SQ impressions debate

Audirvana just turned the corner towards HiFi artifice and sounds absolutely awful in my opinion. I am switching to Roon.

Tone/texture and presence is completely stripped away. No instrument sounds correct on multiple DACs… Mojo, Burson Playmate 2, PS Audio Strata. Upper harmonics are stripped away - it sounds like someone did a mid/low mid scoop 1kHz to 5kHZ to cut presence to give the illusion of greater depth. Of course that hasn’t been done but the effect is the same… this sound is not neutral or hi fidelity… it is HiFi artifice.

Happy Roon then :slight_smile:

I think the case can be made that the rendition of AS, for all its qualities, proves to be very revealing of the approximate sound production and mastering of some music recordings.
As much as I have enjoyed listening to some old trusted music files with AS, It came to my mind that A3.5’s rendition of some files was more agreeable.
I mostly put it on the nature and quality of production and mastering of the different recordings.

AS, no more than A3.5 gains at being configured to works “against” a DAC’s qualities.
Users are left with some leeway to ensure it does not happen through the management of the Preferences.

I would argue the only certainty is that Audirvana claims that we are closer to the original recording.

I suspect they have improved some synergy on their end with their equipment that suits their tastes.

I hear a consistent muffled signature that is consistent across all tracks across genres and eras I have tried… that typically suggests the software is dominating with its own signature and is opposite of being transparent. If for example I can no longer distinguish the guitar tone of different bands, this is not transparency. Roon in fact passes along the texture of recordings in my opinion that gives tracks their own personality and signature.

Some recordings should be forward, others laid back. Bass should have texture. AS in my opinion has the most muffled bass I have heard in a long time and it’s consistently muffled on every track.


Sorry to have butted in your thread, I do not consider myself an audiophile.
Happy Roon, indeed…

No no no… your opinion is certainly valid and it is not my thread. My concern is that some people may buy into Audirvana being reference sound because the website says so.

I don’t think I am an audiophile. I am a musicophile first and foremost. I absolutely love my new PRS baritone guitar and PRS MT Tube amp. There are many bands currently using these baritone and Down tuned guitars with high gain and it can sound absolutely lovely. There are tracks where I know there is a fuzz pedal on the recording and AS turns the guitars to mud while Roon sounds really freaking good and I can hear overtones and the fuzz. Different guitar gear has different tones… you have grungy, sweet, fuzzy and all flavors in between… the software player should not strip these qualities away.

System matching is certainly a part of this and I wouldn’t have started the thread if I found other gear where AS sounds good… I find it concerning however every DAC I’ve tried sounds bad with AS. It could be used to bandaid an overly bright system but in that case it’s not a Studio equivalent or reference sound… it is an option of many and that’s all. My impression is there is a somewhat religious view that Audirvana is king (I’m not saying from you) and people follow and justify the sound because it must be the reference. The reference is real instruments.

I welcome healthy discussion on the topic and apologize for my forwardness. It comes from passion for music and that is all.

If no upsampling or some kind of DSP is involved, there is no “SQ” to the software players, they are all bit-perfect and therefore sound the same. If not, and there is no user misconfiguration, it is a bad player and should be avoided without any further discussion.

Things are of course made more confusing by companies claiming marketing nonsense like “More transparent than ever” while at the same time advertising “bit perfect”.

At leas on Mac, there is also nothing to “optimize”. For inexperienced user, software can help to configure things that can be done manually, but that’s it. iTunes can play bit perfect as any other software player.
For the USB transfer, DAC is the “master” and there is nothing to improve, unless DAC has design flaws. If there are any issues, better buy DDC of some kind and that will be a much better investment. So snake oil again.

When things like library organization, DSP, digital volume control, upsampling and such are considered, this is where the real “heavy stuff” of player design comes into play, and that is what you pay for and that is where the honest marketing should focus on.

But that is not as attractive as simple snake oil advertising like “Pristine sound” which means nothing but attracts people and make them imagine things that are not there.

Finally, there are unverified (but with some screenshots in French) claims on the internet that Audirvana support has claimed that A+ actually adds some “secret sauce processing”. I find it difficult to believe because given the claims of A+ being bit perfect it would be a clear false advertising. But if true, it could explain why too many believe that A+ sounded “better”. It could potentially also somewhat explain why AS might not sound “as good”.

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From my experience Audirvana is not bitperfect when all processing is tuned off. But at least 3.5 does sound very pleasing.
I could be wrong.
But it does sound different playing a CD quality or better flac compared to simpler apps like Vox, Colibri and so on.

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Love to comment but in 2 weeks I have yet been able to play a track without having to resort to upsampling so my streamer can be played to …

2 weeks to go


I gave in , upsampled 44.1 to 192 and I can now listen on my hi fi, with occasional excursions to change music as there is no remote yet.

The sound is clear but it’s skipping all over the place. Everything is Ethernet, I have 2 other servers working to this CXN perfectly so it’s not a network issue.

Not impressed

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I own an Audirvana Plus 2.5 player.
The reason Audirvana Plus sounded better than modern versions of the player is that A+ could play in Direct Mode during its life span. Changes in macOs prevent Audirvana players, including my Audirvana Plus 2.5 player, to play in Direct Mode. It created a drop in the SQ of all versions of Audirvana players, old and new. To have it back, you should downgrade your OS to Mojave (?)

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What does this mean? At least for FLAC, all it will do is perform the decompression and send the resultant PCM stream out to a DAC (or upnp endpoint). Not sure how that won’t be “bit-perfect”…it’s when DSP is inserted into the process that there may be some uncertainty introduced.

IF Audirvana can play “bit perfect” without “Direct Mode” as I understand it is/was claimed, it means in Direct Mode it was playing “Better” than bit perfect. Not sure why one would want that. If there is some unadvertised “sweetening” goin on as some claim, I would call that cheating.

If it was “bit perfect” both in direct mode and using core audio, then difference is most likely a placebo.

This of course if the DAC is not super sensitive to USB instability or noise, which could indeed be somehow improved by System Optimizer and potentially by a custom/better audio driver.

Is Windows closer to bit perfect with a kernel Streaming?

I see two better options on the horizon

(1) PS audio is set to release a streamer with their own custom operating system by end of this year. The in built streaming on the Strata beats Audirvana night and day so I have confidence the dedicated streamer will be very good.

(2) Schiit transport - mainly CD transport but also has USB input (unison) but will require a source for USB so either laptop or dedicated Roon core.

Is there suddenly a consensus that Roon sounds better than AS?

I have never experienced it that way. And AS doesn’t sound lifeless and boring to me either.

There are some bit-perfect tests with an RME that fail. But as far as I’m concerned, there’s still no widely held opinion that AS isn’t bit-perfect.

Damien never argued that Bit perfect brings an added value to SQ.
Since the beginning of Audirvana, he argued that the upsampelling modes of Audirvana produce better SQ, because the CPU of the computer is more powerful than the processor of the DAC. Thus, upsampelling by Audoirvana produces better SQ that if the job was done by the DAC.

The upsampling modes of Audoirvana were always an important commercial argument. There was iZotope, then SOX, and in the latest event on Facebook, Damien announced the arrival of “r8brain”, a new upsampling mode for the Mac that provides better sound,clarity.

Direct mode has nothing to do with bit-perfect. It’s about latency and thus jitter. Differences between players are related to that.

I was thinking that too, but it turned out to be false.

For USB, DAC is the master and computer’s job is to only to send data fast enough. If USB doesn’t manage, you will hear the drop-outs, but not jitter. There is nothing any software can do to fix DAC’s jitter if USB is used.
There is still the noise issue, but USB isolator is the right solution as software cannot do anything significant despite “optimizing”.

S/PDIF is opposite, and computer is the master. So using S/PDIF without a DDC is probably a bad idea. System optimizing could do more here, but not nearly close to a proper solution (DDC).

In case DAC’s USB implementation is poor, using a DDC like Pi2AES and S/PDIF is the way to go and not the magical software.

The fact is that there are Audirvana users, including users with very expensive high end DACs that few of us can buy, who stick to Mojave because they pretend that they get better SQ with Direct mode, compared to SQ without Direct Mode in Big Sur.

Yes that’s all I’m trying to say.
With all processing turned off I believe that Audirvana still does not send the extracted PCM directly to the DAC as is, but performs some DSP first.
In all my trials by ear the simpler players sound the same and Audirvana sounds different.
It would be interesting to be able to test this somehow.

Well if true, I think they should certainly be completely forthcoming about what processing they are doing. Not a fan of “black box” approaches, even if they ostensibly do improve SQ.