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. Al though 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 that ultimate listening experience. We do understand that because of the ever growing offering of digital music, brought to you in different formats, that there is a need to support other formats as well, like MQA.

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

The first, and our preferred way of supporting is 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, SpDIF or I2S. Why do we prefer the digital bridge over our MQA module? Lets get back to that in a moment.

As we have a signed contract with MQA, we have been allowed to create a hardware module which holds the MQA software in a chip, placed on a module which can be installed in several of Metrum Acoustics DAC’s. like our award winning Amethyst, Onyx, Jade, Pavane and Adagio. These modules can be obtained as an option to be able to support MQA directly in our DAC’s.

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 principle, 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 and why do we prefer our AMBRE as an digital bridge when streaming MQA content?

  • At first MQA captures 100% of the original studio performance. It then cleverly adapts to deliver the highest quality playback your product can support. 
  • 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.
  • The first unfold recovers all the direct music-related information. Output is 88.2kHz or 96kHz.
  • The second unfold is described in the little background story below
  • These products feature an MQA renderer which can complete the final unfold. Renderers can be great portable products such as USB DACs and headphones.

So when using the optional module the MQA software ongoing has to decide on how to handle the incoming signal. This can cause a milli-second delay in the actual performing of the stream.  Some clients experience this to be annoying and decide against MQA because of this latency issue. Now, if this whole unfolding takes place in the software, like TIDAL and or in ROON, there will be no latency on the playback side of the audio chain, and MQA will work like a charm. As our AMBRE works great with ROON, it is tested and certified by ROON for that matter, the whole latency disappears and clients will enjoy the promise making digital sound sublime by using our Digital to Analog converters.

As we at Metrum Acoustics want you to enjoy music to its fullest extend, we feel that we have to inform you about this latency, and if you happen to have, or are in the process of obtaining one of our fine digital to analog converters, we promise you the freedom to chose, a choice which can be made simply by adding an AMBRE to your DAC. We invite you to contact us for a compelling bundle deal of a DAC of your choice in combination with the AMBRE.

To learn more about MQA and its capabilities, please visit the MQA website 

And to learn more what ROON using TIDAL does with MQA, go here

In case of removing the MQA module from your DAC, check out the correct jumper setting described here.

The Metrum Acoustics MQA flavors:


A little more background

After studying MQA for some time, we can conclude that the main objectives of MQA are,

1                    The unfolding of a compressed file

2                    The correction of the impulse behavior of the ADC (Analog to Digital converter), but also the Digital to Analog converter.

The first unfold of the file, gives you the file as recorded in the studio, this is what Roon and Tidal do. Two things happen at this moment, the unfolding of the file (for example from 16 bits/44.1kHz to 24 bits/88.2 kHz) and to apply a correction of the impulse behavior of the ADC. Older recordings are known, especially those recorded at 44.1 kHz or 48 kHz used to have steep filters which impacted the impulse behavior. As a result these filters cause pre and post ringing which create a less natural sound.

The second unfold is geared toward correcting the impulse of the digital to analog converter. This process is dedicated because every single DAC has its own behavior. Especially the oversampling DAC’s use steep filtering but this all depends per DAC, more or less. Aforementioned filters are always applied just “above” the music and do have a negative impact on the impulse behavior. To solve this one can suppress the filter by using up-sampling technology, as an example the unfolded file of 96 kHz  is being up-sampled to 192 kHz or even 384 kHz sampling. As a result the filter is being detached from the music and the filter becomes less steep, but still steep. Up-sampling often creates artifacts, but these are considered less annoying than steep filtering.

Now lets 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. Our ear is a filter on its own and any additional filtering would only contribute to many more negative influences. Fair to say, that all this filtering only contributes to a lesser impulse behavior especially when trying to identify the one or other instrument when listening to music. As NON Oversampling DAC’s do not use ANY filters, the impulse behavior is more than perfect and in combination with MQA, a NON Oversampling could potentially ONLY benefit from the first unfold (remember the one Tidal/ROON do). In the case of Non Oversampling where no filters are applied there is NOTHING to correct after the first unfold, and this is the case with every single DAC in the Metrum Acoustics range.

No oversampling is required to suppress the filtering, no need for any correction because there is nothing disturbing.

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, so just email us….

The Metrum Acoustics Team