Windows Vs Mac OS Quality Comparison

As far as audio is concerned, it seems that Windows is utilizing Direct X Mixer and Mac, Core Audio. This issue pertains to Windows utilizing Direct X Mixer even when Wasapi for bit perfect audio is selected. This can cause Windows to downsample audio even if high Bitrates or Sample Rates are selected. This is also why ASIO exits for studios running Windows, to bypass the Windows audio stack. My testing was on a 2020 Macbook Air (latest Mac OS) and a Gaming PC (latest Windows 11) and utilizing the Schiit Modi 3 and a Geshelli Labs Archel 2.5 XL as well as the Mono Price Retros and MDR 7506s. Utilzing a flac player and some OSTs I have ripped from CD I can hear a slight resolution and detail upgrade on the Mac. This whole experience leads me to wish Windows had a subsystem audio handler like Core Audio. On a Mac (from my understanding) all audio is unfolded and sent through Core Audio (a system wide hardware abstraction layer) as raw PCM samples and unless a program has any way to manipulate those PCM samples they are just streamed straight to audio hardware. This makes things that cannot take avantage of Wasapi on Windows (I.E. Youtube or Spotify) just sound so much cleaner and detailed on Mac OS (even utilizing the onboard audio of my Macbook). Howerver, I did notice one thing, audio overall sounds a lot louder on Windows using the same hardware. Overall, I think that audio sounds so much cleaner on Mac OS. This could also just be my preception but I’ll leave up for debate here.

Windows supports multiple audio architectures to be used based on need.

(How does Windows handle audio device sample rate and bit depth? | Audio Science Review (ASR) Forum)
Just above the list of things that you show in the screenshot, it says it is the configuration to be used in shared mode. This setting does not apply to exclusive mode access.

The default when you install a driver into Windows 10 in most cases is a shared mode. This is what one would want when one is connecting to an audio device to get sound out of the PC (system sounds, various application sounds, content played by applications, etc). Since all of these can be happening in parallel, Windows has a built in mixer that allows all these different sources to come in and mixes them and sends them out based on the capabilities advertised by the sound device. You can manually select the input parameters in that list so that all sources connected to the Windows mixer via shared mode are resampled to that selection (you can also have for example, Dolby Live as one of the choices there if the driver supports it to on-the-fly convert incoming multi-channel sound via S/PDIF to an optical port for example). The DAC sees the output resolution sent by Windows mixer which is typically the selection made in your list.

The above is not meant for bit perfect audio reproduction or recording or for low latency applications.

Windows has a direct mode where applications can bypass the Windows mixer and directly send content in the format that is supported by the connected destination. This allows, for example, an application like foobar 2000 or JRiver to query for supported formats of the destination. This is listed in a different tab called supported formats not in the Advanced tab you have in the picture. Then based on content, these applications can either resample or send bit perfect at a supported resolution or rate without the Windows mixer coming in the way. The DAC sees what the application is sending in this mode.

The downside to this is that since there is no mixer in the middle, only one content source can be using it at any time and all other sounds including Windows system sounds will not be able to be heard when one application has requested and using the Direct Mode which is an exclusive mode for the reason above.

But for this to happen, you need to check allow exclusive mode in the settings below the list you have pictured and give such exclusive use priority if you don’t want to be interrupted during the use of that exclusive use.

In addition, the application must be able to use direct mode - not all applications do. In particular, the Amazon music app does not seem to be able to do Direct Mode, so it just uses the shared mode with the setting you have selected in that list with the music going through the Windows mixer. The mixer will resample to the selected resolution in that list. So the DAC will see whatever is selected there.

Both of the above systems depend on the Windows OS providing an abstraction of an audio device with a speaker configuration, etc.

There is also a hardware direct mode where a driver may allow direct interfacing with the hardware bypassing even the above abstraction or the exclusive mode. This is what ASIO was developed for. To windows this looks just like some data going to a device on a bus and no concept of what that data is let alone audio. This requires the application using it to interact with that hardware driver and provide the configuration settings in its interface along with any mixing or mapping of channels available in the output device to speaker channels if required, etc. This is what DAWs or professional recording or playback applications do. A specialized card or device may provide software drivers for both an ASIO access to the device as well as set up a virtual audio device to make it available through the Windows audio systems for applications that want a playback or recording device abstraction in direct or shared mode. Good content players may also support this hardware direct mode for playback. Nothing in the Windows audio device manager settings is relevant to this hardware direct use.

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That is the reason I use a dedicated streamer for my listening sessions (AMHD>Wiim Pro>Bifrost 2/64) to get bit perfect playback. It takes the issues with some windows applications out of the equation. Goldensound made a video where he mentioned the issue with some streaming applications on Windows. This also holds true regarding other audio players in Windows. Bad programming is an issue regardless of which platform you use (some windows subsystems included). :wink:

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I don’t use my computer for any music, or other type of audio production, nor do I even listen to music much using it either. My thing is preparing and syncing music and other audio content to my DAPs and portable digital transports. I either use my DAPs on the go, or around the house, and digital transports at a couple of comfy listening stations equipped with desktop DACs and amps.

For me it comes down to which operating system works best at preparing my local files (naming, tagging, etc…) and syncing (jukebox software). I’d be fine with MacOS or Linux for everything except for the syncing of my local library of FLACs and MP3s with my Sony DAPs. For this I have only found a workable system using Windows. MusicBee on Windows (only available for Windows) gets the syncing done wonderfully and without major issue. Everything, including playlists, sync fine with my Sonys.

So my use case is different. I just though I’d add it since there may be others like me out there.