I have a Bluesound Node. There are 3 ways to process MQA with a Bluesound Node
(1) Use the internal Cirrus Logic DAC and analog out. Node will perform the both MQA unfolds internally and decode MQA content up to 24/192
(2) Use a non-MQA DAC connected to Node’s Coax out. Node will do the first MQA unfold and output up to 24/96 to the DAC. The 2nd MQA unfold is not done.
(3) Use a MQA DAC connected to Node’s Coax out. If you have the option “MQA External DAC” set to “Yes” in the Node configuration, it will pass the unprocessed MQA stream from source (eg Tidal) to the external DAC to perform both MQA unfolds to get up to 24/192
Personally, I find the Node’s Cirrus Logic DAC sweet and mellow and that is my preference. I have connected a ESS-based DAC to the Node and it is too clinical in comparison. An AKM-based DAC I connected was more mellow than the ESS-based, but in the end I am very happy with the internal DAC.
As far as I am concerned, the 2nd MQA unfold makes zero difference compared to the DAC signature, so unless you really want to see the MQA light come on a DAC, just get the best sounding DAC to you regardless of whether it decodes MQA.
The best sound I have gotten is Audivarna on a Mac decoding MQA and driving a DAC via USB