MQA failed playback with Matrix Audio Element X DAC streamer

Core Machine
Win 10 (up to date), Intel Kabylake 7700T i7 Quad-Core 3.7GHz, 256GB Samsung 960 NVME M.2, 16GB DDR4 3000, 8TB USB HDD/Roon build number 1.6 build 416)

Network Details
ASUS Router, everything wired on gigabit Ethernet, Intel NIC in Roon Core, Netgear Switch

Audio Devices
Matrix Audio Element X dac streamer Roon Ready uncertified. RoonReady is a broken mess at present for various reasons and is too limited/flaky in capabilities so I use a USB connection between my Roon core and Element X DAC streamer, while they work out the kinks.

Description Of Issue
Configured Roon decoder to decode MQA, Matrix Audio Element X supports decoder and rendering.for full MQA I am using dsp/eq, headroom adjustment, max re-sampling enabled (768khz 32bit).

When playing Tidal MQA songs or MQA from my own library, & Roon encounters a MQA file during playback it crashes Roon or the DAC requiring one or both to be rebooted. By crash I mean the song will sometimes play partially or completely, but then the sound will go off when the next track attempts to play.

Also if I play an album of up to 352kbps MQA stored locally on a hdd then maybe 1 or 2 or maybe 3 will play in a row but invariably crash at some point or once a standard FLAC file is queued from my library or Tidal and it will stop playing. This forces me to reboot Roon, and the DAC as manually selecting tracks or track forward just displays the new track, but no audio comes out of the DAC.

The DAC does receive the unfolded MQA signal and Roon is properly preserving the signaling information because my DAC will show me up to 352kbps on the display, even if MQA isn’t displayed because the track was already unfolded and therefore authenticated. {a 3 letter acronym is display, but I forgot what it is}.

Basically MQA playback is borking the DAC requiring a reboot at times because once I restart roon sometimes the USB device won’t show up in the list of devices available even though it’s on, but suffered a glitch during the MQA track or at the end when a regular FLAC file tries to begin playing or even if I just play mqa files in a row and at times crashes mid song going to silence or when the next track begins to play.

Thanks for your help in advance.

Available to help in anyway to resolve this as having to reboot the app and DAC repeatedly is getting rather old and quickly.

Sincerely,
Jonathan

What is the behaviour when:
You deliver partially decoded MQA via another program, or
You let the DAC do the full decode?

Not all MQA DACs deal well with the first unfold being done for them.

I would suggest as a first step, setting things up to let the DAC handle the entire MQA decode/upsample without modifying the audio stream is a good baseline. If the DAC works then start adding in things one at a time and testing.

I don’t have another program to use. I paid for Roon, I kind of expect it to just work especially with a RoonReady device that albeit hasn’t been certified and is an abortion in it’s current state and is way too limiting which is why I am using a USB connection directly to the DAC from my coreserver which is fanless and stays on my entertainment center with the DAC. This is the most direct and least hassled way to connect the two without having any network related issues. The problem exists on both RoonReady and USB for MQA.

Rugby: I rely on room correction and don’t wish to give that up to test MQA when it’s suppose to work as of V1.5 with DSP/EQ enabled.

I understand the desire to keep room correction, but, without taking some steps to narrow down the symptoms of the error that is occurring; it will be very difficult to figure out what is actually causing the error or how to fix it.

You mention you use dsp/eq, headroom adjustment, max re-sampling enabled (768khz 32bit). I can see the first two options, but, not the third in relation to MQA; assuming you want the DAC to do the MQA 2nd stage. So, if you don’t want to just test it by turning all DSP off in Roon, then I’d go the other way, and turn off any re-sampling done by Roon.

And, I’m guessing support will want to know how do you have the MQA setting set for the DAC in Roon?

Roon doesn’t try to upsample MQA when it knows the dac is both decoder and renderer and you have Roon selected to do the first unfold. As far as my settings, asked and answered already now two times.

I’m waiting on a support person from Roon to reply so we can gather some diagnostics from Roon.

Thanks,

Jonathan

Hello @Wh01sjongalt,

I apologize for the delay in our response, I had to confirm a few details about this issue with our QA team.

Before I begin, it is important to note the Matrix Audio Element X is an uncertified device. We provide a disclaimer explaining that the device may not function properly on the Settings > Audio page, you can click the “Uncertified” text to see this.

When playing Tidal MQA songs or MQA from my own library, & Roon encounters a MQA file during playback it crashes Roon or the DAC requiring one or both to be rebooted. By crash I mean the song will sometimes play partially or completely, but then the sound will go off when the next track attempts to play.

Also if I play an album of up to 352kbps MQA stored locally on a hdd then maybe 1 or 2 or maybe 3 will play in a row but invariably crash at some point or once a standard FLAC file is queued from my library or Tidal and it will stop playing. This forces me to reboot Roon, and the DAC as manually selecting tracks or track forward just displays the new track, but no audio comes out of the DAC.

Our QA team encountered this issue during certification testing included it in our feedback to Matrix Audio.

Regarding the behavior you are seeing on the Roon Core when the device is in the broken state, we have filled an internal bug report and the QA team is investigating the cause.

Basically MQA playback is borking the DAC requiring a reboot at times because once I restart roon sometimes the USB device won’t show up in the list of devices available even though it’s on, but suffered a glitch during the MQA track or at the end when a regular FLAC file tries to begin playing or even if I just play mqa files in a row and at times crashes mid song going to silence or when the next track begins to play.

When you restart Roon and the Matrix Audio Element X does not appear in the Settings > Audio screen, are you able to see any of your local playback zones like the System Output?

-John

Hey John, thanks for your kind response. No worries about the wait. Yes, the DAC is visible when I restart it along with other local playback zones. I was only indicating that sometime if I only restart Roon and fail to restart the DAC then the Wasapi and ASIO playback zone for the DAC are not visible which is why I reboot the DAC. Sometimes the DAC is all that is required to restart playback on Roon, but other times both Roon and the DAC must be restarted for me to be able to play music. My temporary fix is to leave my DSP/EQ settings on, is to tell Roon the DAC is not an decoder or renderer, but to enable Roon to decode/first unfold which it does with no issues and then the signal is upsampled to 768khz/32 and passed to the DAC without issue and no playback issues arise. I’m very happy you guys are also having the same issue and I’ll wait for further updates from Roon or further updates for the firmware updates to the DAC to fix the issues as it’s more a nuisance to playback and doesn’t matter to me if Roon passes the signal data after the first unfold while the dsp/EQ is applied and allows the DAC to do the final rendering. I’m not that interested in MQA anyway and could probably never notice the difference anyway. I’m just glad I’m no longer having interrupted playback issues now when Roon encounters a MQA file in a Playlist or during Roon Radio playback. I applaud your attempts at getting the MQAvl signaling data retained and passed along to the DAC while also doing DSP/EQ. Very slick! Keep up the excellent work! I love Roon so much!

Sincerely,
Jonathan

Hi,

Do we have any improvement with Element X and Roon (MQA)?
I’m interested to have proper MQA implementation.

The latest firmware did not fix stability issues with MQA playback if you are using dsp/EQ and require Roon to do the first unfold using Roon’s MQA Decoder. If you don’t use dsp/EQ and you disable Roon’s MQA Decoder entirely you shouldn’t have issues playing MQA files with the Element set as Decoder and Renderer for MQA. I didn’t test this thoroughly, but for the brief time I had it configured this way MQA files played correctly in the Element X.

Hi,

Thank you for answer.

Whole idea of MQA is DAC should have this content delivered untouched. If you setup Roon to decode MQA you are not utilising full potential of MQA.

I’m thinking to buy Element X - and I’m not very happy there is not software for iOS and Roon implementation is not very good (it is actually bad).

I have £20 chromecast audio and works stable as rock with Roon (I’m aware this is not very same sonic level as Matrix is).

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I thought the reason this was slow being fixed was because Matrix were the first to try and apply heavy overheads to the XU216 XMOS processor. They are breaking new ground and that might take a while to get the wrinkles out. I wouldn’t go so far as to blame any of that on Roon.

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When using Dsp/EQ and enabling Roon to do the first decode allows Roon to do room correction on the signal and simultaneously preserve the MQA signaling data. The MQA signaling data is preserved and passed to the Element X or any DAC that supports fully MQA decoding and rendering. This is not only ideal, it’s a very elegant way to have your cake and eat it too with MQA while applying DSP/EQ for room correction or convolution filters why retaining and allowing the DAC to do the final unfold at the maximum bit rate it was transcoded with.

This is incorrect. MQA fully supports a split decoding architecture (including DSP between first unfold and DAC rendering).

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Hi,

Thank you for letting me know.

Regards Chris

Hello everybody,

Do we have any updates on this issue with the Matrix Element X? I´m about to buy one and I´d like to know if the problem is already solved. Is it on the plan to have the Element X properly certified by Roon?

Please let me know, I love using Roon but I would hate to compromise the functionality of my system.

Regards,

Alex

I have one and while I still think it shows as “uncertified” it works very well with Roon.

@john may or may not be able to advise. I’m also interested in the Element X, but speaking for myself, I am prepared to wait until everything is sorted. I wouldn’t even think about buying any piece of hardware with known issues. I would advise patience.

Hi,

I’m using Matrix Element X with Roon. Recently new firmware was introduced (loaded via MA Remote IOS application) - version A10301. Huge improvement in stability and performance.

Old firmware (available in Roon):
PCM - 384kHZ (max)
DSD - 128 (max)

New firmware
PCM - 768kHz (max)
DSD - 256 (max)
MQA - no issues

I’m using Ethernet connection to Element X - but WiFi works same good (if you have nice coverage).

Better stability (no Roon stability issues anymore), In my opinion Roon integration looks good (to be honest looks very good now). I’m not sure what will be result of Roon certification now.

MA Remote app is available for IOS (very first time) - this is Matrix build in (Roon independent) player, I was able to test it with my local library (no Tidal and Qobuz integration is available in Matrix IOS player yet, as far as I know it is available in Android remote app) - works ok but is not as good as Roon is, to be honest I’m not using Dac with Matrix player, I’m using it with Roon.

If you have any question I can try to answer

(I’m not related/paid/rewarded etc. by Matrix)

Regards Chris

Same here Chris I am using it daily with Roon without issues. Good to hear on the remote app.