Crackle and distortion at low volume on MQA track

Core Machine (Operating system/System info/Roon build number)

Mac Mini 2012 512GB 8GB memory. Latest Roon and Tidal Master. Mytek DAC+

Network Details (Including networking gear model/manufacturer and if on WiFi/Ethernet)

Fibre connection at 63mbps

Audio Devices (Specify what device you’re using and its connection type - USB/HDMI/etc.)

DAC Analogue out to Cyrus Preamp

Description Of Issue

Low volume playing MQA version of Dua Lipa’s ‘Don’t start now’. Awful crackle and distortion at low volume - sounds like playing vinyl with fluff and dirt on the stylus. Renders unlistenable.
Problem sounds like it disappears (does it?) at higher volume.

If played through Tidal (without Roon), turning off Exclusive Mode, there is no such distortion. In Roon, every combination of the audio settings tried and still same distortion. Have changed USB cable with no effect.

Q1 - how to get rid of the crackle distortion please.
Q2 - what audio settings within Roon Audio settings (and Tidal?) are recommended with Mytek?

Thanks for any help. Please.

I just played a little of this at low volume on my Bluesound pulse mini and never noticed and noise as you describe.

Right … thank you Chris.

I am completely ignorant when it comes to the settings of Roon. I have just changed Volume levelling from Off to Auto. The distortion has gone.
What has that done? The DAC says its playing 44/24. Have I lost MQA quality by doing that?

As I say, any help with these settings gratefully received.

How are you controlling volume?
Is it only an issue with this one track?

Could you post a screenshot of your signal path?

At a guess, it’s dropped the level of the track significantly, and something in your overall signal path that was clipping now isn’t…

Many thanks Andy.

And this is with Volume levelling set to Auto. (Ignorant as to what this means, but sounds less ‘lively’ than when volume levelling is off.)

It’s this that seems counterintuitive. But we can come back to that…

No, you are not losing mqa decoding. It just doing it differently, but should be functionally equivalent.

Volume levelling is looking at ‘average loudness’ data (In this case supplied by Tidal) and adjusting level so that everything plays back at about the same perceived loudness. Here, Roon is dropping the level by -7.1dB, which is quite a lot. I would infer that Dua Lipa has been mastered quite ‘hot’!

It’s probably just quieter, not ‘less lively’, so you can likely just turn the Cyrus up and it will sound the same.

Without levelling turned on, it’s possible that the Mytek is feeding the Cyrus at too high a level and causing clipping at the input stage. I can’t find any details about output levels for the Mytek. And this is where turning it up and the distortion going away makes no sense! I may be on completely the wrong track…

Are you using a fixed level output from the Mytek, or variable?

Tidal (I think) also applies volume levelling in its app (unless you turn it off), which would explain why you didn’t hear distortion with Tidal direct.

As a final anomaly, I’ve noticed there are two versions of the album on Tidal as seen from Roon. The ‘E’ version has a volume levelling of -7.1dB; the other has 0.0dB!

Edit - Google throws up a couple of cases where a full scale signal upsets the Mytek, possibly only when decoding mqa. If the Mytek firmware is up to date, your best option might be to leave volume levelling turned on. Alternatively, you might add a -3dB headroom limit in Roon. And just turn it up on the Cyrus!

Edit 2 - This from the Mytek user guide. Might help.

9.2.14 Trim / Gain
Use this option to change DAC headroom. It can be set independently for each digital input.
• Digital Volume Control mode range: -12 to 0 dB
• Analog Volume Control mode range: -12 to +12 dB.

I am very grateful for your clarification.
Last night I turned of the DAC and pre-amp in some disgust. This morning I turned on and changed NONE of the settings. With no Volume Levelling and Roon set on Fixed Volume, I am today getting no distortion. I have no idea how. Do Tidal monitor these and can change the file (?)

I have messed around with every setting in Tidal and in Roon and I am now a bit lost as to what the ‘recommended’ settings should be. Please can anyone help?

Current settings:

Roon - audio device set up: Exclusive Mode, DSD over PCM, Decoder and Renderer, Fixed Volume. No volume levelling.

Tidal - Settings/Streaming/Sound/More settings = Use Exclusive Mode off. Force volume on. Passthrough MQA on.

Any steer would be massively appreciated. Thank you.

Ha! It happens…

At this point I’d stop changing anything, make some coffee, and listen to some music. It’s quite possible Tidal changed something, but it’s likely we’ll never know.

I don’t think any settings in the Tidal app will affect playback through Roon.

As far as recommended settings for Roon go, I don’t think there’s anything ‘wrong’ with what you’ve set. Personally I’d turn levelling on, but if you don’t mind riding the volume control sometimes it’s not crucial. Leave it as it is, read up about what stuff does in the knowledge base, change it later if you feel the need.

And if the distortion comes back, you know more now than you did before…

I suspect it was a maths error in the Mytek, and a reset fixed it for now.

Hi @Mark_Worsey,

It does sound like this could have been a temporary issue on the Mytek side, if the issue re-occurs do let us know.

Yes, these are the correct settings to use, although do keep in mind you won’t have volume control if you use Fixed Volume, you can also use Device Volume if you’d like to be able to change the volume from within Roon.

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