Thursday, June 20, 2024

Guides, Testimonials, News

JPlay Compatibility with the exaSound Windows ASIO Drivers


During the past couple of weeks we received a number of requests to "fix" our 64bit Windows ASIO drivers for use with the JPLAY audio player for Windows. We were surprised because older versions of JPlay worked fine with the exaSound ASIO drivers. We did the necessary troubleshooting and debugging, and we can confidently say that there is nothing wrong with our drivers.

Our standard testing routines for Windows ASIO involve the following test scenarios:

  1. J River Media Center on Windows XP 32bit, Windows 7 64bit and Windows 8.1 64bit.
  2. Foobar2000 with ASIO support 2.1.2 in 32bit ASIO mode on Windows XP 32bit, Windows 7 64bit and Windows 8.1 64bit.
  3. Foobar2000 with ASIO support 2.1.2 in 64bit ASIO mode on Windows 7 64bit and Windows 8.1 64bit.
  4. Reaper 32bit and Reaper 64bit on Windows 7 64bit

On request we do testing with other ASIO hosts. We successfully resolved compatibility issues with ASIO applications like  Samplitude and Cubase.  exaSound can provide on loan DACs to software development companies.  We've worked with the makers of J River, Audirvana and Decibel.  Currently we are working with Dirac Research.  


Using Kernel Streaming vs. ASIO with exaSound DACs


Another request that we receive from JPlay enthusiasts is to provide support for Kernel Streaming on Windows, because  JPlay "works best" with Kernel Steaming.  In our opinion ASIO is far superior to Kernel Streaming when used with exaSound DACs. Here is why:

  • ASIO is designed for and works only in Asynchronous mode. In Asynchronous mode the DAC is the master device, the computer is a slave device. The precision of playback timing is determined only by the DAC. Imperfections of computer timing are not affecting at all the sound quality. Amongst other things, JPlay claims to improve the timing precision for sound streaming.  Whatever it does, it will not affect the timing precision of the exaSound DACs in any positive or negative way. Our DACs store about half a second or so of sound data in a hardware buffer, and play this data following the beat of its own master clock.  It doesn't matter how accurate  the computer is when it fills the buffer with sound data.  What matters is how the DAC chip reads the data from the buffer. The very purpose of the buffer is to decouple the timing of the two sides - computer and DAC chip.  Our master clocks have jitter levels in the range of pico-seconds and femto-seconds. This timing precision cannot be achieved in software, not even with JPlay. 
  • ASIO provides native DSD support. Alternative implementations like DSD Over PCM (DoP) rely on hiding a DSD bit-stream within PCM data. This workaround requires sending a marker byte every two bytes of DSD data. It causes 33% inefficiency. This is a problem when very high sampling rates like DSD128 and DSD256 are used. The efficiency problem is further compounded for multichannel DSD applications. Think about streaming and processing a marker byte every two bytes of DSD data, 352,800 times every second, and then multiply this workload 8 times. This is what happens when DoP is used for 8-channel DSD256 stream. In addition DoP is sensitive to stream errors.  If a marker byte is lost, the DAC has to revert to PCM mode, and with the next detected marker it has to switch back to DSD. 
  • ASIO handles with ease automatic switching between PCM and DSD, and between different sampling rates. It works flawlessly all the times, including with the highest sampling rates used by the recording studios. The benefit of having this capability is to be able to listen to all digital files in their native format without changing manually any driver settings.  A good player will allow you to mix in the same playlist CD-Quality 44.1kHz/16bit PCM, DXD 252.8kHz/32bit, and DSD64 to DSD256.
  • ASIO handles natively all resolutions from 16bit to 32bit. If you have a 32bit capable DAC, you need 32bit capable drivers. Otherwise the drivers become the bottleneck.
  • ASIO is bit-perfect by design, not as a result of turning off pieces of the sound-streaming machinery in the Windows kernel. Keeping the native Windows drivers bit-perfect is a challenge.  It is also unstable, installing new software can insert filters in the sound streaming chain without the knowledge of the user.
  • exaSond believes in the minimalistic approach to playing music. Every component that processes the sound stream brings some unwanted side effects, like noise, distortion, timing inaccuracy and digital artifacts. These are things that make the sound output different than the source and ultimately make the sound lifeless and artificial.  We work hard to eliminate unnecessary processing. When possible, it is better to do things right the first time, not to try to fix the deficiencies with extra processing. We don't try to fix the Windows sound system, we bypass it and we use an alternative exit door to stream audio to the DAC. Recording engineered do the same - they use ASIO.
  • In our view JPlay is an unnecessary layer of processing. We like, use and endorse Windows players like J River Media Center and Foobar. We like them because they give the user control over the sound processing. With these players we can turn on as little or as many features as we need. More importantly, we understand what is going on within the player.  JPlay works in magic ways, and therefore we prefer to stay away from it. 
Using JPlay with J River Media Center


Here is the official position about JPlay on the J River website:

Jplay is a Hoax

JRiver recommends that you uninstall Jplay. It adds a layer of sound processing that can degrade sound quality, performance, and stability. You will achieve the best sound quality with JRiver alone.

The author of the foobar player agrees.

For his blog, Mitchco tested JRiver Media Center and Jplay. Both produce measurably identical bitperfect output.

Archimago also found no benefit.

For a more detailed discussion, please visit the HydrogenAudio Forum.

To protect its customers, JRiver will remove forum posts that discuss Jplay. JRiver will not provide support for Media Center if Jplay is used.

Using JPlay with Foobar2000


Message from the foobar2000 troubleshooter:

The following components found on your system are known to be problematic and should be either uninstalled or updated to their latest versions:

foo_jplay.dll : JPLAY
Reason: "Audiophile" scam


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