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emaja
Jan 4, 2011, 03:50 PM
I know it could be a personal preference, but in theory which is closest?

Currently, I have ripped all my CDs and stream them wirelessly through the AX to my Onkyo TX-SR608 and Paradigm Titan speakers. I do listen to CDs, but most of the time it is streamed.

I have a rather large library that I originally ripped into MP3, but want to re-rip and get the best possible quality - and file size is not a concern for me. I can always buy more HDDs.

I have ripped into both for a test and they sound the same to me, but that is with my current equipment. I want to be able to insure the best I can that when I upgrade my stereo that I will not regret the format I chose and feel a need to re-rip everything again.



peterja
Jan 4, 2011, 04:03 PM
Both should be identical to CD, Apple Lossless obviously uses less space, works very well with itunes/ipod.

emaja
Jan 4, 2011, 04:19 PM
The file size is what threw me off. I know lossless is lossless, so I guess that Apple Lossless is just a more efficient when it comes to file size.

Nermal
Jan 4, 2011, 04:32 PM
Apple Lossless is losslessly compressed, whereas AIFF is lossless but not compressed. That's where the size difference comes from :)

TuffLuffJimmy
Jan 4, 2011, 04:34 PM
Note that AIFF will basically play on anything and Apple Lossless is pretty much (pretty much) limited to Apple products. However, AIFF files are gigantic!

emaja
Jan 4, 2011, 04:55 PM
Ugh!

Now I have to decide if I want to prepare for the possibility that I will leave the cozy confines of the Apple ecosystem. I don't see it happening, but like I said before I want to be prepared for later. It sounds like AIFF would be the way to be sure.

Do AIFF and Apple Lossless both support iTunes and other systems file tagging formats? I am pretty detailed in my tagging and would hate to lose that if I did switch to something other than Apple and iTunes.

Nermal
Jan 4, 2011, 05:06 PM
iTunes can convert your entire Apple Lossless collection over to AIFF with just a few clicks, without needing to touch the original CDs again.

I can't answer your question about tagging AIFFs. Apple Lossless can be tagged like any other "iTunes-native" format.

Moriarty
Jan 4, 2011, 05:51 PM
From a purely technical standpoint, AIFF is supposedly no better than Apple Lossless. They certainly have never sounded any different to my ears.

Heck, I had trouble telling the difference between 256kbps AAC and the original CD. On a pair of Quad 2905 electrostatic speakers no less. Maybe I'm just deaf to such subtleties because I'm young and inexperienced in the audiophile world. Thus I have all of my collection in Apple Lossless on my computer because I saw no point in AIFF. Pity they don't make 360GB iPods :p

If file size is absolutely no concern, then go with AIFF. But for the best possible sound, it's best to use the original CD as the source rather than your computer (all that transcoding and streaming and stuff probably isn't bit-perfect). So I'd re-rip in AIFF then save up for a new stereo, including a CD player.

Edit: and yes, you can always convert from AIFF to Apple Lossless if you want to save space. But unlike Nermal says, there is no point in converting from Apple Lossless to AIFF. That's like trying to convert an MP3 to a WAV file thinking it will sound better. Not quite as bad, but if Apple Lossless is slightly inferior you aren't going to gain anything by converting back to AIFF, you will have to re-rip.

emaja
Jan 4, 2011, 06:03 PM
I am not looking for a replacement for CD quality. I am simply looking for the best quality that I can get to stream from iTunes to my AX.

I am not an audiophile - no way am I playing 6000 for speakers! - but I appreciate something better than the average. That's why I got the Paradigms and Onkyo. I have a CD player, but want the convenience of the streaming.

Question - if you cannot tell the difference between 256kbps AAC and the CD, why on earth did you buy the Quad 2905s? Seems like you could "not tell the difference" for a lot less money :D

Nermal
Jan 4, 2011, 06:15 PM
But unlike Nermal says, there is no point in converting from Apple Lossless to AIFF.

There is if you get a device that supports AIFF and not Apple Lossless.

xlii
Jan 4, 2011, 06:30 PM
I was just reading up on apple lossless vs AIFF a few days ago on one of these high end audio buff sites. What they said is very simple...

the musical quality of apple lossless = AIFF. There is no difference in audio quality.

I re-ripped all my cds to apple lossless some time ago. I even put them on my 32 GB iPod Touch. On busy music I can tell the difference between apple lossless and 320kbs. On music with one singer and a folk guitar I cannot tell the difference.

The other point of that site was to sell high end cd players. If you've invested in high end speakers don't neglect the cd player.

Moriarty
Jan 4, 2011, 06:45 PM
I am not looking for a replacement for CD quality. I am simply looking for the best quality that I can get to stream from iTunes to my AX.

I am not an audiophile - no way am I playing 6000 for speakers! - but I appreciate something better than the average. That's why I got the Paradigms and Onkyo. I have a CD player, but want the convenience of the streaming.

Question - if you cannot tell the difference between 256kbps AAC and the CD, why on earth did you buy the Quad 2905s? Seems like you could "not tell the difference" for a lot less money :D

I didn't buy the Quads, I just know someone who did. Besides, I still have a good appreciation for sound, and by the nature of their driver design (vibrating membrane vs cone in a box) their clarity and openness is unmatched by anything else on the market. Little too lean on the bass for my taste though, and they would be hard to match with a subwoofer. I was merely saying how surprisingly good modern audio compression is. Audiophiles have a habit of making stuff up to justify their latest purchase, and how their new unobtanium-coated carbon nanowire power cable makes such a huge difference. :rolleyes:. I am happy with my US $350 Audioengine A5s. Bit off topic...

Nermal - good point. AIFF is more compatible.

Basically, go nuts and use AIFF if you can spare the HDD space. But Apple Lossless is 100% fine. Very often the recording engineers haven't done their job competently enough to take full advantage of the great sound that a CD can offer anyway so don't worry. If you're happy about the quality, don't go wondering how you can make it sound better, just sit back and enjoy the music.

tkermit
Jan 4, 2011, 06:45 PM
I am not looking for a replacement for CD quality. I am simply looking for the best quality that I can get to stream from iTunes to my AX.

AirTunes uses a 44.1khz 16bit Apple Lossless encoding for streaming your music, by the way, which is equivalent to CD quality. In fact, John Atkinson over at Stereophile managed to confirm that the AX base station's output is in fact bit-perfect if your source file is also encoded at 44.1khz/16bit.

Some audiophiles have dissed the AirPort Express on the grounds that its digital output is not bit-accurate. However, I found that this was not the case, that the data appearing on the AE's digital output were identical in the original file. To check this, I compared a WAV file with a duplicate that I had captured on my PC from the AirPort Express's S/PDIF output. I used iTunes on my PowerBook playing a version of the file encoded with Apple Lossless Compression to feed data to the AE. The files were bit-for-bit identical, proving that the AirPort Express is transparent to the music data (as is ALC, for that matter).

TorontoLRT
Jan 4, 2011, 07:58 PM
Really, any minute difference isn't worth the huge file size of AIFF compared to Apple Lossless.

TuffLuffJimmy
Jan 4, 2011, 08:08 PM
Really, any minute difference isn't worth the huge file size of AIFF compared to Apple Lossless.

and there isn't a difference in sound quality. The only difference I would really consider is compatibility.

emaja
Jan 4, 2011, 10:58 PM
Audiophiles have a habit of making stuff up to justify their latest purchase, and how their new unobtanium-coated carbon nanowire power cable makes such a huge difference. :rolleyes:.

Militant extremist audiophiles can be a PITA :rolleyes:.

AirTunes uses a 44.1khz 16bit Apple Lossless encoding for streaming your music, by the way, which is equivalent to CD quality. In fact, John Atkinson over at Stereophile managed to confirm that the AX base station's output is in fact bit-perfect if your source file is also encoded at 44.1khz/16bit.

Good to know. That was the sort of reference I was looking for. Thanks!

and there isn't a difference in sound quality. The only difference I would really consider is compatibility.

...and that is what it comes down to now. With sound quality questions out of the way, it is up to me to decide what is more compatible for my current and possible future needs.

Thanks all!

peterja
Jan 5, 2011, 04:57 AM
Check 'Use error correction when reading audio CDs' in import settings, increases the chances of getting a bit perfect file. Some would say that using Exact Audio Copy (windows only) and the likes is the only way to be sure, but I find that a bit to troublesome :)

Maybe this goes without saying - if you're concerned about audio quality you need to use the optical output of the Airport Express and connect it to a quality DAC, I have a Cambridge Audio Dacmagic - it makes a huge difference.

gnasher729
Jan 5, 2011, 05:35 AM
Now I have to decide if I want to prepare for the possibility that I will leave the cozy confines of the Apple ecosystem. I don't see it happening, but like I said before I want to be prepared for later. It sounds like AIFF would be the way to be sure.

Not a problem. Just import everything with Apple Lossless. If you change your mind, set your import settings to AIFF, make sure you have enough hard drive space, select everything that is Apple Lossless in your iTunes library, and convert to AIFF.

makinao
Jan 5, 2011, 06:51 AM
44.1kHz, 16-bit AIFF (and WAV) files are uncompressed PCM audio. Except for different file headers and containers, 44.1kHz/16-bit AIFF (and WAV) is identical to CD audio in both audio quality and file size.

Apple lossless is a compressed audio file format. Most say it is pretty close to CD/AIFF sound quality but using roughly half the file size. Apple lossless (and most other lossless formats) will not sound significantly different from aiff/cd audio in casual consumer use.

Lossless formats however are not used in professional audio recording applications, in which 44.1kHz/16-bit PCM audio is the minimum standard.

tkermit
Jan 5, 2011, 09:16 AM
Apple lossless (and most other lossless formats) will not sound significantly different from aiff/cd audio in casual consumer use.

In what context exactly would you expect a lossless file format to sound any different than aiff/cd audio? :p

janstett
Jan 5, 2011, 10:21 AM
Ugh!

Now I have to decide if I want to prepare for the possibility that I will leave the cozy confines of the Apple ecosystem. I don't see it happening, but like I said before I want to be prepared for later. It sounds like AIFF would be the way to be sure.

Do AIFF and Apple Lossless both support iTunes and other systems file tagging formats? I am pretty detailed in my tagging and would hate to lose that if I did switch to something other than Apple and iTunes.

I think not only is AIFF uncompressed but I don't recall any support for tagging.

I went ALAC and it's not a big deal to convert to FLAC when/if you need it -- MAX or XLD on the Mac, dbPowerAmp on the PC will make the task easy, and since they're both lossless there is no generational loss in re-encoding.

emaja
Jan 5, 2011, 02:33 PM
Lots of good info here guys. Thanks a TON for helping.

So it would seem that ALAC is the way to go since it is lossless and compressed, saving HDD space.

One more question - I thought transcoding from one format to another would lead to a degradation of sound quality. Is that only from one lossy format to another (like AAC to MP3)? If I understand correctly, lossless is lossless, then going from AIFF to ALAC and vice versa will NOT reduce the sound quality.

jsilas
Jan 5, 2011, 02:45 PM
One more question - I thought transcoding from one format to another would lead to a degradation of sound quality. Is that only from one lossy format to another (like AAC to MP3)? If I understand correctly, lossless is lossless, then going from AIFF to ALAC and vice versa will NOT reduce the sound quality.

Essentially what you're saying is correct. Generally speaking:

Lossy -> Lossy = More Lossy. Lossless -> Lossless = Lossless.

For some months I've been evaluating this same decision - choosing a file format into which to re-rip my whole CD collection. When I first started using iTunes, I was a digital file noob and didn't realize I had to choose the better ripping format over the default (which is awful 128k AAC), thus I have a large collection of 128k files that need replacing.

After much reading and consideration, I've decided to move forward with Apple Lossless. I'm looking forward to a better-sounding digital collection, and have plenty of space as part of this change includes a healthy pruning of said library.

emaja
Jan 5, 2011, 03:27 PM
Maybe this goes without saying - if you're concerned about audio quality you need to use the optical output of the Airport Express and connect it to a quality DAC, I have a Cambridge Audio Dacmagic - it makes a huge difference.

If the file is digital and the wireless signal is digital, if I have the optical cable from the AX to my receiver, why do I need a DAC?

That is something I did not know about before at all.

darkplanets
Jan 5, 2011, 04:14 PM
If the file is digital and the wireless signal is digital, if I have the optical cable from the AX to my receiver, why do I need a DAC?

That is something I did not know about before at all.

If you're running optical into your receiver, it has a DAC, naturally. In the end all things must go analog. The point he's trying to make, however, is that most built-in DAC's are crap, for both receivers and other items (AX, your computers, etc). While I don't know personally how good the DAC is for your receiver, many people opt to go receiver -> DAC -> speakers to remedy this problem.

If you're just running stereo off of your receiver, and it has an optical/digital out, then I'd recommend the Super Pro DAC 707. It sounds pretty cheap, but in reality it has higher-grade components than most higher-priced solutions. If you need multi-channel however and you only have one digital out, you'll need to look at other pricier solutions. That is, of course, if you care enough about the built in DAC of your receiver.

jsilas
Jan 5, 2011, 05:31 PM
If you're running optical into your receiver, it has a DAC, naturally. In the end all things must go analog. The point he's trying to make, however, is that most built-in DAC's are crap, for both receivers and other items (AX, your computers, etc). While I don't know personally how good the DAC is for your receiver, many people opt to go receiver -> DAC -> speakers to remedy this problem.

If you're just running stereo off of your receiver, and it has an optical/digital out, then I'd recommend the Super Pro DAC 707. It sounds pretty cheap, but in reality it has higher-grade components than most higher-priced solutions. If you need multi-channel however and you only have one digital out, you'll need to look at other pricier solutions. That is, of course, if you care enough about the built in DAC of your receiver.
It is correct that an aftermarket DAC can offer improved performance over an on-board DAC in a receiver.

However, your order of connections is incorrect. Signal path would be from digital source first to the DAC, THEN to the receiver, and on to the speakers. The digital signal would feed into the DAC, which would perform the conversion from digital to analog, and output an analog signal for the receiver to amplify. The receiver's output is amplified analog designed to drive loudspeakers. Putting a DAC between the receiver and speakers would not work at all. ;)

emaja
Jan 5, 2011, 05:55 PM
My Onkyo TX-SR608 uses the Burr-Brown PCM1690 DAC. I can't seem to find a comparison between it and the SuperPro 707 or the Wolfson WM8740 in the DacMagic.

From what I have read, it seems the Burr-Brown is pretty good.

darkplanets
Jan 5, 2011, 06:55 PM
It is correct that an aftermarket DAC can offer improved performance over an on-board DAC in a receiver.

However, your order of connections is incorrect. Signal path would be from digital source first to the DAC, THEN to the receiver, and on to the speakers. The digital signal would feed into the DAC, which would perform the conversion from digital to analog, and output an analog signal for the receiver to amplify. The receiver's output is amplified analog designed to drive loudspeakers. Putting a DAC between the receiver and speakers would not work at all. ;)

I personally don't use a receiver, so I have no experience there. However couldn't you just use an amp after the DAC? For example say with your AV reciever you have HDMI->Receiver->Optical out->DAC-> AMP-> Speakers. That is, of course, assuming that your DAC doesn't come with an amp-- I was under the impression that most came with some sort of basic amplification so you dont need a post-DAC amp. Not to mention the fact that some systems come with built in pre-amps (like my 2.1). Of course this all depends upon whether you trust your AV receivers amps either...

My Onkyo TX-SR608 uses the Burr-Brown PCM1690 DAC. I can't seem to find a comparison between it and the SuperPro 707 or the Wolfson WM8740 in the DacMagic.

From what I have read, it seems the Burr-Brown is pretty good.

BB is good. The SuperPro uses a medley of parts; see here (http://www.obadimports.com/catalog/item/6697671/5226912.htm). I'm not an audiophile, so I can safely say you can't go wrong with BB.

jsilas
Jan 5, 2011, 08:56 PM
I personally don't use a receiver, so I have no experience there. However couldn't you just use an amp after the DAC? For example say with your AV reciever you have HDMI->Receiver->Optical out->DAC-> AMP-> Speakers. That is, of course, assuming that your DAC doesn't come with an amp-- I was under the impression that most came with some sort of basic amplification so you dont need a post-DAC amp. Not to mention the fact that some systems come with built in pre-amps (like my 2.1). Of course this all depends upon whether you trust your AV receivers amps either...

First, after many years in the business and hobby of audiophila, I've never seen a high-quality DAC that had an on-board amplifier. And if it did, it wouldn't really be considered a stand-alone DAC anymore, but would instead be referred to as a "Receiver" or an "Integrated Amplifier".

Second, in your example above, why would you have the receiver in the signal path at all if you're not going to use its amplification? You'd be much better off using a pre-amp/processor, and even then, 99% of the time a proper connection would place the DAC previous to the pre/pro.

jsilas
Jan 5, 2011, 08:59 PM
If you want a truly great DAC for a reasonable price, check out the Musical Fidelity M1DAC. It's a really good performer.

makinao
Jan 5, 2011, 09:18 PM
In what context exactly would you expect a lossless file format to sound any different than aiff/cd audio? :p
As I mentioned, in professional/commercial music recording.

darkplanets
Jan 5, 2011, 09:33 PM
First, after many years in the business and hobby of audiophila, I've never seen a high-quality DAC that had an on-board amplifier. And if it did, it wouldn't really be considered a stand-alone DAC anymore, but would instead be referred to as a "Receiver" or an "Integrated Amplifier".

Second, in your example above, why would you have the receiver in the signal path at all if you're not going to use its amplification? You'd be much better off using a pre-amp/processor, and even then, 99% of the time a proper connection would place the DAC previous to the pre/pro.

Well then you would know better than I :).... I'm not exactly a purveyor of high quality audio equipment right now.

As per my example, I can think of a friends setup actually; the receiver is there to simplify the TV inputs due to a large volume of HDMI devices and not enough inputs on the actual TV. He also likes the built in radio, iPod support, etc, and instead of splitting out the audio signal from the HDMI prior he uses the receiver to do that, with the DAC post receiver since he has one speaker system. Call it the poor man's home theater :D

tkermit
Jan 5, 2011, 11:00 PM
Apple lossless (and most other lossless formats) will not sound significantly different from aiff/cd audio in casual consumer use.

In what context exactly would you expect a lossless file format to sound any different than aiff/cd audio? :p

As I mentioned, in professional/commercial music recording.

Lossless yet compressed file formats might be bothersome to use in such a setting, but they would still sound exactly the same as their uncompressed PCM stream counterparts, unless something's not working correctly...

bredell
Jan 6, 2011, 01:42 PM
As I mentioned, in professional/commercial music recording.

That's true, but it's not because of any degradation of quality. In a professional environment you do a lot of filtering and mixing of sounds in real time, then you can't waste CPU doing compression/decompression all the time. It's a lot simpler to work with uncompressed raw material. Same goes for video editing.

A lossless compression that degrades quality of the sound isn't lossless.

blackburn
Jan 6, 2011, 01:45 PM
That's why I backup my cd collection in flac:) Albeit I still use eac. Rip always misses the offset by 30 samples:(

Anyway in flac, you can store album cover / cue sheet / rip log / AccurateRip log in just one file:D

emaja
Jan 6, 2011, 07:34 PM
Thanks for all the info guys. I have decided to go with ALAC since I can always convert it to AIFF if I need to later.

I may give a DAC some thought, but not just now.

Thanks!

wjlafrance
Jan 6, 2011, 11:15 PM
The answer to your question lies in the definition of "lossless".

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lossless

jsilas
Jan 6, 2011, 11:38 PM
Thanks for all the info guys. I have decided to go with ALAC since I can always convert it to AIFF if I need to later.

I may give a DAC some thought, but not just now.

Thanks!

If it makes you feel more confident in your decision regarding the DAC, I'll tell you that I listen to music on some pretty nice speakers, and when I stream digital files, I stream ALACs. I run them through the on-board DACs in my Denon receiver, and it sounds fantastic.

I don't think you'll miss the standalone DAC unless you're really trying to squeeze every iota of performance out of your setup with no regard for cost.

SactoGuy18
Jan 7, 2011, 07:27 AM
I'd recommend using AIFF if your device that stores the music uses a BIG hard drive, at least 1 terabyte in capacity. Since an 80 minute CD takes about 800 MB of hard disk space, you can store a large number of AIFF "rips" from your CD collection on a 1 TB hard drive. And because AIFF is NOT a compressed file format, it might also mean better sound quality, since you don't need the additional data processing step of uncompressing Apple Lossless files, which might in a few cases compromise sound quality.

peterja
Jan 8, 2011, 11:01 AM
If the file is digital and the wireless signal is digital, if I have the optical cable from the AX to my receiver, why do I need a DAC?

That is something I did not know about before at all.
My point was mainly not to use the one integrated in the AX, I don't know much about receivers because I'd rather blow all the money on two channels ;)

Killyp
Jan 8, 2011, 11:24 AM
...And because AIFF is NOT a compressed file format, it might also mean better sound quality, since you don't need the additional data processing step of uncompressing Apple Lossless files, which might in a few cases compromise sound quality.

No, Apple Lossless will do fine. There is no 'situation' where decoding an Apple Lossless file will degrade sound quality.

Is there any situation where putting your Word documents inside a ZIP file will change the Word document itself?


A good DAC does make a difference, but get the positioning of your speakers sorted out first! Otherwise, you'll be wasting your money on that shiny new DAC.

slowtraveler
Jan 8, 2011, 02:16 PM
It's worth thinking through your plans for serving and streaming your media before choosing between ALAC and AIFF. Many non-Apple home media servers, NAS devices, and streaming solutions don't support direct streaming of ALAC-encoded files. If you're using Apple solutions for media serving and streaming, no problem, but if not, it's a good idea to investigate potential compatibility issues with ALAC before committing to it as your primary storage format.

No disrespect intended to other posters who have expressed opinions to the contrary, but there's no difference in sound quality between ALAC and AIFF.

I think the main dimensions of the decision are the tradeoff between storage requirements for AIFF and possible limits on support by other manufacturers for Apple's ALAC. Price/performance improvements on storage run with Moore's Law (or faster) so file size should become much less of a factor as time goes by. If you like Apple solutions, though, ALAC is great.

I use ALAC for storing a collection of about 300 CD's worth of commercial music at home, but I stick with uncompressed formats for storing loops, samples, SFX, and other media I use in (hobbyist) music production--mainly for the convenience of not having to transcode things when moving them between systems.

TuffLuffJimmy
Jan 8, 2011, 02:31 PM
It's worth thinking through your plans for serving and streaming your media before choosing between ALAC and AIFF. Many non-Apple home media servers, NAS devices, and streaming solutions don't support direct streaming of ALAC-encoded files. If you're using Apple solutions for media serving and streaming, no problem, but if not, it's a good idea to investigate potential compatibility issues with ALAC before committing to it as your primary storage format.

No disrespect intended to other posters who have expressed opinions to the contrary, but there's no difference in sound quality between ALAC and AIFF.

I think the main dimensions of the decision are the tradeoff between storage requirements for AIFF and possible limits on support by other manufacturers for Apple's ALAC. Price/performance improvements on storage run with Moore's Law (or faster) so file size should become much less of a factor as time goes by. If you like Apple solutions, though, ALAC is great.

I use ALAC for storing a collection of about 300 CD's worth of commercial music at home, but I stick with uncompressed formats for storing loops, samples, SFX, and other media I use in (hobbyist) music production--mainly for the convenience of not having to transcode things when moving them between systems.

File size isn't a huge issue these days, but I still use mp3 and aac, because even alac files are too big for my library. If my library were alac it would probably be around 400GB and if it were aiff it would be at least 800GB.

slowtraveler
Jan 8, 2011, 02:43 PM
File size isn't a huge issue these days, but I still use mp3 and aac, because even alac files are too big for my library. If my library were alac it would probably be around 400GB and if it were aiff it would be at least 800GB.

Yowza, that's a lot. (Plus you'd the need same amount again for backups, too.)

TuffLuffJimmy
Jan 8, 2011, 02:49 PM
Yowza, that's a lot. (Plus you'd the need same amount again for backups, too.)

Exactly. I only have a laptop, a couple of external drives (between 120GB and 320GB) and a backup drive (tb). I'm not looking to invest any more money, so a compressed audio is my only option.

emaja
Jan 8, 2011, 05:25 PM
Yowza, that's a lot. (Plus you'd the need same amount again for backups, too.)

I have my CDs ripped at 320K and they currently take up ~220 GB. Going to ALAC will roughly increase that by 2.5 to 3 times. I have an Addonics RAID box that guards against drive failure, and I have the CDs for backups. Worst case, I have to re-rip and am forced to listen to all that music again. :p

A good DAC does make a difference, but get the positioning of your speakers sorted out first! Otherwise, you'll be wasting your money on that shiny new DAC.

I think I have the positioning all worked out. The soundstage is HUUUGE and the imaging is wonderful. I am seriously impressed with the lows that come out of these "bookshelf" speakers. They are rather large, but since they need stands to elevate the tweeters to ear level, the Paradigm Titans are still considered bookshelves.

I compared them against the B&W 685's and, while they sounded good, the B&Ws were too British and "polite" for my tastes. I wanted more crispness than they provided.

As far as the DAC goes, if the signal is digital to the AX, then connected to the receiver, I assume that the AX does the conversion. The way I understand it is that the last digital device does the analog conversion, so if the AX is connected to the receiver with RCAs, it does the conversion. If I use the digital cable from the AX to the receiver, the receiver does the conversion, but if I have a DAC between the AX and receiver, it does the conversion and the analog signal passes through untouched by the receiver.

Do I have that down correctly?

The DAC is way down my list. I still have a center channel, two rears and a sub to buy before I get there.

slowtraveler
Jan 8, 2011, 07:21 PM
Do I have that down correctly?


Yup, that's right. Sounds like you have things pretty much under control. I'll bet the Onkyo's Burr-Brown D/A conversion will give more pleasing results than whatever DAC is built into the AX, but your ears will tell you for sure.

Killyp
Jan 9, 2011, 05:19 AM
I think I have the positioning all worked out. The soundstage is HUUUGE and the imaging is wonderful. I am seriously impressed with the lows that come out of these "bookshelf" speakers. They are rather large, but since they need stands to elevate the tweeters to ear level, the Paradigm Titans are still considered bookshelves.

I compared them against the B&W 685's and, while they sounded good, the B&Ws were too British and "polite" for my tastes. I wanted more crispness than they provided.

Top stuff. Out of interest, did you have a listen to the 686s? I actually thought they were a better performer than the 685. The low-end on the 685 is a little soft IMO, and as my taste in sound tends to lean towards the bass-light side, I didn't miss any low-end when listening to the 686. Must admit I've never heard any Paradigms!

Have you filled out your stands properly? Mine were rubbish until I filled them up to the top with mason sand. Increases the weight beyond belief (they're now incredibly heavy), stops them from vibrating, and increases the low-end control and soundstage depth. It's worth doing if you haven't done it already, although make sure they're properly sealed, you don't want fine sand going everywhere!


As far as the DAC goes, if the signal is digital to the AX, then connected to the receiver, I assume that the AX does the conversion. The way I understand it is that the last digital device does the analog conversion, so if the AX is connected to the receiver with RCAs, it does the conversion. If I use the digital cable from the AX to the receiver, the receiver does the conversion, but if I have a DAC between the AX and receiver, it does the conversion and the analog signal passes through untouched by the receiver.

Do I have that down correctly?

Yep, bang on. Which model receiver do you have? It's extremely unlikely yours does this, but some receivers out there will pass EVERY signal that goes through the amp back into an ADC (analog to digital converter), through a DSP chip and then back out from a DAC into the amplifiers. Obviously, if yours does this, then you might as well go digitally into the amplifier and avoid the extra conversion step. Does this make sense?

As I say, it's unlikely your amp does this.

Yup, that's right. Sounds like you have things pretty much under control. I'll bet the Onkyo's Burr-Brown D/A conversion will give more pleasing results than whatever DAC is built into the AX, but your ears will tell you for sure.

There is more to digital-to-analog conversion than the chip used.

A DAC is made up out of several components:


The Power Supply (all electronic devices need one, and in audio world, the quality of the power supply can have a big impact on the sound quality).
The up-sampling and oversampling circuits. These artificially increase the resolution of the digital signal, a bit like making an image larger in photoshop and using the right enlargement algorithm. This increases the frequency at which 'sampling noise' is heard to way outside of the audible range, and smooths out the digital waveform in order to reduce the size of the 'steps' in sound.
The conversion chip, in this case the burr-brown chip. There are loads of different chips out there. They do have an affect on the sound, but it's more about how they're used than the selection of chip.
Word-clock elements, all DACs have them. The word-clock is the bit which regulates the speed at which bits of information are processed. Good word clocks have a very, VERY regular pulse (ie, in an ideal world they fire exactly 44,100 times a second for CD audio, with each pulse being the same length of time, and no variation in frequency). In the case of connecting an Airport Express to a DAC/receiver, the clock source is actually the Airport (ewww!). Good DACs will have clocking elements in them which can buffer the digital audio data and 'smooth out' the clock to improve the sonics.
Analog filters - these are INCREDIBLY important! When you sample at 44.1KHz, you get all sorts of nasty audible noise as you approach ~20KHz. Even though most of this noise is above 20KHz, it's been shown to have a large impact on the way you perceive the sound produced. This is where up-sampling comes into affect, this noise is pushed up to 40 or even 80 KHz, which improves the situation vastly. Regardless, you still want to stop this noise from getting through to your amplifier and speakers as it can still have an impact on the final sound you perceive. This is where the analog filters come into play. These are essentially a 'treble cut-off' which cuts out all the nasty digital-noise in the upper registers. Really bad DACs often have have no analog filters present, and sound hard, brittle and harsh as a result. Other bad DACs use bad analog circuits, and these can change the tonality of the top-end (affecting cymbals, the rasp from saxophones, strings etc). Some of the worst DACs actually start filtering frequencies too low and cut out significant amounts of high frequencies.


DACs can affect the sound in strange ways. Bad DACs are brittle, hard and wearing to listen to over time. Good DACs are smooth but detailed, snappy, and sound BIG.

/essay

emaja
Jan 9, 2011, 01:59 PM
Top stuff. Out of interest, did you have a listen to the 686s? I actually thought they were a better performer than the 685. The low-end on the 685 is a little soft IMO, and as my taste in sound tends to lean towards the bass-light side, I didn't miss any low-end when listening to the 686. Must admit I've never heard any Paradigms!

Have you filled out your stands properly? Mine were rubbish until I filled them up to the top with mason sand.

I listen to such a broad range of music that there had to be tradeoffs. The B&Ws were very nicely balanced for the small group classic jazz and classical, but if I turned up the volume on some R&B or big band, the punch was missing.

I filled mine with lead shot. Those stands aren't going anywhere!

Thanks for the info on DACs.

jsilas
Jan 12, 2011, 10:33 AM
So I finally completed ripping all of my CDs in ALAC. And wouldn't you know it, this past weekend I was out with my brother and father in law, and they wanted to fire my handgun. I didn't have any ear protection, but fired anyway. My ears have been ringing for going on 4 days now.

At this point I'm hoping my hearing recovers. Sucks that I have all these great lossless files now, and good equipment to listen with, but my ears are all fubar.
:eek::(

emaja
Jan 13, 2011, 05:20 PM
I didn't have any ear protection, but fired anyway. My ears have been ringing for going on 4 days now.(

YIKES! Don't do that again :D

I realized that my AX was NOT connected with an optical cable like I thought it was. I just have screwed that up when I connected the new receiver. I got it all switched up and it does make a noticeable difference. I don't think that I will bother with a separate DAC. I am quite happy with the converted built into the receiver.

BTW, if you are looking for a new receiver, I think you will be hard pressed to find one with more features at a fair price than the Onkyo TX-SR608. It has 5 HDMI inputs and upconverts to 1080p from any other the composite or component source. The 100w per channel are clean and the on-screen display for setup is very nice. It does not have network capability, but I wasn't interested in that since I have been using Rogue Amoeba's Airfoil, but you can get that in other Onkyo models.

Highly recommended.

Brucewl
Jan 14, 2011, 12:51 AM
I think I will choose Apple Lossless, but with out a good earphone, evevrthing is worthless

Killyp
Jan 14, 2011, 03:58 AM
So I finally completed ripping all of my CDs in ALAC. And wouldn't you know it, this past weekend I was out with my brother and father in law, and they wanted to fire my handgun. I didn't have any ear protection, but fired anyway. My ears have been ringing for going on 4 days now.

At this point I'm hoping my hearing recovers. Sucks that I have all these great lossless files now, and good equipment to listen with, but my ears are all fubar.
:eek::(

REST YOUR EARS! Don't go to ANY gigs, clubs, listen to loud music etc... over the next few weeks. You *should* be fine. I had to give my ears a few months rest last year (no clubs, no live music, no headphones, no loud music at home) as I was starting to build up a noticeable ring in my right ear. It's gone now...

jsilas
Jan 14, 2011, 11:14 AM
I think I will choose Apple Lossless, but with out a good earphone, evevrthing is worthless
I'd welcome you over to my house to listen on my Sonus Faber Domus Grand Piano speakers - I'd place a monetary bet that you'd clearly hear the difference between lossy compressed files and my ALAC collection. :)


REST YOUR EARS! Don't go to ANY gigs, clubs, listen to loud music etc... over the next few weeks. You *should* be fine. I had to give my ears a few months rest last year (no clubs, no live music, no headphones, no loud music at home) as I was starting to build up a noticeable ring in my right ear. It's gone now...
That's precisely what I'm trying to do. This happened on Sunday of last week, now it's already Friday and still my ear is ringing. I'm scared I've permanently damaged my hearing, but I'm holding out hope that time will heal my ears and my hearing will return to normal.

Anonymous Freak
Jan 14, 2011, 02:38 PM
As I mentioned, in professional/commercial music recording.

Uh, it doesn't matter what industry you're talking about. Lossless = Lossless. If the bitstream coming out of the lossless file is identical to the bitstream that went in, it will sound the same - full stop.

FLAC, ALC, and any other compressed lossless file is functionally identical to an AIFF/WAV that has been zipped; the compression is just built into the file format, rather than an after-the-fact action.

Now, if you're talking "FLAC/ALC at 44.1 KHz, 16-bit" vs. "AIFF/WAV at 192 KHz, 24-bit", then yeah - huge difference. In professional recording, you generally don't (at least, I certainly hope you don't,) record in "just" CD-quality. You could achieve the same effect by using FLAC/ALC at the same resolution and depth as your uncompressed captures, though.

chewie100
Oct 22, 2011, 09:35 AM
I was just reading up on apple lossless vs AIFF a few days ago on one of these high end audio buff sites. What they said is very simple...

the musical quality of apple lossless = AIFF. There is no difference in audio quality.

This is simply not true, when you rip a CD in iTunes with the Apple Lossless encoder, you end up with a copy of the CD which sounds good, but has a considerably lower (variable) bitrate than the CD, which has a bitrate of 1411kbps. When you encode a CD using Apple Lossless in iTunes, it does not keep the original 1411 bitrate.

tkermit
Oct 22, 2011, 09:49 AM
This is simply not true, when you rip a CD in iTunes with the Apple Lossless encoder, you end up with a copy of the CD which sounds g̶o̶o̶d̶ identical, but has a considerably lower (variable) bitrate than the CD, which has a bitrate of 1411kbps. When you encode a CD using Apple Lossless in iTunes, it does not keep the original 1411 bitrate.

Yeah, that's kind of the point of lossless data compression...

TMRaven
Oct 22, 2011, 10:29 AM
I personally just call it a day and use wav. You might do the same.

TuffLuffJimmy
Oct 22, 2011, 01:57 PM
This is simply not true, when you rip a CD in iTunes with the Apple Lossless encoder, you end up with a copy of the CD which sounds good, but has a considerably lower (variable) bitrate than the CD, which has a bitrate of 1411kbps. When you encode a CD using Apple Lossless in iTunes, it does not keep the original 1411 bitrate.
The bitRate has been compressed, but there is no loss in sound quality. Basically apple lossless is like a zip compression, it uses an algorithm to shrink files down without losing any information. The bitrate is usually smaller because instead of a consistent bitrate it uses a variable bitrate so less file space is used for less complicated regions of the file unlike aiff that uses the same amount of space for all regions of the song.

Lossless files are not often used in recording, because of the significant amount of decoding and processing power needed to decompress it. Making it unusable for on the fly mixing. However, the files can be converted back to their original size and bitrate without any loss of quality.


Aiff and lossless not only sound identical they are identical waveforms.

Zwhaler
Oct 22, 2011, 03:13 PM
My simple answer to the title question is: AIFF.

emaja
Oct 22, 2011, 03:20 PM
My simple answer to the title question is: AIFF.

Your simple answer is wrong.

The simple answer is "yes" as they are equally close to CD.

Zwhaler
Oct 22, 2011, 05:24 PM
Your simple answer is wrong.

The simple answer is "yes" as they are equally close to CD.

They are both very close, but AIFF is closer. Numbers don't lie. You won't be able to hear the difference, though, but that wasn't the question

stordoff
Oct 22, 2011, 08:25 PM
They are both very close, but AIFF is closer. Numbers don't lie. You won't be able to hear the difference, though, but that wasn't the question

Nope! Lossless is lossless, regardless if it compressed or not. AIFF and ALAC (assuming same sample rate etc.) have identical sound quality.

emaja
Oct 22, 2011, 09:52 PM
They are both very close, but AIFF is closer. Numbers don't lie. You won't be able to hear the difference, though, but that wasn't the question

I asked the original question, so yes, that is the question.

Lossless is lossless. End of story.

TuffLuffJimmy
Oct 23, 2011, 12:41 AM
They are both very close, but AIFF is closer. Numbers don't lie. You won't be able to hear the difference, though, but that wasn't the question
You are dead wrong. Why even reply if you have no idea what you're talking about. Read the rest of the thread to learn about aiff and lossless encoding.

slowtraveler
Oct 23, 2011, 01:00 AM
Read the rest of the thread to learn about aiff and lossless encoding.

Or search the MacRumors forums for "lossless compression," and read some of the 500+ resulting hits. Or start with the Wikipedia article on "audio compression (data)."

Reduced bit rate does not necessarily entail loss of data. This is basic knowledge.

Cheers,

B.

slothrob
Oct 23, 2011, 12:23 PM
They are both very close, but AIFF is closer. Numbers don't lie. You won't be able to hear the difference, though, but that wasn't the question
I think this logic depends on how far away the CD is. ;)

Fuchal
Oct 27, 2011, 08:27 AM
If you are streaming to Airport Express, you might as well use Apple Lossless because iTunes converts to Apple Lossless on the fly when streaming to the AE regardless of the original format.

Consultant
Oct 27, 2011, 11:17 AM
AIFF = no embedded tagging (if you move the file outside of the system you tagged it with, you don't get the tags anymore)

Apple Loseless can contain embedded tagging

In terms of quality, CD = AIFF = Apple Loseless

I've been ripping to AIFF (and bringing an external drive with me) since the beginning.

maxsnet
Dec 28, 2011, 10:12 AM
Hello !!

Very interesting thread, thank you to all of you, MacRumors and Internet where I have been finding valuable info for years and years... :)

I have just tested almost all the different format that the latest iTunes can offer, compared them with my supersonic pair of ears on my monitor speakers Yamaha HS50M (http://www.sweetwater.com/store/detail/HS50M/reviews) and here is my conclusion, which is the same as you guys. cf screenshot attached. I begin in the music production and I need references cds (or files with at least the same quality) to compare my mix with them, I can't stand mp3 128kbps on my monitor speakers and I begin to be disappointed by mp3 320kpbs too (no problem on my iPhone headphones).

I starred the different format and compression, and you can see the size each file takes too.

Surprisingly the new :apple: HD-AAC sounds the worst :confused:, and it seems that iTunes plays the cd a little louder than any files in its library.

Cheers

EDIT: can't access the screenshot attached... add in text below. 20 is one star, etc...

20 Revolution 909 hdaac 80 Daft Punk AAC 44,100 kHz 80 kbit/s 3,2*Mo
40 Revolution 909 mp3 128 Daft Punk MPEG 44,100 kHz 128 kbit/s 5*Mo
40 Revolution 909 aac 128 Daft Punk AAC 44,100 kHz 128 kbit/s 5,1*Mo
60 Revolution 909 mp3 320 Daft Punk MPEG 44,100 kHz 320 kbit/s 12,5*Mo
80 Revolution 909 aac 320 Daft Punk AAC 44,100 kHz 320 kbit/s 12,7*Mo
100 Revolution 909 wav 44k16b Daft Punk WAV 44,100 kHz 1411 kbit/s 55*Mo
100 Revolution 909 apple ll Daft Punk Apple Lossless 44,100 kHz 883 kbit/s 34,5*Mo
100 Revolution 909 aiff auto Daft Punk AIFF 44,100 kHz 1411 kbit/s 55*Mo
100 Revolution 909 aiff 44k16b Daft Punk AIFF 44,100 kHz 1411 kbit/s 55*Mo

maril1111
Dec 28, 2011, 10:16 AM
I think I will choose Apple Lossless, but with out a good earphone, evevrthing is worthless

or hi fi equipment...

hebhansen
Jan 7, 2012, 04:59 AM
I know it could be a personal preference, but in theory which is closest?

Currently, I have ripped all my CDs and stream them wirelessly through the AX to my Onkyo TX-SR608 and Paradigm Titan speakers. I do listen to CDs, but most of the time it is streamed.

I have a rather large library that I originally ripped into MP3, but want to re-rip and get the best possible quality - and file size is not a concern for me. I can always buy more HDDs.

I have ripped into both for a test and they sound the same to me, but that is with my current equipment. I want to be able to insure the best I can that when I upgrade my stereo that I will not regret the format I chose and feel a need to re-rip everything again.

Just wanted to comment the original post. I have not read this entire thread...

Lossless Uncompressed: AIFF and WAV
Lossless Compressed: ALAC and FLAC
Lossy Compressed: AAC and mp3

Concider your audiofile to be a sleeping bag. Very nice one that will keep you warm at -40Celcius. Unpacked it's huge and difficult to transport. It takes up the entire backseat of a car, cause it's an AIFF-sleeping bag, but once installed you are guaranteed a very nice sleep.

But hey - it came with a tiny condom for transportation (The FLAC- Container), but will it fit? After massive work and some beating it will and the best part, it takes up no more space than a pair of shoes. Is it broken or damaged? Not at all, just let it breathe and it will give you the same sleep as before.

I stumbled over this cool looking leather condom instead of the original (The ALAC Container). That's fair, just dump your bag into your new container, still the same sleeping bag.

Now some people wish to travel light. This means cutting of layers and insulation from the sleeping bag, never to return. Sleeping in less than 15celcius is no longer an option, and if you want to go back, you have to buy a new one! It has become the mp3 sleeping bag. You go here once in a lifetime at most, and you regret this very much.

In other words you can take the lossless file and move it around as you see fit. But once it is lossy it's a done deal. HD will cost you nothing and ripping takes massive time. So get the memory you need and get it right right away!

Pros and Cons:
Lossless Uncompressed: Audio quality as your original CD, takes up huge space, saves the processor the compression work

Lossless Compressed: Audio as CD, takes limited space, pulls some processor capacity while packing unpacking the file

Lossy Compressed: Like listening to a waste basket. The dynamics of the file is gone forever, especially the low range. Higher sounds will get a clinic feel and for the ear it's tiresome over time. Compressor need to unpack, although very small files.

Now - don't ever take a lossy file and put it in a lossless container. That's like carrying the ****** tiny sleeping bag in a huge box. The good stuff is torn from the file, even if you name it AIFF or ALAC.

Summary:
1) Never buy your music in iTunes Store (AAC 256kbps) until Apple realize it is not up to them to dismantle what artists put together so nicely for all of us.
2) iTunes will transcode on the fly when syncing to portable devices (AAC 128 kbps). It's fair for earplugs in a city environment and it leaves room for a loot of music for that device. I would prefer AAC 256 but for now, not an option!!!
3) "I think my AIFF sounds better than my ALAC". Exactly, you think it does, but it doesn't!. The output while playing has identical profiles. These profiles are sampled and brought to you bu what ever equipment you have. Ditching your dock station or adding serious digital ti analog conversion will make a difference. Lossless to Lossless makes no difference.

Note: FLAC files may be ripped in various qualities. Live with it or find the CD and do it your self.

FYI: XLD is the best lossless lossless converter there is for MAC imo. This is how to bring your FLACs to iTunes.

HB