Damien Plisson is the creator of the Audirvana Plus music player. He agreed to answer our questions about the most widely used software by audiophiles on Mac and PC.
Why did you decide to develop the Audirvana Plus software and what benefits does it provide the listener?
D.P: Eight years ago, like any true music lover passionate about new technology, I decided that I wanted to digitize my rather substantial CD collection. I realized then that there were no satisfactory solutions on the market to listen to my music on my Mac in the same conditions. Trained as an engineer and armed with expert knowledge in computing, I started to develop a custom-made software. I worked on it at night, after work. My software first won over a small circle of audiophiles before being released under the name Audirvana Plus. Today, my software has convinced over 80 000 music lovers on Mac.
More and more amps are integrating streaming features: are computers, Macbooks in particular, still the best digital audio source?
D.P: Very often, the potential buyer of a network audio player (or a receiver with streaming functions) already owns a Mac or PC at home. So why not use it? They know how to use their computer and therefore don’t need to learn how to use a new piece of equipment that may not have a very ergonomic interface compared to their usual environment.
And Audirvana improves sound quality, whether it be with a USB DAC, or a network audio streamer.
I recommend choosing between a USB DAC or a network audio streamer based on where the equipment is situated: if the computer can be placed near to the music system, a USB DAC will be the best option. If that isn’t possible, then investing in a network audio player is justified, as you won’t be restricted when arranging the furniture in your room.
What are Audirvana Plus’ advantages?
D.P: The main advantage and reason why Audirvana Plus is acclaimed by thousands of users and has been lauded many times by Hi-Fi professionals, is the improvement of sound quality. This is possible because Audirvana Plus reduces the audio signal path by using the most advanced algorithms, in order to make the computer as quiet as possible, and to allow the digital-to-analog converter to work in the best possible conditions. Audirvana Plus can handle all music libraries, regardless of their size, with an optimized user interface and advanced features. In addition, Audirvana Plus reads all music in all audio file formats (WAV, AIFF, FLAC, Apple Lossless, WavPack, DSD, MQA…), whether they’re stocked at home, or on a hi-res streaming service such as Qobuz, TIDAL or HRA-Streaming.
Is Audirvana Plus optimized for specific USB DACs? If so, how?
D.P: There’s no particular optimization for any given model of USB DAC. All USB DACs will benefit from the improvement in sound quality provided by Audirvana Plus. Our users often tell us that they were able to save on the price of their DAC, as the one they already own now sounds at least just as good as the more high-end model that they were planning to purchase.
What exactly is Audirvana Plus’ MQA certification?
D.P: For me, the integration of the new MQA file format was primarily a human venture when I met Bob Stuart, the founder of MQA, with whom I share the same passion for music. This meeting allowed Audirvana Plus to become the first audiophile music player, along with TIDAL, to integrate the MQA Core Decoder in the Audirvana Plus 3 version. This makes it possible, even with a DAC that isn’t MQA-enabled, to read the high-definition content (88.2 or 96kHz) of TIDAL’s “Master” albums, or of any other source.
What is the point of converting files into DSD format before transferring them to a DAC?
D.P: All DACs (with very few exceptions) perform oversampling before the digital to analog conversion. For obvious economic reasons, a DAC’s conversion chip doesn’t have the processing power of a computer. It’s therefore possible to use a much higher quality oversampling algorithm on the computer. With Audirvana Plus, the goal is to carry out the maximum of this oversampling calculation on the computer, so that the DAC’s chip only has to do the bare minimum with its lower-quality algorithm. You can therefore bypass most (if not all) of the digital processing performed by the DAC’s conversion chip by sending the file in DSD format.