Insane Ravings or Exaggerations.....?

MRB

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Sep 28, 2020
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I know this is going to sound bizarre and will easily be dismissed by many. I’m 69 years old and have been playing with HiFi since the mid 1960’s. I entered college as a Music Major but eventually switched to Engineering. I mention this only because I want people to understand that I know what real, un-amplified music sounds like. I was around it daily for years. We were required to attend student and faculty recitals every week, plus all the performing each of us did with various groups.

When solid-state amplifiers first came out, they were cold and sterile. When digital audio came out, it added insult to injury with sound that was hard and edgy. Of course things improved as the years went by, but never to the degree I would have liked. I always marveled how old systems made of tubes and vinyl could trounce modern equipment.

After my retirement in 2010, I started experimenting with a computer driven audio system. After spending many thousands of dollars on DAC’s, USB to SPDIF Converters, and Streaming devices or Services, I remained unimpressed. That was the case until recently when I stumbled upon the Holy Grail of digital audio. This adventure goes back a long way, so prepare for an epistle to explain this story step by step.

About 7 years ago I was at a friend’s home listening to his HiFi made up primarily of Audio Note equipment. He had just bought a new MacBook Pro. This was his first foray into using a computer instead of a Compact Disc or Vinyl as a front end. We got his machine setup and listened for a while. I was very familiar with the sound of his system but was genuinely impressed at how well it sounded with his computer. It was much better than how I recall my own system sounding with a computer. In fact, this was the first and only time I’d heard ANYTHING digital that remotely reminded me of analog equipment.

His new laptop used an i5 processor while my older MacBook Pro used an Intel Core 2 Duo processor. I brought along my MacBook for this visit and decided to connect it up in place of his computer. Just as I suspected, his laptop sounded more natural and musical. My machine on the other hand sounded artificial, with what I so often describe as that "DIGITAL" Character.

My friend and I made numerous back and forth comparisons by swapping our two computers into his system. We used the same playback software and music recordings. There were zero changes made to the rest of the hardware in the system. Both of us were certain of the difference in sound quality and it was dependent on the computer in use. With his machine there was a greater sense of pitch definition and timing. The decay of notes was more complete and satisfying. It was just more like real music and far more engaging. Musicians no longer sounded like amateurs but true artists conveying deep emotion.

I felt certain the new computer hardware had to be responsible for this difference, but I also made note of the fact that his new machine was running the latest Mac OS at the time, Mountain Lion (10.8), and mine was still running Snow Leopard (10.6). Could that make any difference? Surely not! However the impact on the sound was so important that I wanted to leave nothing to chance.

Being an engineer with 30+ years of MRB experience in aerospace, I took the approach of trying the simplest thing first to duplicate the results I’d heard. In this case it was also the cheapest approach. When I returned home, I immediately went to Apple‘s website where I purchased and downloaded a copy of Mac OS 10.8. As suspected, it did not give me the improvements I'd heard at my friend’s home. That was no surprise to me and only a minor financial loss of $20.

After this failed to work, I went out and purchased a new MacBook Pro just like my friend's, only to be disappointed once again. I didn’t know what to make of it. Was his computer using some other unique chipset for audio processing? I didn’t have a clue. I was hoping to get a System Report from his machine and make a comparison to mine, but my friend was out of town.

While I was undertaking these efforts, my friend was on a trip to Alaska where he lost his computer in a hunting lodge fire. He and his companions were fortunate to escape with their lives. This event left me no means to investigate further. I just decided it was some freak situation and impossible to figure out.

A few months ago, I came across a discussion forum from back in 2014 where someone claimed that Mac OS 10.8.2 or 10.8.3 sound better than any other operating system, including other releases of 10.8. This person described a realism they heard and their remarks reminded me of my impression years earlier at my friend’s home, when using his now incinerated MacBook Pro.

This piqued my interest, so I decided to perform some online research and found that when Apple issued Mac OS 10.8, they also released a series of minor updates very quickly. Many were within weeks of the initial release. I thought perhaps this could account for why there was a discrepancy between what I heard at my friend’s home and when I downloaded OS 10.8 from Apple. I dug back into my hard drive archives to find the installer copy that I bought from Apple and downloaded seven years earlier. It turned out to be 10.8.5. So if this person was correct about 10.8.2 or 10.8.3 having the magic, then it might explain why I was never able to duplicate what I’d heard at my friend’s home.

However, this still seemed like a long shot to me. Usually these kinds of updates are minor bug fixes. Besides, I’ve never heard a major new release of an operating system make much if any difference in the sound of things. Certainly minor updates would be even less likely to change things one way or the other.

Furthermore, why has no one else reported this Sound Quality difference? If it's so significant, it should be a topic of discussion on forums everywhere concerning audio. The only reason which might explain the lack of notoriety is the brief period these particular versions of 10.8 were available. It could be as simple as very few people with our level of scrutiny over Sound Quality, ever had the opportunity to compare these minor software releases. Seven years ago computer audio was truly in its infancy. Fewer people were trying it and these unique versions of the Mac OS were available for only a very brief period.

I wanted to investigate further but unfortunately, Apple does not make 10.8.0 available for download. They only let you download the updates to 10.8.2, 10.8.3, 10.8.4 which apparently only modify existing installations of 10.8.0. Such was the case back 7 years ago when I first looked into this. The full installer for 10.8.5 is available for download free of charge, which was the final release of Mountain Lion. Of course we know this version does not fit the criteria laid out.

After much searching, I finally managed to locate a copy of 10.8.0. I installed it on my 2012 Mac Mini and then performed the update to 10.8.2. At Last Success! It sounds great and consistent with what I heard years ago. The same is true for 10.8.3. We were not imagining things and this is truly a game changer!

What Apple did in these updates, I have no idea. Nothing in the release notes jumps out at you that might be a clue. Some software guru could possibly dig into the bowels of the beast, do a postmortem and figure out what they changed. If you have such abilities, I encourage you to try.

I thought about trying to switch the audio drivers between versions to see if that makes a difference. The only problem is that it doesn’t seem to matter what method you use to get the signal into the DAC (USB, Toslink or Wireless Streaming), it all sounds good. Since the improvement is not specific to any one piece of hardware, then it’s likely the result of a lower level driver or something built into the kernel at its core level, not a Kernel Extension.

All I know is this; if you are not listening to 10.8.2 or 10.8.3, then you have no idea what digital audio is capable of doing. I have made careful comparisons. There is no doubt about this. If you still own or can find an older Mac that will run Mountain Lion, you owe it to yourself to try it. Older machines can be had very cheaply nowadays. Mac tracker is a free downloadable program that can tell you which OS any particular machine is capable of running. Mac OS 10.8.0 can be found on eBay.

I removed 10.8.3 from my internal hard drive and presently have it installed on a fast 32GB SD Card for convenience. Cost of the SD card is about $11 and has a read speed of 100MB/s. It works great and allows me to keep a more current OS on the internal drives for other activity or experimentation. I noticed no particular difference in Sound Quality with 10.8.x installed on the SD Card or the Internal Drive.

My biggest regret is that I did not pursue this with more diligence and vigor almost 7 years ago. There has been a lot of musical enjoyment lost during that time. The only other regret I might have would be if my words here are not able to persuade others to try this. I know it sounds like lunacy to downgrade to an OS or Machine that is years out of date and no longer supported. Of course you are free to dismiss this as insane ravings or exaggerations, but you will be doing yourself a HUGE DISSERVICE. My only hope is that I can be of help to your musical enjoyment. I have no other motive.

Let the criticisms begin>>>>>>
 

seeteeyou

Well-Known Member
Apr 6, 2015
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https://audiophilestyle.com/forums/...-mac-osx/page/2/?tab=comments#comment-1079469
I'm using A+ or Amarra primarily. Cog was mentioned just to cover the breadth of all the things I've tried and have in the playback arsenal. None of these software packages bring to the party what 10.8.2 and 10.8.3 provide. It's that significant!
OS X Mountain Lion Update v10.8.2 (Combo)
https://support.apple.com/kb/dl1581
https://updates.cdn-apple.com/2019/...-4f7d-a5ee-069b9dfd935a/OSXUpdCombo10.8.2.dmg

OS X Mountain Lion 10.8.2 Supplemental Update 1.0
https://support.apple.com/kb/dl1600
https://updates.cdn-apple.com/2019/...a-472e-b054-2be13d62ddea/OSXUpd10.8.2Supp.dmg

OS X Mountain Lion 10.8.2 Update for 13" Macbook Pro with Retina Display, 21.5" iMac (Late 2012), Mac mini (Late 2012)
https://support.apple.com/kb/dl1603
https://updates.cdn-apple.com/2019/...-46a8-4d91-ac24-58bbc39896f0/OSXUpd10.8.2.dmg

OS X Mountain Lion 10.8.2 Supplemental Update 2.0
https://support.apple.com/kb/dl1611
https://updates.cdn-apple.com/2019/...-0a9dd1fc397d/OSX10.8.2SupplementalUpd2.0.dmg

OS X Mountain Lion Update v10.8.3 (Combo)
https://support.apple.com/kb/dl1640
https://updates.cdn-apple.com/2019/...-4fcb-8990-78afa2ac405b/OSXUpdCombo10.8.3.dmg

OS X Mountain Lion Update v10.8.3
https://support.apple.com/kb/dl1641
https://updates.cdn-apple.com/2019/...-5601-488b-8185-02a346070036/OSXUpd10.8.3.dmg
 

awsmone

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Apr 7, 2014
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Canberra Australia
That’s very intriguing
thx for sharing your investigations:)
 
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stray_cat

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Sep 24, 2018
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Hi, IMHO your findings are absolutely valid. You know it when you not just "hear" but "experience" it without need to analyze or break down the sound, just enjoy the music. It scratches the itch lol.

Many other listeners have shared their findings WRT different software sounding better, and I've noticed developers have.been working on it, I've been reading up on comparisons of various linux audio OS specific releases but haven't read of any "game changing" revelations like what you shared here, sigh. Thanks for sharing, Its made me consider pursuing this.

I suspect there is something still elusive as to "exactly what" it is in a software release that allows the music sound just "right".

When the OS developers made changes without the specific focus on sound It would be awesome if the MacOS team investigated what was done that "accidentally" improved or degraded the sound between releases. Maybe someone here has an idea?
 
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MRB

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Sep 28, 2020
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Hi, IMHO your findings are absolutely valid. You know it when you not just "hear" but "experience" it without need to analyze or break down the sound, just enjoy the music. It scratches the itch lol.

Many other listeners have shared their findings WRT different software sounding better, and I've noticed developers have.been working on it, I've been reading up on comparisons of various linux audio OS specific releases but haven't read of any "game changing" revelations like what you shared here, sigh. Thanks for sharing, Its made me consider pursuing this.

I suspect there is something still elusive as to "exactly what" it is in a software release that allows the music sound just "right".

When the OS developers made changes without the specific focus on sound It would be awesome if the MacOS team investigated what was done that "accidentally" improved or degraded the sound between releases. Maybe someone here has an idea?

It would indeed be nice if someone could figure out what Apple did by accident or on purpose. For me, Digital Music Playback has always suffered from high frequencies that sound "overly-etched" and this characteristic becomes more annoying as instruments get added and layered into the performance, or as the recording starts to reach a climax. It gives the music an unnatural quality. It's a bit like a digital photograph that has been grossly over-sharpened. Through the years I've tried everything to get rid of this flavor that permeates digital. DAC's, Cables, Femto Re-Clockers, Linear Power Supplies, Streamers, High Rez Music Services etc... None of it has worked for me! Hard for me to explain what it sounds like, but take it from me, 10.8.2 and 10.8.3 gets rid of this bright glare and yet the music is not muted in any way, but full of life and breath.

Perhaps you'll meet someone with an old Mac lying about and give it a whirl.
 

matthias

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Mar 14, 2019
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We used the same playback software and music recordings.

May I ask which playback software did you use and did you compare 10.8.2/10.8.3 to the latest MacOS on the latest MBPs?
Which DAC do you use with MBP?
Thanks

Matt
 
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Joe Whip

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Feb 8, 2014
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I have an older MacBook Air, 2014. I upgraded to the latest software after years with the original OS. I hear no difference. I get phenomenal results. Even diehard vinyl guys are shocked.
 

MRB

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Sep 28, 2020
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I have an older MacBook Air, 2014. I upgraded to the latest software after years with the original OS. I hear no difference. I get phenomenal results. Even diehard vinyl guys are shocked.

I'm not surprised. The 2014 MacBook Air came with Mac OS 10.9.2 Installed, which is after 10.8.2 or 10.8.3.
Screen Shot 2020-10-01 at 11.49.34 PM.png Screen Shot 2020-10-01 at 11.51.42 PM.png
 

MRB

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Sep 28, 2020
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May I ask which playback software did you use and did you compare 10.8.2/10.8.3 to the latest MacOS on the latest MBPs?
Which DAC do you use with MBP?
Thanks

Matt
I've used a variety of playback software. I typically prefer Amarra but also have Pure Music, JRiver, Audrivana Plus, Decibel, Bit Perfect, Fidelia and several others. While you can hear a difference in some software packages, all are acceptable sounding. Amarra seems a bit more revealing to me.

I've used a variety of Mac's including two older MBP's and several Mac Mini's running 10.8.2 or 10.8.3. I've also compared these same machines running later Mac OS version 10.9, 10.10, 10.11, 10.12 etc.. Some of the Mac Mini's are equipped with outboard linear power supplies from Mojo Audio and Core Audio. I've also owned the Micro Rendu using the UltraCap LPS 2.1. I've compared all of the above with a 2020 MBP running Catalina.

I've owned several DAC's through the years. Ayre QB-9, MHDT Paradisea, Metrum Hex. I've auditioned many others. Presently I have on hand the Audio Note 2.1 and the Border Patrol SEi. You can hear the difference in performance capability of these two DAC's but both are musically acceptable, provided the playback is done on a computer running 10.8.2 or 10.8.3.

I realize your looking for a flaw in my analysis and figure there has to be some other factor at work. Originally I suspected it was hardware related. However, it really has nothing to do with the machine itself or the playback software in use, but the use of 10.8.2 or 10.8.3. I can have a multi-partition drive and boot to a different OS version on each partition. It is easy to pick out 10.8.2 and 10.8.3 from any other OS I have on hand.

The lack of this overly etched sound of digital is what makes the difference. I'll post this photo that was over sharpened on the right to visually illustrate the effect. Screen Shot 2020-10-02 at 1.11.39 AM.png
 

MRB

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Sep 28, 2020
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May I ask which playback software did you use and did you compare 10.8.2/10.8.3 to the latest MacOS on the latest MBPs?
Which DAC do you use with MBP?
Thanks

Matt
Matt,
I hasten to add that I have not tried every single incremental release of the MacOS. As with 10.8, Apple only makes available the most current version of any major OS release as a full install. Any prior iterations are only provided as updates for earlier versions. This effectively prevents a user from going back to an earlier incremental release. Thanks Apple!

So to be fair, it may be possible that some other incremental release of the Mac OS could perform as well as 10.8.2 or 10.8.3. I have every installer on hand from Panther (10.3) to High Sierra (10.13). I have tried from 10.6 and up and have heard no difference. However most of these are the last official release of the OS. Perhaps there is another OS release increment that works as well as 10.8.2 or 10.8.3 for audio playback. If it does exist, nobody has reported it to my knowledge. I'm just wanting to be objective about this and as honest as I can. There may be another "magic version" out there as yet undiscovered.

I do recall that in the early days of computer audio, some people claimed the old Power Mac G5 towers sounded incredibly good for some mysterious reason. People attributed it to the Hardware but bemoaned the fact that the G5 Tower was so noisy from cooling fans. People were putting them in closets and building sound absorbing enclosures for them or installing fluid cooling to minimize the noise. It may have been the OS these machines were running at the time that was improving the sound and had nothing to do with the machine itself. G5 Towers were released with 10.4 (Tiger) and would only update to 10.5 (Leopard).

I can't blame anyone for dismissing the OS as having an impact. I did that too at first and attributed it to hardware differences of some kind or another. As of right now, all I know is that 10.8.2 and 10.8.3 makes a profound difference to my musical enjoyment when used with any computer that will run it. I have 4 different ones on hand that will. A 2010, 2011 & 2012 Mac Mini, a 2008 MacBook Pro. Boot any of these with another OS version and all the fun and goodness goes away.

I would be glad if it were determined that a later iteration of the Mac OS delivered the same results. Tidal does not work with 10.8.x. However I can get Tidal to work through Amarra Luxe. There are some issues with how Luxe displays album artwork but I can manage. Let me say that if I am forced to give up streaming services to maintain this sound quality, then so be it.
 

seeteeyou

Well-Known Member
Apr 6, 2015
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It turned out to be a piece of cake to download the full-blown installers of both 10.8.0 and 10.8.2 thanks to the power of Google, I verified both files and their SHA-1 checksums were perfectly fine

https://www.google.com/search?q=OSX_Mountain_Lion_DP_GM.dmg
Code:
e5dd2bf5560033cade7dd7d7da5ceec49f701b0e  OSX_Mountain_Lion_DP_GM.dmg
https://www.google.com/search?q=InstallESD_SecureNSS.com.dmg
Code:
eaf54b1b1a630af85547fed8eabbf6fe159f2b42  InstallESD_SecureNSS.com.dmg
Apple Installer Checksums
https://github.com/notpeter/apple-installer-checksums/blob/master/readme.md
Code:
10.8 build 12A269
SHA1: E5DD2BF5560033CADE7DD7D7DA5CEEC49F701B0E

10.8.2 build 12C60
SHA1: EAF54B1B1A630AF85547FED8EABBF6FE159F2B42
 
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matthias

Well-Known Member
Mar 14, 2019
437
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@MRB
I want to let you know that I believe your findings, I think you have done a great work doing all these comparisons.

I have a mid 2010 MBP with 10.13.6 running the latest Audirvana. I was never in the position to make reliable comparisons between different MacOSs, so I tried to optimise what I have with some tips from Mojo Audio:

https://www.mojo-audio.com/blog/optimizing-os-x-for-audio-video/

I agree with @Joe Whip that a MBP can be a great source.

Matt
 

MRB

New Member
Sep 28, 2020
9
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It turned out to be a piece of cake to download the full-blown installers of both 10.8.0 and 10.8.2 thanks to the power of Google, I verified both files and their SHA-1 checksums were perfectly fine

https://www.google.com/search?q=OSX_Mountain_Lion_DP_GM.dmg
Code:
e5dd2bf5560033cade7dd7d7da5ceec49f701b0e  OSX_Mountain_Lion_DP_GM.dmg
https://www.google.com/search?q=InstallESD_SecureNSS.com.dmg
Code:
eaf54b1b1a630af85547fed8eabbf6fe159f2b42  InstallESD_SecureNSS.com.dmg
Apple Installer Checksums
https://github.com/notpeter/apple-installer-checksums/blob/master/readme.md
Code:
10.8 build 12A269
SHA1: E5DD2BF5560033CADE7DD7D7DA5CEEC49F701B0E

10.8.2 build 12C60
SHA1: EAF54B1B1A630AF85547FED8EABBF6FE159F2B42

That's great and thanks for the effort!! If others have a machine that will run 10.8.x it could let them give this a test drive.
 

MRB

New Member
Sep 28, 2020
9
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@MRB
I want to let you know that I believe your findings, I think you have done a great work doing all these comparisons.

I have a mid 2010 MBP with 10.13.6 running the latest Audirvana. I was never in the position to make reliable comparisons between different MacOSs, so I tried to optimise what I have with some tips from Mojo Audio:

https://www.mojo-audio.com/blog/optimizing-os-x-for-audio-video/

I agree with @Joe Whip that a MBP can be a great source.

Matt
Matt,
According to Mac Tracker, the 2010 MBP came equipped with 10.6.3 and can go up to 10.13.6. Thanks to the work of SeeTeeYou, that means you could download a copy of 10.8.2 to an external disc, thumb drive or SD Card and give it a spin. Screen Shot 2020-10-02 at 3.08.02 PM.png
 

MRB

New Member
Sep 28, 2020
9
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@MRB
I tried to optimise what I have with some tips from Mojo Audio:

https://www.mojo-audio.com/blog/optimizing-os-x-for-audio-video/

Matt

Matt,
I've taken the Mojo route before of optimizing the system. In fact I have one of Zwickle's Power supplies for the Mac Mini and some of his cables. I've tried some other OS optimizing packages in the past but to no avail. To me, OS 10.8.2 and 10.8.3 are light years beyond. They eliminate what I perceive as a persistent "Fly in the Ointment" of digital playback. It's easy to download a copy of OS 10.8.x on an external storage device and give it a try. I found 32GB SD Cards at Walmart for about $11. A 32GB card is plenty of space for the OS and several programs of playback software. That's what I have done and it left about 13GB of free space on the card. The SanDisk Extreme Pro at 95MB/s is a good one. You can use it in your SD Card slot of your MBP and not have to alter any existing storage configuration. The SD Card works almost as fast as an SSD internal drive. Of course they have Thumb drives that are fast too and more versatile than an SD Card. I finally bought a 64GB card so I could create two partitions and boot to another OS version for demonstration purposes.
Screen Shot 2020-10-02 at 3.37.44 PM.png
 

matthias

Well-Known Member
Mar 14, 2019
437
147
48
Germany
The point I do not understand:

There must be at least one audiophile software specialist who is able to analyse why these both MacOSs are so outstanding. With some reverse engineering it should be possible to implement this (maybe as software player) in existing MacOSs to get a similar SQ.

Matt
 
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MRB

New Member
Sep 28, 2020
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The point I do not understand:

There must be at least one audiophile software specialist who is able to analyse why these both MacOSs are so outstanding. With some reverse engineering it should be possible to implement this (maybe as software player) in existing MacOSs to get a similar SQ.

Matt
I would think so but it's above my skill level. I find my self rebooting to another version just to marvel at the difference and wonder why. It's a subtle thing but so pervasive as to permeate the entire performance.
 

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