How to play Tidal MQA files on a 272?

Posted by: JimDog on 13 January 2019

Is there a way to play Tidal MQA files on a 272?

i.e. can Tidal files be passed through some other (inexpensive) MQA decoder that can do the first unfolds into a format that the 272 can play?

If not, will such a box be invented soon, by Naim or by another manufacturer?

To me it doesn't make sense for Naim to sell a top end streamer with built-in Tidal service when the streamer cannot play the hi res format of Tidal.

Posted on: 13 January 2019 by ChrisSU

MQA files from Tidal will still play on a 272, or any Naim streamer. The MQA Ďunfoldingí wonít be done, but they still work. 

Realistically, the old streaming platform that the 272 runs, and that was developed quite a long time ago, isnít going to become MQA compatible. Naim did say, a while ago, that if they could see enough demand, they might consider MQA support in the future, but I wouldnít hold your breath. 

Posted on: 13 January 2019 by JimDog

But perhaps a circuit exists that performs MQA unfolding to produce signals that can be played at least by the DAC and preamp section of the 272. I'd be surprised if that circuit doesn't already exist - perhaps as a piece of software that could be run on a PC or some other device upstream of the 272...?

Posted on: 13 January 2019 by Guinnless

You can use "MConnect" on your control pad to perform the first unfold. I've tried it but still preferred non MQA versions.

I haven't yet tried comparing and MQA file from Tidal using MConnect vs Naim App as I thought Tidal supplied standard 16/44 if the control point didn't support MQA though I'm now wondering...????

Posted on: 13 January 2019 by WilcoFT
JimDog posted:

Is there a way to play Tidal MQA files on a 272?

i.e. can Tidal files be passed through some other (inexpensive) MQA decoder that can do the first unfolds into a format that the 272 can play?

If not, will such a box be invented soon, by Naim or by another manufacturer?

To me it doesn't make sense for Naim to sell a top end streamer with built-in Tidal service when the streamer cannot play the hi res format of Tidal.

Well, you can use Roon to perform the first unfold and send it to a Roon endpoint connected digitally to the 272.  Not that Roon is inexpensive. 

Posted on: 13 January 2019 by JimDog
WilcoFT posted:
you can use Roon to perform the first unfold and send it to a Roon endpoint connected digitally to the 272.

WilcoFT (or others) - have you tried this? Does this sound better than direct to 272? Does doing the first unfold in a Roon endpoint actually improve the sound?

Posted on: 13 January 2019 by ChrisSU

You donít necessarily need Roon, Tidal desktop, (and now also Android), will perform the first unfold. You just need to connect that to the 272, maybe via optical. 

Posted on: 14 January 2019 by JimDog

Tidal desktop, (and now also Android), will perform the first unfold. You just need to connect that to the 272, maybe via optical. 

That sounds good.

So is the first unfold enough? Does that improve the SQ? And does that get the most out of the MQA file?

Posted on: 14 January 2019 by Simon-in-Suffolk
JimDog posted:
WilcoFT posted:
you can use Roon to perform the first unfold and send it to a Roon endpoint connected digitally to the 272.

WilcoFT (or others) - have you tried this? Does this sound better than direct to 272? Does doing the first unfold in a Roon endpoint actually improve the sound?

Compared to an unprocessed MQA file yes the audio is improved, as an unprocessed MQA file although audible has a relatively high digital noise floor and reduced sample size.

The Roon bit is interesting.. if you want to use Roon, then the Roon Core (the Roon equivalent of the UPnP media proxy server) does the MQA processing and so you can send the processed audio to end points that are not MQA decoders.. but simply Roon endpoints.

This is how you can playback  MQA media on the new Naim streamers.

Posted on: 14 January 2019 by JimDog
Simon-in-Suffolk posted:
the Roon Core (the Roon equivalent of the UPnP media proxy server) does the MQA processing and so you can send the processed audio to end points that are not MQA decoders.. but simply Roon endpoints.

This is how you can playback  MQA media on the new Naim streamers.

Yes, that is one way - but it comes at a cost. Chrissu says above that Tidal desktop or Tidal Android version will perform the first unfold - I presume this is free to Tidal Hifi subscribers like myself. So all I need to do is connect either my PC (which has Tidal desktop on it) or an Android device (like my wife's smartphone) to the 272. That will make for an interesting test.

So if I can get a first unfold from Tidal desktop and feed that into the 272, will that get the most possible SQ out of a Tidal MQA file - as much as an MQA ready streamer would get? i.e. does the 272 do the whole of the 'second unfold' (or whatever is required to fully process the signal after the first unfold)?

Posted on: 14 January 2019 by Simon-in-Suffolk

Yes the Tidal app does the first pass processing in software of Tidal Masters.. it sounds good on headphones... less convinced on a more revealing system, but that is my personal opinion. Technically it works.

Posted on: 14 January 2019 by ChrisSU
JimDog posted:

Tidal desktop, (and now also Android), will perform the first unfold. You just need to connect that to the 272, maybe via optical. 

That sounds good.

So is the first unfold enough? Does that improve the SQ? And does that get the most out of the MQA file?

You get the first unfold done in the Tidal software, but you can only get the full MQA unfolding from an MQA enabled DAC, which Naim DACs are not. 

Posted on: 14 January 2019 by Hmack

I have never tried software 'unfolding' of MQA files using either Tidal Desktop or Roon. However, my understanding is that software unfolding potentially supplies your DAC with a file resolution of up to 24bit, 96kHz (assuming the original file resolution is 24bit, 96 kHz or more).

My experience with hi-res files (MQA or not) in general, is that the difference between 16bit, 44.1kHz and 24bit, 96kHz is more noticeable than that between say 24bit, 96kHz and 24bit, 192kHz.

It should therefore follow that the first unfold (achievable using Roon or Tidal Desktop) is more important than the second unfold which gives access to the full resolution. Whether or not this is actually the case in practice, I have no way of telling at the moment. I may get around one day to trying this with my Linn Klimax DS/1 streamer.  

Posted on: 14 January 2019 by JimDog

Is this first unfold done by Tidal desktop the same as the initial transcoding/processing that would be performed by a QNAP before it sends files to a 272 - or is that a different thing?

Posted on: 14 January 2019 by WilcoFT
JimDog posted:
WilcoFT posted:
you can use Roon to perform the first unfold and send it to a Roon endpoint connected digitally to the 272.

WilcoFT (or others) - have you tried this? Does this sound better than direct to 272? Does doing the first unfold in a Roon endpoint actually improve the sound?

Iíve done it with my NDX, but havenít done any A/B comparisons.  Iíve used a Roon endpoint (Raspberry Pi with HifiBerry Digi Plus or Just Boom equivalent) and am now using the Sonore  UPnPBridge software to convert the Roon RAAT stream to UPnP.  

Jeff

Posted on: 14 January 2019 by ChrisSU

Realistically, I canít see much point in bothering with MQA unless you have an MQA enabled DAC, which basically means that you can rule out using it on any Naim source. So far I have yet to hear anything that would tempt me to do this. 

Posted on: 14 January 2019 by JimDog

Ah - I nocticed that my cheap PC has an HDMI out, but no optical socket. I was planning to try plugging it in tonight.

But you think doing the first unfold will not make a real difference, even if I can get a good connection to the 272?

Why is that, Chris? HMack above thinks the first unfold is the more effective part of the processing.

I will try this expt anyway at some point soon...

Posted on: 14 January 2019 by jsaudio
Simon-in-Suffolk posted:
JimDog posted:
WilcoFT posted:
you can use Roon to perform the first unfold and send it to a Roon endpoint connected digitally to the 272.

WilcoFT (or others) - have you tried this? Does this sound better than direct to 272? Does doing the first unfold in a Roon endpoint actually improve the sound?

Compared to an unprocessed MQA file yes the audio is improved, as an unprocessed MQA file although audible has a relatively high digital noise floor and reduced sample size.

The Roon bit is interesting.. if you want to use Roon, then the Roon Core (the Roon equivalent of the UPnP media proxy server) does the MQA processing and so you can send the processed audio to end points that are not MQA decoders.. but simply Roon endpoints.

This is how you can playback  MQA media on the new Naim streamers.

When using the Naim app with my ND555 on Tidal I can't tell which of 2 identical album covers is the MQA and which is the regular one and so I just pick one randomly not knowing. It seems that Simon may saying that the MQA version may have less SQ if not unfolded at all. Is there a way to tell which one to choose( not the MQA) on the Naim app?

Posted on: 14 January 2019 by JimDog
jsaudio posted:

When using the Naim app with my ND555 on Tidal I can't tell which of 2 identical album covers is the MQA and which is the regular one and so I just pick one randomly not knowing. It seems that Simon may saying that the MQA version may have less SQ if not unfolded at all. Is there a way to tell which one to choose( not the MQA) on the Naim app?

Yes, I have the same problem. As we have Naim streamers, it doesn't matter that much which version we pick from a resolution POV, because our streamers will I think only stream at CD quality anyway - so the versions will all be the same on that. But I think the different versions will often also be different recordings - and I think to tell which recording it is you sometimes have to go to the Tidal app itself - although many of the names state 'Deluxe', remaster etc.

HMack says above

my understanding is that software unfolding potentially supplies your DAC with a file resolution of up to 24bit, 96kHz (assuming the original file resolution is 24bit, 96 kHz or more).

My experience with hi-res files (MQA or not) in general, is that the difference between 16bit, 44.1kHz and 24bit, 96kHz is more noticeable than that between say 24bit, 96kHz and 24bit, 192kHz.

It should therefore follow that the first unfold (achievable using Roon or Tidal Desktop) is more important than the second unfold which gives access to the full resolution. Whether or not this is actually the case in practice, I have no way of telling at the moment.

If this is correct it is worth trying to play Tidal maters from the Tidal desktop or Android versions to see whether they are better than the normal Naim app versions.

Posted on: 14 January 2019 by JimDog

certainly worth a try...

Posted on: 14 January 2019 by Simon-in-Suffolk

Jsaudio.. listen to the audio quality .. if you can not hear a difference, it doesnít matter.. if you can listen to the best version... part of the appeal of MQA is its backwards compatibility but comes at a loss of fidelity and bit depth for listening to an undecoded MQA file... certainly less than CD quality.

Elsewhere the MQA files are listed under the Tidal Masters area, but indeed I canít see that in the Naim app.

Posted on: 14 January 2019 by ChrisSU

If you use the Tidal desktop app to identify MQAs, you can save them as favourites (albeit that this may seem a little galling to some!)

Then go to the Naim app, and youíll see the same favourites list, so youíll know itís the MQA. 

Posted on: 14 January 2019 by ChrisSU
JimDog posted:

But you think doing the first unfold will not make a real difference, even if I can get a good connection to the 272?

Why is that, Chris? HMack above thinks the first unfold is the more effective part of the processing.

I will try this expt anyway at some point soon...

This is just my own experience so far of listening to MQAs. I certainly havenít heard anything that I preferred to regular CD rips etc. Neither have I heard any that sounded notably bad. I guess there are many variables in hardware, software and personal taste, so I try to keep an open mind and form my own opinions based on listening. 

Posted on: 14 January 2019 by JimDog
ChrisSU posted:

This is just my own experience so far of listening to MQAs. I certainly havenít heard anything that I preferred to regular CD rips etc. Neither have I heard any that sounded notably bad.

Is this listening to MQAs that:

1. have been fully decoded by a fully MQA-enabled device?

or 2. first unfolded (say, thru Tidal desktop) and then played thru a Naim streamer?

or 3. just played from Tidal thru a Naim streamer controlled by the Naim app without first unfold - in this latter case it would not be surprising that they didn't sound better than non-MQA files as they are in effect the same

Posted on: 14 January 2019 by jsaudio
Simon-in-Suffolk posted:

Jsaudio.. listen to the audio quality .. if you can not hear a difference, it doesnít matter.. if you can listen to the best version... part of the appeal of MQA is its backwards compatibility but comes at a loss of fidelity and bit depth for listening to an undecoded MQA file... certainly less than CD quality.

Elsewhere the MQA files are listed under the Tidal Masters area, but indeed I canít see that in the Naim app.

OK thanks. Just thought I was missing something in the app which would have told me which is which.

Posted on: 14 January 2019 by ChrisSU
JimDog posted:
ChrisSU posted:

This is just my own experience so far of listening to MQAs. I certainly havenít heard anything that I preferred to regular CD rips etc. Neither have I heard any that sounded notably bad.

Is this listening to MQAs that:

1. have been fully decoded by a fully MQA-enabled device?

or 2. first unfolded (say, thru Tidal desktop) and then played thru a Naim streamer?

or 3. just played from Tidal thru a Naim streamer controlled by the Naim app without first unfold - in this latter case it would not be surprising that they didn't sound better than non-MQA files as they are in effect the same

Iíve used Tidal desktop on a Mac, with an Audioquest Dragonfly Red DAC + Shure SE846 earphones and via optical into my NDX. 

The Dragonfly is an MQA DAC, the NDX, of course, is not.