which output setting sounds best?

Iam using a HP laptop running Vista 64 bit OS. Software is J Rivers Media Center 16. All music is ripped in flac. Which audio output setting gives the best sound? Presently I am using waspi. Some people tell me to use asio, others say direct sound, others say waspi. Which is the best setting for the best sound? I am running usb out to a HRT music streamerII+ dac.

Why don't "you" try listening to them to find out????

That will answer your question. Who else has your system or your ears???
^^^^ ditto ^^^^
I don't think it matters. You are not getting anywhere near a decent signal with the USB/HRT. It is all veiled anyway. Doubt you will hear a difference.
I have been using a Wyred4Sound Dac2 which is asynchronous. Also using J Rivers 16 with Vista. Wyred4 sound recommends Kernel Streaming, but I have switched numerous times back and forth between KS and Wasapi Event with almost no perceivable difference. I have noticed a bit of a shift in imaging from left to right with Wasapi Event seeming more centered.

Give them all a try. Its an easy experiment.
Windows Audio Session API (WASAPI) is the Windows-resident interface provided in Vista and later OS versions that supports exclusive bit-streaming to a specified device in native resolutions up to 24/96 via USB 2.0.

There are likey other issues with Vista 64 that may lead you to want an upgrade to Windows 7. But WASAPI should be resident and if so,

This is definitely the selection of choice - unless your DAC supports higher resolutions, e.g. 24/192 or otherwise directs you to another driver.

Media Center includes WASAPI as a standard option. Run WASAPI in Event Mode if possible (In some cases you may need to increase buffer size from the default of 50ms).
This allows your DAC to impose control of packet timing and size.

BTW, Media Center's core algorithms take full advantage of 64-bit mode when available.

Good Luck.
Most of the posters are correct, but I take exception to Cerrot's position. Upon inspection of your virtual systems, I can see that in your eyes and budget, the HRT may seem "indecent", but to someone just breaking into PC Audio, it's a real drag to hear that their chosen device is pretty much worthless. The HRT can certainly be bested by other products, but it has been well-reviewed at its price point and would be a perfect place to start for someone just testing the waters with PC Audio.

Saying what you did without offering advice is akin to telling a kid you won't teach him how to swing because he's "a little short for baseball". It's not about the gear, it's about enjoying the hobby along with enjoying the music.

Evan, I'm just being honest. The gear mentioned is not transparent enough for the OP to be able to discern any difference between the settings he is asking.

You know, its like telling your friend that he should upgrade from the $20 hdmi cable to the $1,500 HDMI cable but the TV is 480i. Get it? Lets first teach people how to listen and what to listen for before we allow them to get caught up in minutia. And, maybe the baseball thing is bad analysis but if I had a son (or friend) who was real skinny and fragile and wanted to be a linebacker, someone should let him know he may be better akin to something else. Get it? HONESTY.
I won't pursue it further, but your honesty really doesn't help the OP. He's already purchased the gear, and wants a little advice on setup.

Don't presume that your sage advice on how to listen and what to listen for is what's necessary in every instance. My only point was that you weren't offering any real help, just planting a seed of doubt and disgust in the OP's mind that he may have made a bad choice with his hard-earned dollars.

I hope you never need advice on a piece of gear; I'm sure someone with a much more expensive system will be waiting for an opportunity to tell you it's garbage and you shouldn't worry about the minutia.
Ekwisenek, It doesn't matter how much the gear costs - what matters is HOW IT SOUNDS. I appreciate the recommendations I receive on the forum. We are all in different places financially and all have different budgets. The idea is to get the best within your means.
Ditch Vista and go Win7 64 bit if your laptop is less than 2 years old; Vista is badly flawed for audio fidelity. I A/B'd Vista Ultimate 64 bit vs Win7 Home 64 bit and Win7 was much better for fidelity. However the hardware architecture of your laptop will limit you as Cerrot implied. It will do fine if you have a playback system under $1500 but for more expensive systems, Mac options or other designed by intent music server will deliver better what you payed for.
Win 7 combined with Wasapi is the proven winner and yes, you'll hear the difference with your HRT... upgrade when you can and for now, enjoy.
By the way Bob, I don't know if Cerrot has heard a Music Streamer II +, I haven't but I've read a solid 50 different people say that it is a wonderful bang for the buck DAC...

Cerrot, did you hear this or a Music Streamer, Music Streamer Plus, Music Streamer II, Music Streamer II+ or iStreamer or Music Streamer Pro.
From What I read the II+ is head and heals above anything that came before it and is still a very nice upgrade over the standard Music Streamer II.
I've seen it Comared to many $1000 DAC's with good reviews.
I hear Kevin Halverson of Muse fame that created the music streamer product has some nice improvements coming out right now.
I haven't heard it. From the reviews, I wouldn't have an interest. The interface doesn't work for me.
I bought an Emotiva XDA-1 dac which replaces the HRT. Music from my laptop sounds much better now, not compressed or flat and I am also running my Sony SCD777ES sacd player (redbook only) through one it its coax inputs. My system is very revealing as I have almost 25K worth of components.