Difference between FLAC and WAV?

(Neil Russell) #81

I just got a Cocktail Audio X45 Pro, which uses the flagship Sabre ES9038PRO DAC Chips. Differences between CD, Flac 44.1/16 and Flac 44.1/24 are clearly audible where the recording has a lot of low level detail, such as a lot of room ambience. There is even an audible difference between 44.1/24 and 88.2/24. I think I hear a difference between 88.2/24 and 176.4/24, but differences as so tiny, I’m not totally sure whether I really hear them, or think I hear them. Due to my listening with the Cocktail, I have had to revise what I consider lossless. For my ears, on my Cocktail, I now consider anything less than 88.2/24 to be lossy. And on some recordings, it may be anything less than 176.4/24.

(Andrew Cox) #82

The definition of “lossy” that most of us are using in this discussion comparing file types (ie: WAV to FLAC) is reversibility. If you can convert one file type to the other and back again without losing any information then the conversion process is lossless. There is no loss of information. Each file type has all the information held by the other, regardless of the original resolution.

The test for loss of information is usually a checksum which confirms that the bits in the final file are identical to the bits in the original file.

If there is no loss of information then the scope for difference between file types is limited to how they are processed.

In a direct connection setup (DAC directly attached to computer) then the intensity of processing and other factors contributing to noise in the computer could affect playback.

In a network player setup, where the original file is “played” as a TCP/IP stream over a network it is difficult to see how there is any scope for the source computer (and hence file type) to affect playback. In theory the TCP/IP stream could be sent by carrier pigeon or smoke signal. It becomes a question of buffering in the network player recipient.

(Chris ) #83

The differences you hear are not losses but the results of filtering.


You can’t deny the fact MQA is lossy, so you need to factor in this addition parameter apart from the filtering you mentioned above.

(Janne Johansson) #85

I don’t think anyone is saying MQA isn’t lossy, but I don’t see anyone talking about MQA either. Well, except you that is.

(Paul Langdon) #86

Playing wav or flac to my Naim Nova I cannot hear any difference I do transpose from flac to wav through minimserver on my NAS before the Nova doing it’s thing but any sound quality increase coming from this seems very marginal to me.
In short.for me, flac is fine.

(Neil Russell) #87

But, the correct definition of lossless, which has been in place ever since the first lossless codec was developed about 20 years ago, is that you do not lose any of the original source that is being recorded. In theory, a lossless file is supposed to sound EXACTLY as what you recorded, with no loss of audio information in the conversion from ANALOG to DIGITAL. If that is what a particular codec can do at a particular setting for bit rate and depth, it follows that conversion between two such codecs set at proper rates would also be lossless. For me, the settings have to be at a minimum of 88.2/24 to meet the true, original definition of lossless. In the beginning, when there was only one lossless codec, there couldn’t be a conversipn from one lossless codec to another. It was all about analog to digital conversion!

(Janne Johansson) #88

You do realize that the chosen sampling rate and bit depth have nothing to do with the topic of this conversation? The “is hires good for anything” is totally separate from “are two different file formats/codecs comparable in regards to sound quality”. If you have 88.2/24 WAV and 88.2/24 FLAC there is no difference once they leave Roon Core.

(Chris ) #89

I have just downloaded the 96/24 Flac digital version of the REGA 180gm Vinyl release from Stephen Fearing.
If the Flac wrapper was detrimental, Rega wouldn’t use it. The file was zipped also. Sounds great here although Roy would say the vinyl was best as it is a purely analog recording.

Details here…


(Chris ) #91

Actually there is a story here. Roy borrowed two expensive ADC’s ‘Because he can’ :joy: But on one, the guitar sounded great and not the vocals and the other was opposite for some unknown reason so David Travis-Smith at Found Sound in Toronto did the digital download master from the disc.
This is what I understand from conversations with Roy and Stephen after wine had been consumed.


Ahh, your post is gone… this is my reply…

For those who have read the link, the pre amp desk is a metal box housing the bespoke audio sections built in house.
They realised too late that they had put the wrong switches in as it wasn’t known which Chanel was live or not. So, in true British style, they drilled little holes in front of each switch. If it’s live, you insert a match stick like a cribbage board. lol No LEDs are allowed here. Pure as pure analog…

(James) #92

In the way you are playing it, with the core decoding before it is sent to the endpoint, you should be fine.

I’d say the scenario you’d have zero difference is where the core decompresses the flac, then streams it over your local network, including switches, etc., to a network endpoint/DAC.

You may well find you still prefer the sound of your vinyl though :sunglasses:


Just use Roon’s DSP to reduce resolution and roll off the top end and you’ll have vinyl without the snap, crackle and pop.


As has been stated here, FLAC is lossless compression (similar to zip-compressing a file). FLAC has much better metadata support than WAV, so that’s a major reason to go with FLAC (or ALAC, the Apple equivalent).

In fact, if you convert a WAV track to FLAC and then back to WAV, with the right tool you can verify that the “input” and the “output” wave files are identical - proof that FLAC isn’t in any way detrimental to the file.

Personally, I can’t hear the difference between WAV and FLAC playback, and the saved space and metadata support make it an easy choice.

(Christoph Longree) #95

Haha - nah, I had my Brinkmann TT overworked and just got it back - it plays in a completely different league.

But thats not the discussion here - I am perfectly happy with my digital section now and 4 digital it sounds just fine (Ill stick with FLAC - thanx 4 all the helpful explanations here :-).

(James) #96

I used an LP-12 and valve stage into a Meridian DSP system for a while. It sounded sublime, but I didn’t have a big vinyl collection, so I sold the turntable to fund further upgrades.

It’s one of the only sales I now regret. In an ideal world I would have Roon/Tidal for variety, and to narrow down albums I want to own, and purchase good vinyl copies for sound quality.

(Christoph Longree) #97

Exactly how I do it - listen on Tidal and/or ripped CDs and when something excellent comes along, buy the Vinyl - and for a real listening experience I always spin the Vinyl…

(simon arnold) #98

Did I say, “I have never heard a difference” Oh well I just did, I dobt This. same topic was just on another forum I frequent. Deja vouz.

(Scott Winders) #99

I sold all my vinyl years ago because any sound quality difference that might exist in favor of vinyl was far outweighed by the expense, effort, and inconvenience of playing vinyl.

I have spent a great deal of time seeking out the best masterings on CD of the albums in my collection. The sound quality is extremely good and the cost is less than vinyl in almost every case.

Give me digital anytime over vinyl as long as I get the proper digital mastering.

(Christoph Longree) #100

… well, if its all about expense, effort and convenience, Vinyl obviously cant be the source of your choice… same probably goes for any media thats convertible to digital, be it movies, books, music etc…

To me Vinyl wins in every regard, the collection & the collecting experience, the haptical experience, the SQ when played on a perfectly adjusted TT etc…

Might aswell discuss with a book lover if he prefers his physical books or any given ebook…

I enjoy Roon a lot and it has made the digital experience so much more enjoyable - but Vinyl still is and always will a completely different story to me. But then again, different people, different tastes, different needs… it`s all good :slight_smile:

(Christoph Longree) #101

How`s that?