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A bit OT - Media Player Software that really works

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  • A bit OT - Media Player Software that really works

    Hey all,
    I've been a big fan of XBMC for over a year now, but several issues finally pushed me to try J.River Media Center.

    I don't know if any other Xonar DX sound card users had problems with XBMC, but the past Dharma Beta releases all made funny blats of noise when stopping a playing audio file. I think it was repeating the last sample (or group of samples?). Whatever it was, it sounded a lot like a 20 Hz square wave and would last for a few ms to 1/4 - 1/2 sec.

    This plus a few other buggy behaviors finally made me move on. While I still love the XBMC interface on my HTPCs, the program just wasn't cutting it...

    I tried J.River, and decided to give ASIO4ALL a shot. ASIO4All is a very simple interface that keeps the audio data stream out of the windows mixer. If a program can talk to an ASIO driver, which J.River MC can, ASIO4ALL takes the program's digital output and passes it directly to the sound card's device driver for DAC or pass-through.

    The hub-bub about this is that it allows you to try the holy grail of bit-perfect audio data, straight from the program producing it to the sound card output of your choice.

    What I found was a very surprising. I have two PCs I use for sound, my regular desk top in my office with an old Audigy Platinum sound card, and a decent HTPC in my bedroom with the Xonar DX. Both are running XP Pro. I use the stereo analog output from both cards to drive my amps.

    On the Xonar DX machine, I really didn't notice any difference in sound quality, but all of the weird, buggy behavior is gone. Very clean sound with never a pop, click, blat, snort or toot.

    On the Audigy machine, the difference was actually amazing. I have used this machine to test drivers and speakers with SoundEasy. I swear, I have all effects turned off everywhere features can be accessed (in both the Audigy driver and in Windows' sound device configuration).

    I could hear a profound difference on the first song I played. Everything since confirms it. The sound is more accurate, especially in the 40 to 100 Hz bass region. It doesn't make sense, but I would say the sound is more detailed, even in the midrange and treble ranges. This is the first time software has made grin while I listened to music :D

    J.River MC can:
    Run in a window, where it looks and behaves much like Windows Media Player.

    Be run in a full screen mode that yields a nice, usable 10' interface that is easy to control with a Windows MCE remote.

    Launch Total Media Theater 3 automatically for playing my BluRay Rips (with the selected movie playing).

    Can tag wave files. Yes, it actually can, by placing the tag information in an ID3 format at the end of the wave file. This tag may not be readable by anything but J.River's MC, but it's a real tag in the wave container.

    Harvest the meta data from the directory and filename structure, or the tag, or a combination of both (which is the method I used to build my library). I now have my groupings by artist or genre back for my wave files and can simply select play all for hours of back-ground music.

    I paid the $50 for my copy three weeks ago, and it's good enough that I'll happily pay another $100 for the two licenses I still need. You can run it for free for a 30 day trial.

    ASIO4ALL is a free, tiny and completely benign program. It doesn't even run until you play a song or a movie in MC, and it closes when playback is stopped. It doesn't load or mess with codecs. Even while MC is playing something, other programs can access the sound card driver like ASIO4ALL isn't there at all.

    What's really nice about this is that MC has a digital signal processor built in, seven clicks in one dialog box turns off all extraneous processing, or you can use it as you see fit, Effects, Sub output (complete high & low pass filters), EQ, Crossfeed (for headphone listening), Room Correction, Tempo & Pitch, & Volume Leveling are available.

    If you have any issues, or just want to see if a direct digital path from the program to the sound card makes a difference, a trial won't cost you anything, and I'd like to hear from anyone who tries it or is already using it.

    Jay T

  • #2
    Re: A bit OT - Media Player Software that really works

    Hi lhwidget,
    I went the ASIO4ALL route a couple of years ago and haven't looked back. I'm running XP Pro with an Echo MIA 24/96 sound card I bought off ebay for about $50. All my music has been ripped to FLAC (free lossless audio codec) files using dbpoweramp which is a fantastic utility if you want to check it out... A good way to get bit-perfect FLAC copies of your music cd's onto your harddrive.

    My player software is Album Player which also natively supports ASIO and FLAC playback. I have no experience with Vista or Win7, but some of the forums I've read indicated that they have much better audio than XP. I don't know if they eliminated the k-mixer after XP, or if they just rewrote it so it doesn't add so much noise.

    I'm happy enough with the sound to have gone totally digital. (And I used to own a linn sondek!) I feel that it will only get better as recordings start to use higher bit rates for recording. I've heard of some audiophile studios recording with 192khz bitrates. That would be amazing to hear!

    It's really amazing what the computer allows us to do nowadays. Photography, CAD, recording studio, sound lab, speaker design.......


    • #3
      Re: A bit OT - Media Player Software that really works

      It surprised me too, I started listening to audio on my PC several years ago, and as I improved the speakers and amp I realized I could replace my receivers/pre-amps and my source equipment with a PC and enjoy it.

      For me and a few others I've noticed here (most notably Pete S with his PCeiver and the SoundEasy guys experimenting with Ultimate Equalizer), the new crop of sound cards with top quality DACs and high quality analog outputs are giving a very high performance analog output, reducing the rest of a high quality system to just an amp(s) and speakers.

      Thanks for the link to Album Player, it's a nice looking program.
      Jay T


      • #4
        Re: A bit OT - Media Player Software that really works

        Hmm I'll have to check out J.River MC. I've used XBMC and spent I don't know how many hours trying to get it to play nice with playing my ripped BD's over the last year. I recently switched to MediaPortal and had it seamlessly playing BD's within half an hour. I don't notice any differences in audio quality playing my flacs but MP is a bit sluggish vs. XBMC.

        With all the setup time an HTPC takes, $50 to get something that works well is a bargain.

        Originally posted by lhwidget View Post
        I paid the $50 for my copy three weeks ago, and it's good enough that I'll happily pay another $100 for the two licenses I still need.
        BTW you can install on multiple PC's with a single license - it's in the Q&A, 4th from the bottom.


        • #5
          Re: A bit OT - Media Player Software that really works

          I honestly don't know. Many of my programs don't care how many PCs I install them on, just that I don't opperate more than one copy at a time. I would expect MC to be the same.

          I'm still running the trial version on my second PC, it will be a day or two before I get the second install going.
          Jay T


          • #6
            Re: A bit OT - Media Player Software that really works

            Winamp/Foobar2000 + ASIO4ALL plugin



            • #7
              Re: A bit OT - Media Player Software that really works

              Definitely popular programs, and I didn't realize Winamp was capable of ASIO output. Does Winamp have a 10' interface also?

              What made XBMC so attractive was its ability to catalog, display, and play many movie containers, as well as audio files of all types.

              J.River combines all of the above abilities in one package, with both normal windowed layouts best manipulated by a mouse and keyboard and a 10' interface designed for a remote control.

              I checked the license info out for J.River. From what I read, they really expect their program to be installed on multiple machines with only one license.
              Jay T