Audiophile Tech Talk

With iTunes the file will be converted to an AAC ‘compression’ format, this requires resampling down to 44.1k but outputs a 32bit floating-point file, which takes advantage of our 32bit floating-point file.
This all seems pretty cool but to the Audiophile purest,
this is still using data compression & is not the native format.

Click here for more information on
iTunes, AAC file format, Bit Rate, Bit Depth, Sample rates & more…
(Please use your Browser's 'Back' button to return ;-)

I have researched a number of ‘Audiophile audio players
that will play our ‘Audiophile Files’ in their native format
the 'Bit Perfect' ideal.

These applications typically seeks out your connected audio device and outputs the audio at the same audio format as the digital audio file or to the highest quality the device is capable of.

Talk directly to lowest level of OS X Audio in the DAC native format

Computers & audiophile playback has not always been a big hit with hardcore Audiophiles for a number of reasons

A computer by design is a multi-tasking device.
While we’re playing our iTunes, the computer normally has an endless steam of tasks like email, update our web browser, connect with wi-fi & network traffic…
These ‘diversions’ are usually done in the blink of a sample rate so the audio, which is ‘buffered’ by routing the output thru ‘RAM’, avoids normal computer multi-tasking ‘diversions’ from simply playing back iTunes.

iTunes may be the choice when audiophile quality isn't required and if you need to use lots of RAM for other applications like video & picture editing while listening to music thru the same computer.

The iTunes AAC compression is a lot better audio format than the average mp3 and a reasonable compromise in audio quality allowing multi-tasking audio playback due in part to the smaller data size.

Huge audiophile files at the higher sample rates really benefit from being played back in ‘Hog Mode’
to avoid dropouts & unstable playback

These Audiophile audio players have the ability to take priority of the tasks the computer normally wants to do so the computer only focuses on playing the audiophile music.
This ‘Hog Mode’ allows the computer to play huge audiophile file of 24bit 32 bit floating at sample rate up to 192K flawlessly.

The applications
communicate directly with the audio output device,
by-passing the typical built in audio mixers & digital gain control involved in normal ‘sound for computer’ use.
These all compromise the quality of the audio, so your volume will be by default only controlled by your audio devices physical volume control for the highest quality volume control without excessive redundant digital volume gain re-calculations.

The entire audiophile song is played from RAM, not just the last few seconds of playback typical of buffered audio, so it’s immune to hard drive interruptions while the system multi-tasks.
Also, prior to playback, all conversions & processing required is performed before the song starts so that once the song is started there will be no 'diversions' to flawlessly playing back the Audiophile files.

These are all groovy things for discerning audiophile, however, it’s not a good idea to be multi-tasking the computer yourself while enjoy huge audiophile files. My attempt to sort thru my latest photo shoot with some nice audiophile music playing thru the computer was dismal. The photos took up lots of RAM, which competed for priority with the audio resulting with lots of big dropouts.

Simply put, for best results, Audiophile playback on a computer should be the exclusive operation
Whenever quality audio is required, it’s worth it to try one of these audiophile audio file players ;-)

For the Mac:

Audirvana - $49

This elegant Audio player is very cool, without hitting a button or accessing hidden menus, it shows the audio file format of the song being played & configures it’s output to the highest quality output of the Digital to Analog output device attached to your system.
This is all I’m typically concerned with but it has heaps of other features, most notably it can be set to take control of the computer, allocating system resources to playing back the audio it’s highest quality and priority system’s resources.

They have a Free version but the full version includes iZotope’s Benchmark 64bit sample rate converter, an industry standard for very high quality audio processing; I use iZotope software as part of my audio mastering work.

Decibel - $33

I tested this one & it functions great. You can get the audio format info by selecting the song file & hitting 'command i; functional but I'm more impressed with Audrivana for this info display.
Decibel can take exclusive control of the output device (using hog mode) and send audio in the device's native format. Additionally, Decibel can automatically adjust the output device's sample rate to that of the playing track, preventing audio quality degradation associated with software sample rate conversion.
Finally, Decibel can load and play files entirely in memory, eliminating audio glitching associated with disk access.

BitPerfect - $10 (they just doubled the price :-O )

Great reviews and performs the necessary functions for Audiophile playback using the Mac as ‘Music Server’. Uses your current iTunes as the ‘front end’, you just use your iTunes & playlists…like always; BitPerfect works in the background for Audiophile control of your computer & the attached audio playback devices (Digital to Analog Converters)
At this price…what the heck, go for it ;-)

For the PC

J River Media Center $49 for the PC

A very solid application from
‘benchmark leaders in the Audiophile world’.

These are just a few of the obvious good choices to play your Hipnautical Audiophile recording in their full glory ;-)

To a true Audiophile this just the tip of the iceberg.
The next step in a decent audiophile computer set up is the
Digital to Analog Converter (DAC) & a good set of speakers.

Any external speaker is going to sound way better than a laptop's built ones and an external DAC will easily out perform the built in one with it's 1/8" headphone output.

If you are a musician you have probably looked into the various types of computer interfaces that allows you to record microphones and musical instruments. These devices turn those analog inputs into the digital audio format; they also play back the digital audio by converting it to analog & sending to the speakers.

There is quite a selection of interface devices for under $200 that offer two track instrument & microphone pre-amps with digital conversion to the computer via USB connection and the DAC for computer playback to external speakers.

M-audio & KRK make some affordable self powered speakers for around $300 a pair. So a decent 24bit 96k sample rate audiophile sound system could be put together fairly cheaply.

True 'audiophile' systems will typically use DACs that cost over $1500 & speakers that start at that price as well,
How deep your audiophile obsession & your pockets will determine how much you'll spend before getting in deeper with liquid cooled power cords, boutique pre amps & custom made power amps...