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Anyone tested Plex/XBMC?


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I've just picked up a mac mini and a DAC1 USB to put together a music server. Unfortunately my real stereo equipment is located in a different country right now, so I'm not in any position to do any serious listening. For now I've just been playing with the functionality through a budget stereo rig that's lying around and some Senn 595's. I can't say I'm terribly impressed with the Senns, but it might be more that I'm not impressed with headphones in general.


I've been lurking on this board for a while, and read about the issues with different operating systems, audio midi, etc. One application I haven't seen mentioned on the board is xbmc or the Plex spin-off:


Plex (for the mac folks)



XBMC (for cross-platform users)



I was wondering if anyone has tried these apps for serious listening. They support digital straight to the DAC, but it's unclear to what extent the Audio Midi settings affect them. I saw at least one thread that indicated it was changing the sample rate based on the source material, but most of the forum posts are talking more about home theater audio. It's not possible to tell with the Benchmark whether the output is bit-perfect, but I know some other people on this forum have DACs which make that much easier to evaluate.


Even if they have some limitations today I think they would be of interest to the crowd that are using their television as their primary interface. Because it's open source it's also something some interested audio engineers/programmers could contribute to and tweak to get the type of output we're all interested in.



mpdPup maintainer

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  • 9 months later...

I recently installed XBMC on my Apple TV. It is done fairly easily via a USB flash drive. It's nice because it leaves the existing Apple TV software in place and just adds itself to the main Apple TV menu. Once the XBMC app is launched from the Apple TV main menu, it takes over the the full screen and essentially replaces the functionality of the native software. When you exit/shutdown XBMC is just returns to the Apple TV main menu.


I found a couple problems that I'll pass on for those interested in trying it. You must set your resolution in Apple TV to 720p prior to using XBMC. If you are using 1080i (which I was) XBMC doesn't seem to format properly and getting it switched back is difficult. Other than that, it has been a dream to work with. I never exit back to the native Apple TV software anymore.


It supports almost any video and audio file format. I really like being able to just browse my NAS for files instead of having to connect to a running instance of iTunes on another machine. It will connect to network shares and also has a UPnP client built it to connect to devices with UPnP AV Servers.


The latest version 9.04 (Babylon) has removed the re-sampler and outputs bit-perfect data for AIFF, ALAC and FLAC. It can also handle AC3 streams with DD and DTS and send them on to a processor for decoding. Note that when it plays back AIFF, ALAC and FLAC it outputs 16/44 but when outputing AC3 DD or DTS streams, they output in 16/48.


Audio performance seems a bit cleaner/clearer with XBMC than native Apple TV. I'm not sure why. The Apple TV natively sounds excellent but XBMC just sounds a little more natural with a bit more depth or layering. I realize that it should be identical to Apple TV ALAC output but it seems slightly better. You'll have to try it and judge for yourself.


I use the Apple TV/XBMC 9.04 (Babylon) combo as my audio source in my hi-end setup and have been very happy with it. Sadly, my nice DAC doesn't do HDCD decoding so I'm unable to confirm the bit perfect output from it for ALAC, AIFF, FLAC files. Perhaps someone else will try it and let us all know. Apple TV runs a stripped down version of OS X and XBMC runs as a native app on top of it so would that indicate that there is a good chance of it being bit perfect?


I ran across a very nice article on XBMC/Plex audio output here: http://elan.plexapp.com/2008/11/11/plexseven-new-coreaudio-output-module/



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I use Plex regularly for movies, hadn't really dug into music further after my first forays into those features. I did notice that the XBMC team changed some of their resampling stuff for the better. I opened a bug over there for wav & aiff tag support, but they didn't seem particularly interested in jumping on a fix.


The plex team went in a different route, I don't believe they pull over much of the xbmc team's work in general these days. I believe they've basically turned it into a front-end for itunes, though I think they still allow some of the alternate formats to work, I haven't dug into that since they made their changes. They also went a different route with the resampling fixes - I'm not sure whether the native audio engine is bit perfect, but in the cases where it's using itunes I assume the standard audiomidi stuff applies.



mpdPup maintainer

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  • 1 year later...

I know that this is a rather old thread, but was just interested in knowing if someone has given a serious look into Plex as an audiophile audio player. I currently use it for video and I like it very much. Does anyone have information regarding audio output? It has a very nice interface and seems to be accessible through apps on iOS and Android so it might just fit the bill if it reads wav and flac with bit-perfect up to 24/192.

hope anyone can help me out

best regards



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