What Do You Do? Ripping Options - FLAC Lossless Uncompressed or AIFF?

I’m searching, and listening, for an audible difference between FLAC Lossless Uncompressed and AIFF cd ripping (via dBpoweramp).

Have I lost my mind or is there no discernable difference? I’m playing back through headphones, listening hard, to classical, classic jazz and others. Can’t find it. They both sound great - clean and full.

What do you use to rip and what format and why?


Both lossless. If you hear a difference something is broken in your system or you have been drinking audiophool koolaid. So your response is actually expected.


Both FLAC and AIFF are lossless… Lossless is lossless. It’s lossless. Nothing is lost so they should sound identical.

There is no difference, is all the same audio stream. Use FLAC, its free, universal, saves 35-50% storage, has extensive metadata support and has an internal checksum of the audio stream allowing you to check file integrity.

Furthermore, FLAC is designed for easy/lightweight decoding and Roon decodes at the server end so negates the audiophool argument that there are differences in sound between compression levels due to CPU activity or sheer stupidity giving rise to the belief that different compression levels result in a different audio stream… ergo you may as well use maximum compression when encoding your files.


I figured as much until I read some raging debate around lossless and then compressed vs uncompressed. I think the conclusion (and relief) I’ve realized is that lossless supersedes compression. Which, to your point, is a happy day. Smaller file size, nothing lost.

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Yeah, it’s the “everything is different” brigade. There’s a lot of it about, sadly.

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Audiophools have been post-truth decades before the term existed.

“Alternative facts” indeed.


Having heard the difference in sound quality brought on by weird changes to a music playback system, I am inclined to give the benefit of the doubt to claims of differences between lossless compressed and lossless uncompressed, or different lossless codecs. However, I am very confident that such differences 1) would only be heard through systems that cost way more than my house, and 2) are small enough to make it not worth any effort greater than clicking a button to chase.

Of course, if you paid extra for your turntable to be able to play it in rough seas on your mega-yacht, and you enjoy tinkering with such things, it might be worth your time investigating such differences.

I used to add tweak after tweak to my stereo system, even though I couldn’t hear any improvement (or change) in the sound, in the optimistic hope that they would add up in some way to make my system sound its best. When I upgraded to a system that allowed me to hear some of those differences, I stopped chasing that dragon, and now I only investigate changes that are reported to bring about greater-than-minute improvements. I guarantee you that the differences between lossless codecs and between compressed and uncompressed versions, if any, will not be worth the effort, and will be so small that you won’t even be able to tell which you like better with any kind of confidence. Why go down that rabbit hole?

I ripped my CD collection to FLAC using the default level 5 compression. With the highest level of compression I understood that the time to compress then increases quite a bit but it only saves a small amount on file size. So not really worth it. Is th econsensus that it is worth it? (I also understood that the decode time would not be affected by the level of compression).

Correct. level of compression in FLAC files has nothing whatsoever to do with the “bitperfectness” of the resulting file. So no effect on audio. And you are correct that encoding with more compression takes more time/computer effort only on the encoding of the file (that you do only once). The decoding of the file (when played) takes little processing and is independent of compression level. I personally use level 5 compression (for no particular good reason other than dbpoweramp was set that way when I started ripping years ago and I just stayed with it). No reason not to use 8 level (max) compression.

p.s. there is a great advantage of FLAC vs AIFF or WAV. FLAC files contain an embedded CRC. So one can easily check the integrity of all your flac files with a simple batch run (point and click and let it run a few hours on your library). This will tell you whether any FLAC files are corrupted. One can use dbpoweramp (and the [TEST CONVERSION] utility dsp, or foobar2000 and “file integrity” component, or many other FLAC file testing programs. It is important to note that one can’t do this automatically with AIFF or WAV files. To me, this advantage is way more important than the size savings. And of course the tagging standard for FLAC files is icing on the cake!


The only rational explanation of why AIFF or WAV -might- sound better than FLAC is due to a woefully antiquated DAC that can’t handle FLAC gracefully. If that’s a situation that you find yourself in, then it’s probably time to invest in a modern DAC.

DACs don’t see FLAC natively. It’s always decoded to WAV then PCM before hitting the DAC.

I think FLAC is the way to go. Except for me. I still have Apple iOS devices that I sync using iTunes and iTunes doesn’t recognize FLAC files. I think I will be an iTunes user for the foreseeable future since I use it to get podcasts, Audible audiobooks, and some TV and movies. No complaints here about iTunes library organization. I have about 26,000 tracks in my iTunes library.

Apple’s version of FLAC, ALAC, seems to work and sound fine but I’ve read about - but not personally experienced - situations where a DAC won’t recognize an ALAC file due to Apple licensing issues.

So I threw up my hands and decided to rip to AIFF. Storage space doesn’t seem to be a problem - yet. The AIFF files are pretty big compared to FLAC/ALAC. Having the Tidal app on my iOS devices relieves some of the device storage limitation pressures from using large files.

I haven’t experienced any devices/software being incompatible with AIFF. Perhaps at some point in the future I will transcode the AIFF files to FLAC. But for now, I am happy with AIFF’s seemingly universal compatibility.

In 2000 FLAC compression speed may have been a relevant factor, with today’s processors it’s a few seconds to encode an album, even using max compression. The saving is small, but there’s no tradeoff…go with whatever you’re comfortable with.

I fully understand about the use of Apple iOS devices. My wife and I still each have an iphone and each have an ipad. And I even have an old 160GB ipod in my car. So I do sync music to these devices using itunes. And I use these for podcasts as well.

In my own use case, I maintain a mirror mp3 library of my FLAC files for use on my iDevices. dbpoweramp conversion makes it easy to keep this mirror mp3 library up to date, and mp3 files automatically have all my tag info and art. I have about 96,000 tracks. But that’s just what I do because I’m never interested in having lossless stuff on my iThings and mp3 is more than good enough for my portable use (headphones when exercising, noisy car, etc.). I create mp3 (Lame -V2) and this is still overkill. One of these days I’ll point and click at my FLAC library and let it run a day or two and create an mp3 library of Lame -v5 files instead.

I rip CDs in AIFF, for the same reason as @dbtom2. AIFF files take a lot of storage space, but storage is less and less expansive, so I didn’t consider this as being a big deal. The best would be to rip each CD twice, the first time in FLAC for Roon and the second time in mp3 320k for the iPod (or to rip only once, and to convert all the FLAC files to mp3 files), but I have decided that I am too lazy to do that. I also own a lot of FLAC, and I have never been able to hear any difference between FLAC and AIFF.

I think the only difference I heard between a FLAC and AIFF file was a hi-res download from HD Tracks. They must be getting a different file than from what’s on a CD. I have the track - Bucky Pizzarelli - Three For All and the CD. I ripped it using dBpoweramp @ uncompressed FLAC and AIFF. But compared to their version, both are slightly less airy or open. Just slightly, but it’s there.

Still - I’m very happy with FLAC from ripped CD’s and can’t see repurchasing anything for the 5% difference.

Great discussion everyone.


audiophile percent change formula:

(harmonic bloom - rhythmic pace) ÷ micro dynamics = 5%



I would absolutely be on board with those that state they hear no difference. I have done test after test with all manner of price-point of equipment and can hear no difference at all between the various lossless file types and (and here we go…) a an mp3 :slight_smile: file of certain bitrate. If you look at the specs for the various file types they all exceed the dynamic range of the original source files, so all is intact.

For many, however, the fact that a file is lossy automatically gives them predispostion that something is lost. To each their own but I disagree, feeling quite satisfied with the music that is played back in my system from these high bitrate lossy file types (all bets are off with low bitrate files however).

The provenance of the source files is key here as well, anything recorded in the tape era or transferred to tape for mastering has only the range of tape, which, again, lossy 320kb mp3 or CD exceeds. If the original was done in the digital era and has been maintained throughout the mastering chain in full resolution then the answer would be different but other than some select audiophile recordings most everything in the rock, pop, contemporary arena has been mastered down and anyway, from all my listening experience (since I am not an engineer but know many who are and they tell me this).

Sound differences can arise from the implementation fo the playback. If you have a computer or device that struggles to process a file of a certain type for playback then that can affect the sound I believe, or your DAC could be the same way if it struggles with certain types of file types. In that case it is not the file itself but the processing and decoding of it that makes things sound different. On my computer I routinely only use about 6% of my machines’s processing power to play back music files of any type, so, have lots of overhead to work with.

I also employ the squint method - if I have to squint really hard to think I hear a difference, then there is none!! I also employ the “good enough” philosophy, the file types I utilize for playback may not be the best available, but, they are certainly good enough.

I have been to high end audio shows were guys have almost come to blows arguing over which LOSSLESS format sounded better, FLAC or WAV in some cases. I am with the prior posters on this, lossless is lossless, however each lossless file type may take different computer or device resources. The more valid question is there an audible difference between lossy and lossless, that is the big debate.

I suppose enough rambling, but this has been my assessment of your original inquiry.

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