Which is the best lossless digital music file format (which can be created from WAV files)

Posted on 2008-10-27
Last Modified: 2013-11-13
I have ripped about 150 Gb of music from my CD collection into WAV format. However I wish to manage these via iTunes (love the interface + have iPod), but understand that WAV files do not allow tagging information (eg artist, album, composer etc etc). Therefore, I have been advised to convert these WAV files to another uncompressed file format. Can anyone tell :
(i) what formats are available
(ii) whether there is any quality difference between them
(iii) how best to convert them
(iv) how best to tag them

Question by:gahuk
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Accepted Solution

slinkygn earned 250 total points
ID: 22810904
Well, if you want to use iTunes to manage your files, that makes the decision pretty easy -- Apple Lossless is the only one that it'll handle natively.

If you want to use FLAC because of its wider applications support (which isn't really that dramatically better now that Apple Lossless support is in libavcodec and every player that uses it), you can use Fluke to allow iTunes to handle FLAC files:

Author Comment

ID: 22810974
Thanks Slinkygn - Never heard of FLAC but I have been led to believe that they support tagging better than WAV or AIFF.

I'm running iTunes on a PC - the link you provided related to the Mac OS. Also, do you know whether will my iPod supports the FLACV format?

Expert Comment

ID: 22811310
Well, Fluke actually just automates a XiphQT process.  So you should be able to download that:

Then grab the Xiph FLAC importer and SetOggS, and use those to get FLACs into iTunes.  But that gets to be a pain in the rear, I imagine -- especially since you won't have much luck getting them to play on your iPod.  Stuck with Apple Lossless again!

...unless you replace your iPod firmware with RockBox.  Then you can use FLAC -- as well as WMA, Ogg, WavPack, and you get gapless playback, crossfading, ReplayGain support... can you tell I'm a fan? :-)
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Author Comment

ID: 22811641
Thanks Slinkygn. I've just had a play with conversion of WAV to AIFF third party software and am not impressed - seems to change the sound. Is that possible or am I going mad?

Expert Comment

ID: 22813792
AIFF is pretty raw audio.  You shouldn't hear a difference, I think, unless there's a different problem.
LVL 22

Assisted Solution

fredshovel earned 250 total points
ID: 22815986
Just keep in mind that lossless standards are usually used in recording and broadcast for audio, which may have been recorded 24-bits/96KHz. Your music (CD) is only originally 16-bits/44.1KHz. So you're never going to improve on that -- especially playing it through the lousy little iPod op amp and into $2 earphones. In this scenario I don't see why you wouldn't use AAC.

Expert Comment

ID: 22816112
Or buy better earphones. ;-)

Frankly, many can still tell a difference when encoding CDs into a lossless format.  High bitrates help some, but not for all music.  It's not an issue of improving on 44.1/16; it's an issue of not further degrading from there -- which all lossy compression does.

I actually rip my CDs into two different formats; I make a FLAC for the sound system, and a 192-big OGG for my MP3 player.  If you only want one version around, of course, and want it to play as good as it can anywhere, nothing wrong with lossless formats.
LVL 22

Expert Comment

ID: 22817533
Not to mention the D/A conversion that that lousy D/A converters in iPod have to do to return the sound to analogue for your analogue earphones and analogue ears.
LVL 22

Expert Comment

ID: 22817583
Just adding, that's why I use M-Audio's soundcard -- Audiophile 2496 (24bit 96KHz -- whenever I introduce any digital audio from my PC into the analogue world -- including dropping audio onto a Sony Pro Minidisc.

Expert Comment

ID: 25448110
Your best solution for future storage is FLAC because it is open source.

There are 3 reasons:
1) Hardware support - many non-apple players support FLAC, OGG and MP3 but not Apple Lossless.
2) No DRM - 5 transfers is pretty poor, if you reinstall your PC every 6 months or so like I do.
3) Open Source - Historically, commercial codecs end up being outperformed by their open souce counterparts, specifically in hardware support and longevity.

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