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I was confused about MQA sampling rates when streaming Tidal Masters tracks via some popular streamers, so I asked their technical support departments (and also did some testing). 

Tidal confirmed that the Windows Tidal software will do 1 x unfolding and offer up to 96kHz to your computer's internal DAC or to external non-MQA DACs. External MQA DACs can do 4 x unfolding for the maximum sampling rate (384kHz). 

Audioquest Dragonfly DAC is limited to 96kHz, so although they just announced support for MQA via updated firmware, they are not offering higher resolution than you might already be able to get by streaming on Tidal Windows to other non-MQA DACs.  

Bluesound confirmed their Node 2 streamer (which also has an inbuilt DAC) supports up to 192kHz via all of the streamer's outputs (including their analogue RCA outputs fed by the internal DAC). 

Auralic offer a non-official way of doing MQA that they developed themselves without using MQA software. Currently it's only available if you opt-in to their beta testing program. I have been testing this on my Aries Mini streamer and it seems to do the maximum sampling rate available via it's internal DAC or USB output, while other outputs will be limited to 192kHz due to the S/PDIF standard. 

So if you want the maximum MQA sampling rate of up to 384kHz you could: 1) Use Auralic non-official way via internal DAC or USB output; or 2) Use Windows and an MQA certified DAC. 
Next highest sampling rate would be Bluesound (192kHz maximum via any of its outputs).
Next highest sampling rate would be Tidal Windows streaming to a non-MQA DAC or Audioquest Dragonfly (96kHz maximum). 

Actual sampling rates vary between different MQA tracks depending on the rate the Masters were originally stored in. If you are looking for very high sampling rate tracks, try the Tidal Masters albums from 2L for example. 

 

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Posted (edited)

So you'd be able to hear a difference between 96/24 and 384/24 or would you just feel better having the highest bitrate coming through?

Edited by Hi-Fi Whipped

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Can't offer an opinion yet, only started testing recently. But the difference if you can hear it at all is quite subtle, like the difference between many DACs etc. I have seen most commenters say there is an improvement. But the placebo affect in audio is huge, so without blind testing, who knows. 

 

As an aside, you can do various "blind" tests on websites, and even the difference between low resolution mp3s and CD quality can be hard to pick "blind". 

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The Dragonfly's bottleneck is at the input, not the DAC. It supports only the USB audio 1.1 spec, so doesn't handle over 96/24 at the input, but the DACs used can go higher. This is why Audioquest have put the time into MQA.

 

The Dragonflies become MQA "decoders" so you put in a rendered 96k MQA signal which it can handle, and get a higher rate signal out. If the signal is MQA encoded 384Kb, you get 384k out. Not true 384/24, because MQA doesn't do that.

 

The initial descriptions imply that the 2L downloads at 44.1/48 aren't decoded on the Dragonfly. At the moment you need Tidal to hear decoded MQA on them, apparently. But there's no description on what is actually in the update that I can find.

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1 hour ago, Eggcup The Daft said:

The Dragonfly's bottleneck is at the input, not the DAC. It supports only the USB audio 1.1 spec, so doesn't handle over 96/24 at the input, but the DACs used can go higher. This is why Audioquest have put the time into MQA.

 

The Dragonflies become MQA "decoders" so you put in a rendered 96k MQA signal which it can handle, and get a higher rate signal out. If the signal is MQA encoded 384Kb, you get 384k out. Not true 384/24, because MQA doesn't do that.

 

The initial descriptions imply that the 2L downloads at 44.1/48 aren't decoded on the Dragonfly. At the moment you need Tidal to hear decoded MQA on them, apparently. But there's no description on what is actually in the update that I can find.

 

Thanks. To get the 384k out of the Dragonfly, should you select MQA passthrough in Tidal Windows app, or not? 

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Some examples of MQA on Aries Mini and the last one straight flac.

 

IMG_0325.PNG

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IMG_0328.PNG

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6 hours ago, davewantsmoore said:

Thanks.

That page was buried when I went searching for a page with a decent explanation.

8 hours ago, nicholas9976 said:

 

Thanks. To get the 384k out of the Dragonfly, should you select MQA passthrough in Tidal Windows app, or not? 

I've not found official instructions. This is a best guess and appears to work, as Tidal asks to use the MQA output:

 

In the Windows control panel, choose Sound, select the Dragonfly, choose Properties, and make sure that all Enhancements are disabled and that under the Advanced tab both "Allow applications to take exclusive control of this device" and "Give exclusive mode applications priority" are both ticked.

In Tidal, go to Settings, and choose Streaming. Make sure Quality is HiFI/Master, and that the Dragonfly is selected. If you get the Tidal settings wrong and an MQA device is discoverable, then Tidal will ask if you want to use the MQA device, and you can just say yes. On my machine the Settings button isn't available when you choose the Dragonfly, it just defaulted the settings to use MQA.

 

You must, of course, update the Dragonfly with the 1.6 firmware. There's a button to start that process on the front page at www.audioquest.com.

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But these 2L tracks are some of the best classical recordings I've heard. I just wish while using the Node2, that the Bluesound app would give you info on what the bit rate of the file actually is. All you know is that it's MQA.  

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But these 2L tracks are some of the best classical recordings I've heard. I just wish while using the Node2, that the Bluesound app would give you info on what the bit rate of the file actually is. All you know is that it's MQA.  

Auralic Aries Mini does show the sampling rate in the Lightning DS iOS app. But Auralic implementation of MQA is unofficial, and also still in beta testing at the moment.


Sent from my iPad using Tapatalk

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19 minutes ago, Sime said:

But these 2L tracks are some of the best classical recordings I've heard. I just wish while using the Node2, that the Bluesound app would give you info on what the bit rate of the file actually is. All you know is that it's MQA.  

It's not easy. You can find out the bit rate of the original recording on the 2L website sometimes. The more recent tracks are in DXD, 352.8/24 originally so full decoding of these tracks should be at 352.8/? (bit depth dependent on coding).

The Bluesound only plays back up to 192/24, so you should hear 176.4/? in practice.

You can of course download the testbench files and pay to download others at their site if you want to compare the MQA with the high bitrate original through your 2Qute, or 192/24 versions are available to play through the Bluesound.

 

MQA are covering their tracks a bit with bit depth. It has to be well under 24 bit to cover the "folds" and other information, and they are apparently increasing the effective bit depth with dither, which is itself a compromise. One thing I haven't seen are distortion measurements for MQA playback and I do wonder if they are out there. So I presume that their answer is that it is blue light MQA - assured - and that the effective bit rate and depth are irrelevant at this point. And that may well be the case.

 

Meridian are themselves bringing out new products with MQA combined with DACs that only go to 192/24 (that's as I read the specs, anyway) so presumably you have nothing to worry about with that maximum in the Bluesound.

 

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10 hours ago, Sime said:

give you info on what the bit rate of the file actually is

 

The whole point of MQA is attempting to point out that the bit rate does not tell you anything about the 'quality' or 'resolution' of the audio .... something many people have been trying to point out for a long long time.

 

10 hours ago, Eggcup The Daft said:

that the effective bit rate and depth are irrelevant at this point

 

Yes.   They don't tell us anything much general about quality.

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Posted (edited)

I just pointed it out in my photos to show how easy it is to stream vs flac standard hi res

Edited by powerav

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7 hours ago, powerav said:

I just pointed it out in my photos to show how easy it is to stream vs flac standard hi res

OK, but it doesn't tell us what the DAC at the end of the MQA decode is receiving, which I presume is what Sime is talking about.

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On 2017-5-20 at 9:57 PM, Sime said:

But these 2L tracks are some of the best classical recordings I've heard. I just wish while using the Node2, that the Bluesound app would give you info on what the bit rate of the file actually is. All you know is that it's MQA.  

 

Yeah, how do they have the nerve to force "blind testing" upon you! :D

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