• Sonic Studio Unveils Amarra

    The application I've been dropping hints about for several months has finally been publicly announced. Amarra from Sonic Solutions is really a special application. I've always thought iTunes and the list of other applications sound very good. Until I heard the difference Amarra made at RMAF 2008. I wasn't a big fan of the speakers in the room, but the improvement in sound quality was immense.
     

     

    I'm not sure how I missed the official press release, but I think chatting with the President of the company for a few hours over dinner probably provided much more information than anything else. The Computer Audiophile readers will certainly be the first to know about the latest developments with Amarra, including release dates, pricing, hardware options etc... Here is the official press release to keep everyone happy for now :-)

     

     



    Pro Audio Company Gives First Public Showing of High End HiFi Product


    Denver, CO - October 10, 2008 — Sonic Studio, LLC, in conjunction with their representative VRS Audio Solutions, provided the first public showing of their new ultra–fidelity music server, Amarra. Taking place at the Rocky Mountain Audio Fest in the mile high city of Denver, VRS staged demonstrations of the newest member of the growing media server class in their demo room.

    Based on Sonic Studio’s legendary line of professional linear PCM products, Amarra is an integrated software and hardware alloy that leverages Sonic Studio’s storied history in pro audio with the industry’s longest running digital audio workstation. Amarra’s hardware is drawn from the exclusive FireWire–attached, Series 300 line of DSP I/O Processors while the software derives from soundBlade, Sonic Studio’s high end production application.

    Unlike prior audio server products, Amarra runs on the stable, secure and friendly Macintosh operating system. To ease user interaction, Amarra also coordinates with iTunes, the industry standard for asset acquisition, storage and playback. Able to play uncompressed audio files up to 192 kHz, Amarra is architected to accommodate future enhancements as technology and the server market advances.

    Amarra is a whole new concept in music servers. The same technology that produces the master files used by record labels large and small for music distribution on Compact Disc, DVD-Audio and for download, is also used to create a music server that handily bests all others in fidelity, the foundation of any audiophile product. Amarra provides the highest quality playback, coupled with the convenience of iTunes, the world’s most popular music delivery system. Soon to be available through select dealers, more information about Amarra is available at www.amarraaudio.com. For more on Sonic Studio, visit www.sonicstudio.com.



    About Sonic Studio
    Sonic Studio, LLC is the premier manufacturer of ultra–fidelity PCM and DSD content creation systems. Sonic Studio’s Emmy award–winning NoNOISE II suite is the leading audio restoration toolset for archivists, record labels, videographers and forensic investigators while their product lines for Red and Scarlet Book premastering define the state of the art. Sonic Studio’s digital audio workstations and software are in use at major studios, record labels, broadcast and post production facilities worldwide. Based in Marin County, California, Sonic Studio has an international network of distributors and channel partners who share their commitment to quality and service.

    soundBlade, Series 300, amarraaudio.com, sonicstudio.com and the Sonic Studio logo and type are trademarks of Sonic Studio, LLC in the United States and other countries. All other trademarks, trade names, service marks, and logos referenced herein belong to their respective companies. 081013v1r1

     

     
    Comments 40 Comments
    1. The Computer Audiophile's Avatar
      The Computer Audiophile -
      Hi Dan - This is one of the surprises I've been hinting at. Over the last few months it has taken different shapes and transformed a little from when I first heard about it. I originally thought it was going to be a software only solution that would fit right in with my current reference music server. Currently it is a complete solution comprised of software and hardware. From what I hear it may still improve my current system using the firewire as the digital I/O into my Alpha DAC. Since the product is still pre-release this is all speculation. I'll have the solution in my hands very soon and can start testing. <br />
      <br />
      You can beat the sound of Amarra and the auto sample rate recognition! I hate closing iTunes and reopening it every time I change audio midi for a different sample rate. Amarra solves this issue. <br />
      <br />
      Much more to come as the product is closer to official release.
    1. lapaix's Avatar
      lapaix -
      There is really no way for me to put a MacPro in my listening room- wife would argue justifiable homicide as they carted me away- so I wonder if there is a wireless server solution that would allow me to have high quality given an excellent DAC, something like Amarra ( curious name, by the way, since "amaro" means bitter in Italian). Must I have a computer planted next to my DAC for this to work?<br />
      <br />
      Thanks,<br />
      <br />
      David
    1. RC's Avatar
      RC -
      "There is really no way for me to put a MacPro in my listening room"<br />
      <br />
      David,<br />
      <br />
      You could go wireless, a la Sonos or similar. But why not a Mac Mini? They're small, inconspicuous and clean in appearance. Who needs a big Mac Pro for a music server -- it's overkill. You need merely a small, quiet machine that can offload the true musical tasks to dedicated equipment.<br />
      <br />
      My Mini and Zero DAC fit happily inside a Lax Series Entertainment Console, where they feed the Simaudio amp. No separate screen is used. I control the server via my laptop using Apple screen sharing, running the Mini's iTunes from my MBP. Learned about that here on Computer Audiophile. :-) <br />
      <br />
      Another benefit of this hybrid wired/wireless approach is that my headphone sessions are controllable this way, too, since, optionally, the laptop can also share the server's iTunes library and play it locally, thus enabling this nifty mobility: server (wirelessly) --> laptop --> portable DAC/headphone amp.
    1. Poo's Avatar
      Poo -
      Yeah, I have to second the Mac Mini call. I know it means the Lynx is out, but seriously... does it really matter? My Mac Mini is easily the best purchase I have made in years, and amongst the cheapest! Audio sounds fantastic out of it either USB or optically via a good DAC, and it's so small your wife won't know it's there anyway - just control it with an iPod Touch and Remote software. Even if your wife does find it - it's the cute little kitten of the computer world... she can't send it out into the cold!
    1. bixby's Avatar
      bixby -
      Hi Chris:<br />
      <br />
      I am new here but am very interested in your thoughts on computer audio. I saw, but did not spend time listening to the Amarra setup Vincent had at RMAF. I did speak with Vincent about a better player than iTunes and it's possible impact on sound quality. His explanation of the VRS solution with Amarra makes sense. But when I asked about price, it is out of my league at approx $9k. My question is can one get close to the sound of the Amarra with either iTunes or another player or some other pro audio software?<br />
      <br />
      Since you have already stated that Amarra bests iTunes I think I know the answer, but is it $6k to $8k better? And I know that is a silly question to ask an Audiophile, but if you had to put it in those subjective terms? <br />
      <br />
      I have used itunes and Win Media Player via ASIO on an XP machine through my Lavry DA-10 to my system and while close still prefer the CD player as transport. And the Sonus was a step further back in my opinion. <br />
      <br />
      My current thoughts are to go the Mac route (Macbook and perhaps with an outboard drive) and get a firewire dac like the Apogee Mini Dac and use iTunes or would that be too close to what I heard with my xp machine and Lavry?<br />
      <br />
    1. The Computer Audiophile's Avatar
      The Computer Audiophile -
      Hi Bixby - You asked the questions many people want to know answers to. As far as Amarra goes and the price v. other solutions etc... I suggest holding out for a little while. The pricing and options are not set in stone yet. Coming up with a different solution based on very preliminary info may be a disservice to yourself and the rest of the readers. <br />
      <br />
      Is Amarra thousands of dollars better? In my opinion yes it is. Audiophiles are very used to spending this much on hardware like amps and speakers. Amarra improves the sound much more than many other upgrades in this hobby. When it is finally released to the public I recommend a listening session some how.
    1. lapaix's Avatar
      lapaix -
      Thank you very much for your response. I was hoping that a Mac Mini would work, but didn't want to buy one and find out the hard way that it didn't. By the way, I called Sonic Solutions and an engineer there (a very nice person) told me that he uses their Amarra system with a Mac Mini and that it works very well. I suspect that the Sonic Solutions server will be very expensive, but the pricing is not yet set, and they are working on a two-channel system. The ability to play things like HRx recordings at true 24/176 is very appealing, so perhaps the real potential of digital is at hand.<br />
      <br />
      David
    1. The Computer Audiophile's Avatar
      The Computer Audiophile -
      Hi Guys - Just a couple points of clarification. The company is Sonic Studio (not Solutions) and it is not releasing a "server." There will be a DAC, Digital I/O, and the Amarra application as far as I know.<br />
      <br />
      Just so we are all on the same page :-)
    1. audiozorro's Avatar
      audiozorro -
      Since I am often skeptical about audio things that I read about and have not heard, I hope that there are various options and price points. A software only solution, better than iTunes, that could be tested and expanded into the ideal hardware/software solution would be preferred.<br />
      <br />
      I do not understand how you could drop rave hints about an audio product for several months that you have not heard, that is until you heard the difference Amarra made at RMAF 2008, but maybe I am forgetting one of your earlier posts. <br />
      <br />
      I am also skeptical when I read what I consider exaggerated claims when you write "the improvement in sound quality was immense". Really? - immense compared to your Reference Music Server? Perhaps my skepticism comes after reading a Stereophile reviewer comment for one of the A+ Recommended Components that may have stated something like "my wife says it's better than sex". My immediate thought was - you idiot and pathetic sex partner.<br />
      <br />
      Anyway, the CA website has not mislead us so far and I hope Amarra will not disappoint the CA readers.
    1. DanRubin's Avatar
      DanRubin -
      At RMAF, the gentleman demoing Amarra asked if I had heard of Sonic Studio. I had not. He claimed it's used for 75% of recordings. Really? I mean, Sonic Solutions I have heard of, but...<br />
      <br />
      I continue to wonder how it would be better sounding than iTunes. How is iTunes limited from a sonic perspective?
    1. The Computer Audiophile's Avatar
      The Computer Audiophile -
      Hi audiozoro - Your skepticism is certainly valid and accepted around here.<br />
      <br />
      My rave hints about this product come from several sources. Personally I have know about the feature set for some time and I believe the auto sample rate recognition feature to be huge. As far as sound quality goes, I am in contact with a few people who've been using the app for a few months. I respect their opinions greatly and we often come to the same conclusions during tests conducted independently. Trust me, I would never take someone's word about sonic qualities if I was not absolutely positive. If I did I would discredit myself very fast.<br />
      <br />
      The sound quality improvement really is immense. It was very apparent immediately. I really hope everyone has a chance to use the app and hear it for themselves.<br />
      <br />
      <br />
      Please keep in mind this is one of the products I've been hinting about and often in the context of sample rate adjustments and complaints about closing iTunes etc...<br />
      <br />
      <br />
      Thanks for the post audiozorro.
    1. Purite Audio's Avatar
      Purite Audio -
      Chris Hi ,I can see the auto sample rate recognition would be useful, but how does it improve sound quality? Better dac, lower jitter signal , software ? Regards Keith.
    1. The Computer Audiophile's Avatar
      The Computer Audiophile -
      Hi coops - The neatest thing during the demo was the ability to A/B Amarra v. iTunes. The sonic improvement was night and day to my ears.<br />
      <br />
      So, with the A/B button all hardware was excluded as the source of improved sonics. I suppose iTunes could have a problem with the hardware in use, but without evidence of that I'll go with what I know right now.
    1. Purite Audio's Avatar
      Purite Audio -
      So in the dem, exactly the same hardware, the only difference was the Amarra software? I read that it 'shadows' Itunes ? Regards Keith.
    1. The Computer Audiophile's Avatar
      The Computer Audiophile -
      Hi Keith - Yes and Yes :-)
    1. machinehead's Avatar
      machinehead -
      DSP?<br />
      <br />
      Hi Guys,<br />
      <br />
      I was at the RMAF, the first time I tried to go into the Haberth/Amarra/DNM room, they asked me to wait, that they were "running room corrections". Sounds like that would include some type of digital sound processing. Is this part of the hardware package? Sounds like it could have greatly influenced the sound. If so, that would not be a true representation of bit perfect files running through the HiFi.<br />
      The sound with DNM/Amarra/Harbeth 40.1's was simply one of the best at the show, or should I correctly state, one of my favorites. We listened to a Reference Recordings 16/44.1, unfortunately they had problems getting the 24/176.4 version of that album running while I was there. Knowing what I do now, I would have waited to hear it.
    1. The Computer Audiophile's Avatar
      The Computer Audiophile -
      I'm not aware of any DSP / room correcting features in Amarra at this time. <br />
      <br />
      I'll check on this and let you know if my assumption is incorrect.
    1. DanRubin's Avatar
      DanRubin -
      I was also told to come back later on several occasions on Saturday, so I was not able to have a second listen. If they were using DSP, I'm sure it was separate from the Amarra solution, so demos of Amarra out vs. in were valid (i.e., the DSP enhancement would have applied whether or not Amarra was in use).
    1. lapaix's Avatar
      lapaix -
      Sorry guys, my nomenclature mistake. The engineer at Sonic Studio did suggest "solutions" though.
    1. machinehead's Avatar
      machinehead -
      Right I agree.<br />
      The only reason I mentioned it was because we always discuss bit perfect output, and if room correction was <br />
      used, then I would think that would be an altered data stream, not bit perfect.<br />
      <br />
      Jeff