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Old 07-21-2019, 07:10 PM
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SteveJ SteveJ is online now
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Smile Not where I thought I was headed.

When I decided to go about improving the digital audio on my office system I was expecting it to be a rather straightforward endeavor. Do a little reading, compare some specs and acquire some equipment.

It started with an impulsive trial of Tidal. I liked it instantly. I had been using Pandora and Amazon unlimited so the increase in quality was immediately apparent and appreciated.

As I did a little more reading I found that having an external DAC rather than relying on the PC to convert the files to analog would likely be an improvement so I started Googling DACs. Delta-Sigma or multibit, DSD, FLAC, DSF, DFF, MQA, 16 bit, 1 bit, I can wade through that given a little time. DoP was interesting. So was looking at DAC specs and realizing that for the same DAC, different inputs will process greater or lesser bit rates and CODECs.

Disappointing as it makes sifting through the specs of different DAC's more complex but not a show stopper.

After a bit more reading I decided to look for MQA capable DACs. According to one article I read, "MQA capable" is not a universally applicable description and much to my dismay, that unless you have one of these DACs the MQA file from Tidal is not converted to a lesser quality.

Can anyone confirm this?

From the Tidal site;

HiFi audio is a superior sound, but is still limited in its resolution—44.1 kHz /16 bit.

TIDAL has partnered with MQA to deliver something infinitely better: an authenticated and unbroken version (typically 96 kHz / 24 bit) with the highest-possible resolution—as flawless as it sounded in the mastering suite. And exactly as the artist intended it to sound.

Which doesn't say the same thing.
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Old 07-22-2019, 08:18 PM
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Banter Banter is offline
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Or, you can get an Aurender A10. A streamer with built-in DAC and MQA ready. With this you can go directly to an Amp. No need for a pre. I must also add, get AudioQuest Vodka or similar ethernet cable and high end power cords and you are off to the races!

https://aurender.com/a10/

Yogi.
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Old 07-22-2019, 09:41 PM
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doggiehowser doggiehowser is offline
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If you are using the TIDAL app on your computer as a source, and you enable decoding in the software, the app will do the first level unfold of the MQA source.

So it does 16/44 or 16/48 -> 24/44 or 24/88 or 24/48 or 24/96

This should take care of the majority of MQA files. And it will work with ANY DAC (even those that aren't MQA compliant).

Some MQA files are encoded in 24/192. Those would require a full MQA compliant DAC to do the second stage of MQA unfolding (sometimes called deblurring) which applies some MQA specific filters as part of the process.

There are 2 levels of MQA support in DACs.

The first is full MQA decode - which will handle the first part (unfold) and second part (deblur/render)

The second variant only handle the second part (deblur/render) - sometimes called MQA renderer DACs. It relies on the PC to handle the first stage (unfold to 24 bit).

This probably makes it even more confusing.

Sorry about that.

Maybe this might help:

Click on the ... next to your user name in the TIDAL app and choose Settings

Click on the "Streaming" tab in Settings

Choose Master Quality

Under "Sound Output" - choose your USB soundcard and then click on More Settings

If you have a full MQA compatible DAC, turn ON Passthrough MQA. If not, turn that setting off - this will let the TIDAL app do the first MQA unfold.
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Old 07-22-2019, 10:50 PM
JMD JMD is offline
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Do you want to get a full MQA capable streamer and get the computer out of the equation or just a MQA capable DAC. Also budget for either option?
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Old 07-23-2019, 06:46 AM
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doggiehowser,

Thanks! Yep, that is what I understood. As much as the sound was improved when I switched from Pandora to Tidal is seems as though there is more to uncover.

JMD,

For now I'm thinking just a DAQ that will fully decode MQA. There was a used Brooklyn DAC+ with an upgraded power supply on US Audio Mart for $1,700 that I missed by 20 minutes.

Realistically, since it is my office/PC system, < $1,000. Finding a nice line stage for my Pass 250.5 is a higher priority.

The Pro-Ject Pre Box S2 looks interesting if it has a line level output.
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