Sprout Windows drivers


#1

I’m a happy owner of a Sprout v1 that spends most of its life paired with HifiMan HE4xx and Jamo S 602 speakers in my office. I have a FLAC collection of my favorite albums that I play via Foobar, but admittedly most of my listening happens with Spotify Premium -> High Quality Streaming out of convenience. I spend the majority of my time listening to Celtic/Canadian/American folk music and just about anything Mark Knopfler sneezes int he general direction of.

Recently, I’ve been curious if I’ve been maximizing the fidelity of my audio coming out of my Windows 10 PC into my Sprout, so I downloaded JRiver and using the default settings it mimicked my experience with Foobar. When I selected XMOS Audio 2.0 Kernel Streaming that all changed. In an instant, Christy Moore’s “Wise and Holy Woman” from Live At the Point became a far more more intimate experience. All the subtleties of the intro rhythm strumming picking were noticeably more clear, the noise floor of the recording appeared to decrease as crowd chatter became easier to discern from just crowd noise, and Declan Sinnot’s first lead note had an added edge to it that almost made me blink in response. When the vocals came in, I noticed that Christy’s voice seemed to have less bassy overtones on top of it and it just seemed more natural and clear.

Now, maybe the perceived increase in resolution is just some level matching issue or some invisible EQ, but it definitely does sound different, as confirmed by my non-hifi girlfriend.

I’m trying to understand a few things:

  1. Why is this experience different? As far as I understood, WASAPI/ASIO are bit perfect. Shouldn’t it all sound the same?

  2. Are the XMOS drivers bundled with the Sprout driver? I haven’t seen them in Foobar before. As far as I understand XMOS it’s a controller used inside devices like the sprout, but it’s confusing to me that it operates as its own output.

  3. What output format does Sprout use by default in windows 10? While I can Select Sprout WASAPI/ASIO in foobar, I get no such options within the windows sound mixer/device properties. Is this something that can be changed at the system level

I appreciate any guidance anyone can offer, even if it’s just pointing me in the direction of some reading material. I have a software engineering background by trade but I have next to zero knowledge of audio drivers and how they interface with hardware.


#2

Hi Josh,

I’m by no means a windows audio expert, but I’ll relate my recent experience with my Sprout and Windows 10.

I’ve long avoided the whole uncertainty and messiness of good audio with Windows 10 by using my Sprout with digital USB via Roon/Tidal from a Macbook Pro and Mac Mini or via analog input from one of my Squeezebox streamers and Logitech Media Server.

I recently revived an older, beat up budget Lenovo laptop to serve as my primary desktop PC and decided to drive my Sprout via USB from this PC. I simply did a plug-n-play with Windows 10 and everything “just worked” and sounded fine. In this configuration, I’ve been using a combination of the Tidal Windows 10 desktop app and Squeezelite-X, a Windows app that acts as a Squeezebox endpoint for Logitech Media Server.

I only use my Sprout as a headphone amp, driving a modest pair of B&W P7 cans. As I said, it all just worked and sounded fine, but I was troubled by the fact that I could control the volume of the Sprout from Windows 10, indicating to me that the Windows 10 audio system and mixer were in the path.

Just a couple days ago, I began trying to dig into the whole Windows audio quagmire, ASIO, kernel streaming, blah, blah, blah…

By default, my Sprout was using the Windows 10 provided XMOS USB 2.0 Audio driver. After a few hours of web searching, reading and digging, I realized that PS Audio does indeed provide a USB driver that supports the Sprout. Yay!

If you haven’t already found that, it’s under: Resources->Downloads->Download Drivers

Before installing the PS Audio driver, I did my best to uninstall the XMOS default driver first. In the Windows 10 Device Manager, I right clicked on the XMOS device under Sound, video and game controllers, selecting Uninstall device.

I then unplugged the Sprout and began the install of the PS Audio driver. This prompted me to plug the Sprout back into the PC and the install completed successfully.

In Device Manager, I now have a new Category: PS Audio USB 2.0 Audio Devices, under which I now see PS Audio Sprout, which also appears under the Sound, video and game controllers category.

Within the Tidal App, I can now select “Speakers (PS Audio Sprout)” with the options Use Exclusive Mode and Force Volume.

Within the Squeezelite-X app, I now have new output devices to select from:

Speakers (PS Audio Sprout) [MME]
Speakers (PS Audio Sprout) [Windows DirectSound]
PS Audio USB Driver [ASIO]
Speakers (PS Audio Sprout) [Windows WASAPI]

For Squeezelite-X, I’ve been using the ASIO output device, as I seem to have problems with WASAPI that I haven’t bothered trying to figure out yet.

In any event, after this driver change, I can now keep the Sprout audio separated from the Windows system default sounds and mixer controls.

I haven’t had a chance to do much A/B comparison testing, but my initial impressions are that the music through the Sprout is more “clear” and involving than it had been before.

It’s been years (perhaps decades…) since I’ve used Foobar, so can’t really help in that regard.

Best of Luck,

Dan W.


#3

So then it seems like if I want to properly check to see if my audio experience can be altered/improved in windows I should uninstall the PS Audio drivers and just use the included XMOS. Because so much of my listening is done in applications that don’t let me select my source, bypassing windows altogether probably isn’t a net benefit most of the time, unless those apps could be switched at some system level, which seems unlikely.

Any type of A/B in the scenario where I use default drivers probably becomes impossible though due to only having one Sprout into one computer. Ultimately i think I’m curious what the ideal conditions for the Sprout and my headphones are and what impact on the sound, if any, Windows has by virtue of being in the chain. I don’t really have any useful comparisons because the only players I have are windows 10 based computers and Google Pixel phones which I can’t connect to the sprout digitally unless by bluetooth.


#4

The PS Audio driver for the sprout can still be selected as the default audio output device for the Windows audio mixer, so I’m not sure there’s any benefit to using the default XMOS driver over the PS Audio provided driver.

Dan