• WANTED: Happy members who like to discuss audio and other topics related to our interest. Desire to learn and share knowledge of science required as is 20 years of participation in forums (not all true). Come here to have fun, be ready to be teased and not take online life too seriously. We now measure and review equipment for free! Click here for details.

DAC with balanced output and MQA

Joined
Dec 16, 2018
Messages
22
Likes
0
Location
Japan
#1
So, I jumped on the SMSL SU-8, firmware 1.3, and THX AAA 789 a few months back. I’ve been dabbling in portables too. I have an iPhone XR (campaign in Japan and contract discount, otherwise I would’ve jumped to an LG), ES100, and an Onkyo Granbeat. The Granbeat does MQA decoding, awesome. So, I recently switched over from Deezer to Tidal and spoofed my location during set up to get a subscription since it’s not available in my locale. MQA quality is great and even better, at least I have my hands on lossless content on my DAP (Granbeat). Deezer could only do 320kbps. I know it’s debatable whether or not the extra resolution is perceivable to some, but I personally hear the difference and savour every bit. Now, Tidal doesn’t have a ton of MQA content, but I am now searching for a DAC with balanced outputs, MQA decoding for desktop use and measures well. Open to criticism.

TLDR; DAC with balanced outputs and MQA decoding?

Waste of time? Am I an audiofool?
 
Joined
Aug 25, 2017
Messages
29
Likes
51
Location
Long Island
#2
Look at Mytek DACs, they do both MQA and have balanced outputs. They have also been measured by both Amir and JA at Stereophile, and seem to perform excellent.
 

bunkbail

Active Member
Patreon Donor
Joined
Feb 27, 2018
Messages
209
Likes
208
#3
If you're not in a hurry, you can wait for Sabre ES9068Q chips to come into the market. It is a low cost, low power DAC chip for mobile devices, just like the current gen ES9038Q2M and the previous gens ES9018K2M and ES9028Q2M, but it'll have a native MQA decoding implementation.
 

Vincent Kars

Active Member
Technical Expert
Joined
Mar 1, 2016
Messages
192
Likes
141
#4
There is a long and a short story
The long one is of course this one: https://audiophilestyle.com/ca/reviews/mqa-a-review-of-controversies-concerns-and-cautions-r701/

The short one: MQA folds a highres recording into 24 bit / 44kHz (or 48)
The highres part is stored below bit 17 effectively overwriting all audio signals there.
So it is a lossy format reducing 24 bits to 17.

On playback, the media plater unfolds to the a 24 bit / xx kHz recording.
This is send to the DAC
An MQA enabled DAC detects the watermark and as a consequence does up-sampling and apply the MQA minium phase filters.

Using minimum phase filters and up-sampling is not uncommon.
In fact the controversy between brands like Ayre or Auralec and MQA was that these brand argued ‘why buying a license for something we are doing for years?’

Personally I rather have true lossless highres than MQA.
 
Joined
Dec 16, 2018
Messages
22
Likes
0
Location
Japan
#5
There is a long and a short story
The long one is of course this one: https://audiophilestyle.com/ca/reviews/mqa-a-review-of-controversies-concerns-and-cautions-r701/

The short one: MQA folds a highres recording into 24 bit / 44kHz (or 48)
The highres part is stored below bit 17 effectively overwriting all audio signals there.
So it is a lossy format reducing 24 bits to 17.

On playback, the media plater unfolds to the a 24 bit / xx kHz recording.
This is send to the DAC
An MQA enabled DAC detects the watermark and as a consequence does up-sampling and apply the MQA minium phase filters.

Using minimum phase filters and up-sampling is not uncommon.
In fact the controversy between brands like Ayre or Auralec and MQA was that these brand argued ‘why buying a license for something we are doing for years?’

Personally I rather have true lossless highres than MQA.
I’ll chew on that for a while and see how it goes through the trial period, might bounce back to Deezer then since that is the case and take my time looking for a new DAC, or just skip the DAC and be satisfied. Thanks.
 

gerald

New Member
Joined
Apr 20, 2019
Messages
2
Likes
1
#6
If you're not in a hurry, you can wait for Sabre ES9068Q chips to come into the market.
@bunkbail , do you have a feeling for the approximate amount of time it takes for DACs with a new chip (like the ES9068Q, or the similarly new ES9281PRO) to be released?
 
Joined
Nov 22, 2018
Messages
28
Likes
7
#7
So, I jumped on the SMSL SU-8, firmware 1.3, and THX AAA 789 a few months back. I’ve been dabbling in portables too. I have an iPhone XR (campaign in Japan and contract discount, otherwise I would’ve jumped to an LG), ES100, and an Onkyo Granbeat. The Granbeat does MQA decoding, awesome. So, I recently switched over from Deezer to Tidal and spoofed my location during set up to get a subscription since it’s not available in my locale. MQA quality is great and even better, at least I have my hands on lossless content on my DAP (Granbeat). Deezer could only do 320kbps. I know it’s debatable whether or not the extra resolution is perceivable to some, but I personally hear the difference and savour every bit. Now, Tidal doesn’t have a ton of MQA content, but I am now searching for a DAC with balanced outputs, MQA decoding for desktop use and measures well. Open to criticism.

TLDR; DAC with balanced outputs and MQA decoding?

Waste of time? Am I an audiofool?
Matrix Audio X-SABRE Pro MQA at $1995 (link). I'd buy one over the Mytek Brooklyn DAC+. That CNC machined aluminum chassis is gorgeous:

X-SabrePro.jpg


Too expensive? You could buy a Mytek Liberty DAC for $995. Due to small size it has 1/4" TRS balanced outputs instead of XLR, you would just have to buy two TRS to XLR patch cables. Don't spend $160 for a cable from Mytek you can get from Sweetwater for less than $20 though.
 
Last edited:

gerald

New Member
Joined
Apr 20, 2019
Messages
2
Likes
1
#8
Last edited:
Joined
Dec 16, 2018
Messages
22
Likes
0
Location
Japan
#9
@artismo , i use a Pro Ject S2 Digital (https://www.project-audio.com/en/product/pre-box-s2-digital/) with Tidal Masters and am really satisfied. The S2 does full MQA decoding and is very small yet not fully portable and also doesn't have a balanced headphone output. That's why i'm on a similar quest as you are: did you find anything worth sharing?
I decided to stay with my current setup and just be satisfied for now. I think stepping up moves me into financial leagues that triple (or more) the MSRP of my SU-8, for measurements and features that slightly edge it out. I’m happy with my Onkyo Granbeat which handles MQA offline and online, but I’m stuck still because I can’t use it as a DAC, DAP only.
 
Joined
Dec 16, 2018
Messages
22
Likes
0
Location
Japan
#10
Matrix Audio X-SABRE Pro MQA at $1995 (link). I'd buy one over the Mytek Brooklyn DAC+. That CNC machined aluminum chassis is gorgeous:

View attachment 25151

Too expensive? You could buy a Mytek Liberty DAC for $995. Due to small size it has 1/4" TRS balanced outputs instead of XLR, you would just have to buy two TRS to XLR patch cables. Don't spend $160 for a cable from Mytek you can get from Sweetwater for less than $20 though.
That is a gorgeous case. A bit rich for my blood, so I’ll bide my time and money so I don’t chase unicorns too long. I’ll give a good, long consideration to the Mytek and that Pro Ject S2.
 
Joined
Nov 22, 2018
Messages
28
Likes
7
#11
In my experience with MQA (I used to own a Brooklyn DAC+) you don't lose much just letting the Tidal desktop app do the first unfold to 96. YMMV try it out. I quit using Tidal and moved to Qobuz once they became available in the US. If you have to have MQA and balanced outs I don't know of a less expensive alternative to the Mytek Liberty.
 
Last edited:

chriskilbourn

Member
Patreon Donor
Joined
Mar 29, 2019
Messages
29
Likes
13
Location
Salt Lake City, UT
#12
Matrix Audio X-SABRE Pro MQA at $1995 (link). I'd buy one over the Mytek Brooklyn DAC+. That CNC machined aluminum chassis is gorgeous:

View attachment 25151

Too expensive? You could buy a Mytek Liberty DAC for $995. Due to small size it has 1/4" TRS balanced outputs instead of XLR, you would just have to buy two TRS to XLR patch cables. Don't spend $160 for a cable from Mytek you can get from Sweetwater for less than $20 though.
Such a gorgeous device. Has anyone done proper testing on it to see if it can do what it says?
 
Joined
Apr 28, 2019
Messages
31
Likes
4
#13
@artismo , i use a Pro Ject S2 Digital (https://www.project-audio.com/en/product/pre-box-s2-digital/) with Tidal Masters and am really satisfied. The S2 does full MQA decoding and is very small yet not fully portable and also doesn't have a balanced headphone output. That's why i'm on a similar quest as you are: did you find anything worth sharing?
I am considering the Pro Ject S2 as well as I feel MQA do sound better imo. I have the Dragonfly Red that does the 2nd unfold of the MQA. How does the Pro Ject S2 sound as compared to other mainstream balanced and single ended DACs and how much does it cost? Thanks
 
Joined
Apr 28, 2019
Messages
31
Likes
4
#14
I'm also on the lookout for a decent DAC to upgrade from my Dragonfly Red which already does 2nd MQA unfold. Was considering SMSL SU-8 myself, how does it sound... Too sharp on the highs low on the lows...is it revealing enough in balanced mode... And would it count as an upgrade to the Dragonfly Red?... Are all the questions I have! Any recommendations for a balanced MQA DAC that's under USD 500 now that can be paired with the THX AAA 789? Also, any thoughts on the Pro Ject S2 DAC anyone? Thanks
 
Top Bottom