Still getting Tidal Masters streaming on Hifi subscription

In November 2021, after watching I published music on Tidal to test MQA - MQA Review - YouTube I downgraded my Tidal subscription from Masters to HiFi. (I would have abandoned it altogether but my family like the Tidal music selections and don’t care about MQA, so with a family plan this was the cheaper alternative).

However, I did not update my Roon service setting, which is still set to Master Streaming Quality. Tonight I streamed an album from Tidal (Johnny - Marr Fever Dreams Pt 1) that is shown as MQA 44.1 kHz in Roon library but, when plays, shows as 88.2 kHz on my DAC and also in Roon Signal Path with an intial MQA decode at 88.2 kHz.

I checked a few other Tidal albums that my family have added to the library and these also play at MQA bit rates above 44.1 kHz.

Is this to be expected?

Please note, I do not want to enter into a discussion about the merits or otherwise of MQA.

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I’d login to Tidal and make sure it is showing as downgraded and try streaming a the same track in the Tidal client and see it is displays it as a madter or not.

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That’s normal. You get it with lots of mqa releases you get the MQA cd version via Tidal rather than regular flac. You won’t get anything above 16bit though that’s the cap not all of MQA.


OK, Tidal’s documentation on this is a bit slim, but fairly unambiguous. They say:

So I think that means HiFi quality delivers original MQA files at max 16 bit 44.1 kHz with no additional MQA “folds” supplied with them.

@CrystalGipsy but Roon still appears to see and unfold a 24 bit 88.2 kHz bit MQA compression on these files as evidenced in the signal chain. This seems odd if the file does not contain any additional MQA data beyond 16 bit 44.1 kHz.

Oddly enough, my Topping D90se MQA DAC (via USB) takes the MQA output that has been decoded by Roon’s first unfold to 88.2 kHz and plays it at 44.1 kHz.

But my McIntosh MA5300 amp with onboard DA1 DAC (also via USB) does not do MQA and plays the file at the sample rate that Roon decoded it to (e.g. 88.2 kHz).

So I have the odd situation where my MQA DAC plays 44.1 kHz MQA material at 44.1 kHz and my non-MQA DAC plays the same file at 88.2 kHz, even though I have resampling set to 192 kHz for both zones for all input resolutions below 192 kHz.

Btw @ged_hickman1 I downloaded the Tidal client on a Windows PC. It plays back at HiFi quality only.

No your getting 16 bit MQA cd encoded file check the top entry in your signal path, these still will decode to 88.2/24 all mqa follows this pattern. You buy an MQA CD which are available it is 44.1/16 encoded and unfolds to 88.2/24. MQA data is still present in these files so Roon will see this and unfold. It does the same if I turn off Roons decoder and let my DAC do the full decoe and render, this is nothing to do with Roon its how Tidal are dealing with some releases.

Each DAC deals with MQA in a different way and under the hood it really is a black box as to what rate you get out. MQA always decodes first to either 88.2 or 96 both at 24 bit. What the MQA renderer does is down to the manufacturers. Some will show what the ORFs is , some will apply 2x , or 4x or 8x the original ORFs. My Hiby renders it all to the highest rate the DAC can regardless of what it started at. If your DAC has no MQA rendering you will get Roons decode to 88.2/24.

Your not getting studio tier your getting hifi but some material is just mqa encoded 16 bit and you will get these come through as the cap is not mqa but anything above 16bit which they consider to be cd quality You don’t get any 24 bit MQA files playing at all they all play as regular 44.1/16 flac.

Here is your example see it is MQA 16 bit and Roon sees as does my DAC. Roon is set to no mqa abilities at all so my DAC does it all. You see Roon sees the MQA encoded in the file and will apply MQA authentication only. My DAC is then getting the bit perfect stream from Roon and it also sees the MQA data and performs the full MQA decode and Render

Then here is a 24bit MQA no 16 bit version available at all just 24bit MQA.

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@CrystalGipsy OK, I think I understand it.

I have set the MQA Capabilities in the Device Settings for my MA5300 to No MQA Support (as it does not support MQA) and the Preserve MQA Signalling step in the original Signal Path has now gone. There is a new step in the Signal Path for Sample Rate Conversion from 88.2 kHz to 192 kHz, which is what I would expect for any “normal” 44.1 kHz file given I resample all 44.1 kHz to 192 kHz.

Thanks for the explanation. I’ll have to have a play around with the MQA support settings on my Topping D90se to see if I can hear any difference with this as that DAC does have MQA support

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