Alpha Release JRiver, Inc. has released an OSX version of their well-known media player JRiver Media Center. The Windows software has been considered by many to be one of the best audio players available. When I began my computer audio journey in 2006, I turned to JRiver as a superior alternative to the Windows Media Player. The JRiver Media Center 18 for Mac is presently in an Alpha version. This means that many of the features of the program do not function. But the program does play music successfully, so I thought that a report on this new release would be of interest to our AudioStream readers.
In March 2010, Channel D released their music server software Pure Music for OSX. Since then, Pure Music has been one of the reference programs I have used to evaluate music, computer hardware, and audio components due to its neutrality and excellent reliable functionality. Version 1.86 had reached a high degree of reliability with a wealth of functions. Gapless track playback and memory play, CoreAudio Device HOG Mode Exclusive Access support, native device nonmixable integer mode for OSX Snow Leopard, automatic sample rate switching, and native DSD streaming for DACs that support DoP are just a very few of the many features available with this program. All of these features beautifully integrate with the iTunes interface for access to one’s music library while using the Pure Music audio playback engine.
Lions and Integers
Last May, I wrote about a pre- release beta given to me by Damien Plisson of Audirvana Plus. It was Damien’s creation of a music program that would support integer playback for OSX Lion/Mtn. Lion. Many of you will remember that OSX Snow Leopard supported native integer playback for many DACs. A number of us felt at that time that integer playback, a more direct form of playback with less processing, sounded better. Unfortunately, with the release of OSX Lion, native integer playback was no longer supported by the operating system. While I was disappointed with this change in OSX support, I was thrilled with the improved sound of OSX Lion. Lion sounded less dark, had a bigger soundstage, and better definition in the low end than its predecessor even though it could not utilize native integer playback.
I enjoy Audirvana's old free player which I use mainly on my iMac creating on-the-fly playlists from my NAS drive. Works like a charm. The Audirvana people have been busy with the launch of their $49 Plus version and they've just announced iTunes integration (if you can't beat 'em, integrate 'em).
Perhaps one of the easiest and least expensive (as in free!) things you can do to improve the sound quality of your computer audio playback is to use one of the many audiophile-grade Media Player apps. If you’re attached to iTunes don’t fret – a number of these players let you keep the iTunes interface while they go about the business of better sound more or less in the background.
As metaphors go, the silver bullet is somewhat ambiguous, given that it's used to represent both the reliably destructive and the reliably beneficial. (Who would have guessed that an idea from a Lon Cheney Jr. film would prove too subtle and complex for people in the 21st century?) Nevertheless, at Montreal's Salon Son et Image on April 2, those of us who comprised Stereophile's reliably responsive "Ask the Editors" panelJohn Atkinson, Robert Deutsch, and Ivolleyed it with the sort of sprightly, vernal abandon that is the sole province of men with gray hair. To wit: We agreed that no materials, technologies, or design decisions can either guarantee or prevent good sound. Not vinyl. Not star grounding. Not class-A circuits. Neither tubes nor transistors. Neither belt nor idler nor electrostats nor multiway nor single-driver nor copper nor silver nor silk nor beryllium. Not even harmonic distortion. Each of those ideas may mean something to someone, in the short term, in the narrow view, but that's all. There are no silver bullets.