Audirvana Plus 1.3.9.9

Product Type: Media Player Software for OSX
Availability: Online
Price: $49.00 (15 day full feature demo)
Manufacturer’s Website: www.audirvana.com

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.

Audirvana Plus 1.3.9.9 has substantially improved in overall stability from the pre-release I first wrote about. I think that it’s time to revisit this program’s sonic qualities.

Direct Mode/Integer playback for OSX Lion/Mtn. Lion reduces signal processing by bypassing all of Core Audio even at its lowest level HAL layer. Not all DACs will allow integer playback as a result of their particular drivers. I have found that those DACs that support the native OSX USB 2.0 driver tend to work with this new program. Direct Mode provides a benefit to all users and is a prerequisite for integer playback. Assuming your DAC supports integer, you will see an "INT" indicator at the right of the Audirvana Plus program screen. It should be mentioned that the DSP options available in Audirvana Plus will not function with Direct Mode/Integer playback. I would like to concentrate on the sonic benefits one will experience using Direct Mode/Integer for OSX Lion/Mtn. Lion.

What is immediately apparent with Direct Mode/Integer is an increase in the size of the soundstage width and depth. Listening to the standard Audirvana Plus, Pure Music, Decibel, Amarra, and Fidelia, the soundstage differences with the Audirvana Plus beta were easily heard. The beta reduces warmth in the mid bass compared to the other programs but this warmth also obscures midrange detail, presence, and definition. For some systems, this reduction in warmth will tend to create a “leaner” sound, but I feel that it is more accurate and revealing. There is less darkness to the overall sound with the Audirvana beta release. Complex orchestral and choral works are better resolved with less hardness to the sound and better articulation of the individual voices and instruments. Bass is tighter and better defined as compared to non-integer playback.

I listened to my download of the week pick Quiet Winter Night 192/24 a 2L recording by the Hoff Ensemble. The review sample Acoustic Plan DigiMaster sounded terrific with the Direct Mode/Integer beta. The recording had a large acoustic space with excellent dynamics and bass. The vocalists were clear with very good presence. I then rebooted the computer and listened to the same music with the standard Audirvana Plus. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing! The large acoustic space collapsed with a thick mid bass. The vocalists fell back into the soundstage and lost clarity. The difference between these two programs with this excellent recording was startling.

I prefer to use Audirvana Plus concurrently with iTunes allowing me to control the program with the iPad app Remote. I have had no issues with the beta playing all sample rates up to 192/24 and gapless playback worked flawlessly with both the Wavelength Streamlength USB code and AcouticPlan's asynchronous USB code.

Damien has done a great job with Audirvana Plus with Direct Mode/Integer for OSX Lion/Mtn. Lion. I feel that it sets the bar for OSX music playback software.

Components used for testing: Early 2011 MacBook Pro 2.3 GHz Quad Core with 16 GB RAM, and Vertex 4 SSD for the operating system. Music files are on a Promise Pegasus 8TB Thunderbolt Drive. DACs used for testing were the Wavelength Crimson HS / Denominator and the AcousticPlan DigiMaster. A Synergistic Research Tranquility Base was used under the computer along with a Synergistic Research Thunderbolt Active SE cable for the Pegasus drive. A Tranquility Base was also used under the DACs. An Audioquest Diamond USB cable was used with both DACs.



Associated Equipment

COMMENTS
DavidL's picture

I am finding the player reviews here a valuable guide to auditioning alternative players for streaming on my Mac Laptop, however I think you, and (as far as I can tell) all other reviewers, have missed one important point:
If one of these players is installed to provide better local playback via USB or Firewire audio interfaces does it inhibit the serving capabilities of the computer doing the streaming?
At the moment my music serving via ethernet is confined to using Airplay with iTunes to play remotely 16/48 (i.e. 16/44.1 converted by iTunes to Quicktime) but I intend to move on from this to hi-res in the near future. Testing Decibel I discovered that if I use this for streaming it prevents Airplay output so I cannot listen remotely.
Could you please summarise the capabilities in this area of the players you tested?
Thanks
David