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Audio quality and Vista

Reply #75
Woodinville

Hi fellows, thank you for your input thus far; I wish to make this as realistic as possible - no fixing of rendering rates, just two clean-as-a-whistle copies of Windows head-to-head.

Its now after ski-season, and I have some time on my hands this evening and the next – thus, would like to get going on this project.  I have a “nothing fancy” PC on hand, consisting of a Tyan S2495 with an Athlon 2000+ processor, one gigabyte of RAM, two identical 80-gigabyte hard drives - one loaded with Vista Business Edition and the other loaded with XP Professional, all powered by an Antec ‘SmartPower II’ 350 watt power supply.  Both OSs have all service packs, updates etc. loaded and I have not 'tweaked' them in any way whatsoever - so as to mimic the experience a 'Joe Public' might have with each OS.  The Tyan board is hosting an Asus Xonar PCI audio card with the latest drivers for each OS.

What I am asking for is; the process.  What Open Source software should I employ for the evaluation?  What steps should I take in conducting this test?  That is, should I simply rip a track from CD on each OS, save it as a .wav and use that for comparison purposes?  Should I play a track in real-time from the CD and record it with an Open Source application, save it as a lossless .wav and use that for comparing 'fidelity' of the OSs, or ?

I don't want to start downloading and installing AISO etc. software as I wish to keep these two setups as clean as possible, allowing for, as noted earlier, a setup that would best mimic what Joe Public might employ.

We can always do a separate ‘tweaked’ setup comparison later if we like…

Any and all suggestions welcome.

Andrew D.
www.cdnav.com

Audio quality and Vista

Reply #76
If you want to compare XP with Vista then do compare them as they are. So no additional software, absolutely no AISO drivers as these are supposed to cure some problems in Windows audio design.

Make damm sure they run on identical hardware. If you have done so, make damm sure they run on identical hardware.
I wonder if running them both on the same machine using virtualisation might be an option.
Disable network connections, spyware, anti virus etc. Personally I don't believe this will do much but there are people believing that these processes might have an impact.

Run WMP11 on both.
Use exactly the same lossless audio files on both otherwise you introduce another parameter
You might try your hand on a tool like EAC but I don't think the ripping is the problem but the way XP and Vista do the playing (the Kmixer stuff).
Another thing is the audio gear. Is it able to make subtle difference audible? I know this sounds blunt so pardon me, English is not my native tonque, but if I read _nothing fancy_ does this mean the same for the audio card, the speaker systems, etc?
TheWellTemperedComputer.com

Audio quality and Vista

Reply #77
Roseval

Sorry if I wasn't descriptive enough.  What I have is (one) PC and two (identical) hard disk drives.  One hard disk drive has Windows XP Professional loaded on it; the other has Windows Vista Business Edition installed.

I will be physically removing one drive and replacing it with another, thus the OS is the only variable.

The sound card is this unit:

http://www.asus.com/products.aspx?l1=25&am...amp;modelmenu=1

…it’s a good as it gets for a retail / non-studio sound card.  In fact, I feel that it makes sense to employ a retail card like this, as very few out there have fifteen hundred dollar studio sound cards anyway…

I like the idea of using Windows Media Player (with all updates), as its something that everyone who runs Windows has in common.

Andrew D.
www.cdnav.com

Audio quality and Vista

Reply #78
I will be physically removing one drive and replacing it with another, thus the OS is the only variable.

That's even better than using a virtual machine, this eliminates a lot of possible intervening parameters

…it’s a good as it gets for a retail / non-studio sound card. In fact, I feel that it makes sense to employ a retail card like this, as very few out there have fifteen hundred dollar studio sound cards anyway…

You do have a point. But I do have an outboard USB-DAC matching this price tag just to overcome the limitations of a standard audio card.

It depends a bit on what one wants to establish.
If the question is "is there an audible difference between XP and Vista" then the audio part must be perfect, if not it is just another parameter fouling the experiment. (You can't judge difference in top speed between 2 cars if you stick to the speed limit.)
Another question is "will the average user using the average gear hear a difference between XP and Vista". Perfectly valid question but beside methodological problems (how to establish the average user, what is the average gear) maybe a bit dull. Nobody complains about sound quality, nobody hears a difference between any OS, only audiophile fools do.
So target your experiment at the fools. This one is very interested.
TheWellTemperedComputer.com

Audio quality and Vista

Reply #79
Ok guys - I need some ‘tweaker-input’ here: I've got both OS's ready to rock, Windows Media Player 11 as up-to-date as possible and ready to 'Rip' and now what...

Will the process of ripping a 30-second track from CD to a .wav file be enough or should I now play back the track on one application and record / re-save it in real-time onto another application?

What’s the next move that will be 'acceptable' in the Windows XP vs. Windows Vista 'Sound' trials...?

By the way, I'm using the first 30-seconds of Pink Floyd's 'Breathe' track for this demo.  Its ripped from the 25th anniversary re-mastered CD.  I picked this as it has no lack of bass and treble, along with loads of midrange vocals - and pretty much everyone on this forum, and I suppose most forums, is surely intimately familiar with this music.  (PS: if you aren’t – damn man, go out and buy it today – it’s a classic among classics!)

I await your input.

Andrew D.
www.cdnav.com

Audio quality and Vista

Reply #80
It's just pointless to do this kind of comparison. Also there are two major caveats: It's not a blind test and switching between the systems takes too long. Considering the subtlety of any audible differences it's impossible to get any valuable results, especially with low-end equipment.

Audio quality and Vista

Reply #81
It's just pointless to do this kind of comparison. Also there are two major caveats: It's not a blind test and switching between the systems takes too long. Considering the subtlety of any audible differences it's impossible to get any valuable results, especially with low-end equipment.
I believe the intention is to record the output from the two configurations, then do an ABX test on a known good configuration (such as KS on XP, or whatever the equivalent is on Vista). If this isn't the intention, then no - testing won't be particularly interesting.

Audio quality and Vista

Reply #82
Perhaps the most direct method of creating test files for ABXing would be play a high quality reference file on the pc, and simultaneously record the sound mix using the pc.  As this was occuring, a sound source in a different format (perhaps containing virtually no data or just intermittent data) would be introduced into the sound mix.  I gather that XP may perform less well than Vista in this scenario.

If using this method, one difficulty might be how to manage to get the timing the same under both XP and Vista for introducing the supplementary sound sources.  However if the extra sound source was low level or intermittent this might not matter. 

Others may have a specific suggestion as to what formats to use in the mix.

Audio quality and Vista

Reply #83
That is, should I simply rip a track from CD on each OS, save it as a .wav and use that for comparison purposes? 
Should I play a track in real-time from the CD and record it with an Open Source application, save it as a lossless .wav and use that for comparing 'fidelity' of the OSs, or ?


I don't think ripping is the problem, as far as I could judge there are no indications that XP or Vista differs in this matter.

If I understand correctly there are some flaws in XP design. This has a negative influence on sound quality (the Kmixer stuff).
The audio part of Vista is redisiged and is supposed to be without the flaws of XP so the claim is that it sounds better.
So this is about playing music on both OS.
I don't think it will makes a difference if one uses a CD or a WAV as long as it is a uncompressed source, so we have the best possible quality input source.

So the question is how to capture the output of both configurations in such a way that
- it is certain that nothing but nothing in the sound system of both OS is bypassed
- it can be distributed as a file
- the capture method don't have an influence ont the result.

In principe the signal right before it enters the soundcard is ideal (I2S?) but don't ask me how to do it or how to listen to it.
An AD converter might be an option but then the quality of the soundcard will have an influence and also the quality of the AD-converter.
TheWellTemperedComputer.com

Audio quality and Vista

Reply #84
But even if you managed to capture both sources perfectly, what are you going to listen to them on?

If you listen to them on a PC running XP then you're going to have the same XP-related problems playing back both sources. Admittedly, the problem would only be one-fold when playing back the Vista source on an XP system but would be two-fold when playing back the XP source.

Playing the two files back on a Vista-based system would still double any remaining errors normally present on the Vista-based system (unless we are happy to make the blind assumption that there are none) and give you the errors produced by the Vista-based system plus the errors from the XP-based system when playing back the XP source.

You won't get a true A-B comparison whichever way you do it.

Cheers, Slipstreem. 

Audio quality and Vista

Reply #85
.
ABX is easy - as long as one is running Vista, Mac OS, Linux or perhaps UNIX.

And its only natural that you lads should have at least one Linux box running in the house :-)

Heck, the OS is free, and there isn't likely one among us who doesn't have an 'old' PC in the basement / closet / second-bedroom / den etc.

Here is your gateway to quality computing (download and enjoy today!)

www.ubuntu.com

Andrew D.


Audio quality and Vista

Reply #86
You could listen to them with an external DAC and a soundcard which does bit-perfect output. Another option, as digital mentioned, is to use Linux - but be sure to use the hw outputs at a rate the soundcard natively understands. With the default ALSA outputs you still end up with resampling (at least with the ALSA config that Ubuntu uses). KS on windows XP could be another option to obtain output without OS interference.

Audio quality and Vista

Reply #87
The issue is that Xp has the kmixer and Vista improved the audio stack.

But the Kmixer can be bypassed as one poster has mentioned recommending Foobar and Kernel streaming.

Why not do an apples to apples comparison and compare Vista with Xp bypassing the kmixer?

That analogy of comparing cars comes to mind, except one car has to stick to the speed limit and the other one doesn't....hardly a fair test.

Audio quality and Vista

Reply #88
[quote author=Dawnrazor-age link=msg=557159 date=1207376945]The issue is that Xp has the kmixer and Vista improved the audio stack.

But the Kmixer can be bypassed as one poster has mentioned recommending Foobar and Kernel streaming.

Why not do an apples to apples comparison and compare Vista with Xp bypassing the kmixer?

That analogy of comparing cars comes to mind, except one car has to stick to the speed limit and the other one doesn't....hardly a fair test.[/quote]


So, what you're saying is test one as tweaked, and one as standard package?  Compare the amp'ed to the normal?

I guess you have to stretch a bit to explain that one.

Using a tweaked XP and a stock Vista is like comparing an apple to a grapefruit. It's silly, and meaningless. And it better not be much different then, eh?

Use it like any standard user would use it. I doubt if any here of us use anything quite like the standard user.
-----
J. D. (jj) Johnston

Audio quality and Vista

Reply #89
.
I’ve been spinning this one around and around in my head for some time, and of course, the solution appears to be the simplest – always overlooked one:

What if I just run a quality-built cable from the line out jack, right back into the line in jack while playing the file from CD in Windows Media Player and recording it with Audacity.  I don't know if this is a common ability with soundcards, but it certainly is with the Asus Xonar I'm using for these evaluations.

I’ve tried it and the file is reproduced faithfully, allowing me to capture and save a lossless .wav file.

Does anyone here have an issue with this method?  It appears to me to be the only way to capture the ‘played’ file so that we can all give it a listen.

Would really like to hear from any Audacity developers if any exist on this forum…

All of the hardware is ready to go, both drives are loaded and fully up-to-date (no modifications or tweaks applied), and I’ve picked the music: Tracy Chapman’s HDCD recording of ‘Fast Car’.

Andrew D.

PS: Those wanting to try the audition on Ubuntu might be interested to learn that the latest version of the OS allows you to do a 'virutal install', which doesn't modify any existing hard disk drive files and can be 'uninstalled' without leaving a trace!

Learn more here:

http://lifehacker.com/software/ubuntu/inst...dows-228956.php

If you're stuck on Windows love - there is always this (free) option:

http://www.microsoft.com/windows/products/...ault.mspxAndrew D.

www.cdnav.com

.

Audio quality and Vista

Reply #90
Ok boys - here she is: One PC, two hard disk drives.

Drive one installed and loaded with Windows XP Pro / all updates / patches installed / fully defragmented, rebooted clean – no tweaks applied.

Drive two installed and loaded with Windows Vista Business / all updates / patches installed / fully defragmented, rebooted clean – no tweaks applied.

The drives were physically installed / un-installed independent of each other; no ‘dual-boot’ or ‘Boot-order in the BIOS’ tricks here.

After throwing out a number of queries, looking for suggestions on how I might go about this process, I decided to conduct it as follows: Each file was ripped with Windows Media Player (Version 11.0.5721.5230 on XP --- 11.0.6000.6344 on Vista), saved to hard disk drive (identical model drives as well), and played back with WMP 11 while being simultaneously recorded using Audacity (Version 1.2.6).

I ran a high-quality, shielded line from the line-out, right back into the line-in on the Asus Xonar audio card (running driver version 6.12.8.1731) in order to create an environment where the file was ‘played and captured’.  I don’t know if this is a common feature with audio cards, but the Asus allows it – I believe its part of a little-publicised ‘feature’ called ALT – on the Xonar cards – offering a way to circumnavigate DRM encrusted files… 

Thus, original CD playback / ripping / saving / playback and subsequent re-recording was accomplished on two completely separate operating systems and the resultant files from each are supplied here for your musical enjoyment and comparison.  The rest of the PC hardware is detailed earlier on in this thread – suffice to say, it’s all kick-ass / high-quality and as electrically isolated / shielded as possible.

ABX the living hell outta’ them and decide if indeed there is an audible difference between two ‘stock’ editions of Windows XP / Windows Vista.

Warning: those with dial-up modems might not wish to play this game: each file is exactly 10 megabytes in size.

_______________________________________________________________________________________

I'll have to post the 'answer' I've been promising for so long on my own forum as the length of the sample files are over the 30-second limit as stated in the Terms Of Service HA.  I've recorded a full one-minute of each track (on XP and Vista) in order to assist in concentrating on the differences, if any, between the files.

If this (redirect) is still against the rules, I ask that the Mods' here please PM me and I'll (sigh), cut them down to 30-seconds...  Here is a link to my small, non-profit discussion forum, along with said files

Andrew D.

Audio quality and Vista

Reply #91
...


Were you careful to ensure that in each case, you had a different rate stream running before you started the main signal?

It can be a zero signal.
-----
J. D. (jj) Johnston

Audio quality and Vista

Reply #92
No tweaking / software adjustments - this was a 'factory-settings' comparison.  The Operating Systems / Applications were 'clean' - no mods' or 'improvements' whatsoever.

The whole plan was to see what 'Joe Normal' would find with an 'Fresh Out Of The Box' experience.

Andrew D.

PS: Anyone feel they hear any differences?

Audio quality and Vista

Reply #93
So, what you're saying is test one as tweaked, and one as standard package?  Compare the amp'ed to the normal?

I guess you have to stretch a bit to explain that one.

Using a tweaked XP and a stock Vista is like comparing an apple to a grapefruit. It's silly, and meaningless. And it better not be much different then, eh?

Use it like any standard user would use it. I doubt if any here of us use anything quite like the standard user.


Did you read your last sentences Wood???  They contradict each other.  I agree with the latter.  Few here are standard users.  So why test it out of the box then??

All I am saying is that Vista supposedly did away with the Kmixer.  But if you can bypass the Kmixer in XP that is what you should compare with Vista...which one allows you a truer and better signal.

Test Vista with Direct sound Vs XP with ASIO or Kernel streaming...no other tweaks.  Or if you like, use ASIO or Kernel streaming in Vista if you want.

Audio quality and Vista

Reply #94
No tweaking / software adjustments - this was a 'factory-settings' comparison.  The Operating Systems / Applications were 'clean' - no mods' or 'improvements' whatsoever.

The whole plan was to see what 'Joe Normal' would find with an 'Fresh Out Of The Box' experience.

Andrew D.

PS: Anyone feel they hear any differences?


Exactly.  And what Joe Normal hears is streams being mixed together.

So have you constructed a topical experiment or not?  Sounds like not.

Supporting confirmation bias rarely shows anything interesting.
-----
J. D. (jj) Johnston

Audio quality and Vista

Reply #95
Exactly.  And what Joe Normal hears is streams being mixed together.

So have you constructed a topical experiment or not?  Sounds like not.

Supporting confirmation bias rarely shows anything interesting.
I don't know if that is fair. The use case that this tests is, in my opinion, the most common - the user boots up, starts a player (iTunes, WMP, etc) and listens to their MP3s. Sure, there are use cases where your criticism is fair, but I think this one is the most obvious to test.

I think this is a very interesting test, thanks for organising it, digital.

Audio quality and Vista

Reply #96
Is someone changing the goal posts again?

Quote
If audio is played with the best respective settings on Vista and XP, there will be no distinguishable difference for identical files.

Quote
Ok, please show YOUR evidence for that.
daefeatures.co.uk

Audio quality and Vista

Reply #97
Is someone changing the goal posts again?

Quote
If audio is played with the best respective settings on Vista and XP, there will be no distinguishable difference for identical files.

Quote
Ok, please show YOUR evidence for that.




You know, it's rude and deceptive to pick quotes out of context and represent them as something they weren't.
-----
J. D. (jj) Johnston

Audio quality and Vista

Reply #98
Woodinville

Correct me if I’m wrong, but I think what you are suggesting is that I should be tweaking the O.S.’s before the 'test' files are created.  I don’t feel that this would represent an honest comparison of the two Operating Systems ‘Out Of The Box’ experience.

That said – I am prepared to tweak the living heck out of each O.S. and re-do the files.  If some of the more ‘tweaker’ members would present me with a succinct / detailed strategy for said ‘re-do’, I would be more than happy to oblige.

I don’t mean to be rude, but if you look at the original posters query is was:

Quote
First up let me say that I'm still running Windows XP and I have no first hand experience with Vista.

I've noticed that some people making claims that "audio" is much better in Vista, though what specifically they are referring to I don't know. The more outrageous claims go something like "with Vista your old onboard sound will sound as good or better then the best PCI soundcard". Of course I think it's a load of bull, but what do the changes to audio in Vista really amount to?
There was no mention whatsoever of tweaking.


With regards to personal bias.  I truly don’t have any with regards to audio on either O.S.  I’m a Microsoft Certified Software Technician (‘Sales & Support of 32-Bit Operating Systems’), and a Computer Trade Industry Association Certified Hardware Technician.

Andrew D.
www.cdnav.com

Audio quality and Vista

Reply #99
Well, I think I know what will be the outcome of the test.

If you are just playing one sound alone, with the sound card clock set at the source sample rate (44.1 KHz), which I guess is the default behaviour of the sound card, both systems will sound the same.

But if you play simultaneously another stream at different sample rate, or the sound card is not set at the source sample rate, XP may sound different (worse), depending on the source material used and the difference on sample rate on the streams played.

So, the question is, ¿which of both cases is "Joe Normal" case? I guess most times is the first case, but the second case will happen too sometimes.

 
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