MacBook pro can support MQA via Tidal, but must my DAC also support MQA?

Discussion in 'Audio Hardware' started by seal.rock, Feb 11, 2018.

  1. seal.rock

    seal.rock Member Thread Starter

    San Francisco, cA
    I am looking at some DACs at the moment - I know there are some that support MQA, but not sure if this is even necessary or not, since the source i'll be playing it out of MacBook Pro does. Anyone know how this works? Will signal be degraded by not having a MQA-capable DAC?
  2. Claude Benshaul

    Claude Benshaul Forum Resident

    MQA decoding is a two stage process: unfold+filter.

    The first step can be done in software and this is what TIDAL does. You need an MQA compliant DAC to apply the MQA filters that supposedly give you HiRes lossless equivalent quality from the resulting 17/96 decoded stream.

    Wikipdia claim that if you do neither the playable portion of an MQA file on non-MQA compliant equipment is roughly 13bit, which should be worse than CD.
  3. seal.rock

    seal.rock Member Thread Starter

    San Francisco, cA
    Thank you very much - this clarifies it for me. Would you think the DAC built into the MacBook Pro itself is capable is handling MQA? I would assume not.
  4. Dr Tone

    Dr Tone Forum Resident

    Calgary, AB
    No it isn’t.
  5. seal.rock

    seal.rock Member Thread Starter

    San Francisco, cA
    Ok, thanks guys.
  6. Benjamin Reed

    Benjamin Reed Well-Known Member

    Get the meridian explorer 2 Dac. Cheap and sounds awesome with mqa.
  7. seal.rock

    seal.rock Member Thread Starter

    San Francisco, cA

    Thanks for the suggestion, will check it out! I have just been reading some criticism of MQA along the lines of "______ compression _____," so not yet sure how far I want to go with it.
  8. Bubbamike

    Bubbamike Forum Resident

    I won't open up another MQA thread here. Buy the Dragonfly if you want MQA decoding. Cheaper than the poor sounding explorer and much better sounding.
  9. seal.rock

    seal.rock Member Thread Starter

    San Francisco, cA
    Do you like the red or black Dragonfly?
  10. Archimago

    Archimago Forum Resident

    Red is better than Black. Same microcontroller for the MQA "rendering" but the ESS DAC is a 9016 in the Red vs. 9010 in the Black.

    Here's Audioquest's data sheet.
  11. jmacvols

    jmacvols Forum Resident

    ESS Technology :: SABRE DACs

    Excerpts from above link:

    ESS Technology, the industry leader in audio and analog design, announced today that they will introduce versions of their SABRE®audio DACs that feature integrated MQA rendering.

    Combining the MQA rendering with the DAC will eliminate all the manual tuning and software integration that is required when using a separate DSP and stand-alone DACs. The system designer won’t need to worry about the implementation at all. Automatic rendering will allow the system to instantly detect a Core MQA stream and configure the custom filter settings to give the optimal-quality output. The combined hardware blocks allow for the solution to be implemented without a DSP, saving power as well as size and cost.


    Last edited: May 9, 2018
  12. Brother_Rael

    Brother_Rael Forum Resident

    Scottish Borders
    My experience is somewhere in the middle of the above two. I have the ME2 and 3 MQA albums. As a DAC it's fine. With MQA, it's fine too. Not earth shattering, and depends on the material.

    The ME2 has been on offer recently. Mine was about £99 delivered, so falls between the cheaper AQ Black and the more expensive Red.

    I won't be pursuing my interest in MQA further.
    Bubbamike likes this.

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