Just downloaded the latest version of iTunes. Noticed a new playback panel:
Seems you can up-sample your content within iTunes using Apple’s SRC. I did a quick comparison vs 44.1K/16bit and preferred the up-sampled playback… I realize that you can’t add data back to the original file, but playing at a higher sample rate will change the digital filtering applied in the DAC.
To allow direct playback of the iTunes up-sampled stream, you need to match the sample rate in the sound control panel. Otherwise, Windows will re-sample the stream to match the setting. This is because iTunes only supports WASAPI SHARED mode.
Having the Hifiduino controller show the incoming sample rate, helps tremendously in the set up and configuration of different audio players and their options.
Here is the Playback panel of the previous version
Apple has yet to document the new playback panel in the latest iTunes 11.0.2. If you search their website or the help files, there is no mention of this new option. Maybe this is work in progress and there is more to come in newer versions of iTunes. As it is, it works straightforwardly by determining the audio output sample bit rate and bit depth during playback.
Since iTunes 10.5, the Quicktime component is not included in the installation [link]. This means that this new playback bit-rate feature is NOT quite a replacement for the bit-rate options in Quicktime (since Quicktime has not been required for a while).
Below is the Quicktime control panel showing the Sound Out bit rate control which is only available with Direct Sound. If choosing WASAPI, no bit rate control is available.
Which begs the question: without the Quicktime control, what default mode was iTunes using?
Having never supported WASAPI exclusive mode, iTunes will re-sample every track to the sample rate set by the player. Audio purists will immediately see this a not bit perfect. However, upsampling everything may not be a bad thing. Benchmark Media has been encouraging using iTunes upsampling for some time now [link]:
Sample rate can be set to match the sample rate of the media or to the highest that the audio interface is capable, since the upsampling in iTunes is harmless… The user should not be discouraged from setting the sample-rate to 96 kHz as a permanent setting, even when the audio is less then 96 kHz.
Further, the Sabre32-based DAC, seems to have a sweet spot with higher input sample rate. Thus the higher sampling rate seems to be specially beneficial to Sabre32-based DACs.
MORE LISTENING TESTS
I spent some more time comparing 11.0.2 iTunes playback at “bit-perfect”, in this case 44.1K material vs. upsampled to 192K/24
Even though I am not one that has the capability to detect minute differences (for example by changing a passive component such as a capacitor or a power supply), this time I was able to readily hear differences between the two playback sample rates. In all cases, I preferred the upsampled playback. This says that the differences are not minute.
The 192K/24 playback provided the following improvements:
- A more 3D soundstage. Some would say more “holographic”
- More detailed resolving of the sound. The same sounds, but “finer”, more “delicate”, or some may say “super high resolution”.
- The harmonics gave a “greater presence” of the music. Perhaps greater dynamics.
EFFECT OF FILTERS?
I am sure there is no magic with the Apple upsampling algorithm, and there is no way to add information that in not there to start with. The only other explanation for the improvement is the use of different filters in the Sabre32 DAC.
(Update 11/21/12) DRIVER 1.0.56
- Driver identification to ASUI4ALL is correct. Testing shows that there is no “resampling” to 48KHz.
- Channel mapping is correct for Direct Sound output, WASAPI output and foo_dso_asio for both PCM and DSD
- Use the setup instructions here but skip the custom channel mapping step
Note: previously I thought with this version of the driver the DSD channels were still inverted, but they are not.
(Update 11/19/12) WHICH DRIVER FOR AMANERO?
For now, stick to driver 1.0.5 and use the procedure outlined here. The latest drivers (1.0.54 and 1.0.55) resample 44.1K to 48K if using foo_dso_asio in order to support DSD. If you don’t use foo_dso_asio as output and use for example WASAPI, then there is no resample.
The reason is because the latest driver identifies the Amanero board (at least to ASIO4ALL) as not supporting 44.1K. Below the comparison between the 1.0.5 driver and the 1.0.55 driver:
In the meantime, the 1.0.5 driver works well for both PCM and DSD. I will update this post once a more stable driver is released.
PCM AND DSD CHANNEL ORDER
foobar is able to play both PCM and DSD files through a USB interface such as Amanero or ExaDevices. When connected with a Buffalo DAC, the same wiring can be used (for both PCM and DSD), resulting in a seamless operation without requiring source switching.
However the channel order for PCM and DSD is swapped. When playing DSD with the same wiring as PCM, the right channel will appear on the left and the left channel on the right. This can be fixed by swapping the wiring manually or by using a relay, but defeats the seamless mode of operation that could be achieved. Further, adding a switching mechanism may introduce unwanted noise or other disturbances to the signal, and takes away the “straight wire” configuration that audiophiles long for .
CONFIGURING FOOBAR FOR PCM AND DSD PLAYBACK
Fortunately, there is a solution which is based on swapping the channels in the SACD plug-in for foobar. Summarized here are the steps in configuring foobar for correct playback of both PCM files and DSD files.
After installing foobar2000,
From the foobar2000 website, download:
- WASAPI output support 3.0 or newer (optional)
- ASIO support 2.1.2 or newer
From the Super Audio CD Decoder website, download:
- foo_input_sacd-0.6.1.zip or newer. Gives you “foo_input_sacd” (SACD decoding plug-in) and “ASIOProxyInstall-0.6.0.exe” which gives you “foo_dsd_asio” (DSD asio output plug-in)
From the ASIO4ALL website, downloadg
- ASIO4ALL 2.10 or newer
Note: there is a DSDIFF Decoder 1.4 plug-in in the foobar website which is not used in this configuration.
In foobar -> preferences you will see the following (I also downloaded the HDCD decoder, but it is not necessary for DSD):
Double click on ASIO4ALL to launch the control panel. If you don’t see the control panel it is minimized on your task bar. Configure ASIO4ALL by selecting the Amanero board. ASIO4All will work with all the output devices in Windows 7 since they all conform to the WDM driver architecture. Click on the little icon to highlight it.
Now configure foo_dsd_asio by selecting ASIO4ALL as the ASIO driver (if the Amanero board supported ASIO, it would show up here). This is the kludgy part: output to Asio4All which outputs to the actual device.
Note the DSD Playback Method settings: DoP Marker 0×05/0xFA. “DoP” means DSD over PCM. Marker 0×05/0xFA means use the marker (for DSD) as specified in the proposed “USB Link for DSD Audio via PCM Frames” open standard [link][link]
Note also that the SACD plug-in can also convert from PCM to DSD. There is a discussion here about that feature: [link] and also at the code repository [link]. You can convert PCM material to DSD64 or DSD128 on the fly. In my aging ThinkPad T60, the conversion on the fly takes 20% or processor load. Below it is set for no PCM to DSD conversion.
DSD Channel Swap
(Only needed if your DSD channels are swapped. This happens if you use driver 1.0.5 or earlier)
Now you need to create a custom channel map for f00_dsd_asio. This is done in order to swap the channel. Click “Add New” in the Custom channel mappings interface
Configure the new channel mapping as shown:
- Choose the foo_dsd_asio driver from the select list
- Assign “Technology Streaming 1″ to Right and “Technology Streaming 2″ to Left. (The default is 1 to Left and 2 to Right)
- Give it a proper name (e.g.: “foo_dsd_asio – RL”)
Click OK and you will see the new custom channel map in the list
Select the output device for DSD (the custom channel map that you just created). Note that If you select “foo_dsd_asio”, then you will have the channels swaped:
Note: with driver 1.0.56 or later which fixes the channel swap, just use foo_dsd_asio
Configure the SACD plug-in for DSD. If you configure for PCM it will convert DSD to PCM:
In order to test your configuration, you can download any Stereo test file from the internet. I downloaded 3 simple mp3 files that would test “Left Channel”, “Right Channel” and “Both Channels” [link]. I then converted the files into DSD files by using the free AudioGate application.
Put all the six files into foobar and play them one by one…
BetterSound is an alternative to Audionirvana, Pure Music, Amarra…
I use Windows 7 and iTunes. Although I cannot take advantage of this new player, I think this is a great development for the audio community
“At least as good as Audionirvana”
…compared it against Amarra in playlist/cache mode and actually like BetterSound better. It has a more open sound than Amarra and Audirvana. The soundstage is both wider and deeper with better instrument placement. It also seemed to run as good as iTunes itself. Don’t think you’d even realize this was playing in the background. With Amarra, there was always some delay and it couldn’t do gapless with loading whole album into playlist. Audirvana worked great but had to deal with separate player…
New versions will be announced in the thread until the author submits the application to the Apple App Store.
- Exclusive mode
- Do not apply sample rate conversion
- The above two features enables automatic sample rate switching in iTunes, one of the most lacking features of iTunes
- Two 128MB buffers for playback (good for 3 minutes of 32/96K content)
- Focus on performance with highly optimized code (minimized thread locking overhead, manual memory management, others)
- FLAC support (through “Fluke”)
In my opinion, the above features will match all the (bit-perfect) s/w players out there in terms of performance and transparency.
Free to all audiophiles
The good people at KORG have decided to release the latest version of their music player/converter AudioGate free of charge. You can download here.
Now you can play DSD files with the KORG AudioGate player/converter. Audiogate can also play other formats such as WAV, AIFF and many others, and can convert DSD to/from PCM files. Converting a DSD file into a 24bit/192KHz file resulted in almost double the size of the original DSD file.
When playing DSD tracks, AudioGate converts DSD into PCM on the fly and outputs at the highest resolution possible. In my setup, I used the maximum resolution of the Musiland MINI interface which is 24bit/192KHz. So even though you cannot output DSD straight to the DAC (you will probably need megabuck equipment to do so), the player makes DSD compatible with PCM-based consumer hardware.
Activation and use with twitter
There is only one requirement for using this free player: you must link a twitter account to the player. The player requires that you send a twitt when you first use the player and every time you convert a file. Normal playing does not require twitting. I suppose this could be a good market indicator of DSD track usage for KORG and partners.
Playing my first DSD file in the computer
I downloaded my first DSD track from 2L. At 24/192K output through the Musiland Interface and into the Buffalo II DAC, the quality is astonishing, with unmatched clarity and dynamics. Even at this high sample rate, I was able to set the DPLL setting in the DAC to “lowest”.
A free player, a $60 USB-SPDIF interface and a $250 state-of-the-art DAC… Ultra HIGH END has never been so affordable.
Setting Sample Rate
AudioGate supports DirecSound and ASIO. (I did not see support for WASAPI). When using ASIO, one sets the sample rate of the hardware and all tracks are played at that sample rate regardless of the source file native sample rate. This is OK when playing DSD files, but the lack of automatic sample rate change, makes it inconvenient to use as a general purpose music player. In this department, XMplay in WASAPI exclusive mode has the advantage because it can automatically use the sample rate of the source file. One solution is to convert DSD to 24/192K and then use XMPlay as the hires player.
One of the drawbacks of iTunes (at least in Windows) is that all tracks are played at the sample rate set in Quicktime. If you have a high res file, you have to change the sample rate first in Quicktime. And if you have a collection of high res files at different sample rate, then you’ll have a real good time switching sample rate on a per track basis.
I came accross a minimalist music player called XMPlay. It is a real small download and it requires no installation. It plays AIFF format straight out of the box as well as WAV.
You also download the WASAPI plug-in so that the player can work in Exclusive mode. Since the player requires no installation, you just put all the files you download in the same folder.
Enable Exclusive mode and set “Use Source Resolution” as shown in the following two screen captures.
Since I am using the Musiland USB interface, in order to allow automatic sample rate change (even though in Windows Vista/7 the Auto SR option is not available) you set it to 192KHz as shown below
That’s it. When you play a song, the sample rate will automatically switch to match the source sample rate. How do I know? If it weren’t for the Sample Rate display of the Buffalo II DAC, It would had been very difficult to figure that out…
You can even put the player and a collection of tracks in an SD card and play out of it!
NOTE: iTunes can also play through WASAPI but it cannot operate in exclusive mode, only in shared mode
Just got the latest PS Audio newsletter announcing a new application aimed at audiophiles:
tagNplay Music Manager
While iTunes is a great program for managing your music collection, it doesn’t really address the needs of most high-end music lovers around the world; so we built one that does. It is called tagNplay Music Manager (TMM).
I am delighted to announce that our Christmas present to the world will be the release of this high-end music management program that is free, operates on both MACS and Windows PC’s and will be the only music management program you will ever need.
Designed from the ground up by Audiophiles, for Audiophiles and music lovers, tagNplay is the only music management system you will ever need. tagNplay replaces the need for popular programs like iTunes and can manage any size library without any problems.
Read the entire announcement here: November-2011-ps-audio-newsletter
Follow the discussion of the tagNplay Music Manager at the PS Audio forums
Pre-beta/Beta version is available:
If you want to use it as a standalone player, you will have to wait a few months. The current version is server-only. You can play via the PS Audio network DAC (Bridge) using the iPhone tagNPlay application.