WAV versus FLAC

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I have elected to rip all my CDs in WAV. I have close to 1600 albums now. I started out with the Naim Uniti Core, which just does ripping, editing of metadata and streaming and nothing else, so I began to resent its simplicity and hankered after Roon. I now have a Roon Nucleus and am all in on Roon. But there has been one unfortunate consequence. I belatedly discovered that Naim packages its WAV metadata in a non-standard way, when I bring my rips over to Roon, Roon can’t read my metadata. I’ve tried SongKong which translates Naim WAV to standard WAV but it is buggy.

So I’ve considered switching to FLAC. I just by instinct don’t like dealing with compressed music files even though “everyone” seems to think there is no downside to using FLAC. But recently I did hear of a potential downside, which is that FLAC has to be unpacked, much like a Zip file, before it can be streamed. If one has a slow processor this creates some lag time when starting up a FLAC file. Since my files are stored on a Roon Nucleus I suspect this isn’t an issue I need to be concerned with. Nevertheless, i appreciate any comments or opinions on this and anything else to do with using FLAC instead of WAV. I’d like to be up on all the pros and cons before I make a switch to FLAC.

The Roon Server converts everything to PCM before sending it on, so the sent data is identical whether the file was WAV or FLAC. The decoding of FLAC is an entirely trivial load for a Nucleus or any half modern CPU, which takes a few seconds for a whole song. But, FLAC is designed not to require reading of the whole file to start decoding and streaming, anyway. (You don’t have to wait until a whole file is downloaded from Qobuz streaming either). This is a non issue.


Just for the book, a flac file is not lossy… it will compress and uncompress your WAV files in a bit-perfect manner.


Indeed one of the disadvantages of WAV is the metadata issue - that is why FLAC is generally preferable (and not lossy).


Care to explain why only music professionals have this power to distinguish two identical bit-perfect versions? I obviously get that the WAV format is used in the digital production of music.


A music professional won’t notice any difference, either. As has been said here, Roon’s RAAT protocol sends raw and uncompressed PCM streams over the network, and so as for sound quality it doesn’t matter if your music files are in WAV or Flac format.


You are so right, I shouldn’t have used the word lossy. I really mean files that have been compressed and I did edit my original post to change lossy to compressed. Compressed is definitely a better situation than lossy, but I just don’t feel entirely comfortable with manipulations that affect the original. That is why I thought I’d ask.


Technically, unless your Roon core is a Commodore 64, there is no downside to using FLAC.

No, it would not be an issue even with a cell phone. FLAC is designed for simple decompression in real time. It might even be faster, because less data needs to be loaded from disk which is the really slow part.

There are no cons. Roon, especially, will send exactly the same RAAT stream from a FLAC as it would from the original WAV. Metadata handling is better with FLAC files, and smaller size makes transfers and backups easier.

They doi not though, in any way that matters. Just like a Word document would be the same if sent in a Zip, when FLAC is played, it is (quite trivially, on anything modern) decompressed into the exact same data that the original WAV file had. You can convert a WAV to FLAC, then back, then repeat the process a few dozen times (well, any number of times, really) and you will end up with exact same WAV file you’ve started with.


Early last year I went ahead and ripped my whole music CD collection to uncompressed FLAC files using Dbpoweramp.

The files are pretty much the same size as a WAV would take up in storage. And they all are 16 bit/44.1 kHz 1440 kbit. So full CD quality.

It doesn’t matter if I want to play them or stream music from either Qobuz or Deezer. They will instantly play.

Tagging was easy and Roon picks up all the information.

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Summarized: There is no advantage using WAV.


FLAC is also a perfect copy of the original audio file, in a more compact form.

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As a matter of fact, Office files (.docx, .xmlx etc) are stored in Open XML format, which is basically a collection of XML files in a ZIP container. (If you change the extension from say .docx to .zip, you can open it as a ZIP archive.) That didn’t make anyone’s documents lower quality. Same with FLAC; as long as you get back exactly what you stored in it, it doesn’t really matter what’s under the covers.


70% OF the WAV file more accurately, the quote implies 30% OF WAV

I use AIFF
It’s WAV with metadata

Now storage is so cheap, why bother with any compression

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It doesn’t affect the original, the whole PCM data contained in the original file is maintained and restored on decompression it’s lossless compression. If you zip up any picture or document do you lose anything from the original files? No same goes with flac. All files in Roon are converted to PCM before sending on and decompression is trivial to any modern cpu.

Because it has no advantage at all? It’s more Apple centric? It’s not designed with streaming in mind? It’s not an open source format? :wink:


Although it is not an ‘open source’ format in the strict sense, as e.g. Linux, 10 years it was the only format that was supported both on MS Windows and Apple platforms.
At the time, Apple did not support neither FLAC, nor WAV.
On top of that, AIFF included from day 1 support for metadata, which WAV did not.

Nowadays, FLAC is indeed the ‘general’ standard, and can be used with zero compression
in dbPoweramp conversion:

If I would start today I probably would choose AIFF again, but FLAC uncompressed would be fine too.


Thanks for explaining, Dirk

I couldn’t be arsed :grinning:

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This is the punchline, if you ask me. :smiley:

I started around 15 years ago with ripping my CDs to flac, and would make the same choice again today. For the same reasons I chose flac over alac.

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One reason, besides not wasting storage, would be to pay less to store them in the cloud, which is the best form of backup.