Music Playback Software For Mac Rating: 6,2/10 2826 reviews
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Mac Software Features. Clean UI and comes with everything you'd expect for a music player - it even supports FLAC playback and other high-resolution audio files up to 24bit/192kHz. Mar 16, 2020  By calling itself an all-you-can-eat music player for Mac, the free music player can work flawlessly on macOS High Sierra (or earlier) to play pretty much any music format that you throw at it, be it MP3, FLAC, OGG, AAC, etc. Aside from playing, the free 5KPlayer well integrates such functionalities as downloading music online, Airplay streaming music and more.


  1. Mar 16, 2020 3. By calling itself an all-you-can-eat music player for Mac, the free music player can work flawlessly on macOS High Sierra (or earlier) to play pretty much any music format that you throw at it, be it MP3, FLAC, OGG, AAC, etc. Aside from playing, the free 5KPlayer well integrates such functionalities as downloading music online, Airplay streaming music and more.
  2. Like Pure Music, Audirvana supports Audio units plugins and utilizes an Izotope DSP for noise shaping and some of the best dithering algorithms to be found in audio software. While it doesn’t have built-in crossover functions, or the breadth of features of Pure Music or JRiver Media Center (now on both Mac and PC), it does win the sound.

May 27, 2019  Overview Pure Music is a high resolution music server software that is based on the acclaimed Pure Vinyl playback engine and can dock with iTunes, which it uses as a.

OS: Windows

Price: Free!

Audio Capabilities: FLAC, Vorbis, AIFF, + more with additional components. ASIO and WASAPI, plus other plugins available.

File Management: Built-in, easy to organize and personalize. Overall, great file management!

Foobar2000 is my (Cliff here, not Ryan) favorite audiophile playback software. First off, it’s free, which is hard to beat. Second, they offer up an SDK (software development kit), which allows others to build components to expand the functionality of foobar. That’s probably its biggest strength. By opening up development to the online community, the possibilities are basically endless. Some of the available components are ASIO and WASAPI support, a really cool ABX comparator that “Performs a double-blind listening test between two tracks”, and a DSDIFF decoder. In short, you can totally geek out with foobar and customize nearly everything, including the GUI and backend.

At the same time, all that customization and community support comes with a downside. You may have to do some digging and experimentation to get things setup the way you want. That means a lot of time poking around forums and support pages, which luckily, there are a lot of. Another downside, depending on how you look at it, is that new versions of foobar are constantly being released. That means you will be continually updating foobar and any components you use, but update functionality is built-in to the software, so it’s not a big drag.

Even without doing any customization, the software is powerful and easy to use right out of the gate. By default it supports most every file format you will come across, and the built-in file management system is top notch.

At the very least, this software is worth a download because it is completely free, and in my opinion has a much better user interface than many of the pieces of software that you have to pay for.


Customer Support: 7.5 (have to rely on friendly forum folks)

User Interface: 9

Subjective Sound Quality: 10

Trial Offered: NA

Pure Music / Pure Vinyl


Price: $129 / $279


Audio Capabilities: FLAC, DSD, DSD-PCM, Digitize Vinyl, Audio Units DSP, active crossovers

File Management: Utilizes iTunes file management

Pure Vinyl and its little brother Pure Music are the most versatile pieces of software in the OSX arsenal. This can be good or bad depending on how you look at it. They both sound the same, but Pure Vinyl has the added feature of vinyl digitization and RIAA filters. The software sounds great, has a very analog sound, but is slightly lower resolution than the other OSX offerings. It interfaces easily and automatically with iTunes and has a slew of features that make it easy to do room correction and active crossovers all from a single piece of software.

Both Pure Music and Pure Vinyl have a neat pass-through feature that allows you to run other audio applications through the Pure Music DSP. So if you are utilizing the active crossover functionality and want to listen to Spotify this software makes that easy.

To me, the PM software has a slightly rolled off, forgiving character. The various settings can change the character of sound, sometimes dramatically. So proper setup can take a little care and tweaking, but the end result is a software with great performance and a lot of neat features.


User Interface: 8

Customer Support: 9

Subjective Sound Quality: 8

Trial Offered: YES

Amarra HiFi, Amarra, Amarra Symphony


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Price: $49.95, $189.00, $495.00

Audio Capabilities: FLAC, DSD, 384khz playback (Amarra), File Conversion, Cache/Memory Playback, EQ filters

File Management: Standalone playlists or utilizes iTunes database

Amarra began the high-end software craze and is very refined and simple. A bit more detailed and arguably “HIFI” compared to the other pieces of software, Amarra offers a really nice sonic improvement over standalone iTunes while adding a few neat features. It also comes in three flavors: Amarra HiFi, Amarra, and Amarra Symphony.

All three version of Amarra integrate both a memory playback feature as well as a playlist cache system that loads entire playlists into memory. This is something that most software does in one form or another, but it’s important to note nonetheless.

Amarra has one neat feature unique to their system and that’s their EQ. When going from Hifi to their Symphony level software you are paying for better EQ features and Sonic Studio’s precision metering. The time I spent with Amarra I almost never utilized the EQ and found that I preferred the sound without it. For the additional few hundred dollars it costs you to get the Amarra EQs, your money would be better spent on a Dirac Live system, which utilizes finite impulse response automatic frequency correction and phase alignment at the output of your computer (so it works with any software). I can say from significant experience with the Dirac system that pound for pound it’s some of the best money you’ll ever spend on a computer-based audio system. And because it works with any software it pretty much outweighs choosing a piece of software for the EQs.

My suggestion is that if the highest resolutions you utilize are 24/192khz then stick with the $49.95 Amarra Hifi. It sounds great, has all of the features you need for audio, and is the most affordable. The step up from there allows for 384khz support, so for DSD-lovers that’s the way to go when it comes to Amarra. Aside from the additional EQs, I can’t think of much reason to spring for Symphony as it didn’t particularly impress sound-wise and some of those features are better served elsewhere.


Customer Support: 10

User Interface: 8

Subjective Sound Quality: 9

Trial Offered: Yes

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Price: $74

Audio Capabilities: FLAC, DSD, DSD-PCM, SACD ISO, Memory playback, Direct Sound and integer mode, Izotope DSP

File Management: Standalone searchable playlists, not easily organized. Or utilize iTunes database.

Audirvana sports a neat-looking CD Interface, iTunes integration (or standalone playlists), a powerful 64-bit playback engine and great sound quality. It does not have the DSP features of Amarra or Pure Music, but the sound quality is most certainly the best to be had.

Audirvana comes in two packages, a free version and a paid version. The free version doesn’t offer the same level of fidelity, losing the Direct Sound mode and processes at 32/64-bit instead of a full 64-bit like the full version, but it’s hard to beat the price when it comes to the sound quality. If you plan on playing DSD or doing anything multichannel then you’ll want the full version, which is packed full of additional features and worth every penny.

Like Pure Music, Audirvana supports Audio units plugins and utilizes an Izotope DSP for noise shaping and some of the best dithering algorithms to be found in audio software. While it doesn’t have built-in crossover functions, or the breadth of features of Pure Music or JRiver Media Center (now on both Mac and PC), it does win the sound quality contest.


Customer Support: 9

User Interface: 9

Subjective Sound Quality: 9.5

Trial Offered: YES


Like with all things high-end software, the differences between pieces of software are not like comparing an MP3 to a 24/192khz file. There are many services available on the Mac and PC that can sound absolutely fantastic when properly set up. Spotify is one of my personal favorite playback software, and while it doesn’t yet outperform high res through JPLAY or Audirvana, it can sound SO good by itself that there are times it’s not worth the hassle of messing with playlists and memory playback every time I want to sit back to enjoy some music. You can stay tuned for another article just on Spotify, how to optimize it, and why I believe it’ll be the future of high-end audio some day.

For those looking to do video, JRiver Media Center is the clear winner. When it comes to sound quality on the PC, it’s a system-dependent toss-up between XXHE and JPLAY, with JRMC close behind. On the Mac, the clear sound quality winner, to me, was Audirvana with Pure Music sporting the best, easiest to use feature set and Amarra Hifi being a really excellent bang for the buck that sounds great too.

At the end of the day each piece of software is similarly priced, comes with a 15-day trial, sounds really good, and has an array of unique features. You can’t go wrong with any of them over iTunes. My best recommendation would be to read the features in detail, choose the features you like and take it for a test drive. Trial versions are free and there’s no better way to choose software than to choose software.

Many thanks to Ryan Mintz of Core Audio

President, Core Audio Technology

Choosing the right audiophile playback software can be a daunting task. While audible differences can occur in going from an entry-level software like iTunes to one of the audiophile playback engines mentioned below, the transition between high-end software boils down to a preference between real cherry flavor and artificial cherry flavor. It should also be mentioned that with a properly designed and optimized music server or HTPC, the sonic benefits and differences between operating systems and playback software shrink and selection most often can be made based on form and function. However, the differences in supported file formats, file management systems, user experience vary greatly.

The Case for Specialty HiFi Software

One of the main concepts behind high-end playback software is to aid in the elimination of background processes and improve the ability of non-real-time operating systems to process real-time audio information. Simply put, you want the operating system to focus on audio and not useless services, and you want the audio signal to reach the computers output with as little handshaking as possible.

..some people will hear a tremendous difference while others will not.

Because many operating systems can be optimized outside of playback software, the benefits of these audio applications may diminish. This doesn’t mean they make no difference, it just explains why some people will hear a tremendous difference while others will not. There are lots of layers here, and I’ll talk about them more in-depth in our upcoming optimization guides.

Before diving into the software comparison, I need to address bit-perfect playback. There are three camps here. Conventional wisdom states that in order for a system to be bit perfect it must act as a pass-through device, not altering the digital data in any fashion through the use of matrixing, DSP, or other means. The idea behind this is to say the output is exactly the same as what was put in. This idea is supported by the camp's theory that bits are just bits and that digital is just ones and zeros, so if a one is a one and a zero a zero the data has passed un-fooled around with and is thus bit perfect. This means that all bit perfect signals should be created equal.

The second camp states that bit perfect means that the bits are exact, but jitter may still be introduced. When doing something in non-real-time (running an application) bit-perfect is applicable because the data are buffered and sent in packets that are just resent if there are any errors (otherwise you would have applications crashing constantly). Audio, on the other hand, is real time. Bit perfect implies that the data and sample rates match, it does not mean jitter isn't introduced within those same sample rates.

Author's Opinion on Bit Perfect Playback

Finally the third camp, my camp, gets two paragraphs because it's my camp and I'm writing this. Let's all start by agreeing that audio is areal-time process. Even if an application loads data into memory forprocessing, everything before and the whole operation after is a real timeoperation. Real time processes in a computer take the form of a square wave,specifically a pulse width modulation. This pulse width modulation is an analogrepresentation of what we conceptualize as a digital signal and is created byvoltage in the power supply. This PWM signal has both amplitude characteristicsand timing characteristics. The timing, or duty cycle, along with the amplitudedetermine the frequency response of that square wave. A computer is made up ofbillions of transistors, all switching very quickly to changes in logic(mathematical algorithms created by the operating system and software). Basedon the input voltages, logic switches create a new version, a duplicate, of thesquare wave (either theoretically identical or altered). That new version ofthe square wave is also created from power in the power supply. Because audiois real time, there is no error correction that can be done to this squarewave, any resulting wave form IS your music.

Looking at the concept of bit-perfect, it's arguablyimpossible to have bit perfect playback in a real-time system because there areno bits. If the power supply introduces noise or there is jitter on the squarewave this results in a square wave that is not identical to the original.Because the square wave is an analog signal it is still susceptible to noiseand distortion. A square wave, however, reacts a little differently than itssine wave counterpart. Jitter is an alteration of the duty cycle, when thatjitter hits the digital interface chips, a DAC for instance, that jitter isseen as an amplitude error and creates an alteration of the frequency response.Amplitude distortion itself is created by noise voltages that either add orsubtract from the amplitude of the square wave. This introduces harmoniccontent into the square wave that shouldn't exist in the music. The square wavemay still resemble a one or a zero, but it contains additional frequencycontent. So as far that bits are concerned, it's bit perfect, but withadditional harmonic content that shouldn't be there.

So, high-end playback software works to buffer the audio signal and keep as much of the processing in the non-real-time zone (memory playback) as possible. The next step is to create as few duplications of the square wave as possible and get it to the computer's output as quickly as possible so as to avoid the introduction of jitter and amplitude errors. All of the software below is bit perfect, the camp you pitch your tent in shouldn't affect the software you wish to use, just how you choose to integrate it into your system

JRiver Media Center

OS: Mac and Windows

Price: $49

Audio Capabilities: Standard audio formats plus FLAC, WAV, DSD

Video Capabilities: Blu-ray (now on both mac and windows) streaming services like Netflix and Hulu, and multichannel A/V formats

File Management: Self contained database with significant automatic organization and custom tailoring. Custom Playlists. Music stored locally, on external HDD, or NAS.

First up is JRMC (as the cool kids call it). It sports a sleek, easy-to-use interface, various GUI adjustments, and a settings menu with more options than a Vegas buffet line. It can play anything and offers access to a very powerful DSP engine.The feature set and sound quality improvements in this software make it a significant leap up over its windows media center alternative. The addition of ASIO, Direct Sound, Wasapi, and Kernel streaming is a big bonus over entry-level playback software. They have also integrated a memory playback feature, which was a big selling point on higher-end software available. For barebones enthusiasts this software may pack too many options, too many settings, and too much freedom. The good news is if you don’t want to mess with settings you don’t have to, it pretty much plays right out of the box. A similar (and free) alternative is Foobar2000, which has several plugins and nearly identical sound quality. The interface isn’t as nice and it’s not quite as easy to use, but many folks dig it. For an audio-only alternative you can check out CPLAY, which is simpler, open source, and sounds a little better too.


Free Music Software For Mac

User Interface: 10

Customer Support: 9

Subjective Sound Quality: 8

Free Music Playback Software

Video Quality: 10

Trial Offered: YES


OS: Windows

Price: $129

Audio Capabilities: Standard Audio Formats plus FLAC, WAV, DSD

File Management: Utilizes JRMC Database organization or standalone playlists.

JPLAY is a relatively new introduction to the audiophile playback software market. Piggy-backing off the Jriver or Foobar2000 interfaces, it allows for use of the excellent file management of JRMC, but with improvements to sound quality.

This is an enthusiast level software, is a bit of a process to set up and tedious to use, but represents the most technically intelligent software available. If any software makes a difference, it would be JPLAY, but many people have claimed that it does not offer improvement over JRMC. In my test system I run a very high-end PC-based music server and the differences between JRMC and JPLAY were subtle, but I felt that I could hear them. Many of the optimizations that JPLAY does to the system I had already done manually (giving both JPLAY and JRMC Standalone an edge to begin with). There is a balance between folks claiming it to be revolutionary and other folks claiming it makes no difference (as is so often the case in the high-end marketplace). My recommendation is that the software makes sense, but you might want to try the trial version and see if it meshes well with your system. Of course if you plan to use it with JRMC it will require a JRMC license as well. JPLAY’s strength comes from its ability to isolate itself from the operating system. Setting itself up as a windows service allows it high priority thread access and when running, JPLAY disables background services to eliminate IO operations so that the only thing being worked on during playback is your music.

They have a slew of standard features including memory playback and direct sound, but integrating the software as a system activity is something unique to JPLAY. For more advanced users, you may choose to go the dual PC route, which involves using a processing PC and a Music PC separately to play back audio. In this setup the processing PC does all the heavy lifting and the music PC is designed to be ultra low power, low noise, and simple to output a streamed audio signal. To me this seems counter-intuitive to want to add a second computer to the signal path, but it is evidently a critical improvement to be made when using the JPLAY system.


User Interface: 6

Customer Support: 8

Subjective Sound Quality: 10

Trial Offered: YES


OS: Windows

Price: $96

Audio Capabilities: Primary audio formats plus FLAC, WAV

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File Management: Standalone database, managed and organized manually by file folder.

XXHighEnd is a good-sounding software if you can get it to work. It requires a fairly powerful computer to get the most out of it and requires a fairly lengthy setup that may extend past your trial period. If you have the muscle, there’s a lot of potential here.

With that said, this is one of the more tweaky playback software programs. Being able to adjust page size, latency, and utilize memory playback make it a software that has a lot of potential. The software can also do some fairly sophisticated digital filtering algorithms. This is paramount when using the software with the Phasure DAC, which relies on the XXHighEnd software to operate.

The GUI is purposefully minimal and high-contrast. The volume is a lossless DSP-based volume, and there are some cool unknown features like phase alignment that claim to greatly improve the sound. The phase alignment is a unique feature to XXHighEnd and one that sets this apart, as long as your amps aren’t DC-coupled. To learn more, check out the Phasure website.

Personally it wasn’t my cup of tea, but I prefer a little more versatility in my playback software, like DSD support. But this software and JPLAY are top contenders for the best playback software and sound very similar. XXHE also plays standalone, which gives it a bonus point in my book. Simpler is better.


User Interface: 5

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Customer Support: 8 (tons of resources on the forum)

Subjective Sound Quality: 9

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Best Music Software For Mac

Trial Offered: YES