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iTunes & Apple Lossless transcoding

post #1 of 49
Thread Starter 

Hi everybody.

 

First-time poster. As I drift away from mp3 and AAC, I've been enjoying my music in the Apple Lossless format being an iPod person. But the one thing that concerns me, given how opaque and consumer-oriented the iTunes software can be, is how good the program is about transcoding Apple Lossless files into .wav or .aiff later on. In theory, you wouldn't lose any sound information, the program would just decompress it...but this is iTunes, where I've learned never to assume the best and cleanest operation under the hood.

 

Apologies if this has been hashed out here before, but I can't seem to track anything down on the subject.

 

Thanks!

 

 

post #2 of 49

Well, you can be assured there are no data loss.

But to be 100% sure you can always decode the same track using iTunes and one or several other applications, then bit compare the resulting files.

 

Alternative applications for decoding

http://sbooth.org/Max/

http://tmkk.hp.infoseek.co.jp/xld/index_e.html

http://craz.net/programs/itunes/alac.html


Edited by krmathis - 10/5/10 at 10:56am
post #3 of 49
Thread Starter 

I did do a small side-by-side comparison, and didn't notice anything that popped out at me, I just worry about long-term listening, because that's where I notice compression getting to me. I just tend to gravitate toward the lossless files - when I looked at what was mp3 and what was ALAC in my library recently, I was finally sold on the merits of lossless even versus higher-bitrate mp3s.

 

But thanks very much for the recommendations - it didn't even occur to me that Apple's format would be used in other software.

post #4 of 49
Quote:
Originally Posted by krmathis View Post

Well, you can be assured there are no data loss.

But to be 100% sure you can always decode the same track using iTunes and one or several other applications, then bit compare the resulting files.

 

Alternative applications for decoding

http://sbooth.org/Max/

http://tmkk.hp.infoseek.co.jp/xld/index_e.html

http://craz.net/programs/itunes/alac.html


Random question - since it's lossless does the encoder really matter? Is it possible to get better quality out of a 3rd party program than from iTunes for Apple Lossless, or since it's lossless is the only variable filesize, and the finished file will always sound the same?

post #5 of 49
Quote:

Originally Posted by sparktography View Post

 

Random question - since it's lossless does the encoder really matter? Is it possible to get better quality out of a 3rd party program than from iTunes for Apple Lossless, or since it's lossless is the only variable filesize, and the finished file will always sound the same?


AFAIK, what separates one encoder from another is robustness, i.e., how rigorous are the error-correction routines and how does it handle a resource starved environment because the system is busy or low in memory.

 

I have no problem whatsoever with using iTunes as my lossless encoder.  I have error correction enabled, have good system resources and tend to not do other things while encoding.   My CDs are also in very good condition.  I usually rip them when I get them and then put them in storage.

 

Just to be sure about my feeling on the issue, I've been ripping with XLD and have found no difference in encode quality.


Edited by aimlink - 10/17/10 at 1:34pm
post #6 of 49

Quote:

Originally Posted by aimlink View Post

AFAIK, what separates one encoder from another robustness, i.e., how rigorous are the error-correction routines and how does it handle a resource starved environment because the system is busy or low in memory.

 

I have no problem whatsoever with using iTunes as my lossless encoder.  I have error correction enabled, have good system resources and tend to not do other things while encoding.   My CDs are also in very good condition.  I usually rip then when I get them and then put them in storage.


Good! I like iTunes for what it does, and all of my source gear is iDevices, so it's more convenient for me that switching to another system for audio quality.

 

Hi-fi is like a drug: expensive and fun!

post #7 of 49
Quote:
Originally Posted by sparktography View Post

Hi-fi is like a drug: expensive and fun!

 

If you become obsessive, it can no longer be fun, but just a pain.  You feel a sense of genuine relief and freedom when you manage to drop an obsessive hangup related to this stuff.  This is so because obsessions lead to a lot of spending, as well as time consuming rituals.
 

post #8 of 49
Quote:
Originally Posted by aimlink View Post
If you become obsessive, it can no longer be fun, but just a pain.  You feel a sense of genuine relief and freedom when you manage to drop an obsessive hangup related to this stuff.  This is so because obsessions lead to a lot of spending, as well as time consuming rituals.


I hear ya! Hopefully I won't hit the obsessive mark, but I'm certainly happy about getting more enjoyment out of my music.

 

It's funny, but much of my enjoyment isn't directly tied to the gear. Even a low bitrate MP3 can move me emotionally if it's great music. I find I enjoy it even more on really nice gear with high-quality source, but all of that pales in comparison to my personal music preferences. Even the nicest of audiophile rigs couldn't make me enjoy music I don't like, and even a 128k MP3 on the default iPod headphones brings me happiness if it's my favorite track.

post #9 of 49

I have an ipod and I hate apple lossless. Why apple insists on pushing their proprietary formats, that no one else uses, on their poor users is beyond me. They just have an insatiable need to control in my opinion. At the least, they could support flac as well. Anyway, my next player is going to be able to play flac.

post #10 of 49
Quote:
Originally Posted by Antony6555 View Post


I have an ipod and I hate apple lossless. Why apple insists on pushing their proprietary formats, that no one else uses, on their poor users is beyond me. They just have an insatiable need to control in my opinion. At the least, they could support flac as well. Anyway, my next player is going to be able to play flac.





What difference is it what other format other people use if you have an iPod? Also, is flak better in some way than Apple lossless, other than being able to run it on other devices?
post #11 of 49
Quote:
Originally Posted by Noumenon View Post

What difference is it what other format other people use if you have an iPod? Also, is flak better in some way than Apple lossless, other than being able to run it on other devices?

 

It's definitely not an inferior format in terms of performance.  So, if one owns an iPod, I fail to see the problem.  Anyway.....
 

post #12 of 49

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by aimlink View Post

It's definitely not an inferior format in terms of performance.  So, if one owns an iPod, I fail to see the problem.  Anyway.....
 


And since it's a lossless codec you can transcode to FLAC or another codec without losing a thing. I've found ALAC to be slightly smaller in filesize than FLAC, and since they both produce the same bitstream, why not go with the smaller one. No if either of them takes significantly more computational effort to decode, which would be a factor on portables.

post #13 of 49

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by aimlink View Post


It's definitely not an inferior format in terms of performance.  So, if one owns an iPod, I fail to see the problem.  Anyway.....
 



If one owns only iDevices for portable playback and uses a Mac for computer playback and doesn't have any Windows or Linux machines then there is no problem.  If you want to have the freedom to use other portable devices and also have the music library in a format that is convenient for Windows then there is a problem.  Using ALAC on Windows makes as much sense as using WMA Lossless on a Mac.  ALAC works about as well on Windows as WMA Lossless works on a Mac.  Neither format works on the other platform very well at all.  You can play the files on the other platform but they don't integrate with applications well at all.

 

This fragmentation in the lossless audio formats makes for a mess and a world of separate walled gardens.  No one single lossless format is good for everyone.  At least in the lossy world MP3 pretty much works everywhere.  No such luck with any lossless format that has proper tagging (which eliminates WAV).

post #14 of 49

Exactly, I mainly use linux and apple lossless sucks there. Flac is closest equivalent to mp3 for lossless and apple should support it.
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ham Sandwich View Post

 



If one owns only iDevices for portable playback and uses a Mac for computer playback and doesn't have any Windows or Linux machines then there is no problem.  If you want to have the freedom to use other portable devices and also have the music library in a format that is convenient for Windows then there is a problem.  Using ALAC on Windows makes as much sense as using WMA Lossless on a Mac.  ALAC works about as well on Windows as WMA Lossless works on a Mac.  Neither format works on the other platform very well at all.  You can play the files on the other platform but they don't integrate with applications well at all.

 

This fragmentation in the lossless audio formats makes for a mess and a world of separate walled gardens.  No one single lossless format is good for everyone.  At least in the lossy world MP3 pretty much works everywhere.  No such luck with any lossless format that has proper tagging (which eliminates WAV).

post #15 of 49

Looking around on the web it looks like Apple developed ALAC due to its advantages for decoding. While it takes the same computational power to encode FLAC and ALAC, the ALAC offering can be decoded much more easily, making it more suited to a battery-constrained portable device. Apple has very valid reasons for not supporting Linux - if you want to use their products, use their platforms. If you don't want to use their platforms, then you can use one of the many other offerings.

 

Apple's greatest strength is understanding who their target audience is, and catering to them. Sadly I don't know that you, or indeed many others are their target audience. There is support for ALAC on Linux via FFMpeg, however Apple doesn't officially support that, just like other non-Linux software vendors who allow cross-platform codec development don't support Linux explicitly, they just allow others to support it.

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Antony6555 View Post

Exactly, I mainly use linux and apple lossless sucks there. Flac is closest equivalent to mp3 for lossless and apple should support it.


Edited by sparktography - 11/1/10 at 8:41am
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