• Mac Pro, OS X & Windows Vista Ultimate 64 Bit

     
    Windows fans can no longer say Computer Audiophile is too focused on Macs. I now have Windows Vista Ultimate 64 bit installed and I'm working on getting excellent audio reproduction as you read this. I picked up a Mac Pro for my main music server and I've been configuring it for what seems like 48 hours straight. Mac OS X is no problem to configure and in fact it was up and running about 10 minutes after power on. The time consuming part is Windows Vista Ultimate 64 Bit.

    Maybe I should rephrase the part about Windows being time consuming. The process of downloading Windows Ultimate 64 bit from Microsoft and creating a bootable DVD was incredibly time consuming. That may be a story for another day. I'll just say that Microsoft doesn't provide downloadable files that allow users to create bootable DVDs. So, a million websites later and a few third party apps and I had my DVD made so I could install Vista via OS X Boot Camp. If I would have only known that VIsta Ultimate in the retail box is the same price and comes with the 32 and 64 bit versions in the same package :-( A little research would have saved me more hours than I care to add up.
     



     

    In addition to installing Vista Ultimate 64 I want to install Windows XP on the same Boot Camp partition. After a few mis-fires with this venture and another million websites later I think I have a good way to acomplish this. There are more than a few ways to triple boot OS X, Windows Vista 64, and Windows XP 32, but many of them are pretty unappealing.

     
    So, my goal with the new Mac Pro music sever is to produce bit perfect sound from Mac OS X, Windows XP 32, and Windows Vista Ultimate 64. On this "journey" I will be updating everyone on the progress and let everyone know what actually works and what doesn't. I've read way to many opinions about the bit perfection or lack of bit perfection from every operating system so I've decided to get to the bottom of it all myself and post my results. Plus I'll be posting my opinions about everything along the way. Remote control options for Windows Vista and apps like MediaMonkey, J River Media Center, and XXHighEnd are one thing I am very interested in and will be writing about.

    I've recently learned of a potentially very expensive flaw in Windows based playback. It involves "losing clock" which creates some very bad noise and has actually blown tweeters. If you're testing some cheap speakers in the garage then it's know big deal. If you have some new HRx files cranked up on a pair of Avalon Eidolon Diamond speakers then you'll want to pay attention :-)

    In other somewhat related news, I have a Berkeley Audio Design Alpha DAC and Lynx Stidio AES16e card both on the way. These will allow me to test for bit perfect output and give me an extremely low jitter output. That's it for tonight, or should I say this morning (3:10 AM Central Time).
    Comments 18 Comments
    1. TheRocker's Avatar
      TheRocker -
      This will be a very interesting project Chris, and a great way to test each OS using identical hardware - one less variable!<br />
      <br />
      Despite the fact I am now firmly in the Apple camp after years of putting up with Windows and spending way too much time trying to configure Linux, it is always good to keep an open mind regarding alternatives.<br />
      <br />
      I look forward to reading more about this soon!
    1. The Computer Audiophile's Avatar
      The Computer Audiophile -
      Hi Vincent - Your concern about my selection of the 64 bit OS is a very valid one. There was no way I was going to touch XP 64 bit because support for that was a nightmare. Nobody built anything for the 64 bit OS. Since Vista's release the 64 bit version has really gained a lot of ground and my research suggests it's about 10% behind the 32 bit version s far as compatibility goes with consumer products. I definitely hear you about companies going the route that will bring in more cash, hence the 32 bit support straight away.<br />
      <br />
      One large reason why I selected the 64 bit architecture and the 64 bit OS was for the huge memory support. I'm adding 6 more GB to the standard 2 GB for a total of 8 GB in my Mac Pro. While this may seem like a lot I think it's a wise move. Apple recommends at least four memory modules for best performance so FB DIMM technology takes advantage of multiple channel access. and the 256-Bit Wide memory architecture. Plus when playing back a 4 GB 24/192 album that is not broken up into tracks I want to prevent hard disk paging/swapping. I also want enough headroom to handle whatever comes up and the RAM from OWC is pretty cheap. 2x2GB modules from OWC is only $170. Through Apple the exact same memory is $1,000!<br />
      <br />
      Anyway, thanks for the comments and I look forward to discussing the progress of the project.
    1. audiozorro's Avatar
      audiozorro -
      Good luck Chris. I feel you are a glutton for punishment but as the majority of CA readers and world pc users use Windows, I can understand why. For a source of support, are you collaborating with any pro-audio studios that may be using Windows based systems? Are you unfairly handicapping yourself by separating from the strengths of Core Audio? I hope all of your Windows readers appreciate what you are doing. Personally if I were starting out all over again with a Windows computer I would go with a Logitech Transporter and later, possibly add a better external DAC. Whereas if I were starting out all over again with a Mac computer I would go with the Apogee Duet and later, possibly upgrade to a much better FW DAC such as the Weiss unit that you recommend. And for me, I believe the Lynx Studio AES16e would be a serious possibility for my Windows computer but not for my Macbook Pro since I use the sole PCI slot for an add-in card that provides additional high speed and independent FW ports.
    1. The Computer Audiophile's Avatar
      The Computer Audiophile -
      Hi Audiozorro - In fact I am collaborating with some very respected people in the world of high-end audio and pro audio. We discuss this stuff on a daily basis. It would be great if all the readers used Macs and Macs produced sound that is much better than Windows PCs, but that's not the case.<br />
      <br />
      I still use OS X as my music server operating system of choice. However, the newest results on Windows based PCs are very encouraging and some have even said the sound is better than OS X when properly configured.<br />
      <br />
      Nothing but good things to come for computer based audio!
    1. Wavelength's Avatar
      Wavelength -
      Chris,<br />
      <br />
      I have been working on Vista Ult32 for about 8 months now. I bought it because there was allot of software that said 32 bit only, will not work with 64???<br />
      <br />
      Anyways... Direct Sound works allot like iTunes and OSX. It will resample to the output set in the Control Panel: Sound. Make sure you set the options all too off in the control panel for all that other crap and set the sampling rate in advanced.<br />
      <br />
      ASIO and Exclusive do vary sample rate to match the application. But so far I have not heard a good generic ASIO.<br />
      <br />
      Vista is allot easier to setup compared to XP and sounds allot better on USB devices.<br />
      <br />
      I have Home Premium also on a computer and Vista Ult32 on a new desktop 3GHZ Core 2 Duo I got for $500.<br />
      <br />
      Have allot of test equipment attached to a Cosecant running 24/96 stuff so I can see what the os is actually doing. Hope to have some sorta guide lines done soon.<br />
      <br />
      Thanks<br />
      Gordon
    1. The Computer Audiophile's Avatar
      The Computer Audiophile -
      Very cool Gordon. There is so much misinformation around about Vista that it's really distracting everyone from achieving the best sound possible from the operating system. I think many people hoped Vista would just go away, but that's not going to happen any time soon.<br />
      <br />
      Guidelines would be a fabulous step in the right direction.
    1. XP9433's Avatar
      XP9433 -
      If you are trialling "XXHighend" with Vista perhaps you could add "cPlay" for XP to your player tools & trials?<br />
      http://www.audioasylum.com/cgi/vt.mpl?f=pcaudio&m=31286<br />
      Using SSSE3 Intel processor of course <br />
      http://www.audioasylum.com/forums/pcaudio/messages/3/34827.html<br />
      <br />
      Cheers<br />
      Frank
    1. VincentH's Avatar
      VincentH -
      Guidelines for Vista sure would be great. Would these also apply to a firewire device? (I'll be auditioning the Weiss DAC2 in September). <br />
      <br />
      Just to help a bit in readers struggling against misinformation, I find <a href="http://blogs.msdn.com/larryosterman/default.aspx">Larry Osterman's WebLog</a> a trustworthy and enlightening source about Vista audio implementation. Larry has been developing software at Microsoft for 24 years, is a member of the Devices&Media group, and has been working on the complete Vista audio engine redesign & implementaton since the very beginning <a href="http://blogs.msdn.com/larryosterman/archive/2005/09/19/471346.aspx">in 2002</a>.<br />
      <br />
      Some interesting posts on Vista Audio by Larry:<br />
      <ul><br />
      <li><a href="http://blogs.msdn.com/larryosterman/archive/2006/03/07/545451.aspx">Audio in Vista, the big picture</a></li><br />
      <li><a href="http://blogs.msdn.com/larryosterman/archive/2005/09/20/471872.aspx">Windows Audio Quality Enhancements</a></li><br />
      <li><a href="http://blogs.msdn.com/larryosterman/archive/2007/04/03/volume-in-windows-vista-part-1-what-is-volume.aspx">Volume in Windows Vista, part 1: What is "volume"?</a></li><br />
      <li><a href="http://blogs.msdn.com/larryosterman/archive/2007/04/04/volume-in-windows-vista-part-2-types-of-volume-in-windows-vista.aspx">Volume in Windows Vista, part 2: Types of volume in Windows Vista</a></li><br />
      </ul><br />
      <br />
      Some interesting tidbits I distilled:<br />
      <ul><br />
      <li>All calculations in the Vista audio engine are now done in 32 bits floating point (was integer in XP), which gives 24 bits accuracy.</li><br />
      <li>For Vista compliance, Microsoft requires all software to not touch the sample at all at 0 Db.</li><br />
      <li><a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Technical_features_new_to_Windows_Vista">According to Wikipedia</a>, "<cite>IEEE 1394 (aka Firewire) audio support is slated for a future release of Windows Vista, to be implemented as a full class driver, automatically supporting IEEE 1394 AV/C audio devices</cite>"</li><br />
      </ul><br />
      <br />
      Hth, VincentH
    1. The Computer Audiophile's Avatar
      The Computer Audiophile -
      Very cool Vincent! The more information the better!
    1. VincentH's Avatar
      VincentH -
      Hi Chris, could you also include <a href="http://www.foobar2000.org/">foobar2000</a> with it's optional <a href="http://www.foobar2000.org/components/index.html">WASAPI output support</a> component in your test?<br />
      <br />
      This component "<cite>Adds Windows Audio Session API <strong>exclusive mode</strong> output support, allowing bit-exact output and muting all other sounds on Windows Vista systems. Windows Vista SP1 or newer required.</cite>"<br />
      <br />
      Microsoft insiders have answered many times on forums that exclusive mode is required for bit-perfect output in Vista.<br />
      <br />
      I'm using the above as I am typing this, and it indeed behaves as advertised (all sounds other than the player are not heard, indicating that the mixer is bypassed). However, I don't have the means to confirm bit-perfect output.<br />
      <br />
      Thanks, Vincent.
    1. The Computer Audiophile's Avatar
      The Computer Audiophile -
      Hi Vincent - I'm a very happy to test foobar2000 for you and the other readers. I think I will shoot some photos of the DAC's lights when I achieve bit perfect playback with each application. This way we all have proof positive and a solid reference to come back to when more questions arise. In addition when an update is released it only makes sense to update the "bit perfect photo library."
    1. jrebman's Avatar
      jrebman -
      Ah, now we're talking. I'm really happy to see this discussion start -- not because I love Microsoft or anything like that, but for me as a blind person, the PC is still really the only viable platform with state-of-the-art screen reading technology. the Apple OS' built-in screen reading option (the only one in the Apple world) cannot be taken as a serious screen reader yet, and I'm pretty doubtful that it will ever approach the sophistication and stability we have in the extremely mature Windows environment.<br />
      <br />
      Right now the most accessible media player application is winamp (or WMP, but that's not even remotely being considered), so adding this to the packages to be tested will be a nice touch. The only other real candidate right now that shows any promise is foobar 2000, and I think I can write some screen reader scripts to help tame that a bit. iTunes is now somewhat accessible with special scripts, but apparently the interface is extremely clumsy with speech, and Apple seems to break their own code with each new release, as well as take some pretty far-fetched liberties with the Windows API, which all adds up to this not being under any kind of serious consideration.<br />
      <br />
      Helium and J River are hopeless at this point, but possibly may be able to be tamed with some extensive scripting.<br />
      <br />
      I've made a decision to move both my systems entirely over to USB DACs with a laptop controller and my NAS in the basement for the centralized storage. I need a laptop to control squeezecenter anyway, so why not go direct from computer to DAC and leave another clumsy piece of software out of the mix? That's my reasoning anyway.<br />
      <br />
      Again, glad to see this being discussed as it really is the only option open to me.<br />
      <br />
      Thanks,<br />
      <br />
      Jim<br />
    1. jimim's Avatar
      jimim -
      Chris,<br />
      <br />
      how are you doing your head had to be spinning by now! how are you doing on the windows side of things. i fell so bad for your mac right now! just kidding. anyway, when you get a chance or anyone here. can you explain to me the benefits of the soundcard you are going to be using compared to usb connection. i thought that usb gave you pretty much jitter free output to a device? with the soundcard you are using how will it benefit you. i see it had a clock output on it. how would that be used?<br />
      <br />
      so am i correct in saying that the program you also use say itunes will also affect output if the settings are optimal. meaning using the one Gordon has up on his site.<br />
      <br />
      jimi
    1. dan's Avatar
      dan -
      Hi Jimi,<br />
      <br />
      I agree with you, I can not see the benifit of using the soundcard and the DAC, but I am really new to this subjuct and this extra information has just confussed me!<br />
      <br />
      However, whilst looking at some other posts on Reference Records, I see Chris mentions that Reference Records suggest the following ...<br />
      <br />
      "The people at Reference Recordings strongly suggest using a computer with the Lynx Studio AES 16e PCIexpress card connected via AES/EBU to a Berkeley Audio Design Alpha DAC"<br />
      <br />
      So the question is, what does this extra soundcard to DAC configuration give you as opposed from going straight to DAC via USB. I would really like to understand this as I would like to build my own computer based audio server within the next 6 months and I am using this website to get as much information as possible so that when I do build it, I can get it right!<br />
      <br />
      Dan.
    1. jimim's Avatar
      jimim -
      I was wondering what the diff between using this soundcard as compared to the USB out on a computer. Also about the clock attachment. Now would that come into play in an example?<br />
      <br />
      jimi
    1. The Computer Audiophile's Avatar
      The Computer Audiophile -
      Hi Jimi and Dan - You guys are asking the right questions. The Lynx card allows me a more flexibility to review DACs for one thing. The main reasons I am using this card are support for up to 24/192 output (think HRx), extremely low jitter, and the fact that Lynx cards are highly recommended and used among the high-end recording industry. This particular card has only been out for about six months so I can say 100% that the card is proven, but the AES16 which it is based on has been proven over and over again in the recording industry. <br />
      <br />
      Speaking of Reference Recordings and the recommendation of the Lynx card, I have been working very closely with the person who developed this recommendation. We are working on some good stuff right now :-)<br />
      <br />
      The Lynx card may not be for everyone. it does require a PCI/PCIe card which isn't going to happen with a MacBook or a Mini. In addition most people don't have any material over 16/4.1 and if they do it usually tops out at 24/96 which a DAC from Wavelength or Benchmark will certainly handle and sound pretty good. Plus those with a Toslink output from their computer can cover these resolutions with the PS Audio DLIII as well. If Notebook users want 24/176.4 or 24/192 they can always get the Minerva from Daniel Weiss and output via FireWire. After all this DAC received the best review I've ever given an audio component.
    1. BEEMB's Avatar
      BEEMB -
      <br />
      Vincent,<br />
      <br />
      Those links you provided to the weblog re Vista - I'd be very interested in reading them. They don't appear to work ?<br />
      <br />
      Matt.
    1. The Computer Audiophile's Avatar
      The Computer Audiophile -
      Hi Matt - I just tried the links and all of them worked for me.