Best File Format These Days

So I’m re-ripping my classical collection. (About 1000 CD’s)

My “pop”, “jazz”, “folk” and “other” collections (about 3500 CD’s total) are all ALAC and each resides in it’s own iTunes database. I only use iTunes to organize the files. I use an external HDD connected to my Mac Mini, which runs Roon and serves the files to my PS Audio Direct Stream Junior.

The classical ALAC files were always kind of a mess from my earlier efforts with iTunes and Sonos to slice and dice them into distinct compositions, instead of just leaving them grouped as the CD’s they came on. This made it hard for Roon to figure out where everything was. So after spending a few hours trying to fix the classical files, I thought it would just as easy to re-rip them.

So, I fired up iTunes and started loading them into a new Classical database as ALAC files. But now I’m having second thoughts. Should I still use ALAC? My “good” choices are AIFF, ALAC and WAV. Any reason to not use ALAC again? In the old days it was the best choice for album art and disk space, but does Roon even need the iTunes album art? Disk space is cheap. Should I just stick 'em all in one huge folder and let Roon sort them out? I’d like to have some organization if I want to load them all on my phone or up in the cloud or whatnot.

Many thanks. Sorry if this has been covered before, but some of the results I found were somewhat old and I thought perhaps things have changed as we enter 2018.

We’ve still got 3 months to go!! Don’t write 2017 off just yet! :smiley:

Roon doesn’t need iTunes artwork AFAIK. About a year ago I spent a considerable amount of time listening to the same tracks in ALAC, FLAC, WAV and AIFF format (all at the same resolution). No difference whatsoever and I’d like to think my system at the time (Naim separates into Tannoy floorstanders) was pretty revealing. Now I rip - or am still in the process of ripping - everything to redbook CD standard in FLAC.

In your list of choices you omitted the most ubiquitous lossless format, FLAC. Hasn’t crapple just finally incorporated FLAC support in its latest iOS release?

iTunes still doesn’t allow FLAC AFAIK. I banned every one file with FLAC from my APPLE-Universe after i transformed it to alac. No Problems whatsoever. I never ever will use any Hard- or Software which is not able to seemlessly integrate in the APPLE World, even if apple supports flac, it would always a second-class citizien besides alac. So why bother? Soundwise there is no difference.

I’m a Mac/iOS user. I use FLAC compression level 8 (max). I don’t need iTunes. I use Audirvana if I need to play files on the Mac. Much better than iTunes.

Before Roon, I maintained two libraries. One in FLAC and another in WAV with tags. The WAV is what I used for sound quality purposes. With RAAT sending PCM to the endpoint, I got rid of the WAV library. So much easier now.

If you absolutely need native Apple support, then ALAC is the way to go. Although, I’ve found that FLAC’s metadata appears correctly on majority of the platforms. On my BDP-1’s MPD, AIFF and ALAC seemed to mess with how I expected the metadata to be presented. Slight differences.

As a default use FLAC and if you use iTunes, use dBpoweramp or similar, convert your FLAC files to Apple lossless or the other way around.

(BTW, what a weird program name!)

It’s looking good for FLAC support in the forthcoming MacOS 10.13 (High Sierra).

There were reports of FLAC support in iOS 11 betas. I’m assuming that Apple turned this off for now and will turn it back on when High Sierra is released, but maybe some hardware limitations will apply, as mentioned in the link above (?).

OK. thanks for the perspective. So if I am serious about the “best possible sound quality” and future proofing my collection, I guess it would it be smart to just do FLAC and be done with it. What ripping application would you recommend? Is there that one that’s really stable on the Mac? I don’t really need to “play” them except with Room but it would be nice to also export them as AAC’s or somesuch

Alternatively I have had great results from XLD on the Mac. Flexible, reliable, and allows user to select less typical options, such as 24 bit depth but 48khz for Hi-res downmix (my ears are sadly ageing these days)

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I use XLD on the Mac. It’s free.

I started with iTunes with Error Correction switched on, but it obviously gives up at a certain point. It happily rips difficult disks but with clicks. XLD takes longer but the rips are much more likely to be error free. (I have some discs where the best result is from recording the digital output of my 2005 vintage Sony ES bluray player…)

Disk space is cheap, so I use AIFF. WAV would probably be fine with Roon supplying the metadata, but I standardised on AIFF before I found Roon.

I’m still using iTunes to rip from CD. I have iTunes running on my laptop, with its music library set to the exported disk on my music server. iTunes dumps the ripped files there, where Roon finds them.

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I record my CDs and load my downloaded hi-res purchases into iTunes, with my default set to 44.1kHz/16 bit AIFF files. I have a very capable Dell Windows10 Pro machine, and store the AIFF files on a 4TB external hard drive (if I remember, it cost something like $130), and have a second drive (exact same model) that I copy the files to as a backup (when Roon is NOT running on the machine, as it’ll try to index that drive).

I find that one of the problems with iTunes is that it often times hoses up the meta data, doesn’t get the artist names correctly, and a lot of the time doesn’t get the album art, sometimes when it does, it’s not the correct artwork. So, after I load the CD, I go in and correct all of that. Another thing iTunes does is checks the box indicating the album is a “compilation”, which I always uncheck, as it causes problems.

My WAV library that I derived from my FLAC library had some issues in Roon. Quite a few albums would be split into 2 or more versions. One version would a single or couple of tracks, and the other would be complete. With the FLAC library, it came out correct…Just as a FYI :slight_smile:

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OK. Great I have XLD installed. Thanks for the reccomendations. I’m totally not a computer guy, folks. I want to do FLAC and just pop all these files in a directory and point Roon to it and be done.

Any suggestions on all these intricate settings?

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I recommend an uncompressed lossless format. I recently did a video about this topic here:

I’ve done that comparison quite a few on numerous devices (Windows, Mac, Linux) by different connections (USB, ethernet, AES) and softwares (Audirvana, Amarra). Among the compressed, I found ALAC to take the most processing. FLAC was better at decoding. Among compressed, my recommendation is FLAC. We should also take into account, that both software and hardware implementations differ quite a bit in how the files are read, buffered, and stored in memory. It’s often not apples to apples.

Among uncompressed, there’s actually 3 options: AIFF, WAV, and FLAC uncompressed. If you convert with XLD, the AIFF generated is AIFF-C, which is little endian and compliments the recent Macs. WAV is also little endian.

I’ll echo your comments about how WAV sounds more open and dynamic. This is what I found when I was using the BDP-1 and it’s MPD mode. Many others also echoed my comments. The decoding was all done in the BDP-1 that fed the DAC.

With Roon however, if your DAC is not directly connected to the computer running Roon Core, say via USB, and instead first sending the data to an endpoint via RAAT over ethernet, then there is zero differences in sound quality between uncompressed and compressed. The endpoint sees PCM.

The endpoint will get PCM and not FLAC or WAV. So now my BDP-1 receives PCM and I don’t have to worry about file formats. For the heck of it, I did want to subjectively confirm this and it sounded the same for the first time. Zero differences. No difference in loading time. Both instantaneous.

My recommendation:

#1) Send audio data in PCM over ethernet to a dedicated endpoint. Aim should to be reduce as much processing as possible at the endpoint. This results in the best SQ.

#2) Roon Core - Save money, save space. Use compressed format like FLAC. No need to maintain double libraries. I use maximum compression. Decoding happens perfectly on the fly. Zero problems between that and WAV.

Although, if you cannot separate these processes, then there might be some benefit to using uncompressed (FLAC uncompressed, AIFF, or WAV). I had personally chosen WAV when I needed an uncompressed library.


Ever wonder where the term endian comes from? I know it’s about the way the machine stores the most significant part of a number. It’s really only an issue when porting code (not data) from one OS to another, but why ‘endian’ or ‘endian streams’?

My theory is that it comes from 'Gulliver’s Travels". The Lilliputians were at war with their neighbors because of an ideological disagreement over what end of the soft boiled egg to open. One of them were ‘big enders’ and the others were ‘little enders’.

Definitely off topic. Just a theory I trot out from time to time.



Your theory is fact. See the etymology of the term here.


ROFL, that made me laugh… :joy:

AIFF. No procesing needed, will work everywhere, with metadata.