MQA dropouts - a summary

Rooners (and listeners on other platforms) are reporting annoying dropouts when streaming MQA files from Tidal. I’ve experienced this myself. I’ve done some “research” on this and here are my observations:

  1. There are NO dropout issues with CD-quality flac files (16-bit, 44.1KHz or 48KHz) from any source (Tidal or Qobuz).
  2. There are NO dropout issues with Hi-Res files of any sampling rate from Qobuz (up to and including 192KHz). Big win for Qobuz!!
  3. Tidal/MQA dropouts are NOT a problem if you’re using a combined streamer/dac (e.g., the Bluesound Node streamers).
  4. Dropouts ARE a problem when using separate streamers and dacs—specifically connected via USB. I’m using a Pro-Ject Stream Box S2 Ultra connected via USB to an SMSL-SU-8S DAC.
  5. Dropouts do not appear to occur when you connect your separate streamer and DAC via either a coax cable or toslink. BUT, it’s my observation that the way DACs work right now, you are unable to do the final decoding of MQA files (to 192KHz) when using coax or toslink. That final unfolding requires a USB connection. In any event, the only output my Pro-Ject streamer has is a USB output.
  6. Interestingly enough, when using streamer/DAC separates connected via USB, lower sample rate MQA files (44.1 and 48KHz) do NOT throw dropouts.
  7. But the higher sampling rate MQA files on Tidal (96KHz and 192KHZ and beyond) do manifest occasional or even frequent and very annoying dropouts.
    I must confess, this business flummoxes me. Presumably the streamer is delivering a bit-perfect stream to a DAC capable of fully unfolding the MQA file. Why higher resolution MQA files hiccup like this while streaming is a mystery to me.
    I’ve tried all sorts of settings in Roon to no avail. One tweak I made in Roon is to always prefer Qobuz files when using the Pro-Ject streamer. I could cap the sampling rate that Roon processes to 48KHz but that would also cap the Qobuz files that are not problematic. One suggestion to the Roon staff: program a switch that allows us to specifically cap the sampling rate on MQA files.
    FWIW, I’ll stick with Tidal because they have lots of music unavailable on Qobuz. I’ll have to live with the annoying dropouts for now and hope that a firmware update on some piece of equipment at some future time fixes this issue. That, or I’ll be buying a combined streamer/DAC.
    Does anyone have further observations or corrections about any of this.
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Nothing useful to add except I haven’t seen any issues streaming MQA and I’m not aware of any reports that things appear to be amiss. However I always do first unfold in Roon.