Audiophile Sound Quality - XBMC vs. Foobar

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PedroSoares Offline
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Post: #1
I've been using XBMC on my HTPC for years for stereo music listening. On my audio system the sound I get from XBMC is really good, but when I listen to the same music track in foobar, I always get a more rich, powerful an detailed sound.
I've been struggling with this for a long time, and tried a lot of options, but never succeeded on having XBMC to perform as well as foobar.

With version 12.0 I was hoping that the new AudioEngine could resolve my problem, but it's the same.
In foobar I'm using ASIO and all the effects are disabled. The audio tracks are FLAC 16/44.
In XBMC I'm using WASAPI as output sound driver. (on previous versions, before WASAPI was available, directsound was really bad)

My HTPC setup:
  • Asus XONAR STX Audiophile sound card (equiped with an outstanding Burr-brown DAC)
  • NAD amplifier + JMLab focal floorstand

This is what I already tried without success:
  • I was using Windows 7, and read somewhere that Windows 8 had better sound. So I upgraded to win8, but it's the same. Now the boot takes much longer.
  • In windows sound settings, the sound card is setup for exclusive mode access.
  • Tried Asus drivers as well as third-party drivers for this sound card: Unified ASUS.

Does anyone know what I should do to get a better sound quality from XBMC? All suggestions are welcome.
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T800 Offline
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Post: #2
Have you looked at the advanced settings for AudioEngine?

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PedroSoares Offline
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Post: #3
yes. the only setting that seemed relevant was the "audiophile", which I set to 1. (description: forces playback of original format, will not down/upmix next song to match current)
it made no change.
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rat666 Offline
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Post: #4
i use XBMC Frodo with Linux (Openelec) and have the same experience.(i´ve tried audiophile and streamsilence in advancedsettings.xml)
i guess that is has something to do with the internally transcoding into 32 Bit or Float.
The HDCD Flag in my ripped Flacs is also killed at the digital output. (Reveiver switches permanently between 2 CH PCM and HDCD)

HTPC (AMD X4 620, Geforce GT 520, Tevii 470, Antec Fusion Case with Imon LCD) with Openelec Gotham Nightlies
Raspberry Pi with Openelec Nightlies for Testing

(This post was last modified: 2012-11-27 22:10 by rat666.)
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PedroSoares Offline
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Post: #5
(2012-11-27 22:04)rat666 Wrote:  i use XBMC Frodo with Linux (Openelec) and have the same experience.(i´ve tried audiophile and streamsilence in advancedsettings.xml)
i guess that is has something to do with the internally transcoding into 32 Bit or Float.
The HDCD Flag in my ripped Flacs is also killed at the digital output. (Reveiver switches permanently between 2 CH PCM and HDCD)

do you get better quality in foobar as well?

in linux (openelec) do you think it may help trying different ALSA settings ("hw" instead of "plughw" for instance)?
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rat666 Offline
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Post: #6
these settings don´t exist anymore in frodo, i´ve tried <audiophile>, <streamsilence> and <allowtranscode44100> in advancedsettings.xml with no success.

i haven´t compared xbmc and foobar directly, but if i can remember it corrct, foobar sounds better.
i´ve compared my opp95 directly with xbmc via HDMI and SPDIF and the oppo sounds better.
i´ve also compared the oppo and foobar via HDMI Output some time ago and i heard no difference.

there is a discussion in the openelec forum about bitperfect output in frodo, but they didn´t found a solution.

HTPC (AMD X4 620, Geforce GT 520, Tevii 470, Antec Fusion Case with Imon LCD) with Openelec Gotham Nightlies
Raspberry Pi with Openelec Nightlies for Testing

(This post was last modified: 2012-11-28 22:33 by rat666.)
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Musicmaya Offline
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Post: #7
openelec 2.0 is just too good for bitperfect, will dump windows foobar combo

the newer frodo with AE is still buggy, may the developers will give us another hit with final release..
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DDDamian Offline
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Post: #8
This kind of debate is nice to see Smile

See my post here for a few comments....

System: XBMC HTPC with HDMI WASAPI & AudioEngine - Denon AVR-3808CI - Denon DVD-5900 Universal Player - Denon DCM-27 CD-Changer
- Sony BDP-S580 Blu-Ray - X-Box 360 - Android tablet wireless remote - 7.1 Streem/Axiom/Velodyne Surround System
If I have been able to help feel free to add to my reputation +/- below - thanks!
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PedroSoares Offline
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Post: #9
I found it's a driver issue. or some bad implementation on the WASAPI driver of my soundcard, ASUS Xonar STX

in foobar+WASAPI I get the same crappy sound as in XBMC.
foobar+ASIO sounds much better.
too bad XBMC don't support ASIO.

I have the latest drivers for my soundcard. I even tried a independent branch of these drivers.
On Linux there is the same problem. Nothing I tested so far sounds as good as ASIO with this hardware.
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DDDamian Offline
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Post: #10
I do suspect that's part of it. Asus for one does make pretty crappy drivers, and SoundBlaster is even worse. I'm using HDMI via a GPU and HDCD indicator lights up just fine, indicating bitperfect.

Be sure any possible "enhancements", mixing, etc is turned off in driver settings. Many sound device manufacturers throw a number of "features" in for sound enhancement, "3D sound" etc etc.

System: XBMC HTPC with HDMI WASAPI & AudioEngine - Denon AVR-3808CI - Denon DVD-5900 Universal Player - Denon DCM-27 CD-Changer
- Sony BDP-S580 Blu-Ray - X-Box 360 - Android tablet wireless remote - 7.1 Streem/Axiom/Velodyne Surround System
If I have been able to help feel free to add to my reputation +/- below - thanks!
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Golfers Offline
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Post: #11
I'm thinking to purchase Asus Sonar Essence STX due to its good reviews and plans to use its coaxial output to connect to my tube DAC

According to Pedrosoares XBMC doesn't support asus driver?
Any chance to use it without asio?
If not supported, anyone knows any good sound card with coaxial output?

Thanks
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PedroSoares Offline
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Post: #12
Asus provides two type of audio interfaces between this card and the applications - WASAPI and ASIO.
XBMC supports WASAPI but not ASIO.

With the latest asus drivers, the sound is modified in WASAPI. I can only get the best from ASIO.
Most people won't notice, but with a high end setup, it's easy to tell the difference.
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Golfers Offline
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Post: #13
Understood
Thats interesting. My current setup is using on board spdif coax output and found that the mid and high a bit unclear/not open
Sorry accidentally pressed the send button
(This post was last modified: 2013-01-16 19:53 by Golfers.)
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Golfers Offline
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Post: #14
Mid and high not open but the lows is good.
It is using on board spdif coaxial output with wasapi. Any suggestions?
I dont want to use other than XBMC since I'm very satisfied with it. Really great job and salute to the team.
So hopefully the team will keep on improving the stereo playback to satisfy the audiophiles XBMC.
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nickr Offline
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Post: #15
Guys I am not trying to hijack this thread, but my interest is piqued Smile My knowledge is mainly video related formats like dts, starting to get a knowledge of HD audio in the video context. But playing music to audiophile standards is a mystery to me. I guess we are mainly talking stereo as opposed to 5.1 or 7.1 sound.

In a typical audiophile setup, what is the pathway for audio? I assume one starts with flac or something else that is lossless. I have also heard of high quality DACs like Burr Brown (in fact I think my squeezebox boom has one).

So what format do you output to your DAC? Does it accept a flac file? Does the computer have to decode the audio to LPCM and feed that to the DAC?

Seems to me that the driver shouldn't matter f it is simply passing a digital stream to a high quality DAC, hence my interest and confusion.

Nearly bedtime, hopefully I will wake up to your enlightenment.

If I have helped you or increased your knowledge, click the plus button and increase my reputation :)
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