Play Back Digital Audio with J. River or Amarra
iTunes was great for small portable digital audio device playback, but if you want to hear digital music that has an analog warmth and quality then you need to download third party software from companies like Amarra for Mac and J.River for Windows.
iTunes just wasn’t conceived or designed for high resolution audio playback. It was designed to play back compressed digital files and it did a wonderful job of it. However, as discussed in previous articles, that era has ended and CD’s can now be ripped one to one, and high resolution 24 bit music is available for sale on line at web sites like HD Tracks.
Right now, portable Apple devices—iPhones, iPads, and the iPod—do not play back 24 bit audio files. iTunes does play 24 bit on the compute and it is just a matter of time for Apple to catch on to the high resolution market. Maybe then iTunes will be upgraded to play back digital files that sound analog.
In the meantime, however, third party software is doing a much better job than iTunes when it comes to better sounding audio play back even without using a digital to analog converter (DAC) like the Meridian Explorer. Two software products stand out from the crowd—J. River for Windows priced at $49 and Amarra for Apple priced at $50.
J. River describes its product as “a bit perfect player that delivers the original quality of the media, whether it’s in the listening room or the home theater.” Its software can stream audio on most non-Apple devices, cell phones, MP3 players, home audio systems and computers. It can also deliver pictures and video in file formats supporting Netflix, Hulu, Youtube and Flickr so it can serve as a complete media center.
J. River delivers music with a smooth analog-like sound. There are options in the control center to accommodate the quirks of any playback or listening device and allow you to customize how you can hear the sound if there is a need to do so. There are also playback options that allow you to manipulate the sound in interesting ways to make those 1’s and 0’s sound like musicians performing in your presence.
Amarra is an Apple based product that also has automatic sample rate adjustment as well as the ability for the user to fine tune the sound. It is similar to J. River in many ways except for the operating system it uses.
Both programs have their own playlist capability and the ability to find cover art on the internet. Unlike Apple iTunes, the third party software can play multiple file formats including WAV, FLAC, and AIFF, and support 24 bit, high resolution music downloads.
Unlike Apple iTunes or Windows Media Player, J. River and Amarra are more responsive to the demands of high end sound listeners. J. River is set to release its 19th version by the end of July. Each release incorporates tweaks and improvements in technology to deliver the very best playback possible. At the price, this is the second least expensive tweak that makes a dramatic difference in your digital sound quality.