Tidal, MQA & DSD — the comprehensive review

#hope
11 min readJul 12, 2020
The MQA website

I wrote this article, because my article on Tidal and the research for that led me to conclude that there is really no alternative high-res alternative for audiophiles who want to discover and listen to new music with the best possible quality with the least friction.

So, it becomes imperative that I dig deeper into MQA and swim towards the high-res format wars to research whether it is all worth it — or not. Should I continue with Tidal, and just download the best music from there as high-res files? if so which format should I use, and with what resolution?

I read up more about MQA in the past few days and that made me test Hifi vs. Master tracks on Tidal. The power button on the Chord Mojo shows red for Hifi and 96 for Master tracks when playing back tracks. Music sounds really good after the DAC and the phone has been given some time to “warm up”. I have distinctly felt that it is only by afternoon that I get clear, water like fluid music from my system.

Color codes for Audio on the Chord Mojo

One thing I did notice today is that the master tracks sounded significantly better than Hifi. They are louder, but also more clearer, warmer and the music seems as clear as FullHD vs. 4K in terms of what was missing in Hifi and what was present in 4K.

It is clear that an external DAC improves the sound quality on an iOS device for sure. The next step was to find out a good MQA DAC at a reasonable price point which also measures well:

After much research on the MQA website:

I pretty much went through all the companies and DACs in the list. They are all super expensive. The only one which I found which had a reasonable price was the SMSL M500:

#hope

“If you see something that’s not right, not fair, not just, do something about it. Say something. Do something.” — Rep. John Lewis