ASIO on PC & Mac with iTunes & Apple Lossless

Ignorance is bliss and I was too stupid to know it. I did an A/B test with my CD drive optically connected to my DAC1 and computer/waveterminal connected to the coax port. All my music is in iTunes ripped with Apple Lossless Codec.

The DAC1 has a nice little switch that allows me to switch immediately from one source to another. So I started the same song in the CD and on iTunes and started A/B swapping.

The PC with k-mixer was shockingly bad. With the CD, the stage was big and deep. Switch to the PC and the stage collapsed and it sounded like half of the richness disappeared. It was clear, unambiguous and really bad.

I monkeyed around and tried some generic ASIO drivers but it seems that I couldn't really get any better quality out of my PC. I'm not sure that iTunes ever picked up the ASIO drivers at all, even though I had installed the Waveterminal drivers.

I got sick of PC fun and dragged an old iMac into the picture. The drivers don't appear to be ASIO for OS X - and are in beta since 2003. The A/B test with the Mac was better than the one with the PC, but it is still anemic, especially at the low frequency range.

So - here's the questions:

1) Can anyone tell me of a sound card or other solution that can bypass the k-mixer in Windows and use ASIO?

2) Once I have that - is there a way to force iTunes to use that driver? Right now, most ASIO apps have a special dialog box that you configure to use the drivers. iTunes has no such dialog box.

If you can suggest an all-Macintosh solution - that's okay too.



Benchmark Media DAC1
U24 Waveterminal
Threshold T-200 Amp
B&W 803s
Either PC or Mac
When using the iMac, why do you have to use drivers? Because of the Waveterminal? I use an ibook straight to a usb drivers, no just goes and sounds great. Having to go to spdif really screws everything up doesn't it? Why aren't modders out there offering to add usb inputs into dacs already in the market?
Update from a friend of mine...

XP has four methods for outputting audio via an audio device. DirectSound, WaveOut, ASIO, and kernel streaming.

DirectSound and WaveOut go through kmixer. ASIO and kernel streaming don't.

Depending on which output you pick, you get what you get.

Going through kmixer = not bit perfect.

iTunes/XP is a pure DirectSound/WaveOut application. It uses QuickTime as it's I/O processor, and all the filters and codecs are buried in QuickTime. They don't register as codecs in XP. This is important in that the Apple Lossless Codec can't be used by other programs.

The only QuickTime options I can get to show up are DirectSound and Wave Out. I cannot patch in an ASIO plug-in.

Even if I use S/PDIF out, there is still a Windows volume control present, which means kmixer is active. Even if you don't have Windows XP volume control panel active, kmixer still may be active.

The only real test I've found to determine if kmixer is active is to play a DTS/DD encoded bitstream to my Fosgate /Audionics FAPT-1 Pre/Pro and see if it will decode it properly. If Bit perfect, it will decode. I cannot get iTunes to do this using any soundcard I have, including the M-Audio Delta 410, an 8 channel 24bit 96 kHz card.

Even if there is no kmixer, the soundcard you choose MAY RESAMPLE. Means that you could put in a 44.1 kbps .wav stream, only to have the soundcard upsample to 48kHz and then downsample back to 44.1 kHz ARGHHH!!! Many of the Creative Labs SoundBlaster cards do this because all their processing algorithms only work in a 48 kHz 16 bit space. All of the AC3 soundcards do this, and most output stereo audio as a 48 kHz bitstream.

Now the conjecture:

Proprietary applications may bypass kmixer. Some RME cards may do this, perhaps by using the kernel streaming function in XP. Sounds plausible, one has confirmed it will work with iTunes. Need to verify.

USB audio devices are just like any other audio device to XP, and have the same options (directsound, waveout, asio, kernel streaming). With iTunes and XP, since ASIO and kernel streaming are NOT options, then, even with USB, you are not bit perfect.


There is no proven bit perfect solution for iTunes on a PC based platform.

This leaves the following options:

1.) Convert Apple Lossless files back to .wav files, and check for bit-perfect output via direct file comparison.
2.) Buy a MAC.
3.) Hope that future versions of QT will allow an ASIO plug-in. (Unlikely due to the Apple plug-n-play philosophy.)
4.) Hope that someone will supply an ALC equivalent as a stand alone codec.
Hopefully Foobar 2000 0.9 will be finalized so it can get ASIO support. Right now the beta version will play Apple lossless, so once it's released, an update to the ASIO will be added. click on the beta link

There is also this program that lets itunes control foobar so you would get bit-perfect sound but with the itunes interface. The two problems could be: does it work with foobar 2000 0.9 and does it work with itunes 5.0.

I haven't found an Apple Lossless codec that works with the current release of foobar.

Hopefully soon this will all be worked out. I just tried a cd using ASIO output and it was a little more detailed and clearer. I don't think itunes output is that bad, so I'll live with it until foobar is ready.
1) Can anyone tell me of a sound card or other solution that can bypass the k-mixer in Windows and use ASIO?

The U24 does come with ASIO driver. Get it from and install it. You also need Foobar2000 asio plugin from
You might need to set playback output format to 16bit with noise shaping.
Oh, the program that lets itune passthrough foobar is:

Although the current version of foobar has ASIO support, it does not support apple lossless. The beta version supports apple lossless but the ASIO driver doesn't work. Once the beta version is finalized, all previous plugins should be updated to work with it, including ASIO support.
Thanks all. After reading online that the combination of the Apple Losses, iTunes and Airport Express with the Monster Toslink was a bit perfect combination, I decided to go spring for the couple of hundred dollars to test out the theory. By the way - I'm using an old iMac as the computer now (Mac -- Digital Signal Mover (U24, Airport Express) -- Benchmark Media DAC-1, Threshold T200 Class-A, B&W 803s).

Finally, the stage opened up! I can do a relatively quick A/B/C comparison now:

A) U24 Waveterminal going through digital coax to my Benchmark DAC-1
B) Apple Airport Express going through digital optical to my Benchmark DAC-1
C) My CD player going through digital optical to my Benchmark DAC-1.

I have the equalizer turned off in iTunes, along with any Sound Enhancement and Sound Checking.

Without some kind of ASIO driver that can use Apple Lossless Codec - there is still a huge difference between Option A and Option C. It's not as bad on the Mac as it was on the PC, but it is clearly there. The big impact is on the shape and size of the soundstage. The stage is flattened out and squashed wih Option A. The actual sound quality appears good - so if you're not sitting in the sweet spot, it's not that noticable. If you are, it's pretty clear. For some reason, Option A also seems to attenuate the bass part of the music a bit.

Comparing the Airport Express (Option B) against the CD (Option C) yielded much better results. The stage opened up huge and wide and deep. The quality of the sound was indistinguishable to my ear between these options. I have a few songs that I like to use to test stage size (e.g. Crazy by Barenaked Ladies from their album Gordon). It's not my favorite song, but they were monkeying around with the stage size and it expands well beyond the speakers. The Airport Express Option clearly was nailing this song.

Finally, a good sign that we're not doing a lot of processing on the Mac - the volume control is greyed out. I optimistically named the AIrport Express Base Station 'Bit Perfect'. I think it may have earned its title.

I will try out Foobar / ASIO / Apple Lossless when it comes out on Beta - I can do that easily with the U24 -- PC on A and the Airport Express -- Mac on B. I'll keep an eye on that and report back to everyone when it comes out.


Has anyone played with PowerAmp & their new Apple Lossless decoder? I'm wondering whether it will work with an external MAudio ASIO capable sound card.

I'll have to give the Airport Express a try. If it sounds better, I can sell my emu-1212 to pay for it and then some. I also like the fact that it turns off the volume control so you are getting the right lineout sound level.

You're using Apple lossless - This is still a codec and there will be losses. To compete with the cd sound from your cdp you need to rip .wav files onto your HDD using EAC. Playback with an Audiophile 24/96 will avoid windows kmis though Maudio does introduce its proprietory Delta control mixer.
You will never get anywhere near this quality whilst using Apple Lossless!
I have been using ASIO plug-in with Foobar for a few weeks. I found it to be a bit better than without, but not hugely better. The sound stage is wide and deep with and without ASIO. It just gives a bit more dynamics to the high-frequencies and better clarity. I use upsampling to 24/96 as well because this sounds better when using a PC. MAC is better for non-upsampled data. My converter is Off-Ramp Turbo or Off-Ramp I2S. The drivers for these are quite good. The Edirol UA-5 driver is comparable when in "advanced" mode. I have no experience with Waveterminal.

If you want a copy of the ASIO plug-in for Foobar2K, send me a mail.