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Meridian explorer 2 vs AQ DF Red


bobbmd
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I realize that the firmware for DF red for MQA is not yet here but does anyone have an opinion-Which maybe the better buy the DF or the Explorer 2?

Depends on your use case. I would vote for the AQ DF Red (which I have) though I have not tried the Explorer2.

 

My reasons for portable use in favor of the AQ DF Red

1- Size

2- iPhone compatibility - Works amazingly well with the iPhone (see pic below)

3- Drive - The Red can drive even hard headphones like the Senns HD600/HD650

4- No noticeable hiss with efficient IEMs (in spite of '3' above - remarkable)

 

My reason in favor of the Explorer2:

1- Decodes MQA fully - if you play an MQA file from ANY device (assuming it's played bit-perfect) you will get full MQA decoding. If you can connect it to an iPhone easily (not necessarily true) then you would get MQA decoding today. If the iPhone TIDAL app adds MQA software decoding in the future, then this is a moot point for the iPhone.

 

If you're exclusively using in your home system to drive an amp, then the above doesn't matter obviously. However, I would say that the Red sounds fantastic, and I have read reports that the Explorer2 is less than pristine with regular PCM (ie non-MQA).

 

IMG_8833.jpg

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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miguelito- thanks, I probably will use either DAC as a MQA 'on the cheap' DAC with my home system via mac mini i7. I use a Schiit FULLA but get a lot of hiss despite a new connector from Schiit but not noticeable when music is playing.

I like the portability of the DF red as you noted above and as Chris did on his review.

Based on you and Chris will get the DF and wait for the MQA firmware.

BY the way I feel that MQA TIDAl Masters sounds great thru my Gungnir and with the magni or directly to my avr with with my headphones sennheiser hd 598 or wireless rs 195's and i actually think TIDAL high fi sounds better also.

Do you think Warner will MQAize their RHINO library

Thanks again for quick reply missed Brady's flea flicker while writing this but caught it on the replay!

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miguelito- thanks, I probably will use either DAC as a MQA 'on the cheap' DAC with my home system via mac mini i7. I use a Schiit FULLA but get a lot of hiss despite a new connector from Schiit but not noticeable when music is playing.

I like the portability of the DF red as you noted above and as Chris did on his review.

Based on you and Chris will get the DF and wait for the MQA firmware.

BY the way I feel that MQA TIDAl Masters sounds great thru my Gungnir and with the magni or directly to my avr with with my headphones sennheiser hd 598 or wireless rs 195's and i actually think TIDAL high fi sounds better also.

Do you think Warner will MQAize their RHINO library

Thanks again for quick reply missed Brady's flea flicker while writing this but caught it on the replay!

I have found many albums that sound great on MQA - Joni Mitchel's Blue is magical. I have no idea what will be coming, but I do see many of the Rhino catalog there - IIRC Aretha's is Rhino. Anyway... I'm sort of staying away a bit from the MQA discussion, I just don't really have much to say, more like a wait and see... :)

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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Just as an aside, the Explorer 2 has no problem whatsoever driving my HD600's.

Appreciation of audio is a completely subjective human experience. Measurements can provide a measure of insight, but are no substitute for human judgment. Why are we looking to reduce a subjective experience to objective criteria anyway? The subtleties of music and audio reproduction are for those who appreciate it. Differentiation by numbers is for those who do not." — Nelson Pass

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SoundQcar: will it play with an iPad air 2 or iPhone 6 using the camera kit as described by Chris in his review of the DF RED so i could use on a plane or in my car? My Schiit FULLA will not and when used attached to my MacMini there is a significant amount of hiss/static between songs that does not seem to me to bother the sound once song plays-do you have same problem with Explorer 2?

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The Explorer 2 just won't work on my iPad Pro (and by extension any other iOS device) because it just reports the device draws too much power if I use the small camera kit adapter, or doesn't say anything but still doesn't work if I use the big one. Using dual USB connector and a separate power source allows iOS to see the device but still won't connect to it. Maybe a split USB cable would work but I bet it won't.

 

The good thing about the Explorer 2 is that it has line-out jack which makes it source component friendly, while with the Red you're stuck with the headphone jack.

 

The Red is noticeably better than the iPad Pro's built in DAC. It will work with the small adapter but it severely compromised the sound with distortion, so the big adapter is a requirement.

 

It was hard to really place the Explorer 2 sound quality in relation to MQA because my main source chain is vastly superior to this little baby USB DAC. It is clear though that MQA produced clearly superior results to the lo-rez versions. When the Red firmware comes through I'll test my MQA album on my iPad.

 

 

Sent from my iPad using Computer Audiophile

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hi Bob,

 

I have both and IMO they are excellent products. I really like them both.

 

I have never A/B tested them against each other but my overall impression is that the DF Red is a very powerful (2.1V) and dynamic DAC with great transparency while the Explorer 2 is refined and musical.

 

If HD is a priority please note that the DF Red is limited to 24/96 and the Explorer 2 plays 24/192 natively.

 

I gave my son the Red to play into his NAD 3020D and it produced a very noticeable superior sound quality over the NAD's DAC but that could be because the Red plays so much louder. Currently my son (who is a capable musician) is using the Red with his iPhone into a pair of Sennheiser over the ear headphones and his comment to me was that it "just sounds amazing".

 

I don't think you can go far wrong sound quality wise with either of these devices (for the price) and I think your choice should be based more on the features you desire, as has already been alluded to above. If you are a believer in the MQA story and are looking for a permanent desktop or hifi DAC I would go for the Explorer 2 (with both line and headphone out) and if you are looking for mobility then go for the DF Red, better still if you can afford to then get both!

 

Good Luck

 

 

Ajax

LOUNGE: Mac Mini - Audirvana - Devialet 200 - ATOHM GT1 Speakers

OFFICE : Mac Mini - Audirvana - Benchmark DAC1HDR - ADAM A7 Active Monitors

TRAVEL : MacBook Air - Dragonfly V1.2 DAC - Sennheiser HD 650

BEACH : iPhone 6 - HRT iStreamer DAC - Akimate Micro + powered speakers

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In another thread it was revealed that the AQ is simply not big enough to contain the chip required to do both stages of unfolding. The Meridian is large enough to to accommodate the chip but I have seen no proof that it's actually in there. If neither contains this chip it means that the DAC will require software such as Tidal is using on the desktop app to do part of the decoding. This may or may not be a limiting factor in the future. Personally if I were buying a DAC only because it has MQA capability I would want one that can do the full decoding on it's own.

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I would wait on both. I have an E2, and confirmed the issue where an MQA specific filter stays engaged when playing a non-MQA file after an MQA one. And as the OP points out, the DFR MQA story isn't really sorted because there needs to be an MQA Core software solution for mobile devices to make the DFR viable for MQA. And currently, the only MQA Core software solution is the Tidal desktop app.

 

I suspect AQ might be waiting for said mobile software solution to be unveiled before rolling out the firmware update, and in this case, waiting is probably the best option all around.

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SoundQcar: will it play with an iPad air 2 or iPhone 6 using the camera kit as described by Chris in his review of the DF RED so i could use on a plane or in my car? My Schiit FULLA will not and when used attached to my MacMini there is a significant amount of hiss/static between songs that does not seem to me to bother the sound once song plays-do you have same problem with Explorer 2?

 

Bob....

 

Can't help ya there. I've only gotten around to using it from my laptop, specifically from the Tidal desktop app. I only bought the ME2 so I can dip my toe into MQA without much heartache to my wallet. I don't have any desire to implement it into my main system, as I'm still holding out hope that Lumin will jump into the MQA pool. That said, I have heard the same issues that GUTB reported when using it from an iOS device.

Appreciation of audio is a completely subjective human experience. Measurements can provide a measure of insight, but are no substitute for human judgment. Why are we looking to reduce a subjective experience to objective criteria anyway? The subtleties of music and audio reproduction are for those who appreciate it. Differentiation by numbers is for those who do not." — Nelson Pass

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The Explorer 2 just won't work on my iPad Pro (and by extension any other iOS device) because it just reports the device draws too much power if I use the small camera kit adapter, or doesn't say anything but still doesn't work if I use the big one.

This is the perennial problem with most USB devices. The AQ DF Red (and Black) are the only ones to my knowledge that have addressed this issue.

 

If you use the Lightning/USB3 connector with power connected to the lightning power input, then I would surmise it would work. I tried two USB DACs that reported "too much power draw" and they worked when that adapter was powered.

 

 

 

The good thing about the Explorer 2 is that it has line-out jack which makes it source component friendly, while with the Red you're stuck with the headphone jack.

Just set the volume to max and you're good.

 

The Red is noticeably better than the iPad Pro's built in DAC. It will work with the small adapter but it severely compromised the sound with distortion, so the big adapter is a requirement.

I got ticks and pops with the regular Lightning/USB adapter, had to get the Lightning/USB3 adapter with which it works flawlessly.

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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In another thread it was revealed that the AQ is simply not big enough to contain the chip required to do both stages of unfolding.

The DF Red/Black will be "MQA renderers" apparently, which means they require a first decode of the stream to 88 or 96 KHz, just like the TIDAL desktop app does. I would expect that TIDAL will update the iOS/Android apps to do such decoding on an iOS device.

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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thanks to all of you miguelito,ajax,GUTB,SoundQcar,STC for your input- nicest responses I have ever received with no one correcting my grammer(sic), use or non use of capitals punctuation or run on sentences and nothing sarcastic or belittling, the way it should be on this exalted forum.

BTW_ John Darko has a great site for MQA and DACs that support it.

I will as Ajax suggested get both and as STC suggested wait a bit before doing so.

thank you all again

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GUTB- does that mean i can connect to my avr and play out through my speaker system? and is there a special type of connector i should purchase or is it just an RCA male single plugin with a right and left RCA males to my avr thus bypassing my Gungnir?

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GUTB- does that mean i can connect to my avr and play out through my speaker system? and is there a special type of connector i should purchase or is it just an RCA male single plugin with a right and left RCA males to my avr thus bypassing my Gungnir?

 

You'll need a 3.5mm to RCA stereo adapter which will allow you to connect it to your amp/receiver like any other line source. The Explorer 2 has two 3.5mm jacks, one for headphones and one for line-out.

 

 

Sent from my iPad using Computer Audiophile

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Ajax: positively best answer and the suggestion I was hoping for to justify the dual buys to my CFO

Thanks again for thr reply

 

Hi Bob,

 

Your welcome.

 

Chris, our esteemed founder, reviewed both the original Dragonfly and the Explorer several hears ago. If my memory serves me correctly he thought both were excellent for the price but preferred the sound of the Explorer over the Dragonfly. If you search the site you may be able to find the original reviews, however, both products have undergone significant upgrades since.

 

Recently Chris revisited the Dragonfly and reviewed the new red and black here in August 2016.

 

Computer Audiophile - AudioQuest DragonFly Red & DragonFly Black Review

 

As I mentioned in my original post IMO they are both excellent products.

 

All the best,

 

 

Ajax

LOUNGE: Mac Mini - Audirvana - Devialet 200 - ATOHM GT1 Speakers

OFFICE : Mac Mini - Audirvana - Benchmark DAC1HDR - ADAM A7 Active Monitors

TRAVEL : MacBook Air - Dragonfly V1.2 DAC - Sennheiser HD 650

BEACH : iPhone 6 - HRT iStreamer DAC - Akimate Micro + powered speakers

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Ajax- E2 arrived works fine sounds great. I have used both with the headphone jack to my rs-195's and also via the in line jack to my avr and speaker setup.

The 'blue' light comes on with TIDAL 'masters'. Playing both single MQA albums and the two MQA playlists I made one exclusively of just the DEAD albums sound in either 2 channel or 7 channel sound very very good as a matter of fact I think American Beauty sounds better than my old dvd-audio disc in 7 channel.

 

Can you explain the different lights on E2- I know just the blue light means 'pure' MQA what does it mean when some of those MQA songs play and there is a blue and white light or even a blue and 2 white lights on is the sound being degraded? Like right now am listening to warren zevon 'send lawyers guns and money' MQA and the E2 has 2 white lights and the blue MQA light are on.

 

Still have Audio Midi problems it recognizes the E2 but the sound output is from built in output or even Schiit speaker device output which of course isn't even on and most i can get in format is 96000Hz.

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Ajax- i have a problem with ME2 and A+ ver2.6.5. I suddenly get no sound with either Qobuz or TIDAL playing the blue music bar at the top of A+ page moves but no sound. TIDAL/Qobuz/ROON all work flawlessly alone using their desktop apps but all of a sudden nothing from A+ i emailed Damien at A+ and called Meridian in the USA neither had an answer.

Can you help?

Am still waiting for the AQ DF RED to arrive and I hope I can fix this A+ problem especially with ver 3 coming with MQA 'unfolding'

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