JRiver Media Center for OSX, Alpha Release

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.

If you are familiar with with JRiver Media Center for Windows, you will be at home with the Mac version. JRiver is using a similar layout as the Windows interface in this Alpha release. The folks at JRiver state at their forum that the interface will gradually change to a more “Mac like” look. The program is all native OSX code:

“It's a fully native application. MC is primarily C++ (more than one million lines of code).

There is some SSE for some performance critical sections and also some Objective-C on OSX for Cocoa work.”

What Works
After installing the program, I was able to import my large library of approximately 5TB of AIFF files with no issues. Cover art was also imported from the audio files. If you haven’t previously used the Windows version, you will probably be overwhelmed when first opening the program. There are multiple ways to view your library; far more than available with iTunes. Also, there are a good number of options, many of which don’t function with the Alpha release. I would suggest that first time users explore the program before trying to play music. JRiver Media Center 18 for Mac primarily supports OSX 10.7 and 10.8.

What does work is Memory Playback and Exclusive Access (hog). I had no problems playing back files up to 192/24. Since JRiver for OSX does not rely on iTunes to function, the program can easily play FLAC files without utilizing the proxy import steps that Pure Music and Audirvana Plus require. JRemote for the iPad/iPhone is not yet supported by the Alpha version. I hope that JRiver will get this function operating as soon as possible!

Early Sonic Impressions
I must say that the sound of the program was not bad given that it is a first release Alpha. Overall, there was no hardness in the sound with reasonable detail and resolution. Compared to my favorite OSX programs, Pure Music and Audirvana Plus, the soundstage of Media Center is smaller, particularly in width. The bass is not as well controlled or dynamic sounding as in the other programs. Pure Music and Audirvana Plus are more open sounding with better detail retrieval. Media Center was able to successfully play gapless titles.

The Forum
JRiver is offering a special price for early adopters of the program at $24.98. (Price will be $49.98). Updates will be available at their forum:

JRiver Media Center 18 for Mac
Also, help with program issues can be found on the forum. Post your questions for specific issues. New versions should appear weekly at the forum. The first few builds will have a 30 day time-out. Again, please remember that this is an early release with many issues. But if you enjoy exploring new software, I think you will find JRiver Media Center 18 for Mac to be a good deal of fun; especially as it matures.

Congratulations to JRiver for releasing a new OSX music player. I will be looking forward to trying new versions as they are released.



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COMMENTS
bsm's picture

Compared to my favorite OSX programs, Pure Music and Audirvana Plus, the soundstage of Media Center is smaller, particularly in width. The bass is not as well controlled or dynamic sounding as in the other programs. Pure Music and Audirvana Plus are more open sounding with better detail retrieval.

How is this possible? Are Pure Music and Audirvana Plus adding treatments to transform the music beyond the existing bits? Did you ABX test to be able to tell the difference? Oh, wait, you have a Tranquility Base, which helps, "extract all the information hidden in Red Book and high resolution files." You believe 1s and 0s can somehow be "hidden." 'nuff said.

junker's picture

It's very simple, and not voodoo as you seem to indicate by your snarkiness. They have a free demo. Try it out vs. iTunes and see if you can hear a difference with an informed opinion.

Audirvana bypasses the Apple Core Audio Library which can have additional processing and mixing steps such as EQ, Normalization, etc. Once bypassed it can also use integers with the DAC instead of floating point variables which also prevents additional processing.

Also, memory play keeps the drive from being accessed during playback and can prevent underrun or motor noise issues.

judmarc's picture

bsm: Let's go into just two of the non-voodoo hard-science aspects of potential player differences you're missing with a "bit-perfect is all there is" viewpoint:

- With only a handful of exceptions, the chip in virtually every DAC made does what is called "8x oversampling" prior to the decimation step of digital-to-analog conversion.  Each step of this oversampling (done in 3 steps by most DAC chips, one step by a few) involves filtering that can be optimized for time-domain or frequency-domain performance, or geared for a compromise between the two.  Most audiophile players make available better oversampling filters than are used in DAC chips (computers can throw more processing power at this than DAC chips).  By sending input to the DAC at a higher sample rate and eliminating less good sample rate conversion in the DAC, software players improve the sound.  (Differences in sample rate conversion algorithms can readily be seen in the response measurements at src.infinitewave.ca .)

- If you read white papers by the people who manufactured one of the more well-thought-of DAC chips on the market today, the ESS SABRE DAC, you'll find they say a "clean" low-noise reference voltage is critical to best operation of the chip.  Most of what are considered to be the best audiophile players have facilities for minimizing various types of computer activity occurring in synchrony with DAC operation (for example, playback from memory rather than utilizing hard drive I/O).  This helps minimize small power fluctuations transmitted from the computer to the DAC chip and DAC clock, helping to give the DAC chip a "clean" voltage reference and minimizing any jitter resulting from electrical noise disturbing DAC clock operation.

There's more, but that should be enough to convince a reasonable person (assuming you are reasonable) that there are solid engineering reasons behind the potential advantages to be derived from audiophile players.

Steven Plaskin's picture

I would agree with you if there was such a thing as a perfect DAC that was not influenced by the computer upstream. I have yet to hear a high quality DAC that allows all bit perfect software to sound the same.

In closing, I find your comments as ridiculous as you do mine.

prerich45's picture

  I agree with you as I can't stand Windows Media Player nor can I tolerate iTunes. There is something to the auido software programs such as Pure Music and JRiver.  By the way - I use the remote functions in JRiver one called Gizmo (Android) and the other called MyRiver (iPad) they both work with my Windows machine, however - Gizmo is more intuitive and has a better GUI than MyRiver.

bsm's picture

Ah, understood. The "I know you are, but what am I?" defense, which is especially spurious in this case, as you're now referring to DACs and not the player software. 

Steven Plaskin's picture

Most of us have found that reducing CPU processing or trying to make it a steady state improves the sonic results. Now if the audio file is loaded to memory, why should this make a difference?

One also notices an improvement in sound quality when reducing processing by using Direct Mode / Integer- nonmixable integer stream mode even when the file is played from memory.

Your explanation is that there is no sonic difference if the player is bit perfect.  If you can't hear differences in software, the discussion is over since there is nothing I can say to convince you otherwise.

Thanks for reading my review.

Priaptor's picture

have yet to find anything that approaches Computer Audiophile's CAPs design with JRIVER running on a Windows platform.

At least to my ears, there is a night and day difference. I have tried them all, including the newest versions of Audirvana, PM, Amarra, etc. 

bsm's picture

Perhaps these will help JRiver's soundstage. http://www.francktchang.com/acousticresonators.html

Michael Lavorgna's picture

You just showed up and you're 3 for 3 with pointless, snarky comments. Consider this your first and last warning. If you have nothing meaningful to add, your comments are not welcome.

bsm's picture

In all seriousness, your reviewer did an apples-to-apples comparison and claims a distinction for which he can provide no scientific basis. It'd be great if he could justify his claim, rather than resort to voodoo.

Michael Lavorgna's picture

And perceived differences are just that, perceived differences. But I agree that this is an interesting question and I asked a number of media player developers exactly this question: What makes one media player sound different from another?

Further, just because you did not get what you want from this article does not give you the right to behave like a spoiled child. And since you can download most of these media player products for free, there's nothing stopping you from doing whatever you want with them to satisfy your own curiosity.

Steven Plaskin's picture

If one goes to the link Michael provided and looks at the comments from Gordon Rankin of Wavelength Audio, one will see his attempt to scientifically anayze different programs with a Prism d Scope and I2S Analyzer. The result was that  the three programs analyzed all looked the same, but sounded different.

But bsm made his real agenda obvious to all of us when he tried to discredit me by referring to the Synergistic Research Tranquility Base in his intital comment. 

prerich45's picture

Is there a Mac bias here that no one is mentioning?  I've listen to Channel D Pure Music and I love it (but not enough to switch to Mac wink ).  I heard Pure Music at Axpona last year for the first time with the Lynx DAC and the JA Pulsars...beautiful.  I discovered JRiver as the the best Windows based platform and once I started using it - I never turned back.  As Priaptor has stated - JRiver is a solid program and IMHO sounds as good as Pure Music. cool

 

P.S. Do any of you use a Windows platform at all?  You know with JRiver you can get rid of the problematic windows Kmixer by using ASIO or WASAPI modes. wink  

Michael Lavorgna's picture

And I found Steve's report timely and informative.

Of course this has nothing to do with JRiver's Windows-based product which is obviously much more mature. I use it, along with others, on my PC.

prerich45's picture

10-4, I read ya now! yes

deckeda's picture

... is about the Mac version because JRiver finallly appearing on the Mac platform is news. That doesn't imply any and all other versions of the software are newsworthy, today.

Despite that, he also mentioned that JRiver's performance on Windows is essentially a forgone conclusion because it's been around so long and because of its popularity, so any "rush" to review it probably won't happen, despite both his and Michael's access to it and to Windows.

Perhaps a shootout of Windows players is in order?

deckeda's picture

ML types faster than I do!

deckeda's picture

more consicely!

Steven Plaskin's picture

I'm primarily a Windows guy and hope to have Windows 8 running on my MacBook Pro as soon as Boot Camp for Windows 8 is released.

I have used JRiver for many years on my PC, and agree that it is a great sounding program for Windows. 

weirdo12's picture

It would be helpful to know so that your review had some context. For example, version 18.0.138 fixed memory play which apparently was not working correctly.

Here is the list of versions and changes:

http://yabb.jriver.com/interact/index.php?topic=78427.0

Steven Plaskin's picture

The first official release 18.0.139 Alpha for the general public was what I reported on.

FHC's picture

Thanks Steven for bringing the new JRiver to my attention.  I hadn't heard that it was out.  I was mightily impressed with what I heard from their software running on a PC server.  (The Baetis) It makes sense that their reaching audio nirvana will take some time.  As you pointed out several times, the software is in it's infancy.  The more the merrier as far as I'm concerned.  All of these companies: Pure Music, Audirvana, JRiver jockying for an edge will continue to make our musical experience richer and more refined, regardless of the platform one chooses.  Sooner than soon, we'll all get hi-rez tunes for the price of a utility bill-streamed directly into whatever we want.

At these prices, the spoils are ours to choose.  Thanks Again,

Fred

(you can bet, I'll be playing with this software in the short term.)

 

Superdad62's picture

While I am interested in JRiver Mac as an alternative to iTunes for music management, native playback of FLAC files, etc., I am also quite keen on Audirvana Plus--in large measure due to integer-mode playback while upsampling using the customizable iZotope SRC (a combination which neither Pure Music or Amarra offer), and its stability.

What I really wish for is the ability to use A+ with other apps: most specifically JRiver Mac.  A guy can dream...

Am wondering what JRiver is really capable of.  And what SRC engine they use.  I'm not ready to give up the iTunes/A+ combo just yet, but I will enjoy watching JRiver develop a solid program for the Mac and will try it when it is fully functional.  I wish them the best.  Maybe Damien at Audurvana might have something to offer or license to JRiver.  Probably not, but they should certainly take a good listen to A+ and consider getting an iZotope license for the Mac version.  But what do I know.

Music_Man's picture

 

 

Hi Steve,

Thanks for getting the word-out regarding Mac JRiver.

Your sonic comparison between Pure Music and JRiver parallel my experiences yesterday.  JRiver works, but isn’t sonically comparable yet.

Although I own a MacBook, a Mac Mini (strictly for my audio room), and an Apple TV, I'm more knowledgeable of the Windows' OS than Apple's and before converting to the Mac Mini for audio, I used a Windows PC and JRiver.  In my audio room, I was quite happy with the latter, but not so much with the former.  

So, because I prefer the JRiver interface to iTunes related ones, I would love to see Mac JRiver equal or exceed the sonics of the Mac based iTunes players like Pure Music.  

Sonic quality is my first and foremost requirement in a music player.  If the sonics aren't the best, all other options, the user interface etc., are unimportant!  

I use Apple products because they “just work”.  I dislike Apple products because they “just work”; but try to protect me from myself and try to control and constrain what I do with their hardware and software. 

Attempting to develop a player that is competitive to iTunes (which doesn’t direct one to the iTunes store) and then meets or exceeds add-on players like Pure Music, would seem to represent a tough task in Apple’s controlled -- we don’t like competition -- environment.    

Although a good deal at its "alpha price", I'm hesitant to purchase until I'm certain that the JRiver Media Center Team has the ability and tenacity to program a stand-alone Apple OS based program that will equal or exceed the sonics of present iTunes based audiophile players.  Hopefully, the sonic bogie is also the top priority of the JRiver Team and that they then plan to (and Apple doesn’t prevent them) from keeping up with future OS upgrades.  If I knew that to be the fact, I wouldn’t hesitate to become an early adopter of Mac JRiver.  

Axiom05's picture

Hi! I was just wondering if you have tried any of the more recent releases of JRiver for Mac? I am thinking of giving a try myself at some point in the near future.

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