Apparent Solution for (my) Tidal issues

I’ve been a big fan of Roon for a while now, but like many of you have lived with occasional weirdness with Tidal playback. I’ve had infrequent, but pretty consistent, issues where Tidal either can’t start playback or skips to the next song with unspecified network playback issues.

I believe the good folks on Roon’s engineering team have been swatting away at bugs in this realm for a while, and behavior has generally gotten much better. But even with the the latest build (363) I was getting occasional song skipping midway through a song. It was particularly evident when I had multiple endpoints grouped during playback.

All of this seems to have disappeared once I disabled the Core MQA decoder for every endpoint. It’s possible/likely that this is related to my particular configuration, but I thought I’d share it in case it helps others.

I run Roon Core on a beefy, dedicated 2014 Mac Mini (16GB RAM, quad core 3GHz i7). One of my playback devices is a Devialet Phantom speaker connected via Toslink directly to the Mac. All the other devices (PS Audio DS DAC and a couple BlueSound Pulse portables) connect via the network. The Pulse’s and the DAC can decode MQA internally, so they were already set to disable the decoder in my setup. But the Devialet had core MQA decoding enabled.

When devices were grouped, I noticed that the decoder was suddenly part of the signal path for all devices, even when it was disabled for some of them. This makes sense at some level since I suspect it was a way to manage resources and keep music in sync. But it made me wonder about the cost.

The Mac never seemed to be under pressure when playing Tidal to multiple devices (memory, disk, network, CPU were all well below 50% utilization). But Roon was definitely being taxed more when the core MQA decoder was being used by the grouped devices. This was evident because “processing speed” showed up under the first device in the chain (the DAC, which had MQA Core decoding disabled) – though the speed was pretty much always in the 30-40x range or higher. But whenever this was going on, I experienced occasional-to-frequent Tidal skips that it claimed were about network speed.

As soon as I disabled the MQA decoder for the Toslink-connected Phantom, things suddenly seemed more reliable. MQA playback no longer shows the processing speed (which I understand means it’s >100x). I haven’t had any Tidal stoppage or skipping, and everything’s been very stable. It’s conceivable that this means my Phantom isn’t getting the highest quality signal, but I’m positive I couldn’t hear the difference anyway.

So if you’re having a similar Tidal issue, try disabling the MQA Core Decoder for your playback device(s) to see if that helps!

Tagging @support just in case it’s gets overlooked