Author Topic: MusicBee and Fidelizer  (Read 4705 times)

ArthurDaniels

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I have a dedicated Toshiba PC Laptop Running Windows 10 Pro, upon which I am running MusicBee to manage and stream lossless FLAC files to my music system.

I have just downloaded, installed and run the free version of Fidelizer on this PC, identifying MusicBee as my music player and allowing Fidelizer to "optomize" my laptop for dedicated music playing.

All went well and I believe I can hear an improvement in sound (subjective or placebo effect??).

My questions are:

1.  Have other MusicBee users incorporated Fidelizer?

2.  If so, with what results?

3.  What about the benefits of upgrading Fidelizer to their PRO version (about $65.00 US)?

Looking forward to comments.

Art

captain_paranoia

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Fidelizer may or may not have an effect if you take your audio direct from a sound card in the pc, or use a DAC connected via USB or SPDIF; it may reduce activity-related electrical interference on an analogue output, or reduce timing jitter in a digital output interface, and if your DAC uses the input signal as a clock (rather than using its own DAC timing reference and using what the audiophile world calls 'asynchronous' clocking), that jitter may be perceptible at the audio.

If you stream to a remote network device using DLNA, then I suspect it will make no difference.

As an electronic engineer, I find there's a lot of 'woo' in the audiophile world, that seems to be based on misunderstanding of certain principles, and confirmation bias. I smell strong hints of woo in the Fidelizer description.

But if you think you can hear a positive difference, that's all that really matters...

I have two recommendations for isolating the PC's internal electrical interference and audio path distortion:

1. Isolate your DAC from electrical interference of your PC.

Use an external DAC that provides its own, low-jitter, DAC sample clock (and either drives the streaming process by requesting packets from the source, or provides adequate FIFO buffering to allow it to isolate its timing from the source);

2. Output the unmodified PCM digital audio data to the DAC.

Ensure no digital signal processing is applied by the sound output driver in the PC; you want the original PCM samples going to the DAC, unfiltered and unmangled by what some sound card designer thought was a cool filter/effect to add.

Anything else falls into the category of 'woo', IMHO.
Last Edit: January 13, 2018, 09:16:45 PM by captain_paranoia

ArthurDaniels

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Hi Captain P:

Thanks for your detailed response.  I am a retired EE, but I am not as conversant with audio terminology as I perhaps should be.

I am using my Cambridge Dac Magic Plus external DAC as the default playback device with my Toshiba.  I have disabled all enhancements in the DAC Magic setup menu in the PC.  I am running MusicBee in the WASAPI mode and I have allowed external devices to take complete control of my sound setup in the PC.

I don't see a way to extract the digital PCM signal directly from my PC.  I am using a USB cable (ordinary cable) to connect the PC to the DAC.  I am hopeful that my settings are essentially passing the digital signal from the external HD through MusicBee and directly out to the DAC without modification - but, I can't say for sure.

If there is jitter or other noise present, I have not yet noticed it during playback.  What seemed to improve a bit after Fidelizing was what I'll call clarity for lack of a better term.

Other thoughts or suggestions?

Thanks,

Art




captain_paranoia

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> I don't see a way to extract the digital PCM signal directly from my PC.

If you're using the WASAPI driver, that should send the linear PCM stream from MusicBee to your USB output.

The point I was trying to make is not to allow any filtering, upsampling or other processing in the output path from MB to USB or audio output.

Does the Cambridge DAC operate in 'asynchronous' mode?

Jitter in DAC sample clock can produce noticeably audible effects, including woolliness/lack of clarity. That's an effect I accept isn't 'woo'... It's why I said you need a DAC that uses its own clock, not one from USB or SPDIF input.

ArthurDaniels

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I did not see the word "asynchronous" in the manual for the DAC.  I also did not see discussion of an internal clock in the DAC.

I don't believe I'm hearing any of the unwanted aural effects you described.  Nor did I hear them before Fidelizer.


captain_paranoia

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> I don't believe I'm hearing any of the unwanted aural effects you described.  

Sample jitter will be a very subtle effect. It's well into the audiophile 'super ear and no instruments' realm. But it is a real effect, with a basis in engineering fact, unlike much of the 'woo'. It can result in that indefinable 'better', 'crisper', 'more defined' sound you read about in audiophile reviews.

The internal/external clock issue comes down to whether the DAC pulls data from the source, or whether the source pushes data to the DAC. If the DAC pulls data from the source, it can be master of its clock, provided the FIFO buffering in the system is adequate to prevent underflow. If the source pushes data to the DAC since source and destination clocks are not identical, a FIFO buffer will eventually overflow or underflow, unless the DAC does clock recovery. A recovered clock will have more jitter than an independent clock (we have to pull an oscillator to match the input clock).

The hifi world seems to have adopted term 'asynchronous' for the pull method, presumably referring to the relationship between source clock and DAC clock. By synchronous, they mean that the DAC is clocked by the source clock (either directly, or using a recovered clock).

SPDIF cannot support data being pulled by the DAC, so it relies on low jitter on the SPDIF signal, and clock recovery in the DAC.

The VoIP phone protocol has this clock mismatch problem, but gets over it by allowing frame drop or repeat, which would be unacceptable in a hifi streaming system.

You might like to see a rather thorough technical review of your DAC:

http://kenrockwell.com/audio/cambridge/dacmagic-plus.htm
Last Edit: January 14, 2018, 12:40:56 PM by captain_paranoia

ArthurDaniels

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Thanks for the additional comments and, especially, thanks for the link to the review.  I now own both the DAC Magic Plus and the DAC Magic 100.  I use the DAC Magic 100 when I travel.  My "Business Laptop" has a 1 TB internal HD.  Thus, I can store all of my music files in my Business Laptop, so that they travel with me.  MusicBee is also resident on my Business Laptop.  When away from home, I generally listen to music by streaming from my PC with MusicBee in the WASAPI mode, through the DAC Magic 100 to either my Grado open phones or my Sony Wireless Closed noise-canceling phones, depending upon the environment.

The review certainly offered high praise for the DACs.  All I can say is that, when the DAC Magic Plus arrived and I connected it for the first time to my system, I was astounded at the difference in sound.  I can best describe it as "sparkling".  I listen mostly to classical and to a lot of classical choral music and the sound improvement was immediately noticeable.

I suppose I can be called a "Cambridge Audio Guy", since I own the two DACs and my 2-channel amplifier in my music system is a Cambridge 851A.

Art   

MBisFantastic

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Dear Art, and for those readers who might be interested in such a set-up,

According to Cambridge Audio, they use asynchronous USB, e.g. the DAC is controlling the timing of all data packets (master) and the computer following these data requests (slave), in all their current products.

From the Cambridge Audio website (April 2019): "Asynchronous USB is the most complex to implement but it is a huge improvement on the other types. This is because it requests the data packets to be sent in time with its own clock’s timing, thus providing the lowest jitter and sounding by far the best. We use asynchronous USB in all of our current DACs."

I have checked with Cambridge Audio customer service and even a basic Cambridge Audio One, all-in-one amplifier with USB input built-in, supports asynchronous USB (Class 1 only, see below for explanation). So, your higher end DACs, which support higher bit-rates/frequencies will certainly support asynchronous USB. Furthermore, please note that there are two classes of USB audio. Class 1 will only support WASAPI mode. Class 2 should support ASIO as well (although I cannot confirm from personal experience) for even better audio quality and lower jitter. Using Class 1 USB and WASAPI mode, I have not noticed any audible jitter. Given your dedicated DACs, you might be able to use ASIO for even better audio quality.


https://www.cambridgeaudio.com/en/blog/our-guide-usb-audio-why-should-i-use-it
Last Edit: April 18, 2019, 12:12:16 PM by MBisFantastic

Freddy Barker

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Some time ago my wife was listen to a CD, she can't always be bothered to mess with the PC.
The CD player is integrated into the amp and I thought the tunes sounded particularly good.

Later on, I tried playing the same tracks (FLAC) from a Win 10 laptop via a £20 USB DAC, and MusicBee with WASAPI output. The sound was rather dull. The only difference, theoretically, was the CD player has a reasonable quality DAC.

I eventually invested in a Cambridge Audio DAC, class 2, own power supply, ASIO, and despite me being aged with ears that had been bombarded at work and Rock concerts, the difference in sound was world's apart, although not quite that of the CD player sound.

Maybe I need a £250 DAC :-)

MBisFantastic

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Fascinating. DACs can apparently make a big difference in the sound beyond lack of jitter, although why or how escapes me. Good luck finding a better DAC  :)

Freddy Barker

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Fascinating. DACs can apparently make a big difference in the sound beyond lack of jitter, although why or how escapes me. Good luck finding a better DAC  :)
DAC physical differences and sound quality related to cost.

Small improvement on laptops buit-in DAC sound.
Behringer UCa202 uses a Burr Brown TI PCM29xx CODEC chip, draws power from USB in  PC.
£20

Good sounding
Cambridge Audio DacMagic 100 uses Wolfson WM8741 DAC chipset, external impulse 12v power supply.
£160

Great sounding
Arcam Solo's integrated CD player uses a Wolfson Microelectronics 24-bit sigma-delta DAC with a pair of toroidal transformers and separate power supply.
£300

MBisFantastic

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Quote
Good sounding: Cambridge Audio DacMagic 100 uses Wolfson WM8741 DAC chipset, external impulse 12v power supply.

This seems about right. The Cambridge Audio One plus has a Wolfson DAC (probably slighter older) and a toroidal transformer. All taken together this sounds good -- clear mid and high, detailed sound and controlled bass and no distracting noises. Another DAC might possibly sound more lively, but I quite like the natural and neutral sound DAC and amp.

Both running a laptop running Windows 10 with MusicBee (output setting Wasapi, via USB) and Chromecast Audio (via optical output) work very well. MusicBee equaliser settings works via the Wasapi/USB connection to the DAC, if needed, e.g. in case one prefers more bass.

Freddy Barker

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Quote
Good sounding: Cambridge Audio DacMagic 100 uses Wolfson WM8741 DAC chipset, external impulse 12v power supply.
MusicBee equaliser settings works via the Wasapi/USB connection to the DAC, if needed, e.g. in case one prefers more bass.

Never use the EQ setting and I do like bass drops, hence added a REL SUB to the setup!

MBisFantastic

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Obviously, that would work too, probably better!  :)

Just wanted to point out that the equaliser does work through MusicBee/Wasapi/USB/DAC. Although there may be better (audiophile) ways to do this, it's what has worked for my situation (actually sometimes reducing some bass frequencies).

Freddy Barker

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Just wanted to point out that the equaliser does work through MusicBee/Wasapi/USB/DAC. Although there may be better (audiophile) ways to do this, it's what has worked for my situation (actually sometimes reducing some bass frequencies).

Understood!
I could never get WASAPI to produce a clean sound, so had to use ASIO, which is fine!