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Itunes ALAC vs EAC Foobar FLAC

post #1 of 16
Thread Starter 
Dear Head-Fi Members and fellow audiophiles,

Hey guys, in the past I ripped my cds using Itunes into ALAC, and stored them into an external hard drive. I thought it was quite a wonderful method of moving my music into an easy to use digital form, but then! I discovered this program EAC (Exact Audio Copy) which implied that perhaps my previous rips from Itunes were not 100% quality. So I put it to the test. I decided to rip some cds using EAC and convert them into FLAC using FLAC.exe and see if I could hear a difference. I understand that LAC implies a 'lossless' quality data file, so if I did hear any deviation in sound it would either be the result of the player or the method of ripping I was using. When all was said and done, I compared bitrates (kbps) of the ALAC in Itunes to the FLAC in Foobar. A quick question, why if both files are 'lossless' quality, are the bitrates different (by approximately 10-25 kbps)? Wouldn't that affect quality, even minisculely. Now to what I heard: ALAC in Itunes vs FLAC in Foobar (this one was EAC ripped). Surprisingly, the ALAC in Itunes produced a slightly heavier bass heavy sound than Foobar FLAC did and also maybe even a decievingly 'full' sound, whereas the Foobar FLAC appeared to be more analytical. What struck me also was the different feel of the snare and cymbals (high hats, etc.), it seems that in the ALAC Itunes the snare and cymbals have more realistic positional sound to them, whereas the FLAC Foobar version sounds more 2D and 'closer' to the sound. This is a very peculiar phenomenon and I'm not understanding why this is happening or what I should rip my cd collection to. Is it possible that the Itunes player is colored or it's ripping method is inferior to that of EAC? I know that songs played with certain players, windows media player, gives songs a certain sound signature (I found WMP to be sloppy and undefined). Perhaps I'm being paranoid and need to get some sleep. Please let me know what you think, what is going on, and help shed some light on what has been happening here if you will. Tests were done with the above methods using the Etymotic ER4S out of my laptop out (yes I know, the laptop out is terrible, but for testing the terribleness is constant so this shouldn't account for any variation between FLAC Foobar vs ALAC Itunes). Thank you very much for your help in advance. Sincerely, Jesse Peters.
post #2 of 16
Welcome to Head-Fi. Well you could also eliminate the rip by having both done by EAC (and its excellent reporting). As for the bitrate differences, that should make no difference in SQ. The algorithms they're using are not the same so there's no reason to except the same bitrates. Try decompressing them back to WAV/AIFF and then check the size. Also check the WAV playback through the same player and see if you still hear the same differences. Players can have different sonic output, even if the files are the same. Using the same player will eliminate this difference. Then also placebo could be considered as a possibility.
post #3 of 16
I would also have to guess that it would be the players or placebo. I would suggest downloading the foobar ALAC decoder, and then ABX testing them. That should clear things up.
post #4 of 16
I use EAC personally, but its importance is way overblown by the technical crowd. I haven't yet had a rip fail AccurateRip in EAC's burst mode, which is the same method that iTunes uses when it rips your CD. i.e. In the vast majority of cases, with relatively clean, unscratched CDs, iTunes will give you identical rips to EAC (except for offset correction, which doesn't affect sound quality).

And of course FLAC vs. ALAC is a non-issue.

As others have said, it most likely comes down to how you have iTunes versus Foobar configured.
post #5 of 16
Thread Starter 
Thank you for your help so far. I am going to try playing ALAC in foobar next to FLAC. I was curious, is there a program that can graph what sound is being output? I think it would aid in testing, especially when comparing such minute differences. Thanks again, I should have the results later this week. And thank you for the welcome to Head-Fi. The information on this website is very rich in data and I look forward to meeting the lot of you, fan boys and all.
post #6 of 16
The sound difference you hear is due to the players (iTunes vs Foobar). If you're trying to compare, another tool you can use is MultiPlugin:
http://www.aqua-soft.org/board/showthread.php?t=41188
It lets you play from iTunes (currently you have to use v7.0.2, not v7.1) but output the sound through Foobar's player. There's a Foobar codec to decode ALAC, just do some searches.

Of course, it's technically possible some sound difference was due to the ripping process, but as others have responded, that is unlikely. And all lossless compression formats are the same. It's like asking if your computer files are more accurate in a .zip file or in Windows BitLocker (am I revealing my PC geekery?).
post #7 of 16
or .rar
post #8 of 16
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by matt8268 View Post
The sound difference you hear is due to the players (iTunes vs Foobar).
Thank you very much for your answer. This makes sense. Ok. Down with apple, up with open source. I appreciate the help very much. Thank you for the warm welcome to head fi. Sincerely, Jesse Peters.
post #9 of 16
Did you balance the levels?

See ya
Steve
post #10 of 16
I started out using ALAC with iTunes. Now I use the ALAC plugin for Foobar. To me ALAC in Foobar using ASIO sounds MUCH better than ALAC in iTunes.
post #11 of 16
Quote:
Originally Posted by mourip View Post
I started out using ALAC with iTunes. Now I use the ALAC plugin for Foobar. To me ALAC in Foobar using ASIO sounds MUCH better than ALAC in iTunes.
To you and everyone else . Kmixer is the difference the OP is hearing- ASIO in foobar sounds much better.
post #12 of 16
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by bigshot View Post
Did you balance the levels?

See ya
Steve
If by levels you mean sound levels, then yes sir! Thanks again everyone.
post #13 of 16
EAC is a secure ripper meaning that (when properly set up) it can tell you if there were any ripping errors or not and of course it checks everything against the AccurateRip database for yet another level of assurance that the rip is error free.

All that is saved in a text file called filename.log

Also EAC can make a CUE Sheet file. This can be used later on to burn a CD and again if EAC was correctly set up this will result in a CD-R that is a bit perfect 100% data copy of the original.

So that is why people tend to use EAC for ripping.

Having said that there is no audio quality difference between FLAC and ALAC although I wouldn't use ALAC unless you must use iTunes (i.e., you have an iPod or Apple TV etc.)

Here is the best guide to setting up EAC properly (it covers the initial set-up and the proper way for ripping)
http://blowfish.be/eac/index.html
post #14 of 16
Three year old question answered. Have no fear.
post #15 of 16
ha ha ha

I'm new here ... didn't realize this was so old ... oops
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