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AudioQuest adds MQA Support to Dragonflies via firmware


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1 hour ago, DarwinOSX said:

 

 

I suppose everyones ears are different but I can easily hear the difference.

 

With these headphones at least, I haven't found a song where I can loop a playlist of the non-MQA and MQA versions, get up from my desk and come back after some random period of time and tell which version is currently playing.  I didn't think of it until now, but I should get my SE535s out of my bag and try those... they are a 'bit' more revealing :)

 

The pass-thru setting didn't seem to make a difference, the lights on the E2 still light up just the same for any given song and no noticeable difference in SQ.

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3 hours ago, mrvco said:

I got the E2 yesterday afternoon.  I've been comparing the HiFi and Master versions of some songs that I listen to regularly.  My modest desktop setup includes a MacBook Air and Sennheiser Momentum headphones.  I have not heard a demonstrable difference yet between the HiFi and MQA versions.

 

I haven't found a single "MQA" (green light) stream yet, everything regardless of vintage shows up as "MQA Studio" (blue light).  Apparently there are MQA Studio streams that are 'only' 24/48 (blue light only), which I thought was the source stream (fully compressed w/ no MQA decoder).

 

I haven't a/b'd the E2 with my Schiit Fulla yet, but I'm definitely missing the external analog volume control.

 

I'll try the E2's line-out with my 2ch rig this weekend and see how that sounds.  I up-convert Tidal streams to DxD or DSD128 using HQP, but the E2 doesn't support DxD or DSD, so unfortunately that won't be an apples to apples comparison.

mrvco.  I'm not sure what you are expecting from the 'green light'.   According to this article, the only difference between green and blue lights are that the blue versions have been approved by the artist or producer.  https://www.stuff.tv/features/everything-you-need-know-about-mqa-future-music-streaming

 

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6 minutes ago, tomster said:

mrvco.  I'm not sure what you are expecting from the 'green light'.   According to this article, the only difference between green and blue lights are that the blue versions have been approved by the artist or producer.  https://www.stuff.tv/features/everything-you-need-know-about-mqa-future-music-streaming

 

 

I just expected to run into some tracks that weren't "MQA Studio" (particularly older tracks where the artist and/or producer may no longer be available), but so far that hasn't happened yet.

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8 minutes ago, tomster said:

mrvco.  I'm not sure what you are expecting from the 'green light'.   According to this article, the only difference between green and blue lights are that the blue versions have been approved by the artist or producer.  https://www.stuff.tv/features/everything-you-need-know-about-mqa-future-music-streaming

 

 

I think that might be different depending on the DAC.  Meridian just says it plays blue if its MQA.

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35 minutes ago, mrvco said:

 

Where is that setting in the Tidal desktop app?  I thought I remembered seeing it in the past, but when I looked last night, I couldn't find it.

 

edit: Whoops, never mind.  I wasn't hovering my mouse pointer over the appropraite blank space for the little gear icon to appear next to the device.

 

Yeah it isn't obvious.

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I had a chance to connect the E2 to my 2ch rig inserted between my µR and preamp.  This is a nice DAC (independent of MQA) , detail is good, soundstage is good, the overall sound is nice and full.  My only outright complaint so far is some listening fatigue from the high frequencies (not as evident with my headphones), but that will probably diminish to some extent with break in.

 

The additional detail in the Hi-Res streams is subtle, but there seems to be that little bit of extra clarity at the edges as compared to the 16/44 streams.  The soundstage just doesn't seem to open up enough to pick out those little details using my MacBook Air and either of my headphones.

 

I'd still prefer to buy music for my collection in a non-proprietary format and not limit my DAC options (now or in the future), but if my DAC of choice just so happened to support MQA, then it's probably a nice little perk for subscribing to Tidal.

 

One oddity, there is an MQA version of Icky Thump from The White Stripes on Tidal and when I play it, the little blue light on the E2 comes on, but neither the 96 or 192 KHz lights illuminate.  I checked the bit-rate and resolution as reported in Roon and Roon reports the stream as 16/44.1, while the other MQA content that I've played reports MQA streams as 24/48.  I'm not sure what's going on there, but it seems that something is amiss with the MQA version.

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  • 4 weeks later...

The firmware upgrade (and associated desktop management software) is now available:

 

http://www.audioquest.com/digitalupdates

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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53 minutes ago, DarwinOSX said:

 

I wonder how this compares to the Meridian Explorer 2.  Will the Dragonfly do the full unfold?

As @mansr said, no it won't. This means it will only render MQA on desktops currently, either via playback of an MQA file via Audirvana or an MQA stream via either Audirvana or the native TIDAL app. Once the iOS/Android TIDAL apps allow unfold (which surely has to be coming soon) then you could use the DF on those mobile devices to render the MQA data.

 

It would be interesting to see if anyone who UNINTENDEDLY captured the unfolded MQA stream out of the TIDAL app, and INADVERTEDLY transferred the captured file to an iOS device only to FORTUITOUSLY use the Onkyo HF Player app to play back said file through an INTENTIONALLY updated DF would see it render the MQA file appropriately.

 

Which brings up the question... Is there an indicator, such as the colored sample rates on the DF (which are super useful), that would indicate MQA rendering is ON?

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

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13 minutes ago, miguelito said:

Which brings up the question... Is there an indicator, such as the colored sample rates on the DF (which are super useful), that would indicate MQA rendering is ON?

 

As far as I can tell, no :/  It only uses the same lights already defined:  

 

Red: Standby Green: 44100.0 Hz Blue: 48000.0 Hz
Amber: 88200.0 Hz Magenta: 96000.0 Hz 

 

I'll be spending some time later today to see how it works with the various desktop playback sources (e.g., Tidal, Audirvana, Roon, etc.) on known MQA material and at various sample rates.

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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32 minutes ago, jhwalker said:

 

As far as I can tell, no :/  It only uses the same lights already defined:  

 

Red: Standby Green: 44100.0 Hz Blue: 48000.0 Hz
Amber: 88200.0 Hz Magenta: 96000.0 Hz 

 

I'll be spending some time later today to see how it works with the various desktop playback sources (e.g., Tidal, Audirvana, Roon, etc.) on known MQA material and at various sample rates.

Rendering will have to be to a higher bitrate than 96 I would think. This is in principle possible as the DAC chip itself can go to 384 - AFAIK it is the controller that is the source of the limit. My understanding is that the rendering involves setting upsampling parameters (extracted from the unfolded MQA PCM stream) for the DAC to use.

 

The only apps that can produce an unfolded PCM stream are Audirvana and TIDAL at the moment, so Roon is of no use in decoding MQA at the moment. I suppose you could be a Roon beta tester in which case maybe you have a beta version of Roon with the unfold lib built in... :)

 

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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1 minute ago, miguelito said:

Rendering will have to be to a higher bitrate than 96 I would think. This is in principle possible as the DAC chip itself can go to 384 - AFAIK it is the controller that is the source of the limit. My understanding is that the rendering involves setting upsampling parameters (extracted from the unfolded MQA PCM stream) for the DAC to use.

Judging by the specs of the microcontroller in the DF, I estimate that it is too slow to do even the rendering part. Therefore I suspect all it does is set the upsampling filter coefficients in the ESS DAC chip according to the parameters indicated by the input stream.

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2 hours ago, mansr said:

No, its microcontroller isn't powerful enough for that.

 

I think AQ will come out with a 'Patch' that will be a binary that runs on the parent OS ahead of the Dragonfly to get full MQA support.

 

Bob Stewart will absolutely not call it an 'application'. 

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55 minutes ago, mansr said:

Judging by the specs of the microcontroller in the DF, I estimate that it is too slow to do even the rendering part. Therefore I suspect all it does is set the upsampling filter coefficients in the ESS DAC chip according to the parameters indicated by the input stream.

 

If the Dragonfly isn't doing rendering with its firmware update, what exactly IS rendering meant to be? I thought the dragonfly was the only MQA renderer on the market. Are you saying that proper MQA unfolding needs to do more than just upsampling (like applying a FIR filter, as per the patents) ?

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11 minutes ago, abrxx said:

If the Dragonfly isn't doing rendering with its firmware update, what exactly IS rendering meant to be? I thought the dragonfly was the only MQA renderer on the market. Are you saying that proper MQA unfolding needs to do more than just upsampling (like applying a FIR filter, as per the patents) ?

Rendering is upsampling with specific filter coefficients. If the DAC chip allows programming arbitrary filters, as the ESS ones do, it can be made to perform the task. The microcontroller parses the metadata encoded in the incoming PCM stream and sets the DAC parameters accordingly. At least that's the only way I can see it working given the constraints.

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Just now, mansr said:

Rendering is upsampling with specific filter coefficients. If the DAC chip allows programming arbitrary filters, as the ESS ones do, it can be made to perform the task. The microcontroller parses the metadata encoded in the incoming PCM stream and sets the DAC parameters accordingly. At least that's the only way I can see it working given the constraints.

 

So can the Dragonfly do MQA rendering or not? :) Or are you saying it can approximate it, but perhaps other devices can do a better job?

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Here's a screenshot of Audirvana playing with an upgraded DragonFly Red (firmware 1.06) - clearly shows input and output both at 352.8:

 

 

Audirvana Plus 2017-05-17 14-08-47.png

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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2 hours ago, jhwalker said:

 

As far as I can tell, no :/  It only uses the same lights already defined:  

 

Red: Standby Green: 44100.0 Hz Blue: 48000.0 Hz
Amber: 88200.0 Hz Magenta: 96000.0 Hz 

 

I'll be spending some time later today to see how it works with the various desktop playback sources (e.g., Tidal, Audirvana, Roon, etc.) on known MQA material and at various sample rates.

 

I'll correct myself here - MQA content turns the light a *darker shade of* Magenta.  You can clearly see the difference when playing back normal 96k content, then changing to MQA.

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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1 hour ago, mansr said:

Judging by the specs of the microcontroller in the DF, I estimate that it is too slow to do even the rendering part. Therefore I suspect all it does is set the upsampling filter coefficients in the ESS DAC chip according to the parameters indicated by the input stream.

Yes, that was my expectation as well.

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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15 minutes ago, jhwalker said:

Here's a screenshot of Audirvana playing with an upgraded DragonFly Red (firmware 1.06) - clearly shows input and output both at 352.8:

 

 

Audirvana Plus 2017-05-17 14-08-47.png

Fabulous!

Lossy music at 352KHz!!! (I could not help the bitchy comment... :) )...

 

BTW... Since Audirvana is a mac program, are people on Windoze not able to unfold MQA files?

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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28 minutes ago, abrxx said:

So can the Dragonfly do MQA rendering or not? :) Or are you saying it can approximate it, but perhaps other devices can do a better job?

MQA "rendering" is nothing more than upsampling using a specific (FIR) filter. DAC chips upsample their input to the operating rate of the sigma-delta modulator. A DAC chip with programmable filter coefficients, such as the ESS chip in the DF, can thus be used as an MQA renderer together with a piece of code (small enough to run on a microcontroller) that extracts the filter parameters from the incoming PCM data.

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Just now, mansr said:

MQA "rendering" is nothing more than upsampling using a specific (FIR) filter. DAC chips upsample their input to the operating rate of the sigma-delta modulator. A DAC chip with programmable filter coefficients, such as the ESS chip in the DF, can thus be used as an MQA renderer together with a piece of code (small enough to run on a microcontroller) that extracts the filter parameters from the incoming PCM data.

 

Thanks for confirming, I was just unsure what you meant by saying that the micro-controller is too slow for even rendering. But since the DAC (in this case) can basically do the job of the MQA rendering, its a mute point.

 

So where does the DAC specific/file specific management happen? This is also part of MQA rendering according to Bob. Is that also done just by selecting DAC filter parameters?

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