MQA is becoming a reality; the company has a new partner under Brinkmann Audio who despite being a world-class leader in turntable design has a history on digital audio as well with the “Zenith”, a DAC introduced back in 1986!
In Munich they presented the all new MQA ready, tube output Nyquist DAC, capable of 32bit/384KHz PCM and dual rate DSD, yours for 12.000 euros available as of Q4 2016. Paired to the in-house electronics (Brinkmann produces a complete line of quality electronics including mono power amps, pre, stereo, integrated and the fabulous Edison phono stage) all sitting on top of HRS racks while speakers were courtesy of Vandersteen, his second from top Model 5A carbon ($29.900) along with the dedicated M7-HPA amplifiers ($52.000).
Bob Stuart gave us a demo session comprising of various tracks in MQA, sourced mostly directly from the original masters, and I must admit, there is something to this new format. Not saying it is better than the same files in hi-res PCM or DSD; my experience is still very limited and in order to draw any conclusions I would like to do some proper A-B in my system, preferably with less than 30 folks sitting in the room. What I am saying is that it sounds a bit different, and given the huge advantage of a lower bit rate, chances are it will be the next logical step in quality streaming for the not so distant future. Still, I am not sure how it is going to do as a format; discussing a bit further with Bob, I came to understand that we are talking of a lossy compression, only that with MQA the vital 20-20KHz range remains untouched (protected is the word he used) and the lossy part of the compression happens at higher frequencies, inaudible for the human ear.
A special mention goes to Mr. Vandersteen, not only has he the cojones to bring something else besides the top of the line speaker, but he also nails imaging like no one else in the entire show. And not just this year. As a matter of fact, I cannot recall a single show that he did not provide fantastic performance, and without breaking the bank either.