Roon x MQA

Roon x MQA

What is MQA?

Technically speaking, MQA is a hierarchical method and set of specifications for the recording, archiving, archive recovery, and efficient distribution of high-quality audio. In practical terms, MQA provides:
  1. A way to store or stream ultra-high-resolution audio data using bandwidth comparable to that of a standard CD-quality file or stream
  2. The ability to apply DSP algorithms that can compensate for time-domain errors in digital audio converters
  3. A mechanism to carry authenticated information in the file/stream, including details about the analog-to-digital conversion equipment, used to capture the original master recording
Taken together, this means that more high-resolution audio content is now available in more ways, with the option of using powerful DSP to compensate for damage done in AD/DA conversion processes. Using the proper decoder, the result is an audio recording that is intended to be identical to the one heard in the mastering studio.

How does Roon handle MQA content?

Roon has partnered with MQA Ltd to properly support decoding and handling MQA files and streams end to end. This new feature allows all Roon users – those with MQA-capable hardware and those without – to experience MQA content to the fullest extent possible with their audio hardware.

It is important to know that your device must be used in Exclusive Mode to be able to play MQA (and DSD) content.

Where can I get MQA content?

If you have a TIDAL HiFi subscription, check out the Masters section on Roon’s TIDAL page. 

Do I need to do anything to activate Roon’s MQA support?

If you have an MQA capable DAC or another audio device, double-check the Device Setup screen for that zone to make sure that Roon is reflecting your DAC’s MQA capabilities correctly. Some audio devices do not support the auto-detection of their MQA capabilities, so in those cases you may need to configure the device manually.

Can I use DSP with MQA content in Roon?

Yes. Roon is the only music player that seamlessly integrates DSP with MQA content, while preserving your MQA DAC’s ability to fully render the post-processed stream.

I have an MQA DAC, how does DSP work in Roon?

First, Roon will decode the MQA file or stream it to an MQA Core stream. This produces a PCM audio stream at 88.2kHz or 96kHz which contains MQA signaling information that your DAC needs to render the MQA signal properly.

Then Roon preserves the signaling information (setting it aside for safekeeping), applies DSP to the audio portion, and then restores the signaling information. This re-embeds it into the stream so that your DAC can complete the rendering process.

I don’t have an MQA DAC, how does DSP work in Roon?

First, Roon will decode the MQA file or stream it to an MQA Core stream. This produces a PCM stream at 88.2kHz or 96kHz. Then, any selected DSP is applied to that stream, and the output is sent to your DAC.

How do I tell an MQA album from a non-MQA album?

You can tell when an album is MQA in Roon by looking at the format information on the album screen just below the cover art. If you would like to see detailed format information throughout the app, enable the “Show album format on browser” setting in Settings->General.

How do I know when I am listening to MQA content?

Information about the content you are listening to and the playback chain is always available by accessing Roon’s Signal Path.

In Signal Path, what does “MQA 192kHz” and “MQA Studio 192kHz” mean?

The “MQA” indication communicates that the stream is genuine MQA, and denotes provenance to ensure that the sound is identical to that of the source material.

The “MQA Studio” indication gives confirmation directly from mastering engineers, producers or artists to their listeners. “MQA Studio” verifies that the sound you are hearing is exactly what was heard in the studio when the music was completed.

In both cases, “192kHz” (in this example) describes the original sample rate of the master recording used to produce the MQA file or stream being played.

Does Roon decode MQA to the original sample rate?

What about an MQA DAC? No. the original sample rate of the recording is just that: a description of the original sample rate of the master recording that was used to create the MQA file or stream. It is not a representation of how that material will be decoded.

Software-based MQA Decoders like Roon decode MQA files to an 88.2kHz or 96kHz MQA Core stream.

Hardware MQA Renderers and Full Decoders (devices that perform both decoding and rendering) are optimized one-by-one to extract the maximum performance during rendering. The exact techniques employed used vary from device to device.

If I enable MQA decoding in Roon, will my MQA DAC/renderer still do the rest of the MQA decoding?

In the majority of cases, yes. There are a few DACs that do not yet recognize decoded MQA streams. We are working with MQA to chase these down and encouraging vendors to fix any products that do not implement this important aspect of MQA support.

Is multichannel MQA supported in Roon? 

At this time, multichannel MQA is not supported. 

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