I previously had the Pioneer XDP-100R-K at the product launch at Gibson Studios in London. The review from October is here. I really like the machine, it is chunky but very effective at playing portable music and it is very flexible, playing all formats of music from WAV to FLAC (see spec list below). Now the Pioneer XDP-100R is back at hifiandmusicsource.com, with two new things. Firstly MQA and also with a curious ‘K’?! It is now the Pioneer XDP-100R-K apparently, not sure if the K was there before but there we are (it was, the K means my sample is black, it is also available in Silver!).
MQA – the future of music files
So the Pioneer XDP-100R-K has MQA. But what is it? MQA is a new music file encoding system that is designed to carry all the music data you want, in whatever format you prefer, but in a smaller file. That’s the first thing it is. The second thing it is designed to do is authenticate the music source (studio or artist) with the music listener, so that you are listening to what the artist intended you to listen to. Both of these things mean that you can store hi-res music in smaller files sizes and also, crucially, stream hi res music! Hurrah! MQA is very technical but I understand it to be like a forward and backwards compatible form of music file origami. So on the Pioneer XDP-100R-K I have has sample tracks with .mqa.flac file formats. Meaning they are FLAC recordings but encoded in MQA. The Pioneer XDP-100R-K is capable of decoding the MQA bit, un-folding it then playing the (hi res) FLAC bit.
One feature of MQA is really like is the idea of authenticating the quality of music from the source. You will have hopefully gathered that MQA is an origami style music file folding process. If a FLAC file, for example, has been wrapped in MQA, when it is unwrapped by the Pioneer XDP-100R-K you will see a small green indicator confirming MQA has been used in the music file, like this. This is a piece of music by Debussy. Note the Green indicator in the bottom left hand corner.
A piece of music in MQA authenticated by the artist is un-wrapped by the the Pioneer XDP-100R-K with Blue indicator next to the MQA logo.
Full Specification of the Pioneer XDP-100R-K
The previous review of the Pioneer XDP-100R-K is here. I’ve included the spec below.
DAC & HP Amplifier: ESS SABRE DAC “ES9018K2M” + Headphone AMP “ SABRE 9601K”
Playable Audio Format: DSD/ DSF/ DSD-IFF/ FLAC/ ALAC/ WAV/ AIFF/ Ogg-Vorbis/ MP3/ AAC /MQA(Update)
Sampling rate and bits: 11.2MHz/ 5.6MHz/ 2.8MHz / 1 bit, 44.1k/ 48k/ 88.2k/ 96k/ 176.4k/ 192k/ 352.8k/ 384k, 16bit/ 24bit (32bit float/integer can be played downconvert to 24 bit)
Supported Playlist date: M3U/ PLS/ WPL
Output: 75 mW + 75 mW (32Ω)
Total Harmonic Distortion: Less than 0.006 %
S/N Ratio: 115 dB over
Frequency Response: 20 Hz ~ 80,000 Hz
Impedance: 16 ~ 300 Ω
Gain: Low / Normal / High
MQA performance on the Pioneer XDP-100R-K
All I can really say is that there is no discernible difference in quality with an MQA FLAC file and a normal FLAC file, surely that’s all we need to know? In respect of file sizes, I have made enquiries to get some good numbers, with so many variants in a music file, bit rates, sample rates, etc. it is difficult to get some proper comparisons.
Pioneer SE-MX8 headphones
A word to the wise on the headphones shown above in the picture. The Pioneer SE-MX8 headphones I have been wandering around with over the last three weeks, in place of the Oppo PM-3s I favour, are an excellent partner for the Pioneer XDP-100R-K and I have no complaints at all. As they are running in nicely, the bass has rounded off, there is plenty of detail from these headphones and I have had no fatigue from them at all. Very nice and definitely worth a look at this price.
MQA music now available at OnkyoMusic
Where do you buy MQA music? Basically Pioneer’s partner company Onkyo has set-up onkyomusic.com. I bought ‘Fallen Angels’ from the site today, Dylan’s 37th studio album. The download is still going (rural broadband) but annoyingly there was no option for me to download the new album in MQA although it is a FLAC file (only CD Quality). The download is a zip file! However, as I was hitting purchase I actually wondered to myself if I really did want to purchase an MQA file. It won’t be any good on my server, my streamer (Naim) is not MQA yet. It is the classic roll out problem. But browsing around the MQA site they have recently signed Warner Music and that is a big catalogue and there are ‘Tidal streaming MQA’ rumours around and about, which would be a real step up. The MQA looks interesting but really have to hold our breath on this innovation, I for one hope it flies, but with storage so cheap and the Pioneer XDP-100R having two micro USB slots, I think hi-res streaming is the USP here.
Here’s the MQA news site.
Here’s the MQA Tab on onkyomusic, this is a UK tab.