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Amarra Conclusions - Thumbs Up!


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Yes, you are right Chris, there is a language barrier. So hence forth I shall only be reading on this very interesting forum and refrain from replying in threads. I hope this makes sense to you.

 

Respectfully Werner

 

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I forgot to write my previous post, that I want to apologize if I, accidentally insulted anybody on this forum, which was never my aim. But sometimes when you write in a foreign language things can come across the wrong way.

 

And thank you Lee for your reply.

 

Over and Out.

 

 

 

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Lee said:

"I know audio consultants/engineers that still suggest one use a G5 running Tiger for optimum results!"

 

Clay responds:

"... I can't help but to VERY PLAYFULLY suggest that this configuration is only recommended for "legacy" DACs (aka dinosaurs) that have not yet been upgraded to modern interfaces designed for data transmission by computers, such as Firewire. :)"

 

Lee says:

 

"Not at all true..."

 

 

Perhaps I was wrong to use the word 'only' in my comment, but to say that my comment is 'not at all true' is not, well, uhmmm,....let's say not consistent with my opinion. 'True' is too strong a word since we're only dealing with opinions here. :)

 

Let me explain - the only instance that I'm aware of for which a G5 running Tiger is recommended (as opposed to recent vintage/OS Mac computers) for 'optimum results' is when the inclusion of an AES card is needed to provide signal to a DAC which requires it.

 

Otherwise there seems to be no advantage (and therefore reason) to recommend a G5 running Tiger over current hardware/OS, or over whatever equipment one has already at hand (unless it's a PC, of course. ;)).

 

My comment was not intended to imply that a G5 running Tiger will NOT deliver the same performance as current vintage equipment in most instances, but rather that it's not usually required for 'optimum results' unless a PCI slot is needed for a Lynx AES card.

 

I've happily listened to a Cube (which didn't even offer audio output originally).

 

That said, the introduction of Snow Leopard and 64-bit architecture will quite likely be the advance that (eventually) separates the performance of current equipment from older machines.

 

most respectfully,

clay

 

 

 

 

 

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Lee, you are speaking my language! In any audio system, it is critically important to match components properly. And it is not always about the amount of money you spend. In fact, proper design can actually save you a lot of money initially and down the road. I think we can all agree that in an audio system, the chain is only as strong as its weakest link. But to get truly inspiring results -- a system that sounds much better than the sum of its parts -- one should really engineer the whole thing from the ground up.

 

I apologize in advance if this comes across as promoting Ciamara, but over here, we take a systems approach to audio. We design and voice our components to work beautifully together and to deliver results. Sure, you can get great sound by mixing and matching components from us (or from another provider). But I can confidently say that when you get an experienced engineer to design and implement a complete system for you, the results are truly awe inspiring.

 

By the same token, Amarra really shines when it is set up properly. Asking whether a $395 investment in the software is better or worse than spending an equivalent amount elsewhere in the system is not the right question. You have to look at the whole package. Amarra plus the right hardware is effectively a system within a system -- an open source component, if you will. If you want to take the guesswork out of the equation, Sonic Studio recommends using their hardware (e.g. the Model Four). I can appreciate that for many readers the $7995 price tag is steep, but I do believe that what you get with this solution is more than subtle! (For this, I am assuming the rest of the sound system is of a sufficient caliber to deliver the fine detail and emotion.)

 

If, on the other hand, you like the flexibility of being able to try different DACs, then you can use 3rd party hardware and also get outstanding results. I really can't say which is better, since I think it depends more on the individual. Though, I will be reporting back in a few weeks on our subjective observations with several different setups including Amarra.

 

If the thought of spending $5-10k on a "source component" is out of the question, there are still other options that will yield very good results. A setup that I like very much -- and which shows obvious differences between Amarra vs. iTunes alone -- is a Mac Pro with Lynx AES16e card, feeding AES/EBU to a Lavry DA11. With the mini software, that whole setup is well under $3000 (excluding the computer). Soon, we will be looking at more expensive DACs to see what further improvements we can get out of this digital front end. If this were your home and your system, you could do the same -- build stepwise and as funds permit.

 

"All that is fine and good," you will probably say, "but why should I buy hardware just to demo something I'm not sure I will like?" I understand this frustration! Well, there are a few approaches. You can ask a dealer to provide you with a demo. Or you can take a leap of faith on some hardware. And if you hate what you hear, you can always resell it for a slight loss. Or you can seek out a fellow computer audiophile in your neighborhood and see if you can hear his/her system. Or you can rely on the advice here in this forum, from Chris, the people who have heard Amarra properly, ask lots of questions, and then take a leap of faith! Good luck, and if you need help, just ask us!

 

Sanjay Patel | Ciamara Corporation | New York, NY | www.ciamara.com

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I'd like to clarify one thing. I don't compare Amarra to iTunes anymore. That fight has already been done IMO and I personally have moved on. Because I've had the privilege of hearing a computer (indeed many computers) sound almost as smooth and liquid as analog media, and that's saying something.

 

To me, that's the next progression for digital sound, given the vast number of vinyl and tape advocates out there. And that is why I stress use of tested configurations so much, because every aspect counts. Digital playback from a computer can sound really smooth and analog-like, if the system is configured meticulously. We heard this in spades at the Digital Symposium: how a NAS drive or a spinning hard drive, to name two simple examples, can alter sound, add noise or jitter, and take away from smoothness. The result with a lot of computer players = that typical digital sound we've been hearing for years: a sound that never approached the output of vinyl. To say that the technology has finally evolved to approach analog sound is then saying something.

 

/Lee

 

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I agree that you should keep posting here! I for one really enjoy helping people get the best out of their systems -- and while I do make a living putting systems together for people -- it is about the passion and the love of sound!

 

I find the majority of people who have heard Amarra (set up properly, or close to set up properly) have heard noticeable results. Many say the improvement is not subtle. Others feel that Amarra is clearly different, but have not made a decision as to which they prefer. Still others stick to vinyl.

 

If you haven't already done so, perhaps you should try a lot of different program material. Try Jazz, Classical, Pop, Rock, R&B, live and studio albums. The differences -- in my experience -- seem to be more pronounced with well-recorded acoustic material. I notice it on everything now because I have spent so much time listening to it and know what to look for, but the differences can be much more obvious on, say, a well-recorded live jazz album. Try material with a lot of cymbals and hi-hats and high frequency splashy sounds. To me, they sound blurry and uncontrolled through iTunes, but wonderful and in their appropriate places through Amarra. The same is true of vocals and bass drums.

 

Also try to use both well-recorded music produced by good engineers as well as the average stuff. Sometimes a badly made album is just a badly made album that even Amarra can't help. This is certainly true of all that DJ / dance music I used to listen to when I was younger!!

 

And if you are up to it, let us know what your setup is, and some of us here will try to help you.

 

Sanjay Patel | Ciamara Corporation | New York, NY | www.ciamara.com

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Clay,

 

I was just responding to your suggestion that G5's are only for dinosaur Dacs. And in my experience, the opposite is true: a good dual G5 is plenty of muscle for hi-rez playback, has all the interface options you could want, and can play great music to just about any Dac. You could output state of the art sound to a dac via FW, usb or AES (via Lynx card) all thru this badboy, and have 60% CPU left to gloat over.

 

So I'm just saying one doesn't need to rush out and buy the latest Mac in order to get good results from Amarra. However, it is a higher priority for Sonic to support current model Macs over legacy products.

 

Hope this clarifies.

 

/Lee

 

Sonic Studio, LLC

 

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I think you are right about that. That's why CA exists! I do want to try the SSD drive ... but if a RAM implementation within Amarra will achieve the same results, I may wait for that. Will it? Is it coming, and if so, when is that update expected?

 

 

 

Sanjay Patel | Ciamara Corporation | New York, NY | www.ciamara.com

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Good point Sanjay. If iTunes can't play hi-rez music, then it is already at a huge disadvantage. Not sure iTunes was ever designed with the audiophile in mind, nor do they care much about us IMO.

 

A lot of the smoothness that I talk about above comes from the hi-rez recordings themselves. So you need a hi-rez player in order to unlock this potential, just to enter the race.

 

/Lee

Sonic Studio, LLC

 

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I heard somewhere -- can't remember where exactly -- that a future version of Amarra may use a buffer to pre-load music files into RAM so that it plays back without the impact of jitter from the physical hard drive. Or did I dream that? Is something like this possible, and if so, are you guys considering it sometime soon?

 

Sanjay Patel | Ciamara Corporation | New York, NY | www.ciamara.com

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Hi,

 

I've been following this discussion off and on, but it appears now that I'm really lost.

 

/Lee states,

Good point Sanjay. If iTunes can't play hi-rez music, then it is already at a huge disadvantage. Not sure iTunes was ever designed with the audiophile in mind, nor do they care much about us IMO.

 

A lot of the smoothness that I talk about above comes from the hi-rez recordings themselves. So you need a hi-rez player in order to unlock this potential, just to enter the race.

 

Using firewire, iTunes supports 192/ 24, doesn't it? At least that's what I thought I was listening to when I played some sample files. Is the sales pitch getting a bit strong, or is it me?

 

Ron

 

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Well, I'll have to get one then! Thanks Lee!

 

Also, I need to correct a previous statement. I should not have used the word jitter -- there is no jitter inside the computer. To quote another poster on a different CA thread, "jitter only occurs in the end device when it converts from DATA to I2S (or left/right/dsp) serial audio. The reason SSD's sound better than rotational is many fold. Less current required makes less power supply noise therefore less radiation. Faster speed means less time delays in swaping of virtual memory. Faster task switching everything..."

 

Sanjay Patel | Ciamara Corporation | New York, NY | www.ciamara.com

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iTunes will recognize high resolution files without problem. How it handles them and plays them back, however, is another story. iTunes does not play 24bit audio files very well. I know this firsthand from studio work. I recorded some music that I played into Logic Pro. I bounced (i.e. mixed down) to 2-channel 24bit/44kHz AIFF files to send to the mastering facility. The resulting AIFF files sounded great when played from Logic. When I played those same files through iTunes, they sounded noticeably worse.

 

I haven't been able to confirm this, but I have heard from a few people that iTunes truncates the word length from 24 to 16bits. Does anyone else know for sure? Based on subjective listening tests, though, Amarra just sounds better. Sorry if we are sounding like an advertisement. But many people out there do seem to agree with these findings.

 

Sanjay Patel | Ciamara Corporation | New York, NY | www.ciamara.com

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Thanks for your response. I have a lot of 96/24 recordings, most of which I've made myself from vinyl. Years ago I would have been ashamed to say this, but I now prefer the digitized transfers to the original vinyl. They have all (or at least most of) the presence, atmosphere, and soundstage of the originals, and, thanks to ClickRepair and DeNoise, very little or no vinyl noise. This is using iTunes.

 

Just my experience.

 

Ron

 

(and just once because it seems to have become the custom)

MacBook Pro| Weiss Dac2| CAT Ultimate| Art Audio Jota Monos| Verity Parsifal Encores

 

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silverlight suggested trying RAM Disk with Amarra here:

http://www.computeraudiophile.com/content/Potential-Amarra-Tweak

 

I just tried it. And I have to say it really does make a difference vs. using the Macintosh HD (a traditional spinning hard drive). I am wowed. I created a 4GB RAM Disk using this program: http://www.versiontracker.com/dyn/moreinfo/macosx/34414

 

I then copied the Amarra and iTunes apps over to the RAM disk. You need to launch iTunes first, and then Amarra from the RAM Disk. Otherwise, Amarra will start and then launch iTunes from the Macintosh HD.

 

I am very early in my tests, but it really does make the sound even sweeter and smoother. I find I can play even louder than I might otherwise play. Very fun. I tried copying the music files over to the RAM Disk as well. I was not able to detect a difference between playing the sound file from the RAM Disk vs. my media hard drive (2 x 1TB Seagate Barracuda 7200rpm drives in striped RAID inside the Mac Pro). But running the software from RAM Disk really seems to improve things. And it only takes a few seconds to set up. Thanks silverlight!!

 

Sanjay Patel | Ciamara Corporation | New York, NY | www.ciamara.com

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Ron

 

"Is the sales pitch getting a bit strong, or is it me?"

 

It's not you, Ron,

 

The sales pitch is getting deafening in here.

 

Especially from Sanjay. His posts make brief mention of an issue and then launch into a full sales pitch

 

When someone apologizes in advance, that's a tacit admission of guilt, in my opinion.

 

clay

 

 

 

 

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Sanjays says:

 

"Synergy

 

Lee, you are speaking my language! In any audio system, it is critically important to match components properly. And it is not always about the amount of money you spend. In fact, proper design can actually save you a lot of money initially and down the road. I think we can all agree that in an audio system, the chain is only as strong as its weakest link. But to get truly inspiring results -- a system that sounds much better than the sum of its parts -- one should really engineer the whole thing from the ground up.

 

I apologize in advance if this comes across as promoting Ciamara, but over here, we take a systems approach to audio. We design and voice our components to work beautifully together and to deliver results. Sure, you can get great sound by mixing and matching components from us (or from another provider). But I can confidently say that when you get an experienced engineer to design and implement a complete system for you, the results are truly awe inspiring.

 

By the same token, Amarra really shines when it is set up properly. Asking whether a $395 investment in the software is better or worse than spending an equivalent amount elsewhere in the system is not the right question. You have to look at the whole package. Amarra plus the right hardware is effectively a system within a system -- an open source component, if you will. If you want to take the guesswork out of the equation, Sonic Studio recommends using their hardware (e.g. the Model Four). I can appreciate that for many readers the $7995 price tag is steep, but I do believe that what you get with this solution is more than subtle! (For this, I am assuming the rest of the sound system is of a sufficient caliber to deliver the fine detail and emotion.)

 

If, on the other hand, you like the flexibility of being able to try different DACs, then you can use 3rd party hardware and also get outstanding results. I really can't say which is better, since I think it depends more on the individual. Though, I will be reporting back in a few weeks on our subjective observations with several different setups including Amarra.

 

If the thought of spending $5-10k on a "source component" is out of the question, there are still other options that will yield very good results. A setup that I like very much -- and which shows obvious differences between Amarra vs. iTunes alone -- is a Mac Pro with Lynx AES16e card, feeding AES/EBU to a Lavry DA11. With the mini software, that whole setup is well under $3000 (excluding the computer). Soon, we will be looking at more expensive DACs to see what further improvements we can get out of this digital front end. If this were your home and your system, you could do the same -- build stepwise and as funds permit.

 

"All that is fine and good," you will probably say, "but why should I buy hardware just to demo something I'm not sure I will like?" I understand this frustration! Well, there are a few approaches. You can ask a dealer to provide you with a demo. Or you can take a leap of faith on some hardware. And if you hate what you hear, you can always resell it for a slight loss. Or you can seek out a fellow computer audiophile in your neighborhood and see if you can hear his/her system. Or you can rely on the advice here in this forum, from Chris, the people who have heard Amarra properly, ask lots of questions, and then take a leap of faith! Good luck, and if you need help, just ask us!"

 

 

 

Chris,

 

please advise, how is the above post anything BUT an advertisement for Sanjay's company. His only seemingly relevant comment is to agree with a fellow Amarra rep, and then he launches into full PR mode.

 

thanks in advance,

Clay

 

 

 

 

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Sanjay says:

 

"I heard somewhere -- can't remember where exactly -- that a future version of Amarra may use a buffer to pre-load music files into RAM so that it plays back without the impact of jitter from the physical hard drive. Or did I dream that? Is something like this possible, and if so, are you guys considering it sometime soon?"

 

Sanjay,

 

You're a dealer for Amarra. Why are you asking questions on the forum about potential (vaporware) Amarra features?

 

It's seems quite disingenuous, from my point of view.

 

clay

 

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