Audiophile Sound Quality - XBMC vs. Foobar

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DDDamian Offline
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Post: #16
@nickr - the basics of audiophile digital audio are:

- good sources (clean, low-compression aka high dynamic-range, well-recorded and played audio)

- lossless and preferably high bitrate (bitdepth x sample rate) audio formats (uncompressed LPCM, FLAC, DSD/DTS, MLP)

- digital transport - basically keeping the audio in digital form until it hits the external decoders/DACs. This means no losses in transport or analog conversion in the noisy PC environment. Regardless of the codec the signal should stay digital as long as possible through the transport chain. Decoding with lossless formats does not generally cause degradation of the signal, so where in the chain the signal is decoded isn't really relevent. It's where the D/A conversion takes place and the quality of that conversion and amplification.

There's myriad other factors involved in digital audio (jitter, dithering, noise shaping, etc) but these tend to pale in comparison to the analog side (D/A conversion, amplification, speakers, environment). If you get the above correct you are there from the digital perspective. Once it crosses the D/A boundary "normal" audiophile wisdom takes over. Then you can duke it out over speaker design, room correction, room treatments, etc.

Feeding 24/96khz digital remasters or SACD formats (DSD/DST) to a good stereo is pure bliss Smile

Conventional wisdom is that high bitrate PCM (while wonderful) is harsher but brighter while SACD formats are much more akin to analog formats (vinyl, reel-to-reel), and I tend to agree, but they are both excellent sounding.

But you must have good recordings! I've heard 128kbps mp3's that sound better than MeatLoaf SACD's.

Some recommendations:
Dire Straits - Brothers in Arms (SACD)
Pink Floyd - DSOTM (SACD)
Genesis - The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway onwards (SACD)
Queen - The Game (DVD-Audio)
Peter Gabriel - Up (SACD)
Cat Stevens - Tea for the Tillerman (SACD)

Many of these have been ripped and converted to FLAC at 24/88.2 using Weiss Saracon as a DSD->PCM converter with great results. All of the above except the last are multichannel. If you're more of a classical guy Nordic Sounds (2L) has some free samples of very well-recorded high-definition audio on their website.

For what I consider the best of BluRay audio check out Dave Matthews & Tim Reynolds - Live at Radio City in Dolby TrueHD.

Believe it or not, a cheap and quiet GPU will allow you to play incredibly detailed audio to any HDMI-capable receiver. If you care about audio I would go HDMI first. If not you will need to invest serious bucks into a USB DAC, money generally better spent on a receiver. A good receiver is built around good DAC's (Burr-Brown being considered one of the better in the mid-range). My preference is to stay digital right up to the input to the power amplifier section.

Enjoy Smile

System: XBMC HTPC with HDMI WASAPI & AudioEngine - Denon AVR-3808CI - Denon DVD-5900 Universal Player - Denon DCM-27 CD-Changer
- Sony BDP-S580 Blu-Ray - X-Box 360 - Android tablet wireless remote - 7.1 Streem/Axiom/Velodyne Surround System
If I have been able to help feel free to add to my reputation +/- below - thanks!
(This post was last modified: 2013-01-19 04:10 by DDDamian.)
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TubbyPoutine Offline
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Post: #17
(2012-11-26 20:37)PedroSoares Wrote:  I've been using XBMC on my HTPC for years for stereo music listening. On my audio system the sound I get from XBMC is really good, but when I listen to the same music track in foobar, I always get a more rich, powerful an detailed sound.
I've been struggling with this for a long time, and tried a lot of options, but never succeeded on having XBMC to perform as well as foobar.

With version 12.0 I was hoping that the new AudioEngine could resolve my problem, but it's the same.
In foobar I'm using ASIO and all the effects are disabled. The audio tracks are FLAC 16/44.
In XBMC I'm using WASAPI as output sound driver. (on previous versions, before WASAPI was available, directsound was really bad)

My HTPC setup:
  • Asus XONAR STX Audiophile sound card (equiped with an outstanding Burr-brown DAC)
  • NAD amplifier + JMLab focal floorstand

This is what I already tried without success:
  • I was using Windows 7, and read somewhere that Windows 8 had better sound. So I upgraded to win8, but it's the same. Now the boot takes much longer.
  • In windows sound settings, the sound card is setup for exclusive mode access.
  • Tried Asus drivers as well as third-party drivers for this sound card: Unified ASUS.

Does anyone know what I should do to get a better sound quality from XBMC? All suggestions are welcome.

In your advancedsettings.xml, try changing your default player to DVDPlayer instead of PAPlayer. Worked for me! Smile
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Todun Offline
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Location: Germany
Post: #18
[u]XBMC's Audio Engine is excellent !

By evaluating some Media Player primarily to manage my picture and video libraries I also tested the audio functionality as well. (HTPC, W7 on SSD)
By surprise I figured out that XBMC's new audio engine is very competitive ie. to Foobar and JRiver as well .
By comparing these players in WASAPI exclusive mode and at same loudness level, resulting sound quality is almost the same. There are of course minor differences but I would rate it as a question of personal taste.
XBMC's Audio Engine enables (on my audio setup) a very realistic soundstage and an impression of to be there (live).

Setup: HTPC --> ar-t Legato USB/SPDIF --> Lyngdorf TDAI-2200 --> Piega Coax 90.2, FLAC, 44,1/16)

As WinAmp is about to shut down, I guess XBMC could become an excellent successor even for primary audiophile users as well.

Compared to other Player I also like the implementation of the GUI, IPad-remote and the very fast start (autostart) of XBMC.

Provided not all Files are tagged appropriately - especially in my case - it is also of great help to have the File/Library mode available.
So, in summary: well done!

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Todun Offline
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Location: Germany
Post: #19
Question to the audio engine development team

For many good reasons I recently tested an external SSD (Samsung 840 EVO) against normally used NAS/LAN on my HTPC (music library).

Besides SQ improvements I also realised that the SSD seems to be active only on short cycles and mainly between the tracks played.

Question: what kind of buffering (size) is implemented on XBMC's audio engine?

Setup: HTPC Intel i3, with 8GB Ram, Win 7, XBMC 12.3, USB 3 --> SSD


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