• Windows 7 Music Server - The First 48 Hours

    Windows 7 has been available for about two days. Here is a quick update for the Computer Audiophile readers about my last 48 hours spent with the new operating system. First and foremost I have to admit I really want Windows 7 to succeed and be a great music server platform. I'd like nothing more than to wave goodbye to Windows XP, a legacy OS that is tough to find (legally) these days. My first 12 hours with Windows 7 were filled with frustration and disappointment. Everywhere I clicked I received an error message at best and more blue screens than I've seen in the last three years. In the last 12 hours I've made major headway and I'm pleased to say I like what I hear thus far.


     

     

    For those who like to cut to the chase and want to know what is working for me right now, here it is. The formulas below are giving me bit transparent audio output as far as I can tell.

    Formula One

    Windows 7 Ultimate 64-bit

    Lynx AES16e PCI-e card using firmware version 7.0 (July 21, 2008) and Lynx Mixer version 2.00 Build 017 RC1 (October 15, 2009). This Lynx Mixer version is available HERE from the Lynx Forum.

    MediaMonkey version 3.1.2.1277. This version is available HERE from the MediaMonkey Forum.


    ASIO version 0.67, this is the same version I have always used with MediaMonkey. It's available HERE.

     

    Formula Two

    Windows 7 Ultimate 64-bit

    MediaMonkey version 3.1.2.1277. This version is available HERE from the MediaMonkey Forum.

    Built-in plugin waveOut output v2.0.2a, with a dCS asynchronous USB Paganini Upsampler as the output device. It also works with the dCS U-Clock asynchronous USB converter and I'm guessing this formula will work with most USB DACs.

    This formula appears to be operating in Shared Mode and is dependent on a manual sample rate adjustment when listening to music at multiple sample rates. If other Windows sounds are playing at the same time as the music the audio will cease being bit transparent.


     

    What's Not Working

    When I say not working I mean either no audio output, error messages, blue screens, or not bit transparent audio output.

    ASUS Xonar Essence STX Deluxe audio card with the newest Windows 7 (Beta) drivers. Causes blue screen errors and system to restart frequently. Bit transparent output is off & on when the PC is operating.

    MediaMonkey built-in plugin waveOut output v2.0.2a has not worked with the Lynx card. Sometimes I get no audio and other times I don't get bit transparent audio output.

    None of the Microsoft Sound Mapper or DirectSound output options has produced bit transparent output for me yet.

     

    Wrap Up

    I plan on updating this article as my testing continues. I will try many other applications and configuration options. Please let me know what combinations you would like me to test and I will do my best to make it happen.

    The sound quality I've heard in my system thus far has been very good. I obviously haven't been able to do much critical listening, but I have done a fair amount of casual listening and I like what I hear. I have my fingers crossed :~)

     
    Comments 79 Comments
    1. nanotheater's Avatar
      nanotheater -
      Industry wide- there has been a big push to incorporate Windows 7 as a media server. I went over to the 'white side' when Vista was introduced- and have never looked back.<br />
      <br />
      I have seen the 'Beach Ball of Death' only 24 times since the change.<br />
      <br />
      <br />
      Using a new MS operating system with anything other than brand new hardware is a pathway to heartache.<br />
      <br />
      Forget Windows 7, 8, 9 and eventually 10. Mac is stable for media applications right now.
    1. The Computer Audiophile's Avatar
      The Computer Audiophile -
      Hi Jesus - Yes, the crashes were all related to third party issues. Windows 7 by itself seems stable and fast. I'm using 64-bit because I have 10GB of RAM in this machine.
    1. vortecjr's Avatar
      vortecjr -
      The recent mac release had the apples falling off the tree with Amarra issues. Again it was not the os itself, but third party related. <br />
      <br />
      So back to my party story One of the three apples was also a pc user. He happen to be a recording studio owner. His company voiceovermart uses mostly apples (yes he loves them and I heard it more than once), but has a new pc server because the one software he really wanted to use was only on a pc......<br />
      <br />
      Regards<br />
      <br />
      Jesus R<br />
      www.sonore.us
    1. Lapierre's Avatar
      Lapierre -
      Chris how much time are you spending downloading and implementing sound cards for Formula One and Formula two?<br />
      <br />
      When I read your articles I feel like you need something like a woodworking jig to make things work. Not the user experience I was thinking about for Windows 7.
    1. chasw98's Avatar
      chasw98 -
      Chris:<br />
      I have been using Windows 7 Ultimate 64 bit for maybe a month now. I have been using Media Monkey and J River music center which is output to USB and straight to a PS Audio DL III DAC. All the music I have been using has been ripped with DVDaexplorer, converted to FLAC, and tagged. All the music started out as DVD Audio Hi Rez selections.<br />
      <br />
      It has been rock solid for me. NO blue screens, no crashing, just working. This is all being done with an HP DV5-1000 laptop which has a Core 2 Duo T5800, 4 Gb ram using wireless N to connect back to a server holding the music. The way I have it set up I am able to "A/B" the original disc in a Lexicon RT-20 player against the software playback through the DLIII and on to the rest of the system. I am pretty sure I am getting 'bit perfect' output because the playback between the 2 devices is as good or better when using the computer with the music ripped to FLAC. I cannot prove this scientifically so take it with a grain of salt. An added benefit is that this particular laptop has IR control with a Microsoft Media Center remote built in so I can run it from across the room.<br />
      <br />
      I look forward to seeing how it works out for you. If you have any way for me to test my results, let me know and I will be glad to participate.<br />
      <br />
      Chuck
    1. carloscarr's Avatar
      carloscarr -
      Chris - Are you able to get hi-res playback via the new beta Lynx driver? I upgraded the firmware on my aes16e to v9 and upgraded the driver to the new beta version that you are using, and I can no longer play files with resolution >96hz (ie, 176 or 192)(via single-wire output to BDA-1). These previously played fine with this software and hardware configuration. The OS which I encountered this problem on was Vista32, and now having upgraded to Win7_32 it persists. The light on the DAC indicates the resolution of the stream correctly eg, 176, but no sound is produced. The Lynx Mixer Outputs panel also show no activity on the relevant channel when the file being played is above 96k resolution, so this might be a bug in the beta driver, or if you are not experiencing it, a bug in the new aes16e firmware.
    1. The Computer Audiophile's Avatar
      The Computer Audiophile -
      Hi Lapierre - Welcome to Computer Audiophile. To answer your question about time spent, I like to think of it this way - I spend the time to find a formula that works, then I write about it so the readers don't have to spend time recreating the wheel. <br />
      <br />
      If someone implemented formula one or two above they would be listening to bit-perfect music in no time.
    1. The Computer Audiophile's Avatar
      The Computer Audiophile -
      Hi carloscarr - I believe the new firmware is for 32-bit operating systems only so I skipped it. I can play everything from 44.1 to 192 via single wire just fine. Your issue is similar to one of the issues I encountered over the last couple days. Are you using ASIO? So far it's required in my system.
    1. The Computer Audiophile's Avatar
      The Computer Audiophile -
      Hi Chuck - Thanks for the info. Fortunately your USB DAC uses the built-in Windows driver, thus no blue screens. My issues were with third party drivers :~( <br />
      <br />
      <i>I am pretty sure I am getting 'bit perfect' output because the playback between the 2 devices is as good or better when using the computer with the music ripped to FLAC. I cannot prove this scientifically so take it with a grain of salt. </i><br />
      <br />
      I took it with a pound of salt :~) I wish there was an easy way for you to get more "scientific" verification of bit perfect output. The sound output will likely be pretty good even if it's not bit perfect depending on the amount of bit altering being done. <br />
      <br />
      <br />
    1. labjr's Avatar
      labjr -
      Any word on USB Class 2 drivers?
    1. The Computer Audiophile's Avatar
      The Computer Audiophile -
      I believe we have to wait for sp1.
    1. Nicholas.Bedworth's Avatar
      Nicholas.Bedworth -
      Using WMP at unity gain will give bit-perfect output, including HDCD. This is according to the dev team that wrote the code. Several are knowledgeable audiophiles (along with their day job as developers )<br />
      <br />
      What happens with other drivers and players, I don't know. Just see if the HDCD light comes on in an external device, which is a good litmus test. Being able to detect bit perfect playback by ear is I suspect a superhuman feat.<br />
      <br />
      And at less than unity gain, the volume control software is highly sophisticated affair, generally competive with that of high-end DACs that don't use mechanical potentiometers or resistor networks. They were very serious about audio playback in Vista compared to XP, and put a huge engineering effort into it. Win 7 contains additional improvements of an incremental nature.<br />
      <br />
      Having used Windows 7 for a year now, the overall experience is way, way better. The attitude in Redmond was, when it's ready, we ship, and not before, and this shows. The product was tested by a very large community, well into six-figures worldwide.
    1. Lizard_King's Avatar
      Lizard_King -
      Chuck,<br />
      <br />
      Do you feel that Windows 7 sounds better, worse or no change from xp or Vista using a USB dac?<br />
      <br />
      Liz
    1. Matias's Avatar
      Matias -
      Windows 7 is working fine here with MediaMonkey 3.1.2.1277 + Otachan ASIO plugin SSE + ESI Juli@ 1.07 (SPDIF).<br />
      I have an Asus M2NPV-VM motherboard, AMD 6000+ CPU and 2 gigs of RAM.<br />
      <br />
      For me it sounds better than it did with the same config on Windows XP.<br />
      Thumbs up!
    1. grsteve's Avatar
      grsteve -
      What is the advantage of using 64 bit ultimate (or Pro) over Home, Premium 64 bit?<br />
      <br />
      -Steve<br />
    1. Matias's Avatar
      Matias -
      See their differences here:<br />
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Windows_7_editions
    1. The Computer Audiophile's Avatar
      The Computer Audiophile -
      Not much difference at all. For me, I want to know I have every option possible. The price difference wasn't really that much either.
    1. Lizard_King's Avatar
      Lizard_King -
      Matias,<br />
      <br />
      Are you running the 64 bit version of Windows 7 with Media monkey 32 bit?
    1. JR_Audio's Avatar
      JR_Audio -
      WMP is in no way Bit True under Windows 7 nor does it switch automatically to different sample rates. Thins is the case theoretically and practically (and I have confirmed it (sure with all volumes up to 100)) with my Audio Precision and the Bit True test), but at least the output is 24 Bit. ;-)<br />
      <br />
      Juergen<br />
    1. Nicholas.Bedworth's Avatar
      Nicholas.Bedworth -
      According to the developers, they're seeing HDCD bit streams passing through WMP and lighting up the HDCD indicator on external devices, at least in the 16 bit form, at unity gain, thus they are inferring bit-perfect in this specific situation, despite the 32 bit floating point volume control. So it's apparently touchy.<br />
      <br />
      My impression is that bit-perfect is available under some, but not all, scenarios. DD/DTS seems to work OK with external receivers, indicating that they're apparently happy with the output; this apparently happens through the DD/DTS bypass mode. <br />
      <br />
      We'll be testing via S/PDIF shortly, and at 24 bits.