Lumin released Firmware 9.01 to Fully Decode MQA. MQA decoding is supported using RAAT protocol when used as a Roon Ready device, in addition to native OpenHome mode via Lumin app.
Lumin offers the most flexible MQA settings in the market. This post explains the Lumin MQA Settings. Currently this post applies to Lumin S1 / A1 / T1 / D1.
To understand MQA terminology, please read this first:
MQA Analog Output Mode:
- This is case D in the article
- This is the default mode suitable for most users who use the Lumin analog outputs
- Lumin offers Hardware Full Decoding to analog outputs
- Digital output is disabled
- Lumin upsampling is disabled
- This mode will not be available for Lumin U1 because U1 does not have analog outputs
MQA Digital Output Mode:
- This is (usually) case B in the article
- If you use Lumin digital output to connect to an external DAC, this is the mode to be used
- Lumin does MQA Core decoding and outputs 24/96 or 24/88.2 to external DAC in this mode
- If used with an external DAC that is a MQA Renderer such as Berekeley Alpha Reference 2 with (announced) MQA upgrade, this becomes case C - please keep Lumin volume at 100, otherwise MQA Rendering will fail
- Note that in MQA Digital Output mode, the front panel and the app sample rate display refers to the MQA sample rate of the MQA music, not the actual sample rate of the digital output (either 96kHz or 88.2kHz)
- Analog outputs are disabled
- Lumin upsampling is disabled
MQA Passthrough Mode:
- This is case A (for Lumin) in the article.
- If you use Lumin digital output to an external DAC that is a MQA Full Decoder (case D), e.g. Mytek Brooklyn, this MQA Passthrough Mode allows Lumin to send raw MQA data to the external DAC to be fully MQA decoded.
- Note that in MQA Passthrough mode, the front panel and the app sample rate display refers to the MQA sample rate of the MQA music, not the actual sample rate of the digital output (either 48kHz or 44.1kHz).
- Analog outputs are disabled
- Lumin upsampling is disabled (otherwise subsequent MQA decoding will fail)
- Lumin digital volume is disabled (otherwise subsequent MQA decoding will fail)
- This is case A in the article.
- Starting from Firmware 9.01, if MQA is set to Off, Lumin retrieves the 16/44.1kHz version of Tidal master instead of the 24-bit version for any MQA decoding.
- Lumin upsampling can be used. This is the mode to be used if users do not care about MQA decoding and would rather upsample Tidal Masters to DSD, or to lower the download bandwidth required
And it works like a charm
Full hardware decode is only available via analogue outputs and digital outputs are disabled. This is obviously a hardware forced ‘DRM’ restriction. If one decide to use external DAC via its digital outputs it can only do the first decode up to 88.2/96k, anything higher, you a special DACs with built-in ‘renderer’ to do the full decode… another complication. Lastly, to avoid all these complicated setups get yourself a MQA DAC…
Obviously those high-end streamer transport such as U1 that partner with a high-end external DAC are out of luck. That’s really sucks!
Since a MQA file can be copied and played by another MQA decoder, this is better than SACD - you can’t even backup SACD easily. And it can be played back without doing a internet license check (as a few video or Blu-ray requires, which is true DRM). So I disagree it is DRM.
As for high-end DAC, my understanding is that Berkeley is shipping MQA Renderer hardware upgrade for Alpha DAC Reference Series 2.
I agreed that the undecoded file can be copied but MQA prohibited any form of fully decoded stream that will be available on unprotected outputs; such as SPDIF, USB and I2S. High-end playback system that consists both the transport and external DAC falls in this area. Many manufacturers who previously made such products are out of luck. Such practice is obviously a hardware force ‘DRM’ to prevent unauthorised copying full decoded stream.
Fully unfolded data is compensated for individual DAC characteristics based on MQA profiling, therefore fully unfolded data from one DAC may not achieve MQA required SQ performance on another DAC with different characteristics.
Decoding + DAC must happen inside one device to give ‘optimal’ results but that does not mean one has to disable or prevent full decode output especially those who is seeking to upgrade their external DAC or already own a separate transport + DAC. This caveat is to prevent unauthorised copying via unprotected outputs as well to license every product it sells.
I think it is fair to say that today … MQA Rendering + DAC must happen inside one device to give ‘optimal’ results, but the MQA decoder can be separate. Meridian 218/818 [MQA decoder] feeding Special Edition DSP speakers [MQA Renderer]is such a setup.
However it’s not a technical limitation … provided the MQA decoder knows what the connected DAC is [via USB or Network] and that DAC has been profiled by MQA then it is possible with a two box setup … and it’s a strong possibility, given a fair wind, that Roon will do this at some point in time.
Thanks @Carl, I understand first decode can happen on the transport(streamer) and special renderer on the DAC side through unprotected outputs such as SPDIF and USB. However MQA does not allow fully decoded stream from the transport(streamer) to a conventional DAC.
Roon+DAC unfortunately falls in this category, so in order to do full decode together with Roon (If Roon can do up to first decode) one has to purchase special DAC with built-in renderer. This complicates the whole process. On the hand, Roon has to deal with unprotected outputs such as USB, if full decoding is going happen inside Roon to a conventional DAC. If user wish to purchase a new DAC, they will simplify the process by getting a MQA DAC instead.
Lumin U1 is also MQA certified, along with S1 / A1 / T1 / D1.
Lumin U1 can perform MQA decoding over RAAT and output MQA Core signal to USB or AES / BNC coaxial / RCA coaxial / Toslink outputs.
No MQA via Analog XLR outs?
Lumin S1 / A1 / T1 / D1 have analog XLR and RCA outputs, so MQA can be fully decoded to these outputs. They also have a BNC-SPDIF output for MQA Core digital signal, for use with an external DAC.
Lumin U1 only has digital outputs, no analog outputs. So Lumin U1 only outputs MQA Core digital signal.
Do you happen to know whether the MQA is lost when outputting via Analog XLR from a T1 to a DSPeaker Anti-Mode Dual Core 2.0? Or to any preamp for volume control for that matter?
You are asking about a digital encoding format in an analog output signal. Not relevant. Once converted to analog, MQA is no longer MQA – because it is analog audio. The same holds for PCM, DSD, DTS, etc.
If your DSPeaker performs another A/D and D/A conversion, then it is re-introducing “temporal blurring” in MQA terminology.
Any DSP must happen after the first decode, the so called ‘optional DSP’ block thereafter rendering/upsampling to a DAC. In order this to happen the whole process has to done in a system integration as a whole. Until we see MQA DAC has built-in optional Room correction.
Since analogue outputs already have been optimised for its impulse response performance any A/D then D/A will introduce its own so called ‘ringing’
This is all gibberish to me.
Normally, analog outputs from MQA decoder such as Lumin conforms to MQA specifications. If you introduce another digital conversion after that, the musical content is still there, but it no longer complies with MQA performance criteria on time domain.
Firmware 9.05 improves MQA sound quality for Lumin A1 / T1 / D1 analog outputs.
RAAT is also updated to the latest 1.1.22.
Thanks for the new firmware update to my Lumin T1
I have my Lumin connected to a pair of dynaudio xd 200 through the analog connections.
My question is, do i get the full MQA decoding and sound quality when i hook the lumin up anologt to my dynaudio speakers who are fully digital?