FRESHLY SQUEEZED REVIEWS: VOX Musica
By Frank Petrie
This past Christmas I received no electronic gifts. In fact, the gift that I received that was closest to anything technological was a hard-bound book. So, it was up to me to procure something that satisfied my material cravings for the holiday.
At the behest of a close friend, I purchased a pair of Audio Engine (https://audioengineusa.com) speakers. Since I live in a studio apartment, I didn’t need any sizeable model. As this manufacturer had such a great reputation, I purchased their computer speakers. I was floored by the sound; wide dynamic range along with a full, tight bass. Now that I had the hardware, it was time to focus on the software.
I had been using another audiophile app for several years but it hadn’t been updated in a while (I have since learned that they have written a new version of the app from the ground up for Mojave but haven’t released it yet). Time to find something to exploit my holiday gift’s capabilities.
I contacted a friend who’s a drummer/producer/engineer/instructor and asked him what was out there worthy of consideration. He steered me towards VOX (https://vox.rocks) from Coppertino Inc.
Musicians, producers and engineers spent their time and effort, and used a million-dollar set of instruments and equipment to create their masterpiece, making sure it sounds as clear and as true as possible on any device out there.
This is the essence of lossless; a music file with zero compression and zero compromises. When you play such a file, the sound quality is only limited by your playback equipment. However, such files traditionally take a considerable amount of disc space and use a lot of bandwidth when transmitted over internet. With CD audio quality, a single minute of audio takes approximately 10 MB of data.
That’s where audio file compression comes in to reduce file size, and here’s where the ‘magic’ happens to preserve the quality.
Lossless formats use sophisticated compression techniques to shrink file size without losing information in the process (hence the name, lossless), so the original quality record is restored fully during playback.
Having been a musician for several decades, audiophile software is important to me. I remember spending numerous nights (beginning at midnight, normally) spending seven hours to mix a song until the band was completely satisfied. (And we were a local band. The professionals routinely take several days to achieve satisfactory results!)
The glow of accomplishment was short lived, however. Once satisfied, we then had to jack a boombox into the mixing desk and remix the song for how it would sound on a device that most people would most likely end up listening to the track on. Aesthetic heartbreak. As hard as we’d try, one could only approximate the ‘pop’ of the original mix.
I digress. VOX’s reproduction of recordings is quite good. There are several audio enthusiasts who insist that the average person can’t tell the difference between an uncompressed audio file and a compressed audio file.
I would agree under certain circumstances. A non-musician listening on their smartphone while working on some project will notice no difference. A) They’re not focusing on the music; it’s musical wallpaper, and B) They’re not using equipment to produce excellent sound reproduction. Plus, if you’re listening through the auxiliary input of your car’s radio, the sounds of the road does not present an ideal listening environment.
Otherwise, I feel that musicians and serious audiophiles can hear the difference. And that’s why to me, an app such as VOX is crucial.
VOX’s basic player can be found for free in both macOS and iOS versions. It plays several high-end formats: (FLAC, ALAC, DSD, PCM, WAV, and AIFF) (https://vox.rocks/hi-res-music). As you can with iTunes Music, there’s a ‘Play Next’ function easily accessible either through the player or by right clicking on a selection. You can access your Play Next queue via an icon in the player. Very impressive how soon it starts the next selection. Plus you can load your iTunes library so you don’t have to shuffle between apps.
With VOX’s Premium account (beginning at US $4.99 per month) , you can access SoundСloud Player for Mac, YouTube Mac Musiс Player, and 30.000+ Internet Radio Stations. You also have access to VOX Music Cloud which allows you to upload music to unlimited cloud storage and play it from your Mac, iPhone, Carplay, Sonos and any other supported audio system. You can stream You Tube Music Player with it and cache any songs or albums from your music collection to listen to offline.
I used their free macOS version for this review. What can I say, I’m cheap.
The reproduction is quite good and doesn’t disappoint. The layout of the player is minimalistic and simple to navigate, providing you with all the information that you could want at a glance. (For example, extension, bit rate, stereo or mono, etc.). There’s the track name and duration/progress bar. And the player can be collapsed into a mini-player.
You separate your files into either Playlists or Collections. Playlists can be a collection of any disparate files that you have collected. Playlist songs can be grouped in any manner that you desire: artist, genre, mood, etc.
Collections I found usually best suited for my albums, although you can turn any playlist into a collection. I personally used the basic playlist as a catch all for one-off tracks that I had collected. But you can set up your Playlists and Collections to suit your taste and workflow.
Vox is very customizable from pausing when there’s an incoming Skype call to setting hotkeys for any function that you can imagine.
I did find their knowledge base (https://vox.rocks/forum/c/kb) useful. It helped me somewhat regarding album artwork. If you have the app’s icon in your dock, it will change to the album artwork of the playing track. I was able to get it to appear in a peculiar scrolling version in the mini-player but wasn’t able to get it to appear with their respective songs in the player.
They have a nice feature where their dock icon is replaced by the album cover of the song you’re listening to. You also get a scroll of said cover in the background at the top of the mii-player. Oddly, I couldn’t find a way to have the artwork appear in the main layer. I contacted Coppertino but didn’t receive a response. No worries.
So, if you’re in the market for audiophile software (and it can sound as phenomenal in a set of cans) I definitely recommend VOX. Try the free version. If you really enjoy it, then move up to premium and gain all the extra features.
If you’re interested in going mobile, VOX is also available in iOS (https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/vox-mp3-flac-music-player/id916215494?mt=8&ign-mpt=uo%3D4) with an EQ and all the niceties you’ll find in their Mac version. Give it a listen.
©2019 Frank Petrie