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Best Sounding Software?


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Hi. Never joined a forum in my entire life - hope I don't blow it!

 

I've noticed tremendous differences in sound quality between software. Has anyone else had the problem with Windows Media Player sounding, I dont know, muddy perhaps, in passages with a lot of higher frequency content? I recently stumbled on something I think sounds excellent, I think I would call it clean. CD's ripped as wav's in Winamp 5.5. Similar experiences? Recommendations?

 

I can't claim audiophile status, but I can be picky about how things sound, or perhaps I should say I quite dislike it when the software destroys the music. Thanks!

 

NotQuiteAnAudiophile

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Welcome to the forum! Don't worry about blowing it, Computer Audiophile is a laid back site with members ranging from major audiophile to not-even-close to audiophile (and wouldn't want to be). Post whatever you want, questions or experiences. If you have the question chances are so do many other people. If you write about an experience chances are that someone will read it and save themselves time or money. I've also found that I just like reading about people's experiences related to music or audiophile interests.

 

Anyway, software is a huge part of music playback. The main thing to make sure is that your software is bit perfect. I have heard great things about WinAmp, but I have heard better things about Foobar 2K. Most "hard core" audiophiles on PCs use EAC Exact Audio Copy to rip their music and then listen via Foobar 2K. You mention ripping to wav files. I too like uncompressed music. Many people don't think there is a difference between a lossless codec and uncompressed music. I guess for them that's cool, but I'll be sticking to AIFF files for myself. No right or wrong here.

 

Founder of Audiophile Style

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  • 1 month later...

Hi,

I'm new to posting at the forum as well. I have been using MusicGiants to purchase albums and download to my computer. I'm an ardent jazz fan. I then run the tunes directly from my laptop into my home amp and soundsystem. At work I just use a basic set of speakers. I've been a vinyl guy for years and am very new to the digital scene. My questions are:

Will I notice a difference using foobar 2000 as opposed to windows media player?

MusicGiants uses WMA lossless. Is my best choice?

Am I being a Flintstone by downloading into my laptop?

 

Thanks,

 

Rich

 

 

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Hey Rich - Welcome to Computer Audiophile. I think you'll find a lot of vinyl fans just like yourself here. In the not to distant future music will only be available on vinyl or via download.

 

I'm not a fan of Windows Media Player and I haven't met many audiophiles that use it. I don't believe you can get bit perfect output from WMP either. Whether you'll notice a difference between WMP and Foobar is tough to say. Some people will notice a huge difference and others may not even notice anything. Of course the source material matters and the playback equipment matters as well. Foobar is free so it wouldn't hurt to try it. I don't like the interface and think much of it is unneeded. In my opinion you just need something with bit perfect output and you'll be just fine. I'm sure others will disagree greatly, but oh well.

 

WMA lossless is a god choice right now. There are better, but chances are you won't get the same content on a different site or format. For the MusicGiants DRM-FREE files I convert them to AIFF which is my preferred format on my Mac.

 

I'm not sure what you mean by your Flintstone comment. Downloading to your laptop is the future of music. Maybe I'm not getting your question totally.

 

Feel free to post many questions. There are some very knowledgeable people around here who are actually nice to talk to. Whenever we can't answer a question we often get a manufacturer or software developer of a specific application to jump in and clear things up.

 

Again, welcome to Computer Audiophile. We hope to see you around often.

 

 

Founder of Audiophile Style

Announcing The Audiophile Style Podcast

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  • 4 weeks later...

If you're using a PC, J. River is the most complete package (a free audio-only version & 40$ audio/image/video version) for high quality playback of all filetypes. I have likened it to Foobar on steroids. While some seem to think even Foobar has too much to offer, the future of digitized music also lies in the power of the tools used to orgazine, tag, compare, search, and configure custom view schemes or smartlists. You'll get bit-perfect playback, multiple playback zones, secure ripping, a DSP if you want it, speedy support for HUGE (400K+) libraries, library server (listen to your tunes at work over WAN), and much more. Just have to lug my, and many others, favorite app for PC playback; people need to be aware of it as an option.

 

JC

 

Windows 10 x64 (no major tweaks)>JRMC v20>Adnaco S3B (Anker battery)>PPA USB>Auralic Vega (XLR output)>Tortuga Audio LDR v2 (custopm LPSU)>Decware EL34 (VCAPS, bias and UFO tranny mod)>Zu Union Cubes (Juptier Cap mod) - Cabling: Lectraline speaker, Antipodes Komako, Decware, and Huffman ICs

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  • 2 months later...

I use J River MC 12 right now, but will switch to the Jukebox (music only) after the trial runs out. Primarily due to the huge learning curve it has and the protracted, forum based support it offers. IMO a paid for version should offer better support than posting a question which may or may not be addressed. For free? Well, OK... I'll do some research on free stuff when I'm in a jam.

 

so much for my rant on J River. I use it because it sounds excellent. in conjunction with the $70 USB driver I got elsewhere... not from JR. it rivals my main CDP/DAC combo in fact.

 

I've used Winamp as well. The Camel sounds a bit brighter to me overall, just as does Windows Media Player. The latter's GUI has become intolerable for my needs as well so I never use it.

 

I am looking for a replacement to the iTunes software which I use to rip CDs with into AAC lossless. meta data has no allure for me, only the file descriptive text are my concerns... and error free ripping of course. I only use the Apple lossless as it embeds data onto the file, unlike WAVE files whose tags can be lost if the proprietary ripping SW is not in place. Been there done that and unless some new WAVE file thingy is about now, I'll stay with AAC LL, or switch over and onwards with FLAC I guess.

 

so any thoughts here abouts on easy to use ripping software which supports multiple codecs and error free rips???

 

Thanks much

 

 

Do the blindfolded squirrels juggling knives in my head bother you? If so, talk to the Elves, it was their idea to arrange some distraction so my more formidable psychosis could remain hidden.

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  • 2 weeks later...

This is my first post, though I've been reading the comments on your site with interest for a while now, and I really think you folks are at the cutting edge of hi-fi in the home.

 

On the question of what playback software to use, I can't help but think that results are system-dependent. Certainly, I get the best results on my Sony Vaio laptop by using Sony's own Sonic Stage, though hardly anyone else seems to have a good word to say about it.

 

I've tried i-tunes, Windows Media Player, J-River and Bang and Olufsen's software and none comes close to Sonic Stage, which, to my ears, out-performs CD (including when listening to WAV files created from CD in the first place, as well to as 24/96 files from the Linn website and others.)

 

Incidentally, the Vaio has an optical digital output via its docking station, so I'm using this, connected to a Quad CDPII CD player/digital pre-amp and then straight into a Musical Fidelity power amp and B&W 803d speakers. In other words, I'm using a reasonably high-end system, which I would expect to reveal any shortcomings in playback software.

 

One other thought: as far as I can tell, equalizer plug-ins destroy the sound quality, but, again, this may be system-dependent.

 

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Hey wooster - I would say welcome to Computer Audiophile, but it sounds like you've been around for a while. Thanks for the kind words about the site. Based on what you said above it sounds like you fit in very well with many of the people around here.

 

It is pretty cool that you are willing to use your ears to make a decision on sound quality instead of using the opinions of others to make the final decision. High performance audio is all subjective as you well know. Different playback applications are just like any other audio component. Preamps, tubes, transistors, cables etc... all have a sound signature. You pick the one you like and run with it. The very same is true for audio applications.

 

Your comment about results being system dependent is right on as well. In addition you have to consider the person as part of that system!

 

I too shy away from EQ plugins because it changes the sound and gets me further away from what the artists intended the music to sound like. The songs were already EQ'd when recorded! But, if these plugins sound good to people I am all for using them in their situation. I'm not totally sure if I am willing to consider these plugins in the same category as the playback application itself or even the rest of the components, but I may get there sooner or later :-) (I still won't use them though)

 

Founder of Audiophile Style

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I'm currently on a PC utilizing iTunes, importing files as Apple Lossless files using the iTunes program. Is this less-than-ideal? I have no problem whatsoever moving to a new program if there's sound quality to be gained, or to another import format as well. I just import via iTunes because it's easy and automatically adds the files to my library. Will other programs (like Sonic Stage) recognize Apple Lossless files? Any advice here would be awesome - this is all kind of daunting.

 

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Since you're on a PC I recommend J River with the ASIO add-on. iTunes on Windows is less than bit perfect 99% of the time. You could send the audio signal out via an Airport Express with iTunes but then your stuck with the AE jitter and 16/44.1 output.

 

iTunes on a Mac is bit perfect right out of the box.

 

Founder of Audiophile Style

Announcing The Audiophile Style Podcast

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JRiver can play Apple Lossless as long as you have Quicktime installed. This is only because ALAC is not an open codec. You also lose some minor features like replay gain and file converter with Apple lossless and JRiver.

 

For some people this is totally fine and for others it is unacceptable. Again, I chose AIFF uncompressed as it is supported widely and been around "forever."

 

Founder of Audiophile Style

Announcing The Audiophile Style Podcast

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  • 3 weeks later...

kmixer that stops windows playing bit perfect? if so, wouldnt this apply regardless of what playback software you use, unless it has an asio plugin...?

 

finally, would vista (which doesnt use kmixer) allow bit perfect playback "out of the box", like appl machines and OSs do...?

 

Panasonic PXP 42 V20; Panasonic DMP BD35; Sky+ HD Box. [br]Optical out from Asus P7H55-M into AVI ADM 9.1 speakers. [br]\"Music will provide the light you cannot resist\"[br]

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Hey Al - The KMixer certainly does mangle the audio bits. Every application is either effected by the KMixer or has a way around it. ASIO and Kernel Stream are methods as is streaming out through an Ethernet or 802.11 interface.

 

I don't know of anyone using Vista as a serious option. When I say anyone I mean many of the manufactures I talk to and others who know audio software inside and out. This certainly doesn't exclude Vista from producing bit perfect audio, but in reality it's a tough road to go down.

 

Founder of Audiophile Style

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the message always seems to be get a mac or get some other hdd source.

 

how is it a tough road? i mean, vista doesnt have kmixer, and other progs can be used in xp with asio...?

 

i do, of course, stand to be corrected, and a apologise that my tone may seem a little argumentative, but so far i seem to get negatives whichever way i turn.

 

 

Panasonic PXP 42 V20; Panasonic DMP BD35; Sky+ HD Box. [br]Optical out from Asus P7H55-M into AVI ADM 9.1 speakers. [br]\"Music will provide the light you cannot resist\"[br]

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Al, just cruising the board while munching a sandwich.....

 

I suggested to Chris that he runs a Vista vs. XP/ASIO bake-off to see if we can get any more insight into Vista SQ.

 

I'm running Vista on a dedicated server machine, with a nice "hi mid-fi" audio back end system (Apple lossless, nice tube amp, B&W 602 s3 speakers, USB DAC, nice cabling all around). It sounds great.

 

I would kill to know if it would really sound any different "bit perfect" through XP/ASIO or on a MAC (for that matter).

 

Chris - what do you think?

 

 

 

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i thought vista, with kmixer absent, would indeed be bit perfect...

 

Panasonic PXP 42 V20; Panasonic DMP BD35; Sky+ HD Box. [br]Optical out from Asus P7H55-M into AVI ADM 9.1 speakers. [br]\"Music will provide the light you cannot resist\"[br]

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It's not - it still natively resamples I believe. However, many opinions I've read elsewhere suggest that it's pretty much moot - that Vista natively sounds as good as XP/ASIO and it's not worth it....

 

As I said, If I had a MAC or a suitably configured XP machine around I would do it in a heartbeat - Chris is the keeper of much gear and might be able to pull it off more easily.

 

Just a thought....Paul

 

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OK, thanks.

 

Panasonic PXP 42 V20; Panasonic DMP BD35; Sky+ HD Box. [br]Optical out from Asus P7H55-M into AVI ADM 9.1 speakers. [br]\"Music will provide the light you cannot resist\"[br]

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Hi Guys - First off, Al sorry if I am always the barer of bad news when answering your posts. I certainly don't want to take the enjoyment out of the hobby. I think when someone asks for an opinion I have to tell them my honest answer, not the answer they want to hear. Plus, since we've kind of got to know each other around here lately I'm sure we'll go back and forth until we find a solution that you are happy with. Or, shall I say happiest with :-)

 

At the end of the day virtually all systems are capable of bit perfect playback and / or very good quality playback. The one thing I shoot for is easy bit perfect playback without worrying about add-ons or plug-ins. I want to know 100% that I am pulling the exact bit for bit track off my music server every time. In my opinion the only way to satisfy these requirements is with a Mac. By no means does this rule out XP or Vista for anyone else.

 

Paul - As far as bit perfect playback from different devices goes, they all have a unique sound to them. This is one of those things the audiophile world is really frustrated with. How can two bit perfect applications sound different even on the same computer? I think a good example of this is the Squeezebox Duet I just reviewed v. my MacBook Pro music server. Both offer bit perfect playback straight out of the box. But, the sound difference between the two is so drastic you have to hear it to believe it.

 

I'm still thinking about your XP v. Vista v. OS X bake-off, all outputting bit-perfect streams of course. I have a good idea how the results would come out. Some people would like XP while others like Vista or OS X. Personally I'm sure I would be happy with the sound of either system. But, I will chose OS X until I use a Windows system that tops it. By the way, I may have a full Windows XP system with a Lynx card coming in for review. This system will be configured to output extremely low jitter and bit perfect audio streams. This may be the time to get into the bake-off :-)

 

Thanks for the comments guys!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Founder of Audiophile Style

Announcing The Audiophile Style Podcast

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Chris, I have to laugh. I just spent 15 minutes skimming a 6 page Vista vs XP/ASIO flame war on Hydrogen Audio (careful what you wish for when you google something). These guys were out for blood!!!! They almost had to call their lawyers. I'm glad your baby here is much more laid back. Good fun. I would add that I'm much more interested in STOCK Vista vs. MAC (my original challenge). I know you're starting point is with the bit-perfect piece in each case, which makes sense, but I'm curious to really see how stock Vista compares with stock MAC. Someday....maybe in my listening room in fact if the Mac Mini ever gets updated

 

see ya

 

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its nothing personal i assure you!

 

i just need to find the best solution i can at my level. one also wants convenience AND quality, and, having heard the difference between one or two ripperws recently, ive become too fussy for my own good!

 

As i said at some point tho, ill be thinking about a change of hardware in a year/18 months, so in the meantime its all about ripping and keeping things relatively organised so i can still find what i want to listen to. i thionk my plan is to use winamp, possibly with asio, and not worry about tags too much (tho eac will do the tagging), as ill make folders into playlists rather than bother with the winamp library, if you see what i mean.

 

thought id go with winamp as foobar is a bit too involved for me, and winamp looks good, and, i think sounds a bit better, tho some will say thats a placebo or whatever. meh.

 

im keen to see how the play off goes - ive heard those soundcards are sposed to be a bit tasty - tho probably outside my budget, if i recall...

 

anyway, thanks again, and sorry about the typos and appalling grammar, syntax etc...its bed time.

 

good night one and all.

 

oh, p.s. what is it that makes for bit perfect playback? What i mean is, isnt there some sort of plugin or fancy gear involved, or does osx do it out the box?

 

Panasonic PXP 42 V20; Panasonic DMP BD35; Sky+ HD Box. [br]Optical out from Asus P7H55-M into AVI ADM 9.1 speakers. [br]\"Music will provide the light you cannot resist\"[br]

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