Meridian and Tidal and MQA, oh my!

22nd February 2017

If you’re one of the clever people who read our newsletter (high-five!), then you already know about Tidal Masters, a collaboration between high quality streaming service Tidal, and MQA. If not, you can find out more about it here.

MQA uses an ingenious encoding method, which involves taking the original master recording of a track, encapsulating it to be streamed or downloaded as a lossless file, and then decoding it at the listener’s end with the relevant hardware, to bring the magic of the studio to your system. Unfortunately, this mostly involves very expensive Meridian Reference equipment, such as the 808v3, 818, and UltraDAC.

However, fret not, for there is an relatively inexpensive way to experience MQA in your own home thanks to Tidal Masters and the Meridian Explorer 2 DAC.

Capable of fully decoding MQA, the Explorer 2 connects to your computer with a simple USB cable. Output wise, you have the option of either plugging in a pair of headphones, or using the 3.5mm line out. After that, simply select it as the default sound output on your computer and away you go!

Any music that you then listen to in this way will be enhanced by the DAC’s apodising filter and upsampling capabilities, which means you’ll notice an improvement before you even start playing with MQA.

Speaking of which, where can you get MQA files?

If you’re lucky enough to have downloaded some encoded files for local playback, you’re well placed to experience the best MQA has to offer. However, you can still get excellent results from streamed MQA files.

You’ll need to download Tidal for your computer, and if you don’t have one already, you’ll need to make an account. Like all the best things in life, Tidal isn’t free, but you can get a 30 day free trial right here. Make sure you apply for the Tidal HiFi service, as this gives you access to Tidal Masters.

Once you’ve got your account and downloaded the program, all you need to do is find something to play!

On the lefthand side of Tidal, click on “What’s New”, scroll down to “ALBUMS”, and select “Masters”. You can click “Show All” to see the entire list of available titles, which ranges from Iron Maiden to Madonna, with plenty in between to suit your tastes. Once you’ve found something that tickles your fancy, simply select it and let it play.

If you’ve done everything correctly, your ears will be rewarded with the dulcet tones of fully decoded, master quality authenticated music. Bravo, welcome to the future.

And how much would a setup like this cost? Presuming you already own a computer and some headphones, your only expenditures are the Explorer 2 DAC, which comes in at a very reasonable £199, and the Tidal subscription, which is £19.99/month after the 30 day trial expires, although cheaper options exist for those who decide to pay for several months upfront.

All in all, it’s a small price to pay to experience the very best modern digital formats have to offer. If you’re interested in trying this in the comfort of your own home, either send us an email, ring us on 0131 555 3963, or drop by our Edinburgh store.

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