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  • FLAC, ALAC, WAV, what to do

    So I recently purchased a PS Audio Phono Converter intent on utilizing it as both a phono preamp and as an ADC to archive things. I have not dabbled in digital files up to this point so I have a question or two.

    Of the common file formats such as FLAC, ALAC, WAV and so on, what do the differences really amount to and why? Which are truly lossless? Are the resulting files sizes comparable? Is one type more robust than the others? What software packages are around for recording in digital?

    Just to try things out I used an old Roxio software to convert at 44.1 with somewhat mixed results, the software doesn't seem to always get along with the Converter but it did record. This particular software does not support higher bit rates or word depths though.

    I may have to get a new laptop or desktop though, mine are not what you would call new and my primary laptop is loaded with things like Project Manager and AutoCAD, and many years of files that have migrated from computer to computer.

    Keep in mind that while I use programs, I am not especially computer literate as far as operating systems and setup goes.

  • #2
    You probably opened up Pandora's digital box by asking about opinions on FLAC vs ALAC vs WAV. Remember rule #1 in this hobby: Nobody agrees on a damn thing. My opinion is that if you are going to record PCM files, don't go crazy worrying about the differences in the above file formats and just use the one that you find easiest to use. At the end of the day, they are all still PCM and they will sound like PCM. As long as you are recording at 16/44.1 at a minimum, your files will be lossless.
    Micro Seiki SX-8000 table with flywheel, SME 3012R arm, SME 312S arm, Lyra Etna SL and Dynavector XV-1S cartridges, ARC Ref 3 phono stage, Otari MX-55 tape deck, Ampex 350 repros, Roon Nucleus Plus server, PS Audio DSJ DAC, ARC Ref 6 pre, ARC Ref 75 amp, JBL 4345 speakers, and Def Tech Ref subs.

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    • #3
      With some of the old cassette tapes, yes I know cassette, I'm thinking 44.1k might be sufficient. Some things I recorded myself might require more and will require some comparison listening. Some of the LPs I wish to archive will be 96k simply because the LPs are that good. I'm currently leaning towards WAV files.

      I did get some interesting advice on DACs (of which I will be needing a new on soon) in my price range lately. Buy an inexpensive DAC as the exact same chips are used across a broad price range, and the technology is still such a fast moving target that a better product will be available at the same price in a matter of months.

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      • #4
        All the formats interconvert, so it makes sense to rip and store as FLAC. If you later decide you want a different format, just convert it. I'm not sure what Mark means by the last sentence of his post; 16/44.1 is not "lossless" if the original is in a higher information density format.
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        • #5
          RB - I think he was saying if I did the initial analog to digital at 44.1 it would be essentially "lossless" as there would be no down sampling involved.

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          • #6
            You are correct Rust.
            Micro Seiki SX-8000 table with flywheel, SME 3012R arm, SME 312S arm, Lyra Etna SL and Dynavector XV-1S cartridges, ARC Ref 3 phono stage, Otari MX-55 tape deck, Ampex 350 repros, Roon Nucleus Plus server, PS Audio DSJ DAC, ARC Ref 6 pre, ARC Ref 75 amp, JBL 4345 speakers, and Def Tech Ref subs.

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            • #7
              My point is that FLAC and ALAC are both lossless compression formats regardless of what PCM resolution you are using (even 24/384). 16/44.1 is lossless only for 16/44.1. As yet DSD has no lossless compression schemes (and since it is 1-bit PWM it probably can't).
              Tascam BR-20
              Modwright Oppo 205 full tube mod w/LPS
              Euphony Summus server, EtherRegen, HDPLEX LPS
              MSB Discrete DAC (dual PS, ISLPro, balanced out)
              Pass Labs INT60
              Daedalus Audio Apollo 11’s
              REL S3 (Kimber Kable connection)
              Daedalus/Wywires, Audioquest, Acoustic Zen, DH cables
              Torus IS5
              Stillpoints and IsoPods, Tube Traps, GIK

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              • Rust
                Rust commented
                Editing a comment
                Not quite for DSD. It is still a time constant sampling system albeit at a very high sampling rate. It also presents its own difficulties for conversion to and from digital, from those associated with PCM. Analog tape on the other hand is a continuous record medium, with millions of magnetic per inch of tape giving it a resolution at 15 ips far in excess of current digital systems. Sound quality of analog tape is affected by the mechanical and electronic systems it is used on, sound quality of digital is affected by both hardware and software, which under constant development. While I am new to the digital audio equipment, from industrial hardware and software use I am familiar with theory which in most cases is the same.

              • rbbert
                rbbert commented
                Editing a comment
                Huh??

            • #8
              a few thoughts , flac keeps meta data in tact in a separate file and most all playback players see it . wav is less versatile in meta data . it also can make noise in the sound cause the meta data is imbedded in the music . both wav and flac are lossless but you can set to have no compression as I have done . so no need for lossless. now to dsd or not well this must be done and compared to see if it sounds better to you as the files are larger . now what program to use I would go to ps audios website and ask them. they will be very helpful and are well aware of the needs your asking about . hearing is what you need to do after its up and running . using a dedicated new laptop might not be needed in making the rip but a must for playback . advice on making rips is to stop all programs you can freeing up cpu power . a reboot will bring all programs back . good luck
              analog stuff.
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              • #9
                Originally posted by Rust View Post
                I did get some interesting advice on DACs (of which I will be needing a new on soon) in my price range lately. Buy an inexpensive DAC as the exact same chips are used across a broad price range, and the technology is still such a fast moving target that a better product will be available at the same price in a matter of months.
                Of course there is much more to the design and sound quality delivered by a DAC than the chip(s) inside. That's why the sound quality of a higher priced DAC is often better than a lower priced DAC with the same - or even an earlier model number - DAC chip.

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                • Rust
                  Rust commented
                  Editing a comment
                  I won't gainsay that more expensive DACs do sound better, multiple better regulated power supplies, more sophisticated conversion algorithms, better filters, higher quality parts in the analog section and so on. All that comes at a price. I am quite price sensitive so as always looking for the most performance at an affordable (as determined by my finances) price rather than whatever the ultimate is this week.

              • #10
                I rest my case...
                Micro Seiki SX-8000 table with flywheel, SME 3012R arm, SME 312S arm, Lyra Etna SL and Dynavector XV-1S cartridges, ARC Ref 3 phono stage, Otari MX-55 tape deck, Ampex 350 repros, Roon Nucleus Plus server, PS Audio DSJ DAC, ARC Ref 6 pre, ARC Ref 75 amp, JBL 4345 speakers, and Def Tech Ref subs.

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                • #11
                  Opinions vary so I recommend you pick a title or more and purchase FLAC, ALAC, WAV versions at the highest sample rate your DAC can handle form an internet source like HD Tracks. Then play them back on your system and if you can hear a difference, go with the best sounding format. Always trust your own listening experience.

                  I personally use FLAC (at the lowest or no compression setting) and recommend it. FLAC also has embedded Meta Data and is much more practical with file storage and playback software. I also do not hear any difference with FLAC compared to WAV on my system. Both FLAC and ALAC are lossless compression formats that are indistinguishable IMO, but I avoid ALAC being an Apple format and I have had compatibility issues in the past (but maybe all devices handle ALAC files now, so there may no longer be an issue YMMV).

                  The biggest difference I hear with digital files is the quality of the mastering and true 24 bit information (the higher the bit word, the better). File formats and sample rates aren't that important to me.
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                  • #12
                    RB - Well, DSD is still a sampling system, albeit at a very high sampling rate. Making it listenable requires extensive measures for noise shaping to move noise above the audio band and filter it out. Analog (tape or direct to disc) is still a non-sampling system. No conversion required.

                    Someone once described to me digital is like turning a painting into confetti and then turning it back into a painting. The quality of each step in the chain of conversion and reconversion can adversely affect the outcome. For those fortunate enough to have access to the highest quality analog sources and playback equipment able to do a direct comparison between the same recording in analog and digital, analog invariably wins out.

                    What digital potentially offers is as close to the original analog sound quality as possible to a much wider audience. Potentially.

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                    • rbbert
                      rbbert commented
                      Editing a comment
                      Interconversion between compatible digital formats can be done losslessly, which by definition means the data in the files is identical and the original file can be recovered from the converted file. My point was the one already made (I think); download and store everything as FLAC (I would use compressed). When you want to play it, convert or transfer it into RAM in whatever format you prefer. You will find that compressed FLAC converts into a WAV or AIFF file in RAM faster than you can copy any uncompressed file into RAM. There is no compression or lossless file conversion for DSD, so if you have a DSD file there is really little to decide how you want to store it.

                      There is absolutely no reason to store in an uncompressed PCM format unless all your storage is on SSD's and you play from the SSD rather than RAM
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