Listening impression of [decoded] MQA albums vs Hi-Res PCM/DSD

After listening MQA vs 16 bit/44.1 FLAC stream in Tidal app, I’m convinced MQA sounds a lot better. There’s no doubt MQA improves the sound quality of streaming but what about comparing to a master studio copy of a Hi-Res PCM? The following comparison I presumed is probably quite close but using different apps, One using Tidal app and the other using Roon.Both using the same DACs.

Tidal app: 2L - MAGNIFICAT 4. Et misericordia, Nidarosdomens jentekor & TrondheimSolistene, MQA, 88.2kHz - When comparing Hi-Res PCM version, it sounded a bit softer but there’s a sweetness to it, soundstage and instruments separate is very good. The vocal part sounded a bit lush and warmer. Musical!

Roon app: 2L - MAGNIFICAT 4. Et misericordia, Nidarosdomens jentekor & TrondheimSolistene, 96kHz - When comparing to MQA, there’s immediate sense of dynamics and grip, there’s a bit more ‘air’ in the top and can sometimes sound a bit aggressive.

Roon app: 2L - MAGNIFICAT 4. Et misericordia, Nidarosdomens jentekor & TrondheimSolistene, DSD64/128 - When comparing to Hi-Res PCM, this one sound a bit softer but lot smoother and feel like ‘3D’ with a lot of ‘air’ on top, it is as though it sounded like you are there! I can describe in one word holographic!

Roon app: 2L - MAGNIFICAT 4. Et misericordia, Nidarosdomens jentekor & TrondheimSolistene, DXD, 352.8k master copy - A lot smoother and less aggressive than 96kHz and sounded closer to DSD128. Very revealing!

So what you think?

So, what DAC are you using?
And, i suppose the three last samples were local files played through Roon?

I’m using the Holo Audio Spring R2R PCM/DSD DAC…

The last three samples are playback from my NAS using Roon.

Does the Spring DAC even support MQA? Can’t find proper specs anywhere.

No it doesn’t but it uses XMOS chipset, it is up to manufacturer to implement the firmware update if MQA can be supported. There’s no much specs available except some DAC linearity test.

So how did you listen to decoded MQA for this comparison?

Apparently the Tidal App does some decoding, didn’t know that as it did not change samplerates in my brief test.

Roon and Tidal desktop apps, on the same PC, same DAC with same ASIO drivers… Someone has reported that using MQA USB-DAC can provided up to 24/192k not limited to 96k on Tidal desktop app…

This indeed a good news, hope Roon can do a full decoded of MQA when it is ready to roll out.

I have compared high res download versions with Tidal MQA versions of several albums. (No comparisons with CD quality, or undecoded MQA.) My setup: from my NYC I used USB into my Meridian 818, and from there either Meridian DSP8000 speakers, or analog out to a Bryston headphone amp driving Audeze LCD-3 cans. (Mostly headphones, because of my wife’s view of the same track fragment being played over and over.)

Albums include several Joni Michell, Mehldau Blues and Ballads, Metheny Kin, Led Zep 1, Doors Strange Days. 96 or 192. Summary: I found no clear difference. (Which is a good thing, streaming matching my best downloads.)

Some special cases:
Buena Vista Social Club I have a 24/96 download, an MQA download, and Tidal MQA. The two MQA options were identical, the high res download was obviously a different mastering, much darker and less clear.
Magnificat: a 24/352 (which Roon downconverted to 176 because of the Meridian USB limit), MQA 352, and Tidal MQA 352. No difference.
Emerson Lake and Palmer Brain Salad: download and MQA are labeled the same but obviously different mastering, or at least different volume, can’t compare.
Ornette Coleman The Shape of Jazz to Come, I had a 24/96 download but the Tidal MQA version was mono, can’t compare.

In the limited listening on speakers, I heard some more differences (I had expected headphones to be more revealing), but it seemed there were level differences.

So by this time, I decided to quit and just enjoy the music. I can stream music, for $20 per month, and play it on my system, and it sounds fabulous. The academic study of what’s doing what – nah, not my job.

For example, Crosby Stills & Nash, Suite: Judy Blue Eyes was stunningly good. The details of the quite complex piece came through in a way I don’t remember from the last time I listened to it. Which was in 1969, on a crappy vinyl rig, with some chemical mood enhancement. No matter, I love it now.

End of my testing.

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I have been playing MQA masters through Roon with no software or hardware decoding. I don’t know if it is the masters they have chosen or the process they apply in the studio to limit ADC smear but everything I have heard has sounded fantastic.

I’ve not been critically listening but just enjoying the music whilst working but am more than happy. On the strength of this, I’ve just ordered a Mytek Brooklyn.

I agree. I haven’t done any “critical listening” (of course, I can’t. I’m not a critic. :grinning:) And maybe it was the 24 bit depth or the volume change or the proper master. I don’t know. But, in genreral, streaming these files through Roon with no decoding or unfolding sound very good.

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Have you compare the difference between the Tidal desktop app(decoded) version vs the Roon non decoded version? You can hear a great improvement in the decoded version. Besides Roon will be updating its app to support software decoding in the future release. :grinning:

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I’d like to share two illucidating articles on this subject. Anders Ertzeid from Hegel shared this guide to Play TIDAL Masters on non MQA DAC’s, like the Hegel products, including my HD 12 on their Facebook Timeline: [] On [] Michael Lavorgna explains that there are 3 options for playback of Original MQA encoded files in his post from Jan 11, 2017.

I haven’t yet. just going step by step. There was always a promised an improvement just in to non decoded files due to the reduction on the studio time smearing and “extra timing information” whatever that means. In practice the files sound good with no decoding.

I’ll have a challenge doing a/b on tidal software decoding versus none
because i use a microrendu for my roon and no longer have a direct link from my music server to my hifi. On the plus side my Brooklyn will be here mid week. yey!!