Dynamic range ALAC vs WAV


Question is are my CD rips more limited in dynamic range because they were ripped as ALAC and not WAV?
Or does the algorithm think they are more limited in DR because of how the DR measuring works?
So- would I get more DR if I ripped from CD into WAV and not ALAC? Or maybe it would just ‘measure’ better in the software…

Hopefully those questions make sense.

I should rip in WAV and will do from now on. It’s been said it also puts a lower load on the system to play WAV than compressed. But, I’d rather not start again on the several hundred CDs I’ve already done.

I bought about 150 CDs of albums I used to listen to around the year 2000. I was hoping the loudness war was less bad then, I’ve got plenty of examples that suggest otherwise. I’m seeing some ALAC rips with DR readings of 2. And some music I thought was great back in the day on low res system, low res mp3- in high res system off CD it sounds awful, files completely blown out…

I’m a new Roon user, but running a fairly high level system- Macbook Pro- SOtM200Ultra- Chord Qutest- Feliks Elise- Focal Elear. Dynamic range issues are pretty obvious with a higher level headphone system.
Really pleased with Roon. I was using Audirvana for years with local files. Now using Roon with local files and Tidal and the difference is absolutely HUGE. No longer a streaming sceptic or having to settle for an interface that’s completely lifeless.


Both are lossless formats, there is no difference. However, WAV does not support tagging so I strongly recommend sticking with ALAC (FLAC is fine to).

Programs like dBpowerAmp can transcode from ALAC to FLAC (and back) with no loss of audio or tag information.

What program did you use to rip your CD? Did it employ any form of “pit perfect” validation during the ripping process?

On modern hardware the difference on CPU loading is negligible, but that not what’s important.
What is important is to have proper isolation of the DAC from noisy electrical circuits. I prefer using network attached DACs (Roon Ready or via Roon Bridge) … however, a well engineered USB DAC should also be just fine.

1 Like

As Carl stated, WAV and ALAC (and FLAC) are all the same. They are all lossless, and they all support all the various “hi-res” bitrates and bitdepths. If you are ripping from CD, there will be ZERO difference in the playback of these file types. And FLAC and ALAC are much better options than WAV, since they support metadata tagging.

If you have low dynamic range, it came from the source. Most likely due to the source being mastered for the loudness wars.

1 Like


I wouldn’t. ALAC and FLAC are space efficient, lossless, and support tagging. Although tagging is less important with Roon, it’s still good practice to have properly tagged rips.

Loudness wars really kicked off around 1994-onwards.

This could be due to a number of reasons such as different pressings, different volume normalisation settings you have in Roon (it treats local and Tidal differently) etc. One thing it will not be down to is file format.

1 Like

Hi Carl,

I use XLD for ripping and it provides a rip report, apparently it compares that to a database, plus I do a pre-scan so it pre-tests to avoid errors. XLD doesn’t say about bit perfect. I’ve tried to set everything to rip as best it can but if there’s a better app- great. On OSX- Apple make life difficult- hence ALAC or I can’t get the music on other devices. I’ve not tried dBpowerAmp, might be worth a go. Is that what you’d recommend for ripping? Is there a consensus on best ripper for OSX?

As for WAV not supporting tagging- seems important so hopefully that kicks that into touch- nice one. I think I remember Paul McGowan at PS Audio saying WAVs can be easier on the system, less work, less for the dac to do. Everyone’s mileage varies I guess and lots of opinions.

My dac is galvanically isolated at the USB and goes into a streamer that’s connected by ethernet to the router/switcher so those things are isolated fairly well. I’m going onto balanced AC power to remove some ground loops and noise from the AC. So I’m working on those things definitely.

Hi Cwichura- I think you’re right and the source is loudness war CD material

Hi anon55914447 Mark- right. Ok great. Much appreciate your input on this and a consensus of opinion is good to know. Yes I’ve noticed a difference in gain levels across versions of material and tidal etc. I’ve also noticed quite a difference in how some files sound between different versions of the same files from the same albums but different releases. If the loudness war kicked off in 1994 then a lot of what I’ve been ripping is probably right in the middle of it so that’s good to know too thanks for that.

If you want to see the ‘story arc’ of Loudness and brick-walling, look for popular, major label artists in your library with recordings spanning decades.

A classic example for me is Depeche Mode. Everything up to and including Violator (1991) sounds amazing on CD, then Songs of Faith and Devotion (1993) is getting sketchy and everything after that sounds horrible. :frowning:


I’ll go digging on that Mark. It’s cool in Roon to see a simple number on DR. I always thought the Dust Brothers Fight Club soundtrack was well produced and the ALAC rip in Roon is showing a 10 for DR. Nice to have that info to hand.

Early 2000s golden-era hip hop albums aren’t always sounding so great!

You really hit the nail on the head with Depeche Mode. These are my feelings exactly. “Going Backwards” on Spirit has drum beats that are so distorted that they sound like wet farts and I’m finding more and more of this on Hi-Res downloads that I have purchased.

It is especially apparent when listening on headphones to the point that I find it too fatiguing to listen to what otherwise could be a great album. The new Snow Patrol album is another that makes my head feel as though it’s going to explode when I listen to it on headphones.

For I long time I thought that I was having problems with my system now I am sure it’s the way these albums are produced.

I ripped my entire collection of 900 CD’s with ALAC on iTunes (with error correction enabled) back in 2006. I recently purchased dbpoweramp to check the files. Out of all of those rips I needed to re-rip 54 tracks as they had errors, these were CD’s stretching back to my first purchases in the eighties (Simple Minds, U2, Big Country). These CD rips still sound better than anything from the mid nineties onwards. Some would say that it’s partly due to the fact that they are beloved albums that I know so well but I don’t think so.

1 Like

It’s one of the main reasons I went back to vinyl as my source when purchasing new music.

Some of the post-production subjectively sounds more sympathetic - whether that is ‘real’ or not (it could be a side-effect of limited bandwidth and system EQ) I don’t know. I know that the DR numbers on DRdatabase for ripped vinyl ca’t really be trusted because the algorithm gets tripped up, but it still less fatiguing to listen to.

I’ll have to disagree with you here :wink:, golden-era for Hip Hop was from the mid eighties up until Public Enemies second album. I still have a whole heap of vinyl from when I would stand at the counter in Groove Records in Soho for hours on end picking 12 singles out to purchase.

1 Like

Disagree by all means :slightly_smiling_face:. I’m 35 years old, surely there’s a generational element to the perception of what is and isn’t golden era and older folks always have more context on that :wink:. Like the VW Beetle- means different things to different generations. Still though, I haven’t heard many say Mos Def- Black on Both Sides isn’t a classic- 1999… I like a lot of stuff on early Def Jux, I was 18/19 years old when RJD2, Mr Lif, DJ Shadow touring with Entroducing and I saw them all in Leeds. Braintax with Biro Funk on Lowlife, Roots Manuva’s first albums and the UK scene. I saw Rodney perform with a string section and full band. When I saw him perform a few years ago I really wish I hadn’t. All those guys never really bettered a lot of their early stuff in my opinion. I was 18/19/20 years old when all this stuff was coming out so it’s always going to be special for me.

1 Like

Whoa, I think you won a medal. Youngest Roon user on this forum :smiley:


You are totally correct of course, thank you for pointing that out. I see my golden era of hip hop when I was growing up in my teens and breakdancing, that certainly makes me feel emotive about the Hip Hop from my childhood. By the time I was in my twenties, I couldn’t relate to the Hip Hop of the mid to late nineties and I don’t enjoy it at all, same with modern R&B.

Anyway i’m Well of topic.

1 Like


Your points have all been addressed I think but I would like to point out a few things. Since CD started in the 80s, there have been many different remasterings of most CDs, some sounding better some worse. Chances are anything released in the late 90s has been remastered since, so do some research on what is considered the ‘best’ version. Online music availability has brought a fresh round of remastering (HD Tracks etc). Whilst there is more to SQ than dynamic range, I don’t think anyone has posted a link to the DR database yet, which you may find useful. This doesn’t actually measure DR, but is all we have to go in:


There is also a section over at computeraudiophile on SQ of latest releases, mainly from online sources.

1 Like

Well you all seem like a lovely bunch of folks and I appreciate all your help. I’ll stick to ALAC most likely, perhaps have a look at AIFF also. I tried an experiment with different files from the same album (via bandcamp download) and Roon did have some problems with labelling the WAVs so, I’ll pass on the WAVs. Next step is upgrading ethernet cables and power cable to source and…nearly there I hope. Upgrading to a streamer from a MacBook Pro made a massive massive difference.

Interesting you say that Mark because your experience is exactly the same as mine- past about 25 years old I’d completely lost interest in what was coming out of the Hip Hop genre around 2005, it had all changed.

1 Like

Hi William,
I agree with most folks, FLAC or ALAC much better than AIFF or WAV because you have no data loss and smaller files plus metadata editing.
I have some 7 thousand CDs converted in the last years. Mostly XLD to FLAC and then some ALAC to put to iTunes and upload to iPhone.
Most of the differences you are hearing are due to loudness and compression in my experience. Very many CDs were made in the original edition with flat or slightly equalized masterings to adjust to the media (Vinyl is stronger on the low end and weaker in the high end relative to CDs in a very summary and certainly disputable assessment). These are in general better than most remasterings where people tampered and tweaked with compression making it louder and less faithful to the originals. There are of course exceptions, am certain some of the folks will jump on it. But the trend these days is to find the original master tapes and do flat transfers to CDs.
Lots of great japanese reissues are now with these, look after the Platinum SHM CD pressings and you will see what I am talking about. For those cases where the remastering was done this way, an original master CD has better quality than a high resolution file completely tampered with. I can provide masses of evidence should you be interested.
By the way there is a simple program to test DR called TT DR offline metter version 1.1 for Mac. It only works with AIFF files but you can go back and forth with the file type through XLD with no problem.
Hope it helps and take care,

1 Like

Cheers Alexandre