Roon Decoding MQA Listening Impressions

(bevan court) #86

I feel the big difference is between people who own music and those who stream. MQA is available on Tidal and invested with Roon that unfolds it.

I haven’t yet heard Deezer or Qobuz, because they aren’t willing to talk to Roon. Until they do, that may not change.

Buying hi-rez is still extremely expensive. For $20 a month most of the albums are available in Redbook. An awful lot of the albums I love are available in MQA. I try both and listen to the one that sounds best in my system.

Me investing in thousands of dollars for hi-rez isn’t not likely to happen. MQA gives me a whole lot for a small amount per month via Tidal.

I don’t care which master it is, I care which sounds best out of the available music I have.

Everyone’s indignation about cost is missing the point. If you use Tidal it costs nothing extra.

My suggestion is try it, even if it is only decoded in Roon and listen to what you enjoy. And if that is Redbook, then that is fine too.

(danny2) #87

It’s okay with me if you listen with a bucket of sand over your head and say it sounds good. That’s what you hear.

What I’m questioning is listeners saying MQA sounds “better”. Then the question is better than what? Does MQA sound better than the master it was produced from? We generally have no way of comparing, and that’s the only real way of evaluating if it gives SQ benefits. If you aren’t comparing the same master, you don’t know if MQA sounds better, worse or about the same.

Saying you like the sound of it is one thing. Saying it is an improvement (as MQA have claimed) is another.

(Chris ) #88

Ok, I’d say MQA consistently, to my ears, sounds better than CD and MP3 and that’s great. I am told I am getting The Studio Sound as much as my decoder can deliver and I believe it. (In Time it will be High Res for the masses)
If I spent huge amounts of money on a better MQA DAC and much more powerful amplification with suitable speakers etc (add your own preferred brand here) I know I would be even closer to The Studio Sound.
Now, apart from time travel and being in the studio on the day the final mix was approved, that’s about as close as anyone is going to get with historical recorded music. Very few of us will be in the studio for contempory releases also.
Maybe, traditional high res formats get as close, maybe they don’t (as MQA attest)? Well, you can argue that till the earth get sucked into the sun, and people probably will… but for me, MQA is a game changer which is delivering the nicest and least fatiguing sound I have ever had the pleasure to enjoy. Oh, and it hasn’t cost me anything above my normal subscription to Tidal and investment in ROON.

(Henry) #89

The thread title invites listening impressions. While the ideal scenario is comparisons between music with identical masters, that isn’t always possible. And the title doesn’t insist on knowing what master was used so it is all good. You can always start a thread that insists on knowing what master was used, but I suspect it won’t be too popular because not too many folks will know. Traditionally we have always sought the best sounding version of a piece of work, and got it regardless of format. That won’t change in the short term.


I’ll try sticking with the thread title subject…much more interesting to me since there are so many other threads debating the technical aspects of MQA.

I’m enjoying pretty much all the MQA albums I’m finding on Tidal. I’ve made a few comparisons to high-res versions (when I know they are the same master) and the streaming and downloaded tracks sound the same in my system.

I’ve found 2 MQA albums where a few tracks have a weird artifact (seems a technical issue with either the original tapes or the equipment being used to create the MQA distribution files).

So, my listening impression is that MQA on Tidal is great. I realize this is likely less to do with the technical merits of MQA and more to do with the quality of the master used to create the stream. But for this use case that distinction is, in fact, irrelevant.


Thanks, I agree Workingman’s Dead sounds great in Tidal MQA!

(bevan court) #92

I agree. Whatever the method of getting it to me, the best option, whether Redbook or MQA, is accessible via Roon and Tidal.

Having the choice is great, at no extra cost now that Roon does the first unfold.

And if I find a better version in hi-rez, I can also use that. That is why Roon is great.

(simon arnold) #93

I compared GoGo Penguins A Humdrum Star last night to the PCM version I just bought. Both 88.2khz 24 bitz I really couldn’t hear any difference between them. Not sure this is a good thing or bad. The both sound great.

(Jeff) #94

It tells me regular PCM also delivers “The Studio Sound”.

(simon arnold) #95

Maybe but my ears are old and bent and good easily be misguided.

(Chris ) #96

I think you need to listen to more than one album to give a verdict. I was playing The Rolling Stones Let it Bleed in MQA and then via Chromcast to my TV where I lost MQA and the difference was clear. Bigger wider sweeter altogether more pleasing. I used the same Bluesound Pulse 2 speaker

(Jeff) #97

Nothing wrong with your ears, trust them. No one should have to tell you what you should hear.

(simon arnold) #98

I was only posting my findings on that one as I could do a direct compare as its more likely from the same source master. I like MQA and if it sounds as good as an uncompressed PCM then its a good thing.

(Chris ) #99

Yes, definatley trust your ears in the end. You have to enjoy it.


Rob Watts (Chord DAC designer) seems to sum it up pretty well here, at least in comparison to his own built-in WTA filters:

There are two elements to MQA - firstly the conversion back to 88.2/96 from 44.1/48 - the so called unfold - and the the second part the low tap length minimum phase interpolation filter. Let’s deal with the second issue first, the interpolation filter - I have compared the MQA interpolation filter to my WTA filter and it sounds very much worse than the WTA - soft, fat bloated bass, poor instrument separation and focus, with a flat ill defined sound-stage. So there is no way I would ever offer this as an option.

As to the compression from 88.2/96 to 44.1/48 this is seriously flawed with major sound quality and measurement issues. For one, it has a massive notch at 22.05 kHz or 24 kHz that is introduced, which will have transient timing repercussions; secondly the system has completely unacceptable aliasing issues, which means distortion at 20kHz is a massive 1% - and aliasing has a huge consequence to the sound quality too, as again it degrades transient timing; thirdly the system is lossy, and converts a 24 bit signal into something like 17 bits. This is again unacceptable.

My advice is to ignore MQA and always go for the unchanged original file as the WTA filter will do a much better job of reconstructing the transient timing information to a much higher ability than MQA can.


( Glen Rasmussen) #101

The MQA treatment, has more DR, louder on measurement of the peaks, ~2-3DB, but it is the soundstage that I find dramatically improved on a majority of the re-masters. Try the Doobie Brothers, Toulouse Street in both MQA and CD original. It sure jumps out at me. I have not found any MQA classic analogue tracks that have not been improved.

( Glen Rasmussen) #102

After a year of comparing my Tidal downloaded tunes, to my iTunes library, I have come to the conclusion to erase all of the ACC music from my iphone. The Tidal downloads, particularly the MQA track are a huge improvement, and I am not even getting the second unfold render. If your a audiophile, why not a commuter audiophile?

( Glen Rasmussen) #103

Download your favorites and playlists to your mobile device, for Offline Playback? I just upgraded my phone to 128GB to accommodate my library. Mobile streaming in HiFi mode seems wasteful.

( Glen Rasmussen) #104

Just getting a new pair of Aiwa Arc-1 Bluetooth Headphones with aptX. So will join the Headphone ABX testing. Most mobile 5G listeners will have substandard earpieces, car stereo’s etc. The weakest links will not differentiate, true HiFi sound?

(albert dattolo) #105

For me mqa and tidal is cool it’s always better than there cd versions. I don’t have a mqa dac and in fact don’t like the full unfolding. At one time the desktop was better than the tidal versions now it’s Roon doing it
This is better for me than previously used players
I don’t upsample and feel anyone who does may have there own views. A better sever matters but mqa I feel is a remastered version like SHM does and there own special sauce after that but locks it up to protect there interest.