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A recommendation for audio software on the Mac


TheRocker

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I thought I would weigh in with my 2c here in the hope that people new to the Mac platform (and others) may find it useful!

 

I use the following software for all my audio needs on my MacBook (Your needs may vary :-) ):

 

Audacity for recording/editing - 32 bit precision internal processing (http://audacity.sourceforge.net/)

 

Max for CD ripping (using cdparanoia option) and for file format transcoding (http://sbooth.org/Max/)

 

Play for audio playback - natively plays FLAC, OGG Vorbis, WAV, AIFF, AAC and MP3 along with many other formats using 32 bit precision internal processing and can also edit metadata on most formats (http://sbooth.org/Play/)

 

Disclaimer:

I realise the above may sound like a shill post, but I have no relationship with the above software other than being a satisfied user, and anyway it is all free software! However since I do use the software I do have a vested interest in hoping it becomes more popular and therefore continued and improved! ;-)

 

I just want to make people aware of what is out there and that there is a reasonably polished solution for FLAC playback on the Mac (a touch more user friendly than VLC for example), and a secure ripping solution for CDs. I won't claim that the software is perfect and bug-free but IMO it is the most useful that I have found for general audio use.

 

Thanks.

 

Peter

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I have used Max for a few months now. I'm totally satisfied with it. So satisfied that I contributed a bit of cash to the author.

 

I have tried VLC and Cog for FLAC playback, and was not satisfied with them - though I really liked the Shoutcast TV capabilities of VLC. Both of these programs stopped working either when I upgraded to OS X Tiger or updated my X11 software - I'm not sure which update did it. There have been two VLC updates since then, and it still won't work for me.....

 

Someone (It might have been Peter here) mentioned 'Play' for FLAC and other filetype playback and I instantly downloaded it (it has the same author as Max). It works. I am currently in the process of determining how well it works, but it seems quite good so far.

 

The other programs that I use make the need for using Audacity redundant, so I have no experience with it.

 

markr

 

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Thanks for the post Peter!

 

I've used all the software you mention and think each app provides a good option for people looking for something else.

 

I personally use iTunes for everything. There is no perfect application and I find iTunes to be as good as it gets.

 

Founder of Audiophile Style

UPDATED: My Audio Systems -> https://audiophile.style/system

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Chris, I have nothing against iTunes, it is a great program and I use it to listen to MP3s and ITMS downloads, I find it stable and good sounding! It is more polished and maybe a bit more intuitive to use than Play, and it would be my choice for AIFF/ALAC playback for sure.

 

The thing is coming from the PC world I have standardised on FLAC for archival storage, so I like to be able to play back that format without having to transcode to another format if possible, although I do transcode straight from FLAC to V0 VBR MP3 (using Max) for some portable MP3 players I have. I have upgraded in that area too by buying a Cowon iAudio 7 16 GB player, which plays FLAC files (and sounds terrific too!).

 

 

Peter

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I also agree with Peter. It is nice to have an alternative to I-Tunes for MAC. I have also tested Play and so far it is without any problems for me.

 

There is also a very nice feature called "Replay Gain" in Play. It adjusts the volume level of the songs to 89db without altering the original file permanently. You can erase "Reply Gain" info and go back to original anytime you want.

 

It is a must for people like me, who listenes different tracks from different albums in a playlist and doesn't want to play with the volume level constantly.

 

Since it processes all the data 32bit floating point, high definition audio files (24bit/96khz) can also be played without any loss. So no need for bitrate adjustment at the software side, if you play 16bit and 24bit files in a row.

 

 

 

 

 

M2Tech Young DAC - Graham Slee Solo SRGII - PSU1 Power Supply - Grado GS 1000i

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  • 1 year later...

I totally love iTunes for its user interface and have been using it since day 1, but recently I have been enjoying Play more often. First I was using it only to play FLAC audio and preview downloaded audio but suddenly I realized that everything sounded better through Play, I mean the soundstage opened and somehow the music gained a more 3D image. For sure it has something to do with it's 32 bit floating point playback, I don't know but some how it sounds really good. The interface of Play is nothing special, I would say it is very basic, but usable.

Give it a try and judge for yourself.

 

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  • 2 weeks later...

Folks, have been auditioning sbooth's Play for a week and have to say it seems to be better than Itunes.

 

The level of difference seems to be around the level of difference we notice between different lossless file types or between two similar but slightly different DACs.

 

I've been playing AIFF files through Play (there is the metadata problem) and they sound the best. FLAC files through Play sometimes rival AIFF files through ITUNES. Haven't tested as much with ALAC.

 

For example, Michael Jackson's Thriller (sorry). AIFF files converted from EAC perfect rips have a not so good high end in Itunes. Tinny, crashy. The same AIFF file sounds more full, more 3D in Play.

 

My system: Cosecant v3 > PBN Audio Mini Olympia Amp > Restored Apogee Duetta Signatures

 

Since we debate the differences between file types and thousand dollar DACs on this forum, I'd love to know what others think of Play vs. Itunes. I would miss itunes ease, but if there is a better way to play our digital files...

 

I'm still not where I totally trust my ears so interested in what others think.

 

Thanks!

 

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Not to judge your comments ... but "[..]The level of difference seems to be around the level of difference we notice between different lossless file types [..]" is a dangerous statement as many people disbelieve (through listening) any difference between AIFF, ALAC, FLAC and WAV.

 

I've tried Play myself, and while I couldn't tell any difference I'm not disbelieving there may be a difference in playback. Also the functionality of iTunes is something that I feel more than makes up for any differences.

 

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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I definitely notice a difference between file types, just not on all recordings. This issue of file types and players is still so new, I'm hoping to get people's thoughts on here (and eventually maybe people smarter than me can use these to make better sounding media players)

 

Anyone else who cares about the difference between AIFF and FLAC/ALAC have any feelings or insights about sbooth's Play (or the other players like songbird and vlc)?

 

Because as I listen more and more I'm now faced with trying to figure out how to address the AIFF metadata problem so I can more easily play them in sbooth's Play

 

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Also, what have people found about the effect of computer performance?

 

I'm using a new-ish mac mini. 4GB of ram seemed to make a difference.

 

What are others finding in terms of performance: amount of memory, other processes going on in the background while playing?

 

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  • 3 weeks later...

i just auditioned itune and paly together and i found that play sounds more superior than itune. play has more detail, air and wider image. the timbre also sounds smoother and silky. however, i am just wondering is there any rival (like songbird)?

regards,

 

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For me, Songbird is a definitive Play killer because i wonder how you can manage a big library with Play... And if you like smart sound you probably want a smart app too. By the way i also like last.fm, nova (the damned good french radio), the hype machine... so Songbird is the right connected software.

 

by the way, Play, iTunes, Songbird... manage the sound level a little bit different. But it's just the sound level !

 

For the timbre, i don't know if smooth is the right adjective. You know a flute can be pretty smooth but a bugle...

 

Macbook 13.1\" - MAudio Firewire Audiophile - Profigold wire - NAD C 320 BEE - Triangle Comete 202 - Apple Nano 2nd Generation with Rockbox - Songbird - Spotify

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  • 3 months later...

Chris,

Correct me if I'm wrong, but i think in your review of the BADA DAC you said that you liked the sound of the dac through balanced digital outs from Win XP better than iTunes as iTunes rolled off the transients on top. Do you still listen through the win xp machine, did amarra with iTunes solve the iTunes problem? Did the new OSx with midi settings to 24/96? I am trying to figure out how to set up a BADA Dac and presently all my music is on iTunes on an Intel Power Mac.

 

Thanks.

 

Brad

 

2.26 GHz Mac Mini (Late 2009), 8 GB RAM, 2 External Seagate 7200 RPM 1TB / Firewire 800/ Wavelength Wavelink/ Berkeley Audio Alpha DAC / Nordost Blue Heaven IC / Musical Fidelity KW 750 / Nordost Blue Heaven Speaker cable/ Magnepan MG 3.6r with MYE stands / Custom purpose built listening room

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  • 2 weeks later...

 

Itunes/Amarra running uses 2% of the CPU power; consumes less than 1G memory and never swaps to disk. I've not found that changing the memory makes any difference or mac mini vs Mac Pro makes any difference. I did create a 2G RAM drive and load/play music from the RAM drive - this doesn't make a difference (I don't expect it too). I have minimal processes running when I'm doing this.

 

/Paul

 

Serious Listening:[br]Intel Mac Pro 6G (SSD) -> Amarra ->Alpha USB ->Alpha I Dac -> Ayre KX-R -> Tom Evans Linear Class A -> Avantgarde Mezzo Horns (107db) + Basshorns-> Engineered Room (Power, Traps, Helmholtz Resonators, Ceiling Diffusers)[br]Computer Listening:Intel Mac Pro 6G -> Lavry DA10 -> Adams S3A Active Monitors

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Paul,

I wonder, why the Antelope DA->Alpha Dac, and not just the BADA? What does the antelope add? Does it sound better?

 

Thanks.

 

2.26 GHz Mac Mini (Late 2009), 8 GB RAM, 2 External Seagate 7200 RPM 1TB / Firewire 800/ Wavelength Wavelink/ Berkeley Audio Alpha DAC / Nordost Blue Heaven IC / Musical Fidelity KW 750 / Nordost Blue Heaven Speaker cable/ Magnepan MG 3.6r with MYE stands / Custom purpose built listening room

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"Is it the same deal as for iTunes, you need to close Play, make Audio MIDI Setup change, then reopen Play?

 

Or can you make changes in Audio MIDI Setup without closing/reopening Play?"

 

Neither. Or both. I'm not sure which answer is right.

 

The latest version of Play does automatic sample rate switching.

 

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Several of us now Reclock the signal before the DAC - there are several reclockers available; I use the Antelope DA. In another thread I discuss the experiments that I did on it.

 

To summerise it performs two essential tasks:

 

1. It takes in the digital signal - extracts the clock and the samples and then retransmits them out of an AES port. Any noise/jitter from the CPU/Lynx/Ingress cable is now irrelevant as the reclocker is essentially the source of the music as far as the DAC is concerned. (this means I'm independent of SSD's,apple/PC, computer noise ... )

 

2. I use a 1m audiophile cable (which cost more than the reclocker) on this port to the DAC. On the ingress port I use a cheap AES cable - 15m. This means I can electrically seperate the music source and put the mac anywhere (including an adjacent room if necessary).

 

The 'Systems' benefits are huge - I don't chase noise and jitter back to the CPU. Yes the impact on the music SQ is very good. As a test I can feed it with other sources - CD player, Sonos etc... and it has a great levelling effect.

 

Theoretically the BADA does not need this - as it reclocks internally - but a post here on CA from the BADA folks confirms that, especially at higher sampling rates, feeding the BADA with accurate clocked information yields significant results.

 

Others here have now tried it - see jonmarsh's latest comments here:

 

http://www.computeraudiophile.com/content/Magic-Words-Power-Mac-G5-versus-Mac-Mini#comment-30910

 

/Paul

 

 

 

Serious Listening:[br]Intel Mac Pro 6G (SSD) -> Amarra ->Alpha USB ->Alpha I Dac -> Ayre KX-R -> Tom Evans Linear Class A -> Avantgarde Mezzo Horns (107db) + Basshorns-> Engineered Room (Power, Traps, Helmholtz Resonators, Ceiling Diffusers)[br]Computer Listening:Intel Mac Pro 6G -> Lavry DA10 -> Adams S3A Active Monitors

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Thanks, Paul.

 

I don't know whether to thank you or yell bah humbug at the thought of adding something else to improve the 5K BADA. Well, thanks anyway-all info is good. OTOH is there a good re-clocker that takes a firewire or USB input and outputs AES/EBU? Then maybe it would be possible to eliminate the Lynx card and even the mac pro and just stick a little mac mini in the listening room? Hmmmmmmmm.... Maybe you're not so bad after all......

 

:^)

 

Brad

 

2.26 GHz Mac Mini (Late 2009), 8 GB RAM, 2 External Seagate 7200 RPM 1TB / Firewire 800/ Wavelength Wavelink/ Berkeley Audio Alpha DAC / Nordost Blue Heaven IC / Musical Fidelity KW 750 / Nordost Blue Heaven Speaker cable/ Magnepan MG 3.6r with MYE stands / Custom purpose built listening room

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Brad,

 

Check the Weiss Firewire interfaces. I believe the new INT202 will be especially interesting in your application.

 

Also, Gordon is working on an async USB convertor as well.

 

For $1500, I like the ULN-2 as a convertor, which also includes a great DAC / ADCs, etc., but then I'm biased. :)

 

Whatever you do, make sure the quality of the clock is exceptional, otherwise you're wasting your money.

 

clay

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Clay,

Thanks for the advice. I agree. (And I rarely do that...) The BADA isn't even broken in yet, so let's let it cook 1st. Do you know if Gordon's wavelink will have a ABS/EBU out? I thought is was just s/pdif. have a great weekend.

 

2.26 GHz Mac Mini (Late 2009), 8 GB RAM, 2 External Seagate 7200 RPM 1TB / Firewire 800/ Wavelength Wavelink/ Berkeley Audio Alpha DAC / Nordost Blue Heaven IC / Musical Fidelity KW 750 / Nordost Blue Heaven Speaker cable/ Magnepan MG 3.6r with MYE stands / Custom purpose built listening room

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Brad,

 

I don't know the specifics as to Gordon's new converter, only that he is an engineer and would no doubt accept the challenge of creating a 'custom' version if need be, esp. given that the differences between the two (AES & Coax) are mostly mechanical.

 

Does the Alpha accept BNC? If so, that would seem to be the hot ticket.

 

clay

 

PS, Re your comment: "I agree. (And I rarely do that...)". I'm trying to be more agreeable these days, altho not sure if that's relevant to your comment. have a great weekend, yourself.

 

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Hope you are enjoying your new Alpha. As far as a high end interface the Empirical Audio Off-Ramp 3 is an option. With usb interfaces you are limited to a 96khz sample rate (currently). The Off-Ramp does USB to AES, SPDIF, or I2S outputs. A Berkeley owner on another forum was using the Lynx AES16e card originally. His BADA is modded ($7K) so it definitely wasn't sounding bad in the first place if you get my drift. He tried the Off Ramp w/ Superclock 4 option and said it took the sound to another level. Just some input and another option for your consideration.

 

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

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Given Gordon's stated views - that AES3 usig an XLR connector is flawed and SPDIF via a proper 75ohm (i.e. BNC) connector is superior -I would assume that the WaveLink will be SPDIF only.

 

It has been commented elsewhere that the primary explanation of the se of XLR to terminate AES3 is not due to any supeiority but purely as studios have miles of XLR mic cables lying around so it's convinient (but not to specification) to use that. How true that is I can't say not being an engineer though it does ring true.

 

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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