MQA disappointing


So - could it be assumed, that the ES9038PRO SABRE DAC “more naturally” (means a better analog output as a result) handling the DSD input stream than the PCM input signal?

(Larry Post) #22

Depends on the implementation of the DAC chip. The analog output section and power supply seem to have WAY more positive (or negative) impact than the chip itself.

The 9038PRO sets the bar pretty high but all of the surrounding components must operate near the same level to achieve the best result.

I had a Oppo 205 with the 9038PRO for a number of months. It was good but never really satisfied. Triple the money, but the DirectStream more than satisfies. I’m pretty regularly thinking to myself how amazingly good well done recordings sound.

(String ) #23

Maybe it’s a matter of taste, I just LOVE MQA!
It doesn’t matter if it’s 48, 96, 196 or 352,8 kHz.
Okay I have spent 40 years in the recording studio, with Studer and Revox Mastertapes machines, I have a Revox B-77 (the studio version).
So I playing old master tapes on, but I haven’t used it since TIDAL started with their Masters and I buy my first MQA Dac!
Just the simple Meridian Explorer 2, it’s cheap and doing it’s work.

Cd or PCM isn’t perfect and have never been, they had to quick to release it. So the faults have never been solved and we have used us to live with it!
(I don’t even remember what the faults are anymore, but for whose who are interested Google it).

I think and hope that MQA is here to stay, if you don’t like it don’t listen to it!
Today is many people in LOVE with mp3, ogg etc…It’s okay for me!

MQA is a wonderful format, I love Led Zeppelin the Remastered Version that their guitarist Jimmy Page made, sounds incredible because you can hear every bass tone John Paul Jones play. Everything John Bonham is playing on the drums.
Fleetwood Mac’s Rumors from 1977, haven’t sound so great since it’s was played on Sound City’ Master tape machine!
Diana Krall’s Albums with piano and bass wow, it’s like they are in my room and playing.

There are a thing that I think, is a huge difference between thinking MQA is okay, or just LOVING It and don’t think it’s especially good at all!

I don’t know how many of you that have heard, music instruments live?
Not being on a concert! But heard a drum set without microphones, just standing or sitting close to it? The same thing with a bass, acoustic guitar, piano, different horns, violin or cello…Because it’s a pretty great difference to know what these music instruments, sound on their own and even more if it’s a great musician that playing!
When it’s get a microphone and played true a PA system with other musician’s! I have heard almost every single instrument, played with good, great and not so good musicians and I think it’s also why I LOVE MQA!

Just as I have heard it in the studio, with microphones and recording it, made a mix and mixed it down to a master tape machine!
After I have pushed play and as I always do, sitting down, laying on the floor, going to another room and listening in the headphones, it’s so I can hear if it sounds good on every different place!

I think or believe it’s why I LOVE MQA :heart:

Love & Respect


I understand you perfectly - “De gustibus non est disputandum.”
And on top of that, MQA is ecological - sizable energy saving across the Planet.

(Chris ) #25

Anders, I agree. We regularly host live music and so I am at the sound checks, meet the musicians and film the shows so I have to be close. I also play acoustic guitar. (Not so great but I enjoy it)
We have Emily Barker playing later today.
There is a thing about live music that just cannot be beaten. I also love the MQA recordings and perhaps we have a link there.
The people who don’t like it must be hearing a differance or they would not have an opinion and as such something is going on. Maybe they like the distortions they are used to and there is nothing wrong with that if that’s how you see and hear things, but I like real instruments to sound real.

Do not misunderstand, CD can sound great on a good system and high res etc can sound even better for sure.
We put out properly mixed show videos on you tube which sound incredible through a Chromecast on a good system. But I welcome MQA as another great step on the way to better audio for all.


Yes, ESS Sabre DAC is essentially a SDM, so when it does DSD, it is done directly without any form of conversion.

While PCM, it has to convert to DSD internally then go to SDM which converted to analog signals. With exception to multi-bit ladder R2R DAC, PCM is directly converted to analog signals without conversion. Almost 90% of all DACs in the market uses SDM architecture which is well suit to DSD instead of PCM.

1 Like
(Jeff) #27

Now MQA removes distortion? I must have missed that in the pamphlet.

If you want to hear real instruments, try a Schiit DAC with their filter that preserves all the original samples instead of a format that generically trys to fix stuff by messing with the original recorded sound.


The distortion you are referring is aliasing artifacts. This gets reflected back to audio range and gets modulated with the audio contents.

That’s great if you can imagine yourself listening something you feel it is real but later get fooled by the distortion. If you like listening to this type of distortion that makes music sound better that the context ‘High Fidelity’ is somehow ‘blurred’

(Jeremy) #29

No better and possibly worse, IMHO. It is a lossy format which means it has potential to be worse. For sure some masters sound better than others so an MQA version can sound better if it is from a better master. However as a technical process it is complete smoke and mirrors if you want to be nice about it or total BS if you want to speak plainly.

I agree the recent Deluxe versions of Led Zeppelin on Tidal in MQA are extremely good but this is because they are better masters - way better than anything digital released so far.

I have checked Tom Petty high resolution versions vs MQA versions and it just sounds like MQA adds a filter which among other things increases or boosts presence. It can be better or worse depending on your taste, your system and the original recording. It is like another Dolby or THX effect…whoopdy doo!

I listen on large ATC with a Benchmark DAC 3. So I am only hearing the first unfold. Perhaps that is why I don’t hear nirvana! However, I don’t need to upsample to fix DAC non-linearity as redbook sounds excellent but I understand why so many folks do it - all that high frequency ghost noise really helps fix DAC linearity issues by “randomizing them” - perhaps MQA does the same and that is what some listeners hear - but perhaps a more linear DAC is all that these listeners really need?

(Jeremy) #30

There is nothing original about conversion. Every D to A takes digital info and converts it to analog in various ways with a variety of filters. R-2R or ladder DACs may be marketed as “original” but are actually quite poor at linearity.

That said I agree with you that MQA cannot fix distortion. In fact it must add distortion as the original high resolution file is the reference and not the lossy MQA version - something has been lost even if users think it sounds good!

(Jeremy) #31

The type of aliasing you refer to occurs at the A to D stage. Higher frequencies than the Nyquist can fold in. Nothing to do with D to A.

D to A creates ghost images above half the sample rate. These are best filtered out.

Upsampling with added zeros can push the ghost images higher and higher with each increase in sample rate and make filtering them out easier.

Very high frequency ghost images are pretty much equivalent to random noise. This random noise is beneficial for conversion with non-linear DACs and may be one of the reasons some folks prefer upsampling - it helps their DAC do a better job.

(Jeff) #32

OT of course but what do these DAC non-linearity issues at -90 or -100dB sound like?

(Alexey Petrov) #33

First I was disappointed with MQA as well - first in Tidal, then in Roon. However I found the mistake in my settings. In the Audio section “MQA support” should be turned off (do not select Decoder or Renderer, you DAC doesn’t support it). However leave the switch “Enable MQA core decoder” in ON pisition. In this case Roon Core will process the MQA file the way it should be. I compared MQA files with the same music HighRes files in 24/96 and they sounded identically - MQA is just an archivation means for HighRes master recordings. Without right settings in Roon (or MQA compatible DAC) the files will not br restored and you will hear wrong worse than CD (however louder) sound.

(Andrew J Shepherd) #34

They sound just like the jitter issues and 24 bit resolution improvements at -100 dBFS that people claim they hear.


(Anders Vinberg) #35

Why do you say that?
It is certainly possible to fix distortion, if you know what it is.
Photoshop routinely compensates for distortion on the input side (camera+lens) and the output side (printer+ink+paper), using a large library of performance profiles.
And many modern cameras, including the Leica Q and all phones, do it.
It is a well-known and non-controversial technique.

You can argue that in your opinion MQA fails to do it.
But it is certainly not impossible.


Yes, they will happen if the digital filter is a weak when it comes to attenuate the aliasing images. For example, a slow roll-off minimum phase does not cut off at 22.05k (assuming 44.1k, 24 bit MQA). The only digital filters that can effectively attenuate the aliasing image is the linear sharp cut off filter.

Read this excellent articles…

(Jeremy) #37

Sounds like digital glare. Similar to jitter but more benign. Quite difficult to hear. Listen for a slightly “etched” sound. Many people like the “etched” sound - particularly classical listeners. This was the digital sound of the decade of the 90’s as it was so common. In the decade of 2000’s things improved on linearity with SDM and upsampling but jitter was still a big problem.

Technically it is similar to quantization noise but worse as it affects the MSB as much as LSB. The transitions on a ladder DAC are not perfect - like a physical ladder with different rung spacing on every step. This adds high frequency non musical signals that are related to the sample rate modulated with the audio signal. You can upsample in Roon to improve things - randomizing the noise and making it less audible.


This only happens to PCM and this is one of major drawback of PCM technology. On the other hand, DSD address this issue by sampling at megahertz range and combine with noise-shaping techniques, it is technically superior. DSD convert to analog signals using Pulse Density Modulation (PDM) is very analog in nature. It is closest to analog reproduction if it is done right.

(Jeremy) #39

Actually a mix of both technology is best. Latest ESS Sabre DACs like 9028 are equivalent to a 6 bit ladder DAC but with excellent linearity due to random selection of massively parallel one bit SDMs. These chips have both superb linearity (the weakness of ladder DACs) and superb low noise (the weakness of 1 bit SDM or DSD).

Latest ESS chips are blurring the delineation between 1 bit SDM and ladder or R-2R…

(String ) #40

@Rhythmatist @DrTone @Alexey_Petrov @WiWavelength
Reading this “article”!
That I have wrote about Master Tapes and MQA.
Of course are you welcome to @AndersVinberg

One question!
Have anyone worked in a professional studio or mastering studio?

On Roon is it free to listen on PCM, DSD and Hi-Res!
No one is forced to listen to MQA, right?

Love & Respect