Amarra 2.1, Amarra Vinyl, Amarra Complete, What's Amarra You?
Attendees were treated to a fine demonstration in the Amarra room. A system featuring Focal loudspeakers and Parasound amplification was used to demonstrate the benefits of the Amarra music player software. On a desk between the loudspeakers and beside a Mac laptop was a screen, and on the screen were slides which contained simple talking points:
Hi-res files provide a better representation of the audio signal.
A compact disc can be thought of as the simplest music server; it’s limited, however, to 16-bit/44.1kHz resolution.
The internet can be thought of as the world’s largest music store, and there are an increasing number of hi-res downloads available.
Amarra offers better quality and is easier to use than Apple’s iTunes; it is optimized for audiophile playback; it bypasses Apple’s Core Audio container. “You’re paying us to do nothing to your music,” said Amarra’s rep. And that’s good.
Once we learned all of that, we listened to a hi-res music file, switching back and forth between iTunes and Amarra. The difference between iTunes and Amarra was easily heard, Amarra adding air and shimmer to highs and impact to bass and life overall. iTunes, while not sounding exactly bad on its own, sounded dull and lifeless in comparison.
There are several Amarra options. Amarra Junior costs $79 and focuses on improving CD and MP3 performance. (This suggests adding something to the audio signal, which worries me, but to be fair, we didn’t discuss it much and I don’t know how Amarra Junior is supposed to work.) Amarra Mini costs $295 and works based on the native sample rate of the audio file and is compatible with sample rates up to 96kHz. The full Amarra packages costs $695, includes everything that the other two packages offer, works with sample rates up to 192kHz, and adds a multiband sonic equalizer. Amaraa 2.1 features include: seamless docking with iTunes; RAM-based CachePlay; advanced EQ settings; improved drag-and-drop functionality; improved integration with Apple’s iPhone and iPad.
Amarra Complete ($400-$1200, depending on options) is “made for the audiophile who doesn’t want to learn about a computer.” With Amarra Complete, you get either Amarra or Amarra Mini on an external USB/FW drive pre-installed and preconfigured with a Mac OS, made to transform your computer into a dedicated music server in minutes. “All you need to add is your music.”
Amarra Vinyl ($695) is designed to restore and record vinyl. Users can record mono and stereo sources up to 192kHz in AIFF or WAV file formats. Amarra’s NoNOISE II restoration feature allows the user to remove pops and ticks. Further, Sonic EQ provides 13 filter topologies and a “double-precision” RIAA curve. Amarra Vinyl and Amarra Complete will be available in November.