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Android or Windows as Tidal source - with EQ

Smilesy

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Hi All,
I've recently gotten some Focal Clears which is massive upgrade compared to my Hifiman Drop x4s. I do prefer listening to them with an EQ tweak, which I can do either on Windows using Equaliser APO (and peace) or on my Android phone using USB Audio Player Pro and the Toneboosters EQ. Either way I'm plugged into my FIIO K5 Pro.

From what I can tell USB Audio Player Pro will adapt the sample rate (and bit depth) for each track, and on windows unless I'm using exclusive mode in Tidal (and then I can't EQ) it will be up sampling everything to whatever I have set in the windows settings. Firstly is that correct? Secondly if that is does it mean I would be better off streaming from my phone rather than my PC?

I've tried to do some A/B testing but due to the volume differences I'm really struggling with it.
 

Zardozz

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That is correct, if you're in exclusive mode you will bypass Peace APO, and some other APO's like Windows Volume APO and maybe who knows what other slimy gollum APO's are hiding in the windows sound stack.

Are you better off streaming from your phone because you can't use Exclusive mode? Only you can be the judge of that, but here are some thoughts

1. There are just lots of variables all over the place. You got a small minority of Tidal tracks being MQA, which require exclusive mode for a first unfold.
2. When in non-exclusive mode, you've got the question of upsampling and leaving things in the Windows Audio stack (with lots of alleged hocus pocus to degrade sound quality), as well as noise potentially coming through the USB line (I don't know how good K5's isolation is), VS., Android running on battery power and probably changing sample rates accurately, and an EQ that's probably nowhere near as pro as Peace APO.

So what this means really is to do some science. AB testing with equalization on both and see which sounds better. Pick some favorite audiophile tracks and just relax, don't try too hard. Listen back and forth between both over a longer period of time, not OCD manic A/B switching, which tends to get you out of the relaxed musical enjoyment state needed to pick up on very subtle differences. Analyzing how one little note sounds is fatiguing and hard to do. But longer periods of being showered with one sound signature then switching to a longer period with the other, will be revealing...

or not, because there's a good chance that "bits are bits" and "upsampling is small enough difference to be inaudible" will hold true.

Welcome to ASR and let us know what you figured out.
 
OP
S

Smilesy

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Thanks, I'll have a go at that when I'm back home next week
 

Grooved

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...
1. There are just lots of variables all over the place. You got a small minority of Tidal tracks being MQA, which require exclusive mode for a first unfold.

Hi, not sure this sentence is correct. The first unfold (decoding) is down in the Tidal app, so before sending to any device or Windows mixer. It doesn't require exclusive mode at all to be done. Exclusive or shared mode, first unfold is done or not depending on your choice in the app (Passthrough MQA)
 
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Vincent Kars

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It probably applies to the last unfolding, the implementation of the MQA filters and the oversampling as done by the DAC. The DAC must detect the watermark in the audio. If you apply any kind of DSP, you very likely destroy this watermark.
Anyway, as Tidal is replacing MQA by FLAC, we get rid of this problem pretty soon.
 

Vincent Kars

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Firstly is that correct?
Yes.
I don't know what EQ settings you are using but I wouldn't be surprised at all if the EQ has much bigger impacts than any re-sampling done by Win.
This I do think a good read: https://www.audiosciencereview.com/...nding-the-windows-audio-quality-debate.19438/
My summary: https://www.thewelltemperedcomputer.com/SW/Windows/SRC.htm

due to the volume differences I'm really struggling with it
Play a single test tone and measure the voltage. https://www.audiosciencereview.com/...dac-amp-with-a-multimeter.36996/#post-1608273
 

Grooved

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It probably applies to the last unfolding, the implementation of the MQA filters and the oversampling as done by the DAC. The DAC must detect the watermark in the audio. If you apply any kind of DSP, you very likely destroy this watermark.
Anyway, as Tidal is replacing MQA by FLAC, we get rid of this problem pretty soon.

Yes, maybe it was just mistake on the word (first instead of last).
And indeed, you can't EQ or any DSP before the DAC, unless done with Roon which is the only software I used that can keep the MQA tag in order to let the DAC do the rendering.
 

Zardozz

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Apologies for my wording mistake.

I believe it to be the case that:
1. Tidal app does a FIRST unfold if "Passthrough MQA" setting is OFF, and no client/software unfolding if that setting is ON.
2. The DAC if MQA enabled would do further unfolding only if Exclusive Mode is on. So if you don't have an MQA dac it's a moot point anyway.

Bitperfect exclusive mode vs non-exclusive (which causes re-sampling) -- I find the former to usually sound a tad better. Yet the advantage from that is generally not as large as the benefit from applying a good EQ, if the track or headphones benefit from that EQ.

There is another variable here. There is potentially an extreme amount of OCD audio-nervosa tweaking that can alter the difference between how exclusive and non-exclusive mode sound the same or different. In theory if there is a flat EQ they should sound the same, right? In reality, for most people it's a rather radical difference because the Windows Audio Stack thinks it knows better than just letting the bits go to the DAC, and gets right to work at doctoring them up.

For a lot of people, they experience a big boost in volume when in exclusive mode (which makes it seem better in AB testing for some people.)

I've finally come out of the tunnel of 5 or 6 months of battles on this to where toggling exclusive/non-exclusive finally has almost zero effect (nano-difference remaining just from different sample rate). To get there I had to fiddle with all kinds of settings and even disable CAudioLimiter with regedit; use EAPO's Configurator.exe to disable some "original APO" that was assigned by Windows to my DAC, and do other things like Control Panel >> Sound >> Device >> Advanced >> Enable audio enhancements: OFF

YMMV. If your Peace EQ is flat and you toggle exclusive mode and are hearing a difference, it's prima facie evidence that other "nanny APOs" are in the background messing with your bitperfect signal.
 
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