Answered

Tidal now displays “MASTER” - does SONOS now support MQA?

  • 16 April 2020
  • 53 replies
  • 25093 views


Show first post
This topic has been closed for further comments. You can use the search bar to find a similar topic, or create a new one by clicking Create Topic at the top of the page.

53 replies

Is there an improvement in sound quality?

I love the psychological effect of seeming “MASTER” on the stream quality - my systems has always sounded very good (2 Play 5s 2nd gen and the sub with Trueplay).  Is there a difference in sound quality?  I have no idea - human interpretation has some limitations.  Am I enjoying it? Yes 😉  

Has something changed in the delivery of the music resulting in the change in the display that now indicates Tidal’s “MASTER” label to the stream?  That  was the question which remains unanswered.

Wow this is weird. It seems my direct control is HiFi now and my Airplay is Master. I have the Sonos beam, perhaps there are different symptoms for us as you have a different product, or this has a mind of its own and it is randomly going to show Master at times.

 

**Edit again. This is changing abruptly as I explore it more.**

Earlier my IKEA Symfonisk was playing on MASTER (Direct play) and HiFi (Airplay). And then iPhone was playing on HiFi. This has reversed now with the latest update. Now IKEA Symfonisk plays on HiFI (Direct play) and MASTER (Airplay). And now the iPhone plays MASTER.

Wow this is weird. It seems my direct control is HiFi now and my Airplay is Master. I have the Sonos beam, perhaps there are different symptoms for us as you have a different product, or this has a mind of its own and it is randomly going to show Master at times.

 

Even I am facing the same issue. Looks like the last update messed with this. Earlier it was exactly opposite.

Hello LuvMusic, if you have time would you mind checking out the post I linked a few comments up and let me know if you have the same issue? Seems there aren’t many Tidal-Sonos users active on here

Wow this is weird. It seems my direct control is HiFi now and my Airplay is Master. I have the Sonos beam, perhaps there are different symptoms for us as you have a different product, or this has a mind of its own and it is randomly going to show Master at times.

 

Even I am facing the same issue. Looks like the last update messed with this. Earlier it was exactly opposite.

Hello LuvMusic, if you have time would you mind checking out the post I linked a few comments up and let me know if you have the same issue? Seems there aren’t many Tidal-Sonos users active on here

 

Hello knopper, I am using iOS and not Android. Moreover, I am not facing either of these two issues you mentioned.

I am facing the other weird issue when using Tidal and Sonos together. “Earlier my IKEA Symfonisk was playing on MASTER (Direct play) and HiFi (Airplay). And then iPhone was playing on HiFi. This has reversed now with the latest update. Now IKEA Symfonisk plays on HiFI (Direct play) and MASTER (Airplay). And now the iPhone plays MASTER.”

 

Badge

Agree with Miguelito!

In real life you will probably not notice any difference.  I ‘m having a hard time to hear the difference between Spotify and Tidal when playing music on a Play1.
But now when Sonos have support for 24-bits flac/alac Tidal could do the MQA decoding within the app and then send It as a 24-bit stream to Sonos.
So I actually think it is on Tidal to make the MQA decoding rather than Sonos (this is whats is happening today on a IOS device when you use Tidal).

 

BTW: Does anyone know if Roon is decoding the MQA stream to 24-bit on Sonos S2. I ended my subscription on Roon and can not test this.

Badge

Replying to myself, it seems like Roon is not supporting Sonos S2 yet. https://community.roonlabs.com/t/hi-res-with-sonos-s2/109799

 

It also says “Master” when airplay is used.

Actually, it looks like S2 has implemented something similar to Spotify Connect or Chromecast. This is NOT Airplay, it looks legit and it is possible that the MQA stream is being used - however, to no benefit in terms of sound quality if no unfold/rendering is taking place. If there is an MQA unfold happening, an external SPDIF DAC connected to one of the digital outputs (eg the Port’s) would tell you whether there is higher resolution being outputted.

An external DAC would show 24-bits anyway, though it might show 16-bit when the volume is set to Fixed and the original content is 16-bit. It depends whether the DAC spots the empty lowest byte.

In the case of online content Sonos is not supporting 24-bit at this point, so it would be truncated to 16-bit.

Sonos does not include an MQA decoder, and I very much doubt they ever will.

Userlevel 1
Badge +2

Actually, it looks like S2 has implemented something similar to Spotify Connect or Chromecast. This is NOT Airplay, it looks legit and it is possible that the MQA stream is being used - however, to no benefit in terms of sound quality if no unfold/rendering is taking place. If there is an MQA unfold happening, an external SPDIF DAC connected to one of the digital outputs (eg the Port’s) would tell you whether there is higher resolution being outputted.

An external DAC would show 24-bits anyway, though it might show 16-bit when the volume is set to Fixed and the original content is 16-bit. It depends whether the DAC spots the empty lowest byte.

In the case of online content Sonos is not supporting 24-bit at this point, so it would be truncated to 16-bit.

Sonos does not include an MQA decoder, and I very much doubt they ever will.

I meant the sample frequency, which in many high res MQA albums is 88 or 96 if there’s an unfold. If there’s no unfold, then we are not getting anything from MQA other than the logo. This would essentially amount, as you say, to truncating the 44/24 or 48/24 MQA streams to 44/16 or 48/16, thereby losing all of the MQA information anyway. 

 

BTW, the unfolded MQA stream to 88 or 96 KHz really doesn’t have more than 16 bit depth. So if it were to unfold and truncate giving you 16bit and either 88 or 96 KHz out of the SPDIF out, that would be better than not unfolding.

 

As for ever including an unfold/rendering of MQA, I am with you that it is unlikely as they would have to pay royalties to Mr Stuart.

Badge

I’m pretty confused at what a Sonos Port running Qobuz or Tidal can support.   

 

If i read the statements in the posts above, it sounds like Sonos S2 playing off a locally stored FLAC file can play 24bit/48kHz, but playing from a streaming service like Qobuz or Tidal, it is limited to 16bit/44kHz???    And no MQA period.   

 

Is the answer different if the DAC in the Sonos Port is bypassed and goes straight over digital coax to a better DAC?

 

Now that Spotify is announcing “HiFi” we’ll have to wait and see what format that will support, and whether Sonos will include it in a software update….   

 

In the meantime, it appears that Bluesound 2i supports all of it, without limitation, including up to 24bit / 196 and MQA.   

Userlevel 3
Badge +4

I noticed the same thing. Here is the screen shot. Thoughts?! Maybe preempting S2 although I doubt it would actually decode mqa yet. Maybe the ‘gui’ is ahead of the codec support?!
 

 

What are we looking at here? The Sonos app doesn’t have shuffle and repeat controls on the main screen, they’re on the queue screen. The Tidal app? 

Userlevel 3
Badge +4

That is the Tidal App playing through Sonos.. 

Sonos doesn't support MQA decode. It would make no sense to unfold lossy ultrasonics which could, if anything, damage the sound. Evidence does however suggest that Sonos is able to play the files by interpreting the top 16 bits, out of which some 13 bits evidently contain useful PCM music data. 

Where do you see the word "MASTER"? A screenshot would be useful. 

It used to show “HiFi” when you played the Tidal app through SONAS even though you selected MASTER - when I first got the Tidal app I was perplexed by this and did the research.  I was told that the stream was downgraded to HiFi and that was the way it was always displayed until very recently. 

 

 

Userlevel 1
Badge +2

Agree with Miguelito!

In real life you will probably not notice any difference.  I ‘m having a hard time to hear the difference between Spotify and Tidal when playing music on a Play1.
But now when Sonos have support for 24-bits flac/alac Tidal could do the MQA decoding within the app and then send It as a 24-bit stream to Sonos.
So I actually think it is on Tidal to make the MQA decoding rather than Sonos (this is whats is happening today on a IOS device when you use Tidal).

 

BTW: Does anyone know if Roon is decoding the MQA stream to 24-bit on Sonos S2. I ended my subscription on Roon and can not test this.

As far as I can tell, the maximum resolution SONOS S2 is supporting is 48KHz/24bit. However, in MQA there is no information past 16 bit. For example, a 48KHz/24bit file has 16 bits of true data, and the extra 8 bits are used to reconstruct information up to 96KHz (this is done in the first unfold).

 

So the extra resolution which S2 is claiming to have, namely 24 bits instead of 16 bits, is not useful for MQA.

As far as I can tell, the maximum resolution SONOS S2 is supporting is 48KHz/24bit. However, in MQA there is no information past 16 bit. For example, a 48KHz/24bit file has 16 bits of true data, and the extra 8 bits are used to reconstruct information up to 96KHz (this is done in the first unfold).

Actually playback on non-MQA devices is effectively limited to 13-bit, though it’s claimed that additional processing in some way compensates...

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Master_Quality_Authenticated#Codec_description

 

Userlevel 1
Badge +2

Replying to myself, it seems like Roon is not supporting Sonos S2 yet. https://community.roonlabs.com/t/hi-res-with-sonos-s2/109799

I’m not sure SONOS S2 supports anything higher than 24bit/48KHz:

 

https://support.sonos.com/s/article/79?language=en_US

I concur with the observation about MQA CD.

Nevertheless with the full 24-bit version various commentators, some referencing the patents and, if I recall, some based on actual tests, have noted that the ‘baseband’ content does suffer some loss of resolution from the original 16-bits.

It’s conceivable that Sonos is taking delivery of a 24/48 stream from Tidal. After all, Sonos will play 24/48 files from a local library. However as of now the 24-bit file is apparently truncated to 16-bit. Maybe with the coming S2 developments Sonos will choose to handle the full 24-bit PCM depth.  

Nevertheless Sonos doesn’t support the MQA encoding and, given historical comments that “the math isn’t there” for higher sample rates, it seems unlikely that they would license a proprietary MQA decoder to unpack ultrasonics from the lowest bits, particularly when it’s generally accepted that these could actually degrade the sound.

BTW, the unfolded MQA stream to 88 or 96 KHz really doesn’t have more than 16 bit depth. So if it were to unfold and truncate giving you 16bit and either 88 or 96 KHz out of the SPDIF out, that would be better than not unfolding.

Lossy ultrasonics which cats can hear, and which can trigger intermodulation products in the audible spectrum in downstream equipment? That doesn’t sound ‘better’ in my book. Nor the fact that if played without a decoder the resolution is evidently limited to 13 bits. 

You might want to read up on the opinions of respected individuals in the HiFi industry who’ve shunned MQA. 

Userlevel 1
Badge +1

It’s conceivable that Sonos is taking delivery of a 24/48 stream from Tidal. After all, Sonos will play 24/48 files from a local library. However as of now the 24-bit file is apparently truncated to 16-bit. Maybe with the coming S2 developments Sonos will choose to handle the full 24-bit PCM depth.  

Nevertheless Sonos doesn’t support the MQA encoding and, given historical comments that “the math isn’t there” for higher sample rates, it seems unlikely that they would license a proprietary MQA decoder to unpack ultrasonics from the lowest bits, particularly when it’s generally accepted that these could actually degrade the sound.

FYI https://www.stereophile.com/content/mqa-tested-part-2-fold

I've noticed the same but it only happens when I'm using an iPad. Not when using my Samsung S9.