iFI iDSD Nano MQA rendering (1st unfold needed in software)


I found out that the IFI iDSD Nano now supports full MQA unfolding, and I upgraded my firmware accordingly on my device.

However, I am unsure if:

  1. I’m getting full cream MQA now as in the driver/program thingy it’s telling me 48k output when playing a Tidal track which unfolds in software to 96k (I’m using the passthrough setting in Tidal, as advised)?

Note: I got a flag coming up saying “MQA device detected” when I started Tidal up after the new firmware update.

  1. Roon supports the full MQA decoding , so I could play via Roon and get the full experience?
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AFAIK an MQA track, played via Roon will be recognised and unfolded within your DAC. You must disable any Roon DSP and volume levelling.

Hi @Sallah_48,

It sounds like you did the same thing that I did this evening…with the same results!

What I discovered is that iFi has not been very precise with their description. On the firmware pages, they describe v5.30 as “Full MQA (Magenta LED)”, but later, in the “Easter Egg” PDF, they go on to say, “This firmware provides MQA rendering as this is the ideal solution for portable products and those with power considerations. This means the workload is shared between the host (the computer) and the client (the DAC). The listener will still enjoy full MQA experience.”

Unfortunately, this means that the new iFi v5.30 firmware is incapable of decoding the full MQA stream that Roon sends. First level unfolding must be done in software for the MQA features of this firmware to work, and Roon does not (as of the time of this post) support that.

The only other strange thing that I’m seeing when I play software unfolded MQA streams in TIDAL Desktop or Audirvana Plus is that the LED on my nano iDSD (silver, not Black Label) is white instead of Magenta. Otherwise, it seems to be functioning as advertised (in the “Easter Egg” PDF…not the firmware page). I hope this helps…

I expect that updates will appear on or be linked from this page:

Please let me know if you manage to get a Magenta LED on any of the older “silver” iFi DACs (eg, original nano or micro iDSD or iDAC2). Cheers.

Your device is a MQA renderer, not a MQA full decoder. You need a software such as Tidal desktop app to do the MQA first unfold to MQA Core, then your device can perform MQA rendering.

At the time of this post, Roon does not decode MQA yet. In the future Roon will provide MQA decoding to MQA core (not full decoding).

Please read case c in this:

Looks to me it acts as a renderer, not ‘decode + renderer’, like Dragonfly. It still need first decode to be done by software such as Tidal desktop app. It seems interesting that people who want to upsample to DSD512 have to stuck to non MQA firmware update. Wonder why is the restriction?

I was wondering that as well (why v5.30 removes support for DSD512 and 768 kHz PCM). Granted, both of these are pretty ridiculous, but they work (just barely) on my micro iDSD running v5.2 of the firmware with upsampling provided by my Intel i5 based Roon Server.

Better stick with the existing firmware if one don’t use this feature. The main selling point of iFi is it is able to support high sampling rates(768k and DSD512 in a small portable form factor.

True…fortunately, it’s easy to switch between v5.20 and v5.30 firmware. Kudos to iFi for supporting firmware downgrades!

thanks to everyone. My main concern was that I don’t tear my hair out trying to understand what’s going on. Lol.

Im getting the green light only, btw, using a silver, old style, nano. No magenta.

If you are getting the green light only, it sounds like you have “Passthrough MQA” checked in TIDAL Desktop. You must uncheck this because the firmware does not support Full MQA decoding (in spite of the IMHO, misleading text on the firmware pages). This v5.30 firmware only supports MQA Renderer functionality which requires 1st unfold to be performed in software by the media player.

Here’s a chart that I put together that shows the expected and verified LED colors for the nano iDSD (silver), micro iDSD (sliver), and micro iDAC2. I hope this helps.


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Oh…on the original nano iDSD, you should be seeing a white LED when rendering MQA. Good luck!

Thanks for that @David_Snyder and I ageee about iFi’s wording. They really should have used clear technical terms along with the hand wavey language about sharing the load between DAC and PC. The blog post (ostensibly the official announcement if you don’t lurk forums) was even more opaque.

I submit that the title here ought to be tweaked as well. This confusion will probably pop up a few more times.

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Hi Lorin,

yes in my OP, i mentioned im using the passthrough:

“… as in the driver/program thingy it’s telling me 48k output when playing a Tidal track which unfolds in software to 96k (I’m using the passthrough setting in Tidal, as advised)?

Ill give it some more tweaking and see if i can get it working :slight_smile:

Can you advise what you would like me to change the post title to? Happy to oblige.

In spite of the misleading wording, “Full MQA”, the iFi v5.30 firmware does not support full MQA unfolding. The 1st level unfolding must be done in software…a feature that Roon currently does not provide.

If you want to test-drive the MQA features of the iFi v5.30 firmware, install TIDAL Desktop. Be sure that you have “Passthrough MQA” unchecked…you need software unfolding enabled for the iFI DAC to complete the 2nd and 3rd (if applicable) unfolds in firmware. Watch for the LED color to change from green to white…when you see this, you’ll know it’s working.

If you have a computer that runs MacOS, give Audirvana Plus a try. The MQA configuration is a little easier since it actually detects iFi DACs with v5.30 firmware as MQA Renderers and just does the right thing.

As for the title of this thread, I would suggest changing it to: “MQA 1st unfold required in Roon for iFi nano iDSD” or something similar. I’m really hoping that this feature will be implemented in Roon soon! Cheers.

I adjusted the thread title to reflect the current state of affairs.

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Thanks Rene!

I found a source for MQA downloads…may pick up one or two once Roon supports 1st unfold.