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Potential Amarra Tweak


silverlight
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So those of you running Amarra, would be very interested in getting your feedback on a modified configuration. This evening I set up a RAM Disc (205mb) and copied over Amarra (v3166) and iTunes (v8.2.1) on the disc thereby making copies of them to memory. Holy cow, the two applications run together with incredible speed, meaningful drop in latency. Navigating the library and tracks is night and day faster. Of course most importantly, does it sound better? Would be curious to get feedback. To my ears I did hear an improvement in higher frequency detail (was using Crow on the Cradle / Keith Greeninger / Blue Coast Records 96kHz as the reference track; the nylon strings of the classical guitar on the right hand side of the soundstage is where I was hearing nice improvement in detail while it was hard to hear a change with the metal string acoustic in the left side).

 

RAM disc software:

http://www.versiontracker.com/dyn/moreinfo/macosx/34414

hold the option/alt key when starting the application to adjust the size to 205-210mb (for me the 2 app's required 203mb).

 

I'd do this just for the meaningful increase in speed of the computer interface alone! 4GB of RAM highly recommended... (FWIW I was also using an SSD on the Mac Mini running the OS underneath the apps on the ram drive)

 

When Sonic Studio adds the option of loading songs/playlists to memory, would be one more level of reduced latency (and for those using external hard disc libraries vs SSD could be a superior choice and of course a lot cheaper than stocking up on 100's of GB's of SSD).

 

Lastly, credit to Vincent at VRS for the idea on this one as he was suggesting using an external hard drive that uses DRAM (rather than an SSD) as the main drive for the system for best performance (which is essentially the same concept).

 

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This is an awesome free tweak. I've loaded my Itunes, DigiDesign Core Audio Manager, and Hijack Pro onto the Ram Disk and everything has definitely been kicked up a notch. I'm listening to 320kbps mp3s that I normally can't stand at a much higher volume than usual without the normal ice pick to the ears harshness. Folks should try this without a doubt.

 

david is hear[br]http://www.tuniverse.tv

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Frank - yes, I read it on one of the forums that this is in the plans for an upcoming release. Could be another nice incremental improvement that together with the RAM drive could really take the performance to a new level.

 

UPDATE: found the thread, a comment by Jon at Sonic -- http://www.computeraudiophile.com/content/Amarra?page=5

"We do plan on adding a "preload" button to Amarra in a future release. This will allow a user to preload a song / playlist into memory and for Amarra to 'turn off' iTunes." [also good news that we can turn off iTunes b/c it's twice the processing and I for one have no need to A/B back into iTunes as a comparison any longer]

 

 

Vortecjr - when you turn off your computer you do lose the two app's or whatever you've put into the ram disk (since they're stored in DRAM / volatile mem), but it has no effect on the preference files, etc. What I'd ideally like to do is write an Automator script or some other macro to create the drive, copy the two app's over and then launch them with 1 click. Since I don't restart my music server (headless mini) it's an infrequent thing anyway, but would be convenient for those cycling their computers on/off more frequently. (but I have to say even manually, it takes one click on the RAM Drive software, and two drags for the app's, so really quick anyway). If you've got enough memory, you could also enlarge and play some tracks from another RAM disk as well to test for SQ differences (haven't done this yet).

 

 

 

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Most apps on the Mac work like this as (unlike Windows) there is no central registry. To install you drag the file (actually it's basically a folder which you normally see as a single entity) into the applications folder (though could be run from any other location) and to uninstall you drag the app to the wastebasket.

 

Eloise

 

Eloise

---

...in my opinion / experience...

While I agree "Everything may matter" working out what actually affects the sound is a trickier thing.

And I agree "Trust your ears" but equally don't allow them to fool you - trust them with a bit of skepticism.

keep your mind open... But mind your brain doesn't fall out.

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IIRC I was saying that (according to Kent Poons reports / testing) that iTunes on windows doesn't work "bit-perfect" with higher than CD resolution files - he experienced some distortion. iTunes on Mac is fine upto 24/192.

 

Eloise

 

Eloise

---

...in my opinion / experience...

While I agree "Everything may matter" working out what actually affects the sound is a trickier thing.

And I agree "Trust your ears" but equally don't allow them to fool you - trust them with a bit of skepticism.

keep your mind open... But mind your brain doesn't fall out.

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"We do plan on adding a "preload" button to Amarra in a future release. This will allow a user to preload a song / playlist into memory and for Amarra to 'turn off' iTunes."

 

Seams to me this would loose a lot of Amarra's featured "party piece" -being controllable with iTunes interface.

 

Eloise

 

Eloise

---

...in my opinion / experience...

While I agree "Everything may matter" working out what actually affects the sound is a trickier thing.

And I agree "Trust your ears" but equally don't allow them to fool you - trust them with a bit of skepticism.

keep your mind open... But mind your brain doesn't fall out.

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Hi Clay -

well, haven't used it or spoken to them about osx compatibility, just passing along the link. however looking at the spec's, I'm assuming it mounts as a standard SATA drive which wouldn't prevent it's use in OSX, Linux, etc. (if it's a boot-capable drive in windows also I'm assuming it doesn't require special drivers from windows to mount). Dunno, would be fun to try!

 

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Hi guys - I get a lot of information from the Storage Search website. Here is a link to the fastest SSD drives http://www.storagesearch.com/ssd-fastest.html

 

There is a wealth of info on this site about SSD technology compared to many others. Highly recommended.

 

Founder of Audiophile Style

Announcing The Audiophile Style Podcast

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Thanks for the link Chris! That's a great site.

 

Intel NUC NUC8i7BEH Roon Server running Audio Linux in RAM -> Sonore UltraRendu (Roon Endpoint) -> Uptone ISO Regen -> Singxer SU-1 KTE -> Holo Audio Spring Level 3 DAC -> Nord One UP Monoblocks -> Spendor LS3/5as | Music controlled via iPad (Power Conditioning: Audience adeptResponse aR12).  Twitter: @hirezaudio

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I have just been giving your ramm disk tweak a good try out and I am getting a significant increase in dynamics - its dramatic.

 

I have just made the move to a Macbook for Amarra Mini so still have the OS and music store on the same 7200 rpm HDD, so perhaps it might not be as pronounced on a SSD

 

I tried putting the music files on a second ramm disk but couldn't get Amarra to pick them up - things dropped back to iTunes. Has anyone got that to work as well ?

 

Great suggestion - thanks

 

Source: Diskless fanless PC Win Server19, fed from a linear supply and 19v pico

All SSDs on JCat battery supplies - JPlay femto - JCat femto USB - JCAT reference USB - Chord DAVE

Plus CEC TL 5 Cd transport - Blackcat Tron BNC - Chord DAVE

Amps: Merill Audio Veritas

Speakers: Trenner and Friedel RA

Cables : Kubula-Sosna Elation I/C and speaker

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Great to hear you had similar results, and more fun to use as well.

 

As for moving songs to the RAM disk, not as convenient to do as iTunes looks to a specific location for the files. The only way I've done it is to copy a handful of songs over, and drag them into the itunes library - importantly, need to uncheck 'Keep iTunes Music folder organized' and 'Copy files to iTunes Music folder when adding to library' options under the Advanced preferences tab. this was result in itunes using the version on the ram disk. if you're using an HDD you'll probably hear a difference (you can then a/b with the two copies listed in itunes). if you're on SSD probably much less so.

 

 

 

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I have a 4 GB Macbook with internal SSD, and use an external USB drive. The SSD houses my OS and few apps (mostly itunes, Amarra and any necessary Apple stuff), the external USB drive has my current subset of music (haven't brought but the best 30% or so over from pc-based system yet). Are you saying that installing Ramdisk and putting Amarra and iTunes on it will NOT likely make a big difference since I'm already storing them on the internal SSD anyway?

 

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Hey Ted - no, just a relative comment. I definitely heard an improvement running the ramdisk for iTunes+Amarra and listening to songs played from the internal SSD (so would be similar configuration to yours). I made several comparisons.

 

(1) baseline: iTunes+Amarra as usual from internal SSD on Mac and songs located on internal SSD

(2) Ramdisk with iTunes + Amarra playing songs on internal SSD

 

between these two, I definitely heard an improvement in SQ as described in initial post.

 

Since I can't fit all my library on the internal drive, and am still awaiting delivery of a 2nd larger SSD to drop into a RAID0 configuration (intel 2nd gen; got the 1st one before they stopped shipping waiting for the new firmware), I decided to listen to music from an external USB HD. Definitely worse, very noticeably from running from the internal SSD. So out of curiosity, I then did a few listening tests with the same song located on (a) the internal SSD, (b) the ramdisk, and © the external USB HD (WD 2TB green drive, slow 5400rpm); all with iTunes+Amarra located on the ramdisk. (a) and (b) were pretty close to my ears, maybe a slight edge to (b) but not enough to discern with certainty w/out better speakers (still waiting for the pair from our friend). © was a distant third. So just saying the relative improvement of playing songs from ramdisk will be much greater for those using an HD based system or HD attached storage (not a dissimilar result found by those who have tested SSD to HD, but perhaps an even wider gap here by margin).

 

Best,

Geoff

 

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Gang,

 

My Vertex is faster than that at 260 read and 220 write sustained. I will try the ram drive but really the 8GB is what really kicked my MacBook Pro into hyper speed. Less than 2 second from cold boot. Apps and everything just scream....

 

I bet you could find other stuff to load into the ram drive and it may take things up a bit more.

 

Thanks

Gordon

 

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The problem with using a RAM disk is that it takes away RAM from the OS so that you end up having to use more Virtual Memory. I'm not saying it doesn't work, but there are downsides unless you add specific memory for a RAM drive (as per the links above).

 

Eloise

 

Eloise

---

...in my opinion / experience...

While I agree "Everything may matter" working out what actually affects the sound is a trickier thing.

And I agree "Trust your ears" but equally don't allow them to fool you - trust them with a bit of skepticism.

keep your mind open... But mind your brain doesn't fall out.

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That's my main concern with RAM disks - they reduce the available memory, which in turn causes more virtual memory to be used. For normal computing, and with OSX, virtual memory works very well. But it basically boils down to increased reading and writing to the hard disk, which is what we are trying to avoid. Unless of course you have a lot of ram.

 

It's interesting that people are reporting improvements with using the ram disk for applications rather than music files, and similarly with using ssd for the operating system boot disk. Possibly the 'improvements' that have allowed OSX to make effective use of virtual memory (OS9 was a complete dog in that respect) are actually detrimental to what is needed for the ultimate sound? Pure speculation on my part though. However I've tried a ram disk for music files and am not convinced that it made any difference in a low to mid type of system. On the other hand I higly recommmend trying it out for yourself, because it's amazing how responsive it is - your file starts playing back instantly, very impressive!

 

 

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How much ramdisk do you think you can get away with out of 4Gb before causing virtual memory issues ? The Amarra Mini+iTunes ramdisk is tiny, they have been XSlimmered and fit into 70Mb, and the machine is only playing music.

 

I would only be testing out sound from ramm to get some idea of the gains that an SSD might provide.

 

Storage options are limited on a Macbook. My setup is USB to Offramp3 (I know how much you like Steve's posts, Eloise !) so external USB drives are out as the bus could/would get contended. I may go NAS and copy what I what I want to listen to across to the SSD and rebuild the iTunes library, it all depends on the relative sound quality of SSD vs NAS. The other option would be a Firewire to SATA converter

 

Source: Diskless fanless PC Win Server19, fed from a linear supply and 19v pico

All SSDs on JCat battery supplies - JPlay femto - JCat femto USB - JCAT reference USB - Chord DAVE

Plus CEC TL 5 Cd transport - Blackcat Tron BNC - Chord DAVE

Amps: Merill Audio Veritas

Speakers: Trenner and Friedel RA

Cables : Kubula-Sosna Elation I/C and speaker

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