MusiChi’s Software heart & soul, mr. Philippe Watel interviewed ! [English]
MusiCHI Suite’s mr. Philippe Watel
interview of the software developer
“MusiCHI Suite is the ultimate integrated “High Fidelity” music organizer to manage and listen to your digital music, providing ultimate customization, unlimited size of library and incomparable tagging capabilities. For the demanding audiophile who wants a perfectly organized digital library with flexibility and consistency, as well as bit perfect out.”
Hiendnews.gr meets mr. Philippe Watel, the person behind the best transportation/playback (but also ripper, organizer etc.) software we know: “MusiCHI”. How many years did you work fine tuning and developing “MusiChi”? Tell us about yourself, your profession and your passion, music, plus the goals for ultimate digital reproduction!
It took give or take 6 to 7 years since the start, but you have to understand that it is an on-going process, users always ask for new features, and we always try to implement them.
I am an economist/mathematician by training, learned programming on my own and ended up being a software developer in Wall Street for 10 years Then went into automating a few companies in various other fields, in the US and Europe (data and process optimization). About 10 years ago I started to digitize my large classical CD collection. I was clueless, I was using iTunes! Then I realized that there were no audio applications for classical music. So I started to code my own, but more from the meta-data management angle with also a multi-library system (the data needed for classical is different from Jazz or Rock) in my mind; however always with the idea of a bit-perfect output: since a teenager I was always an audiophile even with limited budget, most of the times :-).
How does one develop basically a music reproduction software, focused on better sound ? How long has it been in development?
By educated guess, we choose a minimalist approach, and coded besides direct sound (the default Microsoft implementation with a mediocre mixer), WASAPI and ASIO, both methods which by-pass that mixer and provide bit-perfect output. That approach lead to fantastic results. In the last 3 years we have tried to improve it, for example adding the possibility to play 100% from RAM, which gives at least a 20% improvement in sound.
Tell us your preferences in the huge world of hifi & hiend systems. Its tubes or solid-state, its horn speakers or box-vented monitors ?
I do believe a good implementation is what truly matter, not the technology itself, all technologies have plus and minuses. There are so-so tube amps and amazing solid-state, and the inverse is true. For me, as I listen and work with music 10/12 hours a day, tubes are too expensive and not practical; I have a 100% digital amplifier, done by a good friend (Th. Moraitis) which is pretty damn good (to my ears). However, I am aware that most readers would think all digital amps are mediocre. I do not have a huge listening room so horn and ribbon speakers are out of question, but I heard some fantastic pairs of each, in the Athens HiEnd show; personally I am content with a well designed and realized columnar box speakers that again my friend built especially for me.
Back again on digitals.. Jitter, converters & transports. Do you believe that a PC or MAC (or which one is more proper) will ‘do the job’ better than an top-rated streamer/server like the ones costing more than three or four thousand euros today on the market ?
Even if the theory tends to favor them, I think streamers are a pain to setup and work with, with no obvious sound superiority, a theory that was put to test a few days ago, and all I can say is that I am very pleased with the results. Otherwise all top notch brands, with no budget constraints, would all go this way. Instead, they go via USB or s/pdif. Although, the idea to separate the sound reproduction from the client device is a very sound one. I am certain (tested in the field) than a WELL-TUNED computer is superior to a CD transport (even expensive ones), which may not be a great news for audio dealers in the medium run, when that concept sinks in, and it eventually will. As far as very expensive servers, I believe, the value for money is sub optimal, how much can cost a simple tweaked computer? Also their logical premise, in my humble opinion is false. For more on this topic, read https://musichieu.wordpress.com/tagging-audio-topics/musichi-client-server-architecture.
Is Solid State hard disk an necessity for music file storage ? Do you also believe that a laptop or mini-pc must be placed on various AC filters-conditioners or special rack, feet also?
No, the music should be stored outside of the box delivered by ethernet or a USB external disk. But to boot the OS yes an SSD is a must. I use an external linear power supply, for my server and it sits on anti-vibation devices, but it was done for good conscience and proper concepts, I am not sure a blind test would be conclusive. That is icing on the cake, software choice and OS optimization is a way more important topic to take care of first.
You must be driven first and foremost by a logical and pragmatic engineering approach developing software. Then there are always ‘spots’ in music playback via computers that are getting big roles but we believe we cannot analyze further – some programs JUST playback as a transport better than others with identical working configuration / drivers etc.. Its a strange thing to your ears ? It’s a hidden secret inside MusiChi that delivers such high levels of differences, for the best of us ?
I am not sure I understand the question. But… Like most things in life :-), PC is reproduction is full of mysteries, but we have no choice but to live with this. How come, two software players on the same OS, both bit perfect, do sound different (and they do, all you have to do is listen)? I have no clue. Someone would have to develop a new way to measure what is going on inside the box. On the other hand, I was forced, by experience only, to realize that our brain is such a sensitive device, most man-made measuring machines are so crude in comparison, of course first having taken away the psycho-acoustics placebo effects. MusiCHI ended up sounding very well, based on some sound premise, but I would be a presumptuous liar by saying the process is 100% understood and controlled.
How do you envisage transportation, playback & ripping software in the near future ? Your opinion about relative cheap or really cheap PCs as the base of your MusiChi program ? Does it finally matters ?
Unfortunately, streaming may be the way of the future, but to reach the same level of quality, the internet speed has to increase to near usb3 level, so one can download the file entirely to memory and then play it, and of course at least in CD quality, better in 24/88 or 96, who knows, why not recording levels, 32/385, it is just a matter of bottleneck speed. My problem with all this? You are at the mercy of 2 outside sources (Ethernet + web streaming site). I like to “own” my music and have just the general electricity grid to rely upon.
Also those little small fan-less computer will become more and more popular, and smaller too.
If any, electronics that are too cheaply made will have problems, same concept applies to PCs, basically it is a matter of how much electric noise is passed to the sound output, however I did not hear any significant difference from a decent to a high-end machine. Now, how much CPU power or RAM do you need to search or to play the music, and how optimized for sound your OS is, both hardware specs AND software matter; old school thinking is hardware only, but they are so wrong.
How frequent do you upgrade your software ?
Nowadays not so often, may be every 6 months. In the past, we were adding a lot of features here and there both on the tagger and the player, fixing bugs etc. The product has reach its maturity now.
Tell us about your auditioning ‘home’, the system that you are currently enjoy listening music.
Optimized PC [Audio Optimizer+ Fidelizer Pro] MS Windows 10 running MusiCHI 64 bits server with ultra low noise linear PSU. Tweaked Ideon Audio Ayazi DAC with two 3Rs in series with linear ultra low noise PSUs. Custom analog input digital amp [no need for a preamp] see question 3). Custom 3 way column speakers with 6,5’’ drivers and ceramic tweeters. Custom AC line DC filter, two Furman AC-210 AE filters (one for the amp, and one for the DAC), custom grounding device and a few Akiko tuning sticks, lots of anti vibration devices (carbon fiber based mostly) and voodoo thingies (Mad Scientist Audio stuff).
Now let us know some of your really lovely ‘big bucks’ systems, the best ones that delivered the magic to your ears.
Speakers: ATC SCM50 passive , PMC SE series and the all-Greek Trulifeaudio (TLA) electronics !
Also a few years ago I heard some enormous horn speakers that were amazing forgot the brand, but one would need a big loft or a castle to accommodate them.
Given I do not have the budget, nor the space, I tend to, only fully enjoy the listening experience of the moment, but do not bother to remember the manufacturer. The probability to be able to acquire these “creatures” is so small, why fill up some memory cells, I am aging, I need those cells for more mundane tasks…..
Do you believe that top-rated monitor speakers with DSP and a good converter are a better solution than traveling and searching through the fidelity products abyss to build your personal high end synergistic system ?
I prefer to restore the original recording the most accurately possible, in a neutral room, too bad if the sound engineer had a bad day, pick another version. But that is personal, we are chasing the Holy Grail of live music experience via boxes, which, at the end of the day, is only an approximation. So if someone likes monitors/DSP why not? Beauty of nature is its diversity.
We are sure you love our country a lot. How about Greek music ?
I like old rebetiko, good bouzouki and Hatzitakis, and some female singers like Nana Mouskouri when she was Theodorakis muse.
Can you prove to all that kind of persons who typically invest in pricier , all-in-one hardware servers like Aurender etc. that a laptop equipped with MusiChi , correctly setup, will bring exactly the same level of performance ?
Actually, even if my solution (costing 600/800 euros MAX) is 80 or 90% as good (it could even be equivalent or better), I would be happy. These servers are between 7 to 40 times more expensive. Now, a test I did with friends a few days ago left me smiling, that’s all I can say at the moment.
Would you please give us your opinions on the qualitative differences you perceive between analog and digital playback?
With all due respect, the question is nonsensical. Well reproduced music is well reproduced music. PERIOD. To say that a good digital system sounds like analog, is silly IMHO.It like saying only blondes are beautiful. Well guess what! Some brunettes or red heads can be very hot too. Beauty is beauty, no matter the flavor.
As the finale’ What music would you take with you on a deserted island?
Johann Sebastian Bach, all of it if I can, else its keyboard music on piano with the Mass in B minor BWV232 plus opera arias from Handel !
Well, thanks so much for sharing your thoughts with hiendnews e-magazine, Philippe. It’s been very enlightening !
The Official Site of MusiCHI Suite: