OS X Audio Players: Amarra, Audirvana, Pure Music, Fidelia, Decibel, and BitPerfect.

osx_audio_players

Fidelia

Fidelia from Audiofile engineering has the best combination of sound, user interface, and features. Looking at Audiofile Engineering’s Website, it seems clear that these guys have the most experience when it comes to designing audio softwares for the OS X (and also iOS), and that experience is evident as I compare the day-to-day usability and user-interface factor of Fidelia.

Fidelia starts as a basic $19.99 software, and it really is a solid piece of software for the price. It is the cheapest player to feature the iZotope resampler and with manual controls over the upsampling engine. Although it misses out on some features like device hog mode and memory cache playback (which you’ll get with the Free Audirvana), overall the sound quality discrepancy to the Advanced Fidelia is not as big as between the Free Audirvana to Audirvana+. Personally, I find the basic Fidelia to be a very solid player for the budget-minded, considering the list of features and sound quality that you get for $20. It is not quite as enticing as BitPerfect’s $5 price tag, but I believe the iZotope resampler is superior to the SoX resampler of BitPerfect.

Fidelia Advanced

The next step up is Fidelia Advanced which costs $49.99 on top of the basic software, and gives you more advanced features that include exclusive access to the DAC and advanced control of the iZotope resampling function. Are they really that mandatory? The exclusive DAC access can be a nice thing to have, but even without it you are already getting good sound out of the standard Fidelia. Likewise, while I love having access to the iZotope resampling parameters, one thing you need to realize is that the $49.99 add-on is not going to give you a sound that’s 2.5X better than the basic $19.99 software. But the great thing about Fidelia is that even after purchasing the $19.99 and $49.99 licenses, it’s still cheaper than the basic Junior from Sonic Studio or Channel D’s Pure Music, while offering very solid features and a far more mature user-interface.

Fidelia FHX

The latest addition to the Fidelia package is the FHX add on which is an advanced crossfeed processing control. It reminds me of the canz3D plug in, but I’ve always found canz3D to be too complex for a casual day to day use. The FHX add on is one of the best crossfeed control I’ve ever used, second to the SPL Phonitor amplifier. Although the Phonitor amp has more control over the crossfeed parameters, the FHX has the benefit of operating in the digital domain allowing for a far better preservation of signal purity. Aside from the usual sound changes associated with mixing the stereo signal (a warmer darker sound with less wide but less panned-out soundstage), signal quality remains very high with the FHX and at the moment I think this is the best crossfeed mechanism I’ve yet found (and for $49.99 it’s far more cheaper than the SPL Phonitor).

In regards to the crossfeed, basically you get two parameters to adjust: Speaker angle (0° to 60°), and intensity of the crossfeed filter (0% to 150%). The crossfeed effect also tends to lower the treble quantity and adds a tad more bass, so some basic treble/bass equalization control is also added with the FHX add-on to reverse those effects introduced by the crossfeed. Finally, you get some bonus features such as phase reversal, channel reversal, mono signal output, and solo channel features. Worth mentioning is the phase reversal feature which would give you an idea of what the sound would be like when your headphones are wired in an incorrect phase (hint: when phase inverted, soundstage tend to be wider, but don’t get fooled as the image is totally messed up with no proper center focus).

The nice thing about Fidelia is that the designer got both the important technical functions as well as the practical day-to-day usability functions right. Let me start with the latter. For instance, not only do you get a playlist window, but you also get to create multiple different playlists on that playlist window. Even better, the Itunes Library is also accessible through the same playlist window, making accessing files super convenient and easy. The other feature I love for day to day usability is auto detection of external DACs. Say you started the player without a DAC plugged in (which happens very often if you are using a laptop), music would be playing through the speakers. The moment you plug in a DAC, Fidelia would automatically switch the output to that new DAC (or if you have two DACs plugged in Fidelia will switch to the DAC added last). Of course you can still select DACs manually through the preference windows, but that automatic switching feature is very nice to have. Lastly, the fact that Fidelia’s preferences settings and GUI are among the nicest of the bunch is just a great thing to have.

With Fidelia, You can toggle between a few different sizes for the player interface: Large, Medium, Small, Smaller, and Mini. I don’t know who would need the Large and Medium size windows, and up until recently I was mostly using Small and Mini, but the recent addition of the Smaller setting has been the size I use the most often.

Continue to the next page…
OS X Audio Players: Amarra, Audirvana, Pure Music, Fidelia, Decibel, and BitPerfect.
3.65 (72.92%) 48 votes

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98 Comments

  • Reply May 22, 2012

    Nicholas Tan

    How does all this software compare to the default iTunes OSX includes?

    • Reply May 23, 2012

      Mike

      Good question.

      Of course even the basic player like Audirvana Free will give you a better separation than iTunes.

  • Reply May 22, 2012

    zepplock

    There are so many wrong things about this. If your player adds a “character” to your sound – it is a bad player. I just occasionally use Vox (not on the list. Why?) but mostly use FLAC->Foobar->USB DAC on my PC. In fact i don’t believe in people saying that can hear a difference between winamp and foobar (assuming same source files). So as long as you dn’t perform a blind testing all these reviews are pointless.

    • Reply May 22, 2012

      L.

      oh not again. lol 😀

    • Reply May 23, 2012

      orta03

      Again, subjective listening tests is how Mike and Lieven conduct ALL their reviews. Complaining about it is like complaining about a lack of Yankees focused articles in a Redsox blog. You may or may not agree with Mike’s reviews or philosophy and that’s fine. Then this review is not for you, but for the rest of us, it provides some interesting new info to digest.

    • Reply May 23, 2012

      Mike

      Because you only use one player you get the illusion that Foobar is totally colorless. Once you start using different players (imagine nine different players), you think they will all sound exactly the same?

      That’s what I mean by “their own character”. It’s not that they add bass boost or treble or anything, but nine different players each with different way of processing data, it’s almost impossible for them to all sound “the same”.

      • Reply May 23, 2012

        Chris Allen

        I agree. I hear differences all the time between Foobar, iTunes, JRiver, etc. Each sounds different.

  • Reply May 22, 2012

    Timothy Ng

    Thanks for the efforts. I have been waiting for a proper comparison of these software players and I think you have nailed it. Amarra is still the best with these ears too.

  • Reply May 23, 2012

    Barry Rosekind

    thank you for your review of these players. i’m giving them a test run. i found the graininess in the audirvana player pretty hard to listen to. do you know if there is a way to fast forward a song in the pure music player?

    • Reply May 23, 2012

      Mike

      Fast forward? Hmmm that’s an interesting question I’ll check on that Barry.

      • Reply May 24, 2012

        Barry Rosekind

        thanks for the feedback. another question, do you have any experience with the two apps that play flac on idevices: flac player or golden ear?

        • Reply May 24, 2012

          Mike

          Hi Barry,
          I tried Flac Player briefly, but I haven’t really tried comparing iOS players.

    • Reply May 23, 2012

      Mike

      Barry, this is how you fast forward in Pure Music:

      (quoted from Rob @ Channel D):
      You can fast forward a song in Pure Music. Just enable the “Manually Adjustable” setting (Preferences, Music Server Settings->Special->iTunes).

  • Reply May 23, 2012

    Victor Yu

    Hi Mike,
    I heard of SongBird and Clementine player from other forum,, have you tried them before?

    • Reply May 23, 2012

      Mike

      No I haven’t, Victor. Sorry.

  • Reply May 23, 2012

    Mike

    BTW you guys should really check out Fidelia’s FHX plug in. It’s really nice for headphone users. Once you use it you won’t go back to analog based cross feed.

  • Reply May 23, 2012

    BANANA

    It would also be great to see a show down of the various iOS players; sonicmaxpro (BBE), EQu, equalizer, flacplayer, stereophonic and more.

    🙂 more work for you, sorry.

    • Reply May 23, 2012

      Mike

      No no no, I’m not going to do it. 🙂

  • Reply May 23, 2012

    Earfonia


    the fact that recording quality is very important, and that the quality of your playback system is going to be 2nd in comparison to the recording quality. ”
    Very true, I couldn’t agree more 🙂

    Windows user here, wish you will do another comparison for Windows players as well 😀
    Very useful review!

  • Reply May 23, 2012

    SlightlySkeptical

    Do we have any suggestions as to the mechanism whereby these players sound different? Please don’t say jitter 😀

    The reason I ask is that compared to running Foobar2000 these players look pretty terrible functionality-wise (half of them are just itunes plugins!), so it seems like you’re losing a lot for what you’ll at least admit is a highly controversial potential SQ change (not helped by your high-end/mid-level/entry level recommendations corresponding exactly to price!)

    • Reply May 23, 2012

      Mike

      Take a guess? Take 6 guys and ask them to draw a simple mountain. How’ll the drawings look?

      What I’m saying is, I don’t know how each of the designers optimized the data transfer path. I know that they’re all trying to minimize jitter. But clearly they all wrote their own line of software, and the different approaches would be one possible explanation for the different sound.

      Again, I never thought that an audio player could have a sound signature. I’ve always been an iTunes user and I thought that was fine. Until I start comparing these different players.

      • Reply May 23, 2012

        alejandro vidal

        So you say none of the players are acurate enough to not have coloration of any kind?

        • Reply May 24, 2012

          Mike

          I never say they are colored.

          Again, take 9 different players. Listen to them. They all sound different. Who gets to claim that theirs is the most neutral? How do you define neutrality?

          The differences here are on sound characters and they way they present things like soundstage. It’s not like one player is bass-heavy or another player is midrange oriented.

          • Reply May 24, 2012

            alejandro vidal

            A player either is neutral or it isnt, there’s no such thing as “most neutral”.

            If 2 diferent players produce a diferent sound then a least one of them is not neutral. Do you think that no player is neutral?

            • Reply May 24, 2012

              Mike

              Yes but how do you know how far that player have deviated from the original recording? Go to the recording studio and plug in your headphone there?

              Even recording studios don’t produce neutral recordings, Alejandro. They tweak things to make the recording sound more exciting.

              • Reply May 24, 2012

                SlightlySkeptical

                I think what he is trying to say is that he doesn’t see how a player that is bit-perfect can deviate from neutral, as timing only becomes an issue once the signal is clocked, the data whooshing around the PC’s innards being constantly buffered until it reaches the audio interface.

                The arguments I’ve seen to explain this inconsistency mainly make reference to effects on the power supply, which don’t really make much sense with reference to the design of PC power distribution and the ATX12V spec.

                I’m not trying to stamp on any parades, but I really don’t see how these can work. Surely when the mechanisms involved are so exotic some of the companies making large sums out of this (look at the price of Amarra!) can actually produce some measurements to show the jitter reduction capabilities of their software with a modern PC?

                • Reply May 25, 2012

                  Mike

                  From my point of view, I think we’re all looking at this from a simplistic point of view.. for instance, when you say “timing only becomes an issue once the signal is clocked, the data whooshing around the PC’s innards being constantly buffered until it reaches the audio interface.”

                  I mean, we don’t make a living designing Operating Systems, and we have no idea what’s happening behind the pretty GUI.

                  I find that from my point of view, the easiest thing is to do is to just listen to them, and that’s what I shared on this article.

                  • Reply May 27, 2012

                    SlightlySkeptical

                    From my perspective, we really *should* be asking “How?” and other sorts of questions: when everything is accepted at face value you end up like The Absolute Sound, which recently insisted that two completely identical files, played under identical conditions, sound different…

                    Here is the slightly more technical searching question-y bit:

                    Suggested mechanism of audibility: Direct effect of software on jitter (ie, not the power supply).

                    My previous statement was perhaps overly simplified, so here’s a longer example.

                    Consider some uncompressed audio data, which your hard drive has just read into its internal buffer (assuming it’s uncompressed simply for the simplicity of the example rather than because it’s meaningful in terms of SQ). There isn’t any timing information as such: it’s just sequential data. I’ve oversimplified the data composition: it’s put into frames with control information, which have data removed from them, encoded and combined with control characters for transmission over the SATA interface, but the bottom line is that it’s ultimately just sequential data, one sample following another.

                    Now, we could trace the passage of this data all over the computer, round the Northbridge and Southbridge, but luckily it isn’t important. When the data comes to the point where it has to leave the computer, whether it’s the audio interface or the USB interface, you’ll never guess what you’ll find it in…yup, a buffer.

                    In this buffer, you will find, in some form or another, the audio samples. Again, there’s no timing information as such (other than embedded information about the sample rate): the data is just in order. If that data is the same, it doesn’t matter how it’s got there, it’s just sitting in memory, being the same. The audio interface or USB interface sees exactly the same data, assuming a bit-perfect player: a direct effect upon jitter via this mechanism is not merely unlikely, but completely impossible.

                    Suggested Mechanism 2: Effects on the PSU.
                    As far as I’m aware, this is the only other suggested mechanism whereby audible effects are produced. The problem I have with it is one of plausibility. Playing music doesn’t exactly make onerous demands on either cheap computers, and it stretches credulity to breaking point to suggest that upon doing so all the power rails droop and become significantly more noisy: these things are built to reasonably standardized and relatively tough specs. If this was the case, it would be relatively easy to measure ripple and the like on the power supply rails for some of the companies selling these.

                    Even if there is an effect on the power supply rails, this completely ignores the local regulators employed on the interfaces themselves. It would surely be the intrinsic noise and ripple of those regulators that would dominate any measurements of the power reaching the more critical components?

                    As I said, I’m not trying to rain on any parades, but a culture of “who cares?” when it comes to how this all works is not and cannot be a good thing.

                    • May 27, 2012

                      Ken Stuart

                      dupe

                    • May 27, 2012

                      Ken Stuart

                      Except that the reason for “who cares?” is that we may not know the actual reason for many years. In the past, there have been plenty of things that had noticeable effects, but the reason was not yet known.
                      But it is senseless to suggest that we should all wait years to find out “why” before making our next purchase decision.
                      BTW, your jitter discussion avoids the inconvenient fact that those buffers get full. Aside from that, this is similar to the 1980’s “bits are bits” discussion, and in both cases, mistakenly assuming that consumer equipment perfectly achieve their specs, rather than merely coming “close enough to work most of the time”.

                    • May 27, 2012

                      SlightlySkeptical

                      My jitter discussion does not “ignore” that: buffers getting full has absolutely no bearing whatsoever on jitter.

                      I’m not “assuming” anything either: bit perfection is not something that is difficult to achieve. My point is that bit-perfect players (and if you’re suggesting something like Foobar is not bit-perfect the developers would like a chat) must, by neccessity, deliver the same data to the soundcard’s hardware buffer. If this was not the case computers would be unable to function in even a vaguely reliable and predictable way: they wouldn’t really function at all.

                      This leaves the only mechanism whereby differences can be caused as one of the power supply, which seems very unlikely.

                      I think it is reasonable that companies selling things utilising unlikely mechanisms provide some modicum of proof that their stuff actually does what it says on the tin.

                      I also take issue with the idea that audiophiles heard issues in the past before science caught up. I can’t think of any recent examples…from jitter to feedback, the idea that audiophiles heard it before it was understood is more a myth than reality.

            • Reply May 25, 2012

              Don Vittorio Sierra

              Then its safe to say that no player is truly neutral 🙂

              • Reply May 25, 2012

                alejandro vidal

                Because you think no player is capable of reproducing the original recording accurate enough?

            • Reply May 25, 2012

              Don Vittorio Sierra

              Then its safe to say that no player is truly neutral 🙂

            • Reply May 25, 2012

              Don Vittorio Sierra

              Then its safe to say that no player is truly neutral 🙂

        • Reply May 24, 2012

          Mike

  • Reply May 23, 2012

    Pierre-Jean Suau

    I tried the demo of Amarra 2.4 and found it a little buggy indeed. Adding a song in the playlist make the listening song to lag half a second, the control of the windows is odd, Amarra doesn’t respond for few seconds when clicking on it to move the main window, exiting the program clear the playlist, etc…

    Tried Audirvana + also and instantly understood what you said about Amarra black background. The sound of Audirvana is different, more aerial and still a bit more crisp, but a little less detailed. Yet the program works like a charm.

    So it’s Audirvana for me.
    Well still looking for one with playlist management and I would be in paradise.

    Tested with Audinst HUD-mx1 and (bad) Koss UR-40 (I really want to change those)

    • Reply May 23, 2012

      Mike

      I also found Amarra 2.4 to be slow and buggy, hence I haven’t been able to add the impression in to this article. The earlier Amarra version was similar in that regard, but the last version I used for the review (2.3) was good and stable.

      Take a look at the Superlux HD661. It’s cheap but extremely resolving and musical for the price.

      http://www.headfonia.com/superlux-hd661/

      • Reply May 24, 2012

        Pierre-Jean Suau

        Thank you for the tip ! I was looking for the AKG K-242 HD but I will take a look at the the Superlux ! 😉

  • Reply May 24, 2012

    kongmw

    Hmmm, I’ll get the only free one (Audirvana free) and give it a shot.

    Now just being a curious soul, I do wonder how audio players can possibly have different sound sigs. I’m not saying they don’t as obviously Mike’s able to tell them apart. But does having different sigs imply that they all essentially apply different EQs to the music? In a perfect world, (yeah, I know…) all the different players do should be opening up the same audio file and sending the same bit-coded music digitally to the same DAC/amp/headphones. Honestly though, I tend to believe that a good player should be truthful (neutral) to the music file that it opens and only offer the options of EQing your music as you like, instead of imposing some sort of EQ on you without asking whether you’d want it or not…

    • Reply May 24, 2012

      Mike

      If one player is grainy and the other is smooth, that is not part of an EQ since an EQ alters the frequency response and grain is not part of a frequency response.

      Or if one player has a deeper soundstage, or a blacker background, that is also not a part of an EQ process.

      I think we all can imagine “neutrality” as a relatively easy concept in the realm of ideas. However, when we move to the real world, it’s very hard to determine what true neutrality is.

      But the confusion here, as with most people who’ve asked the same question over and over again, is simply the fact that having a character implies (wrongly) that they have applied some sort of an EQ.

      I hope that makes sense.

    • Reply May 24, 2012

      Mike

  • Reply May 24, 2012

    Mike

    I have posted an update on page 10 of the article in an attempt to clarify the confusion about the different players being colored, applying EQs and such. Hope that helps:

    http://www.headfonia.com/os-x-audio-players-amarra-audirvana-pure-music-fidelia-decibel-and-bitperfect/10/

  • Reply May 24, 2012

    Don Vittorio Sierra

    So with the latest amarra hifi being $49, would it be safe to say that it is pretty much the recommended player at that price range?

    • Reply May 24, 2012

      Mike

      I’ve yet to try it, but I think it should be of the same amarra engine.

  • Reply May 25, 2012

    Ken Stuart

    Mike – Before you do a Windows test, please contact me – I have been
    down this path on the Windows side, and can suggest a few things.

    For example, the best sounding Windows player (in my estimation, and in
    the estimation of a majority of people who have auditioned them all) is
    “cPlay”, a free player written by a wealthy audiophile (hence the “free”
    aspect) who is known only as “cics” because his actual identity is
    political (and thus would distract from discussion of music and audio).
    Unfortunately, he was not interested in User Interface aspects, so
    using the player requires deliberate manual action (in the same way as
    playing a CD does, as opposed to listening to radio). So it is missing
    some of the features even found in relatively spartan software like
    foobar, which is one reason that cPlay is rather obscure. Another
    reason is that cPlay is directly associated with cics’ Dedicated Audio
    PC project, which has lots of audiophile vs skeptic controversy
    associated with it.

    Despite all of that, cPlay’s minimalist software coding makes for better
    sound quality, and it has inspired most of the recent audiophile music
    player software for Windows (of which “jPlay” is possibly the best
    non-free player, although I have not heard all the non-free players).
    Some people have written free accessory software programs for cPlay (I
    myself wrote a Batch file that makes it simpler to use).

    Lastly, it is worth noting that many of us agree that the original 0.8.3
    version of foobar sounds better than the subsequent ones based on the
    major 0.9 rewrite. However, since the foobar author is a skeptic (a
    “sound quality denier”), then there is zero support or changes possible
    for that 0.8.3 version.

    By the way, Show Biz people use Macs for two reasons – 1) It includes a
    lot of creative people whose technical expertise does not extend beyond
    their profession, and thus does not include any computer tech, and 2)
    Back in the 1980s, Apple made a point of focusing on “creative” tasks,
    including writing, art and music, and so those are the three areas where
    Macs always had good software ahead of Windows. So, creative people
    flocked to Apple years ago.

    • Reply May 25, 2012

      Don Vittorio Sierra

      I just installed Foobar 0.8.3 and compared it with the sound of my portable install of the latest version and wow the latest version is bloated and congested in comparison. Thanks for the heads up!

    • Reply May 25, 2012

      Mike

      Interesting points there..

      Thanks for sharing with us.

    • Reply May 25, 2012

      Don Vittorio Sierra

      After some testing, I do agree that the old foobar 0.8.3 sounds better than the latest version. The sound is less congested and less bassy on the old version. Also with very hot recordings, the new version seems to feel a little more distorted as if its output goes louder than 0db. I’m not sure how to explain this since I am not the programmer but the old version gets my vote as the superior/more neutral sounding player.

  • Reply May 25, 2012

    Paolo Mondadori

    Thank you for the superb review, Mike!

    I have one question – How large is the different in sound quality when going from BitPerfect to Audirvana Plus?

    • Reply May 25, 2012

      Mike

      Paolo,
      I understand what you’re asking, but I really don’t know how to quantify the difference or how to apply it to some sort of a scale.
      The latest BitPerfect is very good. If you have a top end system you can feel the improvement on the soundstage with Audirvana+, but otherwise I’d advise you to try out something like Fidelia with the FHX add on, which would give you a very good crossfeed for your headphone system.

  • Reply May 28, 2012

    SlightlySkeptical

    That is conceivably the worst attempt at an appeal to authority I’ve ever read. Perhaps you could try citing The Absolute Sound next, or perhaps 6Moons to prove that quantum field projectors make your audio better?

    Seriously, you didn’t even bother to link to threads!

    When you’ve already leapt to silly conclusions, argument is indeed pointless…

    • Reply May 29, 2012

      Ken Stuart

      You are missing the point. A “rebuttal” is not the same word as “proof”.
      The point is that it is a waste of time to start over on a 10,000 post discussion that has already occurred (with very dedicated people on both sides of the argument). It’s also a waste of time – on any Forum – to start a NEW “creation vs evolution” thread, or a NEW “warming vs denier” thread or a NEW “conservative vs liberal” thread.
      As someone has already said, Headfonia is entirely based on the method of listening and then changing only one thing, and listening again, and then reporting on what you heard.
      A “sound quality denier” would have no interest in any such report, so it is pointless to read this site.

      • Reply May 29, 2012

        SlightlySkeptical

        You may have noticed that I have been reasonably careful in not attacking everything as wrong, merely stating that I am skeptical.
        As I said earlier, I believe the method of simply listening for differences can co-exist with some degree of skepticism when it comes to the causes of these differences. Accepting everything you hear “as-is” with no real thought as to what you are hearing cannot be a healthy attitude, IMHO.

        If you are saying that *that* is the avowed attitude of the site, then perhaps I am wasting my time…

        • Reply May 30, 2012

          Ken Stuart

          First, I cannot speak for the “avowed attitude of the site”, just for my perception of what Mike and L have said. The site does have a statement on this issue at:

          http://www.headfonia.com/on-sound/

          From my own perspective, I am a professional software engineer and my diploma is in audio engineering. My years of experience in those things make me more skeptical of “measurements” and “software” than the average person who only gets a “wow” feeling about technology from using their smartphone.

          “Measurements” and “software” have just as much a human “bias” as listening tests.

          Suppose (fictional example), you have Audio Measuring Software and there should be a line of code that says:

          if X is greater than or equal to 3 then goto 208

          But at the moment the programmer is typing that line, the sexy girl from the mailroom walks by, and so the line ends up as:

          if X is greater than 3 then goto 208

          Normally, that would get caught by testing, but Marketing has put pressure on the Development department since the software is already a month behind schedule, so only a few inadequate tests are done, and the bug is not caught, and so whenever X is 3, the software does the wrong thing.

          This is why – as somone who sees these things from close up – I do not trust technology to work any better than human beings, because all technlogy includes flaws because it is created by human beings.

          Since the purpose of headphone is to reproduce music, then the best test is not a frequency response test, but rather to play a variety of music.

          • Reply May 30, 2012

            SlightlySkeptical

            This is a total friggin’ non sequitur. That you cannot…you’re absolutely right about my contributing here. I’ll leave you to it.

            • Reply May 30, 2012

              Tristan

              @SlightlySkeptical:disqus – you’re my hero. Thank you.

            • Reply May 31, 2012

              Ken Stuart

              Actually, it is somewhat a non sequitar – it is assuming that your reason for Skepticism is the same as the legion of O2 fans who berated Mike for daring to have a subjective opinion that varied from the measurements, so I was more talking to them, without wanting them to come back and cause more noise again, lol.

              But I thought of an easy answer for your actual question.

              Your claim that there is something wrong with an observation for which there is no scientific explanation YET means that:

              When several hundred years ago, someone looked at a tree and said “The leaves are green”, you would have suddenly appeared in your time machine and said “Sir, you are mistaken and full of bias! Because when you spoke just now, no one knew about chlorophyll and the mechanisms that
              make a leaf green. Therefore, it is invalid for you to say that the leaf is green – since no one at the time knew any mechanism that made it green.”

              So there is your example of a sense perception that later was explained by science. Anything that Mike and L hear while wearing a headphone is a sense perception. It doesn’t have to have a scientific explanation to be an accurate sense perception.

              • Reply May 31, 2012

                dalethorn

                Having used computers from the HP-65 through the iPad and most everything in between, I do understand bit perfect, and the ability of modern computers to copy terabytes of data without any resulting error in the target files is very gratifying. But of course, errors happen behind the scenes and the inner algorithms reread automatically to correct the errors. Now in the case of playing CD’s -vs- digital tracks on the computer, I’ll take the computer any day because the CD errors that happen in real time can be heard, whereas the ripped tracks have been error corrected, and real-time errors don’t matter unless they can’t be corrected (rarely a problem). But while data read errors probably don’t happen often enough to worry about with software players, I find it very difficult to believe that modern PC CPU’s and their I/O processors are unaffected in playing a music track perfectly with perfect timing. I’m not talking about jitter (I don’t think so anyway) – just normal playback. I can watch a cursor having irregular movements on the screen when I’m not touching anything and when the computer is idle. I am certain the things that affect that cursor are affecting music playback, despite the best efforts to buffer out the interruptions. One thing you could do to improve playback on a PC is shut off all network connections, then get into the O/S and shut off all administrative processes etc. etc. And eliminate any other background processes. Or use DOS on a standalone PC without Windows or any Windows stub running, and no network connected.

    • Reply May 29, 2012

      Ken Stuart

      dupe (disqus is very slow this weekend)

      • Reply May 29, 2012

        Mike

        Sorry about that Ken.

  • Reply May 29, 2012

    Ezra Elliott

    Thanks for the great article!

    I am using K550s with the E17 and BitPerfect with my iTunes library (the best setup under 500$, IMHO), but I have one small problem. The E17 doesn’t appear to have 88.2 support (at least according to BitPerfect’s analysis), so it forces me to upsample my redbook files to 96 instead of the more natural power of two upsampling. Is this a problem with BitPerfect, or is it true that the E17 is incapable of 88.2 playback? Is it really that big of deal with my modest equipment to simply use the 96 upsampling setting? It sounds fine to my ears, still a marked improvement over leaving the files at their native 44.1.

    Would it be worth my money to upgrade to Sonic Studio’s 49$ option? Would that be the best option if I want full iTunes integration?

    There are a lot of inconsistencies in this article though. For example, you say BitPerfect is more spacious than Decibel in one section, then say the complete opposite in the following section.

    Thanks for you help!

    • Reply May 29, 2012

      Mike

      The E17 indeed doesn’t support 88.2. It does 32, 44.1, 48, and 96 kHz.

      Please let me know where the inconsistencies are. It’s such a long article and I mistype things.

  • Reply May 30, 2012

    Chris Kerr

    Hi @headfonia:disqus

    Phones: Senn HD650
    DAC/Amp: Audinst HUD-MX1
    Source: MP3 @ 320kpbs

    Great article as always. I’ve been playing with Fidelia on a Trial, along with Audivarna Plus (also the trial version). Overall I think Fidelia sounds “better” with the FHX Crossfader enabled. Without this though there really isn’t much difference to my ears (perhaps not surprising given they both use 64-bit iZotope.

    What I would say is that I slightly disagree with your view on the usability of the Fidelia iTunes integration. I found this to be really clunky when trying to browse my over-bloated library (20,000+ tracks). It feels like going back to iTunes 10 years ago. I found the Audivarna integration MUCH better as you basically carry on and use iTunes to pick the music (even going as far as switching the Audivarna display off which gives you a well known library function but with the grunt of Audivarna to handle playback)

    I do have a question for you re Fidelia’s Crossfeed function. I can definitely hear a change in the music as the degrees and intensity are notched up. I’m finding it difficult to describe this change. Sort of like moving the sound forward (physically). It does seem to come at the sacrifice of volume (actually I’d imagine gain). Is there a recommended setting for these controllable values? I know the easy answer is to play until I find something that sounds “right” but I’m quite naive when it comes to the technicalities of what Crossfeed is doing. If you have any simple explanations of this function to help me better make the right judgement call (that being what my ears say is right plus what technically is a good starting point) that’d be great

    One final note…. I have BitPerfect too. To be honest I really didn’t hear an improvement vs standard iTunes and certainly no where near Fidelia and Audivarna’s improvements

    • Reply May 30, 2012

      Mike

      Chris,
      I will try to simulate the problem you are having with FHX and get back to you on this.

      • Reply May 30, 2012

        Chris Kerr

        Hey @headfonia:disqus , that’s great thanks! Not sure I’d describe it as a problem, except my own ignorance I think. The Crossfeed works great, I just don’t know how to make best use of it.

  • Reply May 30, 2012

    Mike

    Audirvana just released a new BETA version with Direct Mode. You can find the link here, and also my short impression of it:

    https://www.facebook.com/headfonia/posts/312757492146157

  • Reply May 31, 2012

    Denton Chen

    Hi Mike, great review I was really looking forward to reading your views on various OSX players, since Ive been playing around with them a while as well. I do notice a difference between bitperfect, vox, and iTunes SQ. Bitperfect (im a student so bitperfect is all I could afford), and I reckon it is a noticeable improvement with a blacker background/soundstage/instrument separation. I dont know if its neutral or not, but I sure prefer bitperfect to my other players!

    • Reply May 31, 2012

      Mike

      Thanks Denton, glad you find it useful.

  • […] but has there ever been a real comparison between the software noted in the above poll ? See:OS X Audio Players Reply With […]

  • Reply November 2, 2012

    Albert Zeyer

    I was disappointed by the available music players for Mac. On Linux, I have used Amarok 1.4 earlier. When I switched to Mac, I have mostly used iTunes and Songbird but I had my problems with both.

    What I wanted was basically a player which is simple, can handle an infinitely large music directory and has a PartyShuffle/DJ-mode function. It should also support all most important sound formats (flac, ogg, mp3, m4a, wma, …) and maybe some other things.

    Because I didn’t found that, I started my own Open Source project: http://albertz.github.com/music-player/

    It is simple and is all centered around a main queue (looks a bit like the old Winamp, XMMS or other simple players). The main queue is always in PartyShuffle-mode, though. I.e. it shows some of the recently played songs, the current songs and the upcoming songs. It plays always the songs from the top of the queue and then removes it from there. Once the queue becomes too empty, it intelligently adds new songs to it (based on context and ratings).

    It is also powerful, e.g. it has its own volume loudness normalization algorithm. And is has Last.fm scrobbling support. And some other basic things.

    It supports basically all existing sound formats.

    Because it is Open Source, everyone can contribute and make it better. The code is simple and mostly Python, so it is easy to work on it.

    • Reply November 3, 2012

      Mike

      Thanks for posting, Albert!

      I will try it out

    • Reply November 3, 2012

      Mike

      Sorry I don’t understand. Unzipped the file and got tons of files but no .app file?

  • Reply December 3, 2012

    DavidL

    Hi
    A very useful comparative review that I am finding a valuable guide to auditioning alternative players for streaming on my Mac Laptop, however I think you, and (as far as I can tell) all other reviewers, have missed one important point:
    If one of these players is installed to provide better local playback via USB or Firewire audio interfaces does it inhibit the serving capabilities of the computer doing the streaming?
    At the moment my music serving via ethernet is confined to using Airplay with iTunes to play remotely 16/48 (i.e. 16/44.1 converted by iTunes to Quicktime) but I intend to move on from this to hi-res in the near future. Testing Decibel I discovered that if I use this for streaming it prevents Airplay output so I cannot listen remotely.
    Could you please summarise the capabilities in this area of the players you tested?
    Thanks
    David

  • Reply December 3, 2012

    DavidL

    Hi
    A very useful comparative review that I am finding a valuable guide to auditioning alternative players for streaming on my Mac Laptop, however I think you, and (as far as I can tell) all other reviewers, have missed one important point:
    If one of these players is installed to provide better local playback via USB or Firewire audio interfaces does it inhibit the serving capabilities of the computer doing the streaming?
    At the moment my music serving via ethernet is confined to using Airplay with iTunes to play remotely 16/48 (i.e. 16/44.1 converted by iTunes to Quicktime) but I intend to move on from this to hi-res in the near future. Testing Decibel I discovered that if I use this for streaming it prevents Airplay output so I cannot listen remotely.
    Could you please summarise the capabilities in this area of the players you tested?
    Thanks
    David

  • Reply December 4, 2012

    Daniel Attalla

    i may be wrong but itunes would have the option of “coloration”..the equalizer, but if you turn it off then you shouldnt have anything colored. It should just be playing back processed audio and the only thing that would differ is the audio playback device that the user is using like a D/A converter or just a basic internal soundcard. Plus you would probably want to review your audio through itunes since the majority of the world is using it

  • Reply December 19, 2012

    Ege Özcan

    After listening to a lot of different players, my personal experience is that using a WASAPI plugin and foobar2000 produces the least colorful sound. That is on Windows though.

  • Reply February 4, 2013

    Don Vittorio Sierra

    Just curious, besides decibel, Is there any other player here that supports ogg vorbis without adding extra codecs? I mean itunes on windows can support ogg with an extra plugin but the album art and tags dont display properly. Ogg is my preferred lossy compression codec by the way. It is the only lossy codec where I can hardly hear a difference vs lossless even at 192kbps.

  • Reply February 15, 2013

    Victor Yu

    Hi Mike, I have been using BitPerfect for a while but interested in the Amarra Hifi or the 2.4 as they are priced lower than before, would that be a noticeable upgrade? Am trying both 15 days trial version and both sounds better than Bitperfect out of my impression, but the different between both Amarra player are very obvious, have you tried both already?

    • Reply February 18, 2013

      Mike

      I am afraid I cant help you on this as i haven’t tried the new amarra Hifi.

      • Reply February 18, 2013

        Victor Yu

        Mike, how will u compare Fidelia with FHX add on with the Pure Music if I purely listen on headphone system only?

        • Reply February 19, 2013

          Mike

          Did Pure Music add in a crossfeed control into their software? Last time I talked to them, they said they were considering it, but I haven’t been up to date since.

          Sound quality alone the Pure Music is better. I like Fidelia’s interface better though.

  • […] finner en oversikt her. Selv har jeg endt opp med Amarra, blant annet på grunn av god equilizer (nytt liv til gamle […]

  • Reply June 2, 2013

    theorist

    Mike, I wasn’t clear on the configuration you used in your sound quality (SQ) testing. Were you using the Mac merely as a music server, feeding a digital signal to an outboard DAC, or were you comparing SQ based on the Mac’s analog output? Assuming it’s the former, how could these programs control the D/A conversion parameters of an outboard DAC? Also, you mentioned these programs have the capability to handle very high sampling rates (>96 kHz). But the Mac’s optical output (via the 3.5 mm mini-jack) is limited to 96 kHz, so how were you able to output higher sampling rates — did you use the Firewire or Thunderbolt ports? Thanks!

  • […] tried. Except that in direct mode it's even better than he's already called it!" Headfonia… OS X Audio Players: Amarra, Audirvana, Pure Music, Fidelia, Decibel, and BitPerfect. | Headfonia Stortest av alle… (ikke lest enda) 2.0: Sonos Connect == NAD M51 == DPA 6.5 == Multicell […]

  • Reply October 26, 2013

    Søren

    Mike, I a bit confused (because I don’t know this stuff).

    You talk about better than Core Audio up sampling but don’t most USB DAC’s require the output to go via Core Audio?

    Also all those advanced features confuses me, I thought it was really a matter of the decoder of the audio file (FLAC, MP3, …) decoding the format correctly and simply sending this information bit perfectly/correct to the USB and let the DAC do the magic? So my question here, should any player that will decode the files correctly not be as good as any player when it comes to sound quality as it it is the DAC that does the stuff?

    Thank you

  • Reply March 3, 2014

    Timthemailman

    One thing amazes me most about all of these audio players (I have four of them installed on my iMac): Every music file in my iTunes library sounds so different through each player. A live concert Beethoven cd file sounds too harsh with my AudirvanaPlus but sounds more full and “present” on my PureMusic. But MacCartney’s “New” sounds warm and rich with the Audirvana! That’s the fun of it!

    • Reply March 3, 2014

      L.

      Fun yes, but are we sure we want standard players to change the sound?

      • Reply March 3, 2014

        Timthemailman

        Well, L, considering that properly engineering a recording is a long forgotten art, I do alter what I listen to just a little. And, yes, I admit these players do color the sound, so do dacs and tube amps (and headphones!). But I don’t have the budget for Audese (?) and $20,000 dacs. Also, my mac doesn’t offer Integer mode.

        • Reply March 3, 2014

          L.

          I can see where the different sound from software comes in useful. thanks for making me see that. but on the other hand, like Dale, I think there should be at least one “mode” that sounds the same on all players

          • Reply March 3, 2014

            Timthemailman

            L, I’m late for work, but I’ll get back to that tonight. Thanks!

      • Reply March 3, 2014

        dalethorn

        It bothers me that different players sound so different. A music player has to have a default tuning? I don’t get it at all.

        • Reply March 4, 2014

          Timthemailman

          Each of these players has default settings which are designed by the engineers of each company and results in the signature sound of each. A lot of complicated engineering! Dale, I just wanted to get a truer sound from my files and the makers of these programs claim they can deliver that. Upsampling for example. And less CPU usage. My biggest gripe is that the PDF owner’s manuals in many cases don’t really explain the settings as the author of this article can attest.

          • Reply March 4, 2014

            L.

            That actually in impressive, like they don’t know their own software 🙂

  • Reply November 19, 2014

    Sam Tomy

    Do you need a good music player for Mac? I’m using Macgo Mac Media player, which can play music smoothly for free. Besides, it can support almost all media categories and formats, including DVD, VideoCD, MOV, MKV, AVI, FLV, WMV, MP4, MPEG, RMVB, MP3, WMA, AAC, AC3, etc. It can play musics on MacBook Air, Pro, Mac mini, iMac and Mac Pro, with Mac OS X 10.10 Yosemite. http://www.macblurayplayer.com/mac-media-player.htm

  • Reply July 3, 2015

    Anna Brooks

    One more music player to your collection – Elmedia Player (http://mac.eltima.com/media-player.html)

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