Direct Playback

Although HQPlayer and Roon both use ASIO drivers for output, they sound very different. Roon direct has a very natural, dynamic, and textured sound. HQPlayer on the other hand is immediately cooler and more neutrally toned. Enabling “Multicore DSP” gave back a little warmth and texture. But enabling “CUDA offload” and the sound smoothens and cools. There’s also a bit of grain and edge when “CUDA offload” is enabled. For that reason, I’ve kept it off for the entire review. I believe that feature is meant for the DSD features anyway.

Going through hours of music from various genres, it’s clear that the HQPlayer output is lighter in tone and thinner in body. There’s a bit of softness and “gel” to the sound. I’m not sure if this is a Roon or HQPlayer thing. Logically, they should sound identical. Roon direct has more tangibility and depth. In a word, it sounds more organic.

In any case, I still prefer the sound of HQPlayer via Roon than directly from the Windows application. So…we’ll be using Roon for this review.