Find BitPerfect software downloads at CNET Download.com, the most comprehensive source for safe, trusted, and spyware-free downloads on the Web. Before diving into the software comparison, I need to address bit-perfect playback. There are three camps here. Conventional wisdom states that in order for a system to be bit perfect it must act as a pass-through device, not altering the digital data in any fashion through the.
Apologies in advance for the verbose post, and if I chose the wrong place for this, feel free to move it as needed..
I use my 2018 Mac Mini as my primary source of audio playback. I stream Tidal and Idagio lossless, and use a variety of players according to my mood to play back local files. Main ones are Swinsian, VLC, Fidelia, Vox, and occasionally even iTunes. Whatever I am listening to goes out to an external DAC, and from there to an analog amplifier.
Not long ago, I installed the latest release of Rogue Amoeba SoundSource, a little utility that allows me to control the routing of sound the computer. It also allows me to use plug-ins with any sound source. I often use one designed for headphones which gives a more natural stereo image.
Among SoundSource’s features is little level meters. They are useless for determining actual sound levels, but they have one very handy feature: they change color to red when the signal is clipping. That's where I discovered I had a problem: All of the Applications mentioned above have their own volume controls. The standard advice I see (including from rogue amoeba) it Is to max out the volume control on the source, and control the volume using the system volume, to get ‘bit-perfect’ playback. There are a couple of problems with this.
First, when the the DAC is selected as the output device, the system volume setting is grayed out
. SoundSource does have a volume setting for it, but (AFAIK) it won't help with the second (and bigger) problem. Namely, all of the players mentioned above apply gain
to the signal at their maximum volume settings. This results in clipping
on peaks, verified by the indicators in SoundSource. As I just mentioned, changing the system volume going into the DAC can only be done in SoundSource. Also, it seems to me that if any source I am listening to is outputting a clipped signal, turning the volume down after-the-fact is not going to ‘un-clip’ it. And that's not what I want anyway. I want to control the volume in the analog domain. Even I know that a clipped signal is not ‘bit-perfect’.
So that's where I get into calibration, which is what my main question really is. I want to pass the signal to the DAC at the highest level possible without delivering a clipped signal downstream and then control volume after the DAC, in the analog domain on my amp. So far, I have done this by finding the recordings in my collection with the loudest peaks. So far, the champ is ‘Trilogy’, a Chick Corea live recording. I just back down the player volume until it stops turning red. Since Tidal has this recording, I found the same passage and adjusted the volume the same way. I did this with all my players. VLC has a tick mark on its volume slider that seems to correspond to unity gain, but it’s the only one. Fidelia has a ‘Prevent clipping’ checkbox in its prefs but provides no info on how it operates.
This is all pretty confusing because when I started in audio back in the Mesozoic, you just turned the knob until you got the volume you wanted. Now there are multiple volume controls along the way. And of course, when you run out of bits, you’re straight into hard clipping. To confuse me even more, apparently ‘0dB’ in digital isn’t really 0dB, but has some ‘headroom’ calculated in to allow for that.
So any advice on calibrating for ‘bit perfect’ playback (or something close to it?) I have the following tools at my disposal:
Logic Pro X
TBProAudio ‘MyMeter 2’ (meter plugin with various modes)
Test tones: (all 88K, 16 bit) : -3dBFS pink noise; white noise 0dBFS ‘Gaussian distribution; White noise -6dBFS ‘Uniform distribution'Thanks in advance
for any help or suggestions.BitPerfect is an App that runs alongside iTunes and providescapabilities to improve its playback of high quality audio files. When you use BitPerfect, iTunes is still yourmain interface to your music collection. You still use iTunes to create, store, and manage your music collection,to build playlists, and to decide what you want to play and when you want toplay it. BitPerfect just sits in thebackground, doing nothing, until you ask iTunes to play a track; thenBitPerfect steps in and takes over the playback. However, you won’t see anything to visuallyindicate that anything is different, because iTunes still thinks it is playingthe music – the track position indicator moves along as normal, and the volumecontrol slider ramps the volume up and down. But all of your instructions to iTunes are intercepted by BitPerfect,which implements any playback actions you have just initiated.
So why use BitPerfect? There are three primary reasons. First, and foremost, BitPerfect is designed to squeeze the best possibleaudio quality from your sound system using your Mac as a music server. Second, BitPerfect supports playback in thenative file format, even if that format changes from track to track. Third, from version 2.0 onwards, BitPerfect can seamlessly play back DSD files, through the use of Hybrid-DSD files which you can import into your iTunesLibrary. You will need to purchase DSD Master from the App Store to create Hybrid-DSD files.
The driving force behind BitPerfect, and the core attributeof the BitPerfect philosophy, is a desire to extract the best possible sound qualityfrom your Mac when used as a music server for an audiophile-grade soundsystem.
We began by examining how a computer manages audio playback,and focused on the concept of ‘bit perfect’ playback. This term refers to the idea that all acomputer has to do is deliver the exact data contained in the audio file to theDAC (Digital-to-Analog Converter), a device which turns the data into actual music. Many Audio Player applications exist whichensure that ‘bit perfect’ data is indeed delivered to the DAC, but it was asurprise to us to find that despite this, they all sounded different. Our research showed us that there are twocontributors to these audible differences – the server software and theoperating system. And we found thatMac’s OS X operating system consistently provided superior results whencompared to Windows – even when we ran both OS X and Windows on the same pieceof Mac hardware (dual-booting into one or other operating system).
We then chose to focus on the server software’s contributionto sound quality, and established, by trial and error, a number of basicprinciples. How and why these principlescan affect what is always ‘bit perfect’ audio playback remains a matter ofspeculation and, in some quarters, outright skepticism. Be that as it may, we created BitPerfect as avehicle that encapsulates nearly everything we know about optimizing the soundquality of audio playback on the Mac platform. Of course, iTunes itself is also capable of delivering ‘bit perfect’audio playback. But it is our contentionthat BitPerfect provides a significant improvement in sound quality over nativeiTunes. So, cue up your favorite tracks,get comfortable in your favorite listening chair, and find out for yourself.
Back in 2012, we put our money where our mouth is. We paid out over $3,000 in order to exhibitat Montreal’s SSI, a high-end audio show. We prevailed upon our friends in the industry to lend us the mostsophisticated, cutting-edge, audiophile-grade playback gear we could get holdof, in order to demonstrate as convincingly as possible the capabilities ofBitPerfect. Our DAC was the Da Vinci, by Light Harmonic,an incredible device which alone retails for $20,000! Our amplifiers were the CP-800 and CA-2300models from Classe Audio, which together retail for $12,000. The loudspeakers were Wilson Audio Sophia 3, which, although they retailfor $16,900, are the “entry level” model in the Wilson range. Speaker cables were Cardas GoldenCross, which alone retail for $5,800. Quite an impressive collection! Read what Michael Lavorgna of AudioStream hadto say about it:
Not to be confused with different file formats, which aremerely different ways of storing the same digital music data, the music itselfcan be represented digitally in fundamentally different ways. Here we shall concern ourselves only withso-called ‘PCM’ formats.
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The music signal we want to store and subsequently re-createis an electrical waveform whose oscillations represent the actual sound waves. In PCM (Pulse Code Modulation), the analogmusic signal is sampled at a regular fixed rate, which is called the SampleRate. Each time the music signal issampled, the magnitude of the signal at that particular instant is stored as a digital value. The precision with which this digital valueis stored is called the Bit Depth. Thefirst wide-spread digital music format, the Compact Disc, adopted a PCM formatwhich has become a standard to this day, and is often referred to as ‘Red Book’. The CD format uses a Sample Rate of 44.1kHzand a bit depth of 16 bits.
However, many experts in both the recording and playbackfields acknowledge that superior sound quality can be obtained by increasingthe bit depth, and also by increasing the sampling rate. 24-bit bit depth is now an acknowledgedstandard for ‘high-resolution’ files, as well as various sample rates based onmultiples of either CD’s 44.1kHz or DVD’s 48kHz. These different formats include ‘24/96’ (whichmeans 24-bit 96kHz), and include sample rates up to 384kHz and evenbeyond. Many music sources now offerdownloads of “Studio Master” quality music in one or other of the highresolution formats, and equipment for amateur recording enthusiasts is cheaplyavailable which can produce high-resolution recordings (your everyday Mac laptopcan do this). As a result, many musiccollectors now include tracks in various high-resolution formats in their musiccollections.
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Under Apple's OS/X operating system, when iTunes plays back a music track, it looks at the formatof the track itself, and then looks at the settings of the output device. If the settings do not match, iTunes willautomatically convert the file from its own ‘native’ format to the format whichthe output device has been set to. Mostaudio experts agree that this process inevitably results in some degradation of thesound quality. Your only recourse, if yourmusic collection contains tracks with different music formats, is to go intothe Audio Midi utility and manually change the output settings each time theformat of the music file changes. Mostusers find this to be an annoyance.
When BitPerfect handles the playback, it automaticallyre-configures the output device to the format of the music track beingplayed. It does this instantly, so thattracks of different formats can be played seamlessly, one after the other. You no longer need to keep track of what themusic format is, BitPerfect handles all of that in the background. For the modern computer-based musiccollector, this is a critical advantage.
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DSD is the name of the music format used by SACDs. DSD represents music in a radically different way to PCM, and many audiophiles have come to the opinion that DSD sounds more 'musical' - more like analog - than does PCM. Although SACD as a format never caught on, the DSD format itself is making a dramatic comeback, and downloadable DSD files can now be purchased from several sources.
Starting with version 2.0, BitPerfect can play back DSD files. However, you cannot import DSD files directly into iTunes. BitPerfect has developed a solution for this, which we call the 'Hybrid-DSD' file. A Hybrid-DSD file looks and behaves like an ordinary Apple Lossless file, but also contains the original DSD content which BitPerfect can play back, provided your audio output device supports DSD. At the time of writing, only a limited number of highly specialized devices support DSD playback, but new products are appearing on the market at an accelerating pace, and at ever lower price points. It is necessary to purchase DSD Master from the App Store in order to convert ordinary DSD files into Hybrid-DSD files.