Hi-res audio player is a software or mobile application, or a gadget that allows listening to music files in high quality. If you look for the program or hardware digital audio player (DAP), keep reading our explanation how you choose audio player and option list.
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On each computer and mobile phone platform music lovers has several options to get hi-fi sounding for their recordings. But which should you choose? What is difference between various playback programs and audiophile DAPs?
Read the definitive guide:
• free and commercial hi-res audio player software apps on Windows, Mac, Linux, Android, iOS and other [computers, laptops, mobile phones, tablets],
• digital audio player devices,
• online streaming for audiophiles,
• Frequently Asked Questions,
• what is the best music player program,
• supported audio formats (WAV, FLAC, DSD [DSF, DFF, SACD ISO], MQA, m4a, ....) and others.
Hi res music player software for audiophiles (Windows, Mac, Linux, Android, iOS, online) for WAV, FLAC, DSD (DSF, DFF, SACD ISO, DoP), MQA, m4a, ....
WARNING: This table can contain errors. It is not an offer or advertising. We are not affiliated with the listed products. We guarantee nothing. If you found a wrong information, contact us, please. To get exact information, contact the software developers and/or vendors.
Supported sample rate and bit depth may depend on a file format.
||DFF DSF WAV FLAC WMA MP3 OGG APE AAC ALAC AIFF MQA||up to native DSD256, up to 32bit 384kHz||256 GB / up to 1 TB||up to 12 hours||SNR 120 ... 122 dB, WiFi 2.4 GHz|
||DSF DFF WAV FLAC WMA MP3 OGG APE AAC ALAC AIFF MQA||up to native DSD512, up to 32bit 384kHz||256 GB / up to 1 TB||v 5.0 A2DP, AVRCP, aptX HD, LDAC [?]||up to 9 hours||SNR 121 ... 123 dB, WiFi 2.4 / 5 GHz|
|Cowon Plenue D3||DSF DFF SACD-ISO FLAC WAV AIFF ALAC APE WMA OGG DCF mp3 CUE||up to DSD128, 32 bit 192 kHz||64 / up to 128 GB||v 3.0 A2DP AVRCP / SBC aptX [?]||up to 45 hours||SNR 126 ... 131 dB|
|Cowon Plenue R2||DSF DFF SACD-ISO DXD FLAC WAV AIFF ALAC APE WMA OGG WV TTA DCF mp3 CUE||up to native DSD256, up to 32bit 384kHz||128 GB / ?||v 3.0 A2DP AVRCP / SBC aptX [?]||up to 20 hours||SNR 130 ... 136 dB|
|Cowon Plenue L||DSF DFF SACD-ISO DXD FLAC WAV AIFF ALAC APE WMA OGG WV TTA DCF mp3 CUE||up to native DSD256, up to 32bit 384kHz||256 / up to 256 GB||up to 9 hours||SNR 125 ... 128 dB|
||DFF DSF DXD MQA APE FLAC WAV WMA AAC ALAC AIFF OGG MP3||up to native DSD512,up to 32bit 768kHz||64 GB / up to 2 TB||v 5.0||
||SNR 125 dB, WiFi 2.4 / 5 GHz|
||DFF DSF DXD MQA APE FLAC WAV WMA AAC ALAC AIFF OGG MP3||up to native DSD512,up to 32bit 768kHz||128 GB / SDXC and SDHC Micro SD||v 5.0||
|FiiO M11 Plus||DSD DST-ISO DXD APE ALAC FLAC WAV WMA mp3 OGG AAC||
up to DSD256, up to 32bit 384kHz
|64 GB / up to 2 TB||v 5.0 SBC, AAC, aptX, aptX-HD, LDAC [?]||up to 14 hours||SNR ≥121 dB, WiFi 2.4 / 5 GHz|
|FiiO M17||DSD DST-ISO DXD APE ALAC FLAC WAV WMA mp3 OGG AAC||
up to DSD256, up to 32bit 384kHz
external USB DAC: up to DSD512, up to 32bit 768kHz
64 GB / the
||v 5.0 SBC, AAC, aptX, aptX Low Latency, aptX HD, aptX Adaptive, LDAC [?]||up to 10 hours||SNR ≥121 dB, WiFi 2.4 / 5 GHz|
|Sony NW-A105||DSF DFF MP3 WMA FLAC WAV AAC HE-AAC ALAC AIFF APE MQA||up to DSD256, up to 32bit 384kHz||
? / Micro SD Mic
||v 5.0||up to 26 hours||WiFi|
|Sony NW-WM1A||DSD MP3 WMA AAC HE-AAC FLAC ALAC AIFF||native DSD, DSD to PCM, up to 32bit 384kHz||
128 GB / Mic
aptX HD af
||up to 30 hours|
Which high-resolution audio player has the best sound quality is your personal choice rather. Some music players are capable of playback sound files without altering binary content (bit-perfect). In general, you don't care, that player is used, but some nuances are there. How to make the choice is discussed below.
An audio player may work in 2 base modes (depending on the software's abilities):
In bit-perfect mode, the sound quality is determined by DAC and the next audio devices.
This mode consumes minimum computing resources. It is desirable for computers with low computing power.
We can imagine a digital-to-audio converter (DAC) as a grinder and a music file as coffee beans.
It doesn't matter what spoon form (bit-perfect transfer) we pour the beans into the grinder's container. The taste (sound quality) of ground coffee will be the same.
Processing's sound quality depends on the player and/or processing plug-in.
Higher-quality processing may consume more computing resources, and, sometimes, can't work on lower-performance computers.
more quality = more resources
Also, this mode consumes more electrical energy for calculations and cooling, than a bit-perfect one.
When fans work in intensive mode, they cause more noise.
We can consider a sound file as green coffee beans.
Audio processing in a music player is like bean roasting.
The grains are roasted (the file is processed) before pouring the beans into the grinder's container (DAC noted above).
The roasting (file processing) defines the coffee taste (sound quality).
Read also: How to improve sound quality...
Some albums (operas, live concerts, etc.) should be played back as a continuous stream.
We can imagine a live concert recording as a pie. We can slice it into pieces (tracks/audio files).
At first glance, sliced pie is very similar to a complete one.
However, the cuts cause some heterogeneity in the pie body.
Fortunately, audio files, that are correctly cut and processed, may be united back in the complete "pie".
Some players can begin the next song without DAC re-initialization.
This ability is called Gapless playback.
It may be applied for as bit-perfect as processed modes (see "Playback modes").
Also played audio files back may be pre-converted in gapless mode too.
This mode has a sense when audio files are resampled or DSD files are processed.
Gapless conversion has sense, when the audio player works in gapless mode.
Some players support so-called memory playback. Audio files (or album) is loaded from hard disk to RAM and delivered to DAC faster than from the disk. At old computers, it can improve to some extent smoothness of transient to the next track. We should bear in mind here that the feature may not be required on modern disks, solid state especially.
ASIO is a kind of audio driver by audio interface vendors, that provides low latency and uses specific properties of the audio interface. ASIO SDK (programming tools) is provided by Steingberg.
As rule, ASIO driver is provided together with a sound device. Specific functionality management is supported via a special software control panel.
There is a universal ASIO-driver ASIO4All. But, as rule, DAC-vendor driver is more recommended.
The latest MacOS versions use their built-in drivers (Core Audio) instead ASIO. So, you do not need special drivers to work with a DAC. However, audio device vendors may provide Mac's ASIO drivers for some devices.
WASAPI is a built-in Windows driver to direct access to an audio interface without operating system processing. May be used instead of ASIO.
WASAPI may use exclusive access to an audio interface to render sound stream directly to the DAC's audio buffer without mixing audio streams from several applications. So, no operating system's audio processing is there.
Native DSD is sending DSD audio stream from audio file to DSD DAC without conversion to PCM.
ASIO drivers under Windows may support it. Under the latest MacOS version, DSD audio stream should be packed in DoP format. The packing is lossless. Also, DoP format may be used on Windows.
DSD audio stream may not be played on PCM DAC. Before sending the stream to the DAC, this stream should be converted to PCM.
It consumes processing resources. In the general case, better sound quality depends on amount of computing resources.
Some computers may not have enough computing power for real-time DSD to PCM conversion. It may be solved via offline DSD to PCM conversion. Also, it saves free space on hard disk (HDD) of an audio player. It allows putting more songs on the disk. It may be very useful for portable/mobile devices.
The widespread demands to players are:
To play high-resolution audio on computer you can use player software...
It depends on the mode of playback. In bit-perfect mode, a music player app just transports audio data from a sound file to DAC without audio processing.
When audio player software process audio data (resample, alter bit depth, apply dithering, EQ, etc.), it causes different distortion levels. If considering psychoacoustics, distortions may have a different character, which also impacts the final perception of the distortions. Also, the interaction of the distortions with a playback system (DAC, amplifier, speakers) is a matter.
Some apparatus can cause the audible level of intermodulation distortions generated by ultrasound components.
Practically it can cause audible noise.
You can listen to hi-res audio on your computer with built-in playback software.
You can also install other players...
An audiophile music player should provide hi-fi sound quality (low distortions). In instance, in bit-perfect mode, an audio player doesn't process sound-file content and delivery it directly into a DAC.
Read also: How to improve sound quality...
Gapless playback is needed for playback albums like operas, live concerts, etc.
Memory playback necessity is disputable due to given computer performance.
To listen to high-quality music on computer, you are need to install audio player software on the computer.
Hi-res audio is supported by:
To play music on your computer, you can use music player software...
You can play lossless music on your computer with audio player
Yes. Windows supports high-resolution audio.
There are 3 options of audio driver software (program player connection to DAC):
DSD is played back natively via AISO drivers, that are provided with a DSD DAC.
What is the best player is a matter of personal choice. In the bit-perfect mode all players should playback with same sound quality.
If audio processing is applied, player sound may be different. The author recommends comparing different players to verify them personally...
As rule, it's a personal choice. You can read opinions of other people. But, if you want the best music player just for you:
In general case, the author recommends to listen to free demo versions of the players or free ones to choose the best software for you...
The best sound quality is a playback unprocessed audio file (bit-perfect mode). However, changing if sample rate and bit depth may open audio-quality abilities of your DAC. The processing may be done inside the player or before playing file back with audio conversion software.
Most of audio players (see list) have free or demo versions and you can try them before buying.
PC is capable to play hi-res audio with sound card that provides sampling rates and bit depths above 48 kHz and 16 bit, respectively.
See to PC audio player software list...
Windows can play FLAC files via player software...
Windows 10 is capable to play DSD with audio player software...
Alternatively, you can convert DSD files to PCM ones...
You can listen to hi-res lossless music via digital audio player device. For computer and mobile phone, you can use player software...
Hi res audio allowing solve some issues of analog filters of ADC or DAC. But actual result is a matter of implementation of audio equipment and software. Read the definitive guide...
In general, 24-bit is recommended for playback at home audio. It may solve some issues of 16-bit resolution. However, 24-bit doesn't guarantee better sound than 16-bit.
Memory playback doesn't improve "transparency". But the mode can get rid of pauses if:
If an audio player re-initialize DAC, it can cause quiet clicks.
When files played back without re-initializing, there is no kind of clicks.
Player causes no distortions in the bit-perfect mode. If the player applies gain control, some distortions may be there.
FLAC decoding, as rule, implemented via standard library. Thus, for FLAC no difference from player to player.
If resampling or other processsing is appllied, player difference is the same other lossless format.
If you are need the best result, download a player or its demo version and check sound.
Digital audio interfaces don't impact sound quality, which may be defined as "sound transparency".
Also, digital interfaces have sample rate and bit depth limitations.
Operating system built-in driver can additionally process sound and impact to sound quality.
But pauses, clicks, serial interruptions are possible when an audio interface doesn't work properly (poor cables, grounding, shielding; hardware issues, etc.).
Analog inter-module cables (linear inputs and outputs) can impact the noise floor, crosstalk and frequency response.
DAC clock source can impact to analog output jitter of a digital-to-analog converter . But all other factors, including memory playback, cables and interfaces - no. Read details...
To achieve maximal sound quality, lossless audio file formats are recommended: FLAC, WAV, AIFF, DSF, DFF, SACD ISO. Read details...
It is resolution audio with sample rate 192 kHz and bit depth 24 bit in PCM format (modulation). Read details...
Lossy audio formats, that works on 320-kbps bitrate, provides good sound quality. As rule, it's very similar to lossless music. Read details...
In audio resolution 384 kHz/32 bit and lesser, there is no difference between FLAC and WAV by the sound quality. Watch video...
If you need a higher resolution, WAV can provide it. When file size is more 4 GB, WAV RF64 format may be applied.
Read details about:
Both DSD and FLAC are high-resolution formats, that try solve issues of 44.1 kHz / 16 bit. But, actual result depend on implemengtation of your audio system. Read details...
CD quality means 16 bit / 44.1 kHz. Read about high resolution audio...
Lossless formats (WAV, FLAC, DSF, AIFF. ALAC, etc.) keep full sound qulity of their sources.
Higher sampling rates and bit depths cause lesser distortions than lesser ones, theoretically.
Practically, there is not the direct dependency. Your musical equipment can make difference.
Read more what the best audio formats...
Both FLAC and WAV are the identical by their lossless sound quality. However, there are some discussion...
FLAC is lossless format. mp3 is lossy one. FLAC is better mp3 technically. On high mp3-bitrates at 16 bit / 44.1 kHz, difference may be subtle.
FLAC is audiophile lossless format. However, it has alternatives in excess of it.
See list of sites with high-resolution audio...
Look at free high-res audio downloads:
You can play MQA files on an audio player that is MQA compatible.
You can listen to MQA on Tidal. How to do it...
You can listen to MQA by Tidal on MQA DAC. "Passthrough MQA" turn off software MQA decoding to do it into the DAC.
MQA is high qualitative lossy format, as the author know. FLAC is lossless format, providing output sound quality absolutely identical source. MQA provides better file-size comression ratio. Read details...
Yes. Windows Media player is capable to play high resolution audio files. If your file iss not played back, you can try other players...
Windows Media Player can play MQA files in compability mode without full decoding.
Windows Media Player can play hi-res audio files.
Yes, VLC can play hi-res audio. However, as the author know, VLC don't support DSD formats.
VLC is capable to play hi-res audio.
VLC is capable to play lossless files. In instance, FLAC.
At moment of the answer writting, Vox provides experimental version for Windows...
At moment of the answer writting, Hysolid is free audio player.
It's personal taste matter. Groove Music may cover your requirements. But, the author would recommend comparing it with alternative software...