Asus ROG Delta S
Home Cinema Choice|March 2021
Why should gamers have all the fun? These MQA-enabled headphones are good for more than just a Call of Duty session, says Steve May
Steve May

HIGH-QUALITY HI-FI HEADPHONES or gaming cans? The idea behind Asus’s ROG Delta S is that you can have both.

You might reasonably think the two hobbies are odd bedfellows, but this collab between Asus and MQA (Master Quality Assured) brings them together, potentially making the idea of a single pair of headphones to serve both not as preposterous as one might think.

Key to this synergy is the release of a new codec by ESS, the ES9281PRO. This low-powered USB solution features 'QUAD DAC' technology, which mean its four parallel DACs are each assigned a subset of frequencies to deal with, before they're combined to create a full-range soundstage.

Able to handle audio data rates up to 32-bit/384kHz PCM, the ES9281PRO is also the first USB codec to include an integrated hardware MQA renderer. And that is very exciting news indeed.

MQA has slowly been gaining traction with audio streaming services, and promises studio-quality sound with precious little bandwidth overhead. Often described as a form of sonic origami, the MQA encoding process folds extra information into the signal, which is then recovered through a two-step unfolding process: core decoding, which is done in software, and rendering, achieved within a DAC. The ROG Delta S automatically detects an MQA stream and engages the render.

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