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  1. #1
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    Default An interesting read.

    Hello,
    This is from Paul McGowan's (PS Audio) daily blog:

    "The trouble with iTunes_
    Through our mini series on streaming audio we've learned how iTunes
    finds and plays a track on your hard drive but we haven't yet learned
    why programs that circumvent iTunes, like Amarra, Pure Music and Bit
    Perfect exist at all.

    If you've managed to keep up with streaming audio in the magazines, you
    may have heard of these aftermarket programs that are add ons to iTunes
    , and since iTunes is the single most popular music management and
    playback program in the world , boasting tens of millions of users,
    one would question why anyone would spend money on adding an iTunes
    "helper" program like those I've just mentioned.

    Here's the deal: iTunes' primary objective is to make playing music
    easy and to do that Apple sacrificed the ultimate fidelity that's
    important to us Audiophiles. And who can blame them? Although it's
    widely accepted that Steve Jobs himself was one of us and cared deeply
    about the way audio sounded in his home, Audiophiles make up only a
    tiny percentage of music lovers the world over. iTunes is set up to
    make sure the user experience is never in question and the net result
    of that, from a high-end perspective, is an unfortunate up and down
    sampling of all the music that passes through the program.

    I think we've shown that once any music player begins to actually play
    a track it most go somewhere to be heard: your computer's sound card, a
    USB connected DAC, etc. The problem you immediately run into is one of
    compatibility. If you are trying to play a 192kHz 24 bit file and your
    sound card, DAC or connected device doesn't support that high sample
    rate (most don't) then one of two things will happen: you'll get
    nothing or you'll get trouble. In either case you won't get music at
    192kHz 24 bits, you'll get something less.

    Most connected sound cards, USB and network connected DACS are limited
    to 96kHz 24 bits and so it is the responsibility of the interface
    driver to announce the restriction to the player so things are
    seamless. Make sense? The designers of iTunes simply want you to hit
    play and not worry about anything else, but we're Audiophiles , and we
    worry about everything! So iTunes sends the high resolution file
    through a downsampler and converts it to the highest allowed rate your
    connected device can handle: in this case 96kHz 24 bits. Ouch!

    To make matters worse, iTunes does this with everything , both up and
    down. So, for example, if you connect our upcoming entry level DAC the
    NuWave (which replaces the venerable DLIII), which can accept 192kHz 24
    bit asynchronous signals over USB, iTunes will upsample everything you
    play to that sample rate ? even standard CDs and, unfortunately, their
    upsample engine isn't all that good (none are) so your standard CDs
    end up sounding digital and somewhat unmusical compared to their native
    resolution. This is not ever going to be acceptable to any of us , and
    if you're an iTunes user you should know this.

    You aren't getting what you think you are getting.. ever.

    The aftermarket programs like Amarra, Pure Music and Bit Perfect (all
    MAC only programs) use iTunes only as a management tool and include
    their own player, bypassing the iTunes player and upsampler. That's
    why they sound so much better. Unfortunately for Windows users these
    programs are not available.

    One last nail in the iTunes coffin for Audiophiles: there is no support
    for FLAC ? which is the single most used lossless compression CODEC for
    high-end lovers today. Sigh.

    So in conclusion, if you're a Windows user and are relying on iTunes..
    stop. You're screwed sonically. If you're a MAC user and are willing
    to convert all your FLAC files to ALAC as well as purchase one of these
    aftermarket programs, you?re in good shape."

    Cheers, Ken
    Last edited by Kenneth Swauger; 11-26-2012 at 04:50 PM.

  2. #2

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    Thanks for the 411. That is an interesting read. I am glad I went with Jriver! Jriver does support the 192 res, as well as my dac2.

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    No problem, glad the information was useful. I didn't know if this was already well known or not, but I thought I'd post it.

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    PS Audio always has pretty interesting articles posted on FB. It's one of the few things I consistently read.
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    I converted all my FLAC files to ALAC and use Amarra. Very happy with end result and the ease of setup and use. iPAD to control the Mac Mini headless is a pleasure.
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    Thanks Ken

    Just starting down the digital streaming road on a Windows based system with a SB Touch and using FLAC rips. At least I did not try to use ITunes in my system as I can see the tip of the frustration I would have encountered due to my own ignorance. Occasionally I just make the right guess.

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    Great read. Finally confirmation for what many of us have been saying all along about Apple lossless played conventionally not being as good of fidelity as the original. Windows based programs can have a similar issue. One has to know how to navigate around these things if ultimate unadulterated music is the goal.

    Thanks for posting

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    No problem, his subsequent postings have dealt with getting high quality Windows based audio.

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    Good read Ken.

    And beyond S/PDIF is extracting I2S which separates data from the clock signal further reducing jitter (of course your DAC needs to have an I2S input). Then there is DSD via USB to DAC chips that can process the signal. Some USB DAC's will receive 32 bit 384KHz files but the installed DAC chip can't use it. Many DIY'ers are snagging I2S before the DAC chip and exporting to their hi-res capable DAC chips. Computer based digital can provide both convenience and exceptional sound quality. I'm there and loving it.
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    That really explained it clearly for a noob like me. I have heard the differences and didn't know why. I stream from my mac where my wife has ituned from our cd's, but when I put the actual cd in the player it is leaps and bounds better.

    good stuff, thanks,

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    So how are you Windows 7 users getting around the Itunes crappola ?

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    The way I do it is...I don't use Itunes.
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    Quote Originally Posted by tonyb View Post
    So how are you Windows 7 users getting around the Itunes crappola ?
    Quote Originally Posted by dudeinaroom View Post
    The way I do it is...I don't use Itunes.
    ^This. I had moved everything to iTunes, and was planning on using a Mac Mini for playback downstairs but was reading that iTunes in Win 7 wasnt the best so I didnt buy anything to do that. Thankfully being OCD as I am, I still had all my files in FLAC as well as Apple Lossless. So I simply added all the 15 CD's I purchased since then to my FLAC library with dbpoweramp last night and I am back to being good .

    In my case what I found as a workaround for my main system to play FLAC is this:

    1. Have music in a shared folder on main computer connected to the network
    2. Install XBMC (free) on laptop (which I already own so 0 dollars spent)
    3. Set shared folder as location of music on laptop in XBMC
    4. Install XBMC app on iPhone to control playback (free app)
    5. Connect laptop to AVR via HDMI
    6. Enjoy playback

    Step 4 isnt required, I just hate having to have a mouse and keyboard on my couch as I normally set the laptop on top the entertainment center when I do this.

    Eventually I will build a cheap streamer that will do all this for me (because I dont like the squeezebox's lack of a big screen) so I can stop using the laptop.
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    Quote Originally Posted by tonyb View Post
    So how are you Windows 7 users getting around the Itunes crappola ?
    Well it started with using a Zune and its superior software... OHHH iTunes!! My bad tony

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    I use itunes on Windows 7...I rip my cds to ALAC, and my cd player (Marantz CD6004) has a USB input on its front face that lets me input from my ipods' 30-pin, rather than the headphone-out.

    The difference between 30-pin-to-USB vs. headphone-to-RCA is audible. I'm not sure if I hear a difference between cd and ALAC-on-ipod (via USB); haven't really spent much time comparing. I'm very pleased with the sound quality from the ipod, and I really like the convenience of not playing with cds and cases. The thing is, I had always thought that ripping to lossless made all of that sampling business irrelevant, so I never really spent much time learning about it. Now I'm wondering, was that a mistake?

    When I see "192khz 24bit", I think mp3 or AAC, hence "lossy", and assume that it's not something I have to worry about. Or at least, I used to...Also, I'm going out through an ipod, not through my computer (through soundcard or otherwise). So, it doesn't matter - or does it? I haven't fully digested that article yet...lordy...I'm a nerd, more or less, but my head is getting so full of specs, from so many different areas...this is hard work, and I just wanted to listen to Flipper (remastered, of course)!

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    Quote Originally Posted by bthogan View Post
    When I see "192khz 24bit", I think mp3 or AAC, hence "lossy", and assume that it's not something I have to worry about. Or at least, I used to..
    No. 192/24 is, at this moment, the top end of high-res lossless music. CD quality is 44/16, which is the bottom of lossless quality. MP3, regardless of its sample rate is lossy, hence sucky. However, the iPod can only play music at up to CD quality, so you need a better music server for high-res tunes.

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    I don't know how I missed this but it's a read I already read.
    I'm in the middle of testing , building , trying out music server options. The focus I have is around a Mac computer and Itunes with support software. I'm gonna start a new thread to talk about what I have done so far.
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    Quote Originally Posted by BlueFox View Post
    No. 192/24 is, at this moment, the top end of high-res lossless music. CD quality is 44/16, which is the bottom of lossless quality. MP3, regardless of its sample rate is lossy, hence sucky. However, the iPod can only play music at up to CD quality, so you need a better music server for high-res tunes.
    Thanks very much for reply. This is definitely a new issue for me, and though I love the convenience and SQ of listening to my ipod through my player's DAC, I'm neurotic about any loss of SQ vs. playing the actual cd. I don't buy SACDs, and when I purchase downloads, I get FLAC and convert to ALAC.

    What I'm getting from this is that, unless I'm trying to listen to a hi-res file, I should be getting conventional cd quality (redbook?), or as close as ALAC gets, if I'm listening from ipod via 30-pin-to-USB cord, and using the player's DAC (putting to one side possible issues relating to quality of USB cord). Is that correct? Is this only an issue if I'm trying to listen to hi-res music files (like, I guess, SACD) through my ipod? I'm assuming that the downsampled rate, 96/24, would still be superior to 44/16.

    I suppose another question would be, are cds that I buy, that aren't labeled SACD, playing or playable at a better rate than "cd quality" 44/16?

    Thanks for any help.

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    Thx Ken, good article. I've never been much of an "i" anything fan. The wife did request an iPad which I must admit is great for reading magazines, and does have a great app for controlling my Squeezebox systems that run all flac formatted music. It very much irritates me that "i" device interaction is thru iTunes....Amazing how the next generation will not know what how high bit rate or true analogue (vinyl) actually sounds.
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    Quote Originally Posted by eeagle View Post
    Thx Ken, good article. I've never been much of an "i" anything fan. The wife did request an iPad which I must admit is great for reading magazines, and does have a great app for controlling my Squeezebox systems that run all flac formatted music. It very much irritates me that "i" device interaction is thru iTunes....Amazing how the next generation will not know what how high bit rate or true analogue (vinyl) actually sounds.
    On the one hand, yeah, vinyl/analogue sound may end up being, at best, a niche market. A bummer, having grown up with LPs...and album covers. On the other hand - not a major consolation, but...sure was a PITA handling those big platters! (But I miss, among other things, album covers.)

    As far as bit rates and such go, though, I think that that's more a function of available and affordable storage. I do think it's a bit of a tragedy, with real consequences for music, that lossy formats have been embraced. However, I'm pretty sure that the market for lossy formats is primarily driven simply by limitations on storage space. As storage capacity increases, and gets more affordable, there won't be as much of an excuse to use lossy formats. I'm hopeful that in 5-10 years, as the necessity for shrinking media files goes away, people will rediscover hi-fidelity, and sound quality, and a culture of lossless formats, possibly (probably?) even superior to previous formats (though still digital, I guess) will arise.

    Hopeful.
    Last edited by bthogan; 11-12-2012 at 11:28 AM.

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    Storage is already cheap, no reason to not move to a lossless format anymore. A Nas these days for a hundred bucks can get you plenty to store your music on.

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    Are people with PCs using Windows Media Player to play their music or are they mostly using something like JRiver as the player? Not talking SB here just people who use a PC as their music server.


    I get that iTunes sucks on PC since you are stuck with its resolution but if you use a Mac and use Amarra it is heaven. ITunes as a GUI is ok and easy to use.

    I guess if people are using Itunes on their PC over WMP there must be a reason, I am just not sure what it is.
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    Quote Originally Posted by tonyb View Post
    Storage is already cheap, no reason to not move to a lossless format anymore. A Nas these days for a hundred bucks can get you plenty to store your music on.
    I agree, aside from the recent price bumps we've been experiencing. I think the storage bottleneck now is basically the portable players. Ipod Nano 16GB is still fairly expensive for such a small player ($120+).

    I bought an 80GB Classic a few years ago, for $250. Got a 160GB Classic for the same price recently. Spinning drives, though. I don't mind.

    I use itunes because of those devices, never really tried WMP or itunes mods/workarounds...I don't stream, and I always thought (until recently, after reading things like the OP article) that using ALAC meant I didn't have to worry too much about sound quality. Even using headphone-to-RCA, difference between ALAC and lossy is audible. Difference between RCA-in, using ipod's DAC, and USB-in using cdp DAC is also quite audible.

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    Great article Ken, I am just beginning my journey into digital file storage and have been very disappointed with Itunes, now I understand at least that there is a problem. I was given an apple Ipod as a promotional gift once and spent alot of time downloading cd's, what a waste.

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    Good, I'm glad it was helpful.

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    Quote Originally Posted by EndersShadow View Post
    ^This. I had moved everything to iTunes, and was planning on using a Mac Mini for playback downstairs but was reading that iTunes in Win 7 wasnt the best so I didnt buy anything to do that. Thankfully being OCD as I am, I still had all my files in FLAC as well as Apple Lossless. So I simply added all the 15 CD's I purchased since then to my FLAC library with dbpoweramp last night and I am back to being good .

    In my case what I found as a workaround for my main system to play FLAC is this:

    1. Have music in a shared folder on main computer connected to the network
    2. Install XBMC (free) on laptop (which I already own so 0 dollars spent)
    3. Set shared folder as location of music on laptop in XBMC
    4. Install XBMC app on iPhone to control playback (free app)
    5. Connect laptop to AVR via HDMI
    6. Enjoy playback

    Step 4 isnt required, I just hate having to have a mouse and keyboard on my couch as I normally set the laptop on top the entertainment center when I do this.

    Eventually I will build a cheap streamer that will do all this for me (because I dont like the squeezebox's lack of a big screen) so I can stop using the laptop.
    Pretty much what I do, I download all my music in Flac at the highest bit rate available.
    Organize it on my Windows 7 PC which has a Creative Titanium HD sound card in it, but I go through the network using a program called Serviio it does , music, movies and pictures..
    My Yamaha sees it on the network and allows me to play my music to its fullest sound quality..
    For movies and pictures I use a Patriot Boxoffice and a Pivos Aios streaming devices they work perfect and both cost under $80 each.
    iTunes is crap your locked into Steve Jobs DRM world, I don't like my hand being held like Apple products do..
    They give you the user no custom options like a Windows machine offers..
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    This is a great thread, I'm learning a lot here, let's keep it going.
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    If your a PC user I suggest checking out J Rivers , I have this software and it's awesome. You can get a trial version to give it a test drive.
    For Mac , itunes is what you use as all your Apple devices use it. The only problem here is when you start buying high Rez music , you can only play it back on your computer and not share it with other devices unless you convert the files to Apple Lossless and shrink a version down to 256k. This sucks and I'm not completely happy about that but for the car I guess 256k versions of some of my music is going to have to do.

    I use Channel D software and think it works great. It runs behind Itunes and once you get everything set up , it's awesome. You can use a 24/192 VIA USB and your set. What's also cool about Channel D is it makes all your music sound it's best , even stuff you might have in 256k will sound it's best. I have tons of ripped CD's in Lossless and they sound much better going through Channel D Pure Music then if I disable the software and use iTunes.

    Apple could easily fix itunes but don't. I have written a few letter to them concerning itunes and high rez downloads. I don't think it will fall on listening ears but I felt it was worth my time to write to them.

    For now I enjoy Channel D software and high rez music.
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    A have a Sanus clip which is the size of a zippo lighter. You can load the RockBox" software onto the clip which allows you to play VLC or FLAC files. The clip uses a micro SDHC chip in addition to the 8 GB on board memory. I recently purchased a 64 GB micro SDHC card for about $30. I can use the clip to play lossless audio in the car or as a portable device like on airplanes. It sounds really great with the Polk ultra 6000 ear buds. The Sanus clip is highly under rated for what it can do compared to other portable devices.
    Carl

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