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georgepapa

Tidal Masters on oxs.

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After doing some reading on MQA I gained some understanding as to why my Macmini's internal sound hardware was limited in its ability to fully realise this format.

The hardware is not MAQ compatible and therefore the stream does not unwrap, leaving you with the base Master sampling rate of 48khz at 24bits, which mind you is still a noticeable improvement on 16bit 44.1khz.

For the built in hardware to actually lock or sync to this sampling rate, in the Sound output settings you must apply Use Exclusive Mode which forces the hardware to slave to Tidal .

Without exclusive mode I found that I had to go back and forth changing sampling rates in Audio Midi Set up. I found that leaving the built in rate at 48khz actually led to a blurring or bloated quality to 44.1khz source.

In Exclusive mode the rate changes automatically between Master and Hi Fi sampling rates.

Clearly the option here is either external MAQ compatible hardware or media player software with Tidal integration.

Audirivana Plus seems to be like the best option. I'd also be interested in a MQA usb to spdif interface however i note that most of the small dongle types are DAC's with only analogue out.

Would welcome any recommendations.

Cheers

G

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Generally, Exclusive mode isn't a problem unless you need audio from other applications to play over the music.

In most circumstances, you'll still use exclusive mode or equivalent when playing music from Tidal  - because you don't want that other audio getting in the way. If you want to play from somewhere else, you just close Tidal. I've used this at my desk at work off and on for a year or so now with no problems.

 

It works just the same with any DAC and most of the alternative software setups. If you don't want to bother with all the messing around just set Tidal to hifi quality and use 24 bit integer 44.1 as the default output. I found that the best option for playing back hifi (as opposed to Master) without exclusive mode, so allowing alert sounds etc. I use that setting sometimes as well if I need to hear alerts.

 

I can't speak for the Mac Mini but on my current work MacBook Pro the headphone output is as good as most of the "realistically priced" third party DACs. Even with the same model, though, some Macbooks are noisier than others. I happen to have a good one this time.

 

Your Mac Mini might have an optical output in the headphone socket if you want a cheap alternative digital out. The MQA decoding would need to be done at the other end for high bitrate files though.

 

For full MQA output done "correctly", you need an MQA equipped DAC.  In exclusive mode Tidal Masters will unfold to 96/24 from the Tidal app just like Windows.

 

I've not played with a recent version of Audirvana, but MQA is supposed to use filters specific to the DAC for "best" results so hardware would be the recommended way to go. If you are playing back from other sources rather than just Tidal, especially at a range of bitrates, Audirvana is worth considering for the additional flexibility it gives.

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Thanks. I'm using the Macmini as my only source outputting via spdif to my modified Behringer 24/96 Ultragain pro, controlling a three way active system.

With this D/A Tidal Master steaming would  be limited to the first unwrap of 96khz .

The ability to play Tidal Masters at the highest resolution would really be the sole reason purchasing Audirivana.

I downloaded the trial version of JRiver Media centre which does not incorporate Tidal.

The default processing of 44.1khz files produced a large , powerful and impressive sound quality, however overtime I actually came to prefer the leaner but cleaner sound of itunes playing aaif files with no upsampling or higher bit rates. In fact the digital output of my Airport express, connected into the same D/A produces excellent bit perfect results. 

So i guess I'll only upgrade my player if it can reliably play Tidal  Master streaming at 96khz through my existing DA.

Bit more research required.

Cheers

G

 

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As I understand it, both the Tidal desktop app and Audirvana will only do the first "unfold" of MQA to 96/24, so unless you want additional processing or ease of use you shouldn't need Audirvana. So start with Tidal set to Master quality and select exclusive mode and you'll get that same 96/24 through your DAC.

 

It used to be possible to download Audirvana as a trial version as well, I don't know if it still is.

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Yea i've tried this and I keep getting a maximum sampling rate of 48khz in exclusive mode which is the base MQA sampling rate, no unwrapping. My Behringer upsamples every thing to 96khz so it cant be a syncing issue  particularly when Tidal acts as the master clock in exclusive mode. Disabling MQA pass through also seems to make no difference.

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Posted (edited)
2 hours ago, georgepapa said:

Yea i've tried this and I keep getting a maximum sampling rate of 48khz in exclusive mode which is the base MQA sampling rate, no unwrapping. My Behringer upsamples every thing to 96khz so it cant be a syncing issue  particularly when Tidal acts as the master clock in exclusive mode. Disabling MQA pass through also seems to make no difference.

Ah, I've got it. From checking elsewhere, exclusive mode definitely outputs the first unfold through the analogue headphone output which is what I've used at work. Some sources appear to say that with the Mac you only get the unfold in analogue. I'll look into this further in a few days and try to confirm. You use passthrough to pass unchanged digital to your DAC, allowing a normal MQA DAC to work. Passthrough should be OFF in your setup. My Dragonfly requires the first unfold in the computer, so will tell me if I'm getting MQA via its light - so I can see the results.

Edited by Eggcup The Daft

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Yes from what Ive read full unwrapping takes place at the DAC stage with an MQA DA. 

I downloaded the trial version of Audirvana Plus. What a great application, hosting both Itunes and Tidal and now outputting 88 and 96khz.

At this early stage I can see that this may be an audio only application. Ill certainly be nutting it out tonight.

Cheers

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I've recently got into using Audirvana and have found the first fold MQA master albums in the majority a step up from standard albums. Also if you do decide to buy post 15 day trial they were throwing in 3 months of Tidal for free and 3 months Qobuzz but it is not available in Oz, though I'm guess via VPN you could sort that out, so for around $100 oz you get about $70 of tidal so a bit of a no brainer. You can then start playing around with filters etc which again is meant to improve upon standard itunes, tidal, etc

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