The text below was taken from an article on this site:ASIO and Kernel Streaming
A word on Kmixer: Kmixer is a very generic term for a part of the Windows Audio Stack. There are different versions of the Windows audio "system" - there is the older AC97 spec (which resampled the hell out of everything and everything - I think to 48khz if I am not mistaken). And then there are newer variants - the Intel HDA (High Definition Audio) "Azalia" spec for onboard Hi-Def / Hi-res capable codecs like the Realtek ALC880 or the Cmedia CMI9880.
Enter Vista. Realtek has come out with a ALC888, and Cmedia has come out with some new fandagled DSP software for the CMI9880 platform called "Hydrogen". (Seems like a simliar direction of the "Oxygen" 8787/8788 PCI cards.)
Microsoft seems to be handshaking with the "media" giants for onboard codecs, but a lot of PCI card vendors are still shrugging their shoulders when asked about Vista drivers. I say if you're kernel streaming or using ASIO under XP, be happy for a few years until the bugs are ironed out of Vista (with respect to audio AND in general).
Let's face it. XP is NOT a bad OS if it's configured and streamlined correctly. Vista promises better multi-media.
One thing to be aware of: todays "multi-media" is more about compatibility with the latest multichannel formats, and conformance to new DRM requirements than it is about SOUND QUALITY. Microsoft is so DRM happy (with audio AND computer software) you're soon going to need to insert a DNA sample into your computer just to turn it on.
I'm sticking with Foobar, Winamp, ASIO and KS plugins, Aedio Japan crossovers, and the 64 bit *math* Thuneau Allocator/Arbitrator.
I'd need to do some serious component upgrades to my speakers and amps before getting a "better" digital front end is going to make an appreciable difference.
So there you have it. Use ASIO or Kernel Streaming and those settings are a mute point. Either ASIO or Kernel Streaming will result in exclusive access to the audio device. In fact, a few folks have COMPLAINED that when using Kernel Streaming or ASIO output plugins they lose all other Windows "system sounds".
Well duh guys. That *was* the whole POINT!
From what he's saying here, using either ASIO or Kernel Streaming components in programs such as Foobar will provide similar performance to using Vista since it results in exclusive access to the X-Meridian. I just tried an A/B test at very low levels (because the kids are asleep) and I think I might be starting to hear a bit of a difference. I'm anxious to try it out tomorrow at normal volume levels. Maybe this is exactly the type of thing that all XM owners running analog should be using.