Flac , Wav (OR) CD ?

Discussion in 'Digital Sources' started by niamatk, Jul 13, 2017.

  1. dodog

    dodog Addicted Member

    Messages:
    5,523
    Location:
    Iowa City, IA
    I was with you until this part. I care about sound quality, but I can say that with a high enough bitrate MP3, I've had difficulties ABX'ing FLAC and MP3. I probably have close to 3 TB of FLAC files. I also enjoy an iPod and VBR MP3. Gasp! Each has it's place and they don't have to be either/or.
     
  2. KrisM

    KrisM Addicted Member

    Messages:
    8,786
    I'd change that Apple comment to something like, "They use Apple products, and are too lazy to look into how to use them with FLAC files".

    We have a hand full of Apple products here that play an absolute ton of FLAC files.
    A $7 app purchase, and with that cost spread across multiple devices to boot, to do this is a no brainer for a music fan+Apple user.
     
  3. SPEC2man

    SPEC2man Are we there yet? Subscriber

    Messages:
    733
    Location:
    Vancouver Washington
    I have been ripping CD's since 2001 and it took about 10 years before we finally settled on DBPoweramp for ripping and FLAC as the format. Imagine ripping 3000 CD's in MP3 and then doing it twice again in FLAC. It pretty much sucked but I wanted the best sound quality\space trade off. Metadata was kinda wonky back then but it eventually stabilized and now has become critical in everything I rip. I work at a college and at the time, I was running the computer labs with about 70 students working for me. We ended up turning one spare office PC into a ripping station and building a huge collaborative library for the office tunes. I think we hit about 5000 CD's before the collection got too big to manage. It was then I realized you could have too much music. We were pushing 2 TB and at the time harddrive space was significantly more costly then today.

    I ended up nuking the whole collection when the "copyright war" took off. I had something of a change of heart and figured a smaller less convoluted collection would be better. I have been slowly re-ripping my CD collection but I have hit a brick wall at 2500 titles. I listen to CD's but mostly have been spinning LP's and streaming music, so my ripping pace has slowed. I also bough an Apple Mac mini and converted a copy of the FLAC collection to Apple lossless. My thought is; mix it up and try as much new technology as I can. I have a Sonos system, 2-3 Windows laptops and the Apple system. Each of my three main systems has a CD player and the ability to play FLAC and/or Apple lossless files. I can also stream Pandora and Amazon Music via the Sonos or from the laptops.

    It's a mess ... but to answer the question I would say WAV is pretty much out of the picture for me. I'm hooked on ID3 tags for metadata and I can get great sound from FLAC or Apple lossless. CD vs. FLAC? I want both if possible. My ultimate goal is to put the CD's back up on a shelf and have them arranged alphabetically for easy retrieval. I like the convenience of FLAC when I am looking for a specific run - like a certain CD or better yet an entire artist collection. A couple weeks ago we were hanging out in the cave and we wanted Springsteen - I navigated to the Springsteen folder and queued up 200-300 songs in less than a minute. If I'm feeling a bit more serious and nostalgic, I'll hunt for a specific CD. Most of my daily driving is Pandora and I just signed up for Amazon Music. I just pick a station and run with it. I work out in the AM and my phone has WiFi access so streaming is the way to go.


    I know some folks here are more passionate than I am (nothing wrong with that), I typically use what fits my needs at the time. I know Pandora streamed through a smart phone, fed to me via ear buds can be pretty crappy but it's just fine for a 3 mile treadmill run. CD's are cool to me for nostalgic reasons and I like my old Wadia 23 CD player - the discs load upside down. The sound is great on most of my collection. Some of the real early CD's were pretty lousy sound but everything since the late 80's has been fine. Some of the MFSL gold discs are actually reference material on my main system and I have LP's if I want to get super critical. FLAC files are great if you're on the hunt for a specific song or group of songs (FooBar search). The ID3 tags display artist info which is pretty cool. I connected the laptop to a 55 inch LCD panel in the mancave and it has a certain aesthetic when you're on an extended jam. I guess it comes down to what you want in terms of output. I tried the whole CD vs. FLAC test but I believe my hearing isnt good enough to decipher a difference. I think the conversion from digital to analog does play a significant role. I have a pretty good CD player and my DAC (Levinson 360S) has a great analog output. Might be the reason I am happy with both forms of digital on my main system.

    If you have CD's I wouldn't dump them too fast. I was going to haul of my collection after I had it all ripped but I am glad I hung onto them.
     
    ldatlof likes this.
  4. N8Nagel

    N8Nagel AK Subscriber Subscriber

    Messages:
    5,115
    Location:
    Sterling, VA
    ^that sounds like me! First time I just ripped to MP3 with Sound Juicer. Then when storage got cheaper I realized I'd better archive everything to FLAC so I started over. Then I lost two HDDs in a row and with them most of my rips. Started over AGAIN and this time I did it right, I had my system worked out and was using EAC for everything.
     
    ldatlof likes this.
  5. elcoholic

    elcoholic Just Nevermind Subscriber

    Messages:
    13,307
    Location:
    Fountain Valley, CA
    I am an iMac, MacBook Pro & die-hard iPod user with 160gB, 80gB and 60gB iPods. I'm neither lazy nor a drinker of the cool-aide, but I do like the Apple environment for their products. I've ripped my 1100~ CDs three times before; 128kB AAC, 320kB VBR AAC and ALAC. My HDtracks downloads are in AIFF. Each of these libraries corresponded to what I was using digital music for 100 mile a week bike commute, upgrade to quality IEM's; music in the office with good cans and an HP amp & an excellent iPod interface for the Fender 400w/9 speaker system in my R line Beatle. ALAC and FLAC are virtually identical to each other with regard to SQ and file size. AIFF and WAV don't sound better and have immense file sizes. Thanks to a corrupt back-up my library got Swiss-cheesed with a bunch of randomly scattered incomplete song files and CD folders. So I'm ripping my library for the hopefully the 4th and last time with dBpoweramp and this time it will be in FLAC for the simple reason that it's the highest quality open format. No "W" this or "A" that. As long as I'm still using iPods I'll keep using iTunes with an ALAC copy of my FLAC library, both of which will fit on a 1Tb drive. Given the easy and affordable conversion to (2) 256gB micro SD cards for the iPod hard rives and batteries I may be using them indefinitely. But if I want to switch to a Fiio X5 or other player software VOX, Daphile, etc. I'll be all set with the FLAC library. I still listen to the CD for serious listening, but am considering a Mac mini as a headless server running Daphile at some point. Even so my CDs aren't going anywhere.
     
  6. SPEC2man

    SPEC2man Are we there yet? Subscriber

    Messages:
    733
    Location:
    Vancouver Washington
    I am running Pure Music by Channel D for playback but I'm not real happy. I am thinking about upgrading to Roon this fall. I forgot about the drive crashes along the way - thanks for reminding me to update the backup. I now keep a FULL FLAC backup at work (2 TB) one at home in the safe and the one I use for playback (4 TB). The 4 TB drive has the collection in FLAC/Apple Lossless and MP3. I too am hoping after this re-rip, I will have all the ID3 tags in order and full CDs as close to bit perfect as I care to get. The plan is to put a second Apple Mac Mini in the mancave and tie ROON to the NAS after I move the collection up to the Synology box. Ironically, I too have a couple of the old 160 gig iPods and they are in pretty heavy use at work. We put together a rack of old used audio gear that was laying around the Media office. The Tascam rack mount CD player has a pop-out iPod dock. It works pretty slick. We roll tunes all day and it's not uncommon for that system to run uninterrupted for weeks. We are in an old basement with on one around to bother.

    I will be honest, I have been a hard core Windows guy since 3.11 - worked in IT for 25 years supporting NT 3.51 all the way to a 20,000 user Server 2012 Active Directory network. My next machine (this fall) will be an Apple iMac. After the upgrade to Windows 10 (1703 build) I'm kinda done with Windows as my primary OS. I'll run it at work and it will work well for supporting the network but I am getting used to the Apple interface and it suites me. I'm not an iphone lover and I wont wait 20 hours in line to buy a system but I like the quality of Apple hardware and user interface now seems much less cluttered and intuitive to me.


    I guess that's another great thing about CDs and CD players ... for the most part they don't care about user interfaces, OS updates, patching, backups, anti-virus and don't have to be hauled off to the landfill every 5 years. Just a bit of basic care and keep the discs clean.
     
  7. MurrayLives

    MurrayLives AK Subscriber Subscriber

    Messages:
    352
    Location:
    Philadelphia
    If I didn't use a Mac and iPhone, I'd go FLAC, but as it stands I'll just use ALAC for my own convenience.

    And Roon is wonderful, if you're thinking of using it, do. The metadata rabbithole is a glorious thing.
     
  8. Quadman2

    Quadman2 Super Member

    Messages:
    2,668
    FLAC just replicates WAV or fairly close to it? So no great diff.

    WAV is the way we hear it au natural?

    CD to some is compressed and on the bright side for others?

    Listen to all three, one at a time and make the subjective decision on yer own. One may stand out a bit better, or not. Depends upon your degree of selectiveness (a word?)

    Q
     
  9. dewdude

    dewdude I fix stuff.

    Messages:
    3,077
    Location:
    Manassas, VA
    FLAC reproduces the PCM data exactly. Thats the point. There is no "approximate" or "fairly close". It produces an exact 1:1 copy of the original PCM.

    WAV is technically just a "container" format. It can store layer-3, it can store ADPCM, IMA compressed PCM, or uncompressed linear PCM. It is mostly known for the latter.

    CD contains PCM audio that has been encoded with error correction and "eight-to-fourteen" modulation to make it possible to read the disc.

    The root of all of this is 44.1khz/16bit linear PCM. There is no difference from a PCM standpoint between any of these.

    If you're getting a 1:1 copy of the data...thats as far as you go with digital. Full stop. Any differences between the formats lies in:

    Differences in playback devices. Not all DACs are amde equal.

    Physchlogical pre-disposition to wanting it to be different.
     
    botrytis likes this.
  10. Quadman2

    Quadman2 Super Member

    Messages:
    2,668
    DD, I used a hammer, you a cleaver.

    I thank you for the finer pts of tech enhancement.:thumbsup: On the first two, I was biased by an electronic guru who by explained these sources in layman terms and was attempting to pass on in the same manner.

    The last source was biased from what the many have shared on this site, myself included.

    And since we tend to be subjectively objective or vice versa, that seems to be the acid test in our final assessment.

    Q
     
  11. botrytis

    botrytis Trying not to be a Small Speaker Hoarder Subscriber

    FLAC was around 5 yrs ago (ver. 1 of the codec was released in 2001).
     
  12. dewdude

    dewdude I fix stuff.

    Messages:
    3,077
    Location:
    Manassas, VA
    This is entirely fine...and in fact I tell people these days when they ask my opinion is that it's entirely subjective.

    However, when I can point to things that aren't subjective...I do. There was a lot of "what ifs" in the analog world...so the number of what-ifs with stereo gear is fine. I'll gladly sit and talk about the differences between this or that...to a degree. When you start getting down to a level that you need an oscilloscope to see a .000001v difference; you're splitting atoms when trying to claim it sounds better.

    I think a lot of the problem with the confusion on digital lies in the fact you had guys for years that were dealing with slight various improvements, even if they were subjective, in a 100% analog world; digital changed the rules...and I think some of these same people tried to applied the same rules to digital when they didn't apply. They did of course, apply in a roundabout way since the quality of CD players and early DACs varied drastically.

    The problem is that while you can apply some of the analog mentality to the DAC; just not to the places most people want to place it. USB cable affecting sound? I have a hard time believing that due to the nature of digital transmissions and the nature of digital audio. You can't just start changing random bits and have a "slight" change in sound....which is what would be required. FLAC sounds different than WAV? Impossible given they produce the same digitial data. CD sounds better than FLAC? That might indicate a shortfall in whatever you're playing FLAC back on vs the CD player.

    So...I try to stick to the technical science side of digital...at least when it comes to formats.
     
  13. oldboats

    oldboats AK Subscriber Subscriber

    Messages:
    99
    Location:
    Fargo, North Dakota
    I do not want to sound defensive, just make sure that I was understood. I think that FLAC is great, I specified that I was guessing as to people's objections, and I pointed out that these "problems" would not be discernible by the listener. So FLAC for the win.
     
  14. Quadman2

    Quadman2 Super Member

    Messages:
    2,668
    Still not convinced that the FLAC vs WAVE is a done deal after some research on my part, albeit based on others' findings.


    It seems that Blue Coast Records did a fair it of "blindfold" testing (April 14, 2017) and felt afterwards that there was a distinctive difference in the conversion process.

    The Chief Engineer relates a fairly comprehensive report on this issue that is still being thrashed out in the fields of audio.

    The above info was followed up by "Downloads Now!" wherein it was "Believe what you hear, not what you read".

    Q
     
  15. dewdude

    dewdude I fix stuff.

    Messages:
    3,077
    Location:
    Manassas, VA
    If the data is the same, the quality is the same. Full stop.

    "Felt" and "actual scientific evidence" are two vastly different things. If the people went in knowing they had to listen for differences, they will probably make them up sub-consciously. This is the problem with any kind of blind testing.

    When you get down to the digital aspect of digital audio...it's a science..it's math. If the WAV file I decode from a FLAC file has samples that match bit-for-bit with the WAV I started off with; then how can there logically be any difference in sound quality. From the data aspect...they're the same! It's the same but different? I'll buy that for the analog side of things, but not a step further.

    The only reason it's not a done deal is because there are some people who just insist on continuing whatever they want to believe. At the end of the day...the mathematical evidence says there is no difference between audio that's been stored as FLAC and audio that hasn't. The evidence can be reproduced every single time. Blind tests tend to vary wildly in their results and don't tend to agree.
     
    botrytis likes this.
  16. Quadman2

    Quadman2 Super Member

    Messages:
    2,668
    Again DD, I appreciate your POV and tech savy.

    Before I cross over as to the two processes being totally identical , I'll have to do a lot more legwork on my own.

    Having been in research, I have learned to not trust sources until I've established who/when/where and how the testing was done. The why part comes into play when one finds out where the funds came to do the tests. It is true that blind testing can be all over the map with subjectivity coming into play. However, the larger the sample the more validity can be established.

    I appreciate your math approach to measure the replication of the sound wave and that the higher the sampling, the closer to the original one can get, the more the two end results are the same.

    In support of your thinking, I've also read the only a very few have the ear to discriminate the difference, so the contrast may be a moot point to contend.

    Thanks for the further detail/description that you've shared.:thumbsup:

    Q
     
  17. dewdude

    dewdude I fix stuff.

    Messages:
    3,077
    Location:
    Manassas, VA
    I only apply the math when inside the computer, afterall....computers are basically just giant calculation machines. They do math very well. I mean...Im also a big radio geek and we have these things called "software defined radios". They are essentially a hardware interface to digize RF signals and let the PC do everything else. So filtering and demodulation are done pure software. This works because all of our modulation and demodulation techniques can be expressed as math. Sure...it might be easier to dump an AM signal in to a diode...but theres math behind the process.

    Anyway...the point I'm getting at is this. From a technical standpoint...the output of a WAV or a FLAC are the same. Maybe I should put it this way:

    Lets say my WAV file has the bits: 0110011010110001101

    Now I compress it to a lossless format and decompress it, heres what we'll get:
    0110011010110001101

    The bits are exactly the same...and if one bit was wrong; the FLAC decoder would throw an error.

    Now....once we leave the PC....or at the very least...head to the DAC...after that all bets are off. Every DAC is different and the variables that can play a part are the same as with analog.

    You *can* hear a difference...sure. But it's not a fault of the format and more has to do with software and unknown processes interfering with things.

    The one time I thought I found a major error in FLAC storage...it turned out to be an issue with going from 32 bit float to 16bit. I haven't made that mistake in over 10 years.

    I listen to a lot of DSD audio on my setup..and sadly there is no reliable way to stream DSD to a DAC; so we use this process called DoP...DSD over PCM. This basicallt takes the DSD data..bit for bit...and masquerades it as a 176.4khz PCM stream. The USB controller detects a flag in this fake PCM stream and throws the DAC in to DSD mode. If this stream gets modified in *any* manner...even one bit gets changed...you know it because it corrupts the stream.

    If I take a DoP file (which can be created but not under normal methods) and compress it as FLAC....that file will decompress back to a WAV that plays as DSD.

    If there was something different...it wouldn't play as DSD.
     
    MurrayLives likes this.
  18. N8Nagel

    N8Nagel AK Subscriber Subscriber

    Messages:
    5,115
    Location:
    Sterling, VA
    Another thing to be careful of is when using Windows based media players, unless everything is set up correctly whatever files you have may be resampled to 44.1/16 even if you really intend to send the native format to your DAC. When I first started dabbling with this stuff I figured this part would be handled automagically, but it's actually really complicated and annoying.
     
  19. Jody Thornton

    Jody Thornton Just Enjoying the Music

    Messages:
    763
    Location:
    Richmond Hill, Ontario
    You'll receive a lot of FLAC for that comment :p
     
  20. MannyE

    MannyE Exterminate! Subscriber

    Messages:
    3,289
    Location:
    Miami Beach
    So wait... IF I get rockbox on my iPhone 4S (now my streaming player) I can use FLAC files?
     

Share This Page