Ever since I reviewed the dCS Network Bridge a year ago, I’ve been enjoying a lot more digital music. YES, I still prefer dropping the needle but the convenience of a dCS Network Bridge + dCS Vivaldi DAC + ROON is tough to beat.
I find myself re-discovering CDs I ripped years ago, but more often on the hunt for more high resolution music. Its been a bit of a disease, each Friday around 4pm, heading over to www.superhirez.com to look for what new music was released that week. 100’s of albums and 4TBs of storage later, I am feeling a little indigestion. There has to be an easier way in terms of storage and my wallet.
MQA is a hot topic. Love or hate it, it’s awesome that we are getting more music in high resolution. Not sure why anyone would complain about that. If you want the best of the best, sure crack the seal on a pressing of your favorite LP. I’ve been enjoying MQA for some time now, mostly at work via TIDAL to a pair of AudioQuest Night Carbon Owl headphones via a AudioQuest DragonFly Red. This simple setup delivers really engaging results.
MQA Support arrives for the dCS Vivaldi
So the promise of getting more high resolution content in my reference room via MQA, has been something that I have been long waiting for. Last week, dCS announced the public availability for MQA support on the dCS Vivaldi DAC. This was previously released for the dCS Network Bridge (to handle the first MQA un-fold) and the dCS Rossini, but owners of the Vivaldi DAC did not have support for MQA until now.
Getting MQA support working is a simple process of applying the latest firmware.
For the dCS Network Bridge, you can upgrade to the latest firmware for free from the dCS App. If the update was successful, your dCS Network Bridge should show as version 398. I recommend you power cycle your dCS Network Bridge after performing the upgrade. If you are using the dCS Vivaldi Upsampler as a streamer, the same applies- it will indicate version 398.
The update for the dCS Vivaldi DAC requires your dealer. The upgrade is simply packaged as a .WAV file that you play from a CD player or Network Bridge / Upsampler into the DAC and engage the upgrade. Total upgrade time on the Vivaldi DAC is about 70 minutes. After the upgrade, your dCS Vivaldi should be at version 2.11.
If you are a ROON user, you should also ensure that this is also setup correctly. Under your device setup, ensure to set the MQA Capabilities tab to “Decoder and Renderer”
The firmware upgrade adds both bugs fixed and MQA support. As part of the upgrade, dCS also adds a set of MQA specific digital filters.
Listening to MQA on the dCS Vivaldi
All of the MQA listening done to date on my dCS Vivaldi was sourced from TIDAL and played through Roon. TIDAL is currently over 1 million MQA tracks (TIDAL Masters) and growing each week.
Ken Forsythe of MQA, got me hooked on looking at the TIDAL Masters New Arrivals playlist. I look at it on Friday’s for what’s new. Its a great way to discover new MQA content. But this habit of looking at SuperHiRez.com and “Masters New Arrivals” playlist lead me to an interesting insight that has changed my perspective on buying music.
A majority of the new hi-resolution music showing up on the high resolution download sites each week is also showing up at the same time or within a week on TIDAL Masters for FREE for TIDAL customers. Hmm… why am I buying those albums, and filling up hard discs when I can stream them for free in high resolution?? Chaffed that I had spent 100’s or 1000’s of dollars on downloads I wasn’t feeling too good about doing this test, worried that the result would flat out upset me.
I did this several times and the result was consistent each time or darn close. Here is an example.
Let’s look at Natalie Merchant’s album Tigerlilly. I purchased it last year in FLAC 24bit/96k.
When I compare it to the same track, on the identical dCS setup played in MQA 24bit/96khz that was free to me as a TIDAL customer… I discovered that…. audibly the two versions sounded almost in-different. Yes it wasn’t identical but it was darn close. It was subjective which was better.
I did prefer using the M1 digital filter when listening to MQA content on the dCS Vivaldi DAC.
Re-evaluating the need to buy any digital music
This revelation is pretty incredible, I will now think twice about buying content. The content I will KEEP buying are must have DSD releases like the fabulous re-issues from 2xHD brought to us by René LaFlamme. My favorite to listen to over the past week was Zoom Sims Quartet in DSD128.
Go Upgrade Now
If you have a dCS Vivaldi, run to your local dealer and get it upgraded. If you don’t already subscribe to TIDAL, get hooked up. The growing MQA catalog will treat you to hours of music. Just another example of a great free upgrade as dCS continues to add value to their existing products.
The full text of the dCS MQA Press release can be found below:
dCS is pleased to announce updated firmware for the Vivaldi DAC and Upsampler. This release brings to a close our ongoing project to include MQA support in all of our current products. Properly implementing MQA in the Vivaldi separates was an extremely complex undertaking and presented a number of challenges. Although this release is delayed from our original announcement, we feel that the end result is well worth the wait.Update notes (important)Due to the nature of this update it is critical that both the DAC and Upsampler be updated at the same time. This release changes the way in which the DAC communicates back to the Upsampler and if only one component is updated the communication between the devices will not function correctly.Please contact your dealer to avoid any issues with the update.We have issued release notes for this update in two separate documents. Please read these documents before starting the update process as they both contain useful information.Release notes for the Vivaldi DAC and Upsampler can be downloaded here: dCS Vivaldi MQA Release NotesRelease notes for the associated network firmware update can be downloaded here: dCS Network Firmware  Release NotesThe dCS Team