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AudioQuest adds MQA Support to Dragonflies via firmware


gmgraves

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Hmm, the Black is almost cheap enough to buy and turn into a digital MQA decoder. I'd rather not give money to AQ though...

 

I understand your reluctance to support AQ. They are mostly "snake oil" salesmen. However the DragonFly is a good product. I have a V.1.2 and it has been a superb performer. They were all designed by Gordon Rankin, a well known and respected digital audio designer.

George

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I understand your reluctance to support AQ. They are mostly "snake oil" salesmen. However the DragonFly is a good product. I have a V.1.2 and it has been a superb performer. They were all designed by Gordon Rankin, a well known and respected digital audio designer.

In this instance I don't care if it's good or not. The only reason I'd get one is to tap the I2S lines going to the DAC chip.

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I understand your reluctance to support AQ. They are mostly "snake oil" salesmen. However the DragonFly is a good product. I have a V.1.2 and it has been a superb performer. They were all designed by Gordon Rankin, a well known and respected digital audio designer.

 

I have been struggling with this. The Dragonfly Red would likely be a great companion for iOS devices (but it looks like the bulky USB 3 version of the Apple CCK is required for reliable operation). The irreproachably of Mr. Rankin notwithstanding, the AQ "taint" is giving me pause on this purchase as well.

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The Dragonfly Red would likely be a great companion for iOS devices (but it looks like the bulky USB 3 version of the Apple CCK is required for reliable operation).

 

Yep, I got that strange clicking noise trying to use mine with the smaller Lightning to USB camera adapter and an iPhone 7. Works fine with my old iPhone 5s, though.

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Interesting discussion on Audiostream.com today.

 

Apparently, there are 1) MQA "renderers", which require the player to do the first "unfolding", whereupon the renderer will do the final processing and 2) "decoders", which will play MQA files without any additional software required.

 

The DragonFly will apparently be a "renderer", not a "decoder" - which means the only software it will work properly with for MQA playback at this time is Tidal.

 

Not something I understood at all until today - maybe others were already aware.

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Interesting discussion on Audiostream.com today.

 

Apparently, there are 1) MQA "renderers", which require the player to do the first "unfolding", whereupon the renderer will do the final processing and 2) "decoders", which will play MQA files without any additional software required.

 

The DragonFly will apparently be a "renderer", not a "decoder" - which means the only software it will work properly with for MQA playback at this time is Tidal.

 

Not something I understood at all until today - maybe others were already aware.

Can someone with an Explorer2 do the following experiment please?

 

Play an MQA file with passthrough selected - the blue light should light up.

 

Does the blue light come on when you set Tidal to decode?

 

I am guessing the answer is no.

RoonROCK > RAAT > dCS Rossini DAC + dCS Rossini Clock 

SME 20/3 + SME V 9” + Dynavector XV-1s > vdH The Grail

Audio Note Kondo Ongaku > Avantgarde Duo Mezzo

Signal cables: Kondo Silver, Crystal Cable phono

Power cables: Kondo, Shunyata, van den Hul

system pics

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Can someone with an Explorer2 do the following experiment please?

 

Play an MQA file with passthrough selected - the blue light should light up.

 

Does the blue light come on when you set Tidal to decode?

 

I am guessing the answer is no.

 

Actually, according to the article at Audiostream, the answer s/b "Yes". i.e., for a full decoder, the first "unfold" can be in software without disrupting the ability of the decoder to perform the rest of the decoding. Or it can be direct to the DAC.

 

Will be interesting to see the answer to this one, though.

John Walker - IT Executive

Headphone - MacMini running Roon Server > Netgear Orbi > Blue Jeans Cable Ethernet > mRendu Roon endpoint > Topping D90 > Topping A90 > Dan Clark Aeon 2 Closed / Focal Elegia

Home Theater - Mac Mini running Roon Server / AppleTV > Blue Jeans Cable HDMI > Denon X3700h > Anthem Amp for front channels > Revel F208-based 5.2.4 Atmos speaker system

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Interesting discussion on Audiostream.com today.

 

Apparently, there are 1) MQA "renderers", which require the player to do the first "unfolding", whereupon the renderer will do the final processing and 2) "decoders", which will play MQA files without any additional software required.

 

The DragonFly will apparently be a "renderer", not a "decoder" - which means the only software it will work properly with for MQA playback at this time is Tidal.

 

Not something I understood at all until today - maybe others were already aware.

 

I guess it wasn't possible to squeeze the MQA decoder onto the puny microcontroller in those DACs.

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Actually, according to the article at Audiostream, the answer s/b "Yes". i.e., for a full decoder, the first "unfold" can be in software without disrupting the ability of the decoder to perform the rest of the decoding. Or it can be direct to the DAC.

 

Will be interesting to see the answer to this one, though.

Precisely why I am asking.

RoonROCK > RAAT > dCS Rossini DAC + dCS Rossini Clock 

SME 20/3 + SME V 9” + Dynavector XV-1s > vdH The Grail

Audio Note Kondo Ongaku > Avantgarde Duo Mezzo

Signal cables: Kondo Silver, Crystal Cable phono

Power cables: Kondo, Shunyata, van den Hul

system pics

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I guess it wasn't possible to squeeze the MQA decoder onto the puny microcontroller in those DACs.

Or... They are not giving up on some "mistique"...

RoonROCK > RAAT > dCS Rossini DAC + dCS Rossini Clock 

SME 20/3 + SME V 9” + Dynavector XV-1s > vdH The Grail

Audio Note Kondo Ongaku > Avantgarde Duo Mezzo

Signal cables: Kondo Silver, Crystal Cable phono

Power cables: Kondo, Shunyata, van den Hul

system pics

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Yep, I got that strange clicking noise trying to use mine with the smaller Lightning to USB camera adapter and an iPhone 7. Works fine with my old iPhone 5s, though.

Same issue on iPhone 7+. The USB3 adapter fixed it. It's bigger, but at least it allows you to listen and charge at the same time.

RoonROCK > RAAT > dCS Rossini DAC + dCS Rossini Clock 

SME 20/3 + SME V 9” + Dynavector XV-1s > vdH The Grail

Audio Note Kondo Ongaku > Avantgarde Duo Mezzo

Signal cables: Kondo Silver, Crystal Cable phono

Power cables: Kondo, Shunyata, van den Hul

system pics

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Can someone with an Explorer2 do the following experiment please?

 

Play an MQA file with passthrough selected - the blue light should light up.

 

Does the blue light come on when you set Tidal to decode?

 

I am guessing the answer is no.

 

I have an Explorer 2 and have a few interesting observations using the tidal app.

 

-With "MQA passthrough" selected or unselected, the light will be blue and the right sample rate will reach it depending on the source song with the Explorer 2. It's like partial unfold preserves the data to do a full unfold by the explorer. I still see 1x, 2x, and 4x sample rate lights depending on the song.

 

Using an MQA song encoded for 1x playback, 44khz:

-With "MQA passthrough not selected" A non MQA dac will show 88khz, seems like tidal application up samples. However, the explorer 2 will have one light showing 44.1khz playback.

 

-With "MQA passthrough selected" A non MQA dad will show 44khz. Explorer 2 naturally shows one blue light.

 

So from this I can deduce one of two things, either:

 

1. The explorer 2 takes the MQA stream regardless if it was unfolded once already, and still can play back the original audio and sample rate (blue light with the source file sample rate).

 

or

 

2. Tidal knows this is an MQA dac and regardless of setting, will send the original file to the explorer 2. I know tidal can tell the explorer 2 is an MQA dac because when I plug it in, tidal pops up a message detecting an MQA dac and asks if you want to switch to it. This doesn't happen with any other DAC I have that is non-MQA.

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2. Tidal knows this is an MQA dac and regardless of setting, will send the original file to the explorer 2. I know tidal can tell the explorer 2 is an MQA dac because when I plug it in, tidal pops up a message detecting an MQA dac and asks if you want to switch to it. This doesn't happen with any other DAC I have that is non-MQA.

 

Very interesting...now why would this be? Simply enabling the end-to-end philosophy with a bit of UI convenience/help for the end user?

Hey MQA, if it is not all $voodoo$, show us the math!

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Interesting discussion on Audiostream.com today.

 

Apparently, there are 1) MQA "renderers", which require the player to do the first "unfolding", whereupon the renderer will do the final processing and 2) "decoders", which will play MQA files without any additional software required.

 

The DragonFly will apparently be a "renderer", not a "decoder" - which means the only software it will work properly with for MQA playback at this time is Tidal.

 

Not something I understood at all until today - maybe others were already aware.

Probably not enough processing power under the hood to do the full decode. I assume the renderer part is the dac correction portion. Since Tidal does the software decode up to 96khz, that will work for the full capability of the dragonfly since both the red and black only support up to 96khz anyway. However, it would also mean the dragonfly loses out when no software decoder is available.

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Probably not enough processing power under the hood to do the full decode. I assume the renderer part is the dac correction portion. Since Tidal does the software decode up to 96khz, that will work for the full capability of the dragonfly since both the red and black only support up to 96khz anyway. However, it would also mean the dragonfly loses out when no software decoder is available.

 

I'm sure there will be many more software MQA players soon. No reason for there not to be. The software decoder is only doing one unfold, anyway - nothing else. So, for instance 24/44.1 to 24 88.2. All the rest of the MQA decoding is done in HW.

BTW, it's been hinted that with MQA files being sent to the Dragonfly as max sample rates of 88 and 96, that you will actually be able to play MQA unfolded to 176 and 192 on the Dragonfly. Why? Because the limitation of the Dragonfly is the USB receiver chip that can't go above 96, and not the Dac itself.

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Can someone with an Explorer2 do the following experiment please?

 

Play an MQA file with passthrough selected - the blue light should light up.

 

Does the blue light come on when you set Tidal to decode?

 

I am guessing the answer is no.

 

Hi Miguelito.

 

Funny you should ask.

 

Two nights ago I selected several albums using the Tidal - "What's New / Masters" selection process on my MAC Air and checked the "passthrough" selection for my Explorer2 DAC. Under both checked and unchecked the blue light on my explorer did NOT come on as it is supposed to - it simply showed as a white light.

 

Not sure what is going on as I do not pretend to be a technical guru. If anyone could shed some "light" on what I could possibly be doing wrong it would be appreciated.

 

I will say that MQA aside this is a seriously competent DAC - sounds great. Below is a review from Australian HiFi, which I pretty much agree with, check the reference to MQA. Note the price quoted is in AUS$ but even taking the exchange rate into account you can see how we get ripped of here. I bought mine as a demo in England last May for GBP180. I think it sells for around US$300 in the states.

 

Not a lot of money to stick your toe into the MQA water as it plays very well without as a desktop or second room DAC.

 

Australian HiFi - Explorer2 DAC.jpg

 

All the best,

 

Ajax

Australian HiFi - Explorer2 DAC.jpg

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It's an 80 MHz CPU with 32 kB RAM and 512 kB flash, best case (I can't find the exact chip they use). I doubt that's enough to run the decoder.

Do you think it might be the very last bit, ie tailoring to the DAC, that's being done in the DragonFly?

RoonROCK > RAAT > dCS Rossini DAC + dCS Rossini Clock 

SME 20/3 + SME V 9” + Dynavector XV-1s > vdH The Grail

Audio Note Kondo Ongaku > Avantgarde Duo Mezzo

Signal cables: Kondo Silver, Crystal Cable phono

Power cables: Kondo, Shunyata, van den Hul

system pics

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Maybe it just turns on the blue LED. Who knows?

Funny to be using bandwidth to do just that. Just as Bob Stuart intended it.

RoonROCK > RAAT > dCS Rossini DAC + dCS Rossini Clock 

SME 20/3 + SME V 9” + Dynavector XV-1s > vdH The Grail

Audio Note Kondo Ongaku > Avantgarde Duo Mezzo

Signal cables: Kondo Silver, Crystal Cable phono

Power cables: Kondo, Shunyata, van den Hul

system pics

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Two questions:

 

1) Since we now know that the DF does not do the full decoding without Tidal's help, is the Explorer 2 the same? Or can the Exp2 playback an MQA file without help?

 

2) Has anyone directly compared the DF Red to the Exp2? They are both $199 and I'm willing to spend that to see how much of a difference it makes vs my "legacy" DAC. In theory one of these should better a more expensive DAC easily since the files are being decoded at a higher bit rate.

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The the Audiostream article in question:

 

Comments From Bob Stuart

 

  1. The strength of MQA is that one file can be played back in a wide variety of situations by the customer.
  2. The three presentations you discussed: No decode; MQA Core; Full decode are all previewed in the studio. Each is optimally set up for that presentation (with appropriate de-ringing).
  3. MQA Core (which comes out of the soft decoder or digital outputs) carries the additional information necessary for an MQA Renderer (eg Dragonfly) or a full Decoder (eg MSB, Brinkman, Mytek, Meridian) to 'finish the job downstream'.
  4. Full software decode is not possible because the DAC must be known and characterized. MQA is an analog to analog process.

 

 

So, I extrapolate that when "MQA Passthru" is NOT selected in the Tidal Desktop app, the output of the "MQA Core" decode operation is passed to the Explorer 2. In this mode the E2 behaves as a "renderer". This also means that the Dragonfly Red needs something upstream doing the "MQA Core" decoding. Meaning today, only the Tidal desktop app (no Tidal MQA mobile decoding with the DF Red).

 

So out of this discussion comes an obvious question for AQ: Is " 'full decode' on the current gen DF roadmap with a firmware update?" The answer to this question could/should be the determining factor for a consumer purchase decision.

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