Article: MQA – What's in it for you?

Goldorak

Distinguished Member
Thank you Ed, timely article
Am I right in assuming that mqa is much better exploited if the hardware can unlock the full potential and not just via the tidal interface for example which has limited resolution ?

I am trying to assess if worth bithering with mqa if for example a naim atom doesn't decode it natively. I believe other format are better in that case.

Finally, can you please confirm my understanding that mqa real sweet spot and main advantage is in streaming high quality?
Thanks in advance
 

Ed Selley

AVF Reviewer
Thank you Ed, timely article
Am I right in assuming that mqa is much better exploited if the hardware can unlock the full potential and not just via the tidal interface for example which has limited resolution ?

I am trying to assess if worth bithering with mqa if for example a naim atom doesn't decode it natively. I believe other format are better in that case.

Finally, can you please confirm my understanding that mqa real sweet spot and main advantage is in streaming high quality?
Thanks in advance

The main strength of MQA is the transmission of High Res Audio in a more efficient manner. This is most applicable to streaming services where the same file might be requested repeatedly by a customer rather than a download site where they will realistically request it once.

With Tidal, the resolution isn't limited- the unpacking is done in the desktop app so if I play a 24/96 or 24/88.2 file into the Hugo (which isn't MQA certified either), it will still light the relevant indicator up. I've done some tests of the 24/96 Division Bell vs the actual download and I'm not willing to claim I can tell one from the other.

With the Tidal implementation on the Naim (and everybody else), this isn't applicable. The Master files simply play as normal. No information has been given on whether embedded apps might see an update. It's worth noting that the Pioneer XDP100 is MQA certified but can't access them via the mobile app either. Tidal apparently hasn't made any decisions on this area yet.
 

Mercurial

Active Member
I think until manufacturers actually get on board with this, then the jury is out. There has to be a good reason, and sufficient demand, for manufacturers to implement and purchase the relevant software to do this. As yet, I can't see it happening.
There's no mention, understandably so, of the cost implications for manufacturers to purchase this and embed into their products. You can bet it's not cheap though.
 

Ed Selley

AVF Reviewer
There's no mention, understandably so, of the cost implications for manufacturers to purchase this and embed into their products. You can bet it's not cheap though.

I actually did obtain this information but as you say, it's commercially sensitive. I think I can just about get away with saying that it fails or succeeds, the licensing will not have played a significant part either way.
 

Mercurial

Active Member
I actually did obtain this information but as you say, it's commercially sensitive. I think I can just about get away with saying that it fails or succeeds, the licensing will not have played a significant part either way.

Thanks Ed, I'd be interested to know how much it is. Please PM me and I will give you more info. I look forward to seeing you at Bristol ;)
 

davidf

Well-known Member
I can't see it being too expensive. If it is priced high for maximum profit, less brands will support it, and it'll end up being another SACD or DVD-A. With a lower price, more manufacturers will get behind it (another reason to bring out a new model) with a higher chance of large scale adoption by the end user, particularly if it can delivery the goods - my initial listening via Bluesound has been very positive.
 

xafier

Member
In the article you only mention it outputting to USB devices? My current setup has a Windows machine with Tidal application going via HDMI to my Marantz 6010, I'm pretty certain the quality has been better with the master tracks I've listened to, either that or I'm suffering from the placebo effect.
 

Ed Selley

AVF Reviewer
In the article you only mention it outputting to USB devices? My current setup has a Windows machine with Tidal application going via HDMI to my Marantz 6010, I'm pretty certain the quality has been better with the master tracks I've listened to, either that or I'm suffering from the placebo effect.

In short, I don't know. Does the Marantz show incoming sample rate? That would be the easy way to check.
 

xafier

Member
In short, I don't know. Does the Marantz show incoming sample rate? That would be the easy way to check.

I'm not entirely sure, I know it tells you the data type, PCM, DTS etc, not sure if it tells you the sampling rate. I will have a look tonight :D
 

Drongo

Distinguished Member
The main strength of MQA is the transmission of High Res Audio in a more efficient manner.




I have to slightly disagree with this.

For me; the main strength of MQA is the 'de-blurring' that occurs when played back with MQA enabled hardware. Having listened to some MQA music; I know the sound quality can be remarkable. Actually, quite incredible.

Of course; transmitting MQA quality music in more efficent manner may make it more commercially viable; but that's slightly different..
 
Last edited:

KenM10759

Active Member
Perhaps it should be mentioned that all Bluesound (brand) streaming devices have full MQA decoding of MQA as a no additional cost feature. My understanding is that the Raspberry Pi USB DAC's will soon have it too.

I have a Bluesound Vault 2, Node (1st gen) and recently added the BlueOS option to the VM230 update of my NAD T758 AV receiver. Streaming Tidal HiFi with these I get MQA and it can be a subtle improvement or just jaw-dropping good. And anywhere in between. I think it depends upon the quality of the source file.
 

Goldorak

Distinguished Member
I have to slightly disagree with this.

For me; the main strength of MQA is the 'de-blurring' that occurs when played back with MQA enabled hardware. Having listened to some MQA music; I know the sound quality can be remarkable. Actually, quite incredible.

Of course; transmitting MQA quality music in more efficent manner may make it more commercially viable; but that's slightly different..

I like your comment and it reflects what I was struggling to articulate
I believe the benefit of mqa is in transmitting a good size file that can easily be de blurred like you rightly said via enabled hardware
I may be wrong but enabled hardware are supposed to go much further in resolution if files allow it than only non enabled ?

What's the point of an enabled hardware if a Hugo not enabled can play the same.
Ed answer was clear to me but not on this point
 

Ed Selley

AVF Reviewer
For me; the main strength of MQA is the 'de-blurring' that occurs when played back with MQA enabled hardware. Having listened to some MQA music; I know the sound quality can be remarkable. Actually, quite incredible.

For me, the absence of sufficient MQA encoded material I really know well enough to make that call and the ability to replicate a lot of the pre ringing reduction via other processes mean I have to leave that one for now.
 

Goldorak

Distinguished Member
The main strength of MQA is the transmission of High Res Audio in a more efficient manner. This is most applicable to streaming services where the same file might be requested repeatedly by a customer rather than a download site where they will realistically request it once.

With Tidal, the resolution isn't limited- the unpacking is done in the desktop app so if I play a 24/96 or 24/88.2 file into the Hugo (which isn't MQA certified either), it will still light the relevant indicator up. I've done some tests of the 24/96 Division Bell vs the actual download and I'm not willing to claim I can tell one from the other.

With the Tidal implementation on the Naim (and everybody else), this isn't applicable. The Master files simply play as normal. No information has been given on whether embedded apps might see an update. It's worth noting that the Pioneer XDP100 is MQA certified but can't access them via the mobile app either. Tidal apparently hasn't made any decisions on this area yet.
Thank you ed for this, very clear
Can you please confirm what an mqa enabled device do which I Hugo don't ?
 

Ed Selley

AVF Reviewer
In the event of you having an MQA enabled device, Tidal will detect this and let it do the unpacking (presumably- using better decoding and components) rather than it being done in the app. It also means you can listen to MQA encoded downloads.
 

Drongo

Distinguished Member
For me, the absence of sufficient MQA encoded material I really know well enough to make that call and the ability to replicate a lot of the pre ringing reduction via other processes mean I have to leave that one for now.

I agree.

More MQA enabled material would certainly help in coming to conclusions regarding MQA.

Although, the number of MQA titles on Tidal now numbers in the hundreds and is increasing. They can be compared to their non MQA counterparts.
 

Ed Selley

AVF Reviewer
Although, the number of MQA titles on Tidal now numbers in the hundreds and is increasing. They can be compared to their non MQA counterparts.

Only if we accept that one is in 24 bits and the other 16 which is tricky to normalise in a comparison sense. This is why I compared the Tidal Master Division Bell to my own 24/96 FLAC copy. As I noted, I would not want to bet money on telling them apart.
 

Drongo

Distinguished Member
I like your comment and it reflects what I was struggling to articulate
I believe the benefit of mqa is in transmitting a good size file that can easily be de blurred like you rightly said via enabled hardware
I may be wrong but enabled hardware are supposed to go much further in resolution if files allow it than only non enabled ?

What's the point of an enabled hardware if a Hugo not enabled can play the same.
Ed answer was clear to me but not on this point

I am no expert on MQA.

But, as I understand it, if you play MQA material on non MQA hardware, you will get an increase in quality, albeit a slight one.

If you play MQA from a platform like Tidal (desk top version only I believe) that can software decode MQA; you will get the first 'unfold' of MQA - but no more. But still a step up from playing MQA on non MQA equipment.

If you play MQA music on MQA hardware; the MQA is 'fully unfolded' and 'rendered' i.e. the charcteristics of that specific DAC are allowed for.

I am happy to be corrected if I have misunderstood things.
 

Ed Selley

AVF Reviewer
I am no expert on MQA.

But, as I understand it, if you play MQA material on non MQA hardware, you will get an increase in quality, albeit a slight one.

If you play MQA from a platform like Tidal (desk top version only I believe) that can software decode MQA; you will get the first 'unfold' of MQA - but no more. But still a step up from playing MQA on non MQA equipment.

If you play MQA music on MQA hardware; the MQA is 'fully unfolded' and 'rendered' i.e. the charcteristics of that specific DAC are allowed for.

I am happy to be corrected if I have misunderstood things.

In this case, Tidal performs a full 'unpack' of the MQA material. As such, a USB DAC that can handle the sample rate in question will receive 24/44,1, 24/88.2 or 24/96 as appropriate. This is confirmed by the Hugo's indicator changing colour to reflect the incoming sample rate.
 

KenM10759

Active Member
Tidal's statement regarding "desktop app only" is very misleading. A Meridian, Bluesound, or several other hardware units that can stream Tidal HiFi also do full decoding.
 

Ed Selley

AVF Reviewer
Tidal's statement regarding "desktop app only" is very misleading.

I think it is more to explain that mobile and embedded apps don't currently support it rather than making a distinction of MQA enabled equipment as this is still a very small group.
 

Drongo

Distinguished Member
In this case, Tidal performs a full 'unpack' of the MQA material. As such, a USB DAC that can handle the sample rate in question will receive 24/44,1, 24/88.2 or 24/96 as appropriate. This is confirmed by the Hugo's indicator changing colour to reflect the incoming sample rate.

The first 'unfold' of MQA is; I believe up to maximum of 24/96.

MQA can go higher; up to (I believe but could be wrong) 24/384.

You also have to be certain that the DAC is displaying the sampling rate of the MQA material and not that of the PCM 'container' that is carrying the MQA material. There is some confusion about this and it is not clear cut. Do not assume that the sampling rate displayed on the DAC is what you're actually getting.
 

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