I have 10 but why do I still keep XP MCE around?

Roon is so far the best music player I have found for so many reasons that I went ahead and joined for life but I have an issue where I am keeping a copy of Windows XP Media Center Edition for critical listening and I wonder why I feel the need to.

I am going to guess that I am in the thrall of a hidden DSP effect yet the sound from XP through a creative X-Fi Fatality in media creation mode (no effects) running SPDIF through my Kora DAC is close to identical to that of a CD run through the same DAC.

Yet since changes in Vista through windows 10 there is a smearing of midrange detail and an apparent increase in mid bass that I seem unable to change without affecting other things.

I have Roon driving the same soundcard, also via USB to my Oppo Sonica and even USB through a Wyred 4Sound uLink USB-SPDIF converter bought to escape the preferred sound of XP and through all I get the bass boost and lack of detail with 7 and 10 but XP still sounds preferable.

Direct sources, phono, hd tuner, CD transport all sound natural. My issue is with sound on any Vista and after OS where something changed in how audio was processed…

I am using electrostatic loudspeakers which may be one reason for the sound tailoring, Acoustat monitor III’s, IV’s and Martin Logan CLS-II. The sound is the same.

Has anyone been there, is there a simple answer to thinning the bass and nothing else?

Well that question did not go over well, so to update I set up my Mac Pro with Roon to test and found that it was superior to my Windows 10 setup on every source, gone was the mid bass blurring I was experiencing with 7 and 10 but as I mentioned not on XP.

Is there a reason for this or is there something different about my particular setup? I will say that bass control is a thing with electrostatic speakers, mine being quite large and light they have prodigious bass and so excess bass can be an issue.

So perhaps I am not asking the right question, is there any reason an OS should sound different with identical software, Roon in this case, source material and hardware?

Is it the same driver for the sound card in all installs?



Maybe your XP system is crawling with malware.
Remember, it was built in an idyllic era when we didn’t worry about bad guys.


Or the driver for the sound card are different for each OS.

Shouldn’t be using sound card since he’s using USB to Oppo DAC.

You’re spot on. Using XP in 2019 is like playing with matches at a gas station. Very high risk.

I’m an InfoSec professional, and we have a term for running XP. “Dumb”.

I’m not being clear. I sure dont want to use XP anymore, it is however clear of malware as both AVG Ultimate and Malwarebytes still work fine on XP. Plus Roon does not run on XP and like Malwarebytes I bought a lifetime license for it.

The issue is that any music I play through any source under Windows 10, be it my Oppo Sonica DAC, Wyred 4 Sound uLink or Creative Fatality Pro Sound-card’s digital out with drivers set to bit-perfect, I get a smearing of the mid bass that makes listening to the same music through the same hardware on the same PC under XP (or now my Mac server) preferred.

The sound of the same music played from my CD transport through my Kora DAC is nearly identical to the sound of that same clip playing with VLC on XP or on Roon running on my Mac Pro.

It has been like this since Vista when windows changed from controlling volume levels of individual devices to handling the volume of individual programs and did not change with 7. Program level is a preferable way to handle volume for more control but it seems to have had an effect on sound quality. For years I have simply kept a swappable hard drive with my XP MCE installation for critical listening.

Now my speakers are unusual in that they are large electrostats (Acoustat Monitor IV) and my amps are modified Acoustat servo charge amps but this makes them quite revealing and with playback on XP or Mac they sound like reverse microphones but with Windows 10 I know I am hearing a recording and I dont play it for long because I feel I am wasting my time on what could be a better performance.

It sounds crazy but it is easily demonstrable, I am only glad I got these Mac Pro’s my company disposed of or I would still be thinking that some hidden DSP was at work on my XP setup, has anyone compared Roon on Linux and Windows 10? Before I got my Macs I was going to try that.

I sure appreciate the responses, I had wanted to post the question on AVSForum and still may but wanted to ask here to see if anyone else had noticed the same difference with different OS’s.

Nobody recommends having Windows control the volume, you don’t want Windows software in the music path. With this setup you are not getting the full value of Roon.

Lots of very experienced people here, nobody would say that about a Roon Core on a Windows box, when properly set up.

There are two core reasons you may hear differences on the digital side of the music world: timing and software.

By “timing”, I mean, how fast can your computer do what it’s told to do? Since music comes out at a pre-determined pace, any processing of the music being done by the computer, even if it’s just reading the bits off the disk and sending them to the player, has to be accomplished in a certain timeframe. If your computer can’t do that, you’ll hear distortions of some kind. So different speed computers might indeed sound different.

By “software”, I mean, what is it your computer is being told to do? Different music player software, different device drivers, and different buffering strategies in the operating system – all of these can affect the sound. So can bugs in any of these. But it’s more complicated than that. Most applications on a modern computer work by interacting with a number of “system libraries”, pre-packaged chunks of software that are part of the operating system. And there can be bugs that only surface when a particular combination of libraries and an app are combined.

In this case, if I read this all properly, it sounds like you’re tickling a bug where MCE interacts badly with some system library that was updated with Vista (since this happens with Vista through 10) to introduce the distortion you’re hearing. Since your music plays fine with VLC on the same machine, the timing is probably not an issue. So if you really want to answer this question, look at the difference between the DLLs the MCE is linked against, versus VLC. You may be able to tell from that. However, even then it might not be apparent; use of the same library with different parameters can yield different results.

And I likely would not say any of this if I had not heard it on XP, Windows 10 and a Mac and hear the difference on (my) Windows 10 setup. I’m not a spring chicken either, broadcast technician, long time audiophile and computer gamer. So I can think technically, know what I like to listen to and I have no issue with Windows 10.

There is simply a difference in sound on any source on different operating sytems, whether that source allows Windows to control the volume or not, Wyred does not and still has the bass bump.

No, I figure it is a slight difference being accentuated by my full-range electrostats and if it isnt bothering anyone else I should either go with whatever sounds best on my setup or keep looking to see what is causing the difference.

I have an underused omnimic setup, I may try to use that to quantify the difference in to a chart.

I appreciate the suggestions but its not an issue with any Windows upgrade edition, XP was from scratch and so was 7 and 10, and I only tried Vista (from scratch) at one point to see if it had the same issue then figured that it was in Vista that Windows started handling the mixer differently but as far as I know there is at least one driver I have that bypasses the mixer entirely and still sounds bass heavy.

It has to be something, I had hoped that there would be someone else here who had gone from Windows to Mac or Linux because of a perceived sound difference. That did not happen. No axe to grind, now that I have Roon server running on OSx Mojave on a free 12 core server from work, great free equipment is one benefit of working in TV, there are few others, don’t go into it.

No, I am happy and knew I would be, that is why I bought Roon for life, knowing I would figure out how best to use it and that I would likely use it for 5 years or more.

But if anything comes to mind do let me know, I will not format my Windows 10 ssd though for my own sake I likely should format my XP one.

Thanks again.

Oh, I’m sure there is a difference.
I’m just saying you have Roon operating in a way contrary to all guidance.
Check the KB.

I don’t think so but I will check the knowledge base, thank you.