Musings from the Denco Blog

MQA & Meridian - what you need to know

meridian ultra dac sets the standard 3

We have been having a lot of fun at Denco HQ the past few weeks since Tidal began streaming MQA content. The format caused quite a stir at CES and music lovers around the world are quickly switching on to the sonic & practical benefits of the format. 

As you may know, Meridian and specifically Meridian's founder, chief engineer & head guru Bob Stuart launched MQA in 2014 but as with most new formats it has taken some time before end users are actually able to get their hands on content. With this months Tidal "Master" service launch, the format is set to take off so below we will explain a few things you need to know so that you can get the most from MQA.

What is MQA

We'll leave that up to the experts to explain..

How to get MQA content

MQA content is available to stream on Tidal for any users with a "Tidal Hi-Fi" subscription (NZD25.99/month). To discover MQA content, download and install the PC/Mac Tidal application and view available albums under the "Masters" section which is growing daily but at the time of writing contains approximately 450 albums of various genres.

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MQA compatible Meridian DAC's & streaming products

The most inexpensive way to experience full MQA decoding is pairing a computer running Tidal to a Meridian Explorer 2 DAC / Headphone Amp which is currently priced at NZ $350. The Explorer 2 has line level outputs on a 3.5mm jack which can be hooked directly into a Hi-Fi system (ideally with something like a Kimber GQ Mini cable). The Explorer 2 is also an award winning headphone amp and is small enough to pack in a laptop bag when jet-setting. You can step it up a notch from the Explorer 2 with the Meridian Prime DAC/Headphone amp.

Meridian's Sooloos music streaming platform is MQA compatible also, currently just the big rigs have full MQA decoding but come this April we will have the new Meridian 218 MQA decoding Sooloos Endpoint. We expect demand to be high on these and are taking pre-orders now. The 218 will plug into any Hi-Fi system and stream your tunes (including locally stored and Tidal content) from an existing Sooloos system like an MC200 or from a compatible NAS drive running the free Sooloos software. The 218 will also be a fully compatible Roon endpoint for customers who want to get the most from this software.

For the customers who want the ultimate MQA experience Meridian have released the Ultra DAC which distills their 35 years of being at the forefront of digital audio reproduction. UltraDac is the first D-A converter in the world to feature MQA’s patent-pending Hierarchical Converter Technology, which pushes the unit’s performance far beyond that of any Digital to Analogue Converter currently available on the market. Also available is the 818V3 Reference Audio Core  which we are currently using in our own reference system. 

MQA & Meridian DSP loudspeakers

Meridian's SE (Special Edition) line of DSP loudspeakers are MQA ready and the MQA signal is fully decoded within the loudspeaker giving you up to 24/192 native sampling plus you get DAC optimisation in terms of de-blurring in the time domain. The current SE line consists of the DSP5200SE, the DSP7200SE  and the DSP8000SE

While the rest of the Meridian DSP range does not include the same MQA decoding as the SE line, they still offer excellent performance on MQA content when paired with an MQA compatible Sooloos endpoint (ie, 218, 818, UltraDAC). For example, the new 218 will send out a partly decoded signal over MHR Speakerlink which can be up to 24/96. The non-SE speaker will play this back as 24/96 or 24/88 depending on the original MQA source resolution. So, you get high-resolution, plus the de-blurring applied to the studio ADC profile. Meridian's DSP line starts from just $6200 with the DSP3200 digital active loudspeaker, which paired up with the 218 gives you a seriously capable compact Hi-Fi system.
If you have any questions on MQA or how to get the most from it with Meridian products, please contact your nearest Meridian stockist