6:30 PM, and I am double-coffee'd up, lol! I have the "really rad randoms" playlist playing on Tidal right now. I am still configuring the Tidal app to to output "true" MQA quality music, as I see that the light on the HELM Bolt is always lit up Blue, which indicates that it is receiving <48khz audio (SD quality audio), and I want it to either light up Red, which indicates >48khz (HD quality audio), or (ideally) have it light up Magenta, which indicates MQA audio. Now, I may have to opt in (pay for) Tidal HiFi, which I think I am on that tier (I would have to check the bank withdraw information, because I do not know if I downgraded to the "Normal" tier, or left it as HiFi), but I can see in the Tidal Settings that I can just "select" the audio quality to be set to "HiFi", but then it gives me the option of "Normal", "High", or "HiFi" when it comes to data use on the phone, itself. So, some combination is not right, but everything plays seamlessly when I have the audio quality set to "Normal" and the data usage set to "Normal", and any change in either of those categories causes the song I am playing to not load at all.

When I get WiFi back in my apartment, this shouldn't be an issue at all, because I will simply crank everything to the highest setting and keep the phone on WiFi, but in the meantime, I am stranded on Normal Island :/

And of course these settings configurations are concerning bitrate, and not so much the effectiveness/usefulness of the DAC/amp, itself. Music still sounds a bit better with the HELM than without. But of course MQA Audio is why I bought this particular device, as it is one of, if not the only, USB-C dongle DAC/amp that puts a big priority on, or is even certified for, MQA.

A lot of different (tribal-esque) opinions in the HiFi world. Some go straight analog and analog only (vinyl, passive components, or even reel-to-reel players), others think bitrate is all that matters (HD, CD quality, MQA, etc.), others think everything is cold and dry without some sort of tube amp in the system, others think cable quality or/and component isolation makes the biggest difference/improvement in sound, and the laundry list of preferences go on and on.

Some buy into all of the above (and have the wallet to literally BUY into all of it), and that is all well and good, but my preferences are easy/cheap - decent headphones, decent DAC/amp, decent streaming service, and I am happy.

But I DO want to get the most out of those things when I am using them, for sure.

More on this later