Obviously, the components you use for your music server will impact how these players will sound. I’ve tested various CPU and different RAM chips…and they all sound different. Basically, every electronic component from the hard drive that the music file sits on until the sound hits your speakers – impacts the sound.
Playing FLAC files directly without any upscaling via Foobar (1.6.4) and HQPlayer sounded similar. HQPlayer was smoother and fuller but Foobar had more detail and texture. Tonally they were about the same – Foobar perhaps a little warmer. Switching to Roon and the music warms up, thickens, and just has more heft and stride. There wasn’t a huge loss of detail either, which was a bit of a surprise. Using HQPlayer as an output device on Roon and I still think playback via Roon sounds better. You lose a bit of transparency, depth, and detail but…the tone sounds more natural to my ears. It’s just more “musical.”
Obviously, it’s a matter of taste. But I’ve consistently preferred the richer-sounding playback through Roon. I think they’ve greatly improved their software since the last time I’ve done this type of testing. Transparency snobs may still prefer the standalone players.
So now that we’ve decided on a player, I wanted to know if there were any differences between playing through the HQPlayer Roon output or directly to the DAC via ASIO from Roon. Using WASAPi (kernel streaming) will degrade the sound quality. ASIO provides better transient clarity, weight, and tonality. You’ll need to get the drivers from your DAC’s website.