Windows XP Setup:


To set up Windows XP for the best audio performance, understanding some of the underlying technical information will be helpful. The main concern when setting up any computer for high-performance audio is to ensure that the music files are delivered to the D/A converter in a bit-perfect fashion, without any alterations that might degrade the sound quality.

The difficulty is that a computer normally must handle a wide variety of different sound files. In addition to your music player, various other programs will also play back sound files (e.g., viewing a YouTube video with your web browser). The operating system may also generate sounds to signify specific events (e.g., "New E-Mail Alert").

Normally Windows XP mixes all of these sound and music files together for delivery to the computer's speakers using the KMixer (Kernel Mixer). The problem this creates for the audiophile is that your music files may be subjected to additional processing that can degrade the sound quality. Therefore the goal is to send only your music files to your Ayre USB D/A converter, with the data unaltered.

There are several strategies for accomplishing this task. The simplest method is to use Direct Sound, which is the native sound format used in Windows XP. Both J.River and Foobar 2000 can easily be configured to accept Direct Sound. Windows XP must then be configured to ensure that only bit-perfect music files are sent to your music system.

Nearly all modern PC's, both desktop and notebook, have built-in soundcards. We will set up your computer so that only your music player can access the Ayre USB D/A converter. All other sound files will be sent to the built-in soundcard.

Go to "Start - Control Panel" to launch the Control Panel.

Double-click "Sounds and Audio Devices" to launch the application.

Then select the "Audio" tab and from the "Sound Playback" drop-down menu select the built-in soundcard, not the Ayre USB Interface. In the lower left corner of the window, check the box "Use only default devices" and then click on "OK".

This will ensure that all sounds from the computer's operating system and other software applications are sent to the built-in soundcard and not to your stereo system. Only your music player software will be able to override this setting and access your Ayre D/A converter.

To further set up your player to do this, see the Playback section.

If you have no other soundcard installed in your computer, go to the instructions for "No Other Soundcard".

Going Beyond 96 kHz

Before you attempt to work with files beyond 96 kHz, please go through the normal setup instructions with your Ayre D/A converter set in Class 1 mode. Make sure that everything is working properly and you are familiar with your system and its software. Only then should you attempt to work with files beyond 96 kHz.