Media Player Q&A: Q1 Should We Replace iTunes?
Jonathan Reichbach, President, Sonic Studio (Amarra)
First of all, we really like iTunes. Not only is iTunes ubiquitous as the music management system of choice for computers and devices, it's very convenient, super easy to use and provides access to a wide range of content. Really for all intents and purposes, iTunes is a 'killer app'. However for all it's facility, iTunes does have a few shortcomings especially for music enthusiasts who strive for the most accurate music reproduction possible. Amarra improves on iTunes in this area and is able to deliver the fine detail and realism audiophiles demand. Another shortcoming is that iTunes doesn't support support some of the recent audio formats such as FLAC, which has become a favored high resolution music standard.Damien Plisson, Founder, Audirvana (Audirvana Plus)
Sonic Studio developed Amarra to work alongside iTunes and brings the fine detail and nuance in music that audiophiles demand. Using Amarra with iTunes means you get a best-in-class experience managing your music as well as listening to your music exactly as the artist intended.
iTunes is a media (not only music) library manager, store, and iDevices manager, in addition to be a media player. Audio quality reproduction is not the priority, convenience is.Tim Murison, Co-Founder & CTO, BitPerfect Sound Inc., (BitPerfect)
And the "High quality" tunes are lossy compressed files…
iTunes sound quality is comparatively poor and it does not configure the DAC automatically for bit perfect playback.Stephen F. Booth, Founder and Developer, sbooth.org, (Decibel)
If you would have told a Mac user in 2000 that a decade later they would use SoundJam MP to purchase and transfer software to their Apple-branded phones, they would probably say you were crazy! iTunes has become something of a jack of all trades used for such diverse tasks as CD ripping, audio playback and conversion, iDevice management, Ping, and iTunes U to name but a few. As the saying goes: jack of all trades, master of none. iTunes is certainly a good choice for a beginning user who wants a single, monolithic solution for listening on their Mac. However, iTunes falls short for more advanced users who need to listen to audio in other formats, who want to use cue sheets, who want to apply DSP, or who want to adjust their DAC's sample rate based on the file they're listening to. For any of these use cases iTunes is not a good solution because it does not provide the flexibility to perform these tasks.Jussi Laako, Owner, Signalyst (HQ Player)
General purpose players, like iTunes and Windows Media Player plays content through the operating system audio engine. These audio engines are optimized for low resource consumption and for wide range of different use cases, like VoIP telephony, game play and video playback. These have partially differing requirements compared to high quality music playback. Players optimized for best music playback quality bypass these OS audio engines and access the audio device driver directly. This allows optimizing the playback chain from a file (or CD) to the audio device, for best possible music playback quality.Josef Piri & Marcin Ostapowicz, JPlay (JPlay)
Simple fact is that all players sound different i.e. some sound better than others...Jim Hillegass, Founder and CEO, JRiver (JRiver Media Center)
JRiver Media Center is an audiophile grade player. iTunes is not. iTunes cannot play bit perfect audio at multiple sample rates. It lacks support for ASIO and WASAPI, the best way to talk to sound devices.Dr. Rob Robinson, Director of Engineering, Channel D, (Pure Music)
iTunes is very big and very slow. (Benchmark at jriver.com/speed.html)
iTunes runs multiple background processes without asking.
It has no support for popular lossless formats like FLAC and APE. It has no support for DSD. It emphasizes proprietary Apple formats like AIFF and ALAC.
iTunes has no support for DLNA, no ten foot mode, no support for high quality video with surround sound.
JRiver has an open approach to design and development. The forum offers direct communication with JRiver developers.
There are certain critical, missing features in iTunes that are required by many high-end audio enthusiasts.
For example, automatic sample rate switching, volume control dithering, DSD playback, switchable audio polarity inversion, and other advanced signal processing such as a multi-way speaker crossover or third party plug-ins (convolution based room correction or parametric EQ). High end audio amounts to a tiny percentage of the market targeted by iTunes, so these features are unlikely to ever be added to iTunes, which is designed to appeal to the general public. That’s the reason for going to a third party music player.
We choose to augment iTunes rather than replace it, as you say, because the details of music library management are automatically implemented by Apple (and therefore guaranteed to work across OS and computer model updates). Then we can focus all of our energies on the things that matter, instead of creating a database application. With Pure Music running, iTunes is idling between zero and a fraction of one percent of total CPU. Incompatible audio formats (DSD) are not a problem because a proxy file technique, which we invented in 2010 (patent pending), facilitates getting iTunes - incompatible audio formats to appear in your iTunes music library.