Need advice on Qobuz Hi-Res Streaming...

Discussion in 'Audio Hardware' started by Tinnitus Andronicus, Dec 4, 2019 at 1:36 AM.

  1. Tinnitus Andronicus

    Tinnitus Andronicus Living Too Late Thread Starter

    Location:
    San Francisco
    I signed up for the free first month trial of Qobuz Studio since the price of $14.99 a month reeled me in. This is my first use of a streaming service. I like it and I think I will keep it. But I'm having some issues with finding the optimal audio output to set in Qobuz. I am only going to use this for listening from my desktop PC to home stereo, no plans to try to take advantage of streaming on my Android phone since I am on a very limited data plan to save money. I have an Astell&Kern player for listening on the go.

    Technical info: Windows 10 desktop PC, Qobuz app, and my primary DAC is a Rega DAC-R which is connected via USB. This is the DAC I use with all PCM files on my hard drive when playing them with JRiver Media Center 24, sending exclusive ASIO to the Rega. I also have an OPPO UDP-205 which I use for playing DSD files since the Rega won't support that format. JRiver is configured with automatic zone switching so it all works very well. The Rega plays up to 192kHz audio and shows the number on the front panel when it switches between 44, 96 and 192, playing all files at their native resolution.

    I have been told that Wasapi exclusive is the preferred setting in Qobuz and I understand why, that I don't want the stream being modified thru Windows. So that's what I set it to, and Qobuz worked fine with 44 and 96kHz streaming audio on my Rega. When I tried to play 192kHz audio on Qobuz though, it got all slowed down and garbled.

    I tried a bunch of different output settings. Sending to the Rega with ASIO instead of Wasapi exclusive seems to work but what happens is it sometimes creates a conflict with JRiver even when that app is closed. What happens is JRiver will launch and then Qobuz closes. Once it stabilizes I am able to play 192kHz files thru the Rega. But tell me, is ASIO exclusive?? I want to be sure that the stream is not getting passed thru Windows. Tried playing a YouTube video and it did not interrupt the Qobuz stream.

    I am not sure if using the ASIO output will be stable though, given the conflict that happens when I open the Qobuz even when JRiver is closed. I am confused by this all. Last night I was listening to 44 and 96kHz on Qobuz thru Wasapi exclusive and sounding great, it only failed when I tried to play 192 audio.

    Another option I have is to send Qobuz to the OPPO instead of the Rega, but I only have the option of ASIO output to the OPPO. No Wasapi exclusive. And I think my Rega is a better DAC than the OPPO.

    And lastly, I do have my preferences in the Qobuz app set to max so it should be able to play up to 192kHz audio. Changing buffering settings had no effect.

    Sorry if my attempts to explain these issues is long and convoluted, I don't have a great grasp of all this tech stuff (have no idea what the difference between ASIO and Wasapi is for example). Any advice and suggestions will be appreciated. I already filed a support request with Qobuz but I figure someone here will be able to help me sort this out.

    In sum I'd like to be able to select Wasapi exclusive output to Rega if I can get the 192 audio to play right. Otherwise, I can go with ASIO to Rega but it tends to be unstable and prone to conflict with JRiver in that case. Other option is to send it ASIO to the OPPO which will play 192 audio without issues. But tell me, is ASIO an exclusive audio output, so it won't get contaminated by Windows?
     
  2. Tinnitus Andronicus

    Tinnitus Andronicus Living Too Late Thread Starter

    Location:
    San Francisco
    And another weird thing that seems unrelated is that last night I was playing Steely Dan's Gaucho in 24/96 and sounding fantastic. Today I go to play the same album which says 24/96 and it is only 16/44 now. Is this a known issue with Qobuz?? Other albums listed as 24/96 are playing at the listed rate, it is only Gaucho that is now reduced to CD quality.
     
  3. Tinnitus Andronicus

    Tinnitus Andronicus Living Too Late Thread Starter

    Location:
    San Francisco
    One thing I'm quickly finding is I have to try different versions to get the best sounding one. Carly Simon's No Secrets in 16/44 sounds vastly superior to the master used in the 24/96 version from the Studio Albums Collection. I imagine there are a lot of similar discrepancies with different masters and the lower resolution versions sounding better than the higher ones. Honestly I have to question if I even need to listen to 192kHz audio, since the only album I found at that resolution so far is Leon Russell's Carney and it's not really that great sounding, though it is better than the 16/44 version.

    In a bit-perfect world, all Hi-Res audio would be from the best master available so we wouldn't have to bother with all these listening tests and searching this forum to find which ones are recommended. Don't we all wish...
     
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  4. Tim S

    Tim S Senior Member

    Location:
    East Tennessee
    Couple of quick thoughts - yes, asio is an exclusive mode and bypasses all the windows crapifying. No idea what the actual difference is between it and wasapi.

    When you are in either asio or wasapi mode software really hates it when you stop and start modes or switch modes - or there's another app trying to gain exclusive use of the audio device. The conflicts you are experiencind with Jriver make me think the app may LOOK closed, but it's still hanging around and active somewhere in the background.

    As far as the mastering - you are on the money. I was so excited to see the early, classic Rod Stewart albums in 24/192. Man, do they sound bad :( I had to search through a bunch of the individual songs on Rod compilations to find listenable versions.

    Lesson: a high res version of a marginal recording with a poor mastering is even worse than a normal quality version of the same thing. I'm guessing the more I search around the more I'm gonna find that this is true.
     
  5. Tinnitus Andronicus

    Tinnitus Andronicus Living Too Late Thread Starter

    Location:
    San Francisco
    Thanks for that info, good to know that ASIO is exclusive. I played around with this a while longer last night after posting here, and it seems that setting my Qobuz audio output to either ASIO>Rega or ASIO>OPPO is going to cause instability, since I have JRiver also set to the same output modes to both DACs, using the Rega for PCM files and OPPO for DSD playback. Qobuz kept crashing and JRiver kept relaunching until the third or fourth attempt. The only stable output mode in Qobuz is going to be Wasapi exclusive, which seems to run smoothly even if I have JRiver open as long as I'm not trying to play both apps at once, of course. So that is the setting I'm going with, at least for now. I don't know why my Rega is garbling up 192kHz streaming for Qobuz when it plays files at that sampling frequency just fine thru JRiver, and the Qobuz web tutorial pages say that Wasapi exclusive allows for streams up to 192 as long as your hardware supports it. Maybe I will get an answer from Qobuz support about this. Meanwhile, it's no big sacrifice to change my maximum streaming res setting in Qobuz from 192 to 96, thereby downsampling any 24/192 files to 24/96. I doubt I am going to hear any difference anyway. There seem to be few albums in 192kHz on Qobuz from what I've found, so I'm not missing much by lowering my streaming res setting.

    I'm still puzzled why that Steely Dan album that was listed as 24/96 was playing at the listed resolution a day ago, and now it's only playing 16/44... as though the files got swapped within the Qobuz library with the lower res version of Gaucho. I read enough about that sort of thing happening in Amazon HD Music, which is one reason why I never bothered giving it a try (the other reason being lack of exclusive output mode in Amazon HD).
     
  6. marcb

    marcb Senior Member

    Location:
    DC area
    Hmmm. The handful of Rod Stewart hi-rez I have sound pretty good. My guess is they are flat transfers of the original cutting masters. Dynamic but relaxed.
     
  7. Mike-48

    Mike-48 Forum Resident

    Location:
    Portland, Oregon
    On Windows 7, I have found ASIO the most reliable output route for high-resolution audio. At home, I have both JRiver and Qobuz using ASIO, with no problems. Of course, if both try to play at once, the audio may stop, but I've not had crashes. I can't speculate why you are having trouble, but I wish you good luck!

    P.S. The reliability of ASIO playback depends on the ASIO driver provided by the hardware manufacturer. If that is suboptimal, WASAPI is an excellent choice also, as it's capable of bit-perfect transfer. In that case, I'd use exclusive mode.
     
    Last edited: Dec 4, 2019 at 8:00 PM
    Tinnitus Andronicus likes this.
  8. Tinnitus Andronicus

    Tinnitus Andronicus Living Too Late Thread Starter

    Location:
    San Francisco
    I did get a very attentive reply from a Qobuz support person. They are aware of this bug and are trying to fix it in the next update. They asked me for a whole slew of specific info to help them troubleshoot it, so it seems they are taking this seriously. A suggested clean reinstall running as admin failed to fix it.

    I am using the ASIO drivers supplied by Rega and OPPO and they work fine in JRiver. Don't know why both are giving me trouble in Qobuz.

    Now I see that Qobuz is listing two versions of Gaucho, both as 24/96, though one of them is only 16/44. Mostly I am finding that the albums and tracks in Qobuz are correctly listed, unlike in Amazon HD, it is simply a matter of trying different versions out to find the best master to listen to. It's good that they have more than one version to choose from with the popular artists I've been looking for. I hope to dig deeper into the jazz and classical offerings at some point.
     
  9. chervokas

    chervokas Forum Resident

    Fwiw my best success streaming to a DAC from Qobuz has been with my phone, the USB Audio Player Pro app and and OTG adapter.
     
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  10. Black Elk

    Black Elk Music Lover

    Location:
    Bay Area, U.S.A.
    OP,

    Install the JRiver WDM driver, and then configure Qobuz to output to JRiver. You then control which DAC and driver (ASIO or WASAPI) are used in JRiver, and since you have the Zone feature to switch depending on PCM or DSD source, JRiver should route the Qobuz PCM audio to your Rega DAC. I do the same for TIDAL, and then select which DAC I want to use (one for speakers and another for headphones) in JRiver. I also made JRiver the default in Windows, so YouTube and stuff gets routed through too (I have all Windows sounds disabled, so that is never an issue).

    You may need to have JRiver open for this to work, but since I have JRiver and TIDAL open all the time I may be mis-remembering this.

    WDM Driver - JRiverWiki
     
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  11. Mike-48

    Mike-48 Forum Resident

    Location:
    Portland, Oregon
    This is supposed to work in theory. I tried it a year or two ago and could never get it to work right. Attempts to get help on the JRiver forum yielded the usual abuse from Jim H and sympathy from other users who couldn't get it to work, either. So, it's interesting to hear that now it does work for @Black Elk . Maybe they've fixed it, or maybe it's configuration-specific.
     
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  12. Tinnitus Andronicus

    Tinnitus Andronicus Living Too Late Thread Starter

    Location:
    San Francisco
    I believe you mentioned that workaround in the Amazon HD thread, as a solution to their lack of exclusive output mode. It sounds like it could work, but isn't this somehow getting routed thru the Windows soundcard? You shouldn't have to disable Windows sounds if it's functioning as an exclusive DAC send... but I could be wrong. Your suggestion is worth a try... though I'm thinking Qobuz will get this fixed sooner than later and then I can just use Wasapi exclusive in Qobuz which causes no problems.
     
  13. Claude Benshaul

    Claude Benshaul Forum Resident

    Some clarifications:

    ASIO on Windows is indeed exclusive but in many cases the driver is just a wrapper around Kernel Streaming which used to be the "old way" (pre Vista) of bypassing the system audio mixer. This function was replaced by WASAPI although it still exist and can still be used - for example Jriver still expose this interface although it doesn't recommend using it.

    WASAPI, being exclusive, won't allow two applications to access the audio hardware simultaneously. That's the explicit goal of having exclusive access. The way it is accomplished is that when an application wants to access an audio device through WASAPI it will generate a stream which will be identified by a session ID. The application can send more than one stream to a session or generate more than a single session. However once a session is active and has access to a device it is effectively blocking other sessions from accessing it and this is where the problems begins. An active session will expire once all its streams have stopped and some time passed. Since it's the application job to create and manage the streams, there is a potential problem with the application opening more than one stream for the session (the streams don't have to contain audible data) or if some other processes leaves it stuck in the foreground. At this moment the user experience is that the application closed but the audio device is still blocked. (Technical explanation here).

    From a user point of view there several things that needs to be understood. Firstly, exclusive access really means exclusive. Bypassing the Windows audio mixer happens because the audio mixer is also an application and therefore is blocked once a WASAPI audio session launched by another application (gross oversimplification but will do for the moment). Of course the exclusivity means that only a single audio application can play: other will either generate an error, or won't display or play anything, or if trying to access the same audio hardware through other interfaces (direct sound for example) will experience problems and may cause system instabilities.

    The second thing that needs to be understood is that while using WASAPI may be a great thing for listening to audio from a SINGLE source, it's not exactly the best thing to use overall because it limits the ability of the PC to interact with the user. So I would not recommend using WASAPI as the default audio output in a PC that is also used for other things beside playing audio and multimedia.

    The last thing is that a WASAPI audio session has to expire before another session can access the audio device and a WASAPI session has no user interface or screen of its own so it is possible that a badly written application or another unknown problem resulted in the original application closing but leaving the session active.

    Knowing these limits it is perfectly fine to use WASAPI to listen to audio or watching movies as long as the application that is playing is the only one active at the moment. In fact this is exactly what I'm doing using JRiver at home.
     
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  14. Black Elk

    Black Elk Music Lover

    Location:
    Bay Area, U.S.A.
    Umm, just to be clear, I do NOT use Qobuz, so I cannot comment on whether the JRiver WDM driver will work with it, but I see no reason why it should not. I DO have the WDM driver working with TIDAL, VLC, and my web-browsers for things like YouTube, etc.

    Someone else suggested it, and I questioned whether it really worked, since my tests with non-exclusive mode apps did NOT work, and it was confirmed that WDM is NOT a solution for the lack of exclusive mode in Amazon Music HD.

    However, I can tell you categorically that it does work for TIDAL, and I can see the resolution changing in JRiver if I play a CD quality or MQA album via TIDAL (I'm listening as I type!). In TIDAL I have selected the JRiver option, and configured for Exclusive mode use and fixed volume (so I control volume via my amplifiers).

    I haven't disabled the Windows sounds because of an exclusive mode conflict. I just hate them, and don't want to hear them via my audio systems or the speakers in my monitor, etc.! :)
     
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  15. Tinnitus Andronicus

    Tinnitus Andronicus Living Too Late Thread Starter

    Location:
    San Francisco
    That's a long explanation which adds a bit to my understanding while also giving me too much to wrap my head around (my fault, not yours). In the JRiver wiki pages it is suggested to use ASIO in preference to Wasapi if possible so when I open the dropdown menu in JRiver audio tools to view available output options I have both ASIO and Wasapi for Rega and only ASIO for OPPO (so I am guessing that the driver package I downloaded and installed from OPPO does not include a Wasapi driver), my two dedicated DACs. So that is what I ended up using, though I did try all available options and could not hear a difference between Wasapi and ASIO on the Rega playback zone. I think that because the ASIO drivers are both used in JRiver it creates a problem when I try to set ASIO output in Qobuz for either of my two DACs. Whereas Wasapi exclusive output in Qobuz is not dedicated to any output in JRiver so it doesn't cause a conflict. I am led to believe it is a bug in the Qobuz app that glitches up playback of 192kHz audio streams in the Wasapi exclusive mode. I did not try the regular Wasapi output in Qobuz because I do not want to use any output that goes thru the Windows sound interface.
     
  16. Claude Benshaul

    Claude Benshaul Forum Resident

    .
    Actually it doesn't suggest what you think it does. This advise on their Wiki is only valid if you have a true ASIO driver for your sound card and audio device and you most likely don't. On the other hand, WASAPI is the way of doing thing under Windows and a manufacturer can't get certification for an audio driver unless it's signed and accredited through Microsoft procedures and they won't do that unless it can support WASAPI.
     
  17. Tinnitus Andronicus

    Tinnitus Andronicus Living Too Late Thread Starter

    Location:
    San Francisco
    :confused: So I don't know if the ASIO drivers that I downloaded from Rega and OPPO are 'true' or not but you are saying probably not. Practically speaking, are you saying that I will be better off choosing WASAPI Rega output in JRiver than ASIO Rega? I have gone into Windows control panel already and under Properties>Advanced for Rega DAC-R checked the boxes under exclusive mode:

    Allow applications to take exclusive control of this device [check]
    Give exclusive mode applications priority [check]

    under "Select the bit depth and sampling frequency to be used in shared mode" (for Rega DAC which is my default audio output in Windows 10, used for YouTube videos and Bandcamp playback, etc) I have set it to 16-bit 48 kHz.

    When playing music files in JRiver output ASIO to Rega or ASIO to OPPO DAC the sampling frequency is shown on the DAC display and it changes from 44 to 96 to 192 depending on the file. Whereas if Windows was sharing the device then all files would be up or downsampled to 16/48. So I am taking this as evidence that exclusive mode is working with ASIO output in JRiver. That is my understanding at this point. I also know that if I am playing a YouTube video on my browser thru the Windows default output Rega DAC, the video sound cuts out as soon as I start playback in JRiver and if I play a hi-res file then the display of the DAC shows the frequency jump from 48 to 96. I am not able to play sound from the browser or any Windows system sounds until playback is stopped in JRiver because it takes priority. ASIO appears to be working exclusively in JRiver. I don't know anything about ASIO being "just a wrapper around Kernel Streaming".
     
  18. Claude Benshaul

    Claude Benshaul Forum Resident

    In order to avoid confusion what I'm advising is to use WASPI exclusive mode and run only one multimedia application or use direct sound if you are really set on having several application active simultaneously.
     
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  19. Black Elk

    Black Elk Music Lover

    Location:
    Bay Area, U.S.A.
    I have an Oppo 105D here, and in JRiver's audio options for it I see:

    ASIO
    WASAPI
    Kernel Streaming
    Direct Sound

    I have to mouse over More to see all of the options. Could WASAPI be lower down the list, since you also have multiple options available to you?

    If the ASIO and WASAPI drivers are working properly, you should not be able to hear any difference between them as both are meant to be delivering the same 'bit-perfect' output to your DAC(s).
     
  20. Tinnitus Andronicus

    Tinnitus Andronicus Living Too Late Thread Starter

    Location:
    San Francisco
    Okay, I reviewed some of the JRiver wiki pages and followed your suggestion. You seem to know what you're talking about. Thanks for your advice.

    Reviewing the changes, when I had my output for PCM zone set to Rega DAC ASIO, the audio output path for 16/44.1 files specified "44.1 kHz 32bit 2ch using ASIO (direct connection)"
    After changing the PCM zone output to Rega DAC WASAPI the audio output path for the same 16/44.1 files now shows "44.1 kHz 24bit (padded) 2ch using WASAPI (direct connection)"
    So before it was upsampling the 16bit file to 32bit in ASIO, now it is upsampling to 24bit?... In either case, it is a high-quality output, as shown by the DSP button changing to blue.

    Now for the DSD playback zone, it was set to OPPO ASIO output with bitstreaming enabled, showing the output path for 2.8 mHz 1bit dsf files as "DSD 2.8 mHz 1bt 2ch using ASIO (bitstreaming)"
    I found the WASAPI device option for OPPO and selected that instead of ASIO, keeping bitstreaming enabled for optimal DSD playback, and now the output for the same files says "DoP 2.8 mHz 1bt 2ch using WASAPI (bitstreaming)"...

    Why does it change from DSD using ASIO output to DoP when using WASAPI, and what does this mean? I don't know about "DoP". The DSP button changes to blue so it still shows this is a high-quality direct output path.

    Everything seems to be working well as before, but I'm going with your advice on choosing WASAPI instead of ASIO as designated device path settings.
     
  21. Tinnitus Andronicus

    Tinnitus Andronicus Living Too Late Thread Starter

    Location:
    San Francisco

    Yes I did find the WASAPI device option for OPPO, as indicated in my post above. I think there is really no difference in performance here between ASIO and WASAPI, but I'm going with Claude's advice in this case.
     
  22. Tinnitus Andronicus

    Tinnitus Andronicus Living Too Late Thread Starter

    Location:
    San Francisco
    This is the JRiver wiki page that first led me to believe that ASIO would be the better option: Audio Output Modes - JRiverWiki : "If your soundcard has a native ASIO driver, this is the most direct (and normally best) way to communicate with it."

    But now after looking at this page WASAPI - JRiverWiki I have a somewhat better understanding of things, but when it says "WASAPI is the recommended Audio Output Mode for Windows unless your audio device has a well-behaved ASIO driver, and it effectively replaces all legacy output modes including Kernel Streaming and Direct Sound" I don't know about how well-behaved my ASIO driver is. Anyway, WASAPI seems like the way to go.

    Returning to the subject of the thread, I am just going to set Qobuz to downsample all 192kHz files to 96kHz until they fix that bug. It sounds great. And they must have over a hundred albums by Jordi Savall on there, with many of them in Hi-Res. Lots of great music to stream...
     
  23. Black Elk

    Black Elk Music Lover

    Location:
    Bay Area, U.S.A.
    Don't worry about the 24- or 32-bit output, it is just putting the 16- or 24-bit input into a 24- or 32-bit word.

    As for the difference in DSD settings, DoP is DSD over PCM, a way of framing a DSD bitstream so that it looks like PCM data, and can be passed through PCM infrastructure. At a DoP-compliant DAC, the framing is undone, and the DSD bitstream restored. This process has no affect on the sound-quality. It is like transmitting the data in an envelope, opening the envelope and discarding it to reveal the data once more. (If you play the DoP signal into a non-compliant PCM DAC, it will result in low-level noise being reproduced.)

    Why the difference between ASIO and WASAPI? Because WASAPI ONLY supports DoP for DSD data. In contrast, ASIO supports both DoP and raw DSD. Most DACs, however, do NOT support raw DSD. If you switch back to ASIO, and look at 'Device settings' under 'Output' there is a check-box for 'DSD bitstream in DoP format' and this is where you can control the use of DoP or raw DSD. If you do the same for the WASAPI mode, you will see that the option does not appear.
     
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  24. Tinnitus Andronicus

    Tinnitus Andronicus Living Too Late Thread Starter

    Location:
    San Francisco

    Right, I just read about what you are saying at this page DSD - JRiverWiki
     
  25. Claude Benshaul

    Claude Benshaul Forum Resident

    I must confess that while I'm perfectly aware that DoP means DSD over PCM, I never played a DSD audio stream nor have I ever used a SACD player, therefore I'm afraid I can't be of any help on this issue.

    However what I can do if you are using JRiver is advise you to try to enable the SoX resampler and the TPDF dithering. In my opinion they can improve the listening experience, but bear in mind that I have no idea how it will behave when playing DSD.
     

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