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A (better sounding?) alternative to Foobar2000 -OR- A musing in the realm of bit-perfect streaming

post #1 of 341
Thread Starter 

So, In my pursuits I have come across the nifty little project "Minimalist Audio Player". It is a small (very small) wasapi (or, now ASIO) audio player designed to avoid contact with the Windows API, as the creator believes that any interaction with the OS interferes with sound quality. The player is so small in fact that it does not have an interface. Its just an .exe and a set of batch files that can perform operations like next, stop etc.

 

Now, I've been a Foobar2000 guy for quite a while now, if just for its functionality/customizability and the ASIO support. I did not even know about WASAPI (and I use Win7), until Foobar, ASIO, or something was way out of whack and I went hunting for fixes. Thus I came across this little player, in a thread claiming it sounded better than Foobar2000 (on HydrogenAudio). At that point in the game I just wanted to listen to music, as the problems were mounting, and I went ahead and tried it out. (By the way, I generally output SPDIF to iBasso D10, but broke toslink adapter and have recently been going the USB route)

 

I was initially hugely impressed, enough so to do a sort of mental double take. For starters, I'm generally with the logic-camp of things, making me think that there's not really a way for a program to sound any better than another when they're outputting "bit-perfect" data. Right? But immediately something was different. As best as I can describe it, the sound is more present, and quicker. As if it was brought more to life. Its clearer not in more detail, but more in more realism. Things that snap really snap. It was actually the greatest moment so far, besides when I finally got my D2000's , that some kind of aural realization came over me. Mind you, that does not mean that it sounded hugely different than Foobar, but just that it did. Which is further than anything else I've personally heard (eh, what can I do).

 

I continued exploring the program, jumped back on fixing Foobar to get some comparison listening, and my impressions, after a few days of tinkering, remain the same. Which I find very intriguing. The program certainly doesn't hold up as a full on music application, as it doesn't even have a GUI, but for those times when I'm really just wanting to delve into the sound, this is what I'll use. The intriguing bit, to me, is why that is.

 

So I took a look around on here to see if anyone else knew much about the player, and it was very very briefly mentioned by one member, along with the player Lilith, which is apparently much bigger, but shares a similar philosophy to this player. The thread for the Lilith player was fairly ridiculous however, with people up in arms about the whole "bit-perfect is bit-perfect" thing. Which, as I said, I generally subscribe to. But, if that is so, why do I hear a difference between players? And not just me, but just about anyone who that I've seen that has actually used the player.

 

I've come to a couple conclusions. First, sure, a program can technically be outputting the data completely untouched, but in how it delivers that data to the final output, i.e. the pins in my USB port or the light in a SPDIF out etc., despite using ASIO or WASAPI, it still bears affectation due to interaction with the OS. This idea is based on the philosophy of the "Minimalist Audio Player"'s creator, and in that there is the presence of the occasional noise and hiccup I get with digital output. Especially when showstopping OS errors will hugely affect the audio output, so far as to make it sound all choppy and whatnot. On the flipside, I imagine that may lie within the processor running the codecs that decode the audio into an output.

 

Really I don't know very much more than generally a program works in the order of file>program decodes>ASIO or WASAPI skips windows mixing>external DAC converts to analog signal. I want to know whats going on with the output, and why this player seems to sound better (no, not placebo, hush) for multiple reasons.I want to stop dealing with little tiny skips and pops and all that crap, which might lie in that windows-program interaction, I want get as much sound quality as I can, and heck I'm just curious. I'm a computer audio believer (mostly cause I really really can't afford the nice stuff) and I'm constantly on the lookout for improvement.

 

 

So, if you want to check out the player the link is here: http://andy-audioplayer.blogspot.com/

 

 

 

Any info on the whole Windows output to device thing would be interesting, as well as your thoughts on if the player sounds better, and really on the nature of our conception of bit-perfect, which, after some light research, I think is a little 'the earth is flat' ish (only a little).

 

To note, the player has various things you may, or at least I did, have to work out. Most of these issues are addressed in either the blog or the player's readme, but if you have other problems I'd be happy to help as I am very curious to your thoughts. Make sure to read that readme though!

 

 

post #2 of 341

I personally think most, if not all, differences between players are placebo, 'sounding better' as you put more work into it.  This theory holds true via a recent conversation, where people were saying Foobar < uLilith < MPC+Reclock.  Guess which one is harder to use?

 

If you can, get someone to help you completely blind test it, trying to 'trick' you.

 

As for output methods... They work strangely.  WASAPI is built into Windows, as a method of bypassing any method Windows could use to alter that sound (including the internal mixer).  ASIO is something similar, but more of a way to directly interact with the hardware for lower latencies, and as a result, bypasses Windows processing aswell.  ASIO4ALL isn't ASIO, and is a stopgap method of audio transportation, creating a virtual device that Windows can stream to, then streaming from that device to your hardware.  I would even hazard a guess that it isn't bitperfect in Vista/Win7.

 

Use your ears, but think critically.  Bitperfect is bitperfect is bitperfect.  It won't change unless you introduce some kind of signal processing along the line.  If it's tested to be true 44.1khz (or whatever your source.  Tested via locking receivers/measurement) in multiple programs, but you still hear a difference, something is wonky.

post #3 of 341

bit-perfect is the biggest lie in computer audio, all the players sound different..they just do: http://www.cicsmemoryplayer.com/index.php?n=CPlay.SoftwareInducedJitter

 

Reclock uses a small WASAPI buffer in a thread running in realtime priority, and many ppl think that it does sound better than foobar.

 

Hardly anyone has the right gear to measure software induced jitter...the XXHighEnd coder gave it a shot here: http://www.phasure.com/index.php?topic=692.0;all

 

even children can hear the difference in a DBT: http://www.audioasylum.com/forums/pcaudio/messages/2/21586.html

 

the MOT's who sell uber-low jitter clocks yadayada don't have the gear to measure it, hahah. I'd be like like a blind salesman selling you haute-couture cloths

 

Yes, I know the player you're mentioning...a friend of mine is very fond of it, but it doesn't support VST plugins so it's of no use to me.


Edited by leeperry - 5/24/10 at 11:45am
post #4 of 341

Test out the various players for yourself and use the one that you like the best.

post #5 of 341
Thread Starter 

I understand the concepts of ASIO and WASAPI, and as far as the players go, I have come to a preference conclusion. What I'm interested in is the possibilities, as Leepery has mentioned, of variation in 'bit-perfect' streaming. By the way, that cmp2 site is very intriguing, thanks. Pretty much what I was looking for. I'm not sure what solution that pushes me toward however.

 

I guess it just depends on the use and the kind of listening I want to be doing. But I'm still interested in refining that bit stream down to the best I can get it. I'll keep researching.

post #6 of 341

Yes, Test out things and form your own opinions but do some reading also. 


Edited by ROBSCIX - 5/24/10 at 6:01pm
post #7 of 341

This is the most Ugly player i have found, but the Better Sounding too, so who cares about not having a GUI, this player sounds as pure, transparent and "bit perfect" as it can get, thanks Andy for this simple but wonderful peace of software!!!!!!!!!!!

post #8 of 341

Try XMplay

It sounds great, it's very small and memory efficient; uses winamp plugins and wasapi/asio/directsound, plays any format, drag 'n drop, skinable, outputs to external dacs, streams radio or urls, blah blah blah, and my favorite: doesn't need installing. That's right - no registry problems. You can unzip it and be listening in 15 mins without hair-pulling, book-reading, forum-searching configurations. Did I say it sounds great? I tried it one night jusforthehelluvit and now it's my music player. (I still use MediaMonkey as my library manager and tagger, because it's better for that purpose.) For a down and dirty player that sounds pretty pure but has flexibility power it's sweet. In fact, I'm listening to Nils Lofgren Acoustic Live as I type this, and it sounds as good as I've ever heard it. Placebo? Maybe. Maybe not. It's free to find out.

.

post #9 of 341

post #10 of 341

Well, I'm trying it. And it sounds good. But that's because it's playing louder than Foobar. Any way to fix that sans playing with the volume knob, considering its absent interface?

post #11 of 341
Quote:
Originally Posted by Head Injury View Post

Well, I'm trying it. And it sounds good. But that's because it's playing louder than Foobar. Any way to fix that sans playing with the volume knob, considering its absent interface?


Can you use the Windows volume mixer to achieve this? In Windows 7 (and I think some earlier versions as well) you can change the volume for individual programs. This does, however, introduce another variable.

post #12 of 341
Thread Starter 

well if you're outputting to your DAC the volume should not necessarily be an issue, since it is only outputting the bit stream. Is your primary sound driver an analog output, or is the setup the one from your sig? And to comment on mister bean, the app will not come up in windows sound mixer, nor even in the task manager, save for as a small process 'stealthaudio32.exe'. If its louder than foobar perhaps its either a. effect of dsp's in foobar (like the bauer dsp, thus 'quieting foobar'), or b. that loudness is the perception i have of 'presence'. To me it does not seem louder. Then again, turning down the knob does not hurt. :P

post #13 of 341
Thread Starter 

Another note, just so you all know, i am having a large amount of problems with the player unfortunately. They might resolve once i get a new toslink adapter and can go back to optical, i think my usb ports are whack. So again, it ain't perfect... but for some real pristine listening here and there, and some intriguing bit-perfect food for thought, it is quite nice. Which reminds me, those links that leepery posted are really, really interesting, and super-complicated, especially PeterSt attempt to measure bit-perfect variations (which he proves to exist!!)

 

Also, i tested out the players by very ... patchwork means of using my optical cable. yeah, i held it in place, hahaha. But it added that little boost of synergy, (partially due to the 24/96) and sounded even nicer, with the minimalist player still grabbing my ears more. (I just got a 24/96 vinyl rip of Boards of Canada's Campfire Headphase and it is absolutely lovely)

post #14 of 341

Quote:

Originally Posted by leeperry View Post

bit-perfect is the biggest lie in computer audio, all the players sound different..they just do: http://www.cicsmemoryplayer.com/index.php?n=CPlay.SoftwareInducedJitter


That article is the biggest lie in computer audio made from paranoia and little to no scientific testing.

 

DBT the players - properly - making sure they're level matched (confirming something isn't going wrong with the players).

 

As for PeterSt, he still has a long way to prove his hypothesis.


Edited by Shike - 5/26/10 at 1:15am
post #15 of 341

Agreed. 

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