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.
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
- Use JPLAY Hibernate mode. Shuts down almost all Windows processes during playback on Audio PC and ensures highest sound quality.
- Use Windows 8 or later on both PCs to access JPLAY’s best playback engine, UltraStream and JPLAYStreamer.
- 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)
- Disable power saving features for network adapters and USB ports on both PCs to prevent dropouts.
- As ControlPC is doing most of the processing, it should be more powerful than Audio PC (same specification for both PCs is fine too).
- Dedicated Audio PC with only JPLAY and DAC drivers on it will sound better than Audio PC that has many applications installed.
- Disable JPLAYStreamer service on Audio PC from Control Panel -> Administrative tools -> Services. You need it only on Control PC.
- 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.
- Use wired Ethernet connection. It’s more reliable and will sound better, especially if you use a high quality LAN cable.
- Set network connection speed to 1Gbit/s if it’s supported.
- High quality network adapter such as JCAT NET Card on both PCs will greatly improve sound.
- 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.
- 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.
The example in this section illustrate my configuration of JPLAY dual PC mode.
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.
About the author
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.