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ALAC - Why not offered in the store?

Discussion in 'Digital Audio' started by Tysknaden, Jul 10, 2013.

  1. macrumors regular


    The fact, that Apple does not offer downloads encoded in Apple's very own lossless codec... sucks bitterly, in my opinion.
    I do not buy music at the iTunes store by this reason. I am a fan of classical music. A CD does offer reduced quality, anyway. A second reduction with a non-losless codec causes a product, I do not want to own.
    So I am forced to buy the CD for ripping it myself. This costs time and is uncomfortable.
    Am I alone with this?
    I would be willing to pay a higher price for higher quality.
    (It cannot be a question of the download size - considering the ridiculously big games offered. HD movies aren't that small, too.)
  2. macrumors 6502a

    I still buy CDs. I gave up on the iTMS a long, long time ago.

    Unfortunately you and I are in the minority, in that we both probably have the hardware to actually enjoy ALAC or FLAC encoded files. Likewise, Apple does not care about the minority anymore. That is basically your answer.

    I wish it was different, but nobody cares when all they're doing is playing music through a pair of crappy earpods or god forbid the earphones that come with the iDevice.

  3. macrumors 6502

    Yes we are in the minority, there are some few sites that sell FLAC's such as hdtracks.com, www.qobuz.com, bandcamp.com. Some famous bands such as Metallica, RHCP etc. sell their own high quality FLAC's through this site: nugs.net or through their own main webpage, so you can check your artists' main web page and see if they sell their own FLAC'S, good luck!.

    I also gave up buying music from iTunes, most of the music is brickwalled, and the ACC is a lossy format, I'm not interested on buying junk files anymore since I have a high definiton equipment. MP3 and the like formats became mainstream in the late 90's and people got used to it, most people have cheap earbuds/speakers connected to their music devices so they won't hear any difference between a FLAC and a MP3, in order to enjoy your FLAC's a good DAC and high definition speakers are needed, most people don't pay attention to this and don't care about it, most don't know what a FLAC is.
  4. macrumors 68020

    Here's a really good article from about a year ago describing Apple's only foray into high-quality downloads "Mastered for iTunes".

  5. macrumors regular


  6. walkie, Jul 11, 2013
    Last edited: Jul 11, 2013

    macrumors 6502

    "Mastered for iTunes" is a rip off, the only thing you can gain with this technic is at best dynamic range in your music (only if the source is not brick walled) but you still will lose precious information since is a lossy format.
  7. macrumors G4

    You think 256K AAC is bad? My 14 yo daughter listens to music on the iPad touch's built-in speaker and does not have any problem with audio quality. She can't tell the difference. I think most people are like her.

    My guess is there is a licensing issue. The music companies want people like you to buy CDs and you'd stop if you could have the same thing for $1 or $2.
  8. macrumors regular


    Trust me - I am not like your 14 year old daughter :)
  9. macrumors 6502

    You need a hi-fi system to tell the difference between a AAC file and a CD, if you listen to music through cheap computer speakers or through iPad built-in speaker you won't hear any difference, the same applies for the cheap earbuds that Apple provides with their products, for people that don't care about music quality MP3/AAC are ok and they're the cheapest option, if you have a truly hi-fi audio system/headphones then go for CD's/FLAC's which cost a little more. When you say a AAC and CD are "the same thing" you're wrong, for me AAC is a polluted source and has a sterile, metallic, cold and distorted sound, CD has a more detailed, delicate, fuller and warm sound since the information is not compressed and all the harmonics are present.
  10. macrumors 68000


    I find that CDs are almost always cheaper than iTunes so I invariably buy the CDs and rip them to ALAC myself, then never use the disc again. If they sold ALAC files on iTunes and they were even more expensive, I would still buy the CDs. The only exception is where I only want one or two tracks off a CD, in which case I would be happy to pay more for lossless versions.
  11. macrumors 68020


    Anything played through the iPod Touch's built-in speaker will sound like tinny crap, no matter how good the source material is.
    Apple doesn't offer ALAC simply because it uses too much bandwidth and people would complain that downloading a music album through cell data took up 20% of their monthly data allowance. Not to mention that iTunes servers will have to handle 10x more traffic to offer ALAC downloads.
    I just buy and rip CDs. That way I know for sure they are lossless.
  12. macrumors 65816


    I use FLAC and with my 100$ earphones, spotify sounds like crap compared to my downloaded music.
  13. macrumors 6502

  14. macrumors 68000


    Well, I can, in a triple blind setup. That is, when my girlfriend is streaming music through ATV into the hifi system, if it's a track I know well, I can tell which source it is without even looking, either 128kbps AAC off her iPhone, 256kbps off either of our iPads, or ALAC from the Mac. All come from the same ALAC copies on the Mac, just set in iTunes to reduce the bitrate for the mobile devices.

    A lot depends on how you are listening. A good pair of headphones or quality amp and speakers can be revealing and unforgiving of artefacts and low or high pass filtering. Encoding lossy formats requires it to guess what can't be heard by the ear, and it does not always guess right. You can lose stereo separation and the location of an instrument can become vague, and what's worse, it's not even a fixed effect because it's dependent on the rest of the audio which is constantly changing. Often it can sound less dynamic and a bit flat. It's especially noticeable sometimes where the music contains drums with reverb.

    I do agree with the spirit of the article you posted a link to though. Well encoded high bitrate lossy files are still extremely high quality, and good enough for many purposes. They aren't bitwise reproductions of the original though, and in some circumstances, to some people, that really matters. To me it matters, but only when using headphones or the stereo system. On my car iPod Touch, I use 256kbps AAC, and I doubt anyone could tell the difference there between 128, 256 or the CD originals. In any case, the analog output of iDevices is not as good as it used to be compared to earlier iPods since they changed the chipset years ago. There are many factors, and I don't think we will see ALAC from Apple anytime soon. For most people most of the time, 256kbps AAC is good enough.
  15. Guest

    Same here, and no idea why Apple can't offer it apart perhaps from licensing terms. By the way, Hyperion Records has a huge ALAC catalog for classical music; try it out.
  16. macrumors 68020


    Already done. Easy for me to tell the difference. The artifacts are easy to point out especially in the highs and lows. The mids, not so much. Did this for a week straight with F2k's ABX plugin.
    I'd rather have 24 bit audio over 16 bit audio. That would contain much more detail in the dynamic range of the recording. Would be very useful for high quality classical recordings. The standard Red Book recording does not suffice for me sometimes.
    As for the article, it is very subjective and full of faulty comparisons. Here I'll disprove all of the author's points:

    1. Audio advancement in the digital realm pretty much stopped with the introduction of PCM waveforms that contain raw audio data (e.g. AIFF, WAV). Any advancement since then to improve audio quality is either incredibly obscure (e.g. CAF) or a race to see how much storage one can save without damaging too much of the source material. The comparison that the author puts up against video is also biased; compression in video is very practical, even necessary for mass distribution, while in digital audio it is MUCH less so, especially nowadays when storage capacity isn't that big of an issue. In that light, video compression is necessary while audio compression is unnecessary.

    2. Lossy compression, as most audiophiles such as me know, reduce audio quality. Period. Here the author ignores a crucial part of Fraunhofer Institute's quote: as close as possible. Lossy compression can only approximate, and it's easy to hear the detrimental effects of lossy compression especially in files with lots of high frequency sounds. Of course how bad these artifacts sound is very subjective, and I'll leave that out of here, but my point is: why settle for lossy when you can have lossless? Even if it's a small boost in audio quality, it's still there.

    3. The iPod has a pretty subpar DAC. Compared to a good DAC, most iPods display inherent distortion and cannot project multiple instruments well, whereas LPs from the 70's had the full dynamic range of CDs as well as minimal distortion; the iPod pales in comparison to the venerable and arguably old LP standard. Ignoring this, though, the author makes a stupid comparison between a 20's transistor radio to a modern PMP.

    4. Loudness wars IS killing my ears. It's especially bothering when iTunes goes from a high fidelity copy of Master of Puppets to Death Magnetic. Here the author is arguing that it's the radio, not the iPod, that created the loudness wars, and not about the actual detrimental effects of the loudness wars to audio quality, and you can even look at the waveforms and tell the effects without even listening to the songs. Either way, it got worse as technology advanced, so the author is clearly in the wrong here.

    Simply put: why settle for less when you clearly don't have to?

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