Yearly Archives: 2017

JPLAYStreamer: how to improve sound quality

by admin
October 13, 2017
0

5 steps to a better playback with JPLAYStreamer

1. Create a proxy server

bubbleproxy

Use Bubble UPnP Server on a PC running JPLAYStreamer to create a proxy media server for your MinimServer music library (or a different media server software). MinimServer doesn’t have to run on the same machine. It can be on a separate device in your home network.

Once you install BubbleUPnP Server, open the configuration interface in your web browser (there are shortcuts available in Start Menu / Desktop), go to Media Servers tab, select your media server and tick the option Create a proxy Media Server on this LAN in the right column as shown on the screen above.

Next choose the newly created proxy as your media server in a control point app instead of the ‘real’ media server that you’d normally select.

kazooproxy

It will not only sound better, but browsing through albums and cover art in a control point app should be smoother too. Another advantage is fixing potential media server discovery issues on the network, so if your control point app struggles with finding media server occasionally, this should help.

2. Switch to external libraries for transcoding

JPLAYStreamer supports only WAV format natively. In order to play FLAC, DSF/DFF & other formats, one needs to enable transcoding functionality in MinimServer (or other media server) as described in our manual. By default, MinimServer will perform transcoding internally. However, there is an option to specify external converter for transcoding. I’ve found that using external avconv libraries produces much better sound compared to transcoding done by MinimServer alone.

Avconv can be downloaded here. Scroll down to the Windows section, download 32bit (i686) or 64bit (x86_64) version depending on your CPU and operating system. Extract and copy the contents of libav...\usr\bin\ folder to the folder where MinimServer is installed and type the absolute path to avconv.exe in MinimServer’s properties, System tab, under stream.converter field as shown on the screen below. It’s C:\Program Files\MinimServer\avconv.exe in my case.

avconv

Please note that stream.transcode string must end with a semicolon. Otherwise MinimServer will perform transcoding on its own.

3. Specify subnet

Defining subnet manually for JPLAYStreamer and MinimServer leads to a better sound. You can check you network interface’s subnet in Network and Sharing Center, adapter settings. Double click on the adapter that connects to your home network (router), then click on Details… What you’re looking for are the 3 first numbers of the IP address (IPv4 Address). This is your subnet.

ipaddress

In my system, the subnet is: 192.168.2.0 (last number should be 0)

Now let’s assign it to JPLAYStreamer. It can be done in registry by editing StreamerSubnet entry under HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\JPLAY6 key as you can see below.

streamersubnet

And then we need to do the same for MinimServer. Open Properties, go to System tab and type your subnet under ohnet.subnet field.

minimsubnet

4. Use high–end network adapter

The better network interface you use in your PC, the better the sound you will get along with more reliable playback. Especially if your goal is the ultimate ultra-low latency DAC Link 700Hz/PC Buffer 0.01s value in JPLAYsettings panel.

Avoid WIFI adapters at all cost. For your wired connection, set the highest possible link speed (usually 1Gbit/s), disable all power saving features for the adapter, use good quality ethernet cables if possible – the last section, closest to your PC media server/streamer is crucial.

_MG_9675_preview

5. Control point on most powerful device

Running control point app for JPLAYStreamer on a high-performance computer rather than on a smartphone sounds better. Yes, even this has an impact on sound quality.

Control Points

I run Kazoo on my Macbook most of the time. If you use JPLAY dual PC mode, you can use control point directly on a Control PC with good results too. But if you use JPLAY in a single-PC configuration, I’d recommend running control point app on a remote device, because any additional activity on the PC is not welcomed. Of course, the last suggestion is for those of you who are obsessed with sound quality.

For more information please check our manual, visit our forum or simply send a mail at support@jplay.eu

About the author

abouttheauthor
Marcin Ostapowicz is a recognized high-end audio consultant. Computer audio pioneer. Co-creator of the award-winning software, JPLAY. Manufacturer, curator and distributor of high quality audio products. Constantly strives for perfection of sound. Foundations for his breakthroughs finds in areas that others ignore.

JPLAY dual PC mode: how it works & why you need it

by admin
September 27, 2017
0

The ultimate mode for most demanding audiophiles

The dual PC mode is a configuration where JPLAY is running on 2 PCs in a home network. It offers superior sound quality compared to a setup with just a single PC. Think of a CD integrated player vs. a CD transport + DAC analogy – the latter usually sounds better.

Control PC + Audio PC

One PC can be for general use: web browsing, work, editing photos etc. You run any software player that is compatible with JPLAY and start/stop playback here. You’d usually have your media library (music) here as well. This would be your Control PC. From user’s perspective, it works exactly the same as a single PC setup except that the actual playback happens on a different PC – Audio PC.

Audio PC is a PC that connects to your audio system – a USB DAC or any other audio interface compatible with JPLAY (USB-S/PDIF converter or PCI Express sound card). Audio PC can have nothing else installed apart from JPLAY and USB DAC drivers. It can be headless and you don’t have to touch it at all after initial setup, because all playback related parameters are adjusted from JPLAYSettings panel on Control PC (some advanced settings from regedit).

Both PCs must be in the same network, but do not have to be located in the same room – you can have Control PC in an office and Audio PC close to your audio system in a living room. Control PC does most of playback related processing and streams music bytes over Ethernet to Audio PC which then outputs them directly to a USB DAC or any other supported device.

Because Audio PC needs only a small capacity drive for the operating system, JPLAY and essential drivers, it’s easy to make it compact and noiseless. You just need to pay attention to a power supply and a USB output in case you use a USB DAC – the higher quality, the better sound you will get. The quality of network components and cabling on both PCs is important as well. OK, almost everything can have an effect on playback quality in a computer audio system, but this is a story for another article.

Setup

Install JPLAY on both Control PC & Audio PC and restart the PCs. Make sure DAC is connected to Audio PC, switched on and drivers for the DAC are installed.

Open JPLAYSettings panel on Control PC and click on the button next to Audio PC until you see ‘Search my LAN for JPLAY’. Confirm by clicking OK to initiate search.
Few seconds later ‘Found JPLAY on 1 computer’ message should be displayed. Click OK, reopen JPLAYSettings panel, select your Audio PC (IP address) and adjust output parameters. All compatible audio devices connected to your Audio PC will be listed as if they were connected directly to Control PC.

Tips & tricks for best sound

  1. Use JPLAY Hibernate mode. Shuts down almost all Windows processes during playback on Audio PC and ensures highest sound quality.
  2. Use Windows 8 or later on both PCs to access JPLAY’s best playback engine, UltraStream and JPLAYStreamer.
  3. Even better results can be achieved with Windows Server 2012 or 2016. If you have it at least on Audio PC, you can improve sound further by switching to Core mode (manually or via Audiophile Optimizer tool)
  4. Disable power saving features for network adapters and USB ports on both PCs to prevent dropouts.
  5. As ControlPC is doing most of the processing, it should be more powerful than Audio PC (same specification for both PCs is fine too).
  6. Dedicated Audio PC with only JPLAY and DAC drivers on it will sound better than Audio PC that has many applications installed.
  7. Disable JPLAYStreamer service on Audio PC from Control Panel -> Administrative tools -> Services. You need it only on Control PC.
  8. Quality of hardware components and power supplies is important for both PCs – use audio grade components such as JCAT on both PCs and get better sound.
  9. Use wired Ethernet connection. It’s more reliable and will sound better, especially if you use a high quality LAN cable.
  10. Set network connection speed to 1Gbit/s if it’s supported.
  11. High quality network adapter such as JCAT NET Card on both PCs will greatly improve sound.
  12. Use direct LAN cable connection between Control PC & Audio PC (requires setting a static IP at least on Audio PC). If direct connection is not possible, use audio grade network switch between PCs.
  13. Network connection between Control PC and Audio PC should be on a dedicated subnet. E.g. if connection from Control PC to home network is on 192.168.1.x subnet, make sure to set IP addresses for network adapters that connect Control PC & Audio PC to 192.168.2.x. This way traffic for JPLAY dual PC mode is completely isolated from home network.

Example configuration

The example in this section illustrate my configuration of JPLAY dual PC mode.

JPLAY dual PC diagram

I control playback (JPLAYStreamer) from my Macbook most of the time via Linn Kazoo Control Point app. I occasionally use roon to stream TIDAL content – I have roon installed on my Macbook and Roon bridge on Control PC. Roon is set to use JPLAY Driver as output. Note that in this case playback goes through JPLAY dual PC mode and my main stereo too.

I have my music library (Media Server) running directly on Control PC. Sometimes I also use Linn Kazoo or Kinsky Control Point apps directly on Control PC.

JCAT NET Cards FEMTO are installed in both Control PC & Audio PC and connected directly via JCAT Signature LAN Cable (coming soon). The network connection is on different subnet to isolate it from home network traffic.

Audio PC is headless, located near main stereo system. Output goes through JCAT USB Card FEMTO to my USB DAC.

For more information please check our manual, visit our forum or simply send a mail at support@jplay.eu

About the author

abouttheauthor
Marcin Ostapowicz is a recognized high-end audio consultant. Computer audio pioneer. Co-creator of the award-winning software, JPLAY. Manufacturer, curator and distributor of high quality audio products. Constantly strives for perfection of sound. Foundations for his breakthroughs finds in areas that others ignore.

Getting started with JPLAY. Beginner’s guide

by admin
September 15, 2017
0

If you have no or little experience with JPLAY, the Manual sounds a bit too technical or you simply want to know which features are most suited for your needs – this article is for you.

How do you want to play your music?

A) Control playback directly at the PC and use mouse + keyboard for browsing music files
(difficulty level: Easy)
B) Control playback remotely from any smart device in your home network
(difficulty level: Advanced)

JPLAY is not only an extremely optimized sound engine. It’s also quite powerful playback software package that can be used at least in 3 different ways. The answer to this question will help you choose the right way.

JPLAYmini – tiny app, big sound

jplayminiscr

If your answer was A) and your highest priority is sound quality, then JPLAYmini may be all you need. The interface is basic and playback is controlled by pressing keys on a keyboard. It’s simple and easy to use – for some people even easier than GUI as they can play music without even looking at screen or keyboard. Check it out!

Improve sound quality of any player with JPLAY Driver

If JPLAYmini is too minimalist and you’d like a proper graphical user interface (GUI), you can benefit from JPLAY’s supreme sound engine by using it on top of other playback software: just select JPLAY Driver as an output in preferences. That’s it! Audio is routed to JPLAY. The integration is completely transparent – you can use the player of your choice as usual.

jplaydriver
JPLAY with foobar2000, but you can use it with all players supporting ASIO output. Our manual shows step-by-step instructions how to combine JPLAY with most popular players.

Enter Network Audio with JPLAYStreamer

If your answer was B) things get a bit more complicated as one needs to understand the concept of network audio, but the sound quality is best and your PC essentially becomes an audiophile network streamer, JPLAYStreamer.

It means that after initial setup you no longer have to go near your PC every time you want to play an album. In fact, you don’t have to touch or even look at your PC/laptop at all, because you can use your smartphone or tablet as a remote.

You can even disconnect mouse, keyboard and display and make your PC ‘headless’. Of course, if you wish, you can control playback directly at the PC/laptop with JPLAY (JPLAYStreamer) installed. It’s up to you which device in your home network is used as a remote – you can have as many as you want.

Control, serve, stream

ohdiagram

JPLAYStreamer is based on OpenHome Media standard (an extension of UPnP). Once you install JPLAY on a PC with Windows 8 or later, it automatically becomes a network streamer – a player that uses your home network for transferring music data. JPLAYStreamer is the sound engine. It acts as a renderer for any compatible audio data that it gets over network – either from music services such as TIDAL or Qobuz or from a Media Server.

Media Server, as the name suggest, is a piece of software that serves media (in our case it is a music server as we need only audio data). Media Server reads your media library and then sends music bytes over network to a renderer (sometimes called endpoint), JPLAYStreamer.

Media Server can run virtually on any PC/laptop/Mac in your home network. It often comes preinstalled with NAS drives, so if your music library is on a NAS drive, you may not need to install any media server as it’s very likely you already have one. In any case, for JPLAYStreamer we recommend using MinimServer software which supports transcoding feature required by JPLAYStreamer (MinimServer converts any audio format to WAV on the fly, please check our Manual how to configure MinimServer for JPLAYStreamer)

Lastly, we need a remote app – so called Control Point which acts as a bridge between Media Server and Renderer (JPLAYStreamer). We recommend free Linn Kinsky / Kazoo (available for Windows/MacOS/iOS/Android) or BubbleDS (Android) which additionally supports TIDAL & Qobuz streaming.

kinskyscr

JPLAYStreamer, Media Server & Control Point can run on separate devices in a home network, but a configuration where all components are on a single Windows PC is also possible – in this case your PC acts as a Media Server, a Renderer and a Control Point at the same time.

For more information please check our manual, visit our forum or simply send a mail at support@jplay.eu

About the author

abouttheauthor
Marcin Ostapowicz is a recognized high-end audio consultant. Computer audio pioneer. Co-creator of the award-winning software, JPLAY. Manufacturer, curator and distributor of high quality audio products. Constantly strives for perfection of sound. Foundations for his breakthroughs finds in areas that others ignore.

JCAT NET Card FEMTO

by admin
June 26, 2017
0

1st ever audiophile network interface

With streaming services becoming the primary way of listening to music and with the shift from standalone computer audio setups to network renderers, the quality of network-related components becomes crucial if one wants to enjoy high resolution music at the highest sound quality.

Ethernet adapter for high-end network audio

_MG_5346
Setting up a media server on a PC or using a computer as a network audio renderer (endpoint) is easy nowadays. But the problem with computers is that they were never designed with audio in mind. While there are improvements for USB-based playback available (such as our JCAT USB Card FEMTO or JCAT USB Isolator), the network controller part of a PC remains noisy. JCAT delivers the solution with the NET Card FEMTO – the ultimate network interface designed specifically for transferring high-quality audio over LAN.

The most accurate components

_MG_5368
By using ultra-low noise linear power supplies and FEMTO Clock Technology combined with high-end Ethernet controller from Intel, the JCAT NET Card FEMTO ensures maximum network transmission quality. Connect a network audio player, a media server (NAS) or a broadband router to any of the two 1Gbit LAN ports on the JCAT NET Card FEMTO and experience great sound quality improvement when streaming audio data.

Exceptional audio quality

comparison

The sound image becomes crystal-clear: transparent, quiet, smooth and yet full of fine details you have never heard before. It will allow you to experience music at much deeper level.

scheme1

You can use the JCAT NET Card FEMTO to improve sound quality of any network audio player (renderer/endpoint/streamer) when streaming audio data from NAS (media server), from music services such as TIDAL, Qobuz, Spotify etc. or directly from PC music server.

scheme2

JCAT NET Card FEMTO will also enhance playback when installed in an Audio PC – a computer that acts as a USB Audio transport and connects to a USB DAC – as long as audio data is sent over network from other PC / NAS / media server or from Streaming services.

Best upgrade for JPLAY dual PC mode

scheme3

For JPLAY users looking to elevate performance of their dual PC setups, installing JCAT NET Card FEMTO in both Control PC & Audio PC is most likely the biggest sound quality improvement currently possible. Connect both PCs (JCAT NET Cards FEMTO) directly with a high quality LAN cable such as our JCAT LAN or JCAT Reference LAN Cables and enjoy vast sound quality improvement.

JCAT NET Card FEMTO not only improves sound quality, but also provides increased stability particularly desired with most extreme 700Hz/0.01s DAC Link/PC Buffer setting in JPLAY.

External PSU option

_MG_5370
Even though there are ultra-low linear power supplies exclusively on the JCAT NET Card FEMTO, for best performance it is recommended to connect external linear 5V PSU (such as our 200W or 400W linear PSUs) as the source of power instead of using computer PSU.

Specification:

• Audiophile PCI Express GbE LAN adapter
• Ultra-low noise linear regulators and filters eliminate noise interferences from PC
• No switching power supplies anywhere
• FEMTO Clock Technology (Crystek CCHD-957) lowers jitter below measurable levels
• Industrial grade components with operating temperature range from -40* to +85*C
• Enterprise level Intel i350 Ethernet controller
• Gold plated high durability EMI shielded RJ-45 connectors
• Two LAN ports supporting up to 1Gbit connection speeds
• LED-off feature to counteract noise
• Requirements for optional PSU: 5V/1.5A min
• PSU can be supplied from computer PSU via LP4 connector or from an external PSU via 2.1/5.5mm center positive DC jack connector
• Low-profile & full-height laser cut PCIe brackets included
• All x1-x16 lane PCI Express 2.0 slots supported
• Supported operating systems: Windows (all editions) and Linux

The JCAT NET Card FEMTO is available now for 422EUR at JCAT online shop. ►http://jplay.eu/jcat/

For customers who would like to purchase x2 NET Cards FEMTO (for Dual PC mode), the price is 800EUR (instead of 844EUR). Ask for the discount via email!

Getting the most out of JPLAY

by admin
March 1, 2017
0

Start with the right operating system

If you are getting a new PC or upgrading the one that you already have, make sure to load it with Windows 8 OS or any newer release either consumer or server: Windows 10, Windows 2012 Server or Windows 2016 Server. All are fine. My personal favourite is W2012 Server as it sounds better than its consumer equivalent, Windows 8, and allows for some serious optimization which elevates performance even further.

Windows 7 or Vista are still OK, but will not work with JPLAYStreamer and UltraStream Engine – both elements crucial in extracting the best from JPLAY.

The installer + a nice bonus that comes with the full version

If you are not planning to use the ‘dual PC setup’ – a system with two PCs connected via LAN with dedicated Audio PC fully optimised for music transport – it is best to tick ‘optimize for single PC’ option in the installer.

optimizeforsinglepc

Also the full (paid) version of JPLAY comes with a bonus: the alternative build. It is the same JPLAY, but optimized for intel CPUs. So, if your PC is equipped with intel CPU, it is a good idea to select the alternative build as it will sound better!

alternative

Adjustments in JPLAY settings panel

This is where you can select your output device (Playing via field) and adjust parameters that have direct impact on sound with Engine and DAC Link having the most profound effects. KS (Kernel Streaming) and UltraStream Engine offer the highest performance.

For best sound quality, I recommend setting DAC Link to 1Hz and PC Buffer to 10s (2s if you mind the delay) – this is also the combination with lowest CPU utilization. It may not work with all systems though. Some people prefer higher DAC Link and lower PC Buffer values. Feel free to experiment!

jplaysettingspanel
As you can see, I’m running a Dual PC setup with Hibernate mode.

JPLAYStreamer – JPLAY’s latest incarnation

Although JPLAY first became famous for its ability to transparently integrate with 3rd party players and to act as their sound engine, providing enhanced audio playback, there is a better mode available now. It’s called JPLAYStreamer. And it is the next-gen JPLAY. It offers the best sound quality of all JPLAY modes, and, once configured, is easy to use.

You can run it directly on a PC with JPLAY and a USB DAC connected. You can run it headless and control playback from an app on another PC/smartphone/tablet. You can have music library directly on a PC with JPLAY or anywhere else in your home network. JPLAYStreamer converts your PC into a music server/streamer and it’s the best sounding JPLAY up to date.

My favourite control point apps (remotes) for JPLAYStreamer are Kinsky, which you can use on Windows / MacOS / iOS, and BubbleDS for Android. With the latter you can additionally enjoy TIDAL HIFI and Qobuz HIFI lossless streaming services – improved by JPLAYStreamer’s superior playback techniques.

kinskyscr

The simple way with JPLAYmini

If all you care about is playing your favourite tracks as quick as possible and focusing on music only. Without remote control. Without cover art. You may find JPLAYmini appealing, even though it provides the most basic text interface. Correct – there are no buttons to click on available in JPLAYmini.

But who cares! The sound it produces almost matches JPLAYStreamer.

jplayminiscr

Going extreme with the Dual PC setup and the Hibernate mode

It doesn’t matter whether you’re using JPLAY on top of other player (JPLAY Driver), JPLAYmini or JPLAYStreamer, going Dual PC will get you better performance. Period. This feature is for most discerning audiophiles who want the best regardless of costs or level of complication.

It requires from a user some basic knowledge about TCP/IP networking, but if you’re obsessed with sound quality, it’s worth the trouble. Enabling the Hibernate mode, which shuts down hundreds of processes and threads, leaving only those vital for audio playback on a computer, will maximize the effect. This is as far as computer audio can go in terms of playback optimization.

For more details on how to use and configure JPLAY, please check our manual here: ►http://jplay.eu/manual/

About the author

abouttheauthor
Marcin Ostapowicz is a recognized high-end audio consultant. Computer audio pioneer. Co-creator of the award-winning software, JPLAY. Manufacturer, curator and distributor of high quality audio products. Constantly strives for perfection of sound. Foundations for his breakthroughs finds in areas that others ignore.