Category Archives: MQA

40% Off Everything – May Day Sale

EXTENDED SALE NOW THROUGH MAY 3rd 2020, ending midnight PDT (Los Angeles) 5/3/2020.

Save 40% off anything/everything you buy on my Bandcamp Catalog.

Use this discount code at checkout:  MAYREPEAT

DavidElias-BandCampDiscography-49Titles
Bandcamp is waiving their artist fees on May 1st so I pass that and more savings on to you for that day. Offer ends May 3, 2020 @ 11:59pm PDT.

Currently 49 titles on this catalog including MQA remasters up to 24/352.8k.  All titles will play on any player, the hi-res is transparent until you have the proper MQA decoding software and/or hardware (DAC).

If you’re not into MQA don’t worry it doesn’t matter — you can download and play any of the 49 titles on Bandcamp :)

Hope you are safe and well and thank you for continuing to listen to my music online and as downloads.

Don’t forget to find me on Spotify, TIDAL, iTunes Music, Amazon Prime, Deezer, Qobuz, Last.FM, Pandora and all the rest.

Again many many thanks for supporting independent artists!

Sending Aloha,

~ DE

SendingAloha

 

Over 23,000 MQA Remastered Albums Streaming on TIDAL up to DXD

David Elias Streaming listeners in the last 28 days

Are you streaming audio?

Do you listen to hi-res?

If not, do you want to?

 

[Note Added by DE, 03/16/2020]:

(Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/High-resolution_audio)

High-resolution audio (High-definition audio or HD audio) is a technical and marketing term for audio with greater than 44.1 kHz sample rate or higher than 16-bit audio bit depth. It commonly refers to 96 or 192 kHz sample rates. However, there also exist 44.1 kHz/24-bit, 48 kHz/24-bit and 88.2 kHz/24-bit recordings that are labeled HD Audio. “

The above Wikipedia definition of hi-res includes 24/44.1k, which may also be referenced as HD. When what I refer to in this post as my DXD and other masters are played as TIDAL Masters (MQA) through a Mytek Brooklyn USB MQA/DSD DAC or an iFi Audio Pro iDSD USB/Wifi MQA/DSD DAC the bitstream is reported by the DAC (Mytek and iFi Audio) to be 24-bit 352.8k (or 24/384k) MQA.  This is, according to any definition in the so-called audio industry I am aware of, known as DXD.  I don’t make this up. I report it as it is presented by the industry authorities and experts of digital audio. If the source bitstream is not a folded MQA encoding, it will be reported by these same devices as either 24/44.1 or 24/48 — both of which according to Wikipedia above also qualify as hi-res.

In addition, there are a number of streaming services apart from TIDAL that deliver bit perfect, lossless streams of their source audio files. I have played my MQA 44.1k masters through the Qobuz iOS player at 24/44.1k (routed via WiFi to Pro iDSD DAC/preamp) and they are properly recognized as MQA 24/44.1k on the iFi Audio Pro iDSD USB/WiFi MQA DAC. As long as a bit perfect stream is delivered to the gear decoding MQA, the MQA authentication is preserved through streaming services such as TIDAL, Qobuz, Deezer, 7digital, and others.

Finally, in 2019 alone, a number of MQA equipment partners were recognized by the music industry at many levels with awards for their excellence in sound quality. These are not money hack grubbing shyster types of people and businesses. These are some of the more respected names in the beloved & sacred music industry. For those who choose to accuse others of nothing more than base and ill motives (ie, money) for their pursuit of better sound in a newly emerging hi-res, highly compact and deliverable/streamable, carefully researched and listened to listened to listened to new audio encoding that requires extensive listening and comparison rather than only spec reading to evaluate, let those accusers at least know the scope of the indictments they are passing without jury onto others characters, with or without snake oil expletives.

https://www.mqa.co.uk/news/post/mqa-partners-reap-rewards
(Pro-ject, Hegel, NAD, Mytek, Bluesound, iFi Audio, Astell&Kern, TIDAL, AudioQuest, HELM, LG, dCS Bartok, Aurender, Esoteric, FiiO, Wadax, Control4, Mark Levinson, Dali Callisto, Roon).

Other MQA Partners include:  nugs.net, Onkyo Music, Hi-Res Audio, e-onkyo (Japan), Sony, Pioneer, 2L, Xiami Music, Audirvana, Amarra, Essential, Cayin, HiBy, ibasso, Audiolab, Berkeley, Bel Canto, Brinkmann, Canever, Novatron, EmmLabs, exaSound, Jineung, Lumin, M2Tech, Matrix Audio, Meridian, Moon, MSB, NuPrime, PS-Audio, PureAudio, S.M.S.L., Teac, Atoll, Cary, Esoteric, Citech, Technics, Krell, Rotel.

“MQA is quite an emotional experience. One of the great pleasures of MQA, beyond its ability to give the listener high resolution sound, is having a true center come out of two loudspeakers or earphones.” – Bruce Botnik, longtime The Doors engineer

Let it be. – DE


TIDAL streams hi-res as MQA Remasters. Their iOS/Android/Windows player decodes to 24/96 without buying any new hardware. Right now there are over 23,000 albums and singles in the TIDAL “Masters” catalog. These usually appear with the letter “M” on the thumbnail.

There is a list online that gets updated twice a week with the current MQA Masters album list on TIDAL. You can download it as a CSV file and open it in Excel anytime.

Here is the Forum that created and manages the list. The link to the list is in the first post you see “MQA_List.csv”:

https://www.meridianunplugged.com/ubbthreads/ubbthreads.php

Most remasters are 24/96 or 24/192k but some are CD (44k) remasters (where MQA sound quality improvements are most noticeable to my ears) and some are up to DXD rates (352.8k and 384k). My albums are in this list:



There are some of my all time favorite albums in this list including (random picks) Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust, Todd Rundgren’s Faithful, Talking Heads 77, The Stones Let It Bleed, Yes Fragile, Steve Earle Copperhead Road, Tom Petty (they have just about all of them). Create your own playlists and have at it.

Yeah But Does It Really Sound Better?

Yeah, it does. PCM never sounded so good to my ears after about 35 years of trying, until I heard MQA encoded masters. I’m talking about CDs (PCM) and other hi-res up to 24/192k. I hated CD sound then I found DSD and never looked back for what sounded good digitally for audio. But everyone was still listened to CD and PCM streaming….Then I found MQA for all of those people hearing CD quality and worse (MP3, AAC) all the time. I had a lot of music recorded for CD since the mid 90’s. It needed help. MQA helped it a lot. It could also make my DSD available for listening to people not setup to hear DSD. And it still sounded darn (damn) good.

MQA is good for CD, it doesn’t have to be hi-res. I don’t notice the press talking/writing/blogging much about this but I hear the most improvement on regular CD masters at 16 or 24/44.1k. I have my work to compare first and foremost to my ears here. That’s why I had my whole CD collection reencoded as MQA. They all sounded much better that way, more like what I heard when I was recording and mixing them. The MQA “math” also points to its biggest improvements at the lower resolution masters like CD where brickwall filters typically used for studio recording/mastering induce the highest incidence of pre-echo ringing on the results. MQA removes this unnatural edgy artifact from the master so it sounds more like analog when you listen to it, especially if it’s acoustic and vocal and not compressed to start with.

DE on BC

The hi-res 24/96 and above streams at the lower bitrates from TIDAL. That means you won’t use lots of data (around 1 to 1.5mbps) to listen to the music coming in at 24/96, 192 and higher. MQA has a “folding” technology that saves data space which means small files for downloading and low bitrates for streaming.

You can try TIDAL free for 30 days from their web site at TIDAL.com

 


Thank You NativeDSD & Listeners in Lots of Countries

 

DE ON NATIVEDSD

Huge thank you’s for all who took advantage of the COMBI-1 discount new downloads for Higher Rates Program (HRP) up to DSD512.

In February 90% of those buying my DSD downloads at NativeDSD.com were selecting remaster rates above the original DSD64.  These higher rates are another evolved technology that brings huge smiles to listeners ears, mine included. Thank you NativeDSD!

Thank you to all February listeners from Germany, US, Spain, Canada, Italy, Indonesia, Hong Kong, Great Britain, France, Portugal, Netherlands, Romania, Sweden, Hungary, Belgium — Many thanks! – DE



MESSAGE FROM DE: When a message is better than a mission. Why DSD Why MQA Why Hi-Res Why Art Of Listening

On Mar 4, 2020, at 12:01 PM, music at davidelias.com wrote:

Aloha & Welcome to the hi-res world with DSD and MQA as well as PCM above 16/44.1. I was introduced to DSD long ago and still work quite a bit at what I came to call the art of listening, a lot of which has to do with retraining my ears not to listen to music the way compressed CD was first presented in the early 80’s. In 1999 I heard DSD64 from a Sony prototype 2-track (Stereo) archive machine on some of the Sony analog masters converted to DSD and captured in the new PDM (not PCM) approach to digital audio. I finally had some relief in listening to digital audio and could relax with what I was hearing as a counterpart to the original analog recording. I’ve been working at those listening skills ever since and there are many dimensions to them.

To answer some of your questions about free DSD demos, the first page I can send you to is here:

https://www.oppodigital.com/hra/dsd-by-davidelias.aspx

I worked with OPPO for many years before they shut their doors in the US. Great company and products for value and quality. I still use the 103 here for SACD and CD mostly. My samples on this OPPO page can get you into comparing some of the basic variations in digital audio from straight PCM, to hi-res PCM, to DSD and then MQA.

In prior years I have tried to upsample my own DSD masters to DSD128 and DSD256 and never had a conclusive result as far as listening and comparing to the original DSD64. So I left that aside until NativeDSD did their conversions using more modern tools and gear. Things improved dramatically for my ears under their process of the DSD resample. In addition, I use a fantastic product from iFi Audio that has the ability to upsample/resample everything it receives streaming from MP3 (any bitrate) to CD (ie, TIDAL) to higher res (Qobuz 24/96) and first filter then resample as DSD1024 before converting to analog and preamplification through their analog tube component.

This is the iFi Audio Pro iDSD Preamp/DAC — I wrote about it on my blog (https://art-of-listening.com) and it was published at Positive Feedback Online (https://positive-feedback.com/reviews/hardware-reviews/ifi-audio-pro-idsd-dac/).

If you take the time to download and compare some of the samples on the OPPO page, let me know if there’s a particular song that works best for you as far as comparative listening and I can send you a DSD128 of that for you to play in your OPPO.  The 205 by the way can be used as a DAC connected via to the PC and support DSD rates higher than 128.  Mac has problem going above DSD128. I use JRiver as my main computer audio player setup. The iFi Pro iDSD by the way can act as a regular USB DAC as well up to DSD512 playing downloaded audio.

The MQA approach (PCM not PDM) to higher sample rates makes the headache of the large DSD files go away for downloading as well as storage. You will see from my samples that the MQA remaster is not much larger than any 24/44.1k download (slightly larger than a CD ripped to FLAC). I measure the streaming bitrate of my MQA which unfolds to 24/352.8k at well under 1mbps. This is incredibly useful for anyone streaming, especially in places like here in East Hawaii where cell service and internet service are not fat pipes like in the big cities.

As I’ve written on my blog, MQA does an incredibly good job correcting the pre- (most important) and post-echo ringing in PCM masters. This is most effective on the Red Book CD Masters at 16/44.1k but adds sonic improvements at the higher rates as well like the popular 24/96 (ringing is not as severe on higher bitrate recorded/mastered work, nor does it exist for sonic detriment in DSD).

As you know already, hi-res is a big subject with lots of diversions to follow and things to try to get your best sound to your ears from your equipment in your rooms for listening and headphones. I’m happy to send you these samples and hope you take some time to compare them. The DSD128, DSD256 and DSD512 from NativeDSD are further improvements on what I get from my DSD masters. I wrote about this on my blog as well.

https://art-of-listening.com/2019/11/23/the-single-bit-in-dsd-goes-further-than-the-us-dollar/

Here is some summary of things I’ve been addressing in hi-res lately:
https://art-of-listening.com/2020/01/24/3-things-nothing-related-to-anything-except-everything/

If you search the web for OPPO 205 and DSD256 you can find more info on how the OPPO can play higher res DSD as a DAC from players like JRiver or Foobar2000 on the PC/Windows.

Hope all this helps.
Best Regards,

David Elias
https://davidelias.com
https://davidelias.bandcamp.com (PCM and MQA catalog)
https://youtube.com/davideliasvideo
https://art-of-listening.com

A Coffee Offer – About $5 For This 10-Song Cup

UPDATE OFFER – January, 2020 – Some of the best-known songs by David Elias are now available at a 50% Discount for the MQA Studio Masters on his Bandcamp catalog.  Coffeehouse MQA Playlist #1 (Remastered) contains 10 MQA tracks some of which decode up to 24/352.8k.

Use check out code TRYCOFFEE50 and pay about $5.

Some of David Elias’s best known music played at audiophile trade show demos, on Spotify  and TIDAL, and as mobile HRA OTG go to’s on Smartphones including “Morning Light/Western Town” and “The Old King” are in this collection.

Preview and Buy Coffeehouse Playlist #1 (Remastered) as MQA. It plays on any media player (hardware or software). It can also be decoded as MQA up to 24/352.8k with compatible gear.

Hear Acoustic like you never have before.

No DRM. Full Previews. With purchase you have unlimited downloads forever. All popular audio formats supported (suggested: FLAC, ALAC). Also unlimited streaming from Bandcamp’s free Bandcamp Music iOs/Android app.

Get 50% off – Use check code: TRYCOFFEE50 and pay about $5 for the entire playlist.

coffehouseplaylist-50%-screenshot


 

Photo by iFi Audio

When Computer Audio’s Top Quality Hi-Res No Longer Requires A Computer or a Bluetooth Leash and Delivers Stupendous Sound

By David Elias, 01/05/2020

The last 2 years of computer audio (2017 – 2019) for listeners and musicians have been unlike anything I have seen or heard since the earliest exciting and revolutionary days of the introduction of DSD as SACDs into the market which I participated with as an album (SACD “The Window” released in 2003). After the SACD early years (~2000 – 2005) excitement the next step was to launch Sony DSD Disc Format downloads in 2009 with my release of “The Window” in stereo, followed by “Crossing” and then both as multichannel 5.1 studio DSD64 masters. Keep in mind around then Netflix streaming was still new, 5mbps Internet download speed was a marvel to have, and DSD playing on any of the 30+ million Sony Playstation3’s in homes then was astonishing.

Following those years of early SACD Discs (.ISO image downloads to burn to high capacity DVD-R’s) 2013 and 2014 were the beginning of Sony’s official High Resolution Audio (HRA) program removing DRM from DSD recordings and inciting many companies to create low cost DSD USB DACs and headphone amplifiers that soon flooded the market and began encouraging many to listen to excellent recordings in both DSD and PCM (24/96 and DXD).

Since 2016 the introduction of MQA as both remasters for downloads and low bit rate, high resolution (unfolded up to 24/384 but delivered at about 24/48k or far less in my experience (FLAC ~700-1000kbps)) streaming from TIDAL and other services further puts the inexpensive reality of the highest quality studio masters in the accessible hands and ears of music lovers from something as simple to use as an iPhone or Android smartphone, tablet, or from laptop or desktop. Hi-res from a smartphone streaming from the internet. Who would have guessed. No one did, not too long ago.

On the high end of gear in these categories, and as described in this post regarding iFi Audio’s Pro iDSD product released in 2018, there are products now available that can be connected to home studio setups delivering bit perfect transmissions of encoded MQA and 1-bit DSD over WiFi as well as DSD1024 resampling of any streaming source such as Spotify (from 160k up to 320k through the Internet to your phone). These same standalone receiving DAC/DLNA/AirPlay/Google Cast units can also decode MQA from a connected computer (via WiFi or USB), or internet streaming hi-res TIDAL masters. None of this was imaginable in 2009, or 2013, or 2016, let alone anytime before that.

Photo by David Elias

iFi Audio Pro iDSD DAC/streaming/preamp and xDSD mobile DAC/headphone amp


Jump To The Point – What Do I Get Reading This

You get to imagine living and/or working in an environment where you can play any music you like in any audio format from any device you might have (including your Smart TV or Apple TV or CD/DVD player) through your stereo setup or headphones with the best sound you may have ever heard from the exact same music your ears may already know very well. I believe it will sound better to you than it ever has before, even though the listening room, the headphones, the stereo or studio monitors you are using may not have changed at all.

What’s changed is what I’ll call the digital audio cleaning and grooming needed to create an excellent quality analog rendition of the music, as they say, “as the artist intended”. Here is one artist musician who agrees this is finally possible in a single box regardless of the source or format of the data or the destination of the sound delivery (headphones, PA, stereo, studio monitors).

You get the best sound from your own digital album/cd/streaming library collection than ever before by routing and refactoring the audio through the iFi Pro iDSD.

The iFi Audio Pro iDSD digital to analog converter provides an incredibly effective and authentic delivery of analog audio from virtually any digital source using its unique and highly progressive combinations of filtering, DSD1024 resampling, analog tube preamplification, and balanced outputs with headphone impedance matching.

For the first time, what’s commonly referred to as hi-res computer audio requires no computer to play digital audio from any internet stream, both lossy and lossless into perfectly natural and studio quality analog music through your headphones or speakers. And there is no Bluetooth; amen to that too!

All of this can take place over your local WiFi setup in which the Pro iDSD acts as a DLNA or UPnP (AirPlay or Google Cast) endpoint and in fact can extend your Internet router’s WiFi range to allow local devices like smartphones receive streaming music from favorite sources like Spotify, TIDAL, Pandora, Apple Music, Amazon Prime.  In my test the Internet WiFi router was located upstairs with a slightly weak 802.11 signal for smartphones downstairs. So I had the Pro iDSD located downstairs air link cleanly to the WiFi router upstairs, and had my phone and computer WiFi connect directly to the Pro iDSD unit as their WiFi router. These music source devices were then more reliable to play music consistently from, and even for any other internet access they might require.

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More about the Wow….

I’ve read some reviews about the Pro iDSD and most of them say they don’t know exactly what to call the device, or they say it has so many features that it’s hard to describe. I don’t have any problem describing what I see and have used the iDSD as: The ultimate media refactoring vending machine.  

It plays from nearly any source and delivers to nearly any receiver endpoint for playback in a perfectly cleaned up audio state of sound quality excellence. It supports the native source format if desired (lossy MP3 or AAC, lossless CD, MQA, DSD) but has tremendous sound quality improvement options as well. It is indiscriminate about what kind of music it receives and what kind of refactored music it delivers as analog. The user decides all of this, mostly in realtime with the ability to then easily listen to the differences between the choices to nail down a preferred sound. I don’t know of any other product that does this to this extent, and usually not even close.

If you play your streaming services in the same crappy 64kbps Pandora input that began in the 90’s, they come out of the Pro iDSD as filtered and upsampled DSD1024 (45mbps). Stream your Smart TV movies and music or your Amazon Prime favorite shows and they get the same filter + DSD upsample (aka resample or remaster) treatment. Send your CD/DVD player audio through your Smart TV via HDMI and get the same improvements.

Stream your TIDAL Masters MQA library from your tablet or laptop and you can hear audio unfolded to 24/384k with ringing corrections on both the encoded (master) and decoded (DAC) side. Play your native DSD up to DSD1024 (wireless DSD64 as DoP, USB wired otherwise). DSD64, 128 and 256 source masters can also be upsampled to the higher DSD bitrates.

Use the DLNA or AirPlay or Google Cast connections to send all your music from your smartphone to the Pro iDSD via reliable and extended distance WiFi. No more Bluetooth woes! Have your MP3 and CD music filtered through iFi’s innovative and effective GTO filter to work through some of the same PCM ringing problems as MQA does before DSD resampling and converting to analog to your headphones.

Enjoy a tube warmed preamp sound for all of it!

The ultimate media refactoring vending machine.  

Much of the music you may already play comes from a phone or tablet streaming from services like Spotify, TIDAL, Pandora, Bandcamp, Apple Music, Qobuz, Deezer, any or all of them, at different times. Using iFi’s Pro iDSD DAC and headphone amplifier or studio (tube or digital) preamplifier you will hear your music take on new depths and clarity and natural sounding characteristics you probably have never heard before with your own music libraries. To my ears, the digital reproductions playing through the Pro iDSD all seem to back off and just let me listen. There are no battles between what my ears hear and how my brain receives the music. It flows pure and simple.

You don’t need a computer to hear this. It can come from the same smartphone you play music on everyday. Forget Bluetooth, go WiFi. It’s a cleaner, bit perfect transmission (also forget about aptX and other compatibility headaches) and without a 30 foot limit (which it never is) before it stutters and drops and waits and drives you crazy. I’ve decried the virtues of WiFi audio over Bluetooth for years and now I have it before my very ears.

The music could also come locally stored as downloads or ripped CDs from your computer (tablet, laptop, desktop) connected via WiFi or via USB to the same iFi Pro iDSD and sound again better than you have heard it before. The player could then be Roon, JRiver, Audirvana, Amarra or others.

Why will it sound better?

If you are used to streaming less than bit perfect CD quality music from Pandora (64k free, 192k paid, lossy), Spotify (Free up to 160k and Premium up to 320k, lossy), TIDAL (Premium 320k, or HiFi 16/44.1 to 24/96 lossless), Qobuz (Premium 320k lossy, Hi-Fi 16/44.1, Sublime up to 24/192k lossless), Bandcamp (up to 256k lossy), Apple Music (up to 256k lossy including Mastered for iTunes), all of your lossy MP3 and AAC streaming music can be properly filtered to address pre- and post-ringing echoes that make digital music sound unnatural, and then get upsampled to DSD1024 (or DSD512) by the Pro iDSD and then output as analog (via analog tube preamp!) to your headphone/speakers with highly improved sound quality and listening pleasure.

All this can happen over WiFi in your home directed from a smartphone.

Lightly depress a Pro iDSD knob to instantly go from “No DSD Remaster” to “DSD Remaster DSD512″ and then once more to advance to ” DSD Remaster DSD1024“. If you are curious why the remaster (aka upsample, or resample) improves the sound, first I say you have to just listen to it. DSD remastering through oversampling has been at the heart of most digital audio players since you may be surprised to know the earliest portable digital players and recorders featuring 1-bit then 4- or 5- or 6- or thereabouts bit DSD (delta-sigma) converters. I’m saying that the heart of PCM digital to analog playback in commercial consumer gear has been a close DSD cousin all along, since the 90’s. The Pro iDSD is a high level Cadillac version of that root approach.

I like to think of DSD as a digital representation of an analog wave, such as you would see on an oscilloscope. This approach (Pulse Density Modulation) is as much as 1024 times the sample rate of CD. Describing the analog wave in binary storage is a very non-destructive way to reproduce the sound later through a DSD DAC. The high sample rate DSD conversion (remaster) of PCM masters also makes the result sound more analog like and natural to my ears. That’s why I’ve always preferred to record to DSD in the first place whenever possible. Now the ability to remaster everything (except MQA) to the highest DSD bitrate comes in a very nice looking 4 pound package.

Read some high level expert discussion on this by the chief creator of the iFi and AMR products:  https://www.audiostream.com/content/qa-thorsten-loesch-amrifi

Prior to resampling the music source you can apply an iFi software invention called the Gibbs Transient Optimized (GTO) Digital Filter. I feel strongly this is a true landmark breakthrough for playback of non-MQA PCM digital masters and streaming music. I also use their Bitperfect+ filter option as an alternative. Rotate the knob on the front panel of the Pro iDSD anytime to change the filter being used (they offer 5 choices) and to hear the differences in real time within the same song.

What I hear with the GTO Filter and DSD resample is a huge improvement in the width of the sound stage, separating the instruments and giving them much more natural sounding attacks (impulse) and decays (sustain). The edgy sound of digital audio ala CD quality which has plagued my ears since it was introduced around 1981 is no longer edgy. It’s suddenly a real sound as if people were actually playing the instruments I’m hearing in the room I’m sitting in. Singing and breathing are similarly more relaxed and natural sounding. I also hear distinct improvements in this same direction between the DSD512 and DSD1024 remasters, preferring DSD1024 as most natural. Some music I’ve listened to through the Pro iDSD sounds best to me using their Bitperfect+ filter instead of GTO. I would need to continue listening to and comparing these filters to decide when and why one filter may excel in natural sounding results over another and if there is any consistency to their different uses.

I want to add here my preference for the Tube switch selection in the Pro iDSD because once again there are distinct natural differences to my ears between how deployment of the J-FET all-valve Class A output featuring two GE5670 tubes warm the resulting sound (of usually acoustic or ambient style music genres as my preference) and get my vote over solid state or the Tube+ (added natural harmonic distortion) alternate choices. Slide the switch on the front panel anytime to instantly hear these differences.

All of this is based on the premise of working with a good recording and production master in the first place. But in all fairness, many recordings that sound crappy through normal CD player setups, will sound improved and even good through, say, a Spotify or TIDAL stream of them (MP3-320 or lossless 16-44.1) into the Pro iDSD streaming DAC/preamp. I’m starting to think of this tasked performed as audible cleanup, a series of steps (highest DSD resample, best filter, tube preamp) that deliver easy to hear improvements on the sound delivered to your speakers or headphones.


It’s in the Apps

I have used numerous music player apps on my iPhone to control playback through the Pro iDSD, it being set in its “Apps” mode through a front panel knob selection of inputs. Again these apps are not delivering audio via Bluetooth which is not present in any form on the device. Wireless audio is always 802.11 WiFi which has been sorely overlooked by the digital music consumer product manufacturers and largely overlooked by prosumer and studio gear makers. Another important topic for another day.

The most complete solution I have found for iOS and Android as a music player capable of providing access to the user’s libraries of music online including TIDAL and Qobuz as well as saved music on the phone, Dropbox, iCloud, or OneDrive is called mconnect from Conversdigital Co., Ltd. This app literally connects any music/video/photo media server to any UPnP or Google Cast (Chromecast) device.  It plays MQA Masters on TIDAL as well. Voila!

With that app in hand, I can connect my iPhone to the Pro iDSD as UPnP and log into my TIDAL or Qobuz account and stream MQA or any other music to the studio playback. I can also send my Apple Music library of albums stored on the iPhone itself to the same destination including MQA playback. (Please note here that unlike what others have mistakenly claimed, MQA is not an audio format which is technically referred to as a codec. MQA is an encoding that can be applied to any of the common lossless PCM audio codecs available, the most popular being FLAC, ALAC (Apple compressed lossless), WAV and AIF. This is significant because I can download MQA masters as 24/44.1 or 24/48k ALAC files and even Apple Music/iTunes will acknowledge them and store them on my iPhone without even knowing they are MQA!) All of this happens over WiFi allowing me the freedom of moving anywhere I’m connected including outdoors.

A video by Owen Delehedy at iFi Audio on how to setup mconnect for playback through the Pro iDSD is online at

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zkv0_2JAdEA

You must use the paid version of mconnect, not the Lite version. It also doesn’t support Spotify accounts but the Spotify app can run concurrently on the phone with mconnect player and they cooperate. iDSD detects MQA Masters from TIDAL and decodes up to the full 24/384k depending on the resolution of the source recording being streamed.

mconnect app can direct play of DSD and FLAC from the phone as well and supports Gapless playback. It will run on iPhone, iPad, Android phone and tablet. It also supports AirPlay compatible devices Apple TV, Airport Express, AirPlay Audio. You can render on Smart TV, and other UPnP supported Audio and receivers.

You can create mconnect Playlists that contain songs from any mix of servers you are connected to. What? Yes, you can integrate your various music libraries across servers by creating playlists choosing from any or all libraries.

In addition to mconnect player, other apps I’ve connected to iDSD from my iPhone using AirPlay or DLNA include Spotify, Bandcamp, Onkyo HF Player, HiBy, Qobuz, TIDAL.

Beware – AirPlay is lossless to 16/44.1k — so your hi-res and possibly MQA won’t stream via WiFi under AirPlay intact. DLNA support by players like mconnect can do better than that and can preserve DSD as well as MQA encoding. My MQA masters are folded to 16/44.1k so they are preserved perfectly well under the lossless delivery of TIDAL or Qobuz to my iPhone using mconnect, then WiFi over to the iDSD via Airplay and unfolded and decoded to the stereo. “It sounds just like you are playing in the room” was what a listener with good ears said immediately.

These albums streaming to iPhone from both the Qobuz app as well as mconnect (TIDAL library) as 44.1k lossless, then sent via WiFi Airplay to the iDSD where they are recognized as MQA with DXD resolution (24/352.8k) and accordingly unfolded and decoded, sent to the Tube preamp then out to a Yamaha amp and Polk Audio stereo speakers setup in the room. Note that the streaming bitrate for the various songs are in the 700-800kbps range as FLAC! That is roughy 1/2 of the bitrate of a CD (1411kbps). MQA’s tech advances in delivering the highest res PCM with correction for ringing at the lowest bitrates is a big part of what makes the past 2 years in computer audio so fantastic. 700kbps streamed into your phone or computer becomes approx. 17340kbps (24/352.8k) unfolded and played through the MQA DAC. I love the math.

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Rediscover your music just by listening.

What MQA Encoding and the iFi Pro iDSD streamer DAC GTO filter have in common is the ability to correct the biggest problem with PCM recordings especially the CD 16/44.1k format we’ve all had to live with for too long. Both MQA and GTO filter technologies come from two different companies who have in fact collaborated, and help clean the sound you will hear in your digital music in cooperative ways. When I say “clean the sound” I am referring to the problems with PCM and the industry’s decades (think 1980) old standards for preferring to favor frequency accuracy over timing and spatial accuracy. This was done and still done by the industry studios and labels despite the fact that our ears are much more senstive to the timing and locality of sound than to frequency.

By implementing the favored brickwall filter on CD in the earliest implementation of CD, Sony and Philips imposed the burden of what is called pre- and post echo ringing effects all digital music listeners. The ringing artifacts are most severe on CD resolution masters (16/44.1k) and then continue to decrease with the higher resolution masters (24/88, 24/96, 24/176, 24/192, 24/352, 24/384k).

Ringing is a distortion added to the digital audio signal that echos the impulse (accentuated instrument’s note or singer’s voice or drumbeat you are hearing) multiple times before you ever hear the note/voice/beat itself come through the signal to your ears. Pre-echo ringing means an echo before the note is played. Even worse, the echo is an inverse unnatural sound like a tape being played backwards.

Post-echo ringing are those following the impulse. While both (pre- and post-echoes) are confusing to the ear/brain/listener, it is the pre-echo ringing effects that throw off our listening and make our ears tired and disbelieving in what they are hearing. Echoes off a wall in a room are common and natural to our ears. The post-echo ringing artifact is similar to that and so less invasive to our listening.

Ringing happens over and over and over again with typical PCM masters, more so with the lower resolution masters (CD is 16/44.1k) that the higher res masters (up to 24/384k in the DXD category) because of the math related to the steepness of the brickwall filter attenuating all frequencies above a fixed limit (on CD this is at 22.05k or half of the 44.1k sample rate). By attenuating the frequency through the lowpass cutoff filter, echoes are imposed before and after the impulse. The severity of echoes will change with the type of filter used, hence brickwall versus minimum phase versus apodizing versus the new iFi GTO (Gibbs Transient Optimal) filter.

More info here from SoundOnSound.com: MQA Time-domain Accuracy & Digital Audio Quality


My Grandson Baseball Analogy

Imagine you are watching your grandson perfectly crouched over home base with baseball bat raised in anticipation of the pitch now being delivered. You see ball delivered and you see your grandson begin to swing. But just before the bat reaches the ball you think you hear the sound of the bat connecting, not a full impact but a shadow of that sound playing backwards. In fact you might have heard it twice or more times in quick succession. Immediately after that you see the bat connect with the ball and then hear the resounding smack!  Suddenly all is well, but what did you hear before the bat struck the ball?

Your eyes saw the bat had not connected to the ball but your ears heard premonitions (echoes) of the ball to be hit. Then a split second transpired (the difference between the speed of light at your distance and the speed of sound) and you heard the familiar and expected resounding crack of a good swing connecting for a great hit. It may have been followed by tiny echoes of the event but those were masked to your ears by the main impulse event of the ball being hit.

You don’t know what you heard as the shadow of the main impulse event. Your brain didn’t know what your ears were hearing.  Those echoes didn’t exist in the real world. It didn’t happen on the field with your grandson. It was a phantom sound that threw you because you expected to hear nothing from the bat and ball until after he actually hit the ball. (I’ve also read about a precedence factor in the human ear/brain that claims our location recognition of sound is programmed to ignore echoes that would otherwise confuse us as to where a sound originated from after bouncing off numerous walls, floor and ceiling inside a room. If that’s true, then the effect of pre-echo ringing is even worse on our disorientation of what we are trying to listen to in digital music. More on that here…)

My baseball analogy is not even describing the whole problem because it puts the listener in a vision-oriented situation which normally influences some 80% of our sensory perception. So vision in my example is partially correcting the audio problem by deciphering for the brain/viewer what is really going on visually. However when we listen to music from our favorite armchair or tatami mat we can’t use our vision to correct distortions in what we are listening to. We are focused instead on the distortions and spatial discrepancies of what we are hearing. It can be hard frustrating work. Things called ear fatigue, digital glare, edgy unnatural sound are what we then suffer from.


Ringing and Filters

Welcome to the world of pre-echo ringing also known as time smearing and temporal blurring. My example of the baseball batter is the analogy of what we are subjected to with the typical CD quality digital playback that was recorded and mastered with close attention to frequency accuracy not time accuracy. These problems are equally true or worse for MP3 and any lossy derivatives of CD masters. These pre-echo ringing artifacts are created during the analog to digital transformation of sound under Pulse Code Modulation (PCM) processing. They are created to a much lesser and closely or fully inaudible degree by other techniques including DSD’s use of Pulse Density Modulation (PDM).

To this end PCM industry recordings are usually made with what are referred to as linear phase brick-wall (or “brick wall” or “brickwall”) filters to accomplish their best attempts at analog to digital conversions with the 20kHz range of human hearing being catered to and other “noise” above 22.05kHz (half the value of the 44.1k sample rate per Nyquist) sharply removed. By avoiding aliasing, ringing is introduced. It’s at its worst in CDs and less so in the higher res well made studio recordings at 24/96 and higher sample rates. The artifacts of this filtered approach to exacting only preferred frequencies desired are the ringing artifacts then imposed on both sides of the impulse itself (pre- and post-echo ringing). MQA addresses and corrects this problem as does iFi’s new GTO Filter. (More from Stereophile in 2006 on this here…)

Even more (from Audiostream) on ringing and why DSD doesn’t record with this problem…

Other filters have been introduced over the years primarily referred to as mininum phase (or apodized, or listen filters) that can remove the pre-echo and place the entire burden on the post-echo side of the impulse which is not as intrusive to our listening since we are accustomed to hearing and adjusting to post-echos as sound reflections off walls etc.  Once again, iFi’s GTO filter is an advanced approach to resolving these ringing problems for any source digital audio including MP3 and other lossy streaming or downloaded files such as what iTunes has been selling as AAC lossy downloads since 2003 when the store opened with 200,000 songs.


Why WiFi?

Finally and hugely importantly, a fantastic option for input on the Pro iDSD is what they refer to as “App”. The Pro iDSD acts as a DLNA server on your WiFi network. Apps such as the Spotify (lossy) and TIDAL (lossless) players on your computer or smartphone can see the server once you set it up (use a passworded encrypted protocol!) and connect to it for audio output. So the Pro iDSD is your midpoint between your wireless computer or smartphone and your internet service provider through your normal WiFi router. It talks to both sides.

Your iPhone/Android phone is no longer hampered by poor sounding, poorly connected, highly frustrating Bluetooth that you have to sit nearby to stay connected to. Instead your phone sends the signal via WiFi to the Pro iDSD as a perfectly preserved digital signal where it then gets converted to analog. You can walk anywhere in your home or even outside where WiFi reaches and stay perfectly connected. iFi got it right. I’m amazed at how long it has still taken wireless digital audio to migrate to Ethernet where it should have originated from in the first place instead of a sketchy lossy, dropout prone protocol like early and persistent Bluetooth.

Anyone using the Sonos Connect product in a similar fashion will immediately understand the musical and logistical benefits of this. The Sonos product does not however support MQA as iFi’s product does.

All of the source input regardless of where it comes from can be easily resampled as DSD1024 on its way to your stereo. Will you hear the difference? I honestly can’t imagine anyone listening and not hearing these differences. I’ve presented these comparisons in real time to other non-audiophile ears and the results were instant and affirmatively better with the proper filter and DSD1024 resample. My ears find also find it instantly preferrable.

MQA avoids DSD resampling on the Pro iDSD and gets properly unfolded and decoded up to the highest bit rates (24/352.8k and 24/384k) for analog delivery to your headphones or speakers.


Your TV plays through it too…a pretty damn big deal

I can’t stop writing about the Pro iDSD without telling you that you can also easily hook up the optical Toslink cable from your Smart TV as another audio input (Coax/Toslink S/PDIF). This will route your tv’s audio through the same beautiful cleanup process (GTO or Bitperfect+ filter -> DSD1024 -> Analog Tube preamp -> balanced or unbalanced Analog output) as I’ve described for other sources like streaming MP3. It will be upsampled to DSD1024 if you desire. By the way, DSD1024 is a 45 to 49 mHz single bit rate. How far we’ve come.

In case you’re wondering, yes there is a BNC connector (S/PDIF in or sync input) as well as a Micro SDHC and USB A to connect for example your 2TB USB drive with your entire music library or smaller thumb drive to. Here is the Pro iDSD user guide, see page 4 for all inputs and outputs…

Since my test setup CD/DVD player was connected to the LG Smart TV via HDMI, all CD and DVD audio also went through the same Toslink cable into iDSD. Simple. Sounds great. In this setup Amazon Prime (both music only as well as 4k and other films) also comes through as resampled DSD1024 converted to analog signal through the Tube preamp to a Yamaha amp and out to a pair of vintage Polk Audio speakers in the room.

In short, iFi Audio’s Pro iDSD is a fantastic and innovative addition to today’s revolving doors of media playing gear and software. IFi’s products have always made hugely impressive impressions on me, but the Pro iDSD is a new trip to a new universe with all the sound quality I’ve been trying to find find for quite a few decades in the digital domain.


What’s Next?

Enjoy Enjoy Enjoy…

So much work still needs to be done before we can have confidence in asserting what can be heard and what cannot be heard.” – Thorsten Loesch

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Errata…

  • Pro iDSD plays downloaded DSD512 and DSD1024 files only via a USB wire connected, not through WiFi.
  • On a number of occasions I lost the Pro iDSD WiFi connection, or, slightly more confusing, my source device appeared to be streaming music to the iDSD but no sound came from the speakers. Occasionally this was due to a mysterious zero volume suddenly imposed on the iPhone, since it’s not a Bluetooth connection to iDSD it’s either off or on in terms of volume control, but zero volume yields exactly that, no sound, from the amplifier & speakers. Other times, I had to turn off the iDSD unit and power it back up to restore a complete audio path to the house stereo. It seems to occasionally lose the WiFi source connection it supports at least as far as streaming audio. This didn’t happen often, but often enough to note here.
  • Specification
    Sample rates: PCM up to 768kHz
    DSD up to 49.152MHz (DSD 1024)
    DXD and double-speed DXD (2xDXD)
    Inputs: USB (required for DSD, DXD and sample rates above 192KHz)
    AES3 (XLR – single link)
    S/PDIF (coaxial/optical combo)
    BNC multifunction (S/PDIF in or sync input)
    Outputs: Balanced XLR at 4.6V (+15.5dBu – HiFi) or 10V (+22dBu – Pro)
    Single-Ended RCA at 2.3V (HiFi) or 5V (Pro)
    Headphones 6.3mm & SE 3.5mm Jack at 0.55V/2.1V/5V
    Headphones BAL 2.5mm/4.4mm Jack at 1.13V/4.6V/10V
    Headphones out 1,500mW RMS X 2 @ 64 ohm, 4,000mW max. 2 X @ 16 Ohm
    Headphone Output Impedance: Single-Ended (S-BAL): < 1 Ω
    Balanced: < 2 Ω
    Volume control: Balanced (6-gang) Alps potentiometer, motorised with IR remote control
    XLR/RCA outputs can be selected as fixed level or adjusted
    6.3mm headphone jack is always adjusted
    Other Functions: Various digital and analogue filters can be selected for DSD and PCM up to 384KHz
    PCM Filters: Bitperfect 44.1 – 192kHz, always used for 352.8 – 768kHz
    Bitperfect + 44.1 – 96kHz
    Gibbs Transient Optimised 44.1 – 384kHz
    Apodising 44.1 – 384kHz
    Transient Aligned 44.1 – 384kHz
    DSD filters: fixed 3rd order analogue filter @ 80kHz with correction for DSD’s -6dB gain
    Gain (headphone section): user-selectable: 0dB, 9dB and 18dB
    Dynamic range: 119dBA (solid-state, PCM, -60dBFS)
    Output power Pro iDSD 4.4mm socket. (16 Ω, balanced/single-ended): >4200mW /1>1,575mWPro iDSD 2.5mm socket. (16 Ω, balanced/single-ended): >4000mW /1>1,500mW
    Output voltage (600Ω, balanced/single-ended): >11.2V / >5.6V
    Input voltage (Pro iDSD): DC 9V/6.7A – 18V/3.35A
    Input voltage (iPower+): AC 85 – 265V, 50/60Hz
    Power consumption: < 22W idle, 50W max.
    Dimensions: 213 (l) x 220 (w) x 63 (h) mm
    Weight: 1980g (4.37 Ibs)

 

2 new songs for download on bandcamp – you can get them free right now

Song for Tom Petty, written in Oct. 2017 and now finally mastered. Can be downloaded as lossless CD 16/44.1 at https://davidelias.bandcamp.com/track/an-empty-seat-tom-petty-1950-2017 — full preview is there as well. Enter any price/cost for the track you like or $0.00 to get it free for now. Happy Independence.
You can see the video on YouTube with this soundtrack at: https://youtu.be/_ZSbNyjlIBA

Written and recorded on Oct. 7, 2017
This song comes from the “Illegal Copy #2” bootleg recorded live in the San Gregorio General Store in 2002 with The Great Unknown band. It is now being released as an MQA single on TIDAL and other lossless streaming sites supporting MQA. You can download the 16/44.1 MQA single master from bandcamp at:
Enter any price/cost for the track you like or $0.00 to get it free for now. Happy Independence. “The Toll Road” tells a story about independence through its central outlaw character. It is something we can all choose to pursue, whatever the consequences.

"The Toll Road" from "Illegal Copy #2" MQA CD format 16/44.1
In my listening to MQA for the past couple years, I’ve found that the biggest gains in sound improvement actually come from regular CD resolution (16/44.1k) rather than hi-res. The improvement is overall more natural and real sounding, less edgy and compressed sounding. Logical justification for this may exist from the known fact that the brick wall filter applied to CDs at 20kHz is a very steep filter and therefore imparts the largest amount of pre-ringing echo in the resulting master (ie, the CD without MQA).
MQA essentially removes this ringing so the spatial orientation of the sound identified and located by our ears instrument by instrument is more realistic and less confusing to the brain. It sounds better because it’s easier to listen to.
That’s my take on it at least as well as my direct experience through comparisons over the past 2.5 years. (Note: DSD doesn’t start with this same problem so we are not comparing MQA to DSD here, just MQA PCM to non-MQA PCM.)
It is less confusing to the brain so it is more relaxing to listen to due to its more natural, less edgy/compressed sound. This is exactly what I hear with MQA on PCM masters, but more so on CD rather than say 24/96 or 24/192k masters where the filter without MQA is not so steep so the ringing is not as exaggerated and problematic to our hearing.

Late To The Party – Apologies and 50%

Still Here Still Here Still Here.

DE-Coco-Fronds-Falling

Lots happening here lately as many of you know with an erupting volcano. Above the ground lava has been flowing. Below the ground lots of unrest and shaking going on (300+ over Richter 1.5 on the Island this past 24-hours, many of those above 3.0).

So… I missed the Memorial Day party — hope everyone was safe and well off in spirit and health. Here’s a post party favor of 50% discount of anything I have (23+ titles) on Bandcamp.  All albums, singles, whatever you order until midnight UTC this Sunday June 3rd.

Go here: http://davidelias.bandcamp.com

On checkout use this Discount Code in the popup:  Remember50

That should do it for the discount. Hoping for the best for all especially here on the Orchid Island these days. 

Take care y’all,

~ DE

Earth Day 2018 – Blue Planet

Happy Earth Day 2018. It’s the 20-yr. anniversary of my “Blue Planet” release on disc. I am giving it to you free today 4-22-2018 as an MQA master you can play on any player or smartphone. You can download the 5-tracks free or just stream them here:

https://davidelias.bandcamp.com/…/the-blue-planet-mqa-ep-ma…

BluePlanet2018

I play all the instruments on the record, except brother Calvin joined me on mandolin and singing on the title “Blue Planet” song.

To download for free, enter $0.00 as the price. If you download today, you can then stream forever from the web page. Install the free Bandcamp app if you don’t have one or stream from a browser.

Happy Earth Day with Aloha!
– DE

DE-Freelancer

What MQA Can Do For A CD

I resisted CD when it was new and media-ized as the best and cleanest sounding thing. It sounded like it was in a straight jacket to me. I didn’t think that was clean. I thought it was chopped up and edgy. I liked vinyl and cassette. A lot. I never replaced my LP collection which was in the thousands with CDs. I bought CDs here and there to listen to stuff in the car but all the good stuff stayed in crates in various places.

Fast-Slow Forward 30 years (I kid you not) and I get to hear MQA with 16/44.1 CD Masters. Holy Shit. Finally something that sounds good in good old 16/44.1 Redbook. There are no hi-res masters for these (and millions of others), there are only CD masters. They sounded ok and forgivable when they were made but MQA let out the angels that were being kept inside.

I could go on and on with technical garbledy gook about filters and time smearing and, no, not rearing children, but other stuff but I won’t. I’ll stop with the angels thing. It’s a new moon, all is well.

Listen to a free MQA CD Master song download I have. Get it in the original FLAC format (use the dropdown option where it might say MP3 and change to FLAC) or any other lossless format Bandcamp offers (ALAC, AIF, WAV).

https://davidelias.bandcamp.com/track/you-never-know-mqa-2

Put in the price of $0.00 and you get it free.

 

Rare-To-Go-Animation9

This song was recorded as an acoustic trio, with me on guitar, Scott Beynon on electric bass and Ken Owen on drums. My New Orleans bouzouki hellacious singer friend Beth dubbed that kind of ensemble Heavy Wood. Yes it was and was my best shot at my Tonight’s The Night sound. Recorded to DSD originally but only mastered for CD on the “Rare To Go” disc and then encoded as MQA.

You can play it on any digital audio player you have including your phone or tablet or computer. If you have an MQA DAC, or BlueOS or other player in your setup it will decode and sound even better but I’m hoping you listen to it either way.

Aloha to all.
~ DE

PS – the photo I took on the CD cover is of the 2 largest mountains on the planet, Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea. One is the largest mountain mass of any single mountain (more cubic meters, bigger than the entire Cascade or Sierra Nevada ranges), the other is the tallest rising from the ocean floor where it begins, far beyond Everest and the rest.

DavidElias-RareToGo-1400px-

It’s Getting Green Up Over

It’s Getting Green Up Over.

Spring is still working above the equator, gotta be thankful there. Along with new budding leaves and flowers the interest in MQA as a great way to deliver CD quallity and hi-res PCM to ears via downloads or streaming or CDs continues to grow as well.

Right now you can try a pristine acoustic recording originally mastered as native DSD, and since converted to DXD and encoded as MQA for downloads. It plays on any music player!

If you have an MQA decoder it can unfold the hi-res to 24/352.8kHz. The original master was encoded for MQA by MQA Ltd. as FLAC. The audio files are small and download fast.

Go here to get the 50% off Acoustic Trio….Album of the Week!

Use the code AcousticTrio50 on checkout to get the 50% off.

Have a Happy Spring and thanks for Listening!

~ DE