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Roon & MQA - Software Decoding Is Coming!


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I just got the scoop from Roon Labs.

 

"MQA decoding is coming to Roon."

 

Further - "Roon is more complex than other audio software products (especially in terms of multi-room, Roon Ready, and other supported streaming protocols) so the MQA team has had to undertake some additional engineering effort to make MQA decoding work in the Roon world. Both teams are working on it and we will ship as soon as technically possible."

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I just got the scoop from Roon Labs.

 

"MQA decoding is coming to Roon."

 

Further - "Roon is more complex than other audio software products (especially in terms of multi-room, Roon Ready, and other supported streaming protocols) so the MQA team has had to undertake some additional engineering effort to make MQA decoding work in the Roon world. Both teams are working on it and we will ship as soon as technically possible."

So it looks like MQA will allow software decoding after all. This is very good.

 

I understand people being reticent about losing access to the original 16/44. I am agnostic, if it sounds better I am all for MQA.

mini+Roon > dCS Rossini DAC + Rossini Master Clock 

SME 20/3 + SME V + Dynavector XV-1s > vdH The Grail

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I just got the scoop from Roon Labs.

 

"MQA decoding is coming to Roon."

 

Further - "Roon is more complex than other audio software products (especially in terms of multi-room, Roon Ready, and other supported streaming protocols) so the MQA team has had to undertake some additional engineering effort to make MQA decoding work in the Roon world. Both teams are working on it and we will ship as soon as technically possible."

 

Interesting. Now I am more inclined to try MQA.

 

I apologize if this is going to be dumb question but here goes....do I purchase and download MQA music like normal music?

12TB NAS >> i7-6700 Server/Control PC >> i3-5015u NAA >> Singxer SU-1 DDC (modded) >> Holo Spring L3 DAC >> Accustic Arts Power 1 int amp >> Sonus Faber Guaneri Evolution speakers + REL T/5i sub (x2)

 

Other components:

UpTone Audio LPS1.2/IsoRegen, Fiber Switch and FMC, Windows Server 2016 OS, Audiophile Optimizer 3.0, Fidelizer Pro 6, HQ Player, Roonserver, PS Audio P3 AC regenerator, HDPlex 400W ATX & 200W Linear PSU, Light Harmonic Lightspeed Split USB cable, Synergistic Research Tungsten AC power cords, Tara Labs The One speaker cables, Tara Labs The Two Extended with HFX Station IC, Oyaide R1 outlets, Stillpoints Ultra Mini footers, Hi-Fi Tuning fuses, Vicoustic/RealTraps/GIK room treatments

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I apologize if this is going to be dumb question but here goes....do I purchase and download MQA music like normal music?

Short answer: Yes.

 

 

 

Long answer(s):

1- Yes

 

2- You will need a either an MQA DAC or a player to decode the file to get high res sound (looks like Audirvana on the mac will, on win you might be limited to Roon)

 

3- If you use an MQA DAC you will (potentially) get better sound than if you software decode

 

4- You can play the file on any FLAC player, but if you don't decode it you will get slightly worse resolution than redbook - but with some MQA beautification - so maybe better maybe worse

mini+Roon > dCS Rossini DAC + Rossini Master Clock 

SME 20/3 + SME V + Dynavector XV-1s > vdH The Grail

Audio Note Kondo Ongaku > Avantgarde Duo Mezzo G2

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So does this mean that Tidal is now streaming everything in hi-res or is the DAC being tricked into decoding a hi-res signal that's upconverted from low res?

 

Where the studios have provided MQA-encoded tracks, Tidal is now streaming them (apparently, about 30k out of millions of tracks).

 

Whether or not MQA is considered hi-res is another question entirely. In addition to some custom filtering that is purported to reduce time "smearing" (both from the original ADC and the local DAC), MQA is more a way of compressing data than a new format; i.e., MQA can encompass any bitrate, from Redbook up to 192k+ (not sure what the upper limit is). The content up to about 22kHz is stored losslessly, but the content above this (i.e., up to 48kHz on a 96k track, up to 96kHz on a 192k track, etc.) is compressed using a proprietary format and is stored under the noise floor of a much lower rate file.

John Walker - IT Executive

Headphone - MacMini running Roon Server > Netgear Orbi wireless > Blue Jeans Cable Ethernet > mRendu Roon endpoint > iFi Audio xDSD + iFi Audio xCAN > Focal Elegia

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Short answer: Yes.

 

 

 

Long answer(s):

1- Yes

 

2- You will need a either an MQA DAC or a player to decode the file to get high res sound (looks like Audirvana on the mac will, on win you might be limited to Roon)

 

3- If you use an MQA DAC you will (potentially) get better sound than if you software decode

 

4- You can play the file on any FLAC player, but if you don't decode it you will get slightly worse resolution than redbook - but with some MQA beautification - so maybe better maybe worse

 

Ok great. So there no downside other than #4 if in the future I no longer have an MQA capable player (HW or SW). I can still play the flac file with any player.

12TB NAS >> i7-6700 Server/Control PC >> i3-5015u NAA >> Singxer SU-1 DDC (modded) >> Holo Spring L3 DAC >> Accustic Arts Power 1 int amp >> Sonus Faber Guaneri Evolution speakers + REL T/5i sub (x2)

 

Other components:

UpTone Audio LPS1.2/IsoRegen, Fiber Switch and FMC, Windows Server 2016 OS, Audiophile Optimizer 3.0, Fidelizer Pro 6, HQ Player, Roonserver, PS Audio P3 AC regenerator, HDPlex 400W ATX & 200W Linear PSU, Light Harmonic Lightspeed Split USB cable, Synergistic Research Tungsten AC power cords, Tara Labs The One speaker cables, Tara Labs The Two Extended with HFX Station IC, Oyaide R1 outlets, Stillpoints Ultra Mini footers, Hi-Fi Tuning fuses, Vicoustic/RealTraps/GIK room treatments

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The content up to about 22kHz is stored losslessly, but the content above this (i.e., up to 48kHz on a 96k track, up to 96kHz on a 192k track, etc.) is compressed using a proprietary format and is stored under the noise floor of a much lower rate file.

 

My understanding is that there are three types of encoding with the version of MQA that is being used at the moment (there is more than one type of encoding it seems):

 

1 - fully lossless 0-24Khz [0-48Khz sample rate]

2 - almost lossless 24-48Khz [48-96Khz sample rate]

3 - aliased approximation 48Khz+ [96Khz+ sample rate]

 

The above is only a comment on the frequency domain. There are debates elsewhere about the bit depth. According to Bob Stuart, the bit depth is reduced by less than one bit by MQA.

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Ok great. So there no downside other than #4 if in the future I no longer have an MQA capable player (HW or SW). I can still play the flac file with any player.

I suppose... But I sort of hate getting a file that's almost twice as big with data that I might not be able to decode in the future and that sounds a bit worse than the original file that's 1/2 the size if I don't decode it.

 

 

If streaming quality improves substantially thanks to MQA, then I'll be happy. Buying MQA files, however, is not something I am looking forward to do - solely because there is no way to decode to a PCM file in case the whole thing is a massive fiasco.

mini+Roon > dCS Rossini DAC + Rossini Master Clock 

SME 20/3 + SME V + Dynavector XV-1s > vdH The Grail

Audio Note Kondo Ongaku > Avantgarde Duo Mezzo G2

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I suppose... But I sort of hate getting a file that's almost twice as big with data that I might not be able to decode in the future and that sounds a bit worse than the original file that's 1/2 the size if I don't decode it.

 

 

If streaming quality improves substantially thanks to MQA, then I'll be happy. Buying MQA files, however, is not something I am looking forward to do - solely because there is no way to decode to a PCM file in case the whole thing is a massive fiasco.

Agreed. I wont be stocking up on a lot of MQA music until I get a good feel that it will be around for a while.

12TB NAS >> i7-6700 Server/Control PC >> i3-5015u NAA >> Singxer SU-1 DDC (modded) >> Holo Spring L3 DAC >> Accustic Arts Power 1 int amp >> Sonus Faber Guaneri Evolution speakers + REL T/5i sub (x2)

 

Other components:

UpTone Audio LPS1.2/IsoRegen, Fiber Switch and FMC, Windows Server 2016 OS, Audiophile Optimizer 3.0, Fidelizer Pro 6, HQ Player, Roonserver, PS Audio P3 AC regenerator, HDPlex 400W ATX & 200W Linear PSU, Light Harmonic Lightspeed Split USB cable, Synergistic Research Tungsten AC power cords, Tara Labs The One speaker cables, Tara Labs The Two Extended with HFX Station IC, Oyaide R1 outlets, Stillpoints Ultra Mini footers, Hi-Fi Tuning fuses, Vicoustic/RealTraps/GIK room treatments

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So it looks like MQA will allow software decoding after all. This is very good.

 

I understand people being reticent about losing access to the original 16/44. I am agnostic, if it sounds better I am all for MQA.

 

But how can you confirm it sounds best if once you have the MQA you no longer can compare it with the 16/44?

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Whether or not MQA is considered hi-res is another question entirely. In addition to some custom filtering that is purported to reduce time "smearing" (both from the original ADC and the local DAC)

 

At least the MQA filter shown here is one of the worst I've ever seen.

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At least the MQA filter shown here is one of the worst I've ever seen:

http://www.stereophile.com/content/mytek-hifi-brooklyn-da-processor–headphone-amplifier-measurements

 

Linky no worky.

W10 NUC i7 (Gen 10) > Roon (Audiolense FIR) > Motu UltraLite mk5 > (4) Hypex NCore NC502MP > JBL M2 Master Reference +4 subs

 

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But how can you confirm it sounds best if once you have the MQA you no longer can compare it with the 16/44?

Short answer: You can't really. Even if you had the 16/44, these are not equivalent. There's the MQA beautification step (read: time de-smearing, time smorgasboarding, or EQ, whichever you like) that makes the two things fundamentally different. Is time smorgasboarding a good thing? I dunno, probably, and probably depends on the file?

mini+Roon > dCS Rossini DAC + Rossini Master Clock 

SME 20/3 + SME V + Dynavector XV-1s > vdH The Grail

Audio Note Kondo Ongaku > Avantgarde Duo Mezzo G2

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Interesting that backing the content down only 1dBFS cleaned up the measurement so dramatically. Per the text, Bob Stuart confirms "real musical spectra does not have full-scale content at the top of the audio band, meaning that the filter's resolution can be optimized for low-level signals."

John Walker - IT Executive

Headphone - MacMini running Roon Server > Netgear Orbi wireless > Blue Jeans Cable Ethernet > mRendu Roon endpoint > iFi Audio xDSD + iFi Audio xCAN > Focal Elegia

Home Theater - Mac Mini running Roon Server > Blue Jeans Cable HDMI > Pioneer Elite SC-81 > MartinLogan Motion series home theater speakers + M&K subwoofer

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I hope so. Everytime I try to play the Tidal MQA files through Roon, each switch from track to track results in about a minute of silence. Apparently Roon is having problems processing those MQA files to my non-MQA DAC.

Main listening (small home office):

Main setup: Surge protector +_iFi  AC iPurifiers >Isol-8 Mini sub Axis Power Conditioning+Isolation>QuietPC Low Noise Server>Roon (Audiolense DRC)>Stack Audio Link II>Kii Control>Kii Three >GIK Room Treatments.

Secondary Listening: Server with Audiolense RC>RPi4 or analog>Matrix Element i Streamer/DAC (XLR)+Schiit Freya>Kii Three .

Bedroom: SBTouch to Cambridge Soundworks Desktop Setup.
Living Room/Kitchen: RPi 3B+ running RoPieee to a pair of Morel Hogtalare. 

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Wait, JRiver decodes MQA just fine....what I wonder is if software decoding gets you all the benefits of MQA's sound quality benefits.

 

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No it doesn't. To get full benefits you need an MQA DAC. Software just gives you a generic approximation.

Main listening (small home office):

Main setup: Surge protector +_iFi  AC iPurifiers >Isol-8 Mini sub Axis Power Conditioning+Isolation>QuietPC Low Noise Server>Roon (Audiolense DRC)>Stack Audio Link II>Kii Control>Kii Three >GIK Room Treatments.

Secondary Listening: Server with Audiolense RC>RPi4 or analog>Matrix Element i Streamer/DAC (XLR)+Schiit Freya>Kii Three .

Bedroom: SBTouch to Cambridge Soundworks Desktop Setup.
Living Room/Kitchen: RPi 3B+ running RoPieee to a pair of Morel Hogtalare. 

All absolute statements about audio are false :)

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Buying MQA files, however, is not something I am looking forward to do - solely because there is no way to decode to a PCM file in case the whole thing is a massive fiasco.

 

Right ... That's the risk with all encoded DRM content. Miska wrote: "I have bunch of HD-DVD discs I cannot play anymore."

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Wait, JRiver decodes MQA just fine....what I wonder is if software decoding gets you all the benefits of MQA's sound quality benefits.

Decodes? Or passes-through?

 

 

Hardware decoding in an MQA compatible DAC purportedly gives better results than "generic" software decoding b/c the DAC chip characters has been taken into account - at least this was the argument for not allowing software decoding.

 

 

 

I would love to see a comparison between software and hardware decoding on the same DAC. Anyone?

mini+Roon > dCS Rossini DAC + Rossini Master Clock 

SME 20/3 + SME V + Dynavector XV-1s > vdH The Grail

Audio Note Kondo Ongaku > Avantgarde Duo Mezzo G2

system pics

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Ok great. So there no downside other than #4 if in the future I no longer have an MQA capable player (HW or SW). I can still play the flac file with any player.

 

The issue with MQA content is that you are getting something different than ordinary Redbook or hires download. You are getting DSP-ed audio file and you are not able to remove that MQA DSP. You are not able to remove the MQA processing to get the plain unMQA-ed and unDRM-ed content.

 

Other downside is that it is risk to buy and download MQA content. If the whole MQA thing will end with a fiasco and new DACs will no more be MQA capable, what will you do with your MQA files?

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I hope so. Everytime I try to play the Tidal MQA files through Roon, each switch from track to track results in about a minute of silence. Apparently Roon is having problems processing those MQA files to my non-MQA DAC.

 

Really? I listented to a few tracks from different albums without a problem. Are you streaming to an MQA player?

 

 

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