MQA Optional Module

Metrum Acoustics is proud to have a partnership with MQA, regardless of the controversy around the need, reasons, or objectives around the MQA subject. Although we believe in sonic purity, there is a number of clients to whom it is imperative to use products from a vendor who supports MQA.  We believe that our clients are entitled to getting the best quality of sound when using our Digital to Analogue converters, and with our Non Oversampling (NOS) working principle we are able to provide the ultimate listening experience. We do understand that because of the ever growing offering of digital music, brought to you in different formats, there is a need to support other formats as well, like MQA.

For that reason Metrum Acoustics offers two ways of supporting MQA with our Digital to Analog converters.

The first way of supporting MQA is by using ROON and our AMBRE, a certified digital bridge which “bridges” any music source supported by ROON, whether music on a NAS, certified music servers, or streaming services like TIDAL, and your Digital to Analog converter, either through AES/EBY, Optical, S/PDIF or I2S.

The second way of supporting MQA is by installing the MQA Optional Module. The reason we created the module as an option, is that we strongly believe in freedom, freedom of choice by the clients using our renowned products. It is up to our clients to enjoy music as it was intended to be by using our superior Non Oversampling principal, the foundation of the pristine sound we offer through our digital to analog converters. For that reason we have decided that when the hardware module is installed a bypass is being provided. What does this bypass do? It makes sure that any NON MQA signal will go straight into the Metrum Acoustics DAC chips, without ever having to go through the MQA module. Only when there is an MQA signal, it will go through the MQA module.

In short we do not compromise on the unique sound we provide.

So how does MQA works? These are the main steps of MQA described below:

  • MQA captures 100% of the original studio performance. It then cleverly adapts to deliver the highest quality playback your product can support. After capturing the performance, MQA folds the file to make it small enough to stream.
  • Then MQA ‘unfolds’ the file while playing it back using the following steps:
    • First unfold (MQA Core Decoder) – this unfolds the MQA file once to deliver even higher than CD-quality. It is included in some products with digital outputs, as well as streaming services such as TIDAL and media players like Roon. The first unfold recovers all the direct music-related information. Output is 88.2kHz or 96kHz.
    • The second & third unfold (MQA Full Decoder) – products with a full MQA Decoder unfold the file to deliver the highest possible sound quality. At this level of playback you are hearing what the artist created in the studio – with precise file and platform specific DAC compensation and management.

MQA decoders automatically ‘unfold’ as far as the hardware permits.

Visit for more information.

So when using the optional module the MQA software has to decide how to handle the incoming signal. This can cause a millisecond delay in the actual performing of the stream.

As we at Metrum Acoustics want you to enjoy music to its fullest extent, we feel that we have to inform youabout a millisecond delay, happening in the beginning of each track while playing it back with MQA module in our DACs. The reason for this is because when using the optional module the MQA software has to decide on how to handle the incoming signal in the real time.

To learn more about TIDAL Masters (available also through ROON), please visit Tidal site here go here .

For install/removing the MQA module from your DAC, check out the correct jumper setting described here.

The Metrum Acoustics MQA options images:



A little more background

After studying MQA for some time, we can conclude that the main objectives of MQA is the correction of the impulse behavior of the ADC (Analog to Digital converter), but also the Digital to Analog converter.

Older digital recording mastered at 44.1 kHz or 48 kHz are known to have used steep filters which have smeared the recording in time creating a less natural sound. The MQA process corrects this smearing and gives the music a more natural sound. The first unfold of an MQA file (from 44k1 or 48k to 88k2 or 96k) gives you higher than CD quality and benefits from ADC correction carried out during the encoding of the MQA file.

The second unfold corrects the impulse of the digital to analog converter as well as extracting the fine temporal detail of the original recording. This process is tailored because every single DAC has its own behavior. This is most beneficial for oversampling DACs that use steep filtering. The DAC’s oversampling filters are always applied just “above” the music and have a negative impact on the impulse behavior. To solve this, one can use their own up-sampling technology to push the DAC’s steep filtering up to higher frequencies. As a result the DAC’s filter is being detached from the music and causes less disturbance to the music. Gentle up-sampling can also create artefacts, but these are generally considered less annoying than steep filtering.

Now let’s talk Non Oversampling. Per definition a Non Oversampling digital to analog converter does NOT use any filtering and is entirely focused at the perception of the human ear. As NON Oversampling DAC do not use any filters, in combination with MQA Core Decoder (first unfold), a NON Oversampling output will only benefit, and this is the case with every single DAC in the Metrum Acoustics range.

We sincerely hope that this little brief explains the Metrum Acoustics position.

As stated, Metrum Acoustics does provide nice bundle discounts, so just email us….

We sincerely hope that this little brief explains the position we are in and our strong recommendation for the AMBRE. As stated, Metrum Acoustics does provide nice bundle discounts, whether for Amethyst, Onyx, Jade, Pavane or Adagio, so just email us…. If you happen to be a client who already ordered one of our DAC’s with the promise of receiving the hardware module, and do wish to add the Ambre, just let us know as well. We are here to support you in Making Digital Sound Sublime!

The Metrum Acoustics Team