• JRiver Media Center 17 In Detail

    It has been nearly two years to the day since I wrote about JRiver Media Center [Linklink]. At the time JRiver was on version 14 and Windows 7 was somewhat new to audiophiles. Now JRiver has progressed to version 17 and most computer audiophiles have moved from previous versions of Windows to Windows 7. Much of the meat in that first article still holds true today. Using Exclusive Mode and WASAPI output remain great methods of outputting bit perfect audio from one's computer. Nevertheless it's time for an updated article that computer audiophiles can use as an unbiased reference for JRiver configuration and information.





     

    Introduction

    JRiver Media Center version 17 is no doubt my favorite playback application for the Windows operating system. JRMC's plethora of playback options, output modes, user interface, format support, and customization capabilities are a few reasons why it's my go-to playback application on Windows 7. As a company JRiver Inc. has been around for over 30 years. Granted the Media Center application hasn't been around that long but the longevity of the company suggests the people at JRiver Inc. are doing some things right. A cursory look at the JRiver Interact forum shows evidence the company is very responsive to its customers and leading the way when it comes to full featured playback applications. Compare JRiver Inc.'s responsiveness to that of Microsoft (Windows Media Player) or Apple (iTunes) when a customer requests a new feature or posts a possible issue on the user forums of the respective companies. Receiving a personal response from a company representative from Microsoft or Apple would be an extremely rare occurrence. Not so with JRiver. It's very common to see forum posts from both the CEO Jim Hillegass and CTO Matt Ashland on a daily basis.

     

    JRiver Media Center 17

    When using JRiver Media Center 17 my playback goal is to output bit perfect audio unless otherwise noted. JRMC is capable of Digital Signal Processing that includes sample rate conversion and room correction, but DSP that alters the original audio signal is not the main focus of this article. In addition to outputting bit perfect audio I like to customize the look of JRMC to display information that's important to me such as sample rate, bit depth, and file format.


    Graphical User Interface

    JRiver Media Center's graphical user interface (GUI) works great immediately after installation. The default view doesn't require any changes to play music and navigate one's music collection easily. In fact I used the default view without any changes for quite awhile after I first began using JRMC years ago. Computer audiophiles seeking to get the most out of JRMC will likely want to customize the user interface just a bit to suit their needs better than the average user. Plus, most audiophiles don't realize they can disable or hide features such as Video and Image support. Here are some features and user interface customizations I consider important.

    Disabling or hiding unused features of JRiver Media Center is a very common topic among computer audiophiles. Many people I meet at Music Matters events around the country ask if there is an audio only version of JRMC. These users have no idea specific features can be disabled or hidden from view. After installation the left side of the JRMC window displays nine items in the "Tree" that allow browsing of Audio, Images, Video, Podcasts, and more. I prefer to hide all but the essential audio related items. Removing some of these items can be done with a simple right-click & delete command, but that alters the default view schema in a way that requires the user to recreate aspects of the view that have been deleted. The best way to remove items from the JRMC Tree is via the Tools > Options > General > Features area. This area controls much more than the Tree items, but I'll cover the other features in different sections of this article. Expanding the Features list from within the JRMC General settings displays 22 different features. Removing support for Images, Video, and Podcasts is accomplished by de-selecting, or un-ticking as our UK readers call it, the corresponding boxes for each feature. Once these features are de-selected and the OK button is clicked they will disappear from the Tree view. That alone is a nice step for the music aficionado who only uses JRMC for audio playback.

     

    The Performer Store item listed in the Tree by default is a bit different from the other items that allow users to browse their own media. The Performer Store, as the name suggests, allows users to browse media online and purchase tracks or albums as MP3s or a physical format. I prefer to remove this item from JRMC because I don't purchase music through this portal and would rather simplify the user interface. Removing the Performer Store from the Tree is accomplished by selecting Tools > Plug-in Manager > Store > Performer Media Center > Hide. There is also an option to uninstall the plug-in if desired but I prefer to leave the option to use the store available just in case.


     

    Removing the headings "Drives & Devices" and "Services & Plug-ins" from the Tree is not possible. It is possible to remove some of the child items within the headings themselves. I prefer not to browse my computer's drives through JRMC and I don't have a television tuner connected to my computer. As such I remove these items from view in the same General > Features area as discussed previously. De-selecting Explorer removes the ability to browse one's computer through JRMC and de-selecting TV removes Television from the display as well. My main JRiver Media Center computer is a C.A.P.S. v2.0 server without a CD/DVD/Blu-ray drive. Thus, I have no Drives or Devices listed beneath this item in the Tree. Removing or hiding Services & Plug-ins is accomplished in the aforementioned Plug-in Manager. Selecting Tools > Plug-in Manager > Interface > TiVo Server > Hide removes this feature from view. Amazon, Audible, and CD Baby can be hidden via the Store icon three selections below the Interface icon.

     

    Sliding one's eyes up and over to the right readers will see the main Media Center display where information about the currently playing track is viewed.



    My preference is to customize this display to show the information important to me. Right-clicking anywhere within the long rectangular display shows options to Show Spectrum Analyzer, Show Ratings, Show Alternate Display Text, and Customize Display. The menu is self explanatory. Selecting Customize Display enables users to pick and chose any of the JRiver Media Center variables. I like to display the album artist, track title, and album title on the top line or what JRiver calls the Title line. On the Status line I like to cram many items including elapsed time of the track, total time of the track, remaining time of the track, bit depth, sample rate, bit rate, number of channels, and the currently selected playback zone. Customizing the display to show these items can be accomplished by copying and pasting the following text into the Title (excluding the italicized headings) and Status lines of the Customize Display windowlink.

    Title: [Album Artist (auto)] - [Name] ([Album])
    Status: [Elapsed Time] // [Total Time] // [Remaining Time] [Bit Depth]-bit//[Sample Rate] kHz [Bitrate (labeled)] [Channels] Channel [Zone]


     

    JRiver Media Center 17 has a highly refined 64-bit software volume control and several different options for using or disabling volume control in the application and the computer in general. A few years ago many playback applications used 16-bit volume software controls. Whenever the volume was set to anything less than 100% / maximum the application would have to cut off bits of the outgoing audio, starting with the 16th bit, reducing dynamic range and quality of the audio. When playing 16-bit recordings this could become a problem quickly as more attenuation was used. Playing 24-bit recordings and using a 16-bit volume control was a disaster as the last 8 bits were automatically chopped off the top with any level attenuation. Then came 24-bit volume controls like that currently used in Apple's iTunes. Attenuating the level of a 16-bit recording with such a volume control is not that bad because there are 8 bits worth of zeros the listener can afford to lose without cutting into the actual audio. The maximum bits used by 24-bit recordings is around 20, thus providing a little breathing room for a 24-bit volume control. A little attenuation and no important bits are cut off. Although the HDCD flag in HDCD recordings is on the Least Significant Bit (LSB) or 24th bit and will be lost with any attenuation by a 24-bit volume control. JRMC v17 uses a 64-bit volume control that provides at least 40 bits of breathing room for all 24-bit high resolution music. In theory a 64-bit volume control allows the listener to attenuate the level by over 240dB before cutting into the 24th bit of recording. However, in practice any volume attenuation cuts into a 24-bit track when the DAC in use only accepts 24-bits on the input. Converting a 24-bit file to 64-bits as JRMC does internally and attenuating the volume still reduces the number of bits starting with the 24th bit when output to the DAC simply because the hardware doesn't accept 64-bit audio. This is simply a hardware limitation. Nonetheless a 64-bit volume control offers real precision improvements when processing items such as upsampling, room correction, and bass management.

    There are several volume modes and options available in JRMC 17 including Application Volume, Internal Volume, System Volume, Disabled Volume, and Volume Protection. Even if a user doesn't employ any volume attenuation it's nice to understand what each volume mode accomplishes.
    • System Volume - Controls the volume of every sound coming from the computer. Similar to a master volume. Doesn't work when outputting via modes such as WASAPI - Event Style that send audio directly to the audio card or DAC.

    • Application Volume - Controls only the volume of JRiver Media center as long as it's running on Windows Vista or a newer version of the operating system. JRiver doesn't recommend this volume mode for users seeking the best sound quality. Doesn't work when outputting via modes such as WASAPI - Event Style that send audio directly to the audio card or DAC.

    • Internal Volume - This is the higher quality 64-bit volume control used by the JRiver audio engine. It's less important for listeners outputting bit perfect audio and very important for listeners using DSP options like upsampling, room correction, or bass management.

    • Disabled Volume - As the name suggests this disables all volume controls. I use this mode when sending bit perfect audio to an external DAC.

    • Volume Protection - This feature saves listener's ears and tweeters by not allowing volume increases over 5% at a time or 20% per second, and resets the volume to 10%, unless already lower, if playback has been stopped for 30 minutes.

    • Startup Volume - There are two options for startup volume. 1. Optimize volume for best sound quality: is only applicable to Windows XP and earlier operating systems. The feature sets the Wave Out volume to 100% on JRMC startup. 2. Set volume: simply sets the JRMC volume to the the specified level when launching the application. Both options are available in Tools > Options > Startup.


     



    A new feature in JRiver Media Center version 17 is the Audio Path button. This button is a little image of an equalizer located below the rectangular currently playing display. According to JRiver's Matt Ashland, "The DSP button on the Noire skin lights up blue when doing direct (bit-perfect) output.*Mousing over the DSP button will show the complete audio path (input, any effects, and output)." I really like this new feature and the fact that it's prominently displayed. Awareness of the audio path is critical to achieving the best sound quality. For example, if the equalizer is enabled the Audio Path button will not illuminate blue and will display the word Equalizer when hovering over the button. Whether someone forgot to turn it off, accidentally enabled it, or is using the EQ purposely it's nice to know what's happening with a quick glance at this button. One item of note, the Audio Path button will illuminate blue even when the output is no longer bit perfect due to volume attenuation. JRiver's position is that the software volume control is of such high quality it's a legitimate option for high end audio installations.
    Click To Enlarge

     


     

    JRiver Media Center 17 is great for creating Smartlists. This is also known as a Smart Playlist in other applications. Smartlists filter media based on criteria set by the user and remain up to date as new content is added to the library. For example I frequently use Smartlists based on the bit depth and sample rate of my music. Quickly browsing through my 24-bit / 96 kHz content is an easy way for me to test new equipment for functionality at this resolution. Smartlists can filter content based on nearly any identifier in JRMC. A quick look through the list of filters shows items such as artist, album artist, channels, conductor, genre, mood, replay gain, and on and on. Smartlists are created by selecting Playlists in the JRiver Tree on the left followed by Add Smartlist in the main window. Filtering content is done by creating rules such as the default Media Type is Audio. Here is a video showing the creation of a Smartlist containing only 24-bit / 96 kHz music.



     

    Editing metadata isn't the way most of us like to spend our time. There are a couple decent applications that specialize in metadata but do nothing more. JRiver Media Center is not only great for music playback it's also a pretty good tool for editing one's metadata as well. A critical part of JRMC's metadata editing capabilities is its ability to embed the information in each file as long as the file format supports embedded tags. Once embedded the music can be transferred to any computer in one's house or recovered from a backup copy while retaining all of the special metadata edits that are so time consuming.

    Editing metadata in JRMC is done by selecting a track or album then selecting Edit > Tag from the main menu. By default only the most basic information is editable in the small window that appears in the lower left corner. I prefer to see every possible tag in a larger editing area. First I select the small up arrow in the tag editing box. This maximizes the box. Second I right click the empty space in the tag editing box to view the options Show Default Tags, Show Tags With Values, Show Tags In Current View, and Show All Tags. I select Show All Tags. This option displays 103 tags. Way too much information for some readers no doubt, but it's perfect for me. Not all tags are editable such as Bit Depth and Sample Rate or even applicable such as Series and Situation. After editing a tag JRMC displays a status message such as Saving Changes or Done Saving Tag Changes. These changes are what's embedded into each file along with the information already displayed in the tag editing window.
     


     

    Shortly before this article went to press (only kidding, but it was literally days ago) two new features were introduced by JRiver.

    1. NEW: Version 17.0.88 added full support for DSF tagging (uses ID3v2 tags at the end of the file).
    Support for DSF file tagging is great for users with DSD files either downloaded or ripped from SACD in this format. I have the Blue Coast Collections volume 1 and 2 downloaded from Blue Coast Records in DFF file format. DFF files have a very limited tagging scheme that's not covered by JRiver's new DSF tagging support.
     


    2. NEW: Version 17.0.89 added the HDTracks store including download and search (Services & Plug-ins in the tree).
    It's now possible to browse and search the HDTracks store from within the JRiver Media Center interface. Even better is the fact that purchases made through JRMC are downloaded and automatically added to the JRMC library and placed in the appropriate Artist folder on the user's hard drive. The need for a Java downloading application and moving tracks to the library is now gone for users with JRMC 17. If the HDTracks store isn't visible in the Services & Plug-ins part of the JRMC Tree it can be enabled by navigating to Tools > Plug-in Manager > Store > HDTracks > Show. I downloaded a 24/192 track by TrondheimSolistene through the JRMC to test the new interface. After the purchase JRMC displayed the download status in both the small Action Window and in a main Downloads section visible above the HDTracks store icon in the Tree. The whole process was seamless. Readers should also note the 24/192 track I purchased was automatically added to my 24-bit / 192 kHz Smartlist.
    Click To Enlarge

         


     

    Playback Options and Settings

    Most of the aforementioned JRiver Media Center features were about aesthetics. The next set of features and options have much more to do with audio playback and getting the best sound quality possible from one's computer. Before I dig deeper into JRMC's playback features and options readers should understand my position about how to achieve the best sound quality from the application. First, the phrase best sound quality means the most accurate to the original source. The original source is the file being played through JRiver Media Center. Second, the most accurate playback is accomplished by outputting a bit perfect audio stream to one's Digital to Analog Converter (DAC). There are many other views as to how to obtain the best sound quality including the use of upsampling and room correction. None of these views, including mine, is correct for everyone in all situations. Currently the best sound I've heard has come from music servers sending untouched bit perfect audio to an external DAC. Therefore I will go into detail about how to obtain such results.


    What is bit perfect or bit transparent output? Both terms are used to describe digital audio output from a computer to an external DAC or interface converter, such as USB to S/PDIF or AES/EBU, that hasn't been altered in any way by upsampling, volume control, room correction, etc. There are several ways to achieve bit perfect output. The most common ways use a combination of Windows Audio Exclusive Mode and either Kernel Streaming, WASAPI, WASAPI - Event Style, or ASIO audio output modes.

    Note: Some of the following text was also included in the original JRiver 14 article. Windows 7 has not changed these options thus a complete rewrite was not necessary. The Windows operating system uses what's called Exclusive Mode and Shared Mode when handling digital audio. These two Modes affect how Windows and audio applications communicate with audio devices like USB DACs and D to D converters. Exclusive Mode is somewhat analogous to connecting a DAC directly to an amplifier. Exclusive Mode enables an audio stream to go directly to an audio device bypassing intermediate processing. There is no mixing of audio streams from other applications including Windows sounds. The obsolete KMixer from Windows XP gathers all digital audio streams converting them into one sample rate before outputting the homogenized stream to an audio device. This is similar to how other output methods handle audio with layers upon layers of operating system processing and possible manipulation. Exclusive Mode enables direct access to the audio device but does not guarantee anything more than than this. It is one critical piece of the bit perfect puzzle. Shared Mode can roughly be compared to using a preamplifier between a DAC and amplifier. The preamp is there to handle multiple audio streams (among many other things). When a device operates in Shared Mode audio is sent from the playback application to a global audio engine where any number of effects may be applied before finally reaching the audio device such as a USB DAC or audio card. Shared Mode is not recommended for those seeking the best audio quality.

    Simple Test:?Users who have a DAC that displays the current sample rate being fed from the music server can run an easy test to determine which Mode is in use. Simply play two tracks with different sample rates. If Exclusive Mode is in use the sample rate on the DAC should change. If Shared Mode is in use the Default Format (sample rate) that is set in the audio device Properties > Advanced tab will be displayed on the DAC. If the Default Format is set to 24 bit, 48000 Hz (Studio Quality), playback of a single 16/44.1 track will provide a quick answer to the Exclusive or Shared Mode question as well.

    Enabling one's DAC or interface converter to operate in Exclusive Mode is simple an must only be completed one time. On a Windows computer, enter the Control Panel then enter the Sound settings. On the Playback tab the preferred output device, such as the Berkeley Audio Design Alpha USB in this case, should be listed. Enter the properties of the audio device by selecting it and clicking the Properties button. Select the Levels tab and make sure the volume is set to 100. Move over to the Enhancements tab and select Disable All Enhancements. Most important is the Advanced tab. The Default Format can be set to anything, it really doesn't matter as this should never be used if everything is working correctly. Underneath the Default Format is the Exclusive Mode settings. Both Exclusive Mode boxes should be enabled for proper bit perfect playback (using ASIO doesn't require this, but it certainly doesn't hurt to have these options enabled).
    Click To Enlarge


     

    Once Exclusive Mode is enabled for the proper audio device users must configure JRiver for bit perfect output. At first blush this may seem like a daunting task, but in reality it's fairly simple and needn't be done more than once. Tools > Options > Audio > Audio Output is where users select what output mode JRiver should use to send audio to their device. ASIO, WASAPI, WASAPI - Event Style, and Kernel Streaming are all what JRver calls hardware direct. These four output modes send audio straight to the audio device and provide an easy method of delivering bit perfect playback. Exactly what output mode is used is highly dependent on the audio device (hardware) and user preference. Some DACs don't support WASAPI or ASIO but most support at least one of these four modes. In my experience with a plethora of DACs and converters WASAPI - Event Style performs better than the other three modes. However, if a hardware manufacturer provides an ASIO driver the chances are high that the ASIO driver will work just as good and maybe better than other output modes. The AURALiC ARK MX+ DAC is one example of this. AURALiC provided an ASIO driver that functioned flawlessly while I experienced problems with other output modes.

     

    Exclusive Mode in combination with any of these four Audio Output modes is critical for bit perfect playback.

    WASAPI: Windows Audio Session Application Programming Interface is similar to ASIO in that it enables audio to be sent directly to a sound device. Some refer to WASAPI as Microsoft's answer to ASIO. WASAPI first appeared in Windows Vista and remains part of Windows 7. WASAPI by itself is only a tool that software companies can use to enhance audio playback applications. WASAPI enables applications to take exclusive control over an audio device like a USB DAC or audio card as long as Windows is properly configured to allow Exclusive control of the device. When using WASAPI I use the following settings.

     

    WASAPI - Event Style: This output mode enables the audio device to pull data from JRiver Media Center. It is my preferred output mode because it not only works more often than not but it has many advantages over standard WASAPI. Event Style allows for lower latency buffers while removing a problematic Microsoft Windows layer. This problematic layer can rear its head because of a WASAPI or Microsoft OS driver bug causing stuttering during playback with standard WASAPI. The stuttering is caused by out of order circular buffers. It can be resolved by stopping and restarting playback or using WSAPI - Event Style. Event Style is simply a more direct path for audio to flow to the audio device. Additional and a bit more geeky advantages, according to JRiver, are "creating, using, and destroying all WASAPI interfaces from a single thread", the fact that the "hardware never sees any pause or flush calls. Instead, on pause or flush, silence is delivered in the pull loop. This removes the need for hacks for cards that circle their buffers on pause, flush, etc.", and the "main 'pull loop' uses a lock-free circle buffer (a system that J. River built for ASIO), so that fulfilling a pull request is as fast as possible." Tweaking the Hardware Buffer Size in milliseconds (default is 100) is recommended. Some settings will absolutely not work while other settings may lead to more stable performance. For example, using the Alpha USB and placing the buffer to Minimum Hardware Size produces an awful distorted sound. When using WASAPI - Event Style I use the following settings.

     

    ASIO: Audio Stream Input/Output protocol was developed by the German hardware and software company named Steinberg Gmbh (Yamaha subsidiary). ASIO is a common method of sending audio from a playback application directly to an audio device such as a Lynx, RME, ASUS audio card or AURALiC USB DAC. ASIO is a protocol for low latency high quality digital audio. Manufacturers use the ASIO protocol to develop drivers enabling applications to output this low latency audio directly to the manufacturers' cards or DACs. ASIO drivers achieve low latency through bypassing layers of the Windows operating system. (ASIO drivers are one method of bypassing the Windows KMixer on XP. Bypassing KMixer enables a bit perfect audio signal to reach the audio card.) When using ASIO I've tried several different buffer settings. The stability of a setting is almost 100% dependent on the connected audio device. Using the default ASIO settings is advised when first using this output mode.

     

    Kernel Streaming: This was created as a built-in Windows method of streaming to the audio device without routing through the KMixer. This not only enables easier bit perfect output when using Windows 98 and XP it also allows reduced latency. Kernel Streaming is a legacy output mode that was superseded by WASAPI in Windows Vista and newer versions of the OS, but JRiver still maintains full support this method.

     

    Recapping what's necessary for bit perfect playback.
    • Required - Exclusive Mode within Windows Sound Control Panel when using WASAPI or WASAPI - Event Style

    • Required - An audio output mode within JRiver Media center that communicated directly with the hardware such as WASAPI, WASAPI - Event Style, ASIO, or Kernel Streaming.

    • Required - Set JRiver volume to Disabled or set the JRiver Internal Volume to 100%.


     

    JRiver Media Center 17 also offers several playback adjustments and tweaks in Tools > Options > Audio. Under Settings is the option titled DSP & output formatlink. Depending on one's DAC it may be necessary to manually set the bit depth to 24 bit in this area. I try to leave this setting at Source Bitdepth unless required by the hardware to change it to 24 bit.
    Note: The DSP settings for Sample Rate allow users to up or downsample their music using JRiver's audio engine. This will not result in bit perfect output but may be a nice option if a DAC does not support a specific sample rate. For example, I've used DACs that cannot downsample 24/176.4 music and refuse to output any audio when this rate is played. This DSP setting allows the mapping of a sample rate like 176.4 to something a DAC can use such as 88.2 or even 96 kHz. Again, not bit perfect but handy.
    Prebuffering places the specified number of seconds of music into JRMC's memory buffer before playback. The option to play files from memory instead of disk copies the entire file to memory before playback. When used in combination the entire file is copied then the pre buffer is filled before playback. There is much controversy about the effect, if any, memory playback has on audio quality. I highly recommend each user try the different settings and come to his own conclusion. After all it's free to try.
    The option to Play silence at startup for hardware synchronization is indispensable when using a DAC that requires a one or two seconds to change its clock after each sample rate change. Missing the first couple seconds of playback can be an annoying, albeit First World, problem. Although this option is called Play silence at startup it's better explained as a delay in playback after the sample rate is changed.
    Do not play silence (leading and trailing) is an option that I had no idea was causing me problems until I disabled it one day. The option is great for long silences during playback such as between the last track and a hidden track. However, as JRver's documentation points out, "This option may not be a good choice for classical music or other genres that contain long, intentional pauses in the middle of songs." I had long forgotten this small but critical piece of documentation when I was troubled by playback issues. I was listening to Reference Recordings' Britten's Orchestra track six titled Passacaglia. This track started playback at 30 seconds into the song. The first 30 seconds of this track are very quiet and mistaken for silence by JRMC, thus it skips this small but important part of the performance. I re-ripped the file, re-converted the file, and did just about everything except disable the option to not play silence. Once disabled playback was flawless.


     

    Other Noteworthy Audio Items

    JRiver's Media Server option is unique in that it allows audio playback without the full user interface running because the app is running as a service. To the layman JRiver is invisible even though it's still possible to control the application with any number of remote control devices including an iOS or Android device. I run my C.A.P.S. v2.0 server in Media Server mode automatically. I set the option to run Media Server at Windows startuplink. Another way of enabling Media Server is via Tools > Advanced Tools > Media Server. This places the tiny Media Server icon in the Windows system tray and allows full JRMC audio playback functionality. Once the Media Server is enabled the user can simply close out of the full user interface. I've measured a difference of about 9MB of RAM between running the full user interface (41MB) and just running the service in Media Server mode (32MB).


    I frequently use JRiver's DLNA capability when listening to audio in other areas of my home. The DLNA features are enabled via Tools > Options > Media Network. Using the PlugPlayer application for my iPhone and iPad I stream music to my devices from the JRiver Media Center library. It's possible to stream to several different devices or zones at one time while playing different music on each device. Placing my iPhone on an NAD VISO 1 I can easily stream music from my several Terabyte collection without anything stored on the local iPhone. I haven't been able to test the real output sample rate when streaming high resolution content via DLNA. This would require an iPhone digital out dock that i could connect to my Alpha DAC. It isn't a rare piece of hardware but I just haven't had one in here to date. One setting within the DLNA server configurationlink that I always change is conversion and compression. I always set the audio to Never Convert and to use uncompressed. I could handle using some sort of FLAC compression here but the only other options are MP3 compression.

     

    The last noteworthy feature is called CA Scrobbles. I admit to being partial to this feature as it directly involves Computer Audiophile. Quoting from my recent CA Scrobbles introductory article, "once CA Scrobbles is configured within JRiver Media Center information about each track a user listens to is automatically published to the CA Scrobbles web page here on Computer Audiophile. The published information is only sent to Computer Audiophile when playback moves to a different track (automatically or manually) or stops and only if playback advances past the half-way point of a track. Thus, readers needn't worry about publishing listening habits when they are simply sampling a bunch of tracks looking for that diamond in the rough. The actual scrobble happens in a background thread within JRiver and has no impact on the user interface or sonic quality." I believe CA Scrobbles is an excellent way to share one's music and discover what other like minded individuals are playing at home. Of course this feature is completely optional and is no different than manually posting here on CA. It's the automatic part that thrills me. Much more information on CA Scrobbles can be found in the original articlelink and the actual Scrobbles can be viewed right herelink.

     

    Remote Control Considerations

    Equally as important as many other aspects of the JRiver Media Center interface is the ability to control the application remotely. Sitting in front of a keyboard and screen isn't the ideal way to enjoy one's music collection. A much better way is to use a handheld Android or iOS device. My favorite applications for these devices are Gizmolink and JRemotelink respectively. I have limited experience with Gizmo. What little I've seen of the app is really nice and far better than some of the web based remote options. The best remote app I've used to date for JRMC is JRemote on an iPad and iPhone. JRemote is the fasted remote application I've used for any platform. The interface looks very much like Apple's Remote application and functions similarly. The newest update has brought very nice album cover scrolling somewhat like the Aurender iPad application. The JRemote application will be the subject of a complete review at a later date.
    Click To Enlarge

         

         


     

    Wrap Up

    JRiver Media Center version 17 is the best media playback application I've used to date. Many different modes of audio playback, support for nearly all relevant audio file formats, and seemingly endless customization options offer users an incredible computer audio experience for around $50. New features such as Audio Path support and the HDTracks integrated store are evidence that JRiver Inc. is dedicated to the needs of computer audiophiles. I've yet to see an application that meets all the needs of all users all the time. There's no such thing as a perfect piece of software. JRiver Media Center version 17 may not be perfect but it reigns supreme as the playback application by which all others should be judged.


     



     



     


    Product Information:

    • Product - JRiver Media Center 17

    • Price - $49.98

    • Product Page - Linklink

    • Download - Newest Versionlink



     
    Comments 108 Comments
    1. SoundQcar's Avatar
      SoundQcar -
      Gizmo works perfectly with my Droid X phone. No worries there.<br />
      <br />
      Bob<br />
    1. samtheman57's Avatar
      samtheman57 -
      twotinears:<br />
      <br />
      This has probably been mentioned in this thread, but it bears repeating, test your Windows hardware with this free application.<br />
      <br />
      It will quickly tell you if your hardware is suitable for running real time audio :<br />
      <br />
      http://www.resplendence.com/latencymon<br />
      <br />
      This is not to say that I haven't has a few issues, one of which has yet to be firmly resolved.<br />
      <br />
      My 96/24 files from HD Tracks sometimes click and pop at the beginning of playback.<br />
      <br />
      The CTO of HRT Technologies, and the tech support from J River has been outstanding, but they seem to disagree on certain J River settings, or if it is a DAC vs. J River problem.<br />
      <br />
      Resetting the slider sometimes resolves this annoying issue.<br />
      <br />
      I have increased and decreased buffer time in J River, bought a self (mot bus) powered USB hub, use a quality USB cable , tried up-sampling the data, played files from memory exclusively,play files from disc exclusively (memory sounds better to me) and set a one second delay for hardware sync.<br />
      <br />
      Still, like a cold starting engine, I haven't completely resolved this.<br />
      <br />
      Latency Monitor shows no issues with my hardware FYI.<br />
      <br />
      <br />
      <br />
      <br />
      <br />
    1. James1776's Avatar
      James1776 -
      A few points...Gizmo does in fact work on my phone and is only limited by my ability to set it up properly on my router and PC, not the phone. My Droid III has at least a 24/96 DAC in it and plays all my Hi-Rez files. I am using a 32GB SD card and have scores of music files on it. I use the PowerAmp app on the phone for those files that I have on the phone. I use Gizmo to access my server for my other files. In addition, I use a Jawbone Jambo portable speaker when I travel (the speaker is smaller than a single bedroom slipper. Using that, I can use Gizmo to access my music files, and use the phone to send the same file to the speaker wirelessly via Bluetooth...<br />
      <br />
      Think about that for a bit...<br />
      <br />
      24/96 DAC<br />
      Ease of file manipulation with Android<br />
      Gizmo capable<br />
      Wireless music to a bluetooth capable speaker...<br />
      Better sound quality than my iPOD<br />
      <br />
      For me it is a no brainer. The Phone is a much better music choice than today's Apple products, which seem to be using technology (iTunes) at least 5 years past its prime while the Android is today's cutting edge.
    1. Paul R's Avatar
      Paul R -
      Hey James - nice summary! I like the Android stuff, but it truly frustrates me a bit. <br />
      <br />
      Living on the bleeding edge leads to a lot of painful cuts! <br />
      <br />
      -Paul<br />
    1. dummy's Avatar
      dummy -
      First and foremost, thank you for your, as usual, very detailed reply to me.<br />
      <br />
      <br />
      -----What do you mean by "embedding"?-----<br />
      <br />
      <br />
      Let's start with the knowledge that english is not my first language here and I may get confused (often) and don't always, perhaps, understand the real meaning of some (technical) words here. That said, for *me*, tagging and embedding are two different (albeit related) concepts. For *me* tagging means adding/changing/incorporating/editing alphabetical/numerical data to a musical file. Embedding means that the same data is now sticked/glued/part/included on that same musical file I just tagged. For instance, because of the somewhat problematic nature of WAV, tagging may be done on one file where embedding is not possible (on that same file). Thus, two different things. To *me*. Again, I could definitely be all wrong here. But that's how I understand things so far regarding tagging and embedding.<br />
      <br />
      <br />
      <br />
      -----Were you ripping these CDs with JRMC or with some other program and importing them?-----<br />
      <br />
      <br />
      I always use dBpoweramp for ripping/tagging. That said, I do have perhaps 30% or so of music files collected here and there over the years of all formats (mostly mp3's) with no/wrong tagging and those were the ones I spent time correcting lately, mostly with dBpoweramp Edit-Tag. BUT, in the past, I usually just used JRMC to change the tags/cover art and since most were mp3's, everything was going fine. But It never was clear to *me* wether JRMC tagging option embedded those files or not. Hence my prior lengthy post. And why I would like to know for sure this time around so I don't have to do It over and over every time. I must admit though that after a few days doing so many files, I wasn't as thorough and diligent to see what formats each files were. Meaning I am not always sure in the end what format It was so I can see a clear pattern that problems occur only with WAV files for instance. <br />
      <br />
      <br />
      <br />
      -----You did not specify what database fields had an "unassigned" value. When you rip a CD, look at the tag values the ripping program has assigned. Then after you rip the CD and import the resulting music files, you can see whether JRMC displays the same tag values as the ripping program showed.-----<br />
      <br />
      <br />
      No I didn't since I never really bother or knew about those fields. Since I ripped about 700 cd's in the past 2 years and most of the time everything showed correctly, I thought I was doing okay. But I get now that there is more than one way to skin a cat. And ripping and tagging can be quite tedious and time consuming. <br />
      <br />
      <br />
      <br />
      -----You should understand that storing tags in WAV files is not supported by all programs. Even if two programs support tags in WAV files, they may not do it the same way.-----<br />
      <br />
      <br />
      Thanks to you, I sure do know!!! And I mean that. I've been asking that questions a few times here and there and never got a clear answer. I do now.<br />
      <br />
      <br />
      <br />
      -----Tags in WAV files are not on the beaten path yet. You would be better off to rip your CDs to Flac files now. You can convert you files to WAV format later in a simple bulk operation.-----<br />
      <br />
      <br />
      I actually do all my ripping with dBpoweramp multi-encoding. Everything I rip, I do as WAV, FLAC and AIFF just to be safe and in light of perhaps a future change of heart. So, yeah, I could (and did) simply use my FLAC file and call It a day… But we wouldn't be here having so much fun together now, would we? <br />
      <br />
      <br />
      <br />
      -----You need to learn a bit more about how JRiver and your ripping software handle tags and cover art. Once you learn more, you will be able to solve problems like this much more quickly.-----<br />
      <br />
      <br />
      That is EXACTLY what I am doing now here with you. Learning. More. <br />
      <br />
      <br />
      <br />
      -----I don't know a way to make the tag window full screen but you can make it wider by dragging the right edge of the window to the right. You can make the tag window occupy the entire left column by clicking on the maximize button.-----<br />
      <br />
      <br />
      Wow… I really am named aptly sometimes! I really didn't thought of that one. <br />
      <br />
      <br />
      <br />
      -----If you are making a suggestion to JRiver, make it on their forum.-----<br />
      <br />
      <br />
      I could but since both Jim and Matt do read and answer sometimes in here, I am quite sure one of them saw the suggestion already.<br />
      <br />
      <br />
      <br />
      -----?You followed advice to use the WAV format. That make things more complicated and required you to know more.-----<br />
      <br />
      <br />
      Nahhhh I didn't. I actually used FLAC for the last 2 years and only recently decide to try WAV since, as I said earlier, all my ripped files are available in each formats. I wanted to try for a few weeks and see (well hear actually!) If I wasn't going to feel some sort of paradigm shift. Beside, It looked like JRMC was able to handle WAV as well as FLAC. Why not try? That was my whole thinking. That said, I ended up just importing the FLAC format of the 3 cd's I had with the problematic files and, of course, every thing showed correctly and perfectly this time around.<br />
      <br />
      <br />
      <br />
      -----In addition, you seem to be using dBpoweramp for part of the job (ripping and tag editing?) and JRMC for another part of the job. That is always more complicated and requires you to know more than using a single program would.-----<br />
      <br />
      <br />
      Yup, that's exactly right. Being a beginner 2 years ago, I followed almost to a T Chris's advises and methodology. And to be honest, I didn't even know that JRMC could rip, let alone rip correctly. Those TAS articles seem to say otherwise (that JRMC may be better even than dBpoweramp) so good for them. But It would be a tad weird of me to not take those articles too seriously (as I did) and yet do as they say whenever It goes with my own thinking. Or It may be the most normal thing too. I am Mister Contradiction after all. <br />
      <br />
      <br />
      -----Concentrate on getting JRMC set up right for your choices and learning more about how its works. When you get stuck, ask questions before you get too frustrated. And be careful not to follow advice unless you can try it out and understand it yourself.-----<br />
      <br />
      <br />
      To *me* learning how JRMC truly and completely works would probably be a lifelong learning… That JRMC is one hell of a COMPLETE program but one of the least intuitive for first timers. To *me*. But I think I am not alone. That said, the more I indeed learn about its endless possibilities, the more I start to see some sort of logic behind how it operates. Slowly but surely. I said It, to me it will be a lifelong learning. Keep in mind that I am not computer savvy. Obviously! Beside, frustration can be good sometimes. To me at least. When I get frustrated, I either give up or fought harder until I get It. And by trying different things, I've learned a few others along the way. So that whole often frustrating WAV thing was beneficial in the end. I may even have learned more in the last few days about tagging/embedding than in the past few years. So It was worth it even If I still don't get everything yet. Or ever for that matter. <br />
      <br />
      <br />
      Here is my wish for JRMC actually. This isn't a suggestion but more of a wish. Hire some young starving actor who's sharp, funny and computer savvy and do some JRMC 101 videos. There could be lots of them from beginners to more advanced to the very specific… There could be weekly/monthly FAQ videos explaining the most requested questions. It would actually be a complement to the INTERACT forum. Old Listener you could even be a guest once in a while! I am not sure your written "tone" would translate well on TV but If Trump's Apprentice is a hit, who knows?!<br />
      <br />
      ;-)<br />
      <br />
      Again, thanks for taking the time to answer me so thoroughly!<br />
      <br />
      <br />
    1. Old Listener's Avatar
      Old Listener -
      > Again, I could definitely be all wrong here. But that's how I<br />
      > understand things so far regarding tagging and embedding.<br />
      <br />
      Tagging is a standard term. However, "embedding" would not be understood by other people. So I asked what you meant.<br />
      <br />
      > I am not sure your written "tone" would translate well on TV<br />
      > but If Trump's Apprentice is a hit, who knows?!<br />
      <br />
      My post may have been blunt but it was advice I felt that you needed to hear. If you take my advice as an attack on your ego, that's your problem.<br />
      <br />
      I suggested that you check the tags generated by the ripping program before the ripping process starts and compare those values to what you see in JRiver. I also asked what tags had unassigned values. You declined to answer that question. In both cases, I wanted more information so that I could troubleshoot your problem and help you resolve your problem so that you could use tags in WAV files. If someone takes the trouble to help you, you should cooperate with them.<br />
      <br />
      > Here is my wish for JRMC actually. ...<br />
      > Hire some young starving actor who's sharp, funny and<br />
      > computer savvy and do some JRMC 101 videos.<br />
      <br />
      You might prefer videos. However, JRiver provides useful information in other forms - the Interact forum and a Wiki. If you had consulted the Wiki table of contents, you would have found the article on tagging WAV and AIFF files that I directed you to. If you had searched the forum for "WAV tag", you would have gotten 3 threads of varying ages. The first two threads would have been very pertinent. <br />
      <br />
      Bill<br />
    1. dummy's Avatar
      dummy -
      -----Tagging is a standard term. However, "embedding" would not be understood by other people. So I asked what you meant.-----<br />
      <br />
      <br />
      Chris used "embed" in his review so I thought you conjugate that as embedding in english. I embed a file, a file is embedded, I am embedding… That's how my own translation system (my mind!) worked. My mistake. Using f*** for example to conjugate as a starting point is never a good idea I suppose…!<br />
      <br />
      <br />
      <br />
      -----My post may have been blunt but it was advice I felt that you needed to hear. If you take my advice as an attack on your ego, that's your problem.-----<br />
      <br />
      <br />
      I am 38yo and I am gay. I've heard It all already. Twice. So trust me when I say this: I have no ego. Not the way you meant it anyway. I am not the poor little attacked victim here. And I don't think you're the attacking type either. Condescending? Perhaps. Patronizing? Most definitely. Attacking? Nope. But wether you like It or not, you do have a tone. And It is not a pleasant one. Do not worry though, I can live with It. I had in fact. First because you actually KNOW what you're talking about (you may very well be THE best source of knowledge about JRMC in here, especially regarding precise and special cases), second, because your bluntness and to-the-point style is always clear and easy to follow and finally because you pretty much have that same unpleasant tone on most of your posts and with everybody. Therefore I am not "special" here, you didn't make an effort just for me, that's just the way you are. No big deal. <br />
      <br />
      <br />
      <br />
      -----I suggested that you check the tags generated by the ripping program before the ripping process starts and compare those values to what you see in JRiver.-----<br />
      <br />
      <br />
      Your suggestion is well taken and will definitely be de facto in my future ripping process. <br />
      <br />
      <br />
      <br />
      -----I also asked what tags had unassigned values. You declined to answer that question. In both cases, I wanted more information so that I could troubleshoot your problem and help you resolve your problem so that you could use tags in WAV files.-----<br />
      <br />
      <br />
      I didn't decline at all. I answered you that I didn't bothered then and didn't knew about values in tagging. I, mistakenly, assumed that at that point It was clear to you I was fairly lost and confused about the art of tagging. Don't stretch that as me declining to answer though because my answer didn't suited you. The tags has been changed already so I cannot go back to see what I just learned (from you) as values when they were wrong.<br />
      <br />
      <br />
      <br />
      -----If someone takes the trouble to help you, you should cooperate with them.-----<br />
      <br />
      <br />
      Oh please… Enough already with the patronizing passive aggressive tone! If you can't be bothered and don't have the patience to truly help others regardless of their own limitations and ignorance versus your own great knowledge, then don't. It's that simple really. As far as I know, I didn't cry your name for help and demand your input here. And don't get me wrong, I actually LIKE your input for reasons I stated earlier, you KNOW what you're talking about and I don't so It's all good. My problem is your tone. Actually It's not even your tone. I am fine with it regardless of its unpleasantness. What tickled me the wrong way here is you acting somewhat self-righteous because of my tone/Trump comment to you. If you can dish it, you should be able to take It also. Period. Especially since my comment was made in good humor something that seem to be lacking on your end. But turning this around making me the ego-sensitive one is a tad much. You have a tone, deal with It. I took the time to answer most of your points in the earlier post and started AND ended up thanking you sincerely for your time and knowledge. If that's not being cooperative, I don't know what is! <br />
      <br />
      <br />
      <br />
      -----You might prefer videos. However, JRiver provides useful information in other forms - the Interact forum and a Wiki. If you had consulted the Wiki table of contents, you would have found the article on tagging WAV and AIFF files that I directed you to. If you had searched the forum for "WAV tag", you would have gotten 3 threads of varying ages. The first two threads would have been very pertinent.-----<br />
      <br />
      <br />
      Don't assume what I have or haven't consulted. Just assume I am dumb and that I may have read all that infos 5 times already and still don't get everything. That's how dumb people works. And dumb people likes videos. It's easier than reading. And there are images you know?! You should perhaps assume also that you may not have the patience to deal with such people, the dumb ones that is. And I am dumb. And french! And gay!!! Maybe I *am* a poor little victim after all… Damn! Didn't saw that one coming…<br />
      <br />
      I'll end up with a phrase from a smart and sensitive (...) wise man I read not too long ago. It goes something like this: "My post may have been blunt but it was advice I felt that you needed to hear. If you take my advice as an attack on your ego, that's your problem." If It's good for me, my guess is that its good for you as well. And in some odd twisted way, that's *my* way of telling you no hard feelings here. <br />
      <br />
      <br />
      Take care Monsieur Bill. <br />
      <br />
      <br />
      <br />
    1. jriver's Avatar
      jriver -
      Bill is anything but patronizing. He just says it like it is. And he doesn't spend too many words doing it.
    1. Paul R's Avatar
      Paul R -
      Perhaps a man of few words, but embedding is one he should learn. It has been in common usage for at least a decade, probably longer.<br />
      <br />
      WAV files can support embedding limited tags, but other formats can and commonly do support embedding much more thoroughly.<br />
      <br />
      FLAC, ALAC, and AIFF are all audiophile quality formats with top quality sound that have supported robust embedding, including artwork and extended tags for quite a few years.<br />
      <br />
      I believe JRiver supports all of those in fact.<br />
      <br />
      Paul<br />
    1. Old Listener's Avatar
      Old Listener -
      > Perhaps a man of few words, but embedding is one he should learn.<br />
      > It has been in common usage for at least a decade, probably longer.<br />
      <br />
      I am quite aware of the word "embedded" as used in computer programming. I started writing software for embedded applications in 1978. I've seen other uses of the word "embedded" in connection with computer software over the years. One of those uses might be "to embed tag information in a file". However, the question wasn't whether I was familiar with the word embedded; it was understanding just what Dummy meant. I did not consider his contrast between tagging (which usually means placing descriptive values in music files) and embedding to be clear.<br />
      <br />
      Before I offer advice, I try to understand the problem. I asked in a simple sentence for clarification of what Dummy meant by "embedded". That seemed a sensible step in troubleshooting his problem.<br />
      <br />
      Before you criticize someone for saying something that seems wrong, make an effort to understand what they might have been trying to accomplish. You might learn something.<br />
      <br />
      > WAV files can support embedding limited tags, but other formats<br />
      > can and commonly do support embedding much more thoroughly.<br />
      <br />
      Gee, I think I wrote about that.<br />
      <br />
      > FLAC, ALAC, and AIFF are all audiophile quality formats with top<br />
      > quality sound that have supported robust embedding, including artwork and extended tags for quite a few years.<br />
      <br />
      Quite true. That was the basis of my reply to Dummy.<br />
      <br />
      > I believe JRiver supports all of those in fact.<br />
      <br />
      I believe that AIFF tagging was added to JRMC when WAV tagging was. In my first reply to Dummy, I provided a link to a JRiver Wiki article about tagging WAV and AIFF files. Tagging those formats was optional in JRMC for awhile before becoming default choices.<br />
      <br />
      Bill<br />
      <br />
      <br />
      <br />
      <br />
      <br />
      <br />
      <br />
      <br />
    1. Paul R's Avatar
      Paul R -
      Perhaps then you don't realize then how condescending your written words appear. <br />
      <br />
      If you are not aware that "embedding" is commonly used in computer audio discussions, and in its exact sense, then I guess I can assume you are now.<br />
      <br />
      Indeed, in 1978 I was working towards my degree, and I think I wrote my first compiler (Pascal) that year. I find I am still learning new things every day, about compilers, assemblers, and audio.<br />
      <br />
      Honestly though, you should take your own advice, because your posting, the one to dummy, and the one this one is in reply to, both come off as very arrogant, condescending, and rude. You probably didn't intend that, but they are what they are. <br />
      <br />
      Paul<br />
      <br />
      <br />
    1. GrahamJohnMiles's Avatar
      GrahamJohnMiles -
      Would anyone care to venture a guess as to how many Angels would fit on the tip of a cartridge stylus?
    1. p-cubed's Avatar
      p-cubed -
      I use JRMC strictly for audio, in one room only, and don't have need for the new video or streaming features. Sorry if this is covered previously, but I'm not seeing an obvious benefit in upgrading to 17, for someone with my needs. Improved audio quality or substantial improvement in audio user interfaces would qualify. Thanks for any opinions.
    1. jriver's Avatar
      jriver -
      The new features, including audio, are listed here:<br />
      http://yabb.jriver.com/interact/index.php?topic=66848.0<br />
      <br />
      There is a 15% savings on upgrades through this weekend.
    1. jesseinsf's Avatar
      jesseinsf -
      You are wrong about no volume control while using WASAPI Event Style or just WASAPI. You can adjust the volume while using WASAPI Event Style and regular WASAPI. This is why I don't use it. The only bit perfect setting that is truly bit perfect is ASIO, there are no possibilities for adjusting the volume using ASIO. Don't know why you guys keep raving WASAPI when it is not truly "Bit Perfect". So I would correct your review. The same goes for Kernal Streaming, you can adjust the system volume when using Kernal Steaming. So this means that jplay is not truly bit perfect. Who knows what the system volume's bit depth is.
    1. jesseinsf's Avatar
      jesseinsf -
      jplay is not bit perfect if you can adjust the system volume control. Go to the speaker icon next to the system clock and see for yourself by moving the slider up and down. KS and WASAPI and WASAPI Event Style allow adjusting the system volume control. ASIO is the only Audio output method that disables volume controlling completely. jplay uses KS so sorry to rain on your parade buddy.
    1. Old Listener's Avatar
      Old Listener -
      jesseinsf,<br />
      <br />
      I was not sure whether your comments were specific to JPlay or more general.<br />
      <br />
      I ran a quick experiment with JRMC 17 on a Win 7 PC using Wasapi exclusive mode, event style. The two mixer controls for the default device in the tray area could be moved but did not change audio level while JRMC was playing audio to that device. If JRMC was using the system volume setting, the JRMC volume control could be moved but did not change audio level. If JRMC was using the internal volume setting, moving the volume control did change audio level. <br />
      <br />
      I was using spdif output from the motherboard sound device.<br />
      <br />
      Bill<br />
    1. jesseinsf's Avatar
      jesseinsf -
      Actually you a partially correct. I did a little research myself. When using a USB DAC or s/pdif output then the volume controls are completely disabled when using WASAPI. Now if you have a high-end Audio PCIe card then the volume control is not disabled. jriver needs to add some mode access switches to disable volume controls when using onboard Audio or when using a high-end Audio card. Have you tried Kernel Streaming? Maybe the same thing happens when using Kernel Streaming.<br />
      <br />
      This Microsoft WASAPI Article explains everything in depth. http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/windows/desktop/dd316769(v=vs.85).aspx<br />
    1. SoundQcar's Avatar
      SoundQcar -
      Were you somehow addressing some comment that I made....somewhere? You have me at a loss as to why you have me in the subject of your post. You wouldn't EVER hear me ramble on about all things "bit perfect" because....well, because I choose what I buy based solely on what it sounds like in my room.<br />
      <br />
      As far as my parade goes, I'm EXTREMELY happy with what I have here.<br />
      <br />
      No rain here.
    1. jesseinsf's Avatar
      jesseinsf -
      I actually did further research and your setup doesn't apply. Anyway, if psychologically you are convinced that jplay is the best the more power to you :-)