Audirvana Studio Review

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Specifications

Supported files

Unsurprisingly, Audirvana Studio supports every audio file: FLAC, ALAC, WAV, OGG… you name it, the software can play it. Even MQA and DSD tracks are supported natively, so you can confidently download the highest available quality from your usual provider, Audirvana will play it and stream to your DAC.

Regarding streaming app compatibility, the player only supports Tidal, Qobuz, and Hi-Res Audio for the moment. If those three services shall cover most people’s needs, I’m still eager to see Apple Music and Amazon Music HD in the list of compatible apps, or even Spotify.

Finally, like Roon, both local and streamed tracks are aggregated, so if you lack one or two tracks on an album, streaming should fix that.

Exclusive Core Player

Like Roon, Audirvana articulates around a proprietary Kernel, made to “ensure the best digital audio playback performance from a computer”. This digital playback process is the heart of the software and has been continuously improved over the last 10 years, on both PC and MAC.

Usually, computer audio playback consists of a sequence of independent tasks. After reception and decoding, the signal passes through an audio “mixer” that combines sounds from different apps. This mixer modifies the resolution of the audio samples according to a “lowest common denominator” rule and uses a low-power algorithm to avoid additional latency, which adds quantization artifacts in addition to quality loss.

Audirvana transmits intact data to the audio device (bit-perfect) following the shortest possible path. To do this it has direct and exclusive access to the device that bypasses the internal audio mixer, thus avoiding sound events from other apps and unwanted alterations to the audio format of your music.

Before, this technology was only available on MAC, thanks to Apple’s tight software/hardware lock. But now, thanks to WASAPI or KERNEL support, Audirvana offers the same level of finesse on Windows.

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Plugin support and Oversampling

Like many third-party players, Audirvana allows you to tweak your sound in various ways. Those plugins, named VST on Windows, or AudioUnits under MacOS, require some expertise but allow experimented users to fine-tune their sound.

The software supports up to four plugins running at the same time, so you can have a multi-band equalizer and a convolution engine working together to get the best room acoustic correction filter, for your speakers.

Next, let’s talk about oversampling. From day one, Audirvana focused on two things: 

  • deliver the cleanest signal to your DAC,
  • use the power of your computer’s CPU for oversampling the signal

In fact, using your computer’s CPU to oversample your audio files is a great idea. Even to this day, your computer remains infinitely faster than the one in your phone/DAP/DAC for this kind of task. Not only can it improve the overall sound quality, by providing your DAC native Hi-Res files, but it also relieves your DAC, which can now focus on its main job: convert digital signals into analog ones.

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Finally, I have to point out that Audirvana offers not one, but two oversampling algorithms:

  • SOX (SoundExchange) who’s been in use for a decade now,
  • R8Brain, an open-source plugin that has been optimized specifically by the team for audiophile purpose

Again, to enjoy the full experience, you’ll need a USB-DAC or a DAP connected through USB to your computer. You can even use systems like powered speakers (I tried with my KEF LS50 Wireless) or headphones with embedded DAC like the Audeze Mobius.

Page 1: About Audirvana
Page 3: Everyday Use, Pricing
Page 4: Sound Performances, Comparison, Conclusion

4.5/5 - (40 votes)

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A nerdy guy with a passion for audio and gadgets, he likes to combine his DAC and his swiss knife. Even after more than 10 years of experience, Nanotechnos still collects all gear he gets, even his first MPMAN MP3 player. He likes spreadsheets, technical specs and all this amazing(ly boring) numbers. But most of all, he loves music: electro, classical, dubstep, Debussy : the daily playlist.

10 Comments

  • Reply September 26, 2021

    Kevin

    Can the blind use it with screen reading software, like Roon can’t?

    • Reply November 2, 2021

      Svampebob

      How can I test it? Audirvana does not run in a browser, if that is required.

  • Reply September 27, 2021

    Lieven

    Outstanding review.

    Dirac room correction software just announced the release of “Dirac Live 3 room-correction software” with 24/192 capability for both Mac and Windows.

    Stereophile just posted a review, which states, “In PCs and Macs, it can be installed as a plug-in or as a regular application. Plug-in support is not universal, but JRiver, Audirvana Studio, Amarra, and most DAWs support it.”

    A followup review by the author of, Audirvana Studio, working in conjunction with the Dirac Live 3 room-correction software would be greatly appreciated. I’m sure by many more audiophiles than just myself.

    Again, thank you for a very fine and comprehensive review.”

    Thank you for your assistance.

    Geoffrey

    • Reply October 2, 2021

      David C. Snyder

      I also found that Audirvana sounds better than Roon when both are installed on my MacBook Pro. Then, I learned that Roon does not perform well that way. Once I learned how to deploy Roon properly, I found that it sounds as good or better than Audirvana, depending on the network bridge. There’s no simple way to compare the sound of the two. Audirvana is a computer audio system. Roon is a network audio system that can function as computer audio, albeit poorly.

      I enjoyed your review, but I wish you had provided more detail on how you set up Roon and compared an optimal Audirvana configuration to an optimal Roon installation. That would have put them on more even footing regarding sound quality. You were spot on about other differences. Thanks.

      • Reply November 2, 2021

        Svampebob

        I also use a macbook for the core, streaming to a pi with a hat. I also hear the difference to Roon, best description was “someone magnified every aspect of the track”. Everything is just better and more focused with Audirvana. I really didn’t want to hear that.

        What do you mean by “”deploy Roon properly”, you mean on one of their own servers? I am open to most things mattering, but I find it to be strange if thats better. I get a suspicion Roon detects if it runs on their own hardward. A’la Volkswagen.

  • Reply September 27, 2021

    Al

    Very interesting. If be interested to know how it compared to subsonic.
    Like you, I rely on Plex for movies. I hate Plex for music, as much as I love it for movies.

    Switched to subsonic a while back and love the file handling, interface, tag recognition. Would audirvana be worth me spending money on…?

  • Reply October 25, 2021

    Richi

    In my system Audirvana sounds better then Roon too. Strang realy, looking at the budget they must spend on interface, advertisement, hardware (integration) etc.

  • Reply March 3, 2022

    Luca

    Damien may have done a fantastic job at developing the best music player on the market, but sadly, the software is plagued by usability issues and generally speaking, a mediocre user experience. A large portion of the UI in Audirvana studio is dedicated to streaming services that I am not interested in (considering the poor quality of masters you are going to get on those services), but you still have to deal with a UI and monthly-based subscription model that forces you into the online steaming model. Those like me who supported Audirvana+ over the years are now left with two choices: pay a high monthly fee for a service they don’t need, or keep using Audirvana+, aware of the fact that it’s not going to get any support and improve over time. Usability issues that I’ve observed:
    – Search by name is broken, you select one album in the search results, and it still takes you to a list that includes all albums, so you have to choose again.
    – No contextual help, no user manual.
    – Poor playback options, e.g. no way to jump backward/fwd in playback using arrow keys, which is the minimum I’d expect from a music player.
    – Poor display of metadata, with inline scrolling and poor usage of screen estate.
    – It plays only the selected track and then it stops, I can hardly believe it works this way.
    – Search options are very limited, e.g. no way to parse all metadata, only the main ones.

    I am sorry to say that for me to be willing to commit to a subscription-based model, the bar should be raised higher:
    – A decent permanent license software that works.
    – A wishlist website where customers who support the business can submit requests, vote for them, see the upcoming new features ahead of time.
    – A two-tiers subscription model, where you can pay more if you need web-based services, but you can also pay less, if you don’t need them.
    – Integration with Youtube Music.

  • Reply April 9, 2022

    John Hendron

    Thanks for the review. I used the original Audirvana many years ago to get a benefit to the sound quality. I’ve got a Mac setup and have become really disappointed in Roon’s performance on Mac and iOS. Many times the app on iOS will quit on iPhone. I run the Roon software on a Mac server and CPU cycles will exceed 100% for no reason when it’s just idle and I have to frequently restart it. I am running Roon on my laptop to control the server software, and left alone, it too is running at over 100%.

    The other issue facing Roon right now is a poorly implemented Search. It’s broken. It shouldn’t take 5 minutes to return results for an album search.

    I am trying out Audirvana Studio today and am starting with using it directly connected to my laptop via USB. It’s too soon to make comparisons but the sound is quite good. And the search was nearly instantaneous.

  • Reply May 13, 2022

    OldHardwareTech

    Thanks for the review! I’ve been using Audirvana Studio since it came out, originally comparing it to the Tidal and Qobuz players. I also compared it to the Windows Media Player I had been using for my local library. Audirvana Studio integrates my three sources quite handily with the only a few problems that have been solved along the way. When it comes to sound quality Audirvana easily bests the Tidal and Qobuz players and the Windows player isn’t even in the same universe. It did require some manual changes to metadata in my local library but that wasn’t too painful, just a bit time consuming. Thankfully I was able to do it while listening! All in all I’ve been happy with AS even thru what could easily be considered beta testing even though the software was already released. Damien does support the software and a lot of help can be found on their forum for any problems someone might have. Count me as a contented subscriber.

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