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 Post subject: MQA clarification
PostPosted: Sun Nov 25, 2018 8:50 am 
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Location: Toronto, ON, CA
I upgrade in waves and after being a huge Sonos fan and living with digital out to a DAC with 16/44 for a few years, I finally learned about MQA.

Upgrading my pre amp recently with a digital input for 24/192 I started to play with MQA with my laptop and the Tidal app. I know the first level unfold yields me 24/96 which I can set on the computer and the preamp DAC recognizes.

I am used to phone/tablet control (Sonos) and want to free up my laptop to be used as a laptop. The next step up in my mind is to ditch the Sonos Connect and pick up a Bluesound node 2i.

The question is, does the Node 2i unfold MQA to 24/192 and output as a toslink so the preamp recognizes? I know the Node 2i can decode MQA and output through RCA but it would waste my preamp’s DAC. I would think it would be better than the built in Node 2i implementation.


Last edited by gsdye on Mon Nov 26, 2018 8:00 am, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: MQA clarification
PostPosted: Sun Nov 25, 2018 10:56 pm 
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Location: Calgary, AB, CA
gsdye wrote:
I upgrade in waves and after being a huge Sonos fan and living with digital out to a DAC with 16/44 for a few years, I finally learned about MQA.

Upgrading my pre amp recently with a digital input for 24/192 I started to play with MQA with my laptop and the Tidal app. I know the first level unfold yields me 24/96 which I can set on the computer and the preamp DAC recognizes.

I am used to phone/tablet control (Sonos) and want to free up my laptop to be used as a laptop. The next step up in my mind is to ditch the Sonos Connect and pick up a Bluesound node 2i.

The question is, does the Node 2i unfold MQA to 24/192 and output as a toslink so the preamp recognizes? I know the Node 2i can decode MQA and output through RCA but it would waste my preamp’s DAC. I would think it would be better than the built in Node 2i implementation.

Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk


Here's some information that might answer some questions that you may have with regards to your unit MQA decoding capability https://support1.bluesound.com/hc/en-us/community/posts/115008757508-Node2-Tidal-NO-MQA


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 Post subject: Re: MQA clarification
PostPosted: Mon Nov 26, 2018 6:46 am 
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Location: Toronto, ON, CA
tube54 wrote:

Here's some information that might answer some questions that you may have with regards to your unit MQA decoding capability https://support1.bluesound.com/hc/en-us/community/posts/115008757508-Node2-Tidal-NO-MQA


This is for Node 2 and not the new 2i

Ideally, I'd love for the Node 2i to decode full MQA and output as a digital-out 24/192 so my MacIntosh D/A can decode it.

Based on the above forum post, I think the digital out is limited to 24/96 for MQA files. I may have to use the analogue outputs from the Node 2i to get the full implementation of MQA @ 24/192. Luckily, reviews are really good for the 2i.


Last edited by gsdye on Mon Nov 26, 2018 7:59 am, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: MQA clarification
PostPosted: Mon Nov 26, 2018 6:57 am 
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Location: Mississauga, ON, CA
gsdye wrote:
tube54 wrote:

Here's some information that might answer some questions that you may have with regards to your unit MQA decoding capability https://support1.bluesound.com/hc/en-us/community/posts/115008757508-Node2-Tidal-NO-MQA




I am also contemplating stepping into the world of streaming and purchasing the Node 2i.

I have an integrated amp with DAC (non-MQA) which I feel is better than the Node 2i internal DAC. If I do get the Node 2i, I plan to have both analog and digital outs so when I am streaming regular CD quality Tidal, I use my amp DAC via coax and when streaming MQA, toggle and use the analog outs so that the internal DAC in the Node 2i does the complete "unfolding".


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 Post subject: Re: MQA clarification
PostPosted: Mon Nov 26, 2018 8:07 am 
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Location: Toronto, ON, CA
Priyo wrote:
gsdye wrote:
tube54 wrote:

Here's some information that might answer some questions that you may have with regards to your unit MQA decoding capability https://support1.bluesound.com/hc/en-us/community/posts/115008757508-Node2-Tidal-NO-MQA




I am also contemplating stepping into the world of streaming and purchasing the Node 2i.

I have an integrated amp with DAC (non-MQA) which I feel is better than the Node 2i internal DAC. If I do get the Node 2i, I plan to have both analog and digital outs so when I am streaming regular CD quality Tidal, I use my amp DAC via coax and when streaming MQA, toggle and use the analog outs so that the internal DAC in the Node 2i does the complete "unfolding".


We'll only know when we actually get it into our system if the internal DAC in the Node 2i is really that good. I think it'll be better than we anticipate. I'm just not ready to spend $2k+ for a better DAC/Streamer.

I tested a Mytek Brooklyn+ and the McIntosh C50 I bought was a better preamp/DAC combo when fed the same digital streamer signal. I went with the better pre-amp first and now searching for the better streamer. Sucks that the digital out of the Node 2i is looking like 24/96 only.


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 Post subject: Re: MQA clarification
PostPosted: Mon Nov 26, 2018 8:23 am 
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I feel the same as well. I am most definitely not going to spend $2k for a DAC/Streamer. Physical format, vinyl and CD will not be going away in my setup anytime soon. I do want to dabble in streaming to discover new artists/music.

In this regard, the Bluesound Node 2i seems to be a good option without breaking the bank. What did you think of the Mytek DAC? Killer?


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 Post subject: Re: MQA clarification
PostPosted: Mon Nov 26, 2018 8:53 am 
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Location: Toronto, ON, CA
Priyo wrote:
I feel the same as well. I am most definitely not going to spend $2k for a DAC/Streamer. Physical format, vinyl and CD will not be going away in my setup anytime soon. I do want to dabble in streaming to discover new artists/music.

In this regard, the Bluesound Node 2i seems to be a good option without breaking the bank. What did you think of the Mytek DAC? Killer?


I love Sonos around the house for casual listening. Good value since there are so many used units floating around. I knew Bluesound was "better" but it makes no difference in casual listening.

I just sold off one of my Sonos Connect for the main stereo though and cashed in some Avion points for Amazon Gift Cards (30% promotion for Cyber Monday). When the cards arrive I will order the Node 2i. In the meantime, I'm still using my laptop to get 24/96 from Tidal MQA. I'm really curious with the A/B comparisons when the Node 2i arrives. The convenience of iOS control over being tethered to a laptop is immense. I'm curious for the 24/96 vs 24/192 comparison too, if I can hear the difference. I definitely can hear the 16/44 vs 24/96 currently in my system. I stopped listening to my CD's so it's all about Tidal now.

The Mytek was no match to the McIntosh. Both were fed the same digital signal of 24/96. MC452 amp and Sonus Faber speakers at the store. The difference was immediate. I went with the better pre-amp. The built in DAC was just a bonus. The Mac phono stage is leaps ahead of my basic pro-ject one. I really did upgrade everything with one pre-amp.


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 Post subject: Re: MQA clarification
PostPosted: Wed Dec 05, 2018 2:14 pm 
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Finally picked up the Node 2i.

Hooked up digital out to the McIntosh pre amp and with RCA.

The DAC in the pre amp is better sounding than the Node 2i even if it is one MQA unfold versus full unfold with the analogue out from the Node 2i

Will play around with more tracks and non mqa tracks


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 Post subject: Re: MQA clarification
PostPosted: Thu Dec 06, 2018 6:25 am 
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After a night of listening update: without a doubt the digital out of the node 2i is better to the preamp DAC @24/96 than using the RCA out and getting the full unfolded MQA (24/192).

It's what I suspected but I shouldn't say this set up is the weakest link now in the system. I'm thrilled to not be tethered to the laptop now with the Bluesound so mission accomplished switching from Sonos/laptop for Tidal. The Bluesound as 24/96 is better than the laptop also. Even the 16/44 regular streams seem better with the Bluesound but I'm too lazy to move a Sonos Connect back to compare.

The cost to get a streamer that has a better DAC and a set of RCA that can maintain the link to the pre-amp is definitely in the diminishing return stage now.


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 Post subject: Re: MQA clarification
PostPosted: Thu Dec 06, 2018 7:47 am 
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Location: Leduc, AB, CA
The only way you get the full benefit of MQA is if you have an MQA DAC. However, typically, an MQA file will sound better than the same non-MQA version. On Tidal the better file is flagged as Master. They will usually sit beside each other in a list, the MQA file having a small "M" in a box beside it.

I don't as yet have an MQA DAC myself but understand that even a relatively underachieving MQA DAC will sound better than a upper echelon non-MQA DAC playing the same MQA file. I will upgrade my streamer before I seriously consider an MQA DAC. Hopefully, by then, there will be better choices among MQA DAC's. For now, many DAC designers/manufacturers are balking at paying the licensing fee required and many don't want to be dictated to design-wise.

To be continued...enjoy as much as you can. But please understand that you should have much better choices (hopefully not too far) down the road. Cheers!


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 Post subject: Re: MQA clarification
PostPosted: Thu Dec 06, 2018 8:06 am 
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Location: Mississauga, ON, CA
gsdye wrote:
After a night of listening update: without a doubt the digital out of the node 2i is better to the preamp DAC @24/96 than using the RCA out and getting the full unfolded MQA (24/192).

It's what I suspected but I shouldn't say this set up is the weakest link now in the system. I'm thrilled to not be tethered to the laptop now with the Bluesound so mission accomplished switching from Sonos/laptop for Tidal. The Bluesound as 24/96 is better than the laptop also. Even the 16/44 regular streams seem better with the Bluesound but I'm too lazy to move a Sonos Connect back to compare.

The cost to get a streamer that has a better DAC and a set of RCA that can maintain the link to the pre-amp is definitely in the diminishing return stage now.


Thank you so very much for your update. This is will help me decide, well, I think I will get it now..the Node 2i. I will have it hooked the same way you have, digital out to my integrated amp DAC and analog outputs to my amp to hear MQA although I suspect your MacIntosh has a much much better DAC than my integrated amp DAC. Thanks again!

Sorry, quick question: Are you using your WiFi or do you have the Node2i hardwired to the modem? My modem is downstairs and I don't have the option to move it around and hence I ask. Just wondering how good it is with regular Wifi..


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 Post subject: Re: MQA clarification
PostPosted: Thu Dec 06, 2018 8:24 am 
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Location: Toronto, ON, CA
Priyo wrote:
gsdye wrote:
After a night of listening update: without a doubt the digital out of the node 2i is better to the preamp DAC @24/96 than using the RCA out and getting the full unfolded MQA (24/192).

It's what I suspected but I shouldn't say this set up is the weakest link now in the system. I'm thrilled to not be tethered to the laptop now with the Bluesound so mission accomplished switching from Sonos/laptop for Tidal. The Bluesound as 24/96 is better than the laptop also. Even the 16/44 regular streams seem better with the Bluesound but I'm too lazy to move a Sonos Connect back to compare.

The cost to get a streamer that has a better DAC and a set of RCA that can maintain the link to the pre-amp is definitely in the diminishing return stage now.


Thank you so very much for your update. This is will help me decide, well, I think I will get it now..the Node 2i. I will have it hooked the same way you have, digital out to my integrated amp DAC and analog outputs to my amp to hear MQA although I suspect your MacIntosh has a much much better DAC than my integrated amp DAC. Thanks again!

Sorry, quick question: Are you using your WiFi or do you have the Node2i hardwired to the modem? My modem is downstairs and I don't have the option to move it around and hence I ask. Just wondering how good it is with regular Wifi..


Wifi connection.

The good thing is you can connect digital and RCA at the same time and test which method is clearer.

MQA first unfold at 24/96 is pretty good improvement over 16/44. Digital out is good enough for now. I won’t chase full MQA unfolding with a more expensive streamer/DAC.

The deals for the Node 2 are gone but there are deals for the powernode 2 if you need the power. I did get to pay a bit less than msrp on the 2i so happy.


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 Post subject: Re: MQA clarification
PostPosted: Thu Dec 06, 2018 9:04 am 
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gsdye wrote:
I finally learned about MQA.


Before going down the yet-another-hig-rez format rabbit hole, read the Mcgill University study on MQA, "A Comparison of Clarity in MQA Encoded Files vs. Their Unprocessed State (2018). A/B testing, 30 participants, mostly music students and musicians. 24/96 PCM vs. 24/48 MQA encoded by MQA.

To summarize:

"No significant differences"
"MQA encoding does not necessarily provide additional clarity over the original"
"MQA provides a smaller, more easily streamable copy of the source WAV file, while maintaining a very similar level of clarity"

Not quite the "revolutionary" improvements in the marketing blurbs or the laudatory reviews in the audio magazines. Confirmation bias, conflict of interest, or just plain old shilling? You decide...

Not to mention MQA is a partially lossy proprietary PCM-based CODEC that's losslessly compressed in open-standard file formats. The design goal seems to me to be more to provide benefits to streaming companies, i am unconvinced there is any benefit to the audiophile....


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 Post subject: Re: MQA clarification
PostPosted: Thu Dec 06, 2018 9:11 am 
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gnickers wrote:
gsdye wrote:
I finally learned about MQA.


Before going down the yet-another-hig-rez format rabbit hole, read the Mcgill University study on MQA, "A Comparison of Clarity in MQA Encoded Files vs. Their Unprocessed State (2018). A/B testing, 30 participants, mostly music students and musicians. 24/96 PCM vs. 24/48 MQA encoded by MQA.

To summarize:

"No significant differences"
"MQA encoding does not necessarily provide additional clarity over the original"
"MQA provides a smaller, more easily streamable copy of the source WAV file, while maintaining a very similar level of clarity"

Not quite the "revolutionary" improvements in the marketing blurbs or the laudatory reviews in the audio magazines. Confirmation bias, conflict of interest, or just plain old shilling? You decide...

Not to mention MQA is a partially lossy proprietary PCM-based CODEC that's losslessly compressed in open-standard file formats. The design goal seems to me to be more to provide benefits to streaming companies, i am unconvinced there is any benefit to the audiophile....


My ears say “yes” there is an improvement. I invested minimally $600 for a streamer that gives me the benefits I can audibly hear and enjoy. Step up over the Sonos Connect and more convenient than a laptop.

Still happy to enjoy Tidal’s 16/44 streams. I will not chase improving MQA with a better streamer but I had no desire to look for proper lossless 24/192 or 24/96 files. $20/month is well worth it.






Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk


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 Post subject: Re: MQA clarification
PostPosted: Sun Dec 09, 2018 1:20 pm 
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gsdye wrote:
gnickers wrote:
gsdye wrote:
I finally learned about MQA.


Before going down the yet-another-hig-rez format rabbit hole, read the Mcgill University study on MQA, "A Comparison of Clarity in MQA Encoded Files vs. Their Unprocessed State (2018). A/B testing, 30 participants, mostly music students and musicians. 24/96 PCM vs. 24/48 MQA encoded by MQA.

To summarize:

"No significant differences"
"MQA encoding does not necessarily provide additional clarity over the original"
"MQA provides a smaller, more easily streamable copy of the source WAV file, while maintaining a very similar level of clarity"

Not quite the "revolutionary" improvements in the marketing blurbs or the laudatory reviews in the audio magazines. Confirmation bias, conflict of interest, or just plain old shilling? You decide...

Not to mention MQA is a partially lossy proprietary PCM-based CODEC that's losslessly compressed in open-standard file formats. The design goal seems to me to be more to provide benefits to streaming companies, i am unconvinced there is any benefit to the audiophile....


My mind says “yes” there is an improvement.

Fixed. :wink:

I really enjoy the MQA streaming on Tidal though.


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