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Best sound from Windows 7


yanoush
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I've been reading Computer Audiophile for some time and thought it about time I said hello. So, first things first, thanks Chris for a terrific site.

 

I've been prompted to post by making the move from XP to W7. In brief, after much experimentation I had achieved a very good sound from XP with Foobar/Asio. I work from home and the considerable benefits of W7 over XP (wireless networking anyone?) mean I shall not be going back or dual-booting. The problem is I haven't yet quite matched the sound I had.

 

I've tried experiments with many players (yes, I know it shouldn't make a difference but try convincing my ears) and different settings. The best result I have found so far is using JRMC or Foobar with Wasapi but I am certain it could be better.

 

This is not about the capability of the PC, which has a fast dual core processor and loads of RAM etc. I think it's to do with the optimal way of handling the audio signal, and experience suggests there's a lot more to that than selecting Wasapi and sitting back in a glow of bit-perfection.

 

Does anyone have any insights into getting the very best sound out of W7?

 

 

 

P.S. Thought I'd mention while writing that if anyone has found their optical drive doesn't like some commercial CDs (distorted music can be heard behind a wall of 'static') you may not be going mad. Check if you have a TSST Corp SH-S223B. In my case, two of these drives had trouble with most of my CDs produced by Time Warner. Strange but true. Solved by changing to a different drive, as it happens a Sony Optiarc AD-5240S.

 

 

Audiophile 2496 - Beresford TC-7510 - Bridged Electros - Royd Sorcerers

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The verdict is not definite and I am quite on my own, but ...

http://www.phasure.com/index.php?topic=1032.0

 

But you really should try it I guess ...

Peter

 

 

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Many thanks for your reply Peter. I read the link with interest and welcome the news that there are people out there digging deeper.

 

I was a little bit disappointed at the lack of response and suppose my original post was probably too general. I'm sure everyone is trying to get the best sound out of W7 in their own circumstances. I probably also should have mentioned that I'd already tried all the alternative players I could think of, including Media Monkey, cPlay, Songbird, WMP, and XXHE. In my system, and to my ears (I recognise this will not necessarily be true for others), the best results were unambiguously with Foobar and JRMC.

 

My problem with all this is that listening tests reveal there is clearly more going on in a PC that affects the sound quality than is generally presented as the key determining factors. Add in the effect of the inevitable tuning of a system to the room and the ears and preferences of the listener and it is impossible to avoid a degree of tail-chasing in the search for improvement.

 

This means the industry needs to be laying down some attested guidelines or it's a rich market for snake oil. Just read the stuff online about jitter and bit perfection from people who haven't a clue why Media Monkey and Foobar sound different (or in some cases deny it's possible - come on guys, next you'll be saying homeopathy doesn't work :-).

 

I'd like to think the community responsible for massively improving the sound quality using XP will drive rapid improvement using W7, which is after all a much better OS for embracing the full opportunities of a networked world. As it stands, the sound quality is disappointing and I think failure to address this will risk software development drifting away from Windows permanently.

 

Maybe some of those brilliant folk would like to contribute their thoughts here. I hope so.

 

Either way, a happy New Year to everyone.

 

 

Audiophile 2496 - Beresford TC-7510 - Bridged Electros - Royd Sorcerers

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It is an interesting subject, and I sure read your post with interest !

 

I guess this is all not about mathematics or anything one (like MS) can do to improve on it. Maybe later, when things get more clear (but which needs the very few like myself - which may nog be sufficient :-).

 

If you look at the process of how it all develops ...

I saw that software sounds different (always bit perfect of course) and only because nothing sounded how I liked it, I started XXHighEnd (over 3 years ago now). It took 2 more years before concensus came that software indeed sounds different.

Right. While the first public version of XXHighEnd started off with Vista and WASAPI as the best engine, today, Windows 7, it seems that we need Kernel Streaming. I mean, there is no way I like the WASAPI version over the Kernel Streaming version (public next weekend if all is right). In Vista I am not sure about that, in W7 I am. Why ? there is no mathematics telling me the answer.

 

And then to think I developed the KS version for XP ...

(of which I don't know the sound yet)

 

Peter

 

 

 

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XXHighEnd (developer)

Phasure NOS1 24/768 Async USB DAC (manufacturer)

Phasure Mach III Audio PC with Linear PSU (manufacturer)

Orelino & Orelo MKII Speakers (designer/supplier)

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Peter, why don't you develop a better front-end for xxhighend? I tried it out and the layout is not as intuitive as some softwares. I will keep trying it for better sound quality tho!

Dan

 

There are 2 types of people in this world - those who understand binary and those who don't.

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Always planned for 0.9zz, but there are so many versions possible in between that and the current version ...

 

:-)

 

Lush^3-e      Lush^2      Blaxius^2      Ethernet^2     HDMI^2     XLR^2

XXHighEnd (developer)

Phasure NOS1 24/768 Async USB DAC (manufacturer)

Phasure Mach III Audio PC with Linear PSU (manufacturer)

Orelino & Orelo MKII Speakers (designer/supplier)

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In my experience the best I can get is when I use the Kernel Stream from Foobar. This was true for me also when I used XP and when I used Vista.

 

I have not performed any kind of scientific tests, and certainly no measurements, but it just feels best so I go with it. It is classified as experimental although the plugin is from like 2006 and I have found that it will not work with just any soundcard. However it works with mine and also without soundcard when I connect to my DAC directly with USB it is flawless.

 

The subject is interesting so I'll watch out for more posts!

 

:D

 

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I suppose what we need next is something like annotated block diagrams showing the exact paths of the audio data streams from the player to the sound card under Wasapi, Asio and KS, with clear explanations of the technical differences.

 

My understanding is that using KS cuts out an API layer by accessing the sound card driver kernel module directly, but I'd be the first to admit I don't really know what that means.

 

Can anyone help?

 

 

Audiophile 2496 - Beresford TC-7510 - Bridged Electros - Royd Sorcerers

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is often overlooked! WASAPI is new in Vista and Windows 7. In XP MS used the Kmixer wth some odd results, over/under sampling, and mixing streams, it was a bit of dog's breakfast. WASAPI includes a better "mixer" although you can select which apps like Foobar can have exclusive access, and mutes all other inputs. Not many apps can write directly to the Windows Audio Session, the ones i know of are:

 

JRiver Media Center

Foobar 2000

Media Monkey

Sony Sound Forge 10

 

Here's a drawing of WASAPI from Microsoft showing Audio

http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/dd370825(VS.85).aspx

 

More on WASAPI

http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/dd371455(VS.85).aspx

 

Exclusive Mode

http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/dd370844(VS.85).aspx

 

I use Foobar with an ALAC component in exclusive mode and it runs rings around iTunes. In control panel I match my DAC's capability of resultion and frequency and that's it. Enjoy!

 

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In control panel I match my DAC's capability of resultion and frequency and that's it. Enjoy!

 

If that is so and you really think that does something, well, something is wrong !

 

That's all (and your list of W. players is a bit short :-).

Peter

 

Lush^3-e      Lush^2      Blaxius^2      Ethernet^2     HDMI^2     XLR^2

XXHighEnd (developer)

Phasure NOS1 24/768 Async USB DAC (manufacturer)

Phasure Mach III Audio PC with Linear PSU (manufacturer)

Orelino & Orelo MKII Speakers (designer/supplier)

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Thanks for your comments One and a half. This thread is more to do with why, for example, Wasapi, Asio and KS in Foobar/W7 sound different and how we can possibly authenticate best practice in computer audio when there are clearly significant unknown variables.

 

The link here is closer to what I was getting at as regards trying to throw some light on what might be responsible, but we need something more detailed and up-to-date: http://www.staudio.de/kb/english/drivers/index.html

 

Anyone can search the web for answers to these kinds of questions about what makes for consistently good computer audio and find little more than the same bit perfect creed trotted out. Listening tests reveal this to be only part of the picture.

 

There will always be differences in taste, of course, but as far as I am concerned the failure of the sound in W7 to match the quality of what I had in XP is a demonstrable fact. Nothing can sound any good without getting the source right. The nuances may not matter so much in the mass market but if the top end wants credibility these vagaries surely have to be nailed.

 

I don't see any reason for not getting a consistently great sound out of W7. It's going to take more than selecting Wasapi though, or KS.

 

 

 

Audiophile 2496 - Beresford TC-7510 - Bridged Electros - Royd Sorcerers

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on windows 7 audio.

 

http://www.microsoft.com/whdc/device/audio/default.mspx.

 

The windows 7 logo requirmeents have changed to this new paper.

http://www.microsoft.com/whdc/device/audio/Win7Logo_Aud.mspx

Of interest is on Page 12-13 where latency is discussed.

 

I'm surpised that Windows 7 sounds worse for you compared with XP. I found the opposite. This is using Foobar in exclusive mode. I was hearing sounds on tracks that I've heard for 20 years + and were revealed under Windows 7. Same DAC, same ALAC, same amps, cables, PC.....Only difference is the OS and the Foobar version would have changed.

 

Listening tests are all subjective anyway and can sound different one moment to the next. It's discussed in these pages at length and will most likely always be parallel idealogies. Have you used the same machine to upgrade to Windows 7? Drivers come into play and if not Windows 7 logo certified, the sound won't really have a chance to get out of the starting blocks.

 

 

 

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Thanks again for taking an interest One and a half. I have noted your support for Windows 7. I also looked hard for something useful in the links. And yes, I have paid attention to setting up my equipment properly, thanks. You're right, drivers present a variable and it would be helpful to know more about exactly what they were doing. But where there is only one 'correct' driver, we don't have a choice other than to inadvertently use an 'incorrect' one.

 

Now, can anyone help with the main point of the thread?

 

It's laid out pretty clearly above and Peter and Danny and I, at least, are interested in relevant contributions. It would be great to get some help with more detail of what exactly happens to the audio data stream INSIDE the computer to try to home in on why we hear the clear differences we do, which so far have not been explained.

 

Thanks.

 

 

Audiophile 2496 - Beresford TC-7510 - Bridged Electros - Royd Sorcerers

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Hi yanoush,

 

The problem here is : there is no difference in audio architecture in W7 compared to Vista (so, just about that). This, while Vista sounds the most ok, while W7 the most does not. However :

 

I think in the link I gave I explained a few things about differences which bug me on the technical side of things, which is related to task switching in general and how priorities are being dealt with specifically. And to be funny : or the other way around (think about this). So, there sure *is* a difference, and while XXHighEnd largely depends on what task does what and when (in order to not disturb eachother), this is a kind of out of control in W7, or at least different from Vista.

 

So, no changes in the audio stack, but still changes, and very much audible.

 

I may have said it in this thread, but a more funny thing is : where this matters a lot for WASAPI, it does not for my version of Kernel Streaming. Why ? I could say I don't know, but in fact I do because I know the dependencies (on tasks) as dealt with internally, and they are just completely different.

 

Give it some time and I'll know more (hopefully). It first needs a stable KS version too, which thus far it is not (quite) just because of the priorities thing being out of control. But I will manage I guess.

 

Regards,

Peter

 

Lush^3-e      Lush^2      Blaxius^2      Ethernet^2     HDMI^2     XLR^2

XXHighEnd (developer)

Phasure NOS1 24/768 Async USB DAC (manufacturer)

Phasure Mach III Audio PC with Linear PSU (manufacturer)

Orelino & Orelo MKII Speakers (designer/supplier)

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"there is no difference in audio architecture in W7 compared to Vista."

 

Since the windows 7 logo requirements are for Windows 7, with quite a lot of references to changes (I wonder from what) then surely by inference, the architecture has changed, and we are hearing differences with some justification.

 

Surely if windows 7 was the same architecture as Windows Vista as far as your argument is concerned, then there should be NO sound differences, but Peter, you are telling us there are differences. Therefore the two OSs are different...

 

Maybe your player needs adjustments for Win7?

 

AS Profile Equipment List        Say NO to MQA

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Surely if windows 7 was the same architecture as Windows Vista as far as your argument is concerned, then there should be NO sound differences, but Peter, you are telling us there are differences.

 

You did read what I just wrote, or ?

 

:-)

 

Lush^3-e      Lush^2      Blaxius^2      Ethernet^2     HDMI^2     XLR^2

XXHighEnd (developer)

Phasure NOS1 24/768 Async USB DAC (manufacturer)

Phasure Mach III Audio PC with Linear PSU (manufacturer)

Orelino & Orelo MKII Speakers (designer/supplier)

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  • 10 months later...

Thought I'd revisit this thread in case it helps anyone out there grappling with getting a great sound from a PC running Windows 7. I have subsequently achieved as good or better than the excellent sound quality I had using Windows XP. How?

 

Using J.River Media Center 15 (no earlier JRMC version) via Wasapi Event Style (I'm not using a USB DAC), with all DSP turned off.

 

No doubt there will be those who disagree but, for what it's worth, this works wonderfully for me.

 

Cheers!

 

Audiophile 2496 - Beresford TC-7510 - Bridged Electros - Royd Sorcerers

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I gather from the comments posted on this subject that there is little known about the basic internal requirements of a computer that will deliver the optimum Win 7 computer sound. My basic question is whether Computer Audiophile has done A-B tests to determine whether the sound from its recommended components CAPS system (or any other specialized music server computer) is better than the sound from off the shelf Win 7 laptops. I have a high resolution system and have thought that I would use my Dell 430 laptop, which has an SSD and Win 7, as the music server. Am I going to be disappointed and have to build a CAPS or other music server to get state of the art sound? I would surely like to avoid the problems inherent with building a music server.

At this point I have been not able to make a fair comparison between my laptop music server (Win 7 with JRiver as the player) and my CD transport (an Accustic Arts), because I am waiting for Berkeley Audio Design to come out with its USB to DAC converter for the Alpha DAC.

 

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  • 2 weeks later...

First thing... new member, first post... hello!

 

I've read this thread with interest as I've had problems with Win7 on a number of home theatre installations I've worked on. They are especially noticeable on lower end HTPCs such as those based on the Atom/ION combination.

 

The problem appears to be "jiggle" (mistiming of audio packets) which makes the music sound briefly "off key". The fix has always been to severely mess with both Services and Task Scheduler, with a goal of eliminating as much background processing as possible.

 

The jiggle is exposed by the DPC Latency Tool which can be used to track down kernel processes that may lead to uneven multitasking.

 

On a series of tests (although with minimal test equipment) I have always found XP to be a far better performer for audio and video playback. It's latency is 1/10th that of Win7 and generally it's not all choked up with background processing.

 

I hope this is some help...

 

 

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