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Mac - PC - Linux - Shootout


Dynobot
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Anyone ever take the time to do a shootout of these three systems?

 

I am in the process of doing a shootout between the three, once again. Over the past few months I have done some optimizations of each OS and the overall systems.

 

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If you want Amarra then you must choose Mac. Otherwise there are softwares for PC and Linux that do an equally well job for their OS's. Its all a matter of preference, ease of use etc. Don't be mistaken, each OS can produce superb sound quality. I listen to all 3 on a regular basis, but in 2 different rooms. and on two different systems. I am just now starting to re-assemble all three to one system in one room after I further optimized each to what I think my be something close to their max potential.

 

By all means, go with Mac/Amarra/Pure Vinyl, you won't be sorry.

 

 

 

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Dynobot, in your opinion, what would be PC equavalent of Amarra/Pure Vinyl. I heard of xxhighend but since I am using XP (did not like Vista and could not be bother with Window7 yet), I have not given it a try yet. Are there any other options for Window? I assume that Mediamonkey, foobar etc are roughly at the same level as itune in Mac. I certainly would like to try to optimize my Window base music server first rather than switching platform if possible.

 

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Windows XP means you want to use cPlay, in fact you want to fully configure your machine using cMP2. The author of these pieces of software wrote a complete shell to take the place of Windows Explorer [Windows Explorer being the visual Windows environment you see when you login]. Not only that he addressed every aspect of the computer itself, RAM settings, voltage for CPU, best motherboard, etc. to the last detail.

 

 

http://cplay.sourceforge.net/

 

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Thanks for the tip on cPlay. I tried it a bit last night but still have not really figured out all the parameters that needed to be adjusted. However, my initial impression is that the difference in sound between it and MediaMonkey waveout with Lynx card is very subtle and the interface is not nearly as good as MM. Anyhow, I will need to play more with it.

 

If everything goes as planned, a local dealer will bring Weiss NT202 for me to try so I can compare it to Lynx output. He also will bring his MacBook Pro with Amarra so I can see how that will compare with my PC/MM setup.

 

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I take it you are just using cPlay...which is fine. Here is another link for a tool that makes .cue files for cPlay, it makes it easier to control and manage your music.

 

http://home.roadrunner.com/~aljordan/CPlayListEditor.html

 

http://home.roadrunner.com/~aljordan/RecursiveCueCreator.html

 

I have been into computer audio for probably 11+ years, [Foobar was a baby back then] and from what I have noticed through constant interaction with other long term computer audio enthusiasts is

1) Everyone keeps a copy of Foobar [still]

2)XP users eventually migrate to full blown cMP2 machines with cPlay

3)Vista users like XXHighEnd

4)People who enjoy good sound but still want nice features and a good interface use JRiver Media Center

5)People who want total ease of use with having to build or configure any software use Mac

6)People who love tinkering and are somewhat comfortable with software code use Linux and eventually Music Player Daemon

 

Granted there are tons of different softwares to use, see link....I have actually gone through the link and tried most of them on every operating system.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comparison_of_audio_player_software

 

Ultimately its a trade off, between aesthetics [what it looks like matters], functionality [how easy it is to use and understand], sound [synergy between it and your gear], extras [how many added useful features it may have]. Depending on the person one aspect may be enough to trump all others, it just depends of personal preference.

 

I suggest though, if you just want to "set-it and forget-it" go with the Mac setup. Otherwise you are going to have to do at least some minimal tweaking to the operating system.

 

 

 

 

 

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I had an interesting day today. My local Weiss dealer guy came over with NT202. Unfortunately he only brought NT202 with its original disc. I think there is a updated driver for it somewhere but anyhow, I could not get NT202 to sync to my computer with the original driver (winXP, firewire card is one of those texas instrument chipset that suppose to work well with Weiss). My local dealer guy will try to get updated driver then we can have another go. However, I did get to listen to MacBook Pro/itune/Amarra/Weiss NT202 (with a prototype firewire cable from a company in Canada somewhere and PS Audio digital XLR cable) vs my PC/MediaMonkey/Lynx/homemade Kimber silver cable from Lynx to my Berkeley DAC. However, I think there is something that does not seems quite right with Weiss. Even with Mac setup, my Berkeley input registered 42.2 and 92.1 kHz input when playing 44.1 and 96kHz file. Anyhow, I will let my dealer sorts out that trouble with Weiss before I will purchase anything :)

Anyhow, I have to say that Mac/iTune/Amarra/Weiss sounds significantly better. The sound is bigger, fuller, slightly warmer. How much of that is iTune/Amarra and how much is from Weiss or cables, I have no idea. The piano sounds in Evgeny Kissin's Chopin Ballades was better projected and has more weight and tone density, more overtone from the piano as well. WindowXP/MM/Lynx seemed more lean and closed in.

Is the difference worth new computer/Amarra/Weiss (say $3-4000). I don't know but the change would be along the same level as when I upgraded from Synergistic Research Accelerator interconnect and speaker cables to Synergist Reserach Apex cables, I suppose.

In the mean time, I think I would try installing Vista and see how xxHighend might compare. I hope Lynx is not going to be too much trouble as I remembered it took me quite a bit of work to get Lynx to work properly with my winXP and Berkeley DAC.

 

 

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Thanks for the report Suteetat,

 

I would be interested in your findings with XXHighend. Please remember to further optimize Vista by reducing services etc. furthermore killing the Windows shell via Task Manager can further reduce resource load.

 

I would also be interested in your findings with Linux using your setup.

 

I find that Mac and Linux have a more similar sound vs. Windows.

 

 

 

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I got vista installed last night.

It was a struggle to get mediamonkey to work well with Vista for some reasons.

Direct waveout does not work well in MM at all. Lynx also was not behaving properly and the sound is quite a bit worse than in winXP. As far as I know, there is no wasapi plugin available for MM yet!

 

xxHighend is very nice sonic wise. Lynx behaves perfectly well. I think the sound is quite an improvement over MM/winXP at least from initial listening although it did not quite make as good an impression and MacBook Pro/itune/Amarra/Weiss. The interface though left much to be desired. I wish xxhighend could be addon as a plugin for MM. I would be really happy.

 

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I listened to xxHighend some more tonight from usual 16/44 all the way up to 24/192 files. In comparison to MM/winXP, the soundstage is wider, there are quite a bit more detail, the sound is smoother with great clarity but if memory serve right, the sound is leaner than itune/Amarra/Weiss. itune/Amarra sounds bigger, richer but at the same time does not have quite the same level of detail and resolution, in my opinion. I am slowly learning to navigate it. After using MM for a long time, xxHigh is a pain as far as selecting songs is concerned. I wish it also read tags information and all of my artworks are embedded in tag itself and for some reasons, only a handful of album arts showed up in xxHighend. Oh well... but so far I am very impressed with the sonic quality.

 

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Thats great!

 

I believe there are small tweaks you can do to Windows to further improve the sound [if so inclined], doing so can be a laborious task which is why many people opt not to, but it may still be worth it. Peter outlines many tweaks at the XX-web site, but doing the major ones will probably yield the greatest results with a minimal effort. Priority settings and turning off themes under Admin tools/Services.

 

There are also some settings that can be used in XXHighend that are geared specifically for the type of CPU you are using.

 

If you Google BlackVipers Vista Services, you will find a site that does a great job of outlining which services you can kill.

 

 

 

 

 

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Suteetat,

 

You're using a BADA right? I think there are some comments on the XXHE site that suggest filter 2 as being the best when using XXHE's Arc Prediction upsampling.

 

As I've stated elsewhere, Arc Prediction upsampling has proved a revelation in my system... but it's not for everyone. Fortunately, XXHE is plenty good at playing files at their native rates too and is bit perfect when doing so (my HDCD light comes on when playing HRx 24/176.4 files).

 

Unfortunately, it's difficult to pin down exactly what's causing the differences you believe may exist between iTunes/Amarra/Weiss and XXHE/Lynx/BADA...

 

Mani.

 

Mani.

 

Main: Okto dac8PRO -> 6x Neurochrome 286 mono amps -> Tune Audio Anima speakers + 2x Rotel RB-1590 stereo amps -> 4x subs
Office: MOTU UltraLite-mk5 -> 6x Neurochrome 286 mono amps -> Impulse H2 speakers
Vinyl: Thöress Phono Enhancer -> RME ADI-2 Pro

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As far as I recall, the Lynx cards are somewhat a pain in the neck to use under Linux, because the cards are only supported by Open Sound System drivers and not ALSA.

 

I've been comparing XP to Linux a bit lately with the Orpheus. It really is somewhat amazing that all of these players and operating systems, when set up in a bit-perfect manner, can sound slightly different. If I weren't running any EQ plugins, I'd give the nod to Linux as the overall best sound (using Music Player Daemon output through Jack). Linux sounds fuller through the midrange to me, and hence gives a slightly more musical and pleasurable listening experience. Unfortunately, there is no manner to use VST plugins under Linux, so for me it limits the usefulness of the system.

 

Under XP with a number of the CMP tweaks applied, I've long used either J-River, CPlay or Foobar. My preferences between these three come down to how the slightly different sound of the upper midrange / treble between fits into my system and listening preferences. I have to say that I think the best compromise between fullness and detail is currently coming from Foobar with the kernel streaming output. Foobar with ASIO output does not sound as good with my DAC. I'd like to have more of a go with XXHighend, but it acts flaky under both XP and Windows 7 for me. Also, its lack of VST support limits its usefulness for me.

 

Alan

 

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How are you Alan.

 

I too use JRiver and/or Foobar with Windows....recently I have tried KMPlayer with the ReClock addon....SLysoft the DVD copy people made ReClock to improve video playback [which it does in spades] but as an added bonus it also handles audio and improves the software clock performance,

 

Have you tried ALSA player with Linux? I know its a very OLD an player [never updated] but it does offer some features MPD does not, it really geared to take full advantage of the ALSA drivers. To me it sounds clearer than MPD with more low end information.

 

For those who have a Mac and don't use Amarra and/or are willing to experiment with different players I would recommend XBMC, it has just about all the clarity of iTunes but with a more pleasing JRiver type presentation. BTW, XBMC has recently added WASAPI support to the Windows distro....

 

P.S. I recently sold my Havana DAC btw.....

 

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I'm doing well. thanks for asking. I hope all is well with you too.

 

I haven't tried ALSA player. My current DAC isn't supported by ALSA, only Jack. At some point in the future the FFADO library will work under ALSA, but not yet.

 

I've never heard of KMPlayer. I'll have to look into it.

 

What are you running in place of the Havana? Was there something specific you didn't like about the Havana?

 

Alan

 

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I used the Havana for a little over 2 months, it had about 1000hrs on it and I had a variety of tubes WE, Raytheon, Tung-Sol, and RCA. The soundstage was excellent, it had a very black background and nice overall sound but the higher octaves lacked the resolution I wanted. Rolling tubes would compensate a bit, but with a trade off....the lows would get thin. Overall it was a pretty good DAC. But in the mean time, since my LavryDA10 [maybe about a year ago or more] I have been tinkering with a NOS DAC....new Caps, resistors, IC's soldered to the board, Furutech IEC etc.

 

So far either through purchase or loan I have had a Lavry DA10, DA11, Apogee Mini, MDHT Havana, RME Fireface, and a slew of other DACs like TC Konnekt, M-Audio Profire 610 in that price range.

 

ALSA Player works with JACK

Sound driver options:

 

-d,--device string select specific device in output plugin

for the ALSA plugin: [default=default]

for the JACK plugin: [default=alsa_pcm:playback_1,alsa_pcm:playback_2]

http://alsa.opensrc.org/index.php/Alsaplayer

 

If you are interested here is a link for setting up ReClock....within the page you will find links for KMPlayer and Reclock

http://www.head-fi.org/forums/f46/tutorial-wasapi-support-kmplayer-having-top-notch-video-audio-player-438010/

 

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Mani, thanks for your comment. I will give it a try. There are plenty of adjustment and tweak in Vista that I have not yet done and will try it out.

I also get HDCD light to stay on with all HDCD encoded files with xxHE right away unlike with MM/XP that I need to go back to old firmware. HDCD light does not turn on with MM/Vista at all. I think I will play with xxHE abit more but eventually I will try Weiss NT202 again and see if it does anything more over Lynx and will compare it to iTune/Amarra again.

 

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Guest WATERLOGIC

Have you ever auditioned dacs 3x cheeper then weiss stuff ? You might be surprised that some sound even much bettter ? Just pick randomly one and connect it to M2tech Hiface coax - you might get your magic again but this time three times cheeper ... and that even with normal interconnects. Audiophile cables are the best way to grab money from naive people (do not feel insulted this is my personal opinion based on lot of setups I 've seen in my life).

It is a holographic universe outthere ...

 

Regards

 

WL

 

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While I don't doubt the Weiss or other moderately priced DACs sound very good, I have yet to actually listen to a DAC costing in that price range. $1,500 is about the tops.... I would be interested however to compare a Weiss to say a RME Fireface or a Lavry DA10. I wonder what the differences in sound would be...would it be Night and Day or something more like Noon and 2pm.

 

 

 

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I had my second round with Weiss NT202 today. Over the past couple of weeks, Window playback certainly took a big step when I went from WinXP/MM to Vista/xxHighend. Today, my main aim was to compare Lynx/homemade Kimber AGSS cable to Weiss NT202, again with a preproduction 4m firewire cable and PS Audio XLR digital cable that I happened to have lying around. Using xxHighend most current version, I was actually a bit disappointed with Weiss. The sound was not as dynamic, a bit more recess and drier, thinner than Lynx/Kimber. There could be a few explainations, Weiss unit was quite new with less than 10 hours of use so far. My local dealer also forgot to bring the power supply unit for Weiss so it was powered by firewire. I also don't know how much of the sound was contributed by the 4M firewire and my digital cable which has been sitting in my closet untouched for the last 2 years.

Anyhow, I will try the Weiss unit again, hopefully next month with its power supply. By that time, hopefully my dealer with have a production run of 2M firewire cable (I still have no idea what brand it is, I only knows that it is Canadian and is approximately less than half the price of Esoteric/Acrolink cable) and hopefully he may get in Weiss' new digital cable (Chiron? ) or else I will also try to locate a better digital cable than what I have.

 

To get back to the topic of this thread, at the end, my local dealer also demoed his Macbook pro with itune/Amarra via Weiss vs my Vista/xxHighend/Lynx. Against WinXP/MM last time, it was no contest, Amarra was significantly better. Against vista/xxHighend, it was a close call. Using current version of xxHighend with arc prediction quad oversampling and the new special mode (adjusting Q1 setting), Amarra sounded a bit sweeter, a bit more pronounced leading edge, slightly richer sounding but xxHighend has a bit more solid bass, a bit warmer through the midrange. To be fair, xxHighend still has quite a bit of optimization that I still don't understand and I am not sure if I am using it at its full potential yet. At least, unlike last week, I don't have nearly as strong an urge to go out and by a Mac to get Amarra running like I was when I heard XP/MM vs iTune/Amarra :) but it is still tempting!

 

 

 

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Give it a few days and let the Firewire cable get settled in....chances are you will be in for a change.

 

I too had a Firewire cable made, for the first hour or so it was really thick sounding, then I came back a few hours later and it was just the opposite, very shrill. As the days went on the character of the sound changed quite a bit, until it finally settled down to an even tone.

 

For what its worth, I actually like the sound without the external power supply better. But then I would suspect a good linear/regulated power supply is best.

 

 

 

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  • 6 months later...

aljordan wrote: "I've been comparing XP to Linux a bit lately with the Orpheus".

 

Do you mean Prism Orpheus? If so, can you explain a bit how well supported Orpheus is under Linux? Can you control the gain of the mic. inputs? What about the playback gain?

 

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