What difference does software make in terms of sound? A ‘1’ is a ‘1’ and a ‘0’ is a ‘0’ …. right? Well … there’s more between heaven and earth… Or to stay in HiFi for a moment: there’s more between source and dac…. Or between layer 1 and layer 7… Apologies: we will stop now. Subject of this review: the French software package Audirvana.
We ran a live stream around software a while back. And as a result of that live test, we had an interesting interview with the gentlemen from Audirvana. We are still working on that interview and you can expect to see it on Alpha Audio soon.
The reason we haven’t reviewed Audirvana at length before is the fact that for a long time it was only usable on the Mac. However, that hasn’t been the case for a while now. Audirvana can now also be installed “just” on the PC. And that makes sense, since the Windows user base is a whole lot bigger. And it also lowers the threshold for many users. There are plenty of people who still have a laptop or older PC lying around somewhere. An excellent basis for getting started with Audirvana, as the livestream showed, since we used a standard Shuttle barebone PC.
The installation of Audirvana is truly unprecedentedly simple. You download the software, start the installation and simply follow the few steps. These basically consist only of indicating where the music is stored and possibly what the logins are for Tidal and Qobuz (in the case of the Studio version). Then Audirvana shows you the important elements of the interface.
Most important, of course, is the output of the music. Audirvana itself recommends “Kernel Streaming” over Wasapi and Asio. The reason is that access to the sound card (or Mutec usb interface in this case) is even more direct. We have listened and the differences are extremely subtle. However, there is no reason not to use Kernel Streaming, so we just left it at Kernel Streaming for this review. Wasapi and Asio both also work stably and, frankly, sound just excellent as well.
Audirvana’s smartphone App – on both Android and iOS – has surprised us tremendously in a positive way. We are incredibly spoiled with Roon. And many an app irritates us after only a few minutes because things just don’t make sense. However: the Audirvana app is just perfectly put together and also allows a lot. Think of adjusting the output, streaming to various other UPnP players, or searching for music in various ways. Very nice.
On top of that, searching for music also just works well. Now Audirvana even understands what you mean when you make a typo. For example, it just gives music around Radiohead if we type in Rdiohead. In short: a lot better than with Roon which comes up with illogical results even with normal input. Though thankfully that gets better every release. No idea why that has always worked so moderately. So we were very happy to see that the French Audirvana has that much better in order.
However, we are not here to bash Roon. Roon is fantastic. Really… The hardware support is great and the app is second to none. So is the library management. In other words, the complete experience – especially with the addition of Arc – is sublime. Otherwise, neither we nor the hi-fi community would use it so extensively. However, there are pain points that – we think – they need to address. And the search function is one of them. And so a second point is that Audirvana just sounds better…. More on that later.