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Historically, the older programs did not always play FLAC files equally. I did a comparison years ago and found JRiver was highly superior to a couple other. I think one was Media Monkey, which sounded worse than JRiver. If you play FLAC, there is a certain amount of overhear in processing when decoding the FLAC file into actual WAVE bit form. JRiver does an excellent job of pre-processing this information before it's sent to the audio interface drivers. JRiver just does an excellent job in playing and processing audio files in general (with all the DSP you can add). I'm sure there are a few other software that are good as well.
Thanks for the input everyone. I have been buying and ripping files in AIFF format vs FLAC since doing some research on Sound quality, including advice from Empirical Audio website, and in order to be have files easily compatible across Mac and PC platforms, although the last issue is perhaps an anachronism with sophisticated programs like JRiver and Amarra. Still using JRiver, up to version 22 now. I use it on a laptop that sees 3 different DACs, and the software adjusts well to each one, but wondering if there are some custom settings that could maximize performance in each case that I am missing.
Another positive fact for JRiver:
The latest Diana Krall hi-res album (Turn Up The Quiet) appears to have been engineered a little differently. Both the 192 FLAC and DSD have had problems playing on Oppo 103/105 players. When the Oppo reads the FLAC or DSD data, there appears to be an issue with timing because the audio constantly skips (like once per second).
When I am using JRiver to play this latest Diana Krall file locally on my DAC (attached to my computer), it does it just fine.
I use JRiver 22 as a DLNA server for my FLAC files. The Oppo "reads" the FLAC files over the network. When it's reading the "original" file data, it skips. However, I can set the JRiver DLNA server "Audio Mode" to "Specified output format only when necessary". In this mode, JRiver will decode the FLAC and send it down as strictly a WAV file. In this mode, the Oppo will play the 192 file just fine.
This is just another element which shows JRiver is highly configurable to support any sort of environment or quirk. I'm sure other software are good, but I haven't reviewed. (JPlay, etc.)
I have no idea why either of these would effect sound quality if you are using a driver that passes bit-for-bit. If you do hear a difference, you are not passing bit-for-bit in both or one of those players.
The issue with a player is to avoid the Windows kernel sound mixer/processor. Once you have bit-for-bit transfer, there can be no sound difference..... (jitter should be mitigated by your DAC or through use of a jitter reducer like a Mutec or equivalent).
So.... let’s say you install a Benchmark DAC and connect it, as you should, to your computer USB port. Benchmark has their own driver that passes bit-for-bit. When you fire up your player such as Foobar, you then go into Perferences and select the Benchmark driver. Done. Bit-for-bit. As long as the player you use allows you to select your device’s driver, they will all sound the same.
By the way, the Benchmark driver, and I would assume any new quality DAC, passes different sampling rates and word lenths.... Again, the issue just passing bit-for-bit or whatever your source file is. These DAC drivers eliminate the need for the older ASIO and other generic drivers. You just don’t need to worry about that stuff now.
This is a non-issue.
The real issue with these players, IMO, is their library management tools and speed of indexing. I have Foobar set to view by folder structure and it is fabulous. I have my huge library with a folder named for each artist, subfolders are named with their albums/CD names, then within, each song file is named starting with 01-Name, 02-Name etc. Foobar displays this wonderfully and is lighting fast... no lags etc.
I use Foobar for its library speed and its ability to use the kernel streaming drivers of good DACs like the Benchmark (or in my case now, a Mutec MC-1.2 jitter reducer and digital switch box).... but then again, any good player should do this so I am not wedded to Foobar.... if you get bit-for-bit, you win... there will be no difference in sound. Oh, and Foobar is free..... done for me.
How do you know you are listening to bit-for-bit transfers? If you are listing to music with one of these players and the Windows beeps and farts pop through (or if you fire up YouTube, you hear the vid and your music), you are NOT getting bit-for-bit because Windows in controlling the stream inside the computer and mixing sources.
Bruce in Philly