Issue playing MQA files

I currrently have my Aries G2 hooked up to a Berkeley Alpha Dac Series 2 MQA (on loan). I was curious to compare its sound quality to my current dac, and also to experiment with MQA. So I am using Tidal inside Lightening DS, and have enabled MQA pass-through in the streamer settings of the Aries (and have set streamer quality to Flac MQA). I then have selected some albums from the Tidal Masters category in Lightening DS. When playing any one of these albums, the Alpha dac display should read “MQA” if it’s being fed a properly unfolded MQA file. Instead, it lists the sample rate, which signifies that it has not carried out the MQA rendering. I have spent some time trying to troubleshoot the problem, to no avail. When I use the tidal app on my desktop computer to play one of the Master Albums, it clearly indicates the streaming quality to be “Master”. While I understand that there may not be a great deal of enthusiasm for MQA on this forum, any comments or thoughts regarding this technical issue would be greatly appreciated.

You may need to check the volume control of your ARIES G2, if it is enabled, the volume has to be 100.

Hi Xuanqian,

Thanks for the reply. The volume control is not enabled.

If in this case, I would give the machine a complete reset to make sure nothing went wrong, then enable MQA passthrough.

Sorry, by a complete reset you mean?

Sorry, that’s ‘Erase all user settings’ option.

Thanks, I will give it a try. I will say, which I just checked yesterday, that I was getting the identical behavior on my Aries mini.

Hello,
@harbegg
Have you done the MQA upgrade on the Berkeley Alpha DAC ?

Hello Woodykatz,

Thanks for the message. The dac was on loan from a dealer. According to the dealer (with whom I have worked in the past), the answer is yes. When I received the dac, there was considerable documentation indicating that the MQA upgrade had taken place. The dac is now on its way back to the dealer. I have asked him to check if the MQA is working properly with the dac hooked up to a streamer of a well-known brand that he carries.

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@harbegg

My ARIES G1 plays MQA files through USB to the MYTEK BROOKLYN DAC with no issue. My MQA files are all located on the NAS.

The settings in LDS are these :

Woodykatz,

Thanks for sharing this information. Your DS Lightening settings are consistent with my settings. I see only one minor difference; you are using a USB connection (as you point out). I was using both AES/EBU and coax; the Alpha does not have a USB input. But none of that should make a difference. Maybe there is something wrong with the MQA implementation on the Alpha dac; I should find out something about that next week. Xuanqian suggested, as a test, that I do a reset on my G2. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to carry that out before returning the Alpha dac.

However, if I understand correctly, your Mytek is a full MQA decoder, whereas the Alpha dac is only an MQA “renderer”. So perhaps the two situations are somewhat different. But, believe me, I am no expert in these matters!

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G2 does not contains official MQA decoder so if the DAC is only a render (without decoder in front) then I think it may not work. By the last time I paid attention to MQA technology, it requests a decoder and render to work. The decoder can be on any device, like inside Roon software. I am not familiar with this topic but someone else may be able to answer.

Xuanqian,

Thanks a lot for the reply. I am totally ignorant in these matters, but would like to learn. I thought that when streaming a masters file from tidal, that tidal does the
initial decoding, so that if the stream passes through the G2 unchanged (without resampling, etc.) then a dac that does MQA rendering will produce a totally decoded MQA processed recording. Happy to hear from others. (Let me add that tidal masters files that have been subjected to Auralic’s resampling and de-blurring method sound very good, as has been noted on this forum before. Still, I would like to understand better what’s happening with MQA.)

Re: summary of the above discussion:

tidal masters file --> G2 MQA pass-through --> MQA rendering dac

Should this chain produce a completely decoded MQA file?

Any comments on this (or if you could point me in the right direction) would be much appreciated.

For me no. Because you need a decoder for the first unfold. If you DAC is only a renderer, it can not work. This is how I understand how MQA works. But I can be wrong :unamused:

https://www.mqa.co.uk/how-it-works

Thanks for the reply. My understanding is that Tidal does the first unfold. In fact, that seems to be what is indicated in the site you included.

Yet, as described at the beginning of this thread,

tidal masters file --> G2 MQA pass-through --> MQA rendering dac

did not work properly for me. Anyone else with direct experience with this?

The tidal app on computer or iPad can do the first unfold (or other streamer that are real MQA decoder).

If you are using pass through, the streamer assume that the DAC is a decoder and renderer.

You can let the Auralic do the first unfold (kind of) and check if you find if te quality is ok or not. But it still not the full MQA implementation. But not sure that the difference will be huge :slight_smile:

Hello,

Her you can test different formats with the 2L Label Test Bench

@harbegg

Did you try playing MQA with the LUMIN application on iPad in association with your streamer.
As you can see in the picture below the MQA file is embedded as 44,1kHz and 24bits but is played at 1.xxxMbps and my dac gives confirmation that the file is validated MQA file.

And the same with LINN KAZOO application

Deuch,

Thanks for the very clear explanation. This explains the “problem” I was having. (And helps me understand better what Xuanqian was saying earlier.)

So I think I will hold on to my Rowland dac for now, and just let the G2 do its thing. :slight_smile: