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ALAC vs. FLAC

Discussion in 'Sound Science' started by jonasras, Mar 5, 2013.
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  1. bigshot
    Headphone amps and external DACs are often not needed at all. It's possible to get everything all in one package.
     
  2. FiJAAS
    Thanks for the knowledge!
     
  3. eahm
    Another reason to use ALAC, Google Play Music doesn't convert them to MP3: https://support.google.com/googleplay/answer/1100462?hl=en
     
  4. kraken2109

    How weird
     
  5. FiJAAS
    So today I ripped a CD in XLD both in FLAC and in ALAC. Both at same bit rate as CD.

    My FLAC is a monstrous size compared to ALAC. One FLAC file came out to 95 mb while the ALAC file came out to 56.5 mb. What gives?

    I also heard a difference between the files, FLAC had a little more "ump" to it.
     
  6. bigshot
    Isn't it amazing how just knowing a file is bigger it makes you think it sounds different? Expectation bias at work.
     
    Both files are lossless and bit perfect. They sound the same. Use the format that your equipment supports and is smallest in file size.
     
  7. castleofargh Contributor

    first, just use another compression level on flac if you want the file to be smaller. flac and alac are pretty much the same actually so pick anyone, they're good at making files about 50% the size of the original. and last time I tried flac could do slightly better than alac (but really not a difference that mattered it was a few kilos).
    just know that with flac, the file size going down when you chose a bigger compression, also means the cpu having to work a little more to extract it.
     
    second, you just experienced first hand a good old placebo effect. by definition both flac and alac being lossless mean that they're actually reverted to the exact same pcm file before being read by the dac. think zip file, once extracted it is the original file and nothing else.
     
  8. sonitus mirus
     
    I had to test this out for myself, as this didn't seem right to me.  
     
    What I found is that Google Music does transcode ALAC files to a 320 CBR Lame (3.98r) mp3 file.
     
    I used dBpoweramp to rip a CD to ALAC.  Uploaded this song to Google Music All Access, and then downloaded the file from Google Music back to my PC.
     
    Here are the results, visually represented.
     
    GoogleMusicALACUpload.png
     
     
     
    Basically, the file was uploaded as ALAC (left screen capture), converted by Google and playable as a 320 CBR mp3 (middle screen capture).  When I downloaded this file back to my computer, it remained in the Google transcoded format (right screen capture), apparently using Lame. (see below)
     
    GoogleUsesLameCBR320.png
     
     
    This is fine as an option, since Google is transcoding from a lossless format using Lame, which is basically what I do, but my lossless format is the CD itself.  There is an unnecessary step involved to get the music on Google, the upload process is much slower, and it would not be ideal to use Google for archiving if you expect to keep the ALAC format.
     
     
    When I rip a CD to a Lame VBR 0 file, Google does not change the file at all.  I can play my files in the same format that they were uploaded.
     
    GoogleMusicLameVBR0.png
     
    And when I download these songs back to my PC, you can see that Google does not alter the file at all, as it still has the same bitrate and even the same version of Lame used to initially create the file.
     
    GoogleDownloadingmyLameRippedSong.png
     
    For now, I will continue to use Lame VBR 0 to upload my own music to Google.  
     
    I have read that a FLAC song can have the extension changed to ".mp3" and these will upload to Google Music without any transcoding, but they will not play.  However, as a tool to archive up to 20,000 songs, this might be useful to some people, even if only for a temporary solution or to assist in transferring music from one computer to another at different locations. 
     
  9. eahm
    They do actually, the page was confusing so they changed it: https://support.google.com/googleplay/answer/1100462?hl=en
     
  10. rosbifmark
    "ALAC does not have error handling while FLAC does.
     
    It means, if the hard drive is corrupted/damaged and files got damages... Well, FLAC will play parts that are not damaged, while ALAC won't play ANY information."
     
     
     
    I've read about ALAC lacking in error detection. But here's a question-  let's say I rip some music to ALAC files, but these files have errors. In which case, I may not be able to play the files.
    What if I now convert the ALAC files to FLAC - does this now mean that I will now be able to play the FLAC files (the undamaged parts), or will I have lost this capabilty since the files were once ALAC (without the error handling capability)?
     
  11. headwhacker
    I would not lose sleep over this. Today's storage has builtin error detection. All you need is a reliable backup system.
     
    If your rips in ALAC are not playing at least it will let you know that your rips are bad right away. In the case of FLAC you may not know if the damage part is somewhere in the middle of the file and you may not be aware of it right away.
     
    As far as converting ALAC to FLAC. You might recover the damaged part but the question is, if it sound just like the original file. Sometimes, the damaged part will be replaced by clicks or a short skip in order to read/play the whole file.
     
  12. rosbifmark
    Thanks Headwhacker. It's nice to have a common sense answer- and yes, actually I would prefer to know right away that my rips are bad. At least that way, I can re-rip to make a good file.
     
  13. castleofargh Contributor
    when you rip an album, you check for errors(at least you should). what does it matter if it's flac or alac or .zip? do you plan on copying the file around all day long on 10different drives for the fun of it?
    even if there was actually a lot of chances for errors when copying, this isn't 1995 anymore and errors wouldn't just kill some dumb music file while running complicated programs as if it was nothing.
    but still if that's of any concern to you guys, you could still use whatever software to generate and check md5 hashes or whatever.
    what I'm trying to say is that data didn't suddenly become a mystery because it contains music. we all know how audiophiles want to think they're special people with special needs, but we also know that's BS most of the time.
     
    keep your music doubled on 2separate drives, because a hard drive dying on us is something that does happen along the years. if you're paranoid, keep one copy of your music in another house in case you house burns down one day or your computer gets robbed. or put some stuff on the cloud... that's all very close to paranoia, but some data deserve those behaviors. that I can understand.  but picking a lossless format instead of another because of some wild interpretation of something you've read? forget about it.
     
  14. Auralexcellence
    I've been wondering: in regards to sound quality, would a stellar lossless CD rip (.WAV) through something modest, like the Fiio X3, be able to touch the quality a super high-end CD player yields? Why or why not? *Supposing equivalent amplification and speakers. If this is too far off-topic, kindly direct me to the appropriate outlet.
     
  15. kraken2109
    If you plug both using their respective line-out, the only difference in your suggestion is the DAC.
     
    I personally expect the DAC in the X3 to be transparent, so they would probably sound the same.
     
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