MQA
Dec 16, 2019 at 9:06 PM Thread Starter Post #1 of 20

Stefanmz7

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Hello. I recently subscribed to Tidal HiFi(currently free trial) and I saw some songs actually are offered in their masters quality (MQA). However what do I need to hear the difference between normal high 320kbps quality and the master one? How do I actually enjoy the full quality? I currently have my Audiotechnica ATH M70x headphones and my phone. I saw dragonfly dacs had MQA playback. So is a Dragonfly Black for example enough paired with my headphones for MQA or I actually need more expensive headphones?
 
Dec 16, 2019 at 9:32 PM Post #2 of 20

Devodonaldson

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Hello. I recently subscribed to Tidal HiFi(currently free trial) and I saw some songs actually are offered in their masters quality (MQA). However what do I need to hear the difference between normal high 320kbps quality and the master one? How do I actually enjoy the full quality? I currently have my Audiotechnica ATH M70x headphones and my phone. I saw dragonfly dacs had MQA playback. So is a Dragonfly Black for example enough paired with my headphones for MQA or I actually need more expensive headphones?
Better gear will always help to possibly give better results, but you have a good starting point. Question is, what is your source for Tidal hifi, Computer, Android, or iOS. iOS, you're fine, as it will work natively. Android, you're not gonna get the benefits due to Android native resampling. Computer, with Tidal app, of course it will work. UAPP app works for Android, you have to buy it, and it's streaming only. Do some searches on here for more info. Your gear is ok. If you like it, it works for you. Definitely some more detailed headphones, and portable DSCs available, but again, you're At a starting point. Do some research regarding you're source for Tidal hifi.
 
Dec 16, 2019 at 10:04 PM Post #3 of 20

Raketen

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How do I actually enjoy the full quality? I currently have my Audiotechnica ATH M70x headphones and my phone. I saw dragonfly dacs had MQA playback. So is a Dragonfly Black for example enough paired with my headphones for MQA or I actually need more expensive headphones?

Please don't give the MQA folks any ideas about MQA certified headphones! More seriously- m70x is tuned to be a rather revealing headphone and has a specified frequency response up to 40khz (well beyond human capability), if any headphones are capable of exhibiting MQA's claims the m70x is probably one of them?

To use MQA fully you need an MQA certified DAC, like the Dragonfly with proper updates & drivers installed, and you have to make sure Tidal quality settings are set to HIFI/MQA, and Exclusive mode is enabled (if in windows you need to make sure exclusive mode is enabled in device properties as well, not sure how android/mac handle these things).

FWIW if you just want to try out hi-resolution audio or test your ears, you don't need MQA or an MQA certified DAC- even many onboard realtek dacs are capable of hi-res audio (though for truly 'bit perfect' audio, built in DAC drivers don't always allow the necessary bypass of windows audio mixer's resampling). Just need to grab some hi-res DSD files (lots of free samples out there) and set up your software/hardware for bit perfect playback (plenty of guides for this). There are also streaming services like Qobuz and Amazon HD that offer hi-res and actually lossless audio without having to worry about MQA.
 
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Dec 17, 2019 at 7:28 AM Post #4 of 20

Stefanmz7

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Ok thank you! But what do you mean exactly with device properties in Windows (device manager)? I couldn't find this exclusive mode anywhere not in Tidal settings and not in my sound driver properties. Where is it located?
 
Dec 17, 2019 at 1:11 PM Post #5 of 20

Raketen

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Ok thank you! But what do you mean exactly with device properties in Windows (device manager)? I couldn't find this exclusive mode anywhere not in Tidal settings and not in my sound driver properties. Where is it located?


In Win10 > Setttings> System > Sound> Device Properties> on the sidebar Additional Device Properties (brings you to old win7 style device window) > Advanced tab.
If your device doesn't have the capability (AFAIK requires device with WASAPI, ASIO or Direct Sound compatability) it won't be an option (as mentioned onboard audio often doesn't - you can still get high res through windows mixer but everything is resampled to windows output setting so it's not "bit perfect").

In tidal > Settings > Streaming, scroll down to Sound, Sound Output, and set it to digital output for your device. (again onboard audio probably won't work?)
Though in Tidal without the MQA supported DAC the resolution will be limited (unlike with MQA-free Hi Res streaming services or local files).
 
Dec 17, 2019 at 4:33 PM Post #6 of 20

Stefanmz7

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Thank you! I did as you told me I even enabled MQA Passthrough (which disables the software decoding of MQA),which is good right? It won't process it it will just play. But the Digital output requires a different jack at the back of the computer. It's showing me on the picture how it looks like but I can't find it on my actual computer. I think I only have the software option to use digital but not the actual jack to plug anything into for that source. If I use the standard jack for the speakers there is no sound if I set it to digital output. Why is that? How do I have the option in Windows but not the right jack to plug stuff into? If Windows displays it isn't it supposed to be actually physically on my computer?
 
Dec 17, 2019 at 6:19 PM Post #7 of 20

Raketen

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Thank you! I did as you told me I even enabled MQA Passthrough (which disables the software decoding of MQA),which is good right? It won't process it it will just play. But the Digital output requires a different jack at the back of the computer. It's showing me on the picture how it looks like but I can't find it on my actual computer. I think I only have the software option to use digital but not the actual jack to plug anything into for that source. If I use the standard jack for the speakers there is no sound if I set it to digital output. Why is that? How do I have the option in Windows but not the right jack to plug stuff into? If Windows displays it isn't it supposed to be actually physically on my computer?

I think we are talking about two different things for Digital Output- I am not referring to physical digital connections just referring to Windows & software's drop down menu to select your sound output directly... if your audio device doesn't have exclusive mode compatibility it won't do anything (some onboard audio like Realtek have a dIgital Out option but I think this is for sending to external devices via HDMI/Displayport audio output, or if it is equipped with SPDIF/TOSLINK type connections). I just happen to use an external USB DAC with drivers that for whatever reason show up as Digital Out: Device Name in these types of menus (Other devices might show up as something else, USB Audio Device etc...).

MQA has different "levels", there is software level "first pass unfolding" or whatever which gives you partial resolution, and there is hardware level that only works with MQA certified DACs which do the "full unfolding". I think MQA Passthrough means it does full decoding with MQA certified hardware... if you don't have an MQA certified DAC you probably want to have Passthrough disabled so you at least get the software level "first pass unfolding" or whatever they call it. I might have that backwards though.
 
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Dec 17, 2019 at 7:35 PM Post #8 of 20

Stefanmz7

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So I probably can't use that exclusive mode. Since if I selected digital out(mine is realtek) I think it's actually referring to the connection with external devices as you said. If I want to actually hear stuff through my 3.5mm jack the device is called Speakers (Realtek High Definition Audio) not digital output. And this device in the properties has options for exclusive mode however in Tidal there is no option to use exclusive mode with that device only with digital output. Does that mean it doesn't work at all or that just Tidal isn't able to use it?
 
Dec 17, 2019 at 8:22 PM Post #9 of 20

Raketen

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So I probably can't use that exclusive mode. Since if I selected digital out(mine is realtek) I think it's actually referring to the connection with external devices as you said. If I want to actually hear stuff through my 3.5mm jack the device is called Speakers (Realtek High Definition Audio) not digital output. And this device in the properties has options for exclusive mode however in Tidal there is no option to use exclusive mode with that device only with digital output. Does that mean it doesn't work at all or that just Tidal isn't able to use it?


I just tested out and was able to set Speakers/Realtek (not digital output) in exclusive mode in windows, and select the device in Tidal, after doing so I got one of those pink message popups in Tidal to set my windows sound device properties for 16/44 CD Quality (no idea if this prevents resampling?). Tidal also gave me the option to set Exclusive Mode (under "more settings"), but I no longer have HiFi subscription and it says it only engages with Hi-Fi/Master quality setting so I can't test that out (not that I could tell the difference anyway). Unfortuantely I don't have Foobar2000 set up on this pc ATM so I can't test it out to see directsound/wasapi works with my Realtek onboard that way.

I guess if you don't have this option perhaps your realtek model does not support tidal's sampling rates or direct sound drivers (may want to check if there are Realtek driver updates on computer' manufacturer's website).
One advantage of external DACs for people who are very neurotic about bit perfect playback is some models have lights indicating the bit depth & sampling rate being used or sometimes an app that indicates status (not sure if Dragonflies do this).
 
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Dec 17, 2019 at 9:16 PM Post #10 of 20

Stefanmz7

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Well I actually was able to enable exclusive mode in Tidal on my Speakers. And now I have my speakers(the device not the actual speakers) set to 24bits 96000Hz so as but perfect as it gets and exclusive mode is enabled both in Tidal and in the device itself and I disabled the MQA Passthrough.I listened to some Master recordings but honestly not much difference if at all. Probably will be much better if I buy a Dragonfly for example. What do you think? Will a Dragonfly DAC make a huge difference like I would actually feel the difference while listening without having to concentrate my ears? Or it's gonna be indistinguishable. Because right now MQA with all the correct settings on Tidal doesn't sound that different (still sounds great but it's not mind-blowing).
 
Dec 17, 2019 at 10:45 PM Post #11 of 20

Raketen

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Well I actually was able to enable exclusive mode in Tidal on my Speakers. And now I have my speakers(the device not the actual speakers) set to 24bits 96000Hz so as but perfect as it gets and exclusive mode is enabled both in Tidal and in the device itself and I disabled the MQA Passthrough.I listened to some Master recordings but honestly not much difference if at all. Probably will be much better if I buy a Dragonfly for example. What do you think? Will a Dragonfly DAC make a huge difference like I would actually feel the difference while listening without having to concentrate my ears? Or it's gonna be indistinguishable. Because right now MQA with all the correct settings on Tidal doesn't sound that different (still sounds great but it's not mind-blowing).

I'm afraid there's no clear cut answer. Many people struggle to tell the difference even between good quality MP3 and CD Quality (not to mention Hi-Res) even while paying very close attention. Also can't account for the differences in Tidal's quality settings, or even take for granted that their Hi Res Masters albums are the same source masters used for the non hi-res files... I have even heard a few things on Tidal that seemed to me clearly worse than my own mp3 and flac files, so no idea what is going on there.

Of course everyone is different in listening habits, music selection, hearing sensitivity and using different gear so you might easily notice differences where I do not. Changing to an external DAC might make some difference to you for a variety of reasons (less circuit noise, better amplification circuit & output power for your headphones (though from what I remember m70x are pretty easy to drive if you aren't EQing for bass boost) etc...), or you might not notice anything. I don't know the Dragonfly, but IMO it's probably at least worthwhile to try an external dac/amp even for non Hi-Res, if you don't have more important things to do with the money.
 
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Dec 18, 2019 at 7:06 AM Post #12 of 20

Stefanmz7

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Well, thanks! Yeah,you re right it depends from person to person if you can notice difference in quality. It would be really cool if I could actually try the DAC before I buy but I don't have any local shops that sell them around and if I order online payment is already done before I could try the thing. I don't know I will make up my mind. Thank you very much for the detailed responses every time!
 
Jan 4, 2020 at 2:47 PM Post #13 of 20

psikey

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Using my Dragonfly Cobalt connected to my old iPhone SE 128GB is superb for use with Tidal.

Everything plays at correct bitrate with full MQA support for streaming & downloaded Tidal tracks (unlike on Android which I use as my actual phone).

DFC also superb when plugged into a PC for Tidal too.
 
Jan 4, 2020 at 3:31 PM Post #14 of 20

max232

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Hello. I recently subscribed to Tidal HiFi(currently free trial) and I saw some songs actually are offered in their masters quality (MQA). However what do I need to hear the difference between normal high 320kbps quality and the master one? How do I actually enjoy the full quality? I currently have my Audiotechnica ATH M70x headphones and my phone. I saw dragonfly dacs had MQA playback. So is a Dragonfly Black for example enough paired with my headphones for MQA or I actually need more expensive headphones?
I like MQA, others don't. The issue for me is the lack of content in the genre that I prefer. Would I buy a DAC just for MQA playback? No. I think more importantly is which DAC chip do you prefer? Each manufacturer offers their own sound signature. For example: I myself prefer the Sabre DAC sound while others like the sound of a AK, CS, or other chip.
 
Jan 4, 2020 at 5:10 PM Post #15 of 20

slumberman

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I have a similar setup with iPhone XS Max and love it. MQA sounds awesome and the setup is super reliable !

Using my Dragonfly Cobalt connected to my old iPhone SE 128GB is superb for use with Tidal.

Everything plays at correct bitrate with full MQA support for streaming & downloaded Tidal tracks (unlike on Android which I use as my actual phone).

DFC also superb when plugged into a PC for Tidal too.
 

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