Jump to content


  • Content Count

  • Joined

  • Last visited

Everything posted by bluesman

  1. I love the 21st century!!! PS: You forgot a critical part of the ritual: checking the jacket and sleeve for damage and trying to heal any with glue, tape, and/or prayer.
  2. That Peavey part to which Kal provided a link might drop in if the mounting screws are spaced right. Unless you can buy an exact replacement from the manufacturer or a vendor, you’ll probably have a hard time finding another jack set that will seat properly and be securable with the original screws. To force fit an inexact replacement, you may have to cut / drill the panel and/or use high tack mounting tape - and neither of these is a good idea. I can’t see the whole panel in your pics, so I can’t tell if one or more of the input jacks is an identical piece to the broken one. From the screw pattern, it looks like the input jacks are a single assembly, in which case you can’t just short & insulate the leads to an unused input and move it to the output location. But you could disconnect the input leads from one you don’t use, leave them shorted & protected in place, and move the output wires to that pair of jacks. If you choose this solution, be sure to label the new output location! The rest of the RCA jacks on that unit are probably made the same way and the same age - so they’re prone to the same failure. The cause may have been the cable ends, the construction of the jacks, corrosion, etc. Crimping the plug shield to make it fit more tightly can cause or contribute to this failure, as can leaving lower quality fittings undisturbed for a long time. This also happens when high quality, tight fitting plugs are inserted into jacks of lesser quality that can’t take the required force for removal. Unless you figure out why this happened and do something to prevent it, you may have the same problem with other jacks on that unit.
  3. We love N’awlins!!! Here are some of our NOLA favorites- I suspect few of you know the music of Jon Cleary or Walter Wolfman Washington. Try this taste of gumbo greatness.........
  4. I too use Roon for pure listening enjoyment plus associated art & information far more than I do vinyl. But the vinyl experience has always been as much an enjoyable process (OK, maybe it’s a ritual) as it is a way to hear my music. I liken it to the fine art of tea, in which every step from selecting to prep to brewing to serving is an equal part of the pleasure. The ceremony is an integral part of the joy.
  5. For me, the catalyst for change was retirement and moving from a 4000 sq ft house to an apartment. I do love my hard copy, but now I can read my Stereophile anywhere I am on my phone or tablet. I still have several years of Downbeat from 1959 and a fair pile of the BAS Speaker (plus Road and Track from Vol 1 #1 to the present and an almost complete set of Sports Car Graphic - I couldn't bring myself to get rid of them either). But I gave or threw away hundreds of back issues of other mags.
  6. Although there are many possible issues with pre-Catalina apps on Catalina, the main change here is that 32 bit apps will not run on it. On recent versions of MacOS, you can list all your apps by clicking the Apple, then about this Mac - system report - apps. There’s a “64 bit” column in the list that will say yes or no for each installed app. A yes is not a guarantee that it’ll run on Catalina, but a no is a guarantee that it won’t. I suspect that most 32 bit apps will not update to 64 bit versions, but I hope I’m wrong for all you Mac people.
  7. The Delaware Valley (as the greater Philly area is known) has produced some world class blues people, but it's never been a center of blues culture. We've produced some fabulous blues singers, songwriters, & players - but at least as many of the Philly blues elite are behind the big names a among them. Philadelphians like Steve Guyger, Randy Lippincott, Jimmy Pritchard, (seen together in this video), Billy Baltera (Sonny Rhodes' guitar player for many years), Georgie Bonds, and many others have put out some fabulous music backing others and forging a local reputation. But we've never had a strong regional blues club and concert scene to bring our own to the national forefront. We had about half a dozen blues clubs from about 1990 to about 2010 - but they're sadly gone now (and most were demolished for coffee shops or condos). Most were trashy bars like South Street Blues, where the band got $100 and free beer (regardless of the number of players in it). In about 1993 or 4, an upscale club called Warmdaddy's opened and brought national blues talent through on a regular basis. The club was nice and the crowd was huge, truly eclectic, and delightful. I loved playing there and was called as a sideman for many touring artists who picked up local pros for gigs. We had Kenny Neal, Sista Monica, Chris Cain, Larry Garner, Luther Allison, etc. Because of Warmdaddy's success at the time, non-blues clubs started booking blues (e.g. Larry McCray played the Middle East Restaurant!). But the scene dried up for a number of reasons. Local club owners didn't go the extra mile to attract world class talent, they didn't increase the pay scale as worldwide demand for the performers grew, and it only took a few years for the big guys to stop coming here. Crowds thinned as the shows shifted back to locals (who were not presented with the support and enthusiasm they needed to build their own crowds), and it became a downward spiral for most of those places. WD's is still open, but it moved down to South Philly and simply doesn't have the variety and quality of blues that made it what it used to be. By about 2010, I was driving up to Black Eyed Sally's in Hartford and Road's End Cafe in Hazelton (PA) for blues gigs and playing very few here. We're experiencing a bit of a resurgence now, with 3 regular blues jams (Twisted Tail, Ashburner Inn, and Jamey's House of Music) supported by the Philly Blues Society. More local bars are booking us again, so you can find live blues somewhere in the greater Philly area at least a few nights a week again. Philly is and has always been a jazz town. From the dawn of the jazz age, we've produced greats you know and love. The Phildaelphia composer and bandleader Frank Johnson (1792-1844) was probably the first serious jazz maker of modern times, and by the early 1900s Philly was a center of jazz. Our own Eddie Lang was by most accounts the father of the jazz guitar (yeah, yeah, I know about Charlie Christian - but Lang was first and, in my opinion, better). Many moved here to hone their chops and become great: Dizzy, 'trane, Jimmy Heath, McCoy Tyner, Louis Jordan, Benny Golson, Clifford Brown, Bobby Timmons, Jimmy Smith, Buddy Defranco etc etc etc. And we're still producing world class jazz today that's heard and loved around the world.
  8. We’re currently building the Philly Blues Society into a serious effort after years of dormancy. An outreach program for regional schools is being planned now, in which we’ll go to the schools (from lower through high school) to give illustrated talks after which we’ll play the music for and with them. Most schools have programs for guest artists, through which we can provide world class people from their teens to their eighties to educate & entertain. It’s the future of the blues!
  9. That Nord in front of me does a great B3, complete with drawbars and a Leslie. I've played many a B3 over the years - unless it's been restored and/or perfectly maintained, an old B3 (and they're all old now) will sound bad. The tonewheels are a complex system that has to be in perfect shape to be in tune, and there are a million miles of wire inside that must all be in great shape. It's a nightmare to keep it running. I played the Hudson River Park Blues Festival in lower Manhattan a few years ago backing Larry Garner, and they gave me a real and excellent B3 with Leslie to use. It failed during warmup, and they had a tech on site to run on stage and fix it. Because of the mechanical problems with them, I use Native Instruments B4 (a great software B3 emulator that sounds as good as a perfect Hammond) on a laptop or my Roland guitar synth on most gigs that call for me to play both guitar and organ. That Nord is a great keyboard, but it's heavy as lead and very expensive.
  10. Cables clearly and dramatically affect electric guitar sound. They vary greatly in capacitance and we often have to use long ones (25 feet +) on stage. Wireless systems sound OK but only the really expensive ones come close to my favorite cables (George L brand) for a great jazz sound from my big 7 string arch top. I can’t justify their cost. For the blues, we push our amps to clipping and compression, so the cable is part of the system. The amp peeking out from my right side behind me is a Fender Vibrolux, which has a wonderful, fat sound that smooths out when cranked - but that sound comes from major THD and is hardly high fidelity. We have an equivalent to the audio cable controversy, though. For example, Eric Johnson claims he can hear differences among battery brands in his effects pedals...........
  11. You do not want to use your laptop's boot drive for music storage. Putting music files on a drive other than your boot / OS will minimize or eliminate file access problems and ensure smooth playback of even the highest res. SQ won't be any different unless the main drive is being hit by enough other demands during play to cause stuttering, dropouts etc. But there's no good reason I know of to clog a boot drive with music files. Your options start with a simple external USB HDD and run through the world of network storage devices. I've used a 4T (dual 2T drives) WD MyCloud MIrror for a few years now with great performance. But I also have simple Seagate USB HDDs that work well on secondary systems, along with a Buffalo Station NAS I use for experimenting. You really need to back up your music files off site. Anything that physically destroys your hardware (e.g. fire, flood, etc no matter how unlikely) will also destroy on-site backups like a second NAS or USB drive. I've used Livedrive (a British company) for several years and am very happy with them. I haven't lost any music over the years, but I did lose hundreds of important photos some years ago when a power outage took out multiple drives at home despite "protected" UPS. So if I were you, I'd get a nice NAS and a subscription to an online backup service.
  12. If you mean my blues band, it's easily arranged. My main blues band is the Philly Blues Kings. We're the house band at Jamey's House of Music in Lansdowne, PA where we host a regular Sunday blues brunch and jam. We did it weekly for about a year, but some of us got a little busy in other genres over the summer - e.g.my jazz quartet ("Groovelox") has become a hit at the pub in our local Whole Foods (one of the largest locations in the chain) and I played solo jazz guitar there for at least one Sunday brunch a month all summer. So we cut the blues jams back to the first Sunday of every month into the fall. It looks good for Jamey to expand a bit over the next few months, so we'll probably be back to a weekly blues brunch and jam on Sunday along with a jazz session Thursday nights (led my me with my jazz trio) and national acts Fridays and Saturdays (which we do now). We do stream the Sunday jams live and will probably do the same for added sessions as above. A word about my singing - I'm lousy at it and I hate to do it. But our vocalist (Gwen Jackson, a truly world class person and performer) has a real life and can't always be with us for the beginning of a gig. So I'm our default backup and have been for about 10 years. I should not be singing. Here are a few links to Sunday jams. For those who don't know what they are, a jam is hosted by a house band and brings musicians together to perform. Most blues jams attract a large following of amateurs and we're always happy to bring them up and help them along. A well run jam rotates the players and keeps at least one or two pros on stage to make sure the feel, tune, tempo, pace etc are maintained well. The object is to make the jammers feel at home and sound as good as they can - and to encourage them in their efforts. Like most regular and well known jams, we also get a few pros (local people plus national acts who are touring in our area), so you never know who's going to be on stage with us. These videos are raw and unedited in any way - so there's a lot of dead air and more than a few glitches in the performances. I'm the tall old dude playing guitar and keys at stage right (and trying for all I'm worth the keep the groups on track). Our band does a set for the last hour of each session, so you have to forward the videos to about an hour from the end to see us together. July 2019 (the band set starts at about 2:04) August 2019 (band set starts at 1:57) September 2019 (band starts at about 1:56) (Yes, the sound mix is often a bit grotty on the videos - the house mix is much better. Jamey's the sound man for most shows, but for the Sunday jams everything's generally left set for the band that played there the night before. The board's at the back of the room, and no one mans it during our Sunday sessions)
  13. ...for now. iTunes is reportedly the most popular Windows app of all, and it’s not gone yet. But once Catalina is running on the modern Macs of the world, it’s anybody’s guess what Apple will do because we really don’t know their business plan. Owning music just to listen to it is soooo last year for most of the world now. And iTunes has been a major sales outlet for downloads. With the rise of streaming & subscription music, track sales are down - so a strategy to push Windows users from iTunes to the new Apple Music trilogy makes sense, especially if they can get enough users to move to a big Mac to anchor their iStuff. If they all become Apple Music subscribers, revenues will probably soar well above what they were making from iTunes downloads to Windows users. I strongly suspect that this is part of their business plan. FWIW, I loaded the Catalina beta on my virtual Mac and it’s really nice, even with the performance limitations of my backyard virtualization freeware.
  14. I left full time employment about 3 years ago when I passed 70 1/2 and had to start taking RMDs. Staying on the job would have meant giving up a huge chunk to taxes at my salaried rate+. And we were ready - my wife retired about 8 years ago. So we sold the house, moved to a condo apartment, and are having a ball! I’m playing more music jobs now than I have since I went to medical school, and I’m still teaching and doing some research as a “volunteer” (I.e. unpaid) faculty member. I was promoted to full professor at a major university health center in 1993 with tenure of title (but obviously not of salary...). I used to turn out multiple papers every year, but after formal retirement my plan has been for one major, peer reviewed study annually. I’m on track with one in 2017 and two in 2018. My team’s accruing data now for the next one. Putting these articles together is no trouble at all - I’m learning a ton about things I hadn’t experienced before, and I’ve published over 100 peer reviewed studies since med school. So it’s in my fiber and a lot of fun. I’ve been trying to think of a reasonable way to compare the free and low cost players with the big boys, but I don’t have a good concept yet for the parameters. SQ is equally great for many in both groups, and SQ differences among them are purely qualitative IMO. No player at any (or no) cost has and does everything for everyone, so my “if you are / like / want X, Y and/or Z, you should consider....” approach is the best I could think of to date. I tried about a dozen ways to present the 31-way comparison and settled on that big spreadsheet. But it’s imperfect and I’ll try to do better with the next one. Thanks!,
  15. I can't answer that fully because (as stated in the body of the article) I don't have any Mac hardware right now. But if you look at the line item detail in the big chart, you'll find 4 that made the cut on my Linux-based Frankenmac. I installed those I evaluated on a virtual machine running on Ubuntu Studio (19.04), and none worked completely or perfectly under that constraint. But there are a few that worked well and sounded great even on my jury-rigged platform. On real Mac hardware (or even a more robust VM - I used freeware only), I suspect they're everything you and most of the rest of us want from a player. Colibri is a simple, bit perfect Mac-only player that should be excellent for audiophiles - I just couldn't get the demo to work well in VMWare, VitrualBox or Boxes. The full package costs a modest $5, if I understand the website correctly. As soon as I get a fresh Mac box, I'm going to try it out. I suspect it's pretty fine from the reviews and specs. Pine was pretty solid even on the virtual machines and deserves a thorough evaluation by anyone looking for a fine budget player for MacOS. The difficulty downloading, installing, and configuring it was almost certainly from virtualization rather than the program. Vox is another great Mac-only player that performed OK in virtualization and sounded great. I suspect that installation on a Mac box would result in excellent all around audiophile performance. Kodi's pretty good on Mac too, although I haven't wrung it out very hard & can't confirm that it'll do everything. I do want to get a Mini to play with, and I'm nuts enough to wring out 31 players on multiple platforms. But I don't need one and I'm not so far gone that I'd buy a Mac just for this review
  16. Wow - this thread is still alive !?!?!?! Here's what we drank in 1968 as we dropped the needle..... Old Frothingslosh was truly unique - it was marketed as the only beer in the world with its head on the bottom, until some fool woman sued them (successfully, it seems) because she didn't realize it was a joke and claimed that the party she planned around it was ruined when it turned out to be a can of plain old beer.......
  17. The simple truth is that I forgot iT/Apple Music because I haven’t used it in years. My wife & I have versions on all of our phones, tablets, and computers, and I converted a few hundred FLAC albums to ALAC a few years ago to find out how they sounded. But we have thousands of albums in FLAC so iTunes made little sense for us. With Bitperfect & DSD Master, I could have listened happily to iTunes, and Apple Music will probably be excellent on a good playback platform. It’s just been below my radar for a long time (although I still have my iPod Touch and NuForce iDo DAC/amp). I apologize to all of you Apple polishers for ignoring a major player (pun intended)
  18. Many of us think that the SQ of some free or low cost players is as good as some widely used commercial players. As for usability, wants & needs vary greatly. I love being able to slow down a complex tune without changing the pitch, so I can study a solo. I stream to my mobile devices wherever I am. We were in London last week, and I played some new tunes for our friends there. Etc etc. I love Roon & use it for serious listening in my main systems. I love the wealth of relevant art & info it displays. But it won’t stream over WAN (yet - I believe it’s in dev now) and it won’t alter pitch or tempo. Foobar2000 will. The highlights for users chart offers more such info.
  19. Daphile’s included. The full chart is in alphabetical order - it’s between Cantata & DeaDBeeF.
  20. Thanks for the kind words! Some freeware is surprisingly well maintained & updated. Foobar’s the classic example, with ongoing improvement for a very long time now. A premium product like Roon (my favorite too) updates seamlessly in the background. Maintaining open source & other freeware can be a chore, even with plugins and updates from the creator / creative team behind the product. So you do get what you pay for with the better commercial players. But as I say in the article, there’s great SQ to be had from well chosen, meticulously set up freeware, and I could live happily with any of several if I had to do so. FWIW, I encourage all who use freeware to donate to the teams that make and support it. People who create great stuff for you because they like to are like your teeth - you have to take care of them if you want them to stick around
  21. THE VALUE PROPOSITION IN COMPUTER AUDIO: front end software The three party software system is now firmly entrenched in our culture. And, per a recent AS poll I posted, there’s been some serious change in platform preferences and practices among computer audiophiles over the last 7 years. Half of all respondents in the 2012 poll favored Mac. About 35% preferred Windows, while a scant 13% favored Linux. My 2019 poll results showed that a majority of respondents had no single platform preference and selected a platform independently for each system component and/or use. In the 2019 poll, 23% used Mac for all of their audio functions, 19% used Linux exclusively, and 16% used only Windows (an even statistical split). One very interesting finding to me (and the only number that’s statistically different from the rest in this small sample) is that a majority of respondents now have no single platform preference - 39% used multiple platforms in their systems, selecting each because they thought it was the best for its intended use. Of even greater interest is the finding that player choice, based on SQ alone, is statistically split evenly among users of all 3 major OS platforms and those who hear no difference among similar players on different platforms. If there’s a trend, it’s toward Linux (35% vs 16% each for Win, Mac, and no difference heard) – but it’ll take a larger sample to confirm this impression. One very important factor I was unable to address is whether respondents actually had more than one platform so they could make real comparisons in their own systems and settings. So we don’t know how and on what criteria these preferences were determined. Given the clear lack of consensus on computer audio front ends (i.e. players and packages that include them), I thought we’d take on a player comparison next and evaluate the many open source players available to us. As this is a series on finding value in audio, we’ll be looking only at freeware and a few very low cost alternatives. Comparison of freeware with Roon, JRMC etc seems a bit unfair to me, although some open source packages do rival costly software and hardware players for SQ and are viable alternatives for even the most serious audiophile on a budget. For 10 points, does anybody want to guess how many open source music player programs are available right now for download from internet sources? And for the 20 point toss-up, guess who’s nuts enough to try to evaluate and compare most of them? Of course, the $64,000 question is whether any is good enough to make you as happy as the known and loved fee-based software and hardware players. And for those seeking the best value in audio as they define and determine value for themselves, this begs the question of whether fee based players are worth their cost compared to open source and freeware / shareware alternatives. For the last 8+ months, I’ve been finding, downloading, and wringing out dozens of software players for Windows, MacOS, Linux and variants on a farm that includes about 2 dozen devices on several platforms powered by ARMv7, ARMv8, 32 and 64 bit Intel and AMD CPUs as old as a 2005 Toshiba Satellite U205-S5034 laptop and as new as a 2018 HP running Win10 v1903 and a Raspberry Pi 4 with 4 G of RAM. I’ve put the same players on multiple platforms (when available for them), including ChromeOS, Win10, Ubuntu, Mint, Debian, OpenSUSE, Arch, Puppy, Slackware, Raspbian, OSMC, OpenELEC, LibreELEC RISC, JEOS platforms that come with embedded players, and macOS Mojave on VMWare. I’ve evaluated what I consider to be the most important aspects of each, including download, installation, configuration, library management, user interface, flexibility, aesthetics, and (of course) sound quality. I did try to load and play DSD on all. I did not test them for MC use, although many will do 5.1 or better. For those who need a quick fix, the 10 point answer to my opening question is “at least 50.” And the $64k answer is that you can get a truly fine player that sounds as good as the big boys for no more money than you choose to donate to the development team. Although all do not feel the same way, I certainly get value for money in the additional features available from Roon, JRiver etc – but I’d be very happy using and listening to most of the players discussed here if it were my lot in life. I’ll say up front that no player / music manager package I’ve yet found meets all my needs and fulfills all my desires. I want to stream my own music (or, at the very least, music of my choice) to me wherever I am, with both top sound quality and full functionality / data display, which eliminates most. I love liner notes and background info on the music, performers, composers, setting, etc. I love detailed info on the recording itself, with comprehensive credits. I also love looking at album jackets, so I don’t like players that won’t display my library as a wall of cover art. As a liner note junkie, I like to have more information available to me than any open source player I’ve found will display, with the exception of Jajuk. As it’s easier every day to find comprehensive information and album art on the internet with very little effort, I could easily and happily live with any of several right now. When set up and configured properly on well constructed platforms, most of these players are interchangeable for sound quality. But differences abound in ease of installation, configuration and use. The best are not far behind some costly darlings, and most will gather and direct your files to your processing and amplification devices with excellent fidelity. You don’t have to spend a cent to be able to listen to truly excellent sound. BASIC PLAYER INFORMATION: There is a Wikipedia page here with a pretty good and (as far as I can tell) fairly accurate set of comparison tables of 40+ music player programs, most of which are currently available. Although many are very similar to each other, almost all have at least one differentiating feature you could very well love or hate. I was more than a little surprised to find a few that look like re-skinned versions of the same player, but library presentation and ease of management vary greatly among them. I strongly recommend that you download and try at least a few to find “them you loves & them you hates”. As these are all open source, all it takes is time and effort to plow through them. But, as I’ll describe shortly, the amount of effort to install and configure them varies greatly from one to another. Some are more network-friendly than others, especially on Linux platforms. As usual, I’ll lay out the paradigm on which this review is based up front, because there are so many alternatives and options for each and every piece of audio software. THE FACTS, ASSUMPTIONS, AND EXPECTATIONS IMPLICIT IN THIS WORK This review is based on out-of-the-box software – no tweaks, no twists, no addons. I made no effort to modify, extend, or otherwise alter the functionality of the players as provided by their sources, both because comparisons would no longer be based on stock packages and because it took me months to do what’s described herein. There are ways to make many of these do more than their creators intended and/or included. Many plugins, patches, etc (e.g. Wavpack) can add serious functionality – and I’ll get to them in time. This article is a basic guide to what you can expect from most popular open source or inexpensive proprietary players. There are far more players, platforms, hardware, configurations, options, versions, variants, triumphs, tribulations, random events, preferences, deal breakers, and unknowns than one person could ever explore in a lifetime. This review took many months. It’s far from perfect, but I hope it’s a useful contributor to a baseline fund of knowledge, from which we can all explore new frontiers and share what we learn. Every reader undoubtedly knows something that I don’t and thinks, feels, or hears something that has never crossed my personal radar screen. Please share your responses, knowledge, thoughts, experiences, and feelings so we can all benefit. I downloaded, installed, configured, and operated each player exactly as the source instructed. I looked at most configuration options only if I thought they were significant, of general interest, and available for most players, e.g. re-skinning. I did explore truly unique & noteworthy 1-off features or options I thought were important I used the same source files, file server, & playback systems to evaluate all players & platforms. The same WD MyCloud Mirror 4T NAS was used as a mapped drive on Windows and as a file share mount (fstab line item) on Linux. No files were downloaded to any player. I used typical operating system versions and configurations without modification. I made no effort to modify, upgrade, or improve on what you see and get from the source. Windows installations were done using MSI packages whenever available. Mac OS installations were all done on Mojave as a virtual machine on Linux as VMs. This is not a great way to use these players. Neither VirtualBox nor VMWare could deliver the speed and operational smoothness necessary to match native platform installations. Boxes (a fresh approach to virtualization on Linux) was no better, although I ran out of patience by the time I got to this evaluation and suspect it can be made to work better. I cannot imagine using virtualization for daily audio on the freeware platforms available today (VMware, VirtualBox, Boxes etc) on a basic computer. I may eventually build a serious box and try a more aggressive approach to virtualization, but there’s no benefit for most audiophiles. Wine was used to run Foobar, MusicBee & other Windows-only programs on Linux boxes. Wine works pretty well and is certainly usable for audiophiles with software and hardware that will allow bit perfect playback. But unless you simply have to have a particular Windows-only player, I can’t imagine why anyone would use Wine for audio. For Linux distros, the included package manager was used (via the software installer if included and usable) for installation of each player obtainable from an accessible repository. Otherwise, Linux player packages were downloaded directly and installed via command line. Wine installed all exe files. GUIs were used for all players and platforms that had them. Command line players were managed both in terminal and via SSH, using Putty for remote terminal access. Collective A-B comparisons among SBC players and platforms were conducted using a 7.1 Pioneer Elite receiver with Wolfson 24/192 DACs and 4 HDMI inputs driving Rogers LS3/5as and a Yamaha 8” powered sub. SPLs were matched for 4 players at a time with both A and C weighting, using reference tones as well as timed peaks on program material. Unstructured comparisons of SBC players were done by setting each up on a separate 16G microSD card with Debian Stretch, played through the same Raspberry Pi 3b+ driving an SMSL SU-8 v2 DAC into a Prima Luna Prologue Premium power amp pushing Focal 726 tower speakers in our 28’x13’x7’6” living room. For reference, Roon Bridge was also installed on each SD card, and the SMSL DAC has a Chromecast Audio JRiver zone on the optical input. I used RealVNC for desktop access to all processors running programs with GUIs. Most of the freeware players are open source, although a few are not or are limited without buy-up. Most provide bit perfect playback at stated resolutions with ALSA (Linux) or WASAPI (Win). MEET THE PLAYERS! As you can easily see, there’s little to distinguish many of these players from each other. There are a few basic GUI layouts, each serving as a default for one group and being an option for many others. Most of the displays can be customized to some degree, with color schemes and panel layouts being the most common embedded options for appearance. Sound quality is also interchangeable per format among most open source players whose back end audio engines drive ALSA (Linux) or WASAPI (Windows) and can be configured for bit perfect, no frills playback of supported formats. See the detailed comparison table for specifics. EXECUTIVE SUMMARY We studied, downloaded, installed, configured, listened to, rated, and compared 31 of the most popular players available today on one or more of the platforms for which they’re provided. We listened to each on at least 2 of our reference systems and A-B-C-D’ed many in batches of 4 on the same system with level matching. We used 16/44.1 & 24/192 FLACs plus DSD files of jazz, blues, classical, folk, rock, and bluegrass on both commercial recordings and our own live 24/192 wav recordings of our own band and instruments. These include a Yamaha G1J grand piano, National Tricone resonator guitar, multiple electric and acoustic archtop and flattop guitars, ‘57 Fender P-bass (Fiesta Red for those who care), and Lee Oskar diatonic & chromatic harmonicas. Amplification included a Vox Nighttrain 5W class A triode guitar head into a Raezer’s Edge 10” cabinet, ‘68 Fender Vibrolux, Trace Elliot Elf bass head into Mesa ported 12” cab with EVM, and a Fender Blues Deluxe. We ranked each numerically from 1 to 5 on eleven major functions, with 1 being the bottom of the scale (worst / hardest / least desirable / weakest, etc) and 5 being the top. The functions are download, installation, configuration, library management, web streaming (radio, WAN access etc as one category), system requirements, art & info availability & display, user interface, flexibility, uniqueness, and sound quality. We timed the process of accession, download, installation, configuration and file opening from first click to first note of playback. These are the top players based on mean numeric ranking (4 or greater): With scores of 5, the top ranked players for sound quality alone are (in alphabetical order) Cantata plus MPD on Linux, Daphile, DeaDBeeF on Linux, Foobar2000, Kodi, Moode, MusicBee, Pine, RuneAudio, Volumio and Vox. Each of these was set up and configured for bit perfect play of the same source material. Music player software does many things, each of which can vary in importance to any one of us from irrelevant to essential. Only you know what you need and what you’ll trade off to get it. This table of specific features may help you break a tie: THE REST OF THE STORY Here’s the complete comparison chart of all 31 players: (click to view full PDF) CHOOSING AMONG THEM Most of the GUIs are similar enough in appearance, feel, content, and function to make choosing among them more effort than it’s worth. Basic skins are either light grey / white or dark / black, and many of the layouts and graphics are so similar that they might well have come from the same designer. The default graphics for Moode and Volumio have little to differentiate them from each other: The same can be said for an entire group of others, like DeaDBeeF & Guayadeque - or MusicBee and Dopamine - The only way to make an intelligent, reasoned decision is to download and try each of the ones with the features you simply have to have, e.g. DSD, MC, desired drive options (USB, optical etc), great album art & info displays, etc. You’ll love some of these players, hate others, and almost certainly find at least one with which you can live happily ever after - at least, until the buying bug bites FOOD FOR THOUGHT There are many considerations in choosing an audio player for computer use, including What computer will you use? One you already have A new one you plan to buy or build for multiple uses, one of which will be audio A new one you plan to buy or build as a dedicated audio player How complex do you want your system to be? One box solution (player, server, etc) Computer front end with NAS or other remote server Other What are your player access needs? None – player to DAC to audio system at one location like the old days Remote control only on LAN with mobile app LAN – multiple endpoints / renderers on a home network WAN – access to home server to stream remotely What program sources will you access? Local music files only Web radio Other internet streaming sources Video material What kinds of music files will you play? mp3 High resolution FLACs DSD MQA Multichannel Other What kind of computer will you use? x86 etc ARM based, SBC Other What operating system will you use? Do you tend to stick with something you like for a long time or change around a lot? Hopefully, this article will have helped you understand open source player options and what might work well for you. We’re finishing up a similar piece about operating systems, including multiple Linux distros, current and legacy Windows and Mac OSes, plus a variety of options for Raspberry Pi etc. This includes a discussion of ways to optimize, tweak, and monitor computer audio playback along with some of the open source tools you can get to do these things on any platform. After that will come a hardware comparison and a piece on small speaker alternatives that offer great value along with great sound. While waiting for the next piece, many of you will find great pleasure in downloading and playing with some of the players we just discussed. You have nothing at all to lose and a lot of fun and knowledge to gain. Experiment with plugins. Reskin a player. Change drivers to see if you can hear a difference – on Linux, try Jack vs ALSA and play with PulseAudio. On Windows, you have WASAPI and ASIO to start with. There’s a whole world of new knowledge waiting for you if you try. I can pretty much guarantee you that what you learn and how much fun you have will be proportional to the effort you put into it. Enjoy!
  22. Very nice - thanks!! I have one minor suggestion though. It is true that "... the 1.5 kHz to 4 kHz range, [is] also the range our hearing is the most sensitive" for totally normal ears. But a discrete drop in threshold sensitivity centered on 4kHz (i.e. a notch) is the hallmark of noise-induced hearing loss, and a loss of threshold sensitivity as a sloping low pass function affecting frequencies from about 2kHz up typifies presbycusis (hearing loss commonly associated with aging rather than trauma, toxicity, or otologic disease). So most humans will lose threshold sensitivity between 2 and 4 kHz from some combination of noise exposure and aging as we pass 50+.
  23. You may not be up on the latest SBC capabilities. A ‘bone is generations behind, although SQ from MPD playing FLACs & higher res can still hold it head up with proper configuration. I still have a black and an xM in action, but they’re primitive compared even to a Pi 3b+. I’m currently wringing out a new 4 gig Pi 4, and it’s light years ahead of prior SBCs. With a better processor, much more RAM, a proper USB 3 bus, gigabit Ethernet etc, SQ is excellent and it’ll handle whatever you throw at it as a Roon endpoint or a full JRMC 25 instance. There are some beautiful cases out there that even make it look like real equipment My main point was that the very concept of a “one box solution” as an alternative to a laptop is odd - when you substitute a streamer for it, you’re just swapping one box for another. Maybe I haven’t heard the best streamers & I’m in for a surprise - but to date, I haven’t heard one that truly sounded better than a well set up computer front end. I understand the streamer concept - I just haven’t heard one that was worth its cost to me. Others obviously disagree, or they wouldn’t buy them. To each his (or her) own!
  24. Two words: one box? And two more: not so. The only hardware a "streamer" like an Aurender N100H replaces (if you use an internal HDD for your music files) is the laptop - so you already have a one box solution. If you source your library from NAS, you have 2 boxes in front of your DAC. Add your DAC and you're up to 3 - and your integrated makes 4. Unless you adopt a true one box approach that incorporates a front end with DAC and amplification (which would not be a streamer), you won't have fewer boxes. So I'm not sure how the term "one box" came about for streamers, since a laptop is also one box (as are PCs, Raspberry Pis and any other device on which you install player & library management software, plug in web streams, and dump your digital output into a DAC via USB, optical, etc). The upsides to a good streamer are that it's user friendly, less physically obtrusive than a laptop in a general living environment where it will be seen by spouse / SO and guests, not in use for other purposes or by other people, and at the highest level of tech and SQ that its price will buy at the time of purchase. But I have a vague memory of a time when a BMX was the hottest bike in the neighborhood and road bikes were for old people. The market has jumped among thin tires, fat tires, small wheels, huge wheels, aluminum, titanium, stainless steel, etc, etc, etc....and so it goes with audio, cameras, boats, cars, TVs and just about everything else. The equivocal aspect is that the hardware and/or software may or may not be upgradable from what you buy or what's available on a given date in the future. So, at some point, you'll be riding the asymptote (maybe even on a BMX 😉) and the next big thing will be unobtainable without a new device. This is not a problem for those of us who live happily with what we have despite the knowledge that there's something a bit better out there - and when that happens, an outmoded device becomes a sunk cost. And, of course, every once in a while something truly new comes along to advance the state of the art &/or offer the same or better SQ in a more desirable package for a lot less money. The downside is that you're tied to the entire box, its platform, and its contents at whatever the end-of-life stage may turn out to be. And if a function dies, you're without the device while it's down, out for repair, &/or awaiting purchase of a new box. So I don't see a streamer as a particularly attractive option unless the above considerations are irrelevant to the user (which, for many, they are). You can buy a Raspberry Pi 4 with 4 gigs of RAM for $55, drop any one of 3+ dozen open source players on it or go with something like JRMC, and have a perfect bit stream pouring into your USB DAC that will sound close to (if not exactly the same as) the output from a much more expensive streamer. You don't even need a separate processor - you could run Roon etc on a NAS and stream over your LAN/WLAN, build a NUC as a dedicated music server, etc etc.
  • Create New...