Audirvana Plus 3.0  - now with MQA - review by Kurt Lassen

Readers of my stuff at do know that I really, and I mean REALLY like this new MQA thing happening right between my ears.

And the fact that one of my favorites software players, which sounds VERY very good already, now in the 3.0 version comes with new features as well as to be able to play MQA files is just fab news to me.

But what is MQA, and why do you need AudirvanaPlus (A+)? Isn´t iTunes already on your daily music schedule? Read on and let´s hear what A+ and MQA can do to my setup.


iTunes is a music player for your computer, BUT it´s not bypassing the other bad stuff that´s going on under the hood of your precious music machine. So the good news is that these sound-degrading things can be bypassed by using players like Amarra, Audirvana, and Roon amongst others.

Audirvana even lets you decide to play around with loads of settings, so many that you might get lost. But it´s easy to reset them, according to Damien Plisson the CEO, software developer and mastermind behind the Audirvana success, you just do this:

"For a complete factory reset, delete the preferences file: com.audirvana.audirvana-plus.plist

It is located in ~/Library/Preferences. To access ~/Library with the Finder, you can use its Go menu while pressing the option (or alt) key. This reveals the Library command in this Go menu. Be sure to reboot before launching again Audirvana Plus."

But there are some minor issues:

1.How do I delete an album? 

I have two versions of Anne Bisons Album: Tales From The Treetops, one in MP3, and one in Red Book (CD) quality. I want to delete the MP3 album, I try to right-click, to left click, try to drag the album to the trash….  I try to do the CMD I thing, all to no avail….

Strange, I cannot possibly delete an album. 

2. Another thing that I think is a little bit weird, is that I am having a hard time to combine two albums (a compilation) into one. 

I am sure this can be done easily, but it's not obvious how to do it, especially for an A+ newbie like me (otherwise I am very good at computers). Note To Myself: I have to email Damien at Audirvana about this, I am sure he can help.

As mentioned before, there are so many, many possibilities to alter the sound when you enter the Preferences, you can adjust Dither, if you use Integer Mode, the use of Isotope 64 Bit Sample Rate Conversion and the steepness and the Forced Upsampling Mode… Again, as mentioned above, if you´ve lost your way, you just have to reset your preferences the way I wrote. And my writing of my listening impressions - all done with the factory settings - I turned the small (but important) settings to my taste. This way I think it´s easier for our readers to see (read) what I had in mind while typing and listening, and that the music system in your own surroundings is very dependent on how the different parameters are set.

You can use A+ together with iTunes, where you choose your songs in iTunes. It is called iTunes Integrated Mode and Audirvana plays the music.  Audirvana then looks like a good old CD player on top of iTunes. 

BUT the better way is just to use A+, and forget all about iTunes. The sound will get so much better! And look at the left, there are my Tidal AND my iTunes playlists, so all my precious music is still easy to find.

Audirvana plays ALL file formats mentioned below:

WAVE, AIFF, Apple Lossless, M4A, MP3, FLAC, WavPack, APE, Cue Sheets, DSF, DSDIFF (including DST compressed), SACD ISO, and now also the brand new MQA (Master Quality Authenticated)! See also our link to some MQA understanding:

But A+ also streams Qobuz Hifi and hires streaming from HIGHRESAUDIO VirtualVault.

But as I think that A+ is maybe lacking a touch of small things like a Radio function to play internet radio stations, (yes, I am used to be using ROON which is a blast when you speak of UI. Do you want it? You GOT it! You want to CHANGE something, you just DO it! You need information on the album/artist/whatsoever… you just GOT it!) AudirvanaPlus does not give you these loads of information, no it does not. But it gives you a sound that is miles ahead of Roon. Miles ahead! And try to download the free two weeks trial and listen, just listen.

A+ quickly imports your iTunes and Tidal playlists, what I would like to see is that it also could import my ROON playlists. Yes, I know that ROON imports my Tidal playlists, but not the other way round, so when loading A+ (which looks at my Tidal playlists) the great playlists I made in ROON are not shown in AudirvanaPlus. Which of course is not AudirvanaPlus´ fault!

But the sound quality is just gorgeous. While typing I have about 5500 albums on my Mac. While listening to AudirvanaPlus, not even one track sounds bad, and the most of them sound way better than when played back via iTunes. 

Sara K´s "Ball and Joint" from her album No Cover (24/96 Chesky ) sounds really, really authentic. Even better is the next song on the same album, "Horse I Used To Ride". Sara´s vocal stands soft and sweet in the soundstage, and the acoustic bass, the percussion and the mandolin all sound like they were recorded in the same nearby location. 

A more upfront soundstage comes with the Danish singer Sinne Eeg singing her "The Night Has A Thousand Eyes", with a more prominent treble and open and brighter sound. Not worse than Sara K´s sound, just more upfront. All the instruments are close miked, giving you a more distinct music presentation and more precise - some might see more boring.

Tom Russells "The Man From God Knows Where" is also a track that I want to share with our readers. Russel's voice is full of emotion and gives me the shivers. A+ gives this phenomenal presentation of authenticity that I almost believe that I am at the recording session, wherever that was.

Cassandra Wilson´s version of "Strange Fruit" also gives me the shivers. The lyrics are about the black cotton pickers in the South of America who gut hung by white people, read about it here: link

A+ makes it sound so good, so perfect, so natural that it is a joy to follow Cassandra Wilson´s slightest details and emotions in her voice. And as bad as the story is, as wonderful is the presentation of the sound via AudirvanaPlus.

And also Richard Bona´s wonderful and emotional song "Mut´Esukudu" gives me tears in my eyes. The soundstage and the lifelike of the individual instruments are gorgeous, with Bona´s vibrate fretless bass as joyful as ever.

And also The Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir version of Arvo Pãrts "Adam´s Lament" is just so beautiful to listen to. It sounds good via ROON, but even better with A+. You just close your eyes and dream and listen to the dynamic range of about 25 dB´s, recorded at the wonderful Niguliste Church in Tallin.

But also The King´s Singers version of "The Little Drummerboy" is spot on to my ears. 

I also listened to Doug MacLeod "A Broken Dream In A Broken Room", or try to listen to the album In Concert by Suzanne Vega and hear her perform "Tom´s Diner" (again). The atmosphere of the artist and the audience singing is just wonderful, the only thing I miss is that after the track ends, I am used too that the next song is "My name is Luka"…. OK, let´s roll the tape then:  A beautiful song, artist, and recording. The soundstage is deeper compared to Roon, though more intimate yet more precise. And I now know after many many years listening to this song I am aware that it´s about child abuse…  "If you hear something late at night Some kind of trouble, some kind of fight. Just don't ask me what it was". Wow, I didn´t know that until now. Shivers again, real shivers.

AudirvanaPlus just goes this little step further than many other players, it just sounds so wonderful and lets you forget that you actually hear computer audio streamed from Tidal or from your hard disc. And that there also often comes a new software update with even better sound quality and possibilities to play DSD or like now, MQA, is even better. Please dear readers and lovers of good sound and music, try the 2 weeks free period. Quick as hell, and in my music system, stable as hell too.

True story coming up 

One night I was dreaming, I was using the Roon interface with the sound of Audirvana. A wet dream that was, I´ll tell ya. And do readers of our website really think that there is another software that sounds better than iTunes please be pre-prepared and please do try the free version of AudirvanaPlus.

Is it THAT good? Yes, it is, and much, much more if we speak of sound quality.

But how the heck Damien Plission can make A+ act so quick as it does, I do not understand. When I listen to some tracks and highlight another song on another album, it takes not a single second to arrive at my ears. Impressive! And that´s even while my music is on an external Thunderbolt hard disk - and has not been in use for maybe an hour or two!


But I said something about A+ and MQA earlier, didn´t I?

MQA is a new standard in today's computer HiFi and should not be ignored. You can Google it for yourself, there are thousands of pages to read about this new kid on the block. I will therefore only say that MQA does some magic to even old recordings and it can make albums sound better than their original! How can this be you might ask, a new version of something can never be better compared to the Master tape of the studios. Heureka, now it can. It can remove some digital fingerprint on music! How? I´ll tell ya:

When a Master tape is made, a kind of converter is used (in the good ol´ days when I was working my first years in music recording studios, a Sony F1 was the standard). This machine has a converting algorithm to it, and that´s the one that makes digital music sound hard and lifeless. The MQA system can extract this fingerprint/sound of the conversion when it knows which converter has been used on the actual recording. And as every Master studio has records of their records (duh…) it´s easy for the MQA crew to "take away" the sound of the converter itself. This is only one example how MQA works under the hood. Of course, Bob Stuart and the crew are not giving away every single inside information how all this can be done (and if they did, we´d probably not understand very much of it). They describe how they worked on 2L´s recording of Carl Nielsen's Piano Music here: link.

MQA is a two step unfold process, where the first one is happening in software (A+), and the second stage is in the DAC itself. So you don´t get everything in AudirvanaPlus, but as far as I know, it is the only software player (together with Tidal, but that has a whole other sound quality compared to A+) that does the first unfold. Thumbs up for this dear Damien - you sure are way ahead of many others (some mentioned the California-based Fruit Company?)

German Hifi magazine Stereo has just released and in-depth interview with MQA´s Stuart: link.

More QA´s with Mr. Stuart can be read at: link.

And from MQA´s homepage:

And the list of audio companies joining the MQA forces gets longer every day: AudioQuest, Mark Levinson, AudioLab, Krell, dCS, Esoteric, Moon, Teac, Aurender, Bel Canto, Bluesound, NAD, Brinkmann, Meridian, Lumin, MSB, Mytek, Onkyo, Pioneer, CanEVER Audio, Pro-Ject Audio Systems, TEAC, Wadax, Quad and Technics as for today.

The two biggest music labels Warner Music, Universal Music have just joined the MQA forces. And also the streaming service Tidal now streams MQA music. The latter is quite interesting because the music lover maybe doesn't want to buy every album a second time just because the MQA flag is up. If you subscribe to Tidal (20 Euro a month while speaking) you get many MQA coded albums already and still counting. You just look under "Masters" while you are in Tidal (why they just not name it "MQA" is a mystery to me…). And for an easy comparison, I made a playlist containing the same albums in "Master" and in not-Master quality. Every album was the newest remastered album. I closed my eyes, so I didn´t know what was playing. 

It was fun to play the songs: David Bowie: Starman (2012 Remastered Version), A-Ha´s "Hunting High&Low"  (2015 Remastered Version), "The Look Of Love" performed by Rumor from her This Girl´s In Love (by Burt Bacharach), Phil Collins´"In The Air Tonight" (2015 Remastered), "Child In Time" by Deep Purple (1995 Remastered Version), and finally "From An Dead Beat To An Old Greaser (Steven Wilson Stereo Mix) by Jethro Tull. 

In all cases the MQA versions sounded: more relaxed, more analog, much sweeter to my ears, less "digital", less compressed, and less "digitized". Many of us remember the sound of the 80´s and 90´s where the whole world went via the route of digital madness (Sound of the Future, Pure Perfect Sound Forever, If it´s digital there can be no fault…). 

If you want the whole Monty of the MQA enjoyment you need a separate DAC that does Master Quality Authenticated together with AudirvanaPlus. But as we speak A+ is the first software player that can do the first unfolding of the music. Soon more will hopefully follow - my questions though is if their sound will be as fabulous as the glorious music played with AudirvanaPlus. 

So YES - this is love at first click - Vive La AudirvanaPlus!

©KurtLassen 2017