Mar 21, 2019 If you're an audiophile who prefers high-resolution audio, iTunes simply won't cut it. So here are the best hi-res music player apps for Mac. Most Mac owners use either iTunes or a streaming service to manage and listen to their music. That's great, but if you're an audiophile who prefers high-resolution audio, iTunes simply won't cut it. How often is it that you can get something for your system for nothing? Below are six of our favorite free pieces of software that we think every audio enthusiast should download and try out. From CD ripping to improving your ability to critically listen, this list has something for everyone. Jun 04, 2017 The Best Music Players for Mac For A Better Music Experience. Everyone knows that the days of iTunes as a music player app on Mac are over. We tested the best alternatives and created this list for you. Whether you are a casual music listener or an audiophile, there’s a suitable app for everyone in this list of the best Mac music players. With Audirvana your computer becomes a true high fidelity audio source. The audio playback becomes a priority on your computer, and your system (DAC) is fed with a ready-to-play audio data stream using the shortest possible path. Choosing the right audiophile playback software can be a daunting task. While audible differences can occur in going from an entry-level software like iTunes to one of the audiophile playback engines mentioned below, the transition between high-end software boils down to a preference between real cherry flavor and artificial cherry flavor.
Choosing the right audiophile playback software can be a daunting task. While audible differences can occur in going from an entry-level software like iTunes to one of the audiophile playback engines mentioned below, the transition between high-end software boils down to a preference between real cherry flavor and artificial cherry flavor. It should also be mentioned that with a properly designed and optimized music server or HTPC, the sonic benefits and differences between operating systems and playback software shrink and selection most often can be made based on form and function. However, the differences in supported file formats, file management systems, user experience vary greatly.
The Case for Specialty HiFi Software
One of the main concepts behind high-end playback software is to aid in the elimination of background processes and improve the ability of non-real-time operating systems to process real-time audio information. Simply put, you want the operating system to focus on audio and not useless services, and you want the audio signal to reach the computers output with as little handshaking as possible.
Because many operating systems can be optimized outside of playback software, the benefits of these audio applications may diminish. This doesn’t mean they make no difference, it just explains why some people will hear a tremendous difference while others will not. There are lots of layers here, and I’ll talk about them more in-depth in our upcoming optimization guides.
Before diving into the software comparison, I need to address bit-perfect playback. There are three camps here. Conventional wisdom states that in order for a system to be bit perfect it must act as a pass-through device, not altering the digital data in any fashion through the use of matrixing, DSP, or other means. The idea behind this is to say the output is exactly the same as what was put in. This idea is supported by the camp's theory that bits are just bits and that digital is just ones and zeros, so if a one is a one and a zero a zero the data has passed un-fooled around with and is thus bit perfect. This means that all bit perfect signals should be created equal.
The second camp states that bit perfect means that the bits are exact, but jitter may still be introduced. When doing something in non-real-time (running an application) bit-perfect is applicable because the data are buffered and sent in packets that are just resent if there are any errors (otherwise you would have applications crashing constantly). Audio, on the other hand, is real time. Bit perfect implies that the data and sample rates match, it does not mean jitter isn't introduced within those same sample rates.
Author's Opinion on Bit Perfect Playback
Finally the third camp, my camp, gets two paragraphs because it's my camp and I'm writing this. Let's all start by agreeing that audio is areal-time process. Even if an application loads data into memory forprocessing, everything before and the whole operation after is a real timeoperation. Real time processes in a computer take the form of a square wave,specifically a pulse width modulation. This pulse width modulation is an analogrepresentation of what we conceptualize as a digital signal and is created byvoltage in the power supply. This PWM signal has both amplitude characteristicsand timing characteristics. The timing, or duty cycle, along with the amplitudedetermine the frequency response of that square wave. A computer is made up ofbillions of transistors, all switching very quickly to changes in logic(mathematical algorithms created by the operating system and software). Basedon the input voltages, logic switches create a new version, a duplicate, of thesquare wave (either theoretically identical or altered). That new version ofthe square wave is also created from power in the power supply. Because audiois real time, there is no error correction that can be done to this squarewave, any resulting wave form IS your music.
Looking at the concept of bit-perfect, it's arguablyimpossible to have bit perfect playback in a real-time system because there areno bits. If the power supply introduces noise or there is jitter on the squarewave this results in a square wave that is not identical to the original.Because the square wave is an analog signal it is still susceptible to noiseand distortion. A square wave, however, reacts a little differently than itssine wave counterpart. Jitter is an alteration of the duty cycle, when thatjitter hits the digital interface chips, a DAC for instance, that jitter isseen as an amplitude error and creates an alteration of the frequency response.Amplitude distortion itself is created by noise voltages that either add orsubtract from the amplitude of the square wave. This introduces harmoniccontent into the square wave that shouldn't exist in the music. The square wavemay still resemble a one or a zero, but it contains additional frequencycontent. So as far that bits are concerned, it's bit perfect, but withadditional harmonic content that shouldn't be there.
So, high-end playback software works to buffer the audio signal and keep as much of the processing in the non-real-time zone (memory playback) as possible. The next step is to create as few duplications of the square wave as possible and get it to the computer's output as quickly as possible so as to avoid the introduction of jitter and amplitude errors. All of the software below is bit perfect, the camp you pitch your tent in shouldn't affect the software you wish to use, just how you choose to integrate it into your system
JRiver Media Center
OS: Mac and Windows
Audio Capabilities: Standard audio formats plus FLAC, WAV, DSD
Video Capabilities: Blu-ray (now on both mac and windows) streaming services like Netflix and Hulu, and multichannel A/V formats
File Management: Self contained database with significant automatic organization and custom tailoring. Custom Playlists. Music stored locally, on external HDD, or NAS.
First up is JRMC (as the cool kids call it). It sports a sleek, easy-to-use interface, various GUI adjustments, and a settings menu with more options than a Vegas buffet line. It can play anything and offers access to a very powerful DSP engine.The feature set and sound quality improvements in this software make it a significant leap up over its windows media center alternative. The addition of ASIO, Direct Sound, Wasapi, and Kernel streaming is a big bonus over entry-level playback software. They have also integrated a memory playback feature, which was a big selling point on higher-end software available. For barebones enthusiasts this software may pack too many options, too many settings, and too much freedom. The good news is if you don’t want to mess with settings you don’t have to, it pretty much plays right out of the box. A similar (and free) alternative is Foobar2000, which has several plugins and nearly identical sound quality. The interface isn’t as nice and it’s not quite as easy to use, but many folks dig it. For an audio-only alternative you can check out CPLAY, which is simpler, open source, and sounds a little better too.
User Interface: 10
Customer Support: 9
Subjective Sound Quality: 8
Video Quality: 10
Trial Offered: YES
Audio Capabilities: Standard Audio Formats plus FLAC, WAV, DSD
File Management: Utilizes JRMC Database organization or standalone playlists.
JPLAY is a relatively new introduction to the audiophile playback software market. Piggy-backing off the Jriver or Foobar2000 interfaces, it allows for use of the excellent file management of JRMC, but with improvements to sound quality.
This is an enthusiast level software, is a bit of a process to set up and tedious to use, but represents the most technically intelligent software available. If any software makes a difference, it would be JPLAY, but many people have claimed that it does not offer improvement over JRMC. In my test system I run a very high-end PC-based music server and the differences between JRMC and JPLAY were subtle, but I felt that I could hear them. Many of the optimizations that JPLAY does to the system I had already done manually (giving both JPLAY and JRMC Standalone an edge to begin with). There is a balance between folks claiming it to be revolutionary and other folks claiming it makes no difference (as is so often the case in the high-end marketplace). My recommendation is that the software makes sense, but you might want to try the trial version and see if it meshes well with your system. Of course if you plan to use it with JRMC it will require a JRMC license as well. JPLAY’s strength comes from its ability to isolate itself from the operating system. Setting itself up as a windows service allows it high priority thread access and when running, JPLAY disables background services to eliminate IO operations so that the only thing being worked on during playback is your music.
They have a slew of standard features including memory playback and direct sound, but integrating the software as a system activity is something unique to JPLAY. For more advanced users, you may choose to go the dual PC route, which involves using a processing PC and a Music PC separately to play back audio. In this setup the processing PC does all the heavy lifting and the music PC is designed to be ultra low power, low noise, and simple to output a streamed audio signal. To me this seems counter-intuitive to want to add a second computer to the signal path, but it is evidently a critical improvement to be made when using the JPLAY system.
User Interface: 6
Customer Support: 8
Subjective Sound Quality: 10
Trial Offered: YES
Audiophile Player For Mac Osx
Audio Capabilities: Primary audio formats plus FLAC, WAV
File Management: Standalone database, managed and organized manually by file folder.
XXHighEnd is a good-sounding software if you can get it to work. It requires a fairly powerful computer to get the most out of it and requires a fairly lengthy setup that may extend past your trial period. If you have the muscle, there’s a lot of potential here.
With that said, this is one of the more tweaky playback software programs. Being able to adjust page size, latency, and utilize memory playback make it a software that has a lot of potential. The software can also do some fairly sophisticated digital filtering algorithms. This is paramount when using the software with the Phasure DAC, which relies on the XXHighEnd software to operate.
The GUI is purposefully minimal and high-contrast. The volume is a lossless DSP-based volume, and there are some cool unknown features like phase alignment that claim to greatly improve the sound. The phase alignment is a unique feature to XXHighEnd and one that sets this apart, as long as your amps aren’t DC-coupled. To learn more, check out the Phasure website.
Personally it wasn’t my cup of tea, but I prefer a little more versatility in my playback software, like DSD support. But this software and JPLAY are top contenders for the best playback software and sound very similar. XXHE also plays standalone, which gives it a bonus point in my book. Simpler is better.
User Interface: 5
Customer Support: 8 (tons of resources on the forum)
Subjective Sound Quality: 9
Free Audiophile Music Player For Mac
Trial Offered: YES
A native Mac audio and music player that supports crystal-clear bit-perfect gapless playback of all popular lossless and lossy audio formats, uses only a tiny amount of computing power and offers a clean and intuitive user experience – it only ‘does what it says on the can’.
macOS 10.10+ / 64-bit
Try the freeColibri DAC/DSD Test app
Saves your battery
Uses a barely noticable amount of computing power, Colibri is built using state-of-the-art Swift programming language while the BASS audio engine is bundled as machine code and the interface uses built-in components by Apple. This was done in order to achieve a tiny footprint and to be as native to macOS as humanly possible.
Plays your audio
Colibri supports the most widely used range of file formats in terms of lossless audio: FLAC, ALAC, WAV, AIFF, APE, TTA, DSD, WavPack, popular lossy formats: Ogg Vorbis, MP1/MP2/MP3 and AAC/M4A, network streams/online radio, MOD and MIDI files (with per song SoundFont support)! For your undisturbed listening pleasure, Colibri supports Exclusive/Hog mode as well. A lossless audio player at heart with love to other popular formats as well0010.
Handles CUE Sheets
Complete Cue sheet support: malformed and disordered content is reprocessed during loading along with a painless and quick way to add your whole collection – Colibri will analyze and decide whether to load the Cue sheet in the folder or queue every song one by one for every added/dragged folder recursively.
Supports gapless playback
Extensively designed from the ground-up to provide a true gapless listening experience. Colibri prepares the upcoming song for playback in the background to further eliminate gaps for (slower) external drives or network shares without pushing the entire song into memory, meaning that no extra CPU or RAM usage is needed!
Next-generation BS2B support
Individual Song & Audio Device Profiles
Custom Processing Order
Automatic Profile Switching
Picks up where you left off
Saves or empties your current playlist upon quitting and re-opens your songs when you start it up again. Furthermore, Colibri can also save and load its’ current playlist to a custom format that can even be appended to an already existing playlist. Loading and appending is also available for M3U and M3u8 playlist files.
Avoids most problems
Colibri does its’ best to avoid most problems before, during and even after playback. Loading unsupported files show up as an error message and files that have disappeared since loading are automatically removed and skipped upon being reached in the playlist. A Mac lossless player developed with flexibility and error correction in mind.
Understands your language
Capable of rendering the song information as it was intended to be shown: of all the tried metadata it had no problem with displaying Cyrillic or kanji/katakana/hiragana characters mixed with ASCII. All known metadata types readable by the BASS engine and macOS are supported by Colibri.
Respects your privacy
Colibri does not phone home, collect usage data, spy on you or modify files in any way. It also does not contain DRM routines, have features hidden behind a paywall or bind functions to a subscription model. Colibri is an audio player that respects your privacy to the fullest and this will never change.
10-band Peaking Equalizer
Individual Song Profiles
Automatic Profile Switching
Displays album art
Displays embedded cover art for FLAC files and ID3 / iTunes artwork metadata (mainly for ALAC / M4A and MP3 files). When that yields no visible results then Colibri looks around the folder where the current song resides for a cover art image and shows that. See the FAQ for details on the exact files Colibri looks for. FLAC files with embedded picture data or supplied album art images are displayed automatically.
Resides in your Menu Bar
Colibri can place an unobtrusively small icon in the Menu Bar for easy access and playlist control: you can either start/pause the playback, skip to the next track or go back to the previous one. It also displays the info and cover art image of the current song. Control Colibri from even multiple Spaces desktops away with the MenuBar Controller!
Integrates with Finder and your Keyboard
Colibri conforms all of Apple’s strict requirements – which means that it shows up in Finder as an option in “Open With” when a supported file is selected. Colibri can also open all files of a folder by opening just one of them from Finder – see the Settings – Behavior screenshots in the Gallery.
Adjusts to your Display
Colibri’s interface elements scale themselves nicely on every screen resolution and pixel density, while Colibri also offers a wide range of usage modes from small condensed to fullscreen complete with multiple types of column layouts and a resizable player window.
Colibri 1.9.1 Changelog
Thank you for using Colibri! This updates brings a bunch of bugfixes (codec errors, SoundFont usage, per-Song BS2B/EQ profiles, various crashes), eight new playlist columns (…and sorting for all!), a new ‘insert’ mode for the Playlist, switchable Auto-Play and Permanent Pause options – among other smaller enhancements. Happy listening!
- Updated codebase to Swift 5
- Settings -> Output now better fits all kHz entries
- Volume is now automatically raised to 100% for DSD files when DoP/DoPA mode is selected and restored to previous volume level for non-DSD files (and PCM mode)
- Unsupported DST encoded DSD and DTS encoded WAV files will now show proper Unsupported Codec error messages
- added an alternate fallback method for Automatic Sample Rate Switching for stubborn DACs (Colibri uses it automatically when needed)
- Finder sorting order is used to enqueueing files to the Playlist
- Playlist will be rendered with system default monospace font when available (macOS 10.11 and up)
- added a ‘Use Default SoundFont’ option for MIDI files to the right-click context menu of the Playlist
- removing the default SoundFont will automatically set the next available SoundFont as the default
- if the SoundFont list is empty, then the first SoundFont will automatically be marked as the default
- removing a SoundFont only causes playback restart if the currently played song is affected by the removal
- importing a new SoundFont will automatically set it as the default
- new switchable option in Settings -> Playlist: “Dragging to the Playlist via Mouse / Trackpad”:
- songs will be added at pointer position (insert)
- songs will be added at the end of the list (append, like before)
- added ‘Permanent Pause’ to Settings -> Behavior (Off, by default):
- pause will ‘hold’ until the Play button is pressed again
- switching to a different song will ‘arm’/prepare the song for playback
- seeking repositions the playhead and it will play audio from the selected spot once unpaused
- removing songs from the playlist does not affect the paused state
- added ‘Auto-Play’ to Settings -> Behavior (On, by default):
- On: Colibri automatically plays the next song
- Off: Colibri stops when the current song ends
- Playlist Columns have been rewritten from scratch for improved stability: see Settings -> Columns
- Columns are now sortable:
- click on the header once to sort playlist by that column
- clicking once again switches between Ascending/Descending sorting
- sorting is supported across all columns
- added new Columns:
- Length, kHz, Codec, Year, Track Number, Disc Number, Composer and Bit Depth
- Playlist Columns can now have vertical and horizontal Grids:
- they help in finding the columns boundaries during reordering and resizing
- Grids can be toggled on/off in Settings -> Themes
- a color picker has been added to Settings -> Themes for the Grid
- new Loop option ‘Random Round Robin’ in Settings -> Playlist:
- each song in the Playlist will be played once per “round”
- when all songs were played once, a new “round” begins
- removing a song causes the “round”
- double-clicking on a song does not reset the “round”
- a great way to have a balanced, random playback order
- monospace system fonts are now used in both the Title bar and Status bar (10.11 and up)
BUGS FIXED IN THIS UPDATE
- Colibri would not display its’ name in the Force Quit and Activity Monitor windows
- Colibri would prevent the system from entering sleep state
- Colibri would fail to play the upcoming song under very high system load
- Playhead wouldn’t always continue from the same spot on output device change
- Playlist would have a weird glitch on startup
- Force Sample Rate would cause crash on startup
- Online Streams wouldn’t always start playback
- Random playback order would sometime cause Colibri to crash
- BS2B and EQ profiles wouldn’t property restore on next startup
- After starting Colibri, the playlist would become disorganized/chaotic if files had gone missing since last start
- Automatic Sample Rate Switching wouldn’t always switch properly after the end of the playlist had been reached
- Menubar Controller didn’t always refresh the data on song change
- some built-in Audio DSP hardware wouldn’t switch sample rate properly (mainly newer MacBook Pros)
- SoundFonts won’t always properly reload on next launch
- SoundFonts won’t properly switch on a per-song basis
- custom SoundFonts could disappear from the SoundFont list
- setting a custom SoundFont as default wouldn’t always save properly
- network streams won’t trigger a ‘Problem calculating song length’ error
- Menubar Controller properly shows Light/Dark control buttons as per system theme
- Colibri could crash by clicking on the EQ button while the Playlist is empty
- moving multiple songs in the Playlist at once could cause titles to be become disorganized
- dragging files / folder to the dock would not be added to the Playlist properly
- Colibri could crash on El Capitan 10.11.6 when switching between Dock and Menu modes
- added missing keyboard shortcut to DSD output mode menu
- About Colibri window didn’t properly switch the Light logo in Dark Mode
- Theme import / export buttons wouldn’t properly spawn the browser windows
- Pressing Return on an empty playlist could sometimes cause crash
- Pressing Return while nothing is selected in the playlist could cause crash
- Color Pickers in Settings -> Themes should now behave as expected of them
Thank you Henning Gärtner for all-around essential feedback and testing, Rick Ernsting for feedback on the SoundFont issues!
Colibri is the passion project of Gábor Hargitai, brought to you by countless sleepless and caffeine-induced nights.
Support Email: [email protected]