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!