No MQA through Cocktail Audio X50 via Roon

I have borrowed a Cocktail X50 from a dealer in order to evaluate it and quickly discovered that Roon was essential in the setup so I am using the trial.

I am truly impressed with Roon. However, when I stream Tidal MQA via Roon my Naim DAC does not report hi-res audio. This applies to all titles I have tried. If I play through apps like Music X and mConnect it works.

I have gone over the settings in Roon several times and they are as described here: Settings on Roon for MQA DACs and my dealer verifies that they are correct.

MacBook Pro (16 GB RAM) early 2011 as core, MacOS 10.12.6 (Sierra)
Roon version 1.5 (build 354)
Airport extreme router wirelessly via a D-Link range extender, which is hard wired to the X50. (I know this isn’t ideal, but as I wrote I am only trying out the X50 so I have to make do with what I have and the connection seems rock steady.) Latest firmware all over.
Swedish Tidal HiFi subscription

Roon already does the decoding and output 24/88.2/96k to the endpoint as PCM. Your Cocktail Audio X50 should show that on its display if any. If the device is not certified by Roon as endpoint then it may not work properly.

The Cocktail is Roon certified. There is a display but it only gives track info and cover art when playing from Roon so there is no way of knowing what happens except through Roon’s signal path.

Your signal path does not show ‘MQA Core Decoder’ which will output 88.2 or 96k. Did you set the zone’s 'MQA capability’ to ‘No MQA support’ inside the device setup?

It was on, which is the way my dealer said it should be set. Tried switching it off, which produced no difference in ‘signal path’ or in the DAC.

In the zone’s device setup --> advanced settings, is “Enable MQA Core Decoder” set to Yes?

Thanks MusicFidelity and Carl for your input! I have toggled it on and off, which made no difference. The way I understand it from other threads on this forum is that the setting does nothing if the device is set as decoder and renderer and you don’t activate the DSP engine. Since the X50 is capable of hardware MQA decoding Roon refrains from software decoding. (With reservations that I may have misunderstood the process.)

Are you sure that the Cocktail Audio X50(D) supports hardware decoding of MQA? I know that the web page sprinkles the MQA term into the mix; but I find it slightly worrying that there’s no mention of MQA in the user manual (on this page). Another possibility is that MQA hardware decoding is only available when using the Cocktail Audio’s built-in music player, and not when it’s being used in Roon Ready mode.

Reasonably sure. If it hadn’t, I imagine this page should have said so:

The view in the x50 display differs from the manual where, as you say, there is no mention of MQA.IMG_0534|640x480 IMG_0535

Sorry Geoff, forgot your second thought. It would be a real deal breaker if MQA doesn’t work with Roon. The apps I have used (Music X, which is the app that goes with the Cocktail and mConnect) where MQA works are nowhere near the elegance of Roon.

Firstly determine what function your item is supposed to perform in MQA. For instance we know Roon can perform the first unfold in MQA. Or it can pass MQA downstream unmolested. What can the X50 do? My guess is the same as Roon, first unfold only but only via USB out? The Naim DAC has no MQA capability so the maximum it would see from MQA is 88 or 96k and it would do no further processing.

I would do this. Set Roon advanced settings for the C50 to no MQA capability. Roon will then perform the first unfold. Untick MQA on the X50. It will then treat the unfolded stream normally and pass it to the DAC. You do not have full MQA capability with that setup if I have gotten things right. And if you did you wouldn’t be allowed to pass it digitally. It has to be USB or a similar closed interface.

MQA has two stages decode and render. Both Roon and your cocktail audio can do the decode which unfolds to 88.2 or 96 omly . The render part gets you the full MQA and this is in the DAC stage, as your Naim DAC does not support MQA rendering you only get first stage. Turn of MQA in cocktail audio and let Roon do the decode.

Should have settings like this

Thanks, Henry and Simon! That way it works. I had hoped that the X50 would unfold MQA (hardware as opposed to software, which I understand is the best method) and send a clear digital stream that my Naim could read. Does the issue have anything to do with this (from Wikipedia): “Meridian Audio prohibits digital output of unpacked MQA in any digital format”?

What I don’t understand in this context is why it works with the Music X app, which only seems to be a remote control for the X50. mConnect is able to play MQA in much the same fashion as Tidal desktop apps for Mac and PC, so I can understand why that works.

Curiouser and curiouser. I started a song from Music X on my iPad, then force quit the app and the X50 continues to play happily on its own. The DAC reports hi-res. Obviously the player is able to do something without the app, or is the DAC somehow tricked to believe this is 96 kHz when it is in fact only 44.1?

Music X is a remote app so the actual functionality sits with the X50. Just like with Roon the functionality sits with the core.

I see. Thanks again for taking the trouble to explain what happens to me. But then I wonder how the X50 can access and play an MQA-encoded song directly from Tidal and output it in a form that the Naim understands as hi-res (even though the DAC does not support MQA rendering) and why it is unable to do so with the pass-through from Roon.

The Wikipedia statement is not correct. Both Roon and I guess your Cocktail X50 should be able to do MQA Core decoding from 44.1/48kHz to 88.2/96kHz digital format. (Rendering to even higher sample rates require a MQA DAC with analog outputs.)

As for why it works with its own app(s) but not Roon, that probably means Cocktail RAAT support is missing MQA support - which is not uncommon (because it requires more development work) - but you’d probably need to confirm with Cocktail. Which version of RAAT is the X50 running?

I suggest you read up on MQA as you don’t seem to grasp it. Your still getting hires with the first decoding phase whether in Roon or the Cocktail audio, it’s just 96 or 88.2 as opposed to full hires 176.4 or 192 which you only get with a full MQA dac. This is how MQA works. So this is whats fed to you DAC is 88.2/24 or 96/24 dependant of how it was encoded in the first place. Even for MQA that is not mastered any higher than 44.1.

Thanks for the clarification Peter! It makes sense. The RAAT version is 1.1.15.

Typical Roon Ready products that support MQA over RAAT properly need to be using RAAT version 1.1.20 or later.