View Full Version : MQA: Aurender N10 against Mac Mini/Direct Stream w/Bridge II

April 8, 2018, 12:49 PM
I am comparing sources between a dedicated Mac Mini with Roon and Tidal installed and an Aurender N10 playing Tidal via Conductor its proprietary application, to see what MQA brings to the table and how both units sound.

The Mac Mini is located in my server/mechanical room well away from my 2 channel setup and the Aurender sits within the main system. The N10 is cabled with Nordost Valhalla II Power and AES into the DAC and a Heimdell Ethernet to a local switch. The Direct Stream with Bridge has Nordost Valhalla II Power and XLR into the PreAmp, Ethernet is Audioquest Vodka (nicely constructed) from earlier times - both units sit on Stillpoints Ultra SS with Bases and also have HRS damping blocks.

Many probably know MControl is the application PS Audio chose, and it has been upgraded from when I first remembered it. MControl allows full MQA rendering between the Mac Mini streaming Tidal into the Direct Stream Bridge II via Ethernet and can be controlled from my iPad or iPhone.

Aurender N10 can only be controlled from the iPad via Conductor and is pushing the first unfold of MQA into the Direct Stream via AES, and the N10 does not RJ45 out. Note: The Direct Stream will fully unfold MQA via the Bridge II using an Ethernet connection and the factory has no plans on changing this path.

A/B was simple between switching the remote keys “Bridge” and “XLR” using a 10 second delay and using my iPhone (MControl) and iPad (Conductor)

Herbie Hancock, was my first selection, from a newly discovered very cool album titled “Mwandishi”, track - Ostinato (Suite for Angels).

Herbie Hancock, plays at 24/192 with MControl and 32/96 on Conductor and shown as 24/96 on the Direct Stream via Conductor. The difference is marginal, and so close I can only call it a draw.

Crosby Stills and Nash, CSN, track - Dark Star.

CSN kicks it at 24/192 with MControl and 32/96 on Conductor but shown as 24/96 on the Direct Stream via Conductor. Again, the difference is marginal, and so close I can only call it a draw.



Chicago Live, Isle of Wight 1970 (Hendrix played and respected Terry Kath as one of the best guitar players) kicks it at 24/44.1 with MControl and 32/88.2 on Conductor but again will not go past 24 on Direct Stream using AES, showing 24/88.2

Another marginal difference, and conclude the following:

MQA does add a sense of fullness and clarity over non-MQA, is it the best thing since vanilla ice cream, hmm, no.

Aurenders build with power supplies and OCXO clock runs essentially at equal performance against the Bridges full MQA unwrapping via a Mac Mini and clearly shows my DAC currently in place limits sound quality if the N10 were able to unleash it’s full potential, nothing a $20-40K new DAC can’t fix. Conversely, the Mac Mini is about a $6000 difference against an Aurender, ouch 🤭

The Direct Stream with Bridge and Mac Mini is no slouch, and IMHO a great value. Depending on your equipment and room, a Mac Mini or similar setup is all that you may need using the money elsewhere. Either way, both systems sound very resolving, the dynamics range beautifully and for me I have digital source backups.

I do believe the cables, mechanical and electrical grounding really enhance the sound as well, and a must of some degree, no matter the brand of choice.

Hope this helps someone, and remember Enjoy Your Sound 🤺

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April 8, 2018, 03:41 PM
Thank you so much for your thoughts. I generally prefer MQA over not having it, but I’m sort of in between MQA capable dacs right now.

Seeing another opinion on it helps.

April 8, 2018, 03:47 PM
Thanks you for sharing, very interesting comparison.

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