I discovered computer audio in 2011 and purchased every player available at the time as my method for comparing them without being limited to a two week trial. And HDtracks was offering a ten percent discount when purchasing certain players through their website. Pure Music was the first. In fact, Rob helped me setup PM as I was new and found it confusing.
Sonic Studio’s Amarra (Full as it was named at the time) had been mercifully reduced in cost to $695 from $1000. I breathed in deeply and purchased Amarra Full as the third audio player out of several. With PM, Decibel, Fidelia (before the advanced edition), Audirvana (before Plus), BitPerfect, and, of course, iTunes and HQPlayer.
I quickly discovered after lengthy comparison sessions with all the players but without the press of a two week trial imposition, that Amarra Full in my discernment sounded the best of them (sensorily). In fact, I was so impressed with the SQ, I volunteered as a beta tester, and have acted as one since 2011. With access to the program, I always paid my way. With the introduction of Dirac’s iRC, customized for Sonic Studio’s Amarra Symphony, the expensive became dearer.
Amarra Full was renamed Amarra Symphony and over the years was innovated by the Oracles at Sonic Studio. It gave and it took. But for me, I encountered none of the problems other enthusiasts of computer audio had experienced. I even offered suggestions which in part were implemented. The consensus might have been described as a “love it or hate it” depending on One’s overall experiences.
With the introduction of iRC, Amarra Symphony took yet another SQ personna. Over the years, the other players were innovated such that Amarra Symphony distinguished itself for the most part not as the most innovative among the many players, but, IMO (no way to avoid the caveat), retained the status as the best SQ of them all. Obviously this is, at best, a subjective evaluation; and I was never interested in proving that discernment. I settled back and enjoyed the music with Amarra Symphony with iRC as good enough (not a compromise). I tried to stop chasing the technology. The more I resisted, the more I kept up with it to a point.
Enter roon. This “new” player’s edition, back when just offered for sale, persuaded me in less than two weeks to purchase a life time subscription. Not one regret since. Despite a superior UI and UX, again in my opinion, with or without Dirac’s Live implemented for roon, and with or without the HQPlayer/roon integration/association (I sought to promote Amarra Symphony as an option which was not to be), Amarra Symphony remained the favored SQ. And beyond SQ, roon offered far more in the offerings clearly manifested in its present iteration. 1.3 has now taken roon more than a few pegs in the direction of best all around.
As a beta tester for Amarra Symphony, I continued in that capacity with Amarra 4 in development for some time, as I have with Amarra for TIDAL, A4TwHIFIwiRC and AsQ+wiRC. The present iteration of Amarra 4 (hereafter A4) which ought to be regarded as the progeny of Amarra Hifi, http://www.sonicstudio.com/amarra/amarra4.php for information, now officially released capitalizes on its SQ. A4 employs the “same” Amarra engine but without all the bells, whistles, and this’s and that’s. I would not pretend to know what is responsible for Amarra’s signature sound. I can discern it when playing compared to another program not only by its SQ but its FQ (how it makes me feel while listening). And, thankfully, iTunes is no longer a companion with Amarra/iTunes as it has been with Amarra less than Symphony, which I promoted for years and which has finally been realized. Amarra Symphony in Playlist mode also allowed for a dismissal of iTunes.
Rather late to the party, A4 delivers a modest UI/UX and features to match. No DSP. But 16 EQ presets. The overall look and feel is neatly essential and One’s library is articulated visually without any hoopla. To be fair to A4 and my long history for and affection with Sonic Studio, is a work in progress, not meant to compete with roon/Dirac Live/HQPlayer et al. But that’s merely my own opinion. What’s next on deck and when it will come to step up to the plate is not available nor would I leak that information if I was privy, is Amarra 4 Luxe, the intended replacement for Amarra Symphony and the flagship edition from Sonic Studio.
As to whether A4’s SQ has surpassed Amarra’s engine as it sounded in Amarra Symphony, yes, it’s different. It still retains that analog feel and the signature sound so distinct (for me) with earlier editions of Amarra retains many of the characteristics. Is it good enough? By that I mean to imply, it’s highly enjoyable and it’s the next iteration of the signature sound I have long favored over all the other players.
Given that our player’s name could lead one to a phonological ambiguity, roon is anything but a ruin. Closer to a rune. And, taken as a whole, there is no player that offers what roon started with then continued to improve on with a stunning UI/UX with high quality customer support, comprehensive development, an ambitious schedule for innovation and reliably open to the feedback of its user base which I imagine since I joined early on has grown in geometric proportions.
By contrast, the price points for Amarra 4 and Amarra 4 Luxe offer a the next generation of Sonic Studio’s family of Amarra players with a focus on delivering SQ at a very reasonable cost. As to the SQ that is delivered, however others choose to speculate about and characterize how Sonic Studio accomplishes what reaches your ears, we decide what that’s worth and what value it delivers. I remain a beta tester for Sonic Studio because it’s my way of showing appreciation for the enjoyment of music I experience from Sonic Studio.
In the same Spirit and in the pursuit of the enjoyment of music which remains my highest criterion, roon delivers that enjoyment in so many ways. Recently, I changed my Synergistic Research cabling for all Nordost at considerable cost. The result was predictable given I had borrowed a friend’s assortment of Nordost. The result was different, and the difference was better in my discernment. How Nordost accomplishes this, I do not know enough to persuade. Instead, I trust what I hear and what I feel about what I hear. The same is essentially true for Amarra 4 and roon. Lucky me.
Music’s the thing; the equipment seduces.