Poll: How do you find the sound quality of Tidal MQA?
This poll is closed.
I love it! It's a ten out of ten
6 22.22%
It is better than standard but it's not a ten out of ten yet
2 7.41%
It is better than standard but you really need to do an ABX test to hear the difference
2 7.41%
It is better but I believe it would be even better if Devialet would implement MQA in their DAC
12 44.44%
I can't hear any difference between standard and MQA
5 18.52%
MQA is worse than standard
0 0%
Total 27 vote(s) 100%
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How do you find the sound quality of Tidal MQA?
So, I got to spend a few hours listening, enjoying and carefully comparing TIDAL MQA unfolded and deblurred in the Tidal app (USB) versus doing the MQA decoding in hardware on a Meridian Explorer2 into a  line input on my D440 Expert Pro/ ProAcD40R system.

I hoped that the explorer2 would sound better than the Tidal app decoding, since I much prefer to use Roon to manage my music listening. I listened to a range of the latest Tidal Warner MQA releases - Madonna, David Bowie, Pictures at an Exhibition (Simon Rattle), The Doors, Alanis Morissette’s excellent  MTV Unplugged and of course Van Morrison.

It was a close run thing but I was surprised to hear for me a clear advantage to Tidal app MQA decoding.  I heard more of the MQA "magic" via the Tidal desktop app. This is so even though the app apparently only performs single stage unfolding to offer 88/96 kBit/s sample rates. I imagine the shear quality of the D440 doing the D/A conversion is more important to the sound than the explorer2 being able to do full 2 stage unfolding up to 384k bit/s, but handicapped by its' cheaper DAC.

Another factor that may be at play is that probably the TIDAL app software decoder has a generic replay DAC debleurring profile which further improves the sound of the D440 when fed PCM directly.

Nevertheless the difference is not so great to outweigh the shear  convenience of being able to control Roon on my Apple iMac upstairs rather than having to keep a laptop in my living room near the D440. So I am impatient for Roon to add software MQA decoding ( I assume some time in the next few months).

I am even more excited by the prospect of full MQA decoding directly on the D440. I think even the previous generation D200 already has the MIPS to do it ( there is a “spare” 400MHz SHARC processor with around 1600 MFLOPS sustained and 2MByte RAM - considerably greater than the Explorer 2’s  XMOS chip with 1000MIPS and 128kB RAM ). My hunch is that listeners will be so seduced by the beauty and natural " analogue" sound of MQA that Devialet will have to reconsider their MQA  "not invented here" scepticism.

Ever since I heard Bluesound MQA demos at Cloney Audio in Dublin last year I have been convinced that MQA is a desirable step forwarded in digital sound reproduction.
MQA improves the soundstage focus on each instrument and especially lead vocals, but also seems to have some innate musicality that makes you want to listen to the whole track and then  the whole album. The presentation is less showy and even perhaps seems more "subdued" but instruments have more "body" and three dimensionality.

In my search for better sound, I have, like many people, spent a fair amount of hard earned money on high-sample-rate versions of cherished favourite albums, which do sound better, but still not as good as MQA versions IMO (I have not tried 384). And now I can get MQA’d albums at no extra cost from Tidal. That is a win win in my book :-)
iTunes & TIDAL HiFi --> ROON on iMac --> ROON AIR over Ethernet --> D440 Pro-->  ProAc  D40R floorstanding speakers (SAM)
Also:  Linn LP12/Ittok turntable Cables: Nordost Shiva power, Nordost Flatline2 speaker cable

Dublin,  Ireland

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RE: How do you find the sound quality of Tidal MQA? - by Markpd - 11-Jan-2017, 11:17

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