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Burning an audio CD from Apple lossless vs. original CD?

post #1 of 17
Thread Starter 
Is there any quality difference if I burn an audio CD from the Apple lossless files versus from the original CD aiff files?
post #2 of 17
None whatsoever. Lossless codecs are called that because they don't lose a single bit of information. They are miraculous (unless the CD is really "hot", in which case they don't compress the file much at all).
post #3 of 17
Quote:
None whatsoever. Lossless codecs are called that because they don't lose a single bit of information.
Really?

Why does Apple Lossless music not sound as hot as FLAC then?
post #4 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by Head_case View Post
Really?

Why does Apple Lossless music not sound as hot as FLAC then?
Because you don't expect it to. Remember, about 70% of the pathways between the ear and the brain go from the brain to the ear, not the other way around. The same reason more expensive wine tastes better to me, or some folks think a given USB cable produces a warmer sound, even though that's not possible.

Another possibility is that you've listened to ALE through iTunes for Windows, and FLAC through another Windows player (I don't know what y'all use). iTunes is great on the Mac (bit-perfect), but not so on Windows, due to kludgey issues with Windows' built-in sound software (pre-Vista, they fixed it now, as I understand) and laziness on the part of Apple's Windows software team.

FLAC does offer some nice advantages to ALE, like the preservation of gap information on albums, and a slightly smaller file size, but I love iTunes (albeit a little bit less with each release) and I use an iPod, so it's ALE for me. However, all lossless codecs put out a signal that is identical to the original source. The way the work is by discarding the peaks in amplitude (caution: I don't know a whole ****load about how this works), so portions of the tracks that are below peak amplitude can be compressed without touching the portion that has music on it. They all work in a similar manner.
post #5 of 17
Oh. I learn something new each day

So why does Mini-Disc sound better than Apple Lossless?
post #6 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by Head_case View Post
Oh. I learn something new each day

So why does Mini-Disc sound better than Apple Lossless?
Most likely the same reasons (psychology and source). Mini-Disc used a variety of formats, those being variations of lossy ATRAC, lossless ATRAC, and uncompressed PCM (16-bit, 44.1, just like CD). I must assume you are using a different source for each (are there MD players that also put out ALE?), so there's that, but I also don't know the format of the particular Mini-Discs you are referring to. But never underestimate the power the "x is better than y" mindset holds over what you hear. Remember that sound comes from the brain. Until it gets into your head, it's just vibrations.

"Better" is also a subjective term. Lots of (generally young) people actually prefer the sound of lossy compression to uncompressed audio. Lossless doesn't mean it sounds "better", it means that given the exact same source (hardware and software), it produces the exact same output as the uncompressed original.
post #7 of 17
If you are playing them back in the same way, as DSGant noted, there is absolutely no possibility that you can tell the difference between Apple Lossless and FLAC, or the original CD file, unless you are doing something wrong. They are bit-perfect representations of each other, which is to say, they are the same. As such, when played back properly, they have no choice but to sound the same, as there is no way for them not to.
post #8 of 17
That doesn't wash very well.

All my friends and mates who listen to my Sony Hi-MD player recorded on 1411kbps Linear Pulse Modulation (PCM) concur that the MD player is superior to the iPod - in blind testing.

It would be convenient if we could explain it all away as a psychological thing, but then, isn't thinking the iPod is great? That's succumbing to Apple marketing

I bought an iPod expecting it to be better than the mini-disc. It hasn't been. 4 years of psychologically convincing myself that it's been worth the money for an iPod hasn't been working. Maybe I need to try an iRiver or something?

In effect, my guess is ... the Mini-Disc player sounds better - because it has a better quality digital amp built-in.

ALE - is that a form of alcohol?! Lol. I'm just not in the know!
post #9 of 17
I'm not doubting what you're saying - what I am saying is that if the PLAYBACK method AND device were the same, then they would sound the same (and mini-disc would sound worse).

It's possible that the lossy-compressed Mini-disc player could sound "better" than an iPod - meaning it was preferred - because they are different players.

But if you played a CD from iTunes, and then played the ALAC files, and then compared those both via the same USB DAC, for example - they will sound the same. That was what I am saying.
post #10 of 17
You might need to adjust time between tracks to zero, when burning via iTunes to preserve gapless between tracks. Can anybody else confirm this?
post #11 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by Head_case View Post
That doesn't wash very well.

All my friends and mates who listen to my Sony Hi-MD player recorded on 1411kbps Linear Pulse Modulation (PCM) concur that the MD player is superior to the iPod - in blind testing.

It would be convenient if we could explain it all away as a psychological thing, but then, isn't thinking the iPod is great? That's succumbing to Apple marketing

I bought an iPod expecting it to be better than the mini-disc. It hasn't been. 4 years of psychologically convincing myself that it's been worth the money for an iPod hasn't been working. Maybe I need to try an iRiver or something?

In effect, my guess is ... the Mini-Disc player sounds better - because it has a better quality digital amp built-in.

ALE - is that a form of alcohol?! Lol. I'm just not in the know!
ALE = Apple Lossless Encoder. Ale = A top-fermented beer.

It's most likely a source issue. As I said, you need to output from the same source in order to compare the quality of formats. Why doesn't that wash well?

Quote:
Originally Posted by DSGant View Post
Most likely the same reasons (psychology and source). Mini-Disc used a variety of formats, those being variations of lossy ATRAC, lossless ATRAC, and uncompressed PCM (16-bit, 44.1, just like CD). I must assume you are using a different source for each (are there MD players that also put out ALE?), so there's that, but I also don't know the format of the particular Mini-Discs you are referring to.

From my knowledge of Mini-Disc, Sony eventually made the Mini-Disc a sort of high-end thing due to the stiff competition on the low end that MP3 players provided (and their popularity with musicians for field recording. Everyone I knew with an MD player used it for recording concerts and practice sessions). So I can imagine it has higher fidelity internals than many, if not all, iPods.

Which iPod model do you have? Some are known as real stinkers, sound-quality-wise, and others are standouts (the 4G/5G Nano, 2G Touch, 1G Shuffle), although I hear Cowon makes the best-sounding DAPs (Digital Audio Player). But use what you like, by all means. I like my 4G Nano, but it's obviously not for everyone. It does what I want in a very useful form factor (I go nowhere without my Nano and my PX-100's in my pocket). I also like the iTunes system, and was using ALE long before I got a DAP of any sort, so iPod was the way to go.

But now we're talking about sources, when we started by talking about formats! Long story short, Lossless = Lossless = indistinguishable from source file when played back through the same equipment, regardless of the flavor you prefer.

Edit note: If you're using Hi-MD, the formatting is either uncompressed or a lossless compression scheme. Forgot to mention that.
post #12 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by leveller1642 View Post
You might need to adjust time between tracks to zero, when burning via iTunes to preserve gapless between tracks. Can anybody else confirm this?
Correct. Unfortunately, if the source CD has varying gaps (some gapless, some not), that data is not preserved in ALE, and the album will just be gapless throughout. FLAC will, as I understand it.
post #13 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by Head_case View Post
In effect, my guess is ... the Mini-Disc player sounds better - because it has a better quality digital amp built-in.
Very likely. Don't forget also the DAC. Listening to identical files out my ipod or apple airport -> dac -> amplifier (or even out my ipod with an amplifier) improves quality much more dramatically than the improvement from 128 kbps to 858 kbps files out the ipod. The current drive of an ipod can't move a headphone speaker well enough to match the underlying signal.
post #14 of 17
When I upload minidisc material using Sonicstage to the computer, it registers at 1411kbps [Linear PCM] compared to 320kbps [Hi-Sp mode].

I use an Apple 80GB Classic iPod (4G). It sounded weak and limp in the shop but I put that down to the Apple earbuds. When the bass boost is turned up, the bass floor collapses and sounds broken. It's not the head phones either - tried switching a variety of headphones.

I've never tried getting the iPod stuff onto minidisc to compare - not sure how to do that. I travel a lot - sometimes it's nice to travel with just an iPod. Unfortunately using the radio tuner in the car, the iPod sound is very weak and thin compared to mini-disc or CD.

If the lossless theory stuff holds, then surely someone can make a decent digital media player to sound like the quality of a Sony mini-disc player?

It doesn't make sense to me, how something can, be lossless at 320kbps, and lossless at 1411kbps, when both are taken from a digital source. That must mean that the sub and supra-frequencies are rendered redundant, as if humans can't hear or appreciate beyond 20-20K or something.

I dunno. I'm going to listen to my Sony cassette walkman and stop thinking about this!
post #15 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by eucariote View Post
Very likely. Don't forget also the DAC. Listening to identical files out my ipod or apple airport -> dac -> amplifier (or even out my ipod with an amplifier) improves quality much more dramatically than the improvement from 128 kbps to 858 kbps files out the ipod. The current drive of an ipod can't move a headphone speaker well enough to match the underlying signal.
That would explain a lot for me. DSGant is probably right - what everyone who compares my mini-disc and iPod are then hearing, is the difference in the DAC; the amping and the sound shaping from the mini-disc, compared to the lower quality electronics of the iPod. It would explain why even 292kbps on mini-disc sounds very good whereas the best on an iPod, doesn't really cut it until the small quality package of the mini-disc DAC/Amp is replicated in larger add-ons...
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