How does MM 'do' audio and Windows kernel streaming issues?

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Simon Chick
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How does MM 'do' audio and Windows kernel streaming issues?

Post by Simon Chick » Wed Nov 21, 2007 5:19 am

I have posted previously on related issues, but never seemed to get to the bottom of it all.

This post is aimed primarily at the development team in the hope that I can finally understand this fully - and be reassured that I don't need to switch to Foobar 2000!

I use MM (still MM2 so far) to manage a 30,000+ track library, which I am progressively converting to .flac.

I am aiming for audiophile quality sound, and route the output from MM on an XP PC to my hifi via a USB DAC. I do not plan to upgrade to Vista any time soon.

The latest issue of The Absolute Sound contains a long awaited group of features on hard disk based audio. It raises the topic of this post, and (as seems to be the norm) recommends only Foobar 2000 as a player/manager. I don't want to stop using Media Monkey as I like it, it has excellent database management and a much superior interface to Foobar 2000.

BUT I really want to reassure myself that MM is not forcing me into a sub optimal audio output.

Let me quote (at some length) from the main article on building your own PC music server:
.. the music server playback software had to be able to bypass the MS Windows audio subsystem known as the kernel mixer (or k-mixer). The Windows kernel mixer normally handles all audio routing, signal processing, and level-control chores within the Windows environment; unfortunately it also imposes an unavoidable sonic penalty on all signals that pass through it.

Bypassing the kernel mixer can be accomplished either in the audio interface's drivers or from within the playback application itself. In order to facilitate direct access to the hardware, manufacturers of high-performance sound cards provide multi-format drivers that conform to professional industry-standard protocols, such as ASIO, or incorporate hardware-specific functionality, such as Echo's PureWave mode. Alternatively, an advanced signal-routing architecture called WDM Kernel Streaming enables most audio interfaces to bypass the kernel mixer without special drivers. ... I cannot over-emphasize the importance of this point: If the music server can only be used with standard Windows system drivers, then sound quality will be limited to mid-fi performance ...

In order to take advantage of our carefully chosen audio interface, the music server's playback software must be able access the interface's dedicated drivers, or to communicate with the audio hardware via WDM Kernel Streaming mode. Surprisingly, many common mainstream "jukebox" applications do not incorporate this essential feature. ...

Fortunately freeware music playback applications such as Foobar 2000 provide several alternative audio-routingmodes that bypass the Windows kernel mixer. Foobar 2000's unsurpassedflexibility and extensibilityallow the program's signal pathto be optimized for specific audio hardware ...
And then it rabbits on about Foobar's wonderful flexibility, which seems nothing like MM's, from what I have read. Not a single mention of MM anywhere.

What I am seeking is explanation about how MM2 (and MM3, if different) address these issues, so we know what to do if we do need to do anything to optimize the output, or else to know that the Monkey bows to no program, not even Foobar for output quality.

For reference this is the previous thread where I was trying to explore and learn about these issues.

http://www.mediamonkey.com/forum/viewto ... highlight=

The kernel streaming output plug-in also still crashes MM for me. The above article was dealing with soundcards rather than USB output, but I think the issues are important for a lot of people, and I would also like to know how using USB output may affect the issues.

I am actually pretty pleased with the sound quality I am getting, but I would hate to be missing the chance of getting something even better.

Looking forward to some serious education!

Simon Chick
Posts: 58
Joined: Sat Apr 08, 2006 10:49 am
Location: Hong Kong

is this THAT difficult????

Post by Simon Chick » Sat Nov 24, 2007 10:41 am

C'mon, somebody must have some idea about this!

Save me from foobar!

Please!!!!

Simon Chick
Posts: 58
Joined: Sat Apr 08, 2006 10:49 am
Location: Hong Kong

MM audio and kernel streaming

Post by Simon Chick » Sat Dec 08, 2007 8:21 am

bump

is anybody out there?

jaykay
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Post by jaykay » Sun Dec 09, 2007 4:27 am

Simon

If you are so concerned about quality why don't you invest in a Slim/Logitech Transporter?

regards

John

Guest

Post by Guest » Mon Dec 10, 2007 9:30 am

I don't know about your other question, but converting an .mp3 to a .flac would absolutely NOT improve the quality, and might hurt it. Converting from a 'lossy' codec to a 'lossless' one does not magically replace all the information that was lost the first time it was encoded. The only place transcoding belongs is maybe to temporarily fit more songs on your iPod or something.

But ignore this if you already knew that and meant that you were slowly deleting your MP3 albums and re-encoding them from scratch as .flac.

Big_Berny
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Post by Big_Berny » Mon Dec 10, 2007 10:27 am

Well, I think and hope that he doesn't just converts his lossy files into lossless!

About what you asked. I'm quite sure that you won't here a difference. AFAIK there's only a problem if you soundcard uses another samplerate than your source.
Anyway: If your soundcard supports it you can use the ASIO interface which also bypasses the kmixer - and it works with MediaMonkey!
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Teknojnky
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Post by Teknojnky » Mon Dec 10, 2007 11:40 am

google asio for all, or asio4all or something like that, I belive there is a winamp 2 compatible asio plugin which should work with mm 2 or 3.

disclaimer: I havent used it so take caution

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Post by Big_Berny » Mon Dec 10, 2007 11:46 am

Well, ASIO4all isn't really ASIO, it's a kind of simulation.
For ASIO I suggest this output-plugin: http://otachan.com/out_asio(dll)_067.7z (use winrar or 7zip to extract)

But I have other good news! I found a kernel-streaming-output-plugin at hydrogenadio.org (the best technical audio forum) which works with MM3. You can get it here: http://www.stevemonks.com/ksplugin/
With this one audio also bypasses the windows kernel mixer! So I think this one is exactly what you need as it works the same like to Foobar2k thing you mentioned. :)
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Peke
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Post by Peke » Mon Dec 10, 2007 6:05 pm

@Big_Berny
Nice, I didn't know of that Plugin.
Best regards,
Pavle
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Admin of Free MediaMonkey addon Site HappyMonkeying
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Rozzer

Post by Rozzer » Sat Dec 15, 2007 5:43 am

Hey Simon...

Did you try this plugin?? I´m also very interested in this topic.. I've used iTunes for a long time, and the sound is really bad in that compared to other programs. I've just started to experiment with foobar, and hands down, it sounds better than everything else I've heard, but as you mentioned, the gui isn't very good, and the library is non existent. So I would be very interested in you're experiences with this or other plug-ins to make Mediamonkey sound better....

Please let me know how it all turned out.....

Rozzer

Big_Berny
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Post by Big_Berny » Sat Dec 15, 2007 5:58 am

@Rozzer: Well that's strange! Soundquality should sound the same with all mediaplayers. The output plugin shouldn't make any hearable difference in normal cases. Maybe if you really have a very good hifi-equipment you'll hear something different but even then it's not shure.

So just make shure that you've disabled all equalizers and "audio-improvement-features" of iTunes. Then it should really sound the same... If not the has to be a problem somewhere...

But try it out! Here the ksplugin works like a charm. :)
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Rozzer

Post by Rozzer » Sat Dec 15, 2007 6:10 am

Hey Big Berny...

Yes, I've heard that they all should sound the same.. But I've been comparing iTunes (Which I'm beginning to get really tired of, but that a different story) to foobar, and iTunes just sound really muffled (If that's a word). Foobar is a lot more clear and crisp in sound.. And it's not just me, I've tested it on a couple of friends also, and they say that they can spot the difference aswell..

Rozzer

Post by Rozzer » Sat Dec 15, 2007 6:15 am

Actually.. When I think about it.. I've heard that Quicktime Player is really bad at handling MP3's, and iTunes is playing through Quicktime.. I remember that I have tried a Plugin for iTunes called "Multi-Plugin" which let you use iTunes but played all the songs through Foobar.. It made a world of difference.. Sadly it has been discontinued, and isn't updated anymore....

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Post by Big_Berny » Sat Dec 15, 2007 11:30 am

Strange, just tested it on my system and couldn't hear any obvious difference here. But ok, I don't like iTunes anyway! ;)[/i]
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Rozzer

Post by Rozzer » Sat Dec 15, 2007 3:18 pm

Well yeah, that's strange.. Is the volume on Foobar at least higher than in iTunes with "same" settings.. I've just tried it again, and Foobar's volume is much higher than iTunes with both turned up max.. Maybe the problem is at my end, I don't know.. But please tell me before I go any futher... Do you notice any big difference playing through the kernel streaming plugin than the ordinary plugin in Mediamonkey???

Thanks for your replys...

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