound quality (‘Precious, my Precious’). We are a side show though, as is sound quality; the general public really don’t need hi res music.

      • All 3 major record labels are on the MQA bandwagon: Warner Music Group, Universal Music Group and now also Sony Music Entertainment. Many small, independent labels are following fast.

        For impeccable MQA streams in TIDAL please listen to the complete 2L recording catalogue and the stunning Eudorarecords albums. Ear gems!

          • I agree John, after all, all the fuzz around MQA might still be a ‘marketing scam’ for selling us DRM protected lossy stuff, as the anti-MQA camp is desperately trying to tell us.. You and I and many others meanwhile have very positive listening experiences with MQA. It teaches us the importance that Time Coherency is a far larger factor to our ears than delivering the maximum amount of digitized data to our DAC. MQA filters the timing errors and reconstructs it to a superior sounding analog signal and op top of that also reduces the datastream significantly. I have been enjoying those stunning classical DSD recordings from this small http://www.eudorarecords.com label in Todal in MQA enourmously this weekend, and that for the price of 20 Euro per Month via Todal and no extra charge for the MQA streams..! What else would an audiophile want..? Defolding in MQA up to 24/176 on my BluOS NAD system.. I hope soon everyone will be able to experience this at their homes.

  4. Can anyone actually hear this so-called ‘time smearing’ or should that be, has anyone EVER detected it…? I don’t believe I ever have but then I wouldn’t trust myself as a reliable witness…

    • Yes. I seem to be the ‘extreme anorak’ referenced in the article 😉

      16/44 has always sounded gruesome to my ears to the extent that I can’t listen to it for more than about 20 minutes. Any DAC, any track. My brain goes into “hyper-drive mode” trying to “repair” whatever it is that it can’t comprehend properly, which I have always believed to be timing failure most notable on the fade of things and where that overlaps with something else. It is too fatiguing to endure.

      MQA does not render a badly mastered track delightfully, but it does remove whatever it is about 16/44 that “grates” with me. It “fixes” digital audio, and does exactly what it claims to.

      • I am jealous, Mark! My 60 year old ears and constant mild tinnitus must have robbed me of the ability to hear the finer details…on the other hand, perhaps that’s a good thing; I can happily live with 16/44.1!

  5. Vinyl has gained far more traction than MQA has done in the last few years since it was announced.Again,where is the major label support for this?

  6. Your last two paragraphs track closely with my thoughts on the matter of choosing hardware. I recently upgraded from a Cambridge 851N to PS Audio Directstream Junior. While I am interested in MQA, I ultimately chose a non-MQA DAC based on other merits. I must admit, my choice was influenced by the promise that DSJ’s bridge will soon be able to do the first software unfolding. That seems like a good sweet spot for me, especially considering very few of my albums would be at higher sampling rates anyway.

    • Good news is it looks like PS audio will do full unfolding through the bridge now not just the software unfold.

    • I, too, recently purchased a DSJ, after considering the MQA alternatives and controversy. Relative to the other options, the DSJ makes *all* my music (patches of DSD and highres PCM but, of course, mostly redbook) sound more like music, and less like like digital.

      Isn’t that what we’re after?

  7. Yep decided to go ahead and buy a chord 2qute which is non mqa as
    1. My dragonfly update didnt occur at the end of Jan as promised.sick of waiting…
    2. Its a way better DAC anyways.
    3. Can still do first unfold in Tidal.

    • I was not aware that Audioquest had ‘promised’ an MQA update at any specific time; rather, as I understood, they were waiting to see how the format was received and as it still struggles to gain significant traction, it may have been put on the back burner, so to speak

  8. My own limited experience confirms your conclusions. I have first generation Bluesound Node connected via Toslink to a Bryston BDA-1 and via its analog outputs to my preamp. Via analog output the Bluesound does the full monty; via Toslink only get the benefit of the first unfold. Listening to MQA recordings via Tidal music sounded that much better with the Bryston DAC in play. That being said, listening via the Bluesound’s analog connection was very good indeed, just not as good as with the Bryston, and among the best results I’ve gotten via the Bluesound performing the DAC chores.

  9. Any ideas when UMG are releasing their MQA catalogue? Nothing but crickets since the original announcement!

  10. I have done A/B comparisons of 2L’s different versions of the same master, MQA and non-MQA. To be honest, I couldn’t reliably choose between the standard 44kHz and 352kHz (or thereabouts) versions of one of the tracks, let alone MQA vs MQA so I decided that hi-res is lost on me! In spite of the fact that I play in a band and produce my own material. Never mind. But nonetheless I am loving Tidal Masters – particularly because a number of analogue masters have been re-encoded using state of the converters and sound absolutely superb.

  11. John – I really appreciate this article. I also love the fact that you did your A/B comparisons using some of the exact same files I have in my own music collection (24/192 Bowie tracks from HDTracks). I currently find my MQA thinking sympathizing with the Doug Whale camp and am reticent to trap my future music purchases in a new proprietary system, even if MQA gains significant, lasting label support and provides the sonic benefits you affirmed. It will be interesting to see how this proprietary format continues to “unfold.”

  12. I’ve got tidal and the dragonfly red. Now the firmware update for the dfr is *finally* going ti be available I’ll be interested to see how my laptop/tidal/dfr running mqa competes against my dacpre amd music server running non-mqa files.

  13. I’m not a big headphone guy, only listening on headphones at my desk while at work or IEMs while traveling. I couldn’t hear a bit of difference with my Sennheiser Momentum headphones or my SE535 IEMs powered from either the Explorer2 DAC or software decrypting via Tidal to my Schiit Fulla using a MacBook Air.

    I have a MyTek Brooklyn now in my 2ch rig and to my ears MQA is not worth forgoing DXD/DSD up-conversion to switch modes on my µR, switching zones in Roon and enabling MQA on the Brooklyn (and then reversing that process for non-MQA content), but once Roon supports MQA, up-converting the 24/96 MQA streams to DXD/DSD should be a nice, hassle-free combo.

  14. Hi John
    I have the Meridian explorer, but found my Chord 2Qute still to be better, despite the Meridian putting in an excellent performance. I am keeping the Meridian for use with my laptop and Sennheiser momentum wireless HP’s.

    The interesting point you make is using software to do the unfolding.

    Has there been any mention of MQA releasing an “MQA player”. That would be cool if it could do all the unfolding. But alas I believe some of the “magic” has to be on the chip in the DAC. However as you say, if the first unfold is done there is an improvement to be enjoyed, so a stand alone piece of software would be good. I suppose the only fly in my ointment is that MQA will be giving 3rd parties the software unfold rather than creating their own.

    Presumably if MQA became popular enough they may consider their own player. I don’t feel the need for Roon or the like as I don’t stream music in my flat, just straight off the PC. So the software with MQA file downloads is appealing. One for the future me thinks.

    Just one question for you, MQA has to reside in the DAC for full decoding, and excuse my naivete, does that mean that MQA are the only ones who know how a DAC implementation should be or have I misunderstood, that the part of MQA in the DAC, is just time smearing assistance that others haven’t implemented? I just get the feeling that having to own an MQA certified DAC means that other DACs aren’t “doing it properly” (I have the opinion that, if you have to put MQA in your DAC, your original implementation isn’t going to sound as good, therefore you are doing it wrong, but like I say I am naive in the technical areas).

    Love the way you wrote this piece, let the music shine 🙂

    Gordon

  15. Just forget about fidelity improvements for a minute…. MQA (“full” unfolding?) will require a hardware purchase. Period. Later, we’ll have “Super” MQA which will require another hardware purchase and so on and so on. This is what bedevils me. I am not a software engineer but I I have a 12 core Mac Pro and it can only handle the first “unfold” of MQA ? ….. really ? Let the audiophile snobs go down this rabbit hole. I think for many of those in full favor of MQA adoption, its the same chase as always…. an incrementissimal (my word), insignificant and ultimately, costly pursuit of the sonic white whale.

  16. I wanted to point out Ed Selley from AVforums comment in the thread from his review of the Meridian Explorer 2 where he says that providing you’re using relatively sensitive iems/phones, the Meridian Explorer 2 was better than the Chord Mojo for MQA.

    https://www.avforums.com/threads/meridian-explorer-2-dac-review-comments.2093038/#post-24898299

    By plugging the explorer into the iFi, I believe that extra layer may have accounted for the difference in why you preferred the iFi at 24/96khz with the software decode.

    I strongly disagree that the format isn’t that important for enjoying the music, and for ordinary people as well, while everything is important such as the amplification, quality of the recording and mastering etc, I’d argue the format is absolutely crucial to ones ability to enjoy and appreciate the music, and of all genres. The Redbook format, no matter how good the reconstruction filter in the DAC, there is ringing and phase distortion hard coded from the brick wall filter, high res PCM reduces that significantly.

  17. “The Redbook format, no matter how good the reconstruction filter in the DAC, there is ringing and phase distortion hard coded from the brick wall filter, high res PCM reduces that significantly”

    Cor! I’m listening to Soma FM in 64 kbps HE AAC as I type and it sounds fan-flippin’-tastic.
    Are you a dolphin or a Blue Whale by any chance…?

  18. Commenting on MQA without having a chance to listen to it yourself is rather pointless don’t you think? Cue my excuse. Having read the pages of this site for a good few years now and trusted it’s comments from your good self John, one comment stands out for me, ‘audible deltas are anything but night and day’.
    Given this one thing is puzzling me, how is Bob able to obtain so much sway and continue momentum on something so subtle akin to a regulated PSU or cable change?
    I need to try this MQA thing before dismissing it.

    • Mike – I’d agree it’s not night and day. It is fairly significant though, particularly when you sit down and listen to music properly; it just seems to bring everything to life more. As you say, time for a listen.

  19. Thanks for continuing to write about this. I am lost as far as the technical details go. But I have heard MQA by streaming Tidal through my iMac and when it works, it is gorgeous. The difference in the quality of the sound is unmistakable.

    Unfortunately it is not consistent. The same MQA album that sounds wonderful one day, is totally distorted the next. It sounds like an LP played at the wrong RPM.

    To be clear, when the files play properly, I am only getting the benefit of the “first unfold.” My DAC is a Light Harmonic Geek Pulse which is not yet MQA compliant. But Tidal has also also established that the DAC is not the source of the distortion.

    Tidal has worked with me on this for months. I have sent countless files at their request, taken from my Mac Console utility (player.log and app.log). Finally the answer I got was this:

    “I have heard back from the QA Team. Concerning your distortion: This is a known issue in the MQA decoder, Meridian has been asked for a solution.”

    Does anyone know more about this? John is it possible you might inquire at Meridian on our behalf?

    Many thanks!

    • This is the first I’ve heard of this issue but I’m meeting with team MQA this week so will enquire.

      • John, thanks very much for offering to try to get some more information on the issue I raised.

        I’m still using Mac OS 10.9.5 so my first reaction was to ask Tidal if moving to a more recent OS would help. My contact at Tidal was not at all sure that it would. He suggested it is also, “hardware related with drivers.” I confess I have no idea what that means, if the issue is software related to begin with.

        I was also told, “There are a lot of unknowns.” I don’t doubt that! I do hope that Meridian will confirm they are aware of the problem and are working on it.

        As a final thought, I think I am typical of many folks who are hoping for the success of MQA (and of Tidal’s success in making it available). Most of us — even many people like me who subscribe to the audiophile press and follow web sites like yours — don’t care much about the technical details because we don’t fully understand them. What I know is that the music sounded different — better — when the MQA files played properly.

  20. MQA killed the Golden Goose. It is so sad to see people willingly accept worse quality with DRM and claim it sounds better. This may kill the DAC industry, which no one really under 30 cares about. One company will now stifle innovation and people are championing it. Sad.

    • What do you hear when you listen to MQA vs non-MQA, Craig? What MQA DAC are you using? And the rest of your system?

    • If you believe the golden Goose will stay to be WAV, DSD or DXD recordings and distribution, why worry? These will stay the data container at many recording studios for years to come. Download such high density bitrates will still be available for your preference and pleasure. MQA is just an extra add-on, a Time-Coherency focused filter, non-audible data compressor and reconstruction software. The differences are sometime very nice and very audible, especially with analogue Masters from before 1960 for example, the MQA presentation is far superior to any other digital Masters out there. But just listen if this is important in your system and music taste. For me the BIG question is: what can we learn from the success of MQA and the importance of Time Coherency in the analogue domain..

  21. regarding: 1) let the digital audio hardware do the heavy SQ lifting in choosing the subjectively best DAC, MQA-certified or not, and 2) use that DAC to stream MQA content from Tidal but 3) through software that can carry out the first unfold. — question on #3: I assume you are just talking portable/phone play? If through the computer, then Tidal does the first unfold…or is the 3rd party software better for some reason?

  22. Glad to see logical comments from people who have listened to and experimented with MQA. So many of the Nay sayers, have never listened to MQA, and only rationalize that there is somewhere doom and gloom, to the downstream of music. MQA streaming seems at this point a very valid way forward to STREAM music at smaller data bits, smaller costs to mobile and home users, at better than red book, and near superhighrez numbers. I had given up on listening to streamed music, as the quality was way down. With the announcement of Tidal/MQA streaming, I went out and traded my Sonos for a entry level Bluesound DAC, and I have not been sorry. I am happy listening to all the content of Tidal, and the MQA analogue albums sound as good as I have ever heard them, most of the modern Jazz, Blues, Rock that are slow to come to MQA still sound great in the CD, FLAC, format, but there seems to be a increased soundstage, 5.1 feel to the new MQA music coming out. Soon they will be streaming full Hiresolution music, MQA is just a step forward.

  23. Take an old analog or PCM recording, remaster it to MQA and played back after n conversions to PCM again and to get better sound than the original? buy a new DAC, buy once again your preferred music in MQA?, no doubt Meridian and the labels are hyper clever people, MQA is a solution in search of a problem. You have the original master recordings available in physical formats (SACD, BR) and in hi-res downloads in the native PCM and DSD and available in streaming too (Qobuz in Europe), who needs another proprietary royalty-based audio format?

    • I have ripped my CD and album collection a long time ago at the highest res possible at that time, and got rid of all the extra baggage. So I have only BluRay Concert CD’s left to play, and there are only a limited number of those worth buying. Most are crapy live recordings. MQA streaming comes as close to the original PCM and DSD as I have heard. So to all of you Audiophiles, with large collections of HiRez music, I would hold tight, no need to upgrade your DAC. But to those out there streaming music through Airplay, Chomecast, Sonos, Googleplay via bluetooth, the entry level, Bluesound, Meridian, Dragonfly, etc, is well worth the upgrade to sample Tidal/MQA. There are a number of Powered speakers coming on board, for outdoor use. I download all my favorites, to my iphone for offline listening on the Boat and in the Car. $20 a month rental fee is worth it to my aging ears.

  24. Once again, STREAMING, STREAMING, Tidal MQA streaming, sounds as good as I have heard almost all of the Master’s Catalogue, to date. So once again all you Audiophiles, with huge HiRez Library’s and great DAC’s no need to get your panties in a bunch, no need to buy a new format. A majority of listeners are streaming their music, and up until Jan, the streaming was marginal, no where near the sonic soundstage of your HiRez library. I personally cannot hear the diff between full rez PCM and DSD and the smaller file size MQA streaming tracks. Can’t say that the MQA are any worse, and that is the point. For all the simplicity of creating your entire library in the Tidal library and renting it, playing almost any song with the flick of a iPhone or android device, I think this will bring a lot of new listeners, into the HiFi world. Soon full rez streaming will be here for us to compare, I see MQA just a step toward better streaming music. At present there are not enough MQA versions of my favourite Playlists available to compare to regular Flac versions, but what is there sounds great.

  25. “…wetter with more abundant blat…”

    I love that description and the dedication to avoiding the standard audio review adjectives!

    • Thanks Geoffrey – my descriptors aren’t to everyone’s tastes but audiophile review cliches make me come out in hives. 😉

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