What's your favorite Apple-based music program?


The J.River Media Center comes highly recommended and was at or near the top of most of TAS's sonic evaluations in their 4-part series about computer-based audio (Dec'11-Mar'12). However, looking over their website and some supporting forums, it appears that it's really a PC-based program. According to what I read on a JRM user forum, JRMC works on a Macintosh if you use Bootstrap to install Windows 7 and run it from there. That runs into a bunch more money and I'm not all that enamored of running the music software in a non-native mode.

OTOH, there's ChannelD's PureMusic. It's $129 vs. JRM's $50, but it's very Mac-friendly.

Any other insights, recommendations, or warnings? I just got an AQ Dragonfly asynchronous USB DAC and want to feed it the best data stream without spending several more hundreds of dollars. I also want to be able to download some 24/96 and 24/88.2 files from HDTracks, so the music-handling s/w has to be comfortable handling FLAC files on a MacBook Pro (OSX Mountain Lion).
johnnyb53
I tried PureMusic but ended up using Amarra (which is now available at a reasonable price). Amarra is simpler to use and, IMHO, more stable. It also has a great built-in process for converting FLAC files to AIFF files that can be managed in iTunes and accessed by Apple's Remote app. YMMV.
Rdavwhitaker: Are you using the whole Amarra package or Amarra HiFi? I had no idea Amarra had anything as low as $49. The regular Amarra is a little more than I want to spend, but OTOH it's only $60 more than PureMusic. I'm all for stability and like the idea of playing from cache instead of right off the disk.
Perhaps this is the news we have all been waiting for.

http://www.audiostream.com/content/jriver-apple

If true, it would be another good choice.
I have tried pretty much all the software players I can find for Mac and I have been a licensed PureMusic (I actually started with PureVinyl) user for years. But at this time I have to say the best sounding player is the Audirvana Plus, particularly the latest beta version 1.3.9.9 which added a feature called Direct Mode. Direct Mode restores the Integer Mode playback on Lion and Mountain Lion. If your DAC is integer mode capable, the improvement in sound quality is hard to believe. Audirvana Plus offers a 15-day full feature trial. I highly recommend you give it a try.
I thought, if one uses Amarra HiFI with iTunes it is necessary too first convert HD FLAC files (24/96 and above) to AIFF? If this is done, the files are down coverted to 16/44.1 (or 16/48?) so they can play on iTunes? Is this correct?
To attempt to respond to the questions asked about Amarra. I am using the full version of the software, not Amarra HiFi. I can't speak to how good or bad HiFi is.

I have converted a number of files from Flac to Aiff using Amarra. They can be converted at their native resolution (e.g. 24/88) and can then be managed through ITunes and the Apple Remote app, and played through a USB 2.0 connection, using the Amarra plug-in, to a network streamer capable of accepting the USB connection (like the Cambridge Audio Stream Magic 6). The file is transmitted and received at the native resolution, according to the front display on the Cambridge unit, and not down sampled.

I believe it is true that in order for the file to play through iTunes without Amarra, it must be down-converted to 16/44. But I am not certain.
Check out Decibel over at sbooth.org. Plays from memory, direct HOG mode, FLAC playback to my asynchronous USB Ayre QB-9, etc. Worth more than it costs. And it just works very well.
I also second Audirvana Plus but make sure to get the new beta that supports Direct Mode as well.

I have Pure Music, BitPerfect, Amarra and now A+. I bought Amarra when it was about 600 bucks and the only thing they gave me when they dropped the price was a second licence (I should have had 6! :))

I used to prefer PureMusic but Amarra 2.3 onwards was a big improvement (I think rev 2344?) and it became my player of choice. The new 2.4.2 seems to have gotten that magic back from the releases post 2344.

But A+ is still my preferred player especially since it is the other player that can play back DSD files.
TAS did a brief comaprison of Audirvana Plus, PureMusic, and Amarra in the September issue. Sound quality sounded like pretty much a wash with very small differences between the three, but the Audirvana Plus had a couple features the others didn't -- ability to play higher rez DSD files (Amarra could "only" do up to 2.8) and ability to switch/compare DACs without shutting down). Best of luck.
Amarra does DSD??

ps I think PM does full 2xDSD too
What does "integer mode capable" mean? I've seen it mentioned on some of the music software websites, but not explained.
PCM is integer data

But the OS normally processes data in floating point (FP).

Integer mode allows the software to bypass the conversion to FP.

Doing this also bypasses upsampling and volume control
I use Audivarna on my MacBook and Pure Music on my Mac Mini. I like Audivarna better in terms of ease of use, but it doesn't run on my Mini for some weird reason. They both sound excellent. I doubt I could tell them apart, although I've never done an A/B comparison on the same system.
Thanks for the info and recommendations. Given the enthusiasm for Audirvana here, around the Web, and at TAS, I downloaded the 15-day trial and it looks like I'll buy the license.

Audirvana has several features I was looking for, including adjusting the sampling rate to a multiple of the original (44.1 goes to 88.2, etc.), designating RAM to buffer music files (especially since my music files are on a portable USB drive), the ability to use as a plug-in with iTunes so I can stay with a familiar user interface, and all for $50.

It's an excellent match-up with my new Dragonfly. iTunes' native mode is 24/96. Before Audirvana, the Dragonfly always lit up magenta, signifying a 96KHz stream. After configuring Audirvana and playing ALAC files (under control of Audirvana), the Dragonfly light changed to amber, signifying 88.2 Khz. It's an exact 2x upsample of rebook and I immediately noticed a more relaxed treble. It could also be the RAM buffering, but who knows and who cares? Audirvana offers both and something made the music sound better.

Unanticipated is stronger bass--deeper, fuller, and more articulated. I now look forward to downloading and trying out a few 24/96 and 24/88.2 HDTracks.

Thanks again, everybody.
Glad we could help.

ps also try disabling up sampling and running in Integer/Direct mode if supported by your device and see if you like it.

I did find upsampling tended to make the bass less impactful
Glad to know you like Audirvana. Since you are using Mountain Lion, make sure you try the latest beta 1.3.9.9. In my system, on Mountain Lion, it sounds much than the release version 1.3.5.
I have been using Audirvana for a while now,and have been happy with the SQ. I just downloaded J River Media Center 18 for the 30 day trial. Has anyone switched over to JRiver MC 18 on a Mac based system. I just started the free trial ,so it is too early to make any comments yet.
I just downloaded J River Media Center 18 for the 30 day trial. Has anyone switched over to JRiver MC 18 on a Mac based system. I just started the free trial ,so it is too early to make any comments yet.

I have but like you, just downloaded this week. I paid for mine since they offer license for the upcoming Mac version 19 which offers even better performance with improved memory play. I'm aware of this only because a beta tester for J River is a friend and keeps me informed.

I had Amarra and Channel D and to me the JRiver is more dynamic but I am not thrilled with the high frequencies. That being said, I'm using the lowly Oppo BDP-105 USB input so it serves as the primary DAC.

The same CD on the Oppo sounds better than ripped track played back via my Mac Mini. I've got several interface cables including those that came with my Oyen Digital plus Purist and Audioquest Diamond. The FireWire 800 cable from Audioquest is excellent and at this time the only aftermarket (audiophile) option I have for FireWire. For USB I have generic, a couple from Purist and the Audioquest Diamond.

Regardless of which I choose the tonal balance is unpleasant compared to spinning the CD. My files are Flac, ripped with no compression and include HD Tracks and other high quality sources as well.

I want this to work and hope a better DAC plus upcoming JRiver 19 bring this up to where I'm excited about the sound. Too much material on digital (only) to not have a way to listen and enjoy.
Albert, I still have to do more listening,but so far there is some good things going on with the J-River 18 and some not so good, that i have not put my finger on yet.The leading edges seem livelier than that of Audirvana,,more listening tonight!
I just made the switch from Audirvana to Jriver. There were some bugs to work through but overall both of these programs sound very good to me, better than Pure Music. I prefer the Jriver UI and like the fact I do not have to rely on iTunes any longer. However, in the future I see myself going with a solution like the Sonore Rendu and being Linux based will probably mean switching to another software program.

Just for reference I am currently using an Oyen Digital 1TB HD connected via FW800 to a MacMini with a WyWires USB cable going to an Audiophilleo AP1 with Pure Power and then using a BNC to RCA adapter to connect directly to my Lessloss DAC bypassing the SPDIF digital cable. I did some upgrades to the MacMini as well.
Albert, I still have to do more listening,but so far there is some good things going on with the J-River 18 and some not so good, that i have not put my finger on yet.The leading edges seem livelier than that of Audirvana,

Exactly, the leading edge is killing me. I'm getting more sibilance too compared to Channel D.

I love the JRiver interface and the fact it plays all files without need or permission from iTunes.

I hope release 19 improves things.
Clio09
Just for reference I am currently using an Oyen Digital 1TB HD connected via FW800 to a MacMini with a WyWires USB cable going to an Audiophilleo AP1 with Pure Power and then using a BNC to RCA adapter to connect directly to my Lessloss DAC bypassing the SPDIF digital cable. I did some upgrades to the MacMini as well.

I have MacMini with Audioquest Diamond USB and Purist Ultimate USB and also use Firewire 800. My FireWire is Audioquest Diamond and generic Oyen digital.

I have Oyen Digital twin bay with Oxford chip set and run two Hitachi Desk Star 4TB drives striped as single 8TB on desktop. I have 6.2TB currently including most of the HD Tracks and lots of CD rips.
Albert, that is quite a bit of space. For me digital has never been my primary media, vinyl and now reel tape are. I know that you have both of those at your disposal as well. I don't think I have come close yet to maxing out my 1TB drive. Probably never will as I am not buying any new CDs. Might download some stuff, but will be judicious about it.

Sorry to hear about the issues with the leading edge. I was listening a bit last night and couldn't hear that in my setup. I am awaiting MC 19 for Mac so we will see how that goes. Will do another round of testing with Audirvana and see if I still prefer MC.
Clio09
Albert, that is quite a bit of space. For me digital has never been my primary media, vinyl and now reel tape are. I know that you have both of those at your disposal as well.
Yes, I border on being totally anti digital. I want it to work because music exists on CD or download that's not available on LP or tape.
I don't think I have come close yet to maxing out my 1TB drive. Probably never will as I am not buying any new CDs.
The reason for so much space on my rig is there is zero compression. Think of FLAC with meta data but file size like WAV. I also have HD downloads that require more space than ripped CDs.
Sorry to hear about the issues with the leading edge. I was listening a bit last night and couldn't hear that in my setup. I am awaiting MC 19 for Mac so we will see how that goes.
I'm already invested in JRiver and if you look back a year in this thread you can see my excitement about it becoming available in Mac format.

I'm not trying to knock JRiver, I'm just being honest and don't know if this issue is due to interface with Oppo BDP USB input as my primary DAC or software rip or software playback (JRiver).

The fact Raytheprinter mentioned hardness or brightness triggered my response since that was my impression. It could easily be that you do not have this issue. Perhaps your DAC or cables or even the rips you use.

Digital is supposed to be easy but I swear it's more difficult for me than analog. I always get analog to work and sound superb but I've only had digital in my system work near perfect one time. Unfortunately cost caused me to dismiss it.
Thanks Albert,Im looking forward to doing plenty of listening to JRiver next 24 days,heard many good things concerning the Windows version.
Albert, I have uncompressed files and HD hirez files as well. I never had more than a few hundred CDs to begin with so 1TB should last a while. I feel fortunate I have not had to rip CDs from a huge library. I find cleaning records tedious enough as it is.

In general I am happy with Jriver bugs and all. Being in the software business most of my life I am used to bugs and bad UIs. At least Jriver has a nice UI. I suspect the Mac version will never be as good as the PC version though. As I said previously I will move over to a Linux based system eventually and that will require a new software package, although I hear Jriver is working on a Linux solution.
Raytheprinter
Thanks Albert,Im looking forward to doing plenty of listening to JRiver next 24 days,heard many good things concerning the Windows version.

JRiver is working on making the new Mac version 19 the equal of Windows version in every way, at least as far as music playback goes.

JRiver board posted the following about the upcoming revision:
MC18 Mac uses the Posix regular expression engine, which has limitations.

Our hope is for MC19 Mac to use the Boost regular expression engine, the same as Windows.

Perhaps this is why the Mac version works well but perhaps not 100% on sonics? We shall soon see, the new version is due in the next few weeks and I've already paid for mine.
Clio09
Albert, I have uncompressed files and HD hirez files as well. I never had more than a few hundred CDs to begin with so 1TB should last a while.

Understood.
In general I am happy with Jriver bugs and all. Being in the software business most of my life I am used to bugs and bad UIs. At least Jriver has a nice UI. I suspect the Mac version will never be as good as the PC version though.

I have absolutely no gripe about JRiver software, everything they promised it would do, is working on my rig.

Even the iPad application that replaces Apple Remote works perfect. In fact it's superior to the genuine Apple Remote. While listening you can access artist info and technical data by pressing a button.

This does not have to be entered by the user, It's done via internet and avoids searching for the CD jacket for info.

Last, If the Windows version is an absolutely must have, then I'll add a partition to my HD and buy a copy of Windows.

Macs also run Linux so whatever works, but I plan on leaving well enough alone until JRiver updates are complete before final judgement.

My only objection is the high frequencies, perhaps that will be resolved with implementation and coding for the new Boost regular expression engine.
Funny the Jremote app is where I encounter many issues I have had with Jriver. Sometimes the album art is screwed up and sometimes I can't switch songs. A quick Jriver reboot fixes that. I will need to look into the functions you mentioned. Haven't found those yet.
Funny the JRemote app is where I encounter many issues I have had with JRiver. Sometimes the album art is screwed up and sometimes I can't switch songs.

Interesting, my JRiver remote app works well, even better than Apple Remote (now uninstalled).

Apple Remote and Channel D were always crashing or stalling when I switched tracks or else "handshaking" had to be revisited to get it to play.

I HATED having to drag FLAC and WAV into Channel D so iTunes would play it. I choked Channel D a couple of times, dragging too many albums in for tagging at one time. Results were songs and art out of order and sometimes a completely different album would begin playing for no apparent reason.

I think album cover images load faster on JRiver via iPad too. For instance when you open the iPad and press the letter "S' it jumps to that page and all the albums that match load.

With Apple Remote there was a delay, almost as if the program was trying to fill in all the data between "A" and "S" before reaching that page.

I uninstalled Amarra, Channel D and cleaned out iTunes library and preferences before installing JRiver. I have all that backed up on a drive but I don't think I want to go back, unless the brightness thing cannot be resolved.

My 8TB drive is at a friends home for backup. When I get it back I'll go through the features again. I just started exploring this a week ago but spent nearly two years with Amarra and Channel D before JRiver.