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Tidal Masters for iPhone and AudioQuest Dragonfly Black

March 25, 2019

I am streaming a lot of music these days. I wanted to try MQA in the least expensive way, so I picked up an AudioQuest Dragonfly Black ($100) to play MQA tracks on Tidal.

MQA is a controversial digital music format and I’m not going to try to explain or argue it is a legitimate hi-rez digital format. Google MQA and you will find passionate lovers and haters.

I will say that for twenty bucks a month, Tidal is damn convenient and a hell of a value. It’s a music streaming subscription with CD quality (at minimum) and often better than CD quality streaming (Tidal HiFi) from a deep catalog. The MQA tracks (called Masters) sound great. Do the MQA tracks sound as good as similar resolution lossless tracks? I don’t know, but they sound better than CDs and Spotify MP3 tracks by far. And given you can stream them, they can’t be beat.

The difference between audio hi-rez and CDs is not as profound as video’s VHS to Blu-Ray, but hi-rez audio is better than standard digital: more detail and a more open soundstage. In general, a more natural sound.

And it it just got better, because Tidal Masters are now available on your iPhone or iPad (previously MQA tracks were only available on the desktop application and Android). However, you can’t take advantage of this new feature on your iOS device without a DAC (don’t get haughty Android fans, neither can you). See this post for more details. For me, the DAC of choice is an AudioQuest Dragonfly Black.

The Dragonfly is a DAC, preamplifier and headphone amplifier that looks like a USB stick. The Dragonfly has processing capabilities to 24-bit/96kHz resolution, it has MQA capabilities and best of all it is only a hundred bucks.

If you want portability and don’t have an audiophile or record collector’s budget, yet you care about great sound, this combo is recommended:

  • Tidal streaming
  • A smartphone or tablet
  • An MQA compatible DAC
  • A good pair of headphones or stereo rig you can aux cord into

The Dragonfly works great with a desktop or laptop computer too.

Better sound takes some extra effort and some additional cost, but it is worth it.  With services like Tidal and products like the Dragonfly Black, the barrier to entry for great sound has never been easier or cheaper.

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From → Music Reviews

2 Comments
  1. Nice, I very much like TIDAL MQA . The Dragonfly Black is a good choice for $100. The Red was my first DAC but then I found a new Meridian Explorer 2 for $149 from TTVJ. Todd The Vinyl Junkie Web site and never looked back. It fully renders and hardware decodes MQA 24bit/192kHz.

    Enjoy the Music

    • Looks like a nice unit. I can’t tell how big it is. Dig the Dragonfly’s size for portability.

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