• 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.
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    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.
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    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).
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    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.
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    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 -
      No....not psychologically, just aurally....which is what counts in my book. <br />
      <br />
    1. jesseinsf's Avatar
      jesseinsf -
      I still say psychologically because the brain still needs to process all that info and however your brain works psychologically impacts the end results. btw, notebooks/laptops are EMI/RFI noisy computers, so in your situation jplay will benefit (especially in Hibernate mode).
    1. SoundQcar's Avatar
      SoundQcar -
      You're perfectly free to fall by anytime you like to see if I am imagining the difference or not. I can play the same music back to back for you...on JRiver, then Jplay. If you don't hear the same differences that I do, then you've saved the $ necessary for downloading JPlay....and are therefore ahead of the game.<br />
      <br />
      I'm in Pacifica...<br />
      <br />
      Bob
    1. asiano's Avatar
      asiano -
      I hope this has not already been covered. I ripped (FLAC) all of my CDs using dBpoweramp and add a tag labeled ARTISTSORT to each file. ARTISTSORT is recognized by SqueezeServer and my collection is sorted perfectly - last name first for Artists. I downloaded JRiver 17 today and cannot get it to recognize the ARTISTSORT tag. Any ideas on how to get this to work? I love the program, but not being able to properly sort my collection is a deal breaker.
    1. Old Listener's Avatar
      Old Listener -
      Idea: You can add your own fields to the JRMC database.<br />
      <br />
      ARTISTSORT is not a standard field. You can add it in<br />
      <br />
      Tools/Options/Library and Folders/Manage Library Fields. <br />
      <br />
      Under the list of fields, click on "Add new Field".<br />
      <br />
      ---<br />
      Idea: JRMC scans and gets tag values when files are imported or when CDs are ripped.<br />
      <br />
      JRMC only uses fields that are defined in the library database when you import files or rip CDs. You may be able to get JRMC to scan your files again and pick up the ARTISTSORT tag values for files that are already in the JRMC library.<br />
      <br />
      Select music files and right click on them. Choose Library Tools and then "Update Library (from tags).<br />
      <br />
      If this doesn't bring in the ARTISTSORT values, you should remove the files from the library (but do not delete them from your computer) and re-import them. Keep in mind that any information stored in fields that are not saved to tags in files will be lost.<br />
      <br />
      ---<br />
      Idea: you can define what categories are used to select files and how those files are sorted in a view. You can define your own views.<br />
      <br />
      You will need to adjust the way files are sorted in the views you use. You may also want to use ARTISTSORT rather than Artist as a category for views.<br />
      <br />
      Right click on a view name in the tree on the left side of the MC window. Choose "Customize View". Categories define fields that will be used to select files. After you choose the categories you want to use, click on "set rules for file display". Under "Modify results", choose "Sort by" in the drop down list control and choose the sort fields you want to use in the area to the right of the dropdown list control.<br />
      <br />
      Let me know how this works for you.<br />
      <br />
      Bill<br />
    1. GammaG's Avatar
      GammaG -
      Great write-up by the way! <br />
      <br />
      Thanks Chris for your time putting this information together here!!!<br />
      <br />
      After reading some of the various settings that Chris mentions, it should be noted, that, by changing the volume options when a music file is playing, may cause a problem.<br />
      <br />
      I was unaware that if the volume option setting is checked by the Internal Volume, and you happen to be playing a music file and decide to check/click on either the System Volume or Disable Volume option, it will bypass Internal Volume and send full volume signal through the system. This may cause a problem to your speakers if your pre-amp volume is set on the high side!<br />
      <br />
      I am not certain if all set-ups will have this effect, but the set-up I am presently using, creates an issue regarding the volume settings for this specific application. Live and learn! <br />
      <br />
      John G.
    1. jriver's Avatar
      jriver -
      You could use this option:<br />
      Player/Volume/Volume Protection
    1. a.mitt's Avatar
      a.mitt -
      I use J. Rivers MC 17 with the Direct Sound as my selection to achieve bit perfect sound output. In reading the paragraphs dealing with “Playback Options and Settings” the recommendation is to use the Windows Audio Exclusive mode WASAPI-Event Style.<br />
      <br />
      In my configuration(see attachment) I assumed that “Direct Sound” was the best selection to get unaltered bit perfect sound output. I’m now confused of how does having the nVidia High-Definition driver play into all of this? Would changing to the WASPI-Event Style output be a better selection in this case, and why?<br />
      <br />
      Thanks, Alan<br />
    1. jriver's Avatar
      jriver -
      WASAPI Event Style or ASIO if available would be better choices than DirectSound.<br />
      <br />
      Here's what JRiver recommends:<br />
      http://wiki.jriver.com/index.php/Audio_Setup<br />
    1. jesseinsf's Avatar
      jesseinsf -
      First off, DirectSound is not "Bit Perfect". Second, Since you are using your graphics card's digital audio out then WASAPI is bit perfect in this setup. People who use WASAPI through onboard/PCIe sound card, or non-digital passthrough audio (such as S/PDIF or USB sound) are able to use the system volume to adjust the volume on their PC. This is arguably not Bit Perfect because when you adjust the volume control it is doing something to the Audio stream. JRMC would have to add a WASAPI command switch to completely disable the volume control to be pure Bit Perfect. When you are using S/PDIF or a USB DAC then WASAPI is completely Bit Perfect in JRMC. ASIO will not work for you if you are using video card sound. You can download the ASIO4ALL driver but I don't know if it has multichannel sound. ASIO is 100% Bit Perfect. Jriver added a link above that would be great to look in to. WASAPI Even Style seems to work the same way as I stated above. ASIO4ALL is an ASIO package wrapped around
    1. The Computer Audiophile's Avatar
      The Computer Audiophile -
      Hi jesseinsf - I disagree with your view that WASAPI is <i>"arguably not bit perfect"</i>. The fact that the user can change a setting, in this case volume control, and change the bits isn't related to WASAPI's bit transparency. By this logic a stereo preamp is arguably not a stereo preamp if the user can select a mono option. <br />
      <br />
      The fact that user intervention can screw things up isn't a good criterion for bit transparency.
    1. GammaG's Avatar
      GammaG -
      I downloaded the JRMC 30 day trial version about 45 days ago and the version that I downloaded was 17.00.68 if I recall correctly. I also had another extension of 10 days, which I took.<br />
      <br />
      Anyhow, I purchased it maybe a week ago and registered it.<br />
      <br />
      Everything seemed to be working fine until yesterday.<br />
      <br />
      When I booted up my pc and clicked on the icon to open up JRMC, I got a pop-up window that said extracting. After it extracted whatever, another window pops up and started loading files, something similar to when you first install it.<br />
      <br />
      After it finished, it said to reboot. After re-booting, I then clicked on the JR icon and it started with everything appearing to be ok.<br />
      <br />
      Here is the problem- The volume control is not putting out the same decibel level as before! It is much less now in volume. Also, I noticed that when I put my cursor on the volume adjuster and begin to increase the volume, the cursor flickers and is slow to allow me to raise the volume up.<br />
      <br />
      I did try uninstalling JRMC, then installing it again and it was fine up until I turned the pc off and the following day turned the pc on and the same thing happens as described above. I also noticed that the version was updated from the original 17.00.68 to 17.0.99.<br />
      <br />
      Any solutions to fixing this problem would be appreciated!<br />
      <br />
      Thanks,<br />
      <br />
      John G.
    1. samtheman57's Avatar
      samtheman57 -
      "When I booted up my pc and clicked on the icon to open up JRMC, I got a pop-up window that said extracting. After it extracted whatever, another window pops up and started loading files, something similar to when you first install it."<br />
      <br />
      JRMC automatically uploads the latest build when it becomes available, (beta and stable) thus, the change to 17.0.99.<br />
      <br />
      The program will shut down and reinstall the new build.<br />
      <br />
      Generally this is a good thing, like Microsoft updates.<br />
      <br />
      You can, however, reinstall the version that was working for you (JRiver doesn't recommend this) then go to Help > Update Channels > Disable Automatic Updates.<br />
      <br />
      Have you tried using JRivers internal volume?<br />
      <br />
      Player > Volume > Internal Volume.<br />
      <br />
      Sometimes settings that were in the previous build don't get transferred, so if you made any other tweaks, check to make sure they are enabled.<br />
      <br />
      Also, check that Playback Options > Output Mode SETTINGS has your unique device in the drop down box (Not "default") and that your output mode (Wasapi Wasapi Event etc.) is the same.<br />
      <br />
      Last, I would register at the J River forum:<br />
      <br />
      http://yabb.jriver.com/interact/index.php
    1. Chris M.'s Avatar
      Chris M. -
      Can someone in plain English explain to me why this software sounds better than iTunes? Does FLAC sound better than ALAC?(Apple lossless)I've A/B'ed both of 'em and I can't hear any difference. I don't know, maybe my $2200 headphone based system isn't worthy. Plus I'm running USB straight out of my laptop with no asynchronous USB converter. Thinking of getting a V-Link...
    1. jriver's Avatar
      jriver -
      With JRiver, you can use WASAPI Event or ASIO to bypass the Windows mixer.<br />
      <br />
      Here's what JRiver recommends:<br />
      http://wiki.jriver.com/index.php/Audio_Setup<br />
      <br />
      FLAC and ALAC output should be identical if you're using the same program with the same settings.
    1. mingojj's Avatar
      mingojj -
      Actually, this is a topic in which a lot of people might be interested, so I'd love Chris to chime in. To me, the big advantage of JRiver is that I know, using Wasapi event style, I can perfectly bit stream audio of all types and quality, using one of the PC's SPDIF outputs, if it has one. Whether this coaxial digital output is via a separate PCI sound card or via direct connection to the motherboard, the output's sound quality will depend mainly on the quality of the DAC. In the case of the gentleman comparing iTunes with JRiver's MC, the more important A/B question is: does iTunes even allow an SPDIF output from the PC? If the answer is no, then the comparison should be run comparing the PC's USB output using iTunes versus the PC's SPDIF output using JRiver set on WASAPI event style. And if there is more than one SPDIF output -- e.g., optical versus coaxial RCA -- then which of these is better? <br />
      <br />
      All of my own research over the past year+ has indicated that, with the same external DAC, the more direct the SPDIF connection the better the sound, and coaxial SPDIF connections are better than optical SPDIF connections. Since I started to build media computers with SPDIF connections directly to the motherboard, using JRiver software, I have heard of no one doing this kind of A/B comparison: the same computer loaded with both iTunes and JRiver, with the computer using, say, a coaxial RCA SPDIF output when using JRiver, and iTunes using a USB output. Since JRiver plays ALAC files as does iTunes, it should be these files that are used for the comparison. <br />
      <br />
      Now, this A/B study would still not get at the other clear advantages of JRiver: 1) its ability to use downloaded hi-def audio files in FLAC format (e.g., 96/24 or 192/24 files); 2) its ability to use DTS Master and DD True HD files (i.e., the sound tracks from blu-ray discs); 3) its ability to play ripped blu-ray files with highest quality video as well as audio (mainly of concerts, since we audiophiles would never actually watch a movie, right?); 4) its ability to play streaming concerts through its software rather than use the PC's browswer and Windows digital audio manipulation; and 5) its ability to use DSD (SACD) files albeit with digital signal processing. All the rest of the comparisons -- mainly having to do with ease of use, remote controls, sexiness of the theater views, etc -- while important, don't answer the question the gentleman is asking -- from the point of view of audio quality is there something that JRiver is doing that iTunes cannot?<br />
    1. jriver's Avatar
      jriver -
      JRiver is also considerably faster than iTunes. Here's a test we did recently:<br />
      <br />
      http://www.jriver.com/speed.html
    1. GammaG's Avatar
      GammaG -
      I have joined the jriver forum, and have posted about the problem I had with the volume. The post can be viewed here:<br />
      <br />
      http://yabb.jriver.com/interact/index.php?topic=70644.0<br />
      <br />
      I did get one response, but still waiting for 3-weeks now for my last response to get answered!<br />
      <br />
      John G.
    1. samtheman57's Avatar
      samtheman57 -
      Bump the thread, you're standing in a long line, if it has been sitting for three weeks, the thread is buried under new requests for problem solving.<br />
      <br />
      You never said if you had tried switching to J Rivers internal volume.<br />
      <br />
      I would also take out the DSP and effects, including Volume leveling to see if that results in gain.<br />
      <br />
      Failing that, you can download the original (unmodified by updates) version of 17 here to see if that makes any difference:<br />
      <br />
      http://www.jriver.com/download.html<br />
      <br />
      <br />
      <br />
      <br />
      <br />
    1. GammaG's Avatar
      GammaG -
      did mention the volume problems I was having in an earlier post in this thread.<br />
      <br />
      I mainly use the Internal volume setting, and the DSP Studio selections have no effect on the volume control.<br />
      <br />
      The problem arose when I updated from v17.0.68 to v17.0.99, which is the same download as the link you posted.<br />
      <br />
      I am now back using the v17.0.68, and have automatic updater disabled.<br />
      <br />
      I do appreciate you trying to help out! <br />
      <br />
      John G.