Question to the HQPlayer community: What are your top recommendations to new HQPlayer users?
Why am I asking this? After more than a month with HQPlayer I’m finally getting a sound out of HQPlayer that I consistently enjoy. From early listening it was obvious that HQPlayer improved sound quality, but I found that I would enjoy one setting for a day (or less), then it would start to sound over sharpened or dull / flat. HQPlayer is very powerful, with many options / configurations, and I fell into the trap of using the most computationally aggressive settings assuming they would be the best. But “best” is very subjective to the listener and the hardware being used.
So I’ve been meandering down a very non-linear path to find settings that I like: try this, try that, try this, try that. Very shotgun. And I think with a good set of beginner level guidance from the community, I could have arrived at this point quicker. (Yes, the journey is part of what makes it great, but with a Sherpa maybe we could get a few more people to the top of the mountain without giving up.)
I was inspired to raise this question to the community from a post @jussi_laako made yesterday:
I went back and followed his recommendation here, and it did a nice job bracketing some of the sounds you can get from HQPlayer, and reaffirmed to me the settings I enjoy most.
So, what would you recommend to a new user?
Here are my 2 cents to a new user, feel free to disagree:
- Get your HQPlayer hardware stable first, both PC/Mac and network. There is nothing more frustrating than fighting constant dropouts. Flaky playback will make finding your preferred settings / sound very difficult. Pro-tip: it’s not always your PC/Mac that’s the problem, it can easily be your network! You might be surprised at the amount of network traffice HQPlayer can generate. Lot’s of people here can give recommendations / help if you are getting stuck.
- HQPlayer is massively powerful, but start out simple. Even the most basic HQPlayer PCM up-sampling (poly-sinc-lp/mp with TPDF) will make a clear sonic improvement over playing standard 16/44.1. Enjoy the basic improvement, and use it as part of your baseline for finding more advanced filter settings that you enjoy
- A/B test with Long vs Short filters, and LP vs MP filters. Get a sense for what these filter differences sound like on your hardware and to your ears.
- SDM sounds great! … on some hardware … but not all. Obviously R-2R DACs fall into this, they natively run PCM. But even for some SDM DACs I’ve found that I can prefer PCM up-sampling to SDM. Just my ears and my hardware talking here. YMMV. But don’t just assume SDM will be the best option for you.
- Try using PCM up-sampling to find filter sounds you like, including experimenting with dithering / noise shaping. Get comfortable with what these sound like. Then go to SDM modulation as a second step. The modulator will influence the sound as much as the filter, and can make finding filters you like much more difficult if you are experimenting randomly with both.
I would add:
Use unmanaged switches like NetGear GS108 and hardwire everything with Cat 6 UTP. It will help your HQPlayer experience and probably everything else in your home will benefit!
Use whatever DAC and NAA endpoints you have to start off your HQP trial but when it comes time to spend new money choose from Jussi’s recommended hardware on his website!
It’s not by luck or magic that this leads to the ultimate HQPlayer user experience.
It also helps reduce support issues for both you and him !
I fully agree with the cat6 wiring. In the end I still have to use some WiFi, but I debugged my setup by going full cat6 Ethernet first. This was super helpful!
That’s another good point.
For WiFi related debugging, everyone should have a really long Cat 6 UTP ethernet cable that can reach between router and listening room/s and a cheap RPi4 to run NAA OS…
If you never have to use it for troubleshooting great - but if you have problems, it can really help.
And the RPi4 makes a really good USB output NAA itself, running NAA OS.
Another thought from playing around with HQPlayer today:
IMO, the right settings in HQPlayer are the ones that don’t make a massive change over the native sound of the DAC. Try to match the stock DAC sound first, then tweak for a slight upgrade. Not a radical sound signature change. I guess this is similar to the recommendations that go with EQ’ing. Small changes, not radical re-tuning.
That’s a double edge sword, because you may be chasing or trying to reproduce DAC’s errors which instead you should be getting rid off…
for sure - in fact HQPlayer is such an upgrade I doubt it’s possible to exactly match it anyway. But what I found is by starting with this I was able to “contain” my aimless wandering through the filters / noise shapers / modulators and have a specific sound target to look for. Then build from there. I’m sure there are lots of good starting point strategies - this one worked for me.
Yes, it is certainly recommended to try things in a systematic way, changing only one variable at a time. Otherwise it is hard to reach optimal result.
Choice of filter is somewhat dependent on content genre and whether it for example requires apodizing filter. Choice of modulator is more up to DAC, and possibly also depending on available computing resources.
Agreed. And this gets somewhat into personal preference on my part. I like the simplicity of one group of settings that sound good on my DAC, and then walking away to listen to whatever comes up next in my playlist, not optimizing per genre. But I totally get the value of that next level of optimization you recommend!
I’m super curious your recommendations @jussi_laako for new users. On day one, when a new user has installed and setup HQPlayer, what do you recommend they do to get started?
I think I have chosen reasonable defaults to begin with. And then with help of manual systematically proceed.
I’ve tried to explain this many times, and also convey through the manual; from technical point of view, my view is that linear phase filters are especially good for classical music recordings made in real acoustic spaces with minimal microphone setups. While minimum phase filters are especially good for multi-track mixed close-mic pop/rock recordings. This is related to both space and transient performance. Classical music typically has lot of space, but not much transients. While rock/pop doesn’t have much space (usually only artifical reverb or similar), but has a lot of transients. Minimum phase tends to sound more natural with transients, although filters like poly-sinc-ext2 have also nice transient sound (to me, a bit unexpected by-product of the design). Jazz/blues goes a bit between the two, but usually closer to the pop/rock category, apart from few club recordings.