Decibel: Lossless Audio and Beyond

Like many among us, I am not accustomed to paying for a music player. I am happy with iTunes and Winamp in both Windows and Mac. Still, if you are looking forward to pushing the boundaries in playback quality and revolutionary user interfaces, there are a handful choices available in front of us.

Playback of popular lossy formats like MP3 has never been a problem. But when it comes to lossless formats like FLAC, Ogg Vorbis etc. the choices get limited. Decibel is an audio player tailored to the particular needs of audiophiles and promises no discrimination when it comes to lossy or lossless audio formats. Follow me after the fold to check out what’s in store.

Overview

One of the major highlights of Decibel is the ability to play almost every audio format out there. This app supports all popular lossless and lossy audio formats including FLAC, Ogg Vorbis, Musepack, WavPack, Monkey’s Audio, Speex, True Audio, Apple Lossless, AAC, MP3, WAVE and AIFF.

48 Hour Trial Window

48 Hour Trial Window

Expect for FLAC and Ogg, I have never heard of the other lossless formats before downloading the app and the takeaway is if you get an audio file, rest assured Decibel will play it for you! The app launches to a notification that informs you that the full trial period is limited to 48 hours and the clock has already started ticking. So, be quick to try out the the app before it expires.

User Interface

User Interface

User Interface

Decibel has an intentionally minimal user interface designed to be instantly intuitive and non-intrusive, and it excels on both counts. After quickly adding some tracks, I noticed that even without many icons and controls, the app had all the oft used features in place without cluttering the screen. There are plenty of shuffle and repeat options in the menu bar, but it would have been great if there were options for those two functions on the app too.

Playback

To the delight of the savvy music lovers, music playback was smooth and those of you listening from a speaker connected to your Mac might find the audio quality to be a lot more refined. That’s because, Decibel has the ability to send audio in the device’s native format ensuring better playback quality.

Tracks in a Playlist

Tracks in a Playlist

Decibel smartly adjusts the output device’s sample rate to that of the playing track, preventing audio quality degradation associated with software sample rate conversion. In plain words, instead of being a dumb piece of software pushing out the music, the app makes an effort to match the settings of the output device.

And if you are playing tracks from a disc, Decibel has the ability to load and play files entirely in memory, eliminating audio glitch associated with disk access. Using a simple keyboard shortcut, you can save multiple playlists. But, I couldn’t locate them later from either the menu or the GUI.

Playing Lossless Formats

True to their name, lossless formats such as FLAC and Ogg Vorbis sound great if you have the right output devices. These files are usually ridiculously huge, but Decibel handled them all with gusto just like it handled the tiny MP3 files. The playback was seamless and was without any annoying gaps when changing tracks.

Controls and Metadata

Dock Controls

Dock Controls

Whenever a track changes, a huge, transparent overlay shows up for a few seconds displaying the current track’s title. You can see (but can’t control) the status of playback from the dock too, which is quite nice to look at.

Track Inspector

Track Inspector

All the metadata associated with the track, including album art can be viewed from the Inspector window. Even if you aren’t interested in linking your iTunes library with Decibel, you can access and search the tracks by clicking on the iTunes icon at the top right corner of the screen.

Final Thoughts

Decibel does a great job of helping users maintain their audio library, playing pretty much anything irrespective of the format. The full version of Decibel is available for $33. A bit steep in my opinion, but, that isn’t the major complaint of mine. It’s the duration of the free trial that concerns me.

We are used to the full 30 day trial period before making up our minds. I do agree that’s a bit too much and no app is complicated enough to warrant such a lengthy evaluation period. On the other hand, two days is just way too short. While a month long trial period makes the users too laidback to make up their mind, 48 hours isn’t even enough to write a decent review. A week would be perfect in my opinion.

All said and done, if you are an audiophile and love enjoying your tracks from a trendy, yet lightweight player, Decibel should be right up your alley!


Summary

Decibel supports playback of all popular lossless and lossy audio formats including FLAC,Ogg Vorbis, Musepack, WavPack, Monkey's Audio, Speex, True Audio, Apple Lossless, AAC, MP3, WAVE and AIFF.

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