Node Gen 3 + USB Output + SMSL Dac + MQA

Well this is a disappointment. I’ve just acquired two new pieces of equipment: an S.M.S.L. SU-8s external DAC and the Bluesound Node Gen 3. I specifically acquired these devices because they offered the promise of fully processing MQA encoded files. Heretofore, I had been using the Node 2i. But, in order to pass MQA encoded files from the Node to the SMSL, I needed the newer streamer. The only way to pass MQA data to the DAC is through a USB connection and the Node Gen3 is the only Bluesound streamer that offers that option.

So setup in the BluOS was a breeze and I have everything working splendidly. 24/192 MQA plays beautifully.

Unfortunately that’s not the case with Roon. QOBUZ files seem to play OK, but I have not found the combination of settings to allow MQA files to play with this Roon/Node Gen3/SMSL setup.

Here’s how I’ve setup MQA processing on the new Node endpoint: * From the MQA capabilities drop-down, select Renderer only.* Expand Show advanced and set the Enable MQA core decoder to Yes. I get audible stutters when playing MQA files and the little green light on the DAC showing that all-is-well with processing lights up for BluOS but not Roon.

Are there better settings I should use? Am I missing something? For the time being, I can play QOBUZ in Roon and Tidal MQA in the BluOS app. I’d still like to have everything working seamlessly.

Thanks all. Sorry this was so long winded.

Bob Pisciotta

Those settings should work. As a test, what happens if you disable all DSP along with core decoding in Roon and set the MQA capabilities to decoder and renderer? Also, is your core and bluesound wired?

Bob, just a thought here, and I may be way off base. What if you send the native MQA bitstream through Roon and the Node without any rendering, and have the SU-8 perform the rendering and decoding directly? Is that an option?

Your suggestions helped a lot. I made one tweak: changing the volume from fixed to device. I’m still getting a little choppiness but the sound quality is much better. I’ll paste in my settings. I’m still open for suggestions. Thanks.

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Try the test that I suggest above.

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For some reason this did not work well. Lots of stuttering. Weird because I’m pretty sure the Node Gen3 just passes the signal along to the DAC in bit perfect form via USB. I’ll keep tweaking.

I use ROCK for my core (wired) and the Node is also wired. I tried setting MQA to decoding and rendering and it skipped a bit.

I’m back to the settings I illustrated earlier. Sounds good, but something is definitely amiss here.

I can’t believe I’m the first or only person using the Node Gen3 with a USB connection and Roon, but I can’t find other postings about this. Right now, I’m listening to a 96khz MQA file from Tidal and it sounds pretty good.

Thanks for the great suggestions, folks. I appreciate the help.

Are there any MQA settings on the Bluesound? Maybe a pass through mode or other way to make sure it isn’t doing any MQA processing?

On the old Nodes, you could set a switch to force MQA processing on an external DAC. In the new BluOS software with the Gen3, it’s all hard-coded when you use a USB connection. I’ll attach a picture of the current BluOS settings page for audio.

Let’s back up a second.

Did you have core decoding disabled when you tried this?

Yes, it was disabled. And no DSP. Just MQA decoding and rendering on the first settings screen.

Ok so then we know Roon’s handling of MQA isn’t the issue.

When you used Tidal on the Bluesound were you using the Bluesound’s DAC or your SMSL DAC?

I believe I’m passing the Tidal signal unprocessed from the Node to the DAC when I use BluOS. On the SMSL DAC the green light on the faceplate of the device indicates that it’s processing the data. That light is red when the DAC is fed by Roon. So there is some difference in the way the audio stream is being processed by the two systems.

Bob, another potentially silly question. Some of the behavior you are seeing is similar to what others experience with Bluesound devices on WiFi (not the MQA, but the “skipping” type of issues). Are you sure that WiFi is not active on the Node, even though the Ethernet cable is attached? I’m sorry in that I don’t have a Node to see the configuration options, but some devices can be active with both WiFi and their Ethernet ports active.

There’s only three MQA lights I’m aware of:

blue: mqa studio
green: mqa
magenta: OFS

If something other than your SMSL is doing core decoding then the SMSL should show magenta (or whatever light it uses for OFS) since it is only doing the rendering. If your SMSL is doing full MQA decoding (core decoding and rendering) then it will show blue or green. I have no idea what red means (unless it is using that for OFS?).

When core decoding was disabled in Roon and capability was set to decoder and renderer, what color was the LED on the SMSL?

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When I had core decoding disabled and capability set to decoder and renderer, I had significant stuttering. The display shifted between two icons. Forgive the terrible photography. Here’s the display panel:

I assume the songs were from different albums?

The bottom one looks like the studio indication. I’m assuming the top one is for mqa/green. Either way that is expected when the SMSL is doing both core decoding and rendering.

Have you tried Roon with just the Bluesound?

Not the same symptoms but there are known issues with the node USB

Thank you for posting this “Popping and Crackling” thread. This is exactly my problem.

I’m using a USB connection exclusively between the Node streamer and the DAC. It’s this USB connection that appears to be implicated in the stuttering or crackling that people experience when using Roon and the Node Gen3. The reason why I purchased the Node Gen3 streamer was so that I could use that USB connection. It’s the only way to fully process MQA files on the DAC. So using a coax or SPDIF connection would eliminate the crackling but prevent full unfolding of MQA on the DAC.

My previous workaround was to use an optical cable from the streamer to the DAC and a long USB cable between my laptop and the DAC. If I do this, I’m cutting Roon out of the equation when I use my laptop (I run Roon on a ROCK and not on my laptop).

I will take a long view here–that at some point someone either on the Bluesound side or the Roon side will figure this out and fix it. So I’ll hang onto the streamer and continue to use Roon and just adjust my cabling so it all works satisfactorily. As far as I’m concerned that’s the resolution for me.

Thanks everyone for the information and help. This is a great community.

Hi Bob.

In the settings section under audio of the Bluesound Node, did you turn off the audio clock trim? I have a Bluesound Node 2i connected to a Denafrips Ares II via toslink. They recommend turning off/disabling the audio clock trim when using an external DAC. I hope this helps.