MQA Playback & Support

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Uncheck the “Auto-detect MQA devices” option (auto detection doesn’t work for every DAC).

In the drop-down below it make sure it says “MQA Decoder device” (which it does right now).

That should be all you need to do.

I’m assuming you don’t have any Audio Units or any Audio Filters configured?

Try the above, if that doesn’t work then either the DAC isn’t reporting what it’s getting correctly or there is some other issue with the DAC itself.

One additional test if the above doesn’t work. Choose “Not MQA Device” in the drop-down. Playing that Muddy Water’s MQA album I mentioned should then show up on your DAC as 24/96. If it doesn’t, there’s something else going on.

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Well now that I have the Matrix X Sabre Pro Dac memorized and have exhausted all of the wonderful advice given by @Torq it is time to walk away from this nightmare trying to get MQA working. I’ll probably call Arthur up at Matrix and see what he has to say. I know when I’m whooped. As in the past when I walk away from something and get a new perspective things sometimes work out for the better. :scream::scream:

You’re sure it’s the “X-SABRE Pro MQA” that you have? And not just the “X-SABRE Pro”?

I ask, because they’re different models, at different prices, and the plain “Pro” doesn’t have MQA support at all.

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Ian You hit the nail on the head. I thought I knew all about Matrix dacs . I owned their last X Sabre dac. The online manual indicates MQA support. I did look at the site and sure enough there are 2 models, one with and one without. Once again @Torq 1000 thanks

If you want to play with MQA … there are four DAC/amps in the Community Preview Program (which you’ve qualified for) that do support it (all are Renderers, but the end result is the same - fully decoded MQA).

I’m going to save my personal thoughts on MQA for a bit (and they’ll be in the other MQA thread) … as they’re a bit complicated, and come from both low-level/detailed technical understanding as well as more hours than I care to think about doing specific comparisons (or as specific is possible).

It is interesting to experiment with, either way.

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Today, nonetheless turned out to be a good learning experience. Unfortunately at the expense of a lot of your time.

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I was only trying to check it out. Thankful I have a Boatload of Hi Res files.

I few notes on my MQA setup using TIDAL and ROON on MacOS. Right now, I have the xDSD wired to the Mac Mini. The xDSD is driving the input to the STAX headphone amp, which in turn is driving the headphones.

I find I had to create a new “device” in ROON. System Output selected on the Mac Volume indicator in the top bar could be set to the xDSD (or the Dragonfly if it was plugged in), but this did NOT seem to be reflected in quality on the xDSD’s quality indicator light.

After creating an xDSD zone, the magenta MQA indicator finally lit up. When being driven from the System Output zone, I would get either the Green (PCM up to 96khz) or Yellow (PCM 176/384 khz) indicators. The indicated sampling rate appeared to be double what Tidal/ROON reported in album info.

Albums were selected from those showing MASTER quality, but the Signal Path was not showing MQA rendering. Now it does. Listening to the Best of the Grateful Dead 2015 remix. Source is TIDAL FLAC 48kHz 24 bit 2ch, MQA 192kHz. Authentication is MQA Studio 192kHz . MQA Core Decoder to 96kHz with MQA signaling, This Mac (my computer) Roon Advanced Audio Transport. IFI (by AMR) HD USB Audio Output in CoreAudio Exclusive Mode. MQA Renderer ORFS 192kHz. Output = Analog Output

Oh yeah, that’s through Audioquest Evergreen to the Mjolnir/STAX amp and then to my old Stax SR-5N headphones.

Lots of words, but it sounds pretty good listening to the music. :wink:

I don’t know why it doesn’t switch correctly using the Mac System Output. Maybe others have this same experience. I also did not get the MQA using Bluetooth connection from Mac to the xDSD. I may have to test this again.

Hey @Torq see, I’m actually testing stuff out so when I write a review, the drivel content will be less than 50%.


(Reply to self)

Switched album, it all went dead. Checked connections. Everything APPEARS as if it’s playing, but no sound. I swapped in the Dragonfly, and I have sound again.

Not sure what happened. MQA is still showing active with the Dragonfly in this exact configuration. (I changed zone to Dragonfly, which I had previously created. Now to see if I can get other sound on the xDSD or if I have a “Problem”.

— minute later —

Well it’s playing OK through the Dragonfly to Grados, which it did not before… I thought it did not like Tom Waits.

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Yes, that’s typical when Roon/TIDAL does the first unfold (Core MQA decoding).

You won’t get MQA over Bluetooth. All of the Bluetooth audio codecs are lossy which changes the bitstream from the native file, preventing the MQA “authentication” from working. This is expected behavior and is part of the design-intention of MQA. So don’t spend any time trying to “troubleshoot” it!

Now it’s showing Lossless signal path, and not MQA

Swapping the Dragonfly back in, it goes to MQA…

Another swap and the MQA is back… with the xDSD.
Gamma Ray Interference?

Note there is an audible difference - in volume - higher with MQA. The rest is subtle, but there. I think the Stax are a good choice to listen for the sonic differences.

You want to make sure you create specific “devices” (Audio Zone) so that Roon can talk directly to each of the DACs in question. Once you’ve done that, and they’re properly configured, you shouldn’t see any more issues with MQA periodically not working.

As a general rule, the only time you want to use the “System Output” with Roon is if you’re actually using the host-computer’s speakers or headphone output. When you have a dedicated DAC, then you should always create a device/audio zone for it and then select that as your “Audio Zone” in Roon when you want to use it.

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That is exactly what I expected.
I think there is hope that this may change in Bluetooth version 5.0. A2DP
describes the specification for audio streaming, and it supports at least 44.1 and 48 kHz streaming, with suggested support for higher bitrates. I am not technical enough to be certain that I am reading it correctly, but I don’t see that it would not support a non-lossy streaming transport mechanism.

Unfortunately there is a lot more to this than what sample rates are supported by Bluetooth AD2P CODECs. Even 128 kbps MP3 can do 44.1 kHz sample rates. There are just FAR fewer effective bits per sample getting encoded than the constant 16-bit requirement for a lossless stream - which is required for MQA.

A much more important factor is the reliable data-rate, which due to the constantly changing bandwidth available on any Bluetooth connection (due to myriad factors including external interference, implementation efficiency, relative antenna alignment, etc.) means that even the 700 kbps or so required for a FLAC-like lossless encoding cannot be guaranteed over Bluetooth (even 5.02).


I would have expected that over typical shorter ranges that Bluetooth 5 would permit data rates significantly higher than 700 kbps. What about the use of a dual connection? Maybe we’re getting beyond MQA playback and support, and this might be better moved to Wireless headphones or similar.

In theory, in perfect conditions, it can do a theoretical 2 Mbps. In real world use, and with real-world devices, even with them sitting right next to each other, you generally won’t get that. And what you can get will change constantly.

That’s before we get into a discussion about CODECs.

LDAC, the best available Bluetooth CODEC has quality/reliability options … intended to deal with this exact problem.

Earlier this week, TIDAL announced MQA support on Apple mobile devices. I just happened along the information, it certainly wasn’t splashy.

I suspect this is because the iPhone hardware still does not support hi-res audio without some help from external hardware. I understand that even if the first unfold can be done on your iPhone, the standard headphone adapter re-samples everything down to no better than CD quality.

However, I did find that my usual “lightning to USB adapters” AKA Camera Cards 2 and 3, coupled to the iFi xDSD DAC did reliably provide high-quality MQA decoding. Far more reliably than the xDSD with my Android phablet and UAPP, OTG cable to DAC. That’s hit or miss, but it is reliable with the Dragonfly.

The above Android implementation is also a kludge, and you can have more than one stream operating without intending to, as revealed in the upper right hand corner drop-down on Android 8, “sticky fingers”.

Tidal does not provide any explanation that I could find in the current updated iOS app. If you look through the app, you will find, if you have the right subscription, a new MASTER quality choice for wi-fi, cell data, or both. After selecting MASTER quality, it says it begins after the next song change. I may have tried to jump the gun, so I did a power off then on and it was fine.

You also have, as on the desktop app, a view of MQA mastered albums. While seriously inconvenient on the desktop, where at least you can see 25 or so albums at a time, it is ridiculously inadequate on the iphone, where you can scroll through 4 at a time.

TIDAL has been promising some sort of MQA search, and they REALLY need not only MQA, but an advanced search that lets you specify resolution and perhaps album version. If you look, for example at the Rolling Stones’ “Their Satanic Majesties’ Request” album on ROON, you will see that TIDAL has several versions, including original CD, remixes, anniversary, and MQA. Curiously, I did not find the dual format CD/SACD version that I happen to own in addition to vinyl. (Silly me, I never sprung for an SACD player).

Anyway, I’m glad that I can now get MQA from TIDAL on my everyday iPhone, popping my DFB/Jitterbug and a camera adapter into my pocket, along with those real nice Cheap KZ ZSN IEMs or my usual 1More Triple Drivers. Of course that disables phone functions…

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…how did I miss this thread to start with??? Getting sloppy. but thanks for bringing it back up and giving me a chance to find more highly useful info.