MQA 192kHz v. AIFF 192kHZ

I’ve been using a Roon Nucleus with an internal SSD for a couple weeks now. The Nucleus is hard wired via Ethernet to my router. The Nucleus outputs via USB to my Mytek Brooklyn DAC+, which is connected via XLR cables to the ARC Ref 6 preamp of my main system. I have several albums downloaded from HDtracks in AIFF 192kHz format stored on the internal SSD. I also stream over Ethernet from Tidal to play high resolution files in MQA 192kHz. I’ve just started to compare the two formats. Both sound excellent, but I’m finding at least initially that the AIFF files sounds better - bigger soundstage and more transparency than the MQA files streamed from Tidal. Anyone compared the two formats and have similar experiences? Is an uncompressed AIFF file played from the internal SSD of the Nucleus generally going to sound better than the same resolution Flac file streamed over Ethernet?

It’s not about FLAC or AIFF, they are equivalent, and both are converted by the Core to the same information sent to the end point and modem.
It is not about local files or streaming, they are equivalent and the Core collects the information and sends the same th8ng to the endpoint (unless you have inadequate internet).
But you have opened a can of worms in comparing full 192k material with MQA, which compressed the original 192k material to a smaller form. MQA creators and fans claim it sounds as good or better, detractors claim it sounds worse (and some claim it is of the devil). You can find a lot of discussion in these pages. You can waste years of your life getting into this debate. Or you can do what I do, ignore it, get the best format you can find for each album, and just enjoy the music.


Thanks Anders. Sounds like good advice to me!

Whatever sounds better to you is all that matters. But: the max real resolution of MQA files is about 17/96 - all the rest is upsampling. The “24/192” that you are seeing is the rate of the file the MQA was derived from, but not the actual resolution of the MQA file itself.

In addition, your Brooklyn DAC is setup so that once it plays an MQA file in a session, it subsequently uses the “special” MQA filters for all PCM played after that. If you want the non MQA file to use “regular” (non MQA filtering) you have to manually switch the filtering of the DAC. I don’t know it that matters to you, but it is another factor to take into account when comparing. Maybe it will make a difference to what you hear.

Roon can decode MQA. So for comparisons and better technical performance it is better to disable MQA support from Mytek, and let Roon do the decoding. This way you get better digital filters from the DAC side, for both.

You can certainly find many opinions on how MQA sounds and if you should listen to it even if you like it. Many of us with Tidal subscriptions take the view that it’s included for free in our monthly CD Quality subscription so why not try it out. If you like listening to it fine, if you don’t that’s fine too.

I see from other posts that your DAC may behave in unexpected and undesirable ways when MQA content is sent to it so it may not be for you even if you like it.

I might have written “jumped in a pit of vipers” instead of “opened a can of worms” but essentially I am in agreement. In my opinion MQA content falls somewhere between CD Quality and 24/96 Quality. If you have the ears and the appropriate equipment you will probably hear a difference and prefer 24/96 or higher resolutions. If available where you live a Qobuz subscription might be better for you than a Tidal subscription or you may prefer purchasing hi-re downloads.

I signed up for Roon & Tidal when I retired last year. Of the 975 albums in my library 891 are from Tidal and 296 of them are MQA. For me streaming makes more sense than purchasing but it may not for you or for others.

Don’t let anyone convince you otherwise.