The MQA Revolution – Once in a lifetime?

“MQA is a revolution that comes along once in a lifetime.” – Robert Hartley, TAS, July 2015…/beyond-high-resolution/

Since CES 2017 a week ago a lot of people have become a lot more curious about MQA.

I started reading a lot of detail about MQA in the latter part of 2015. I started listening to it in Feb. 2016 with a Meridian Explorer2 MQA DAC.

I became an MQA Ltd. content/artist partner a few months after that and released my first MQA titles as DXD (24/352.8) encoded with MQA and folded to 24/44.1 in June 2016.

I now have at least 20 CD to hi-res MQA master titles, mostly albums online at for preview and download. MQA sound quality has allowed me to release many things I’ve had in my back catalog as wonderfully natural sounding acoustic recordings. So yes, the way they were intended.

It was the PCM solution to good sound I had been looking for with a very tiny footprint to boot for downloading and hopefully streaming someday (like today). It didn’t replace DSD for me, it fixed PCM.

While a lot has been written about MQA in the past 18 months, I’ve found much of it to be highly politicized and not even always reported correctly.

I find that this article written by Robert Hartley a year an a half ago still serves as one of the best concise (not complete as he states) summaries of what is behind MQA sonically, not politically.

Hearing MQA is still what many have yet to do. But this article helps clearly explain “what” it is, not “why” it is.

I’m no expert no doubt but here’s something I can wholly suggest reading if you are seeking a better understanding of the MQA machinery finally at work in the market today.

If you are on TIDAL’s free trial or paid subscription and want to hear 2 excellent acoustic albums that have been with me my whole life, try James Taylor’s “Mud Slide Slim” and Joni Mitchell’s “Blue”. This was 1970 if I remember right.

These two albums in my history with popular music were the very sparks of what went on to define what became the “singer-songwriter” genre some 25 years later.

JT’s master on TIDAL unfolds streaming to 24/192 with an MQA DAC (TIDAL player in passthrough mode) and sounds fantastic. Again if I remember right, “Blue” unfolds to 24/96. Just a truly amazing singer and her guitar or piano or dulcimer.



  1. David, thanks for the MQA info. I wrote to Meridian to ask if the Explorer 2 could output via an aux plug rather than USB but I suspect not. I have your MQA albums and play them thru my Pono Player which as you know does not decode MQA and I suspect never will. Oh well, in time , there may be an affordable solution, or the Pono will die and may get replaced by a DAP that will decode MQA.

    1. Mark – good hearing from you. Actually the Meridian Explorer2 as all PC/Mac DACs uses USB as the input not as the output. So you connect the DAC to your PC/Mac via USB, then you connect either your headphones or an audio cable to your stereo preamp/receiver to the output of the Explorer2.

      The Explorer2 actually has 2 1/8″ stereo jacks for output at different impedances. One is a line level and the other is for headphones. You can use either. This is a PCM/MQA DAC up to 24/192. It does not convert DSD as your Pono does.

      Hope that helps,

      1. David, good to hear from you also. I would love to be able to send your MQA encoded music from the PP to the Meridian Explorer 2. Unfortunately the PP only sends via an aux cord not a USB, and the Explorer only inputs data through a USB connection. I never sit at my PC or Laptop to listen to music, always on the go but use my PP as the source.
        Hope that you are feeling better!


      2. Mark you will need to go onto the Pono forums and find out if and when Pono will support MQA. The fact that Pono was working originally with Meridian then switched to Ayre may be good or bad for the answer to that question. I have no idea. But support for MQA will have to come from the device (Pono) itself through a firmware upgrade of some kind at some point. I don’t know if they have anything planned or announced.

        Also another day (when?? no idea) there could well be MQA decoding done in Tidal and other players on mobile media like smartphones and tablets. That has been stated as do-able but right now it’s just on the desktops.

        One of several amazing things about MQA is that it actually sounds very good without a decoder at all. I definitely suggest that you rip the CD and load it into Pono as-is and see how it sounds. You might be surprised. I’d love to hear about that if you try it.

        – DE

      3. David, I have brought the question of Pono adding MQA decoding to the software. The answer was NO WAY. Seems a dead issue with Pono ( Neil) . Your downloads sound great even without the MQA unfolding, I do not have the CDs.


      4. Mark that’s not all that surprising but unfortunate. I find the CDs and CD downloads improved with MQA even without the decoder. Thanks for trying! – DE

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