MQA support within the DirectStream DAC


#1

Reading articles like this is getting me amped up about MQA. http://www.theabsolutesound.com/articles/from-the-editor-mqa-on-the-threshold/

Tidal (which I’m already a customer of and using with my DirectStream) streaming MQA is going the be the great game-changer. My question is: Is PS Audio looking into native MQA support in the DirectStream DAC? I know there are streaming devices like the Auralic Aries that plan to convert MQA to PCM bitstream so you can use any DAC, but my question is, do you lose something in sound quality going that route vs. the DAC itself decoding MQA natively. IE. DirectStream gets MQA data stream and converts directly to DSD…

-Jeff


#2

Not sure you saw the discussion here: http://www.psaudio.com/forum/general-discussions-and-miscellaneous-ramblings/meridian-audio-launches-mqa-master-quality-authenticated/


#3

Q&A: Some MQA views and statements at the CA community


#4
jtrimm said Reading articles like this is getting me amped up about MQA. http://www.theabsolutesound.com/articles/from-the-editor-mqa-on-the-threshold/

Tidal (which I’m already a customer of and using with my DirectStream) streaming MQA is going the be the great game-changer. My question is: Is PS Audio looking into native MQA support in the DirectStream DAC? I know there are streaming devices like the Auralic Aries that plan to convert MQA to PCM bitstream so you can use any DAC, but my question is, do you lose something in sound quality going that route vs. the DAC itself decoding MQA natively. IE. DirectStream gets MQA data stream and converts directly to DSD…

-Jeff

I am sure they do. Harley's amped up and all the demos they've lavished upon him speak well for why he's so excited. And Robert's a good listener, with ears I trust. To date, he hasn't taken a DAC with sound he well knows home, and listened to MQA through it with a toggle switch for on/off. Or if he has, I haven't read about the results.

No one has that I know of, except us. And we’re not impressed.

MQA is a lossy process - the music does not come out bit perfect, the process does not support DSD. My suspicion is that the wonderful improvements heard are more at the encoding end - if they have access to the masters, as they did with Peter McGrath. Their way of improving upon to digital transfer may be extraordinary.

Unfortunately, the notion they will be able to remaster the world’s catalog of music in this superior mastering technique seems a rather flawed one.

And so far, tracks we’ve heard without benefit of remastering - with and without the MQA process - aren’t something I am interested in continuing to listen to in Music Room One.

I hope they can prove to us otherwise - it’s tough being an outlier.


#5

I share your skepticism, as I have posted before.

I also note that Mr. Harley has yet to meet a digital process he does not adore. He is very much an early adopter and will forgive flaws of that which is new and different. There are good aspects to this approach, but I prefer a more jaded, critical viewpoint.


#6

MQA is purported to take more care with transients than is done traditionally. I took more care with them in the DS than most too. So in the end who did the better job? We can’t tell without more information, but the DS’s premise is that I don’t have to exist inside a single small chip and therefor have many more resources to use than any single chip solution, i.e. I can use much better filters, I don’t have to take power or time saving compromises, etc. that any single chip DAC or DAC preprocessor (like MQA) needs to take. Especially if MQA is implemented with a chip to go in power sensitive devices there are serious limits to the quality processing that it can do.

Even if MQA helps many DACs it may not help the DirectStream DACs because the DS already does a good job in those areas.

As Paul says, we need to hear what an optimized MQA implementation can offer and then compare that to what we offer, in our systems with our ears… Our experience to date is that adding something like MQA to the FPGA will definitely lower sound quality whether you are using it or not and hence it will take quite a bit of work just to get the MQAiffied FPGA to sound as good as the current FPGA code. What else could we do to increase sound quality with that work?


#7

The claim that MQA can be used when initially recording to remove/avoid certain artifacts of the specific ADC employed interests me most and sounds potentially the most promising. If indeed there are such inaccuracies and they can be avoided by adding MQA to the process.

The obvious benefit to this approach is that the resulting file would sound better on all equipment if the artifacts are removed before the file is saved. It is however unclear to me whether the playback DAC also needs MQA to accomplish this magic cleansing.


#8
Frode said Q&A: Some MQA views and statements at the CA community
Are there some specific views herein on the statements and elaborations made by Meridian MQA inventors?

Their recent explanations to the CA community members are very comprehensive.


#9

But it’s not clear to me that a high resolution ADC has any problems in this regard to begin with. I concede that MQA should be able to preserve sound quality than 16/44.1k but I don’t see any reason to assume it can beat DSD or higher res PCM that fundamentally has more bandwidth. I do think there’s room for improvement converting high res to low or medium res PCM and that MQA might well be an improvement there. I have trouble with RH’s claim that MQA’ed high res sounds better than that high res. I do believe that can easily be the case with many DACs, but not that it’s a fundamental feature of MQA.


#10
Frode said Their recent explanations to the CA community members are very comprehensive.
In their exceedingly vague, believe us on faith, sort of way. :)

I am not picking on you; I, too, want to be excited. But it is too reminiscent of the release of MP3, “CD quality at 96kbps!” “All we do is take out the information that is not needed.” Right . . . .


#11

No problem, Elk. I am not advocating MQA or being a fan boy. It is more that the long awaiting response from Bob Stuart now is printed and I am interested in any feedback/views from a technical standpoint.


#12

Yes, me, too. And I read the information you cited with interest. :slight_smile:


#13

In this afternoon’s mail came the new issue of TAS. In gigantic red type the cover proclaims “BETTER THAN HI-RES! MQA Revolutionizes Digital Audio”. I won’t have time to read the article until tomorrow, but given the sensible comments from Ted and Paul in this thread I will need a lot of convincing before I take this headline as total truth.


#14

Robert Harley’s posts on TAS seem to indicate that mqa sounds better than DSD. Of course they weren’t using the Directstream. The benefit seems to be most D/A units even with appodizing filters cause ringing (post instead of pre ringing as with traditional filters.)

Not sure how the are converting the files, but according to Harley, even existing pcm files sounded better converted to mqa. He said producers said there Master dsd files sounded better converted to mqa.

Of course Ted is doing this differently than anyone else so it may not be applicable. I have to say the softness that people hear in DSD to me is just a naturalness and ease. Perhaps this is what d/a sounds like without these timing induced errors.


#15

And now Harley claims MQA is the best thing he’s heard in his entire life as an audiophile. And I trust Robert to report what he hears - but my concern is that he’s hearing a major improvement to an OK DAC. I have heard many a Meridian DAC and honestly I wouldn’t have one of them in my listening room - their sound is just so sterile–clinical actually–and then they’ve come up with a process that helps it sound more musical, and in a big way. I think that’s great, but again, every attempt we’ve made at MQA only makes DirectStream sound worse, and not be a little.

Is MQA a panacea for improving Meridian DACs? Maybe. And that’s great, but I grow increasingly concerned that Robert is throwing so much excitement around that it is affecting the industry in an uncontrolled manner - when a more reasoned approach might better benefit us all.

Look, here’s the bottom line. If MQA helps DirectStream sound better - we’re all over it like white on rice. Why wouldn’t we? The buck or two they charge for a license bee is irrelevant. But sound quality is not.

We could never bring ourselves to do anything damaging to the sound of our equipment - and I trust you wouldn’t want us to.

Time will tell.

And I remain curious how a lossy format like MQA can make such claims of better resolution - though I would be the first to support something I don’t understand if I hear it making magic.


#16
Paul McGowan said And now Harley claims MQA is the best thing he's heard in his entire life as an audiophile.
As expected, unfortunately.
I grow increasingly concerned that Robert is throwing so much excitement around that it is affecting the industry in an uncontrolled manner - when a more reasoned approach might better benefit us all.
Exactly.

On the other hand, this is what audiophiles do. Think of the delirious excitement expressed here when yet another streaming service appears. We have gone through many. We will go through more. With each generating adoring fans.

We could never bring ourselves to do anything damaging to the sound of our equipment - and I trust you wouldn't want us to
Absolutely. Similarly, I do not want to see the adoption of a library service or anything else which, while it may add convenience and whistles, compromises the sound.
And I remain curious how a lossy format like MQA can make such claims of better resolution . . .
I remain highly skeptical as everything about MQA reminds me of the introduction of MP3.

#17

I am as guilty as Harley when it comes to excitement. Anyone that reads what I write knows I get frothing at the mouth when there’s something new and exciting. And I think Harley’s the same way.

I like passion and excitement - and hope it doesn’t stop.

But only when it applies to a specific product: a new speaker, a new amp - and I suppose, a new format too - like high resolution audio or DSD.

But when the subject’s a sweeping endorsement for the service of one company that wishes to have their technology implemented in every DAC in the world there needs to be some hesitation from the shrieks and extremes of delight.


#18

Question is, how does high-bitrate MQA compare to CD-quality PCM? If high bitrate is only available via MQA format on streaming services like Tidal, and they don’t allow streamers like the Auralic Aries or Bridge II to convert MQA to PCM, then native support in the DAC is the only other option, other than continuing to listen to 16/44 FLAC over Tidal? High-bitrate streaming is the Holy Grail of digital music sources…


#19
jtrimm said If high bitrate is only available via MQA format on streaming services like Tidal, and they don’t allow streamers like the Auralic Aries or Bridge II to convert MQA to PCM . . .
Is there any truth to this scenario?

#20
Elk said
jtrimm said If high bitrate is only available via MQA format on streaming services like Tidal, and they don’t allow streamers like the Auralic Aries or Bridge II to convert MQA to PCM . . .
Is there any truth to this scenario?
Yes of course, or I wouldn't have posted it. I own an Auralic Aries and in January they announced they were going to release the 3.0 version of their firmware with full Tidal/MQA support, demoing Tidal MQA streams playing through the Auralic Aries running this firmware at CES. Although their exhibit at CES was indeed exclusively streaming Hi-Rez MQA from Tidal, Meridian put the kybosh on it during CES and Auralic announced on January 11th that Meridian will only license MQA decoding in conjunction with an MQA certified DAC. Auralic had to delay the release of their 3.0 firmware for the Aries and rip Tidal/MQA support out of it. To say I was pissed with Meridian gutting the capabilities of my $1600 streamer at the 11th hour is an understatement.