Thursday 6 March 2014

Announcing BitPerfect 2.0

BitPerfect Sound Inc is pleased to announce the release of version 2.0 of its music player for Mac, BitPerfect. The new version introduces DSD playback support, but also incorporates a new and improved 3rd-Generation 64-bit audio engine, and has support for future plug-in features.

The biggest new feature of BitPerfect v2.0 is its ability to support DSD playback. BitPerfect supports DSD playback in a new and unique way.

BitPerfect uses the iTunes App as both its music database manager and command/control interface. Many users appreciate this paradigm, either because they like iTunes, or because they have grown comfortable with it and prefer not to change. Either way, it has been a popular approach for BitPerfect, with over 20,000 active users worldwide. When it comes to DSD, though, this does present a problem, since iTunes does not recognize DSD files and will not import them.

The preferred solution adopted by others to date has been the use of proxy files. Proxy files are typically Apple Lossless files which contain highly-compressed digital silence of the exact same duration as the desired DSD file, plus a link to the location of the related DSD file. If iTunes tries to play the file, all it plays is silence. But if instead the proxy file’s related player plays the file, it is able to follow the link to the original DSD file and play that instead. Proxy files work fine, but they have limitations. Many installations use the same music database to serve multiple playback systems within the same home network. Only playback systems that support DSD will be able to play music from proxy files; everyone else will hear only silence. The solution to this is to use a converter App to make a PCM version of the DSD original. This PCM version can be loaded into the iTunes database, and playback systems which do not support DSD can play this version instead. Again, this works fine, but has limitations. In this case your music database will contain duplicate versions of all of your DSD tracks - the DSD originals represented by proxy files, and the PCM conversions. These each have to be carefully labelled so as to enable every user to identify which is which. And then all these users need an element of “training” so as to know which version is to be played on which system. At BitPerfect, we have never liked the path down which proxy files lead us.

Our solution involves the introduction of a new file format we term “Hybrid-DSD”. This is an extension of the Apple Lossless file format. A Hybrid-DSD file is an Apple Lossless file. It can be imported into iTunes (and any other software that supports ALAC) and will play normally like any other Apple Lossless file, with or without BitPerfect. However, it also contains a hidden copy of the native DSD file, and when BitPerfect is controlling playback it can read this DSD content and, if the audio output device supports DSD, will play it back in its native DSD format. So if the audio output device supports DSD, BitPerfect will play it natively. If it does not, it will play the PCM content (as in fact will any other playback software that supports Apple Lossless). None of this need ever concern the user. No special instruction is required. For installations where the same music library is shared among multiple playback stations this is the most elegant and user-friendly approach we can think of.

The creation of Hybrid-DSD files requires BitPerfect’s new companion App “DSD Master”, also available from the Mac App Store. Not only does DSD Master produce Hybrid-DSD files, it also produces conventional PCM files in Apple Lossless, AIFF, WAV, and FLAC formats. As an added bonus, DSD Master’s conversion algorithm is the best in the industry and we invite you to compare for yourself.

Aside from DSD support, BitPerfect v2.0 introduces a new and improved audio engine which enables us to provide a plug-in based structure. We will be able to use this structure to offer a range of future plug-ins which will provide various specialist functionalities which would not justify being included in the baseline package. After all, BitPerfect’s paradigm is to keep things simple and stay out of the user’s way as much as possible, even while doing highly sophisticated and uncompromised state-of-the-art work.

With BitPerfect v2.0 we drop our support for the very oldest 32-bit Intel CPUs which were able to run OSX 10.6. Henceforth, BitPerfect will require a 64-bit CPU. BitPerfect v2.0 is available at the same low price as before, and the upgrade from previous versions of BitPerfect remains free of charge.