Over the last two days I've been comparing three players: Puremusic, Audirvana, and Fidelia. All are the versions available for download. I have to say that when I was reading threads in the forums I was puzzled that so many people had multiple players. I couldn't think of any good reason why. Well after a few days I now have a pretty good idea why – they sound different. Very different. All have some strengths and depending on the listeners taste and associated equipment, could appeal to different folks. User interfaces vary, features vary, and documentation varies.
For most of the comparison I used the Song of Democracy from Hanson Conducts Hanson, Mercury Living Presence. It's an old ADD disc that puts the Walt Whitman poem to music. The choral portions are particularly revealing. Problems anywhere in the audio chain can make your ears bleed with choral music.
The first player I tried was Puremusic. Talked a bit about that in my previous blog entry. PM is the champion in terms of depth and layering along with retrieving hall ambience. The space between the back rank of the orchestra and the choir is obvious. The strings are sumptuous with just a bit of dryness. Imaging is solid and air is noticeable. Bass is tight (but not over tight) and impactful. All in all, PM reminds me a very good solid-state preamp. Lots of detail and control. At first I had trouble with skipping. Contacted Channel D and found that I had neglected to tag the tracks as gapless in iTunes. My bad. Made the change and no more probems. User interface is fine. I like using iTunes to manage and PM to play.
Audirvana is a bit less revealing in terms of extracting detail; however, the timbre of instruments was gorgeous. The bass is a bit less defined. It actually reminds me of tube amp bass. The mid range is rich. Maybe a bit overly rich. Sumputous strings, no dryness, but good sense of attack. The choir is not quite as well defined, depth and layering are less well defined than with PM. Still... there something about Audirvana that grabs me musically. I find myself conducting and becoming absorbed in the music. When the choir sings of "Immortal Ships" I can get a lump in my throat. Audirvana also seems a bit more dynamic. Reminds of the time I first plugged in an Audio Research SP3a. The might be before some folks were born. User interface is the best of the lot. Plus it automatically goes into hog mode and shuts off programs that could interfere with playback. I like this degree of user friendliness.
Fidelia is right in the middle. It is the most transparent of the three by a slight margin. It's easily as dynamic as Audirvana, and slightly more lush than PM. Sound stage is a broad as PM but not quite as deep. Interestingly in Fidelia I could make out some individual voices in the choir. Imagining was between PM and Audirvana. No complaints at all about the quality of the instrumental sound. The user interface with iTunes is a bit of a drawback because as yet it doesn't support artwork. According to their support staff the new version will support art.
in sum I could live with any of them pretty happily. They act a bit like tone control. Got a dry digital recording. Pull out Audirvana. An old Columbia/Sony? Let's try Puremusic and get all that ambience and depth. Nice new recording like the Janson's Firebird and Rite of Spring? Slap on Fidelia and run barefoot through the detail.
One last bit. I had a hum in my DACiT. Contacted Peachtree support and after checking a few possible causes a new power supply is being sent out. I didn't ask they did it on their own. Now that is customer support!!! Big props to Peachtree!!