MQA Hardware and Software Players Become Available Via Upgrades

April 12 2016, 04:00

Following the recent announcement by Meridian Audio of a firmware update enabling MQA playback in its own range of products, Master Quality Authenticated (MQA) is now also playable directly on the Pioneer XDP-100R and Onkyo DP-X1 portable devices. MQA-encoded music content is finally available for first adopters to download and hear on their own devices.

Since February 2016, Meridian Audio is offering a firmware update for its MQA-compatible products including the affordable Explorer2 USB DAC, the Prime Headphone Amplifier, 808v6 Reference CD Player, 818v3 Reference Audio Core, Special Edition Loudspeakers and its 40th Anniversary Systems. This enabled a first generation of high-end consumer devices to playback available MQA encoded music, which represents not only an important evolution towards high-resolution audio becoming available to anyone - through download and streaming - but also the fact that MQA files are generated directly from the best available master, while still offering the save level of convenience of existing highly compressed files.

Offering listeners the opportunity to experience the full, intricate detail of high quality MQA content for the first time in their own home, depends on having access to a complete high quality audio chain - something Meridian’s users know well. That will be undoubtedly an important step for MQA to start generating increasing public awareness. It seems like a natural decision for Meridian - being the company which originated the technology - to provide access to the necessary updates to allow MQA playback on their products, even though MQA was already established as an independent company and separate business.

Commenting on the announcement, Ken Forsythe, Meridian’s VP says, “The commercial availability of MQA heralds an exciting time for Meridian and our customers. We are proud to be the first to offer MQA playback at the highest level in a pure digital signal path straight from the studio to your home or pocket. Meridian has been a pioneer in the digital audio revolution for decades, and we are thrilled to add MQA as the next evolution to our reference level feature set—establishing a new benchmark in superior audio performance.”

Ryan Donaher, National Sales Manager at Meridian adds that from, “the work that MQA has been undertaking with recording studios we know that many artists have been using the Explorer2 to sign off their master recordings, which makes the fact that this product is available to buy for under $300 in the US even more remarkable.”

Onkyo DP-X1 and Pioneer XDP-100R Updates
Meanwhile, the Meridian range of products has now been complemented by further affordable options, coming from Pioneer and Onkyo, the first two brands to announce portable digital audio players with the promise of future MQA compatibility. In both cases, the companies have now announced availability of free updates to introduce that option to the already considerable number of formats supported by both devices.

The free update for the Onkyo DP-X1 and Pioneer XDP-100R portable players allows enjoying master quality audio MQA encoded music, also available from OnkyoMusic, which provides all downloads as FLAC and MQA (webstores available in Germany, United Kingdom and US). Onkyo’s Digital Audio Player     DP-X1 and the Pioneer XDP-100R were announced at IFA in September 2015, already with the promise of being the world’s first MQA enabled portable digital audio players. The free update is available worldwide from April 12. Users will have to visit the Google Play store (both devices run Android) to get the latest “Music” app and enjoy MQA.

When listening to MQA content on these players, the MQA display indicates that the product is decoding and playing an MQA stream or file and denotes provenance that the sound is identical to that of the source material (indicated by a green light in the App). ‘MQA Studio’ (indicated by a blue light in the App) is playing a file which has either been approved in the studio by the artist/producer or has been verified by the copyright owner. The X-DAP Link music transfer Windows application with MQA support will also be released soon.

Bob Stuart, MQA’s creator, commented on the Onkyo and Pioneer announcements. “We are very excited to launch MQA on the Onkyo DP-X1 and the Pioneer XDP-100R. It’s an exciting time for MQA and our partners. The MQA sound on these portable player is truly breathtaking. With more MQA music in the market very soon, Onkyo and Pioneer customers will be amongst the first to truly experience the wonders of MQA. It’s an exciting time for MQA partners and music lovers everywhere. Throughout the implementation process the MQA listening tests have been astounding and we’re looking forward to hearing customers reactions to MQA. We continue to work with the music industry and you will see much more MQA music in the market very soon.”

The DP-X1 and the Pioneer XDP-100R digital audio player both support DSD 11.2MHz, 384kHz/24bit FLAC/WAV audio files, and now MQA. To isolate sources of internal noise, the audio circuit board and CPU boards are separate and both players use ESS Technology’s SABRE DAC ES9018K2M and SABRE 9601K amp in a dual setup with a 2.5mm 4 pole jack for full balance output with support for normal BTL balance and Active Control GND drive, a first for this product category. Both have the ability to expand its storage up to 432GB.

Apart from OnkyoMusic, MQA music downloads are currently available from Norwegian label 2L - whose entire catalogue is MQA-encoded, with 130+ titles available - as well as 7digital, and Technics Tracks. MQA is not a new file format as such and can be streamed or downloaded via any lossless format such as FLAC, Apple Lossless or WAV. Following public demonstrations at CES 2016, streaming service Tidal is also gradually introducing a ‘Master’ MQA option for its premium subscribers. | |
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