Audio, Reviews

Amarra 3, the high end audio player

Amarra is an audiophile music player for the Mac. I tested the full Amarra player, which allows you to play FLAC as well as DSD music files. Sonic Studio also released Amarra sQ, an equaliser specifically developed to enhance streaming music such as iTunes Radio or Spotify streams.

Amarra is developed by Sonic Studio. They are the same company that develops Sonic Studio SoundBlade and NoNoise for professional sound engineering and recording. Amarra 2 was a great music player, with exceptional music quality. Amarra 3 is even better. It has a better looking interface and a music experience that sounds more detailed with even better dynamic quality (in a sense of the difference between silent and loud) than its predecessor. By lack of a better way of describing it, I would compare it to an oil painting. If Amarra 2 was painting a violin solo with rather broad strokes, Amarra 3 would be painting it with a fine Kolinsky sable hair brush.

Sound quality wise, I found Amarra 3 to even beat Audirvana Plus, which is in my opinion the second-best audio player for the Mac.

Amarra 3

Amarra 3 includes Sonic Studio’s parametric Equaliser with presets optimised for high-quality headphone manufacturers such Audeze, KEF, Grado, Nuforce and more. Unfortunately, Sennheiser nor Beyer Dynamic are on the list.

Amarra 3 supports WAV, AIFF, FLAC, ALAC, MP3 and DSD playback. With the latter, Amarra 3 supports 64/128 DSF formats while a DSD Converter is not required to play DSD. This means you can play stereo DSD files regardless of whether your DAC can handle them. To that effect, Amarra 3 will first convert the files internally to PCM and set your DAC to its highest supported sample rate setting at multiple of 44.1 kHz. I tested this with a DSD file of which I also happen to have a CD version.

I’m in my fifties with my ears never having been exposed to rock festival sound levels, but when I was about 27, I accidentally fired a pistol shot in a small confined room with no ear protection. Perhaps this could be why I couldn’t hear the difference between the DSD and CD versions of the same music piece played by the same soloist.

Sonic Studio also released the Amarra sQ equaliser app for streaming music. Streaming services from Spotify to YouTube and even Netflix can benefit from the 64-bit processing engine used with Amarra sQ. Amarra sQ even has a convenient mute button, so you don’t have to listen to ads, but it lacks the ability to create your own custom presets, which I found more than just mildly frustrating.

Amarra sQ is an audiophile quality 4-band mastering equaliser with selectable filters for each band including parametric 1st-4th order, Band Stop, Band Pass, Hi Pass, Lo Pass, Hi Shelf, Lo Shelf and Notch filters. It has advanced noise-shaped dithering for smooth volume control and EQ In/Out control.

I tried Amarra sQ with iTunes Radio and it enhances the sound quality of the stream in significant ways — much more so than with iTunes’ own equaliser. However, as I said before, it’s frustrating you can’t save presets, not to use them indiscriminately over and over again, but to have at least an easy entry point to start from the next time you’re listening to a radio station.

As it is now, Amarra sQ is great for people who like to play with the EQ settings, which isn’t the same as just enjoying the music at a high sound quality.

While I would recommend everyone to at least try Amarra 3 as I’m pretty convinced it will appeal to any audiophile out there, I would do the same with Amarra sQ only when a preset savings feature is on its update/upgrade roadmap.

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J.D. – Copywriter – Tech. Writer – Editor at Visuals Producer – Contributor at Photoshop User, Studio Daily – Sub-editor at RedShark News