I experienced the same thing with Puremusic that you are with Amarra. Did the trial and wasn't impressed with the SQ difference it made.
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I remember before digital was invented, vinyls were criticized for being "colored". In fact all audio reproductions are colored in one way or the other. The essence of this hobby is to pursue the kind of coloration that one enjoys most. It is 100% subjective. If you like it, you like it; if you don't, you don't. I personally listen to both vinyl and digital and I enjoy them both.
Back to your Amarra question. Since you don't like its sound, it will not be a worthwhile investment for you. Personally I like Audirvana plus best. The latest Puremusic v1.88 just came out is quite good too but its UI is a bit ugly and complex to use. IMHO of course.
The thing to understand, particularly with USB interfaces, that music software all sounds different, even different revisions of the same player software.
I have used Amarra for years and won more than one best of show with it, but I am really picky about which versions I use. It is still the best sounding IMO, but you must use version 4318/19.
Purchase the latest Amarra, and then go to Amarra "extras" folder and run the "delete Amarra Preferences" command.
Then install and use this version: http://www.audiocircle.com/index.php?topic=105236.0
Use it with iTunes with Cache turned on.
If your system is not truly resolving, then you may not hear a big difference. The way to tell is the system should have pinpoint imaging with serious depth and width well beyond the speaker boundaries. If you have more of a 2-D presentation then you probable will not get the benefit.
If your USB interface has relatively high jitter, then you may not get the benefit.
One thing that I use in Amarra both at home at at shows is the EQ. Its worth it just for this. Very transparent and elevates the system to new levels. Here is how to do EQ:
I have been using Amarra since '09 and have been mostly happy with it. I am using the current version, I may have to look into Steve's recommended older version that I surely had at one time. Steve, I assume that you are using the Amarra Symphony? I have the non-Symphony version that used to be called Amarra Mini. I probably need to explore the EQ settings further (I understand from Steve's link in one of his posts above that I would need to buy a spectrum analyzer program & possibly a microphone), I currently use one of the preset EQ settings, and use the cache & playlist modes.
I have not compared Amarra with any other players, but in my system it sounds pretty good. I have been wondering if upgrading from Amarra to Amarra Symphony for the additional eq functions would be worthwhile.
Mikey - I use full Amarra EQ on all systems, even at shows, even on TAD reference speakers. Makes a big difference with ALL speakers. This is actually more important that EQ of the room resonances. Its like replacing your speakers with $50K speakers.
Here are some tips on how to do it with an iPad:
Audioengr, new to the thread but I am glad I read your post. Would have saved me a lot of money If I read it earlier. I did as suggested in the link you provided. Downloaded the audio tools app in conjunction with the Amarra eq and I am astounded at the improvement it has made to my system. I hear absolutely no negatives by using the Amarra eq. Like someone took a blanket off my speakers. Rock music always sounded muddy and distant. Now it is tight, detailed, and clear. I had some big dips show up in the response of the spectral analyzer and smoothed them out quite a bit with the eq. I thought my system sounded pretty good before but now when I toggle the eq off and on I don't see how I ever listened to it before. My wife listened to the before and after and she couldn't believe the improvement. I actually liked Audirvana a little better before but now Amarra will be my go to player and the eq will stay on. I think if I play with it some more I can get it even better.