I really won’t attempt to put a 1-2-3 rankings since people have different priorities when it comes to features, price, and sound quality. Clearly some players give a better value for your money, as described on the preceding pages. However, for most people, we’ll be making the purchase based on the price classification and this is how I would categorize them:
- Entry level: Audirvana Free ($0), BitPerfect ($10)
- Mid level: Fidelia Basic ($19.99), Decibel ($33), Audirvana+ ($49)
- High End: Audirvana+ ($49), Fidelia Advanced ($69.98), Sonic Studio Junior ($99), Pure Music ($129), Sonic Studio MINI ($295), Sonic Studio Amarra ($695).
We often see the audio chain as follows:
Transport > Digital to Analog Conversion > Amplifier > Headphone/Speakers.
Following the Garbage In, Garbage Out principle, any distortions done in the beginning of the chain (i.e Transport section) will be carried throughout the system and out to the Headphones. This is where the players come in, to ensure the highest quality playback possible on the Transport section.
Now, if we want to zoom out a little, we’ll actually find that the audio chain covers a much wider range of elements:
Music Score > Music Performance > Recording Quality > Mastering > Storage Media > Transport > Digital to Analog Conversion > Amplifier > Headphone/Speakers.
This again reminds us to some of the points I’ve made on the “General Facts About Audio Players ” section, such as 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. So it’s important to be able to recognize the limitations in your system before you go out and spend tons of money on audio gear and software.
Of course the purpose of this article is to discuss the available high quality players for the OS X, and one of the first thing I want to say is that it’s quite surprising to see how the players differ in terms of sound quality. Not only that, but also the fact that every player even manage to have their own sound character (i.e: the Sonic Studio players sounding darker than the other players).
I think every player have their own plus and minuses, but I’ve outlined some of the characters and the features of the players throughout the article, and I hope that it will help you to decide on the purchase.
Gear used for review
I have to make an exception with this article as I’ve been evaluating them for as long as 10-12 months now, and I didn’t really keep a precise list of the equipments I used to evaluate them. The rough list basically covers all the articles I’ve done in the past 10-12 months, and that includes anything from a basic Fiio E10 system, all the way to a multi-thousand-dollar DAC/Amp/Headphone combination.
Next page: Appendix