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Which OS sounds Better for Audiophiles, "XP or Vista"?


Lizard_King
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Hey Gang,

 

I am using my laptop now with my new dac. I use Xp Sp3 and ASIO4all. For some strange reason, the Windows mixer's Wav volume control stopped working.

 

I decided to go to USB Audio properties and changed settings. I am no longer mapping through the device or using audio features on the device. I use J. River Media Center and have compared it Mediamonkey and find J. River to sound better.

 

I set J. River to use System volume so at present, I have no way or controlling volume from the laptop and I get a simpler, straight path with better sound.

 

If I go to Vista, I wil buy a separate hard drive and installfrom scratch. Since Vista has the better Audio sub routines and there is no Kmixer, I would like to ask how much better performance can I get?

 

Liz

 

Looking forward to your responses ASAP.

 

Powerbook G4 15 inch Aluminum, \"Fidela,\" M2tech EVO (BNC)with RF attenuator,dedicated PSU, Stereovox XV Ultra (BNC) Audio Note Dac Kit 2.1 Level B Signature Upgraded to 12AU7 tubes, ARC SP-16L Tube preamp , VAC PA100/100 Tube Amp), Vintage Tubes, Furutech ETP-80, (Alon 2 Mk2, (upgraded tweeters, Usher Woofers), Pangea Power cords, Omega Micro Active Planar PC. Signal Cable Silver Resolution ICs.

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Hi Liz - There is certainly not one answer to this question and you're likely to receive several contradictory responses to the question of what OS is better for audiophiles. I will at least offer my opinion based on experience and talking to many people in the industry. Almost everyone I know uses XP by choice. They even have XP installed for an extra charge when they order PCs. I have Windows XP 32-bit and Vista 64-bit. I prefer XP 100% of the time and cannot get better sound from Vista right now.

 

Founder of Audiophile Style

Announcing The Audiophile Style Podcast

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Thanks Chris. In theory, Vista should sound better as there is no Kernel Mixer. The guru at Ultra Fi systems tells me that Vista will sound better and on Gordon Rankin's web site, Vista with J river MC yields the best results.

 

XP is a more compatible system which is why I am thinking of maybe getting a different hard drive, more memory for my T43. I can place the hard drive in, install Vista Premium from scratch without the hard chance srewing up my XP. This way I keep it for Audio and if i need to take the laptop out, I switch the XP hard drive in.

 

You are saying you get better results fron XP? Can you please descripe your XP setup vs. Your Vista setup?

 

Thanks in Advance.

 

Powerbook G4 15 inch Aluminum, \"Fidela,\" M2tech EVO (BNC)with RF attenuator,dedicated PSU, Stereovox XV Ultra (BNC) Audio Note Dac Kit 2.1 Level B Signature Upgraded to 12AU7 tubes, ARC SP-16L Tube preamp , VAC PA100/100 Tube Amp), Vintage Tubes, Furutech ETP-80, (Alon 2 Mk2, (upgraded tweeters, Usher Woofers), Pangea Power cords, Omega Micro Active Planar PC. Signal Cable Silver Resolution ICs.

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Hello and thanks. Were you using ASIO with XP? What were the perceived audible differerences between XP and Vista?

 

Powerbook G4 15 inch Aluminum, \"Fidela,\" M2tech EVO (BNC)with RF attenuator,dedicated PSU, Stereovox XV Ultra (BNC) Audio Note Dac Kit 2.1 Level B Signature Upgraded to 12AU7 tubes, ARC SP-16L Tube preamp , VAC PA100/100 Tube Amp), Vintage Tubes, Furutech ETP-80, (Alon 2 Mk2, (upgraded tweeters, Usher Woofers), Pangea Power cords, Omega Micro Active Planar PC. Signal Cable Silver Resolution ICs.

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I've had a number of customers share their experiences, and some of these guys have megabuck systems, over $100K.

 

One thing is for sure, EAC is a better ripper than iTunes.

 

Secondly, for 44.1 playback they say that Mac is superior, even compared to the best PC playback, with Foobar 0.8.3 unmapped to byapass kmixer.

 

Upsampling is another matter. 24/96 using SRC and Foobar 0.8.3 is still the best I believe, with itunes as a close second. The best upsampling is using a static upsampler like R8Brain or Adobe Audition.

 

Many including myself prefer XP to Vista. It is more convenient since it automatically switches sample-rates and senses the device, and the sound quality is just as good as Vista once kmixer is bypassed properly. I have not tried WASAPI yet on Vista however.

 

Steve N.

Empirical Audio

 

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Steve,

 

I am trying my best to get the cleanest, purest signal. I am using my laptop with WinXp Sp3. I use J. River MC 12 and Asio4all version 2.9.

 

Within Device Manager, I changed the settings for USB Audio Dac. I am no longer mapping through the Device and not using Audio features on the device. I have no windows mixer or volume control. The setting I use on J River MC is for System volume. With all this stated, the latop , OS, application, etc, are not altering the volume at all.

 

In your professional opinion, is this good ? Have I completely bypassed the Kmixer? Is this as good as me running Vista which is supposed to be better?

 

I stopped some services from running to lower usage on the CPU.

 

I look forward to your response, you seem to be very knowledgeable.

 

 

Powerbook G4 15 inch Aluminum, \"Fidela,\" M2tech EVO (BNC)with RF attenuator,dedicated PSU, Stereovox XV Ultra (BNC) Audio Note Dac Kit 2.1 Level B Signature Upgraded to 12AU7 tubes, ARC SP-16L Tube preamp , VAC PA100/100 Tube Amp), Vintage Tubes, Furutech ETP-80, (Alon 2 Mk2, (upgraded tweeters, Usher Woofers), Pangea Power cords, Omega Micro Active Planar PC. Signal Cable Silver Resolution ICs.

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You have successfully bypassed Kmixer it seems. ASIO4all is not really ASIO but Kernel Streaming which appears to the audio software as ASIO. And the river software uses ASIO as an option.

 

However, if you want to continue optimizing your PC for Audio, have a look at http://www.thesoundtrackzone.com/viewtopic.php?f=35&t=313&start=0#p1692

 

It is a soundtrack information forum with a relatively big section on HiFi. Since I wrote the linked article myself I can fully recommend it ;)

 

E-MU 0202 USB wired with Monster USB Cable --> Audioquest King Cobra --> (sometimes) Corda Arietta --> Sennheiser HD-600

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Thanks for writing me. I looked at that article and it is a good one. I use j. River so ASIO is supported and the article said to use that instead of kernel streaming. I already unmapped the device. I do use UltraVNC for remote as I have to. I am using USB so I do not need to worry about the sound chip on the laptop. I do not use any DSP or processing at all. Set your processor scheduling to background services rather than programs looks like a good suggestion. I already disabled system sounds :-)

 

I will keep looking at tweaking.

 

Powerbook G4 15 inch Aluminum, \"Fidela,\" M2tech EVO (BNC)with RF attenuator,dedicated PSU, Stereovox XV Ultra (BNC) Audio Note Dac Kit 2.1 Level B Signature Upgraded to 12AU7 tubes, ARC SP-16L Tube preamp , VAC PA100/100 Tube Amp), Vintage Tubes, Furutech ETP-80, (Alon 2 Mk2, (upgraded tweeters, Usher Woofers), Pangea Power cords, Omega Micro Active Planar PC. Signal Cable Silver Resolution ICs.

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I'm using Vista with Foobar and Wasapi plugin, the nice thing about this is that WASAPI is designed into Vista from the ground up specifically to allow bypassing all Vista processing, so no further tweaks or hacks are needed as in XP. E.g if a player use wasapi for your device, sounds from all other applications and the OS are automatically discarded.

 

Basically sound in XP is a very messy, low-quality implementation, and you need to bypass it altogether using ASIO or kernel streaming to get good sound. Vista has a very decent sound implementation, redesigned from the ground up using 32 bits floating point, with built-in WASAPI mode to bypass even the improved implementation in a clean fashion.

 

Both ASIO and WASAPI work fine under Vista, both allow automatic, on the fly sample rate switching (depending on your DAC's drivers, om my RME FireFace 400 it works like a charm) and bit-transparency.

 

E.g. Vista has way better configuration for when you do want to use shared audio mode, e.g. when playing video's using media players that do not support ASIO or wasapi. You can select the shared mode resampling frequency and bit depth riht up to 192/24, to match it optimally to both the (video) source and DAC.

 

I have never done a direct comparison of the sound of XP and Vista in the same setup, though.

 

VincentH, Pro Audio and Headphone enthousiast. Currently using Vista + Foobar + WASAPI bitperfect --> FireWire --> RME FireFace 400 DAC --> Vovox unshielded balanced XLR interconnects --> Focal Twin 6Be active monitors + Focal Sub6 active sub; Grado RA 1 + Grado RS 1; Etymotic ER-4P.

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Lizard - if you are using XP and unmapping, then this is all you need. If you can bring-up the Windows volume controls (speaker ICON) and none of them have any effect, then you are there.

 

the only other things to do, if you have ticks, is give the player high-priority and defrag the CDROM drive.

 

Steve N.

Empirical Audio

 

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Hi Steve,

 

I feel I am totally bypassing the Kmixer. The sound in my system with this DAC and USB cable and my laptop is by far, the most Analog sound yet! my Dac is still breaking in. These Black Gate Caps take a long time!

 

I have turn off some services, change NTFS setttings, etc. I feel there is no need to use vista yet I am open to opionins about that.

 

Powerbook G4 15 inch Aluminum, \"Fidela,\" M2tech EVO (BNC)with RF attenuator,dedicated PSU, Stereovox XV Ultra (BNC) Audio Note Dac Kit 2.1 Level B Signature Upgraded to 12AU7 tubes, ARC SP-16L Tube preamp , VAC PA100/100 Tube Amp), Vintage Tubes, Furutech ETP-80, (Alon 2 Mk2, (upgraded tweeters, Usher Woofers), Pangea Power cords, Omega Micro Active Planar PC. Signal Cable Silver Resolution ICs.

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To Lizard_King & Steve N.: I will give some examples.

 

1. With my old Creative Live! 24 Bit USB (not remotely high-end) I was able to use Kernel Streaming with foobar2000. I unmapped the interface and did all the other things described in the article at www.thesoundtrackzone.com.

 

2. But even with this configuration I could still change the volume with the volume knob in Windows AND the interface itself. I was also able to still hear the Windows Sound while foobar2000 was playing music over Kernel Streaming. The secret: my external Creative interface had mixing capabilities in its hardware itself and also did the volume correction itself - both were things the WDM driver from Creative rightfully acknowledged and activated for Windows. If Kernel Streaming deactivates EVERY other sounds then the one using Kernel Streaming, then it only means that the interface is doing mixing and volume correction just by software emulated in Windows.

 

3. The same goes for the Creative X-FI Extreme Music which was built in another PC of mine. It uses hardware mixing and volume correction - so even with Kernel Streaming I´m still able to use the crappy hardware DSP effects the X-Fi offers on Windows sounds & Kernel Streaming sounds. This is the way it should be, because Kernel Streaming only bypasses the Kernel Mixer in Windows (hence the name "Kernel Streaming": it streams data through the windows software mixer without change).

 

4. My newest E-MU external interface can´t use Kernel Streaming at all. It simply doesn´t have a hardware mixer, it has no DSP whatsoever (apart from A/D & D/A converters). In order to bypass the Kernel Mixer I have to use ASIO. This has the side effect of muting every Direct Sound application (Windows Sounds) because ASIO purely reservates the interface for only one data stream - namely the one stream coming from the application that is using the ASIO interface.

 

So, Lizard it appears to me that you are using Kernel Streaming and that it is fully functional.

 

E-MU 0202 USB wired with Monster USB Cable --> Audioquest King Cobra --> (sometimes) Corda Arietta --> Sennheiser HD-600

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