Bluesound Plays MQA

I ran into PSB's Paul Barton earlier in the day and he told me I had to hear the Doors MQA'd. And boy O boy, am I glad I did.

The system in use consisted of the Bluesound Vault 2 ($1199) performing serving, MQA decoding, and DAC duties, connected to the NAD C375BEE Stereo Integrated Amplifier ($1499.99) driving the Barton-designed PSB Imagine T3 Tower speakers ($3749/ea.). I've been listening to "Riders On The Storm" from L.A. Woman for nearly 4 decades; on LP, cassette tape, CD, and 24/96 download.

While I'm still attached to the original LP, for any number of reasons, this MQA version is among the most extraordinary sounding digital I've heard. There was a uncanny soft naturalness to Jim Morrison's voice that belied both the digitalness of the format and the relatively modest system in use. Every other musical aspect of "Riders On The Storm" was given the same natural, or perhaps better stated as you-are-there, sound. Stunning.

Bluesound also offered a subtle nod to audiophiledom by using cheap RCAs. That DAR's John Darko giving them the thumb's up. Note that this presentation was presented as a "Proof of Concept" meaning you can't get this stuff, yet.

COMMENTS
Bill_k's picture

The price of the PSB Imagine T3 Tower speakers is actually $3749 each, or $7,498 per pair.

Michael Lavorgna's picture
Fixed!

Cheers.

24bitbob's picture

Michael,

I read this article with interest and then no small amount of dismay.

I have two set-ups, my headphone rig, and my main big room set up, each fed with FLAC/DSF. I'm very happy with both, having spent years getting equipment, cables and software to a place that I like. I was sure I could now 'get off the merry go round' of upgrading /swapping out stuff for a while.

My understanding is that MQA requires new hardware, and new 'encoded' files. Is that the case, or are you aware of any way of adapting / modifying existing systems?

I was believing that I had reached a nice happy place to be. I hope I'm still not far from there, but I have a feeling of unease now.

Thanks for the great work.

Bob

Michael Lavorgna's picture
Better is always better, no? I'm going to write up a separate MQA post where I'll (try to) relay real information. For now, the important thing to keep in mind is MQA can make digital music sound much better, imo of course.
StreamMusic's picture

It is interesting to see in order to playback MQA, one need to purchase new encoded MQA file and also a new certified MQA DAC. For users who have already enjoying playing Hi-Res this type end to end implementation is definitely not going to be appealing. I'm definitely not going to upgraded my $4000 DAC and re-invested my music collection just to play MQA. That's sound madness to me.

Michael Lavorgna's picture
...via Tidal's streaming service so you don't have to purchase downloads to enjoy the benefits of MQA encoding.
StreamMusic's picture

Hi Michael, I'm not sure Tidal will provide MQA software decoding as part of the program otherwise it has to decoded back by a certified MQA DAC, one such example is Mytek Brooklyn DAC used in the CES 2016. Here is the link... http://www.audiostream.com/content/mqa-mytek-and-ab-c-will-come-later#r5...

Michael Lavorgna's picture
Yes, at present, MQA decoding is only available as a hardware solution. My point was in reference to the last part of your comment, "I'm definitely not going to upgraded my $4000 DAC and re-invested my music collection just to play MQA." With Tidal streaming MQA encoded files, you do not need to buy downloads.
24bitbob's picture

.... I'll answer my own question: if I'm happy with what I've got I will stick with it, and enjoy it.

But the hobby that is HiFi doesn't usually work that way!

I bet you're now wondering what other albums would sound wonderful with the MQA treatment?

Have a great day,

Bob

Michael Lavorgna's picture
But if someone is willing to make me happier...

Cheers.

24bitbob's picture

... yep, but my credit card was at $0 this mnonth, and my 'better half' was cool with that too.

I'll bump my gums for a while, but I'll probably sign up for the ride; in a while though.

Thanks

Bob

howardk's picture

Hi Michael. Shouldn't it be possible for MQA decoding to be licensed and included in media players, like JRiver? That could provide a software solution that wouldn't require hardware upgrades.

Michael Lavorgna's picture
...that MQA is an end-to-end solution. If you prefer, think of MQA as an analog to analog solution. The MQA encode and decode process necessitates knowledge of the hardware used for A/D conversion as well as D/A conversion. As such, while a software-based solution is certainly possible, it is reliant upon the ability to discover the DAC it's sending MQA decoded files to in order for the resultant analog output to be "Authenticated", the "A" in MQA.
Petter A's picture

And in particular "Riders On The Storm". Its an all time favorite of mine :-)

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