Audirvana Studio Review

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Sound performances

Sound quality

For this review, I mostly used my MacBook Air paired to the Sennheiser HDVD820 and xDuoo TA-30. My headphones? The Sennheiser HD-800S and Audeze LCD-X. Out of curiosity, I also tried Audirvana on my PC, connected to my KEF LS50 Wireless. All files were either streamed from Qobuz or my own library.

Overall signature

So, did Audirvana really improve my system? Short answer, yes.

I’ve seen a lot of snake oil over the years, but this time, the hyper is real: Audirvana Studio really made a difference and I could hear it right from the start. Of course, the difference isn’t as obvious as if you were to replace your DAC for a better one, but head to head, on the same system, the player made a clear difference.

First, I did a simple comparison with the Sennheiser HD800S + HDVD800. I picked a track that I listened to at least one time a day – More Than Just the Same from Infected Mushrooms – and did some back and forth between Qobuz and Qobuz + Audirvana.

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And to my surprise, Audirvana came up as the clear winner here. At the same exact volume settings, switching from Qobuz native player to Audirvana significantly improved the dynamic range. Bass hit deeper, highs are sharper and voices sound more natural. Going back and forth wasn’t easy, as exclusive audio access takes a few seconds each time to activate/deactivate. But, going back to Qobuz, or even Plex for my local files, really felt like a drawback. 

Next, I did the same test with the xDuoo TA-30 and my mighty Audeze LCD-X. This time, I put my own tracks to the test and I chose a few albums in Hi-Res, that I personally found well-arranged: Justice – Audio Video Disco, Eagles – Hotel California, and Daft Punk – Random Access Memories.

Again, 10 out of 10, I could spot which was which, and this time the sound difference became much more obvious. I chose R8Brain for oversampling, but didn’t use replay gain at any moment, and again, the dynamic range was vastly superior with Audirvana. Everything seemed sharper, better as if someone magnified every aspect of the track. 

Finally, I did some tests with my KEF LS50 Wireless, my desktop speakers, to check if I could spot the same enhancements, without my headphones. And if it was harder, the improvements remain clearly audible, especially in the lower section. Sure, the subwoofer helped, but it would be unfair to undermine Audirvana’s effect on my setup.

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Comparison

Audirvana Studio VS Roon

It’s simple, if you want the cleanest, nicest interface with rock-solid experience (with a good Core) and ultra-wide compatibility with your audio devices, get Roon. I took a free trial, just for the sake of this review, and honestly, nothing can touch Roon in this regard.

Also, a feature missing in Audirvana that I loved on Roon was… multi-room playback. Most of my gear is Roon Ready and thanks to that, I could control every one of them, from the same computer.

Even though, if Roon supports Bit-perfect playback and DSP setup, I didn’t get the same feeling of wonder, musically. Clearly, Audirvana was better, and you’ll immediately hear the difference.

Audirvana Studio VS Plex

First of all, I love Plex. It doesn’t need an expensive computer to work – I just bought two Nvidia Shield and dedicated one as a server – and cost a lot less than Audirvana and Roon.

But, music-wise, it’s definitely the worst option of the three. Sure, it supports bit-perfect streaming and Tidal, but honestly, the tag engine isn’t as accurate as what you get on Roon and the sound quality cannot match Audirvana.

For my movies, it’s absolutely perfect as it’s able to crawl into more than 40TB of 4K movies, with ease, but for my music, I’ll definitely stick to Audirvana now.

The SA700 operating as a USB-DAC via Roon

Conclusion

Long story short, Audirvana works as intended: plug your DAC, launch the player and overall quality will immediately increase.

Like Apple demonstrated with Apple Music, the software/hardware combination cannot be underestimated nowadays, and I’ll definitely keep Audirvana as my main player. On every DAC I tried, the improvements were real and the search engine is a step above Plex or AIMP.

Should you do the same and get Audirvana Studio? It’s up to you. Personally, I found the software more efficient than cable changes in comparison, but once again, I can only ask you to try it on your own.

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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