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Foobar, MediaMonkey,Cplay,J River, Ulilith, PotPlayer, XXHE - What a Journey


wushuliu

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Well man, I just got into the who PC audio thing just a month ago or so. Before that I'd been using media players like WDTV and Popcorn A200, Patriot Box Off, BriteView, etc - to a DIY AD1865 DAC --> Pass DCB1 Preamp --> Classdaudio.com CDA-254 amp --> DIY speakers. The WDTV actually sounds pretty okay of all the media players but I wanted to see if the PC-audio route could give me more control and cleaner sound. I have Windows 7, though some of the listening was done on Vista in the beginning.

 

I also bought a Hiface and a Teralink X2, and started in on the software. Man, what a trip. All this music software and formats and drivers.

 

First item to go was actually the Hiface. It has a neutral sound, but kind of dry in my setup and a little on the lean side. I contemplated a Jkeny modified version but that's out of my price range, so I got the X2 and a USB Isolator. Much better. Has just as much detail and transparency, but I found it more musical, I think that's the word, not sure. Engaging and more analog rhythm (which is the end goal for me).

 

I then cycled through Foobar, Media Monkey, and J River. Trying out WASAPI and KS. All three sound more similar than not, but there were differences. Like a good cd player. Kind of bland, but not offensive. I preferred MM of the three. I then gave Cplay a shot, but got frustrated right away with playing my files which are comprised of mp3, flac, and .wav. I prefer a program that will just play what's selected without plug-ins and/or additional steps. I listened to some .flac files and found Cplay was somewhat cleaner than the first 3 but still a similar tonality.

 

So then I read about Ulilith and I figuere why not. I am trying to hit nirvana and I like to be as thorough as I can. But this is where you start to cross that line between useability/accessibility and frustration. Not a lot of documentation or feedback. I notice that the more options music software has the smaller the chances are that there's any documentation. At least the newer versions are in English as I understand the earlier were not. Ulilith was a nice step forward, however. I probably didn't maximize all the options, as there a lot of them for playback but I fiddled around enough to get the picture: Clean bass, transparent. Not bland at all, but a little fatiguing. It was this slight fatigue quality that kept me going otherwise I would have stayed with it. It also has a nice GUI. I like it.

 

So then I read on head-fi same guy who says go for Ulilith says go for Potplayer and Reclock. So I say okay and now it's really down the rabbit hole into tweak/geek land. Now I have to install TWO separate apps and a whole bunch of options for both. It was silly. Just a recipe for constant fiddling and not enough listening. Been there done that. It's why I am probably 2 years away from a Mac. I am about fiddled out w/ computers. So I kind of get the two apps to work but there's skipping and dropouts and of course no documentation and I would just spend days and days posting on forums blah blah blah. Maybe a Mac Mini, hmm...

 

So I go back to MM and J River cause I figure well they sound decent and have a lot of features. But I like to be thorough: when I was running on Vista I tried XXHighEnd demo but it kep crashing and crashing and I said to heck w/ that. Maybe a Macbook. Just need to donate lots and lots of blood or something. So I figure I have Win7 I will try XXHighend even though really I don't see why I would eventually pay some guy who speaks in riddles 100 very-recessed $ to support what appears to be a beta program. I mean, how much will it cost when it hits 1.0?!

 

So I run HighEnd, try to read the installation guide which conveniently ends right before all the stuff you actually NEED to know how to use in the settings and elsewhere. I grudgingly do a little forum reading to catch up, which amounts to all of 5%. And I still have no idea what Peter is talking about when he's talking about, well, anything. But I load up a song, press play and I'll be hog-tied to the be all get all if it was not the best sounding player of the whole bunch. Right off the bat. Engine #4 or whatever. Demo Mode ($100 for beta. I mean, REALLY?). fiddled around just a little bit and the whole thing seemed promising. Why? Well the songs had breath. They were tangible. Analog/vinyl has a tangibility that digital doesn't quite get right (from my experience), and High End seems to get close to getting it right. I demo with a track that has a lot of cymbals, and HE had the most life-like rendering. Makes me wonder if all the voodoo Q parameters etc. are nothing but distortion valves that pump a little second order here or third order there... anyhoos, don't know, don't care. Peter gets a big thumbs up. It sounds darned good, fairly easy to use, and lot of knobs and buttons to play with without being overwhelming.

 

He's gotta tell me though, what $100 will get me aside from eliminating the time limitation.

 

here endeth spiel

 

 

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Hi wushuliu - Thanks for taking the time to provide all those details. I think much of your story mirrors that of other CA readers in terms of frustrations with certain applications.

 

I too am a big fan of the sound quality from XXHighEnd. Everything else in the application needs work. But my opinion is kind of like being a master of the obvious and telling a fat person they are fat. Peter is well aware his interface is lackluster and wants to concentrate on the sound quality first.

 

P.S. I did pay full price for XXHE as I like to support the industry when possible. I'm sure if Peter calculated his hourly wage during application development he'd probably make $0.10 per hour.

 

Founder of Audiophile Style

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

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Oh, I love stories like these. The longer the better - not implying I wish you more frustration of course.

Anyway, I'm not the kind of person who jumps to the end of the book to see whether the plot makes me like the book, so the more surprising the end came to me. In my case of course.

 

Chris, you may have missed the latest versions, where I at last tried to do something about the user interface.

But maybe I miserably failed.

In either case, thank you for your kind words.

 

The $100, if not less by now (72 euro) will bring you more than 100 output items in the Library Area (like you can control more than 100 albums). Furthermore, and these days more important than, say, 8 months ago, you can use Processor Appointment Schemes, which again influence sound. However, these Schemes also give you control of what process goes into which processor core, which is of major importance once you're into ultra low latency playback. This by itself - and I'm talking about "sample level" latency - creates detail unheard of, but be warned about a loss on emotional impact. At least this is my opinion, others may have others.

You can try it without using the Schemes, but the "slower" your PC, the less chance you will succeed without ticks and glitches.

 

Yes, the lot is still in beta, and the reason it can be bought anyway, is because people wanted to have it, no matter it would cost money. It just evoluated like that, although it never has been my intention to last over three years like this. But as I always said, the GUI would be the last thing to attack, and I just did that. So, it must be close now.

I easily admit that bugs are to be solved, but I'm quite up with that. And otherwise I explicitly invite - as I did in the 0.9z Release Notes - everybody to report bugs over at phasure.com.

 

Again, thanks for the great story, which it also is (for me) with the subjects in a different sequence.

 

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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Thanks for the reply Peter. I think the UI isn't too bad at all. Pretty easy to use. I *especially* like that for each field/button a detailed explanation/guide pops up when you keep the cursor over it. That has been very helpful.

 

 

 

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?

 

Well, the GUI has only just been added in the latest version, but you shouldn't have to go through that many steps to play a file. Only when first starting the program because of all those prompts.

 

The time consuming part is finding the best settings and getting a handle on your options, but it is worth every second because it sound great from the beginning and you get to tweak it to what sounds best for you.

My current settings sound so clean and natural, it's the closest I've gotten to vinyl 'analog' using any music software. But there are also other settings that can produce that sleek 'hi-fi' sound that I associate with good upsampling dacs. It's like an all you can eat buffet.

 

After you get all your settings together, then it's just pulling your audio files into the playlist and press play as far as basic playback. There are a lot of functions I still don't understand, but the basic playback is very simple.

 

If you have decent quality gear (speakers, amp, dac,etc), it's worth playing with. I think the overall SQ is several levels ahead of the other players I've tried in terms of resolution, articulation, and depth.

 

But no, it is not plug-and-play.

 

All IMHO of course.

 

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