Best software players for listening to music from your computer
This group includes versions with good features and interesting functions.
Price: $24.95 (Version 4 License, Gold version, entitles you to all 4.x upgrades); $49.95 (Gold, lifetime license with the right to all upgrades); free version with reduced features.
Operating system: Windows (Windows 10 (desktop), 8 (desktop), Windows 7, Windows Vista, Windows XP), iOS, Android, with a special add-on can be installed on OS X.
Media player helps to systematize and catalog all AV content, i.e. it plays the role of organizer for all available media collections, and in the paid version it is possible to work with several catalogs-collections simultaneously. Among the distinguishing features of MediaMonkey is the ability to automatically convert formats in real time so that they can be played on any device. There is a function AccurateRip for CD-rips, supports Audio CD burning, but it is felt a little “confined” the software to work with mobile devices, however, there are some audiophile functions: it supports Bit-perfect and DSD format. DSP plug-ins can be loaded into the player, as well as plug-ins for the correct output of sound in Windows, for example, WASAPI. UPnP and DLNA protocols are supported, allowing you to share playlists with other devices. There is an auto-find feature to fill in lost tags or missing album art. In addition, MediaMonkey remains quite flexible in terms of customization, allowing you to use many plugins and skins. The player has a good sound with good detail.
Advantages: It is available to use the free version.
Disadvantages: missing many necessary audiophile features.
What users are suitable for: for fans of multi-installation, for owners of mobile devices.
Price: $19.99 per month (price may vary depending on country and plan), plan purchases available through Ebay.
Operating system: Windows 7 and up, OS X, iOS and Android, compatible with Apple TV, CarPlay, Android TV and Amazon Fire TV.
In fact, Tidal can be called the crowning glory of streaming services today. It has a proprietary Tidal application (client), which can be downloaded directly from the official website. Basically, Tidal, Deezer and Qobuz allow you to launch music through your browser, but only Tidal has its own program that is installed on your computer. The Tidal mobile app is not available in every country, but many get around this prohibition by temporarily changing the credentials. To fully unlock the potential of this player, a necessary (although not mandatory) condition is the presence of a digital-to-analog converter with MQA codec support. The MQA container developed by one of the founders of Meridian Audio, Bob Stuart, allows you to pack a Hi-Res file into a 24 bit/48 or 24 bit/44.1 kHz file, which is then decompressed to a higher resolution by the decoder. The player is good because it requires no “extra steps” associated with downloading and storing files, i.e., all that is required from the listener is a paid subscription. Tidal HiFi has more than 170,000 tracks available in high quality. The features of the player include the fact that it can be listened for a long time without any fatigue.
Advantages: ease of use according to the principle of PnP (Plug and Play) or press to play.
Disadvantages: the quality of MQA-streaming is still inferior to the original PCM (24 bit/192 kHz) and DSD when directly playing Hi-Res audio from its own audio library, there is no ASIO support.
What users are suitable for: fans of quick access to music in lossless-format without the need to store their own collection on the hard disk.
Medium weight category, almost High End
Software players from this category still have some shortcomings, but in terms of sound they will beat any standard OS media players.
Operating system: Windows 7 and higher.
Specially optimized for Windows 10, the Resonic Player softplayer features a laconic appearance and omnivorousness. The player understands most modern audio formats, including DSD up to DSD512, consumes few system resources, impresses with high speed and has a minimal number of functions. There are no unnecessary add-ons to slow it down. Nevertheless, there are some visual pleasantries that can be switched off if necessary: audio frequency spectrum analyzer, oscilloscope, signal level indicator, etc. Audio files can be simply “dragged” with the mouse using the file manager to start playing. There is a Crossfeed mode, designed for comfortable listening with headphones. The interface language is English only. The sound of Resonic Player can be called accurate, musical, emotional, without too much attention to detail.
Advantages: accurate musical sound, high performance and speed.
Disadvantages: boring interface, poor functionality.
What users are suitable for: for ascetic purists and those music lovers who are used to working with large amounts of audio data.
Operating system: OS X 10.10 and up, Windows 7 and up.
The Korg Audiogate 4.0.2 was created to run in tandem with external Korg DS-DAC USB DACs that support playback of DSD 5.6 MHz and PCM up to 24 bits/192 kHz, so only the appropriate device can make the most of this product. Paired with a DS-DAC-10R DAC equipped with ADC, the application allows you to record in Hi-Res format as well as to digitize vinyl disks. The company emphasizes the ability to record DSD discs on a computer drive. At the same time this software can work with any other digital-to-analog converters in Lite mode, but the audio output is limited by 48 kHz sample rate, so even DSD format will be converted to PCM with 44.1 or 48 kHz frequency. The sound of the player is confident and even somewhat assertive, with clearly delineated sound images and impressive volume.
Advantages: voluminous sound with the right musical images.
Disadvantages: it can only reach its full potential when paired with Korg DACs.
What kind of users: for owners of Korg digital-to-analog converters.
Operating system: Windows, iOS, Android.
“Foobar can be called a timeless classic and, in fact, a cult software player among Hi-Fi adepts accustomed to stability, flexibility and reliability. The main feature of foobar2000 is the extensive base of add-ons/plugins that can be easily and quickly installed. There is a native DSD output or conversion of this format to PCM literally “on the fly”. In fact, it is a real audio builder with a decent sound and a lot of build options. Thanks to this it can be fine-tuned to your taste. For sound output to Windows, respectively, it is better to use ASIO protocol or at least WASAPI with Event buffering mode, which requires WASAPI output support module installed. Nevertheless, among the most demanding modern audiophiles to “Fubar” there are some complaints about not the most outstanding sound quality.
Advantages: free software, an extensive library of additional modules, which are easily and quickly installed.
Disadvantages: according to progressive audiophiles-experimentalists, foobar2000 is somewhat inferior to its more modern competitors in terms of sound quality and has an archaic interface; the difficulty of obtaining high-quality sound when setting up an untrained user.
What users are suitable for: for fans of stability and reliability, as well as for experimenters.
Price: $59.98 (single OS license); $79.98 (universal license, fits any OS); 30-day free trial version of the product is provided.
Operating system: Windows, iOS, Android, Linux.
JRiver MediaCenter player can play both audio and video files, can make Blue-ray/DVD/CD-rips, “burn” discs, create playlists, convert files into other formats, can act as an organizer / editor / cataloguer, work with Internet media content and much more. There are a huge number of settings, DSP-studio, the sound can be output in any format, there is the Russian language. In fact, it is another classic software Hi-Fi-player, only on the scale of a multimedia center. Some companies even sell AV components and other hardware products with pre-installed / configured JRiver MediaCenter. The player has outdated bulky interface and can’t boast good ergonomics, but in contrast it has highly efficient 64-bit engine, outputs DSD-stream, supports Bit-perfect and provides accurate natural sound with good detail and wide scene, for which it is fond of audiophiles of different generations. In terms of visual effects, the display of available media content in 3D mode is interesting.
Advantages: excellent sound quality, the widest adjustment possibilities.
Disadvantages: cumbersome outdated interface, demanding to the computer resources.
For which users: for demanding listeners and lovers of “play” with the settings.
The group includes top software players, the best of the best to date.
Signalyst HQPlayer 4
Price: $246.75 (full version); a 30-day free version of the product is provided, which must be restarted every 30 minutes.
Operating system: Windows, OS X, Linux.
The HQPlayer 4 player, developed by Signalyst, does not feature an attractive interface, but in this case it is not necessary. The player will prove itself perfectly as an add-on integrated with Roon software, which is well-known to lovers of quality music. To control HQPlayer, you can use the application HQPDcontrol, installed on your tablet or smartphone.
A special feature of the player is to provide great opportunities in terms of upsampling (several highly efficient algorithms are used) and downsampling. Delta-sigma-modulation is used, designed to upsample PCM/DSD formats to 98,304 MHz, 1-bit SDM (24 upsampling options for PCM and 2 for DSD). There is a selectable dithering/filtering and noise shaping algorithm with 9 options in total, and a selectable convolution algorithm (FIR-filter) for room-specific equalization and correction (2 versions). Conversion of any audio signal to DSD is available. ASIO and WASAPI are supported. Various settings, with which you can play around for more than a month, HQPlayer 4 offers a huge variety. Most importantly, the sound of this software deserves the most praise for its outstanding resolution, superb detail, lightness, transparency, and excellent musicality.
Advantages: huge number of smart options, tremendous possibilities of fine-tuning, excellent sound.
Weaknesses: ancient interface, inconvenient controls, high price.
What kind of users are you looking for: hardcore audiophiles.
Amarra 4 Luxe
Operating system: Windows 8 and up, OS X 10.8 and up, 15-day free trial available; special version of Amarra Play for iOS.
Previously, Amarra 4 Luxe was an add-on for iTunes, but now it is an independent, full-featured product that not only serves as an ordinary audio player, but also provides integration with popular online services such as Tidal, Qobuz, and Nugs.net. Of course, the application supports MQA codecs, upsampling and can play DSD64/128 format (realtime DSD to PCM conversion or DoP (available after software update)). There is an equalizer with 16 fixed presets, it is possible to control Amarra 4 Luxe from a cell phone using the Amarra iOS Remote app. The player boasts a clean softened sound with correct timbres, well worked out middle frequencies, dense deep bass and chic surround scene. That’s why Amarra 4 Luxe has become a regular fixture at many High End shows, where it is used to showcase top-of-the-line components and high-end audio systems.
Advantages: excellent sound, corresponding to the level of High End audio components, intuitive interface with a pleasant design.
Disadvantages: relatively high price.
What users are suitable for: jazz and classical music lovers.
Price: €149 full version of JPLAY FEMTO, there is a free trial version for 21 days for two PCs.
Operating system: Windows 8 and up (64 bit only).
According to the official website of the application, the JPLAY player was developed by particularly meticulous audiophiles, whose goal was to achieve perfect music playback on PCs by optimizing the OS as much as possible. The latest version of the player, called FEMTO, works with the UPnP protocol (renderer feature), plays DSD in native mode up to DSD256, has three unique Bit-perfect output engines, ensures minimal delay and guarantees music playback with the highest possible priority, and allows for a configuration using another computer for monitoring/control. The special JPLAY driver improves the sound quality of any ASIO-enabled software, which is appreciated by the most demanding Hi-Fi adepts. The player significantly improves the sound of streaming services Tidal, Qobuz and is perfect for turning your PC into a real streamer or a high-end music server.
The full version can be used not only as a player renderer (JPLAY FEMTO UPnP Renderer) but also as a server program (JPLAY femtoServer). The package includes the specially optimized JPLAY Classic engine, available separately at a lower price, which includes the minimalist JPLAYmini player interface and the JPLAY Driver. The software also allows you to use two computers connected via WLAN or LAN: 1) Control PC, which stores the audio library and acts as a server, 2) Audio PC (on which only Windows and JPLAY software are installed), connected directly to an external USB DAC and audio system. The player starts on the first Control PC server computer, and all processes (DSP-processing, loading, etc.) take place on this PC, and only pure signal is transmitted to the second PC, i.e. the second computer is completely free from interference and noise, which can be created by these processes.
Advantages: ideal for building a PC-based streamer/music server, benchmark sound quality.
Disadvantages: it is desirable to have a mobile device with the installed application or another computer to control, high price.
Suitable for users: for true adepts of quality sound.
Infinity Blade HQ (Bug Head Emperor).
Operating system: Windows.
The Infinity Blade HQ (Bug Head Emperor) player was created by Japanese developer Hiroyuki Yokota, and is, in fact, a unique software based on a special algorithm of audio data conversion into a raw RAW file, which is then processed by special interpolation algorithms. The player supports DSD, Bit-perfect and requires a powerful hardware “sharpened” for audio playback. The ideal choice would be a PC with JPLAY software already installed, it is this combo that will provide the highest quality sound, stunning with its transparency, clarity, exceptional attention to detail, powerful dynamics and perfect balance. The player can be paired with other applications such as JRiver.
Advantages: Exceptional sound quality.
Disadvantages: practically zero ergonomics, long waiting time of audio files processing with the help of proprietary algorithms Bug Head when working together with other software.
Suitable for users: audiophiles in search of their “Holy Grail” – the perfect sound.
Price: $119 (1-year subscription) or lifetime license for $499; 14-day free trial version available.
Operating system: OS X, Windows, Linux, iOS, Android or OS Roon Rock.
Roon is currently the best solution for listening to audio on your computer and beyond. Roon system allows you to easily catalog your entire library of media stored on PC or Mac hard drives, external drives or NAS servers, to listen to it at the highest level (all audio formats are supported), to get the maximum online information about albums/musicians and so on, and integrate with the online streaming platform Tidal. And besides, it can pull Internet radio, Tidal, Qobuz, and even HQPlayer into one interface. Roon Remote app for iOS or Android can also be used for controlling Roon devices. The proprietary engine provides extensive resampling capabilities (PCM up to 768 kHz and DSD up to DSD512), audio conversion to DSD, and guarantees quality room correction (Convolution). The application provides the unique ability to show all elements in the signal path, has an intuitive interface and has its own “axis” (OS).
Advantages: the ideal combination of excellent ergonomics and the highest quality sound, the integration of Tidal, Qobuz, HQPlayer.
Disadvantages: high price, does not support the DLNA protocol.
What users are suitable for: those who are ready to pay well for quality sound and comfort and not go back to the search for perfect sound.