Best audio quality using TIDAL app or ROON?

That was discussed many times, but was is the summary now ?
I am only interested on bitperfect streaming and only want to use Meridian as an endpoint, means no D/A conversion unitill into the Meridian speakers. My audio network is a macbook pro with external USB HD and one ipad as a remote streamed to the meridian network/endpoint units(ID40 or 218).
Please help here so i can catch more whats going on…


The following comments pertain to MQA files. To some extent these comments also depend upon whether you have M SE speakers or “legacy” speakers. My understanding (and I could be wrong) is as follows:

At present Tidal does the first unfold of MQA up to 24/96. Bear in mind if the MQA file is 24/48 it will unfold to 24/48, not 24/96.

Your ID40 does not unfold MQA whereas your 218 will. Therefore any MQA files through Tidal will be unfolded once.

I’d trust the 218 to do this better than Tidal, so I would go Tidal to the ID40 and Roon to the 218 to get the “best” audio quality.

Non Meridian owners won’t understand all the implictions here. Presumably the delivery system will differ. For normal music, the Tidal app from computer will be via USB or SPDIF at whatever rate Tidal outputs, so anything greater than 96 will be downsampled by M equipment. Roon will be delivering via network and recognises your M endpoints, so will downsample anything greater than 96 before it reaches them. I don’t know what potential differences in sound there are there. MQA treatment is different for M owners also of course. Roon doesn’t yet do any unfolding and you can’t use the full MQA decoding of the 218 via the analogue outputs. So presumably via Roon you get the first unfold in the 218 and then you would need Speakerlink connected SE speakers to do the rendering. If you don’t have SE speakers, you just get the first unfold with Tidal App or Roon. Have I got that right?

Thanks dpstjp,

sorry MQA is of coarse a major point, but my question was more basic. TIDAL app with PC/Mac or ROON ?
I have no SE means legacy (8.2 speakers), and heard an improvement with MQA tracks when i use the 218 compared to the ID40.With non MQA tracks i hear no difference, but dit not make very critical tests…
I cant ollow your explaination with(for example) you statement:
At present Tidal does the first unfold of MQA up to 24/96. Bear in mind if the MQA file is 24/48 it will unfold to 24/48, not 24/96.
So why you state “first unfold up to 24/96” when you post in the next sentence "…a 24/48 will unfold to 24/48 not 24/96…?
So what ?- Sorry, dit not catch the logic…
Doesnt mean “unfold” that the “higher frequencies sample rates” get “enabled” so you NEED to get to a higher sampling frequency…as otherwise its still missing “data-music” between the 48kHz sampling…?
Can you help me here please, did not catch that.

Thanks Paul,

sorry i dont explain that i have no SE DSP.
Anyway, regarding to MQA, the 218 make a first unfold compared to the ID40. I dont know, if TIDAL or ROON make that “info” to the “streaming” , as just from my listening, the 218 sounds better with MQA tracks (also get the blue" light when i disable all features all options in “DSP engine” - otherwise not.
So with MQA, 218 sounds better, with non MQA, i hear no differences(no critical tests her done).
No “analogue” ouput of corse as i use M DSP…
What my main questions her is to ROON(mike and others),
when i just use the digital “output”,
whitch(are THERE) any differences when i stream with my PC/Mac and TIDAL app or ROON application and Meridian ?
Or should i stream via Trinnov ?


Apologies, my German is non existent.

Some MQA tracks have underlying (ie the pre fold master) 24/48 music. Therefore any MQA unfold will be to that 24/48 and nothing further.

If an MQA track had 24/192 music underlying it then the first unfold would be to 24/96. You’ll need SE speakers to get to the full resolution, alternatively the analogue out from the 218 should give you this but since you have Meridian DSPs that’s irrelevant.

The ID40 currently cannot get any unfold of MQA as it’s a non-MQA Sooloos endpoint (my explanation above was very unclear as to what I meant relating to the ID40). The best quality via MQA would be Tidal app into your 861 via S/PDIF. When Roon does a first unfold then Roon to the ID40 will be better, I would say.

thanks once more.
“Prefolded MQA tracks” unfolding logic its clear now for me and your example is understood.
BUT, sorry here, your last post:

loose me again… For MQA tracks only the 218 do the first “unfold” and without SE Speaker i can go either direct to the DSP or through the 861(SL inputs).
The 861/ID40 cant unfold so a “unfolded” stream from ROON is needed to get a similar result.
But then the Meridian have to “understand” that a first “unfold” happened when i want to use the ID40 network card.So to listen with the 861, a standard (non ethernet input) have to be used.
And to get a first unfolded MQA stream, the TIDAL app(with PC/Mac) is necessary and that PC/Mac feeds the 861.
I hope i got the logic here, that is what i understood …?
Paul, please enlighten me here when iam not correct.
My basic question is, please took MQA aside,
does a TIDAL app via PC/Mac sound different to a ROON app with Meridian ?
I asked that, as there where discussions before, but they are related mainly to analouge outputs.
Or a straight question, does ROON deliver the same musicstream as Tidal ?

I would trust ROON to deliver bitperfect to your endpoint (depending on what DSP filters you are running in ROON). I would have less trust in Tidal to do that.

Surely Roon can only deliver the file provided by Tidal. That should be the same file via the Tidal app or by Roon. I can’t see how there could be any difference in that. If that is correct, we go back to any differences caused by the delivery method ( USB / SPDIF or network). A few things have been written about that on here about potential differences in sound quality relating to that, but every system must vary. Maybe @support can comment here

Just because the file is the same doesn’t mean the app delivering it makes no difference.

If this were so then there should be no difference between the same file delivered by ANY music app even using the same signal path and hardware, which I think a lot of people would disagree was the case.

As you say, Paul, I’m sure our friends at ROON have a view.

This may be not intuitive, but MQA original sample rate 24/48 will unfold to 24/96 no matter which MQA Core decoder you use.

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Peter, is that a “rule” or a “must” so otherwise its not correct or wouldnt work ?
And you are speaking of “the first step” of unfolding or “complete” unfolding ?
Does have the"unfolding" be done in steps or is that a - with my application- a Meridian thing ?
And does that mean, that a 192 MQA stream get unfolded first from eg 24/48 to 24/96 at the first step and the next step is then 24/192 or its not a straight logic?
And, finally, do you have a link/source/reference where that can be read ?

  1. That’s by design.
  2. First unfold = MQA Core decoding. For full benefits it needs a subsequent stage of MQA rendering.
  3. Both steps can be done in a single device (a full MQA DAC) or in separate devices (Tidal desktop app / Audirvana / Lumin U1 + MQA renderer)
  4. Yes.


I stand corrected. Thank you.

With Tidal desktop app, you can turn on Exclusive mode. This way you get a bit perfect stream, as with Roon without DSP or volume leveling / adjustments. As for whether two apps delivering bit perfect stream can sound different or not, I’ll leave this to others who are more familiar with the product(s) you use. However, I’d like to point out that while SQ is important, the user experience is important too. Since you’re in Roon forum, I assume you like Roon enough to be here. Roon also offers many features.

I think you slightly overstate the case here.

If the original source was 88k, 96k or higher, MQA will fold it down to 44k or 48k, and it will indeed be unfolded as you describe.

But there are a small number of original files of 44k or 48k, they also get turned into 44k or 48k MQA files, but they stay at their original 44/48k rate after MQA processing. MQA knows what the original rate was. In that case, MQA does not provide any folding or size reduction, but the deblurring is there.

With some gear, including a Meridian, those rates may be upsampled to 88k/96k, but upsampling is not the same as MQA unfolding.

Thanks for the great link, have to do some readings now…

No, Peter is 100% correct here. If you have a DAC that indicates sample rates, it will show a 24/44 or 24/48 MQA track played as 24/88 or 24/96, when playing from the Tidal Desktop App or Audirvana.

My DirectStream DAC (fed via USB) and Hugo2 both indicate incoming sample rates to confirm this.

Nope. Just tested it.

My Meridian 818v3 is set up to do upsampling; a regular non-MQA PCM file of 44k shows as 44k on the display of the 818 (the incoming signal) and as 88k on the display of the DSP8000SE speakers (the upsampled data arriving at the speakers).

An MQA file of 44k shows as MQA 44k in Roon’s tsignal path display, on the 818 display and on the speaker display, because MQA decoding unpacks the original data, it does not include upsampling, and the 818 has the courtesy to disable its normal upsampling with MQA files.

A higher level MQA file will show e.g. MQA 352 on both displays. Note that in both cases, the MQA display shows the original rate.

I used the Amy Duncan album, MQA 44k. Of course the same thing applies to a 48k MQA file. Note that the Roon signal path display shows both the file’s data rate and the original MQA data rate, so you can verify that the file you are playing is in fact a 44k or 48k MQA file.

If Tidal or Audirvana play such a file at 88k or 96k, that’s because they add upsampling on their own.

In my reading on MQA, I have not seen any reference to upsampling beyond the original rate.

Display from certified MQA devices always reports the MQA original (master) sample rate. Even Lumin U1 is required to show MQA 44kHz or 48kHz when it is outputting 88.2kHz or 96kHz after MQA Core decoding.

You need a non-MQA device to find out the actual sample rate not meant for display.

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