Is the iPod good for Lossless audio?

Discussion in 'iPod' started by DavidChavez, Mar 9, 2010.

  1. macrumors member

    Nov 10, 2009
    Guanajuato City, Mexico
    I was recently reading an article on PC Magazine about how to manage your digital audio and how to buy headphones, etc. So I really want to import Cds in Lossless, not in MP3s.
    I’ve been reading about the FLAC codec. Some people say that is so good (even Cat Power’s music is online in the Matador Records official site) and sites like Itrax or Aixrecords sell high-fidelity music in FLAC format. But some other people say that why complicate the life if we got Apple Lossless format, I know that iTunes and the iPod, with some hacks, can play FLAC, or I can convert directly. But which one is better?
    And now the iPod. Neil Young said that the music was getting a slow disease with the MP3s and the iPod, said that we don’t listen to music; we just listen to codes and formats. But if we listen codes and formats I want that they be the highest quality codes. Anyway, can the iPod hold up Lossless files? The MP3 have frequency response from 20Hz to 20KHz, but Lossless files are 20 bits/96KHz. Maybe with some good headphones I’ll be good, but I’ll can notice the difference?
    If no I think I will have to considerer other music players. Can the iPod do all this for me?
  2. macrumors 68040

    Dec 14, 2006
    somewhere else
    For all intents and purposes, the rest of your post is meaningless from this point on. You are taking a lossy format (MP3) and converting it to a lossless one. It really doesn't matter which one you pick; none will sound any better than your MP3.

    If you want better quality audio, the first place to upgrade is your speakers/headphones. If you are taking your MP3s and transcoding into another format, the best you can get is zero difference (lossless encoding). If you try a lossy encoding, you are only throwing away more bits.

    Frankly, it makes zero sense for you to convert your lossy format MP3s to something else, only to have to re-encode it at some future time.
  3. macrumors regular

    Jun 15, 2009
    Yea, an Mp3 is a compressed audio file as it is. Imagine taking an image that is 1920x1080 and compressing it down to 192x108. If you try to make the compressed go back to the original size, it will look like crap. thats like a lossless recording to an mp3. You can always degrade the quality of an audio file, but you can not re code it to actually be a bigger and better format. That being said, If you want to know if your ipod will work with lossless audio, the short answer is yes. Beware however, that lossless takes up more space than an mp3 so you can only get so much music on it.
  4. macrumors G5


    Jun 27, 2007
    Buy the real cd if you want lossless.
  5. macrumors regular

    Dec 17, 2009
  6. macrumors 65816


    Mar 11, 2009
    Edinburgh, UK
    I think we're maybe all being a bit harsh on the OP. He clearly didn't realise he couldn't go mp3 > lossless, but I'm sure he's got the point now.

    I encode all my cds in Apple lossless, but really don't bother about it too much. I get most of my music from Amazon or emusic which are definitely not lossless. I mainly encode in lossless simply as a back up of the cd.

    I have better than average, but not out of this world, headphones but I don't really notice a difference between lossless and high bitrate mp3. Could be the headphones, could be my hearing, could be my iPod. I'd be driven mental trying to get the best results which is why I really try to steer clear of the whole audiophile thing. I tend to think down that road madness lies. Well, it would for me anyway.

    Also, something to consider, a compressed mp3 of say 4, 5mb will be somewhere around 30mb in lossless. I'm only encoding in lossless now because I bumped up my iPod's hard drive capacity.
  7. thread starter macrumors member

    Nov 10, 2009
    Guanajuato City, Mexico
    Well, I didn't mean encode MP3s to Lossless, I meant to import songs from CDs in lossless encode.
  8. thread starter macrumors member

    Nov 10, 2009
    Guanajuato City, Mexico
    All the people who is saying me that I can't transform MP3s to Lossless... I really meant to import CDs in Lossless. I know I can't encode Mp3s in a higher quality encode, but I already put it right.
  9. macrumors 68010

    Sep 30, 2003
    If you are using an iPod, you have no choice but Apple Lossless. You can easily convert your FLAC to Apple Lossless using a program such as Max.

    Though, you would be hard pressed to hear any sort of difference between a well-encoded MP3 (such as one encoded using LAME encoder at V0 quality) and a lossless audio file, unless you are working with classical music only. (And even then problems only arise in a few cases)

    If you want to save space you could try using Max to encode some of your albums at the LAME V0 quality level.
  10. macrumors 6502a

    Aug 26, 2009

    Lossless in most cases is really only necessary for backup purposes. If you are going to take the time to rip, I suggest using a secure ripper. Do not use iTunes built-in ripper. It works fine for everyday listening, but if you're going to spend time making a lossless backup, use EAC or dBpowerAMP to get a secure and accurate rip of your discs. dBpowerAMP can rip from CD to Apple Lossless with Accurate Rip results embedded in the tag, and then you can add those files to iTunes, tag them, and convert to AAC in iTunes or use the LAME encoder to create hiqh quality mp3's.

    I would do a blind test to see what you need to rip at 160kpbs or 192kpbs VBR AAC or mp3 is fine for most people, though the absolute max I would go is 256kps mp3 or iTunes Plus setting. I would also suggest conducting a blind test with three or four songs of varying styles and audio formats (lossless, and mp3 and AAC at varying bitrates).
  11. macrumors P6


    Jun 11, 2007
    apple lossless is great!

    not that fond of the ipods for lossless playback though (especially when trying to seek though songs etc), because the "sound card" in the ipods isnt that great - so dont expect perfect sound reproduction! you might have to get some sort of DAC.
  12. macrumors member


    Mar 12, 2010
    First post!

    I presume you are aware that all lossless formats are the same (quality-wise), this includes FLAC, ALAC (Apple Lossless), WAV and others. The difference is the size compared to each other as well as the compatibility with various players (i.e. iTunes). There is no 'better' codec, but if you want to listen to lossless music on your iPod/iTunes, it must be Apple Lossless (ALAC).

    If you have an iPod & iTunes it makes sense to import your CD's to ALAC, as this is the highest quality possible sound from your CD that is compatible with iPod/iTunes. However, if you have a large quantity of songs, it would be wise to upgrade the size of storage space on your iPod & computer as lossless files are significantly larger than other files (mp3, aac, etc).

    In regards to the sound quality from iPod's, it is not the best, but it can be improved significantly. Firstly, a quality set of head/earphones are no brainer, how good you go depends on your price range. Secondly, if you really want to get the best sound from your iPod, I would recommend getting a headphone amp or DAC. Some headphones can handle more than an iPod can put out basically and an amp makes up for this loss. Again the quality of amp you get depends on what you can afford but I think the one listed below would be suitable.

    Also, if you currently have FLAC encoded files and want to convert them to ALAC, there are a number of programs that do this. For Windows, I would recommend dBpoweramp, as mentioned earlier, and for Mac, X Lossless Decoder or Max seems to work well.

    Trust me, your ears will thank you.

    Hopefully I've helped you with your question!

  13. macrumors P6


    Jun 11, 2007
    im really fond of ALAC :) its so nice to use. i just wish the cache on the ipods were bigger!

    sort of a negative i guess, but the new ipod classics can hold a fair amount! my 60GB ipod 5G video is getting a bit full now :(

    ive been looking into a DAC lately, but im really clueless about them. im confused how the DAC connects to the ipod? does it connect via 3.5mm? or into the 30-pin? (if you know, where exactly into the 30-pin does it connect?).

    awsome thanks :D

    I use Max, but it cant go straight to ALAC? it can go to AIFF then use iTunes to go to ALAC.
  14. macrumors 6502a

    Aug 26, 2009
    Even if the iPod is great for playing back lossless files, the odds of being in an ideal listening environment with ideal audio equipment to hear the added benefit of lossless is probably pretty low.
  15. macrumors P6


    Jun 11, 2007
    true :) unless you have a really good portable DAC + headphone combo haha
  16. macrumors 68030


    Feb 20, 2004
    Sounds familiar :)

    Although I nowadays expect to get a steep discount for buying mp3s and other lossy files !

    All of my lossless files are in Apple's format, so when I buy FLACs, I simply convert them to that. I think it would be manageable though to convert your files to another lossless format once the need arises (e.g. Apple goes under etc. :p ).
    As long as you currently stay within the boundaries of the Apple ecosystem, ALAC is a great choice.

    Oh, and should you have very expensive equipment, truly exceptional hearing, and - in case you're using speakers - a perfect listening environment with well positioned absorbers and diffusors, then maybe, if you have audiophile ambitions, start experimenting with files offering a higher resolution and sampling rate. Otherwise, don't bother. That's my opinion
    Don't just fall for the marketing trick where you feel that higher numbers must automatically in all cases be better. Unfortunately the iPod will not be a good option if you do decide to go into that direction.

    Encoding regular CDs to anything "better" than lossless 16bit/44khz is useless by the way, since a higher sampling rate or sample size won't add additional information in this case.

    Another point to consider:
    In my experience, a well-mastered version of a song makes for a much greater difference than whether it is encoded in a high-bitrate-lossy or lossless format. Some of my lossless files that are ripped from recent Best-Of CDs sound horrible, because their loudness has been pushed up so high, that you end up with a wall of sound with no definition or clarity and without any "punch". In this case, a higher sampling rate or higher resolution or the fact that it's "lossless" doesn't help a single bit. The same song, from the original album mastered decades ago, compressed to AAC 256kbps, sounds pristine, since the mastering engineers used to leave generous headroom and allowed for a dynamic and defined sound.

    I sometimes hear people complaining after they bought some song off the internet, about how bad MP3s sound. In almost all of these cases people are complaing about the (excessive) dynamic range compression of the song and not the data compression. That song will sound equally bad when ripped lossless from the CD.
  17. macrumors 6502a


    Mar 4, 2007
    [shrug] 99% of my 180GB music library is in ALAC, and that's what I have loaded onto my Sept. '09 iPod Classic & 16GB iPhone 3G S. Battery life does take a hit, but I don't mind that. I'm just too lazy to maintain a 2nd "iPod-only" library w/ lower bit rate AAC. So it's not merely about "sound quality" concerns for me...and I do agree there's just not much difference between 256kbps AAC & ALAC when listening through an iPod even w/ "nice headphones" (I use Audio Technica ATH-ESW9 portables & Monster Pro Turbine Copper IEMs; looking into portable amps as well).

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