Benchmark's guide for configuring Windows-based media playersGeneral strategies for setting up your computer for high quality audio playback
Windows Media Player (WMP) has extremely inconsistent behavior. Several issues have arisen among users, several of which remain unresolved. There is very little information available from Microsoft about the operation of this software. The information in this article is accurate to the best of our knowledge at the time of this printing. When further information is confirmed, this article will be updated appropriately.
If Windows Media Player does not stream audio to the appropriate output device, try restarting Windows Media Player. If this does not resolve the problem, open the following menu:
Choose the appropriate output device in this menu.
New info on Windows Media Player 12
Windows Media Player 12 (WMP12), which is only available on Windows 7 at the time of this writing, has the interesting quality of playing 24-bit audio files
New info on Windows Media Player 11
Recent tests with Windows Media Player 11 (WMP11) have brought to light some interesting qualities:
WMP11's volume control outputs (un-dithered) 16-bits with 'Library' playback
WMP11's volume control outputs 24-bits with HDCD playback
WMP11's volume control outputs 24-bits with playback of 24-bit audio files
This means that the volume control will cause distortion with 16-bit playback. It is recommended to keep the volume control at 100% for 16-bit audio playback.
Recommended Player Settings
SET VOLUME TO 100%
This volume control can be used in moderation without seriously affecting the quality of the audio. We recommend using an analog volume control (post D-to-A conversion) instead, as it will result in the best signal-to-noise ratio.
Read more about digital volume control, and how it affects the quality of your audio.
BYPASS ALL AUDIO PLUG-IN'S AND AUDIO 'ENHANCEMENTS'
Plug-in's should be bypassed by default, but to make sure, go to the plug-in menu uncheck any active plug-in's. Also, in this menu, choose 'Other' and make sure no Plug-In's are checked. The menu can be found by going to:
Windows Media Player -> View -> Plug-ins -> Options -> Plug-ins -> Audio DSP
Audio enhancements should be bypassed. Open the "Enhancements" window and scroll through to make sure each one is turned off. The menu can be found by going to:
View -> Enhancements -> Show Enhancements
Read more about how DSP and plug-ins affect your audio
Will not play 24-bit audio
As mentioned above, older versions of Windows Media Player was not able to play 24-bit audio files without a third-party plug-in/codec.
A digital audio device achieves bit-transparency if it passes digital audio data without affecting the data in any way. This device may be hardware, software, or a combination of both.
Testing for Bit Transparency
To determine if a device is bit-transparent, it can be tested by sending a pseudo-random bit sequence through it and monitoring the digital output. We typically generate the pseudo-random sequence using an Audio Precision digital signal generator. The Audio Precision includes a digital analyzer that is programmed to detect the pseudo-random sequence produced by the generator. The analyzer detects any differences between the generated sequence and the received sequence. The number of differences is tallied by a counter. A digital channel that is bit transparent will show no differences between the transmitted and received pseudo-random sequences.
Dither is a type of intentional variation (noise) which is added to a digital audio signal to avoid distortion caused by quantization errors.
Dithering in audio
Dither is often used when an analog signal is being quantized into a finite number of digital levels. It is also often used when a digital signal is being quantized into a fewer number of bits per sample corresponding to a fewer number of digital levels.