MQA Blue Is The New Black

In a few short weeks, or long weeks depending on to what extent you've been infected with the audiophile bug, AudioQuest DragonFly Red & Black owners can download and install the free AQ app which facilitates a firmware upgrade turning your 'Fly into an MQA-enabled DAC.

The cost? Free.

If you're thinking, "Well the DragonFlys are limited to 24/96," you like me, would be wrong.

dadracer's picture

Will this be a Windows/Mac desktop app? Or are you not allowed to say?

miguelito's picture

The firmware update app will likely be Windows, Mac and nothing else. Once the Dragonfly can decode MQA, you should be able to decode MQA on any platform that allows to send a bit-perfect stream out. So for example, the iPhone should be able to decode MQA if you play an MQA file in the Tidal app, even if the iPhone app does not offer MQA software decoding (but will surely come at some point).

dadracer's picture

Thanks for the feedback and it is as I had hoped, so now waiting with significant anticipation...........

mlgrado's picture

Well, the TIDAL app decodes MQA and sends it out as either 88.2khz or 96khz. So I guess any DAC that can do up to 96khz is 'MQA' ready, and would only need the appropriate decoder?

miguelito's picture

MQA decoding in hardware includes an additional "DAC profile" which supposedly makes the decoding higher quality. The software decoding option does not offer this very last step.

mlgrado's picture

furthermore, I think the limit with the Dragonfly would be the USB interface. The DAC itself is obviously capable of more.

If I am understanding MQA correctly, the most typical application is 'packing' the studio master, along with the other proprietary MQA quality DSP into a 24bit 44.1 or 48khz file.

That could of course be passed through to the Dragonfly DAC. The MQA decoding would likely happen past the USB interface, where the actual DAC could handle as much as the internal clock could handle. So things like 176.4 and 192khz would be no problem.

jhwalker's picture


I think they've consciously limited the DragonFly to 96/24 to avoid any issues with USB interface / drivers. Since the MQA files are compressed so they look like 24/48 (max) FLAC to the hardware, the files should pass unmolested to the DAC, who can unfold it to whatever the internal hardware is capable of processing (even up to 8x speeds?).

miguelito's picture

The USB2 interface supports plenty of bandwidth for DXD/DSD128. No that's not the bottleneck.

jhwalker's picture

I didn't say a USB interface is *incapable* of passing higher than 88 or 96k, because of bandwidth limitations or any other reason. I said that AudioQuest have *deliberately chosen* to limit the USB interface (either artificially; i.e., the USB interface they use is *capable* of accepting higher resolution, but the firmware they use prohibits it, or physically; i.e., the hardware they've chosen is limited to 96k), potentially to avoid any confusion for Windows users (i.e., to avoid having to write / release / maintain drivers for Windows users).

Many of the dongle DACs were originally limited to 96k but have later been updated to keep up with the Jones'. AudioQuest has not chosen to do this yet.

bmac78758's picture

...was through the new Tidal streaming capability to a BlueSound device (with MQA-capable DAC) I own. I have to say, there is definitely a difference. Even my wife heard it - who normally eschews "audiophile bullshit." So far, it's not a "blown-away" difference, but more like a "Why is there a blanket on my speaker" now kind of sound when I listen to non-MQA music. I was skeptical at first, but I certainly get it now after only a couple of days...

MilesFerg's picture

I've been using the "passthrough MQA" setting to send to my DAC, which is non-MQA. If I uncheck this, will the Tidal app first 'unfold', etc. the MQA and then send the full decoded digital stream to my DAC (24/192 capable) for conversion to analog? Essentially, would this make my DAC MQA enabled? Are there any limitations due to the MQA decoding happening prior to going through USB to the DAC?

jhwalker's picture

Though no one has specifically stated it, what it appears the Tidal app does is provide decompression of the MQA stream, but *only* up to 88.2 / 96 - full resolution is not available in the software decoder.

So an MQA-enabled DAC is necessary to get full resolution (of any tracks that were offered at more than 96) and to get any DAC-specific tweaks. And you should probably turn off the MQA passthrough setting if you don't have an MQA DAC - not sure you're getting much out of that ;)

miguelito's picture

Unchecking "passthrough" makes the Tidal app unfold the MQA encoded file (ie decoding it). If instead you check that option and use an MQA DAC, it is supposed to be better because the decoding on the DAC includes a DAC profile to "improve" the sound out of that particular DAC.

miguelito's picture

Is that light "Blue"?

Wavelength's picture


Yes the Device Manager will be available on both macOS and Windows (7-10). This is a full application which will pull the necessary files from the AudioQuest cloud and update to the latest versions.

I designed Red & Black DragonFly's with UAC1 (Full Speed USB, 96KHz max) because of current usage. All high speed devices would alone use more than 2x that of these DragonFly's just for HS USB. We all wanted them to work on all platforms: desktop, laptops, phones and tablets.

All of us are jumping through the final hoops to get everything in place so that this can happen soon.

It's a very exciting time for Audio!


F0dda's picture

So this is where I've run into difficulty trying to get Tidal Masters working effectively through the DFB.

Under Win 7 or 10 (Sound \ Playback \ Device Properties \ Advanced) the DFB only presents "24 bit, 44,100 Hz (Studio Quality) as its lowest setting.

However, in Tidal Settings \ Streaming with checkboxes "Use Exclusive Mode" and "Force Volume" I get the error message "TIDAL requires you to set your system sound settings in Control Panel to "16bit, 44100 Hz (CD Quality)" in order to play tracks correctly so I can't actually use the DACs capabilities as intended.

After much investigation, I found a workaround involving routing audio through JRiver Media Centre 22 ( - at which point the DFB shows Magenta for Masters and Green for HiFi Tracks through Tidal and the sound is absolutely amazingly open and controlled!

Unfortunately, with this workaround, the Volume resets to full with each change in tracks making this option actually untenable for any more than one track at a time.

Conclusion and request for help: Has anyone had the same experience with Windows or found a driver or setting that enables the DFB to present a "16bit, 44100 Hz (CD Quality)" reading to Windows to enable Tidal to "use" the DFB in Exclusive mode?

As far as I can figure this will be necessary for the DFB to work correctly with Tidal post upgrade so that we can get the greater benefit of MQA too. Or does the DFR handle and present differently to Windows?

As it stands I can't see a way to get the benefit of the DAC within Windows without a lot of workarounds and different software (JRiver / Roon, etc) - which makes this less than a plug and play or working experience at the moment. It also means that we can't take advantage of Master quality tracks in Tidal which was my main reason for buying into Dragonfly range.

All help and advice very much much appreciated!

Michael Lavorgna's picture
By DFB, I assume you are talking about the DragonFly Black?

If so, the MQA firmware update for the DragonFly has not been released so your DFB will not currently decode MQA files. Once the firmware update is ready, along with the AudioQuest desktop app which you need to perform this update, then you should not have these issues.

Make sense?

F0dda's picture

Hi Michael

Thanks. Kind of. And sorry for the acronyms - I'd picked it up from other forums. DFB is Dragonfly Black, DFR the other one!

The issue I'd described is the inability for Windows to see the Dragonfly "properly" to enable full ("exclusive") use of the Dragonfly within Windows 7 or 10. Which then flows through to effective use in Tidal, as it won't enable Exclusive use in the application.

Which, as far as I can tell results in Windows colouring and interfering with the audio track before it reaches the Dragonfly.

The difference at the moment while running the Dragonfly through JRiver in Exclusive mode is absolutely amazing - bearing in mind that the MQA unfolding is being handled by the Tidal desktop application.

If you are suggesting that all of these issues will be fixed in the upgrade, then that is excellent news!

Otherwise, I suspect the benefit of native MQA decoding will be outweighed by the less than optimal use of the DAC in Windows.

Michael Lavorgna's picture
Have you contacted AudioQuest?
F0dda's picture

After further investigation, and some trial and error, I've found that turning Windows System Sounds off allows me to use Exclusive mode for the DAC with Tidal. Curiously, though only with Master 96KHZ streams. Anything less causes Tidal to switch output from the DAC / and or play nothing.

So the problem may relate more to Tidal than Dragonfly. So, I've now sent requests into both AQ and Tidal.


struts's picture

13 loooooong weeks and counting..

struts's picture