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  A complete guide to Foobar 2000

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Foobar is an advanced media player that offers a lot of functionality usually not found in other players, for that same reason itís a very popular choice among PC audio enthusiasts. Unlike your standard media player, Foobar is not the easiest program to learn, once you understand it however, itís probably the best player you can use quality-wise.

The first step will be downloading Foobar from the official site. There are a few different versions available, depending on what components are included on the install package. I would recommend downloading the Special version, although you could also find most of the additional components available individually if you want to get them at a later time.

For convenience sake, a Full install would be best, but if you are picky like me then you will want to select and choose the components you actually want in a custom installation. Regardless of what components you want installed though, make sure you do select the following from the Optional components list:
 

Output

DirectSound v2.0
Kernel Streaming

General

ReplayGain Scanner

DSP

Standard DSP array
Crossfeed


If you want to add ASIO support you can find a regularly updated ASIO plugin available here (just copy foo_output_asio(dll).dll into the components directory where Foobar is installed). Also at time of writing, a newer Crossfeed plugin was available separately here.
 

Playback Settings

Load Foobar2000, click on Foobar 2000, select Preferences, then the Playback tab.
 


Buffer files up to X
. X determines the threshold, in KB, beneath which files are fully buffered in order to avoid playback hitches. If you are playing audio from your hard drive only you can leave this set to 0. If you use non-local storage devices for playback then setting this to whatever the average file size of such files are ought to ensure smooth playback. That said, don't set it excessively high.

Playback thread priority. This slider determines thread priority level, and as stated, itís recommended to leave this set to max for smooth playback. You might find it useful to lower the priority level if you have more critical processes running, as long as this doesnít skip playback.

Replaygain. Detailed information on Replaygain can be found here, but basically it allows for a gain adjustment to be stored in a track, the point being to reduce the need to adjust the volume level during music playback due to varying loudness levels in different tracks/albums. Some of the benefits to using Replaygain are that the Replaygain information doesnít actually alter the track itself, unlike, say, normalizing a track while encoding.
Replaygain info can be removed or changed as needed (Similar to ID3 tags). Additionally, this also tends to resolve clipping issues with many tracks.

To use Replaygain open Foobar2000 and select the tracks you wish to apply it to. In this case Iíve selected The Bourne Identity soundtrack (192 Kbps MP3). Right click on the selection and select Replaygain, three options are available:
 


 

  • Scan per-file track gain. Selecting this option will scan the selected tracks and calculate Replaygain information individually. This is recommended where you have tracks from different albums. This way intended loudness differences in an album wonít be accounted for.

  • Scan selection as album. Selecting this option will scan the selected tracks and calculate Replaygain information as an album, which will maintain intended loudness differences between tracks Ė something which Scan per-file track gain does not.

  • Scan selection as multiple albums. This performs same as above but uses file tag information to distinguish between albums. As such this is perhaps best used initially to Replaygain your music collection Ė assuming your music files have proper album tags.


Further options regarding Replaygain can be found in the Components, ReplayGain Scanner tab in the Foobar2000 Preferences menu.
 


 

Remove Replaygain info from files. This option is pretty self-explanatory.

Edit replaygain info (advanced). Selecting this option allows you to view and edit Replaygain information stored in a file, as illustrated beneath:


You shouldnít need to do this however.

Replaygain Mode. ReplayGain stores information on track and album gain adjustments, using the drop-down menu you can select which value is to be applied during playback. 3 options are available:

  • Use album gain. This selects the album gain adjustment which is recommended to maintain the intended loudness variation between tracks, particularly if playing from a single album.

  • Use track gain. This selects the track gain adjustment which is recommended for maintaining a constant volume level between tracks, regardless of any intended loudness variation between tracks. This may function best when playing tracks from a variety of albums.

  • Disabled. Select this option to disable applying ReplayGain adjustments in tracks. This isnít particularly recommended as it can exaggerate volume differences between tracks and increases the chances of clipping.

Use peak infoÖ applying replaygain. This option performs exactly as described and should be selected to further reduce the chance of ReplayGain scanned tracks from clipping. Unselect this option if youíd rather have a DSP provide further clipping protection, or simply donít feel it necessary.

Preamp - Files with RG info. A preamp is used to boost/reduce signal strength before it is sent to an amplifier. As previously discussed ReplayGain scanned tracks will set to a level whereby clipping issues should have been resolved, or at least minimised. As such, it would be counterproductive to apply a signal boost to such tracks, and youíd be best served leaving this set to 0.0dB or if you must, a negative value.

Preamp - Files without RG info. This functions as per the previous option, albeit applies to tracks which have not been ReplayGain scanned. Given most ReplayGain adjustments will be of a negative value, you should similarly give this a negative value for a more consistent volume level between ReplayGain scanned and un-scanned tracks (& of course as it may reduce clipping issues in those tracks). Personally Iíve set this to -6.0dB, for a more accurate value, try calculating the average Replaygain adjustment of your collection and entering that in.

Output data format. The drop-down menu here specifies the output bit depth to be used during playback. Generally speaking this limits us to 16bit Ė 24bit options and should of course be determined by the Audio device used. For 24-Bit Soundcards (Audigy 2 ZS, Revolution 7.1) 24bit fixed-point padded to 32bit is recommended as the preferred mode to select as the CPU works with 32-bits of data. Similarly for 16-Bit Soundcards try 16bit fixed-point padded to 32bit. Should these fail to work you should resort to 24bit fixed-point or 16bit fixed-point (Alternatively you may need to try selecting a different Output method, as discussed later).

Dither. Dithering is a process for adding noise to audio in order to improve sound quality. This might seem like a contradiction but it isnít. If youíre using 16bit fixed-point output format then itís recommended selecting this option for optimal sound quality. If youíre using a higher bit-depth output format (24bit fixed-point padded to 32bit, for example) leave this unselected, itís not necessary, nor will you notice any difference in playback quality Ė youíll just increase CPU use.

Noise shaping further optimizes the dithering process by distributing the noise across the frequency range. For best quality results select strong ATH noise shaping. Other options may yield lower CPU use (With no noise shaping providing the lowest of course) but may result in more audible dithering artefacts.



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