ALAC vs FLAC for CD ripping?

I started using Roon in February when we moved and got a new audio system. My audio dealer loaded my CD collection onto a QNAP NAS, and things are working reasonably well. I’m now ready to start ripping some additional CDs. I have an iMac and it seems that the easiest thing would be to use ALAC on iTunes. But I’ve seen some posts about problems with ALAC files on Roon, and I’m wondering if it’s worth getting software to rip the CDs using FLAC. I’d prefer not taking any extra steps if I don’t need to. Any suggestions?


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I have all my library ripped in ALAC via iTunes years ago, and never had any issues with them files and Roon


I don’t know about Roon having problems with ALAC either, my experience with ca. 20K ALAC tracks currently is entirely positive. Simply for the integration into the Apple / Mac world I’d still suggest going the ALAC way. Easy for iTunes, easy for Quickview.

For ripping iTunes works but better alternatives exist - dbpoweramp being frequently mentioned and working well. dbpoweramp can do both: ALAC and FLAC btw.

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I’m re-ripping everything with ALAC, seems to work fine.

By the way, a free program called “soundconverter” works fine to convert ALAC to FLAC, if you need to. Just give it a directory tree, and it will find every music file in it.

Thanks for the quick and helpful responses. ALAC it is!

Most websites state ALAC and FLAC will sound the same. When I rip a CD, I do it in FLAC, ALAC, and MP3. It takes more time but by doing this I have all the formats I may need for now and later. Storage space is not an issue with my NAS. You may want to take your favorite sounding CD and rip in both FLAC and ALAC and give both versions a careful listen. Let your ears decide. If they sound the same, ALAC saves a little storage space.

It’s only for Windows, but the most rigorous CD ripping tool is Exact Audio Copy. It will produce FLAC files when configured for lossless output.


But the OP has an iMac…

If you want free on the Mac, you can get XLD. I like the UI of dBpoweramp much better though. Both do ALAC and FLAC as well many other formats.

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+1 for dbpoweramp. I now rip everything to FLAC. I really don’t use iTunes since I switched to Roon.

Yes, I rip to FLAC now exclusively too using dBpoweramp. I stopped using iTunes quite a while ago even before I got Roon.

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I use dbPoweramp too, both in Windows and Mac OS X. The license fee is small. I have not used XLD nor EAC but the people that use them seems happy too and they are free.

At first, I have dbPoweramp to rip to FLAC and ALAC at the same time, finally I found that it was useless to me, so I ended ripping only in FLAC format with compression.

I don’t think there is any sonic difference between formats. We are talking about lossless formats. Once the file is uncompressed, the data remains the same: It’s lossless.


Correct. SQ and file size of ALAC and FLAC are the same. Almost all players will play both, but iTunes doesn’t play FLAC :frowning:
So for MAC users ALAC will be better.
For HiRes downloads (24/192 etc) I prefer FLAC.

dBPoweramp users will it transcode dsd files to flac, or ALAC. I sometimes convert to save space on my portable.

I know that FLAC and ALAC are both lossless, and that you would expect both to sound the same as an uncompressed file, but, in my experience, they don’t. I think it’s something to do with conversion on the fly vs conversion in advance. If space isn’t a problem, my suggestion would be to store as WAV or AIFF.
Incidentally, this view is backed up by Hi-Fi News here in the UK.

Of course, if you hear no difference during playback, then there’s no need to worry.

If you are playing a track directly from the server to the DAC, there is at least some room to argue that the decompression process would make some difference in sound quality. There is little support for the idea that ALAC files would sound different than compressed FLAC files since both would require decompressing.

However, if you are using a Roon Core and a Roon Endpoint, there is nothing to support the idea that FLAC, ALAC, WAV, or AIFF files, compressed or not, will sound any different. Why? Because the files that need decompressing are all decompressed BEFORE they are sent to the endpoint so the endpoint is going to receive the same exact data regardless of file format used. There is no technical reason for there to be a sound difference.

I have a pretty good ear and I have never heard a difference between lossless compressed and uncompressed formats on my system. Of course, I use a Roon Core and a Roon Endpoint. I use FLAC and compress all of my tracks.


Thanks, @Speed_Racer, that’s very helpful and saves me the cost of dBpoweramp. By the way, although several people said Roon doesn’t have any problems with ALAC files, when I initially searched this forum for “ALAC” I found a few. But since I do have a Roon core and Roon endpoint, I think I’m probably good to go.

Thanks all for your helpful and thoughtful comments. When I retire in January I expect to have more time to dig into Roon, but for now things generally work well.


Mark, one of the things I like about dBpoweramp is that is is much easier to use than XLD. I am a computer guy and I found XLD confusing to use compared to dBpoweramp. I guess what I am saying is that I think the price of dBpoweramp is worth paying if you can.

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Sorry, I don’t think I was clear. What I meant was that based on your comment it sounds like ripping my CDs to iTunes using ALAC will give good results, as long as I have a Roon core and Roon endpoint, which I do.

No, don’t rip with iTunes. It doesn’t do rip verification, and so you can get files that are bad copies due to errors reading from the CD during the rip. This is the #1 reason you need to use a proper ripping tool.

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Ah, that makes sense! Thanks @cwichura—that’s the missing piece. dBpoweramp it is, then.