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Thread: FLAC or ALAC or both?

  1. #1

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    FLAC or ALAC or both?

    Dear All,

    I am currently planning to re-rip my full library to have them ideally in accurate rip (about 1,200 albums). I am a mac User, but I am using next to iTunes (for iphone) also Roon and Sonos in my house. So my question is, should I go for ALAC or Flac or both? Apart from the fact, that iTunes only understands ALAC and not Flac (while Roon and Sonos can handle FLAC), is there anything else that speaks for or against one of them? Are there any technical limitations, I am not aware of?

    Also, would you consider the multi-encoder functionality of the CD Ripper or does this not make sense at all (e.g. one music folder only for iTunes with ALAC and other albums I bought in iTunes) and another folder only for Roon and Sonos with Flac files).

    I am using a Mac Mini (2018) with the external Apple super drive, but i bought, in addition, an external Pioneer and Hitachi-LG drive. I am planning to start with the Pioneer for this project, as it seems it should be the best drive out of this three.

    Thanks for any hints.

    Best,
    Christian

  2. #2
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    Re: FLAC or ALAC or both?

    FLAC will work well with Roon and Sonos. But I don't think will work with iTunes. Both FLAC and ALAC are lossless, so in that way it doesn't matter. I prefer FLAC because FLAC files have built-in CRC checksums embedded in the files. This means one can run a batch dbpa converter job anytime in the future on your files with [TEST CONVERSION] and easily determine if any of your FLAC files are corrupted. ALAC doesn't have the same capacity. But as far as I know you can't play FLAC files in iTunes. So maybe your plan to have both is a good idea.

    You can use either multi-encoder or rip to FLAC, then separately create an ALAC version for use in itunes. If it turns out that you mostly use Roon and Sonos as playback systems, and only itunes for loading some things on your iphone, then you might want to consider using dbpa's PerfectTunes. I use this and can easily add music files to my iphone and ipad from my FLAC library, with PerfectTunes converting the selected FLAC files "on the fly" to a different format. In my case, that's a lossy version, as I don't need lossless files on my portable devices. But in your case that could be ALAC files. (I tend not to like multiencoder, because after a ripping session, I then look at various album rips via a tag browser, and I often immediately notice that I should have edited a tag differently etc. If you are doing multiencoder, you now have TWO sets of files to correct. But many people love multi-encoder.

    Bottom line, I suggest that whatever you do, you at least have one set of FLAC files for archive purposes (because of the embedded checksum issue I mentioned).

  3. #3

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    Re: FLAC or ALAC or both?

    Hi Garym,

    thank you very much. some questions on your reply:
    1) You are right, Flac does not work with apple/iTunes. But these CRC checksums, that you mentioned, are they automatically built-in in FLAC, or do I need to consider this in the settings somewhere. and if so, where? What about AIFF? this would be my second iTunes option. Does AIFF have these CRC checksums or also not?

    2) can you please explain me better, how you use PerfectTunes to convert FLACs on the fly and add them to your iphone? For me, it is already clear, that I will use mainly Roon and Sonos when listening to music at home. But for mobile usage, I need iTunes and iTunes Match to first load my full library into iTunes and then via iTunes Match into iCloud on my devices. Happy to learn, if there is a better way by using PerfectTunes (and keeping out iTunes if I understood you correctly).

    Thanks.

  4. #4
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    Re: FLAC or ALAC or both?

    Quote Originally Posted by Apple-Fan View Post
    Hi Garym,

    thank you very much. some questions on your reply:
    1) You are right, Flac does not work with apple/iTunes. But these CRC checksums, that you mentioned, are they automatically built-in in FLAC, or do I need to consider this in the settings somewhere. and if so, where? What about AIFF? this would be my second iTunes option. Does AIFF have these CRC checksums or also not?
    No, this is automatic in FLAC....nothing to set. AIFF does not have these embedded checksums. Only FLAC.


    Quote Originally Posted by Apple-Fan View Post
    2. can you please explain me better, how you use PerfectTunes to convert FLACs on the fly and add them to your iphone? For me, it is already clear, that I will use mainly Roon and Sonos when listening to music at home. But for mobile usage, I need iTunes and iTunes Match to first load my full library into iTunes and then via iTunes Match into iCloud on my devices. Happy to learn, if there is a better way by using PerfectTunes (and keeping out iTunes if I understood you correctly).

    Thanks.
    Read about TuneFusion (sorry, not PerfectTunes) on the forum here (they have their own area) and at the illustrate product page (click at top of this page). I use foobar2000 mobile on my iphone/ipad (which does play FLAC by the way), and it syncs automatically with TuneFusion, where I "select" albums I select to be synched. But TuneFusion can do lots of other sorts of synching. You could set it to convert albums from your FLAC library to a different directory as either ALAC or m4a or mp3 or whatever, that is watched by iTunes, and then these files can by synched to your iDevices directly, or I assume, via iTunes match.

    EDIT: or just rip to FLAC, then use batch converter to convert all the FLAC files to, say, m4a versions for iTunes, as I assume ALAC doesn't matter, as the iTunes match versions will be lossy m4a versions, not ALAC (but I've never used so not sure about that).
    Last edited by garym; 01-08-2021 at 04:50 PM.

  5. #5

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    Re: FLAC or ALAC or both?

    perfect, thanks for your help. I will go with Flac and then use Batch Converter to get my iTunes copies, as you recommended. And in this case, you are right, no need for ALAC, m4a versions should be fine. Thanks.

  6. #6

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    Re: FLAC or ALAC or both?

    Dear Garym,

    sorry, another point here:
    What are you recommendations, when converting an Apple Lossy Format (AAC):
    1) Should I tick under Target "Quality (VBR)" or "Bit Rate (CBR)?
    2) Which Bit Rate should I choose? (I know, that in iTunes most stuff is available now in 256 kbps, but here in the selection it goes until 512 kbps)?
    3) Should I use the multi-Encoder (for Ripping in FLAC and in AAC), or is ist faster, to rip first everything only in FLAC and then use afterwards the Batch Converter to get AAC versions for iTunes?

    Thank you!

  7. #7
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    Re: FLAC or ALAC or both?

    1) Should I tick under Target "Quality (VBR)" or "Bit Rate (CBR)?

    I'm a fan of VBR. The Codec is then smart enough to use more bits for passages of music that can benefit from that an fewer bits for passages that don't need more bits.

    2) Which Bit Rate should I choose? (I know, that in iTunes most stuff is available now in 256 kbps, but here in the selection it goes until 512 kbps)?

    VBR that averages about 256 is plenty (and probably overkill, see final note below). It would be rare for a song at about 192kbps to NOT be transparent (i.e., indistinguishable from the original CD). I use VBR ~192kbps for my lossy conversions for use on iThings. And even that is overkill as I suspect even 128kbps would be transparent for almost all my music.

    3) Should I use the multi-Encoder (for Ripping in FLAC and in AAC), or is ist faster, to rip first everything only in FLAC and then use afterwards the Batch Converter to get AAC versions for iTunes?

    This is really a personal opinion. Many people like and use mulitencoder. Many don't. I'm in the camp of rip to FLAC, then review rips to insure all my tagging and naming is how I like it, then make any corrections. I've ripped about 6,000 CDs....believe me, you'll always find something! And currently, I don't use mulitcoder, because I don't even want lossy versions of my entire library. I use TuneFusion to create lossy versions "on the fly" if I decide to put something on my iThings. This way I don't need to maintain a separate lossy library.

    I understand that your use is different, as you want AAC (m4a) version of your entire library on iTunes so it can be read by Apple Match and then available to all your devices in the cloud.

    QUESTION. I don't use Apple Match, but from what I've read, I always thought that no matter codec you use for putting songs in iTunes, the Apple Match version in the cloud will be whatever Apple puts there. That is, it's NOT a copy of your actual file. I've read in the past of people using Apple Match to put in 128kbps songs and have Apple Match create better 256kbps versions in the cloud. Again, I only know what I've read and even that is in the distant past. But if I'm right, I'm not sure it makes too much difference what you put in iTunes. But given that you might sometime directly use the files in iTunes (rather than the Cloud versions), you want them to be decent versions. For that you certainly are very safe using VBR ~256kbps (whatever that's called for AAC/m4a files; for mp3 files, that would be VBR -V0).

  8. #8

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    Re: FLAC or ALAC or both?

    Thanks again, as always.

    Can you explain to me the difference between VBR or CBR? in the Settings, by default Bit Rate is ticked, and then I can adjust the Bit Rates from 8 to 512 kbps. When ticking VBR (as you prefer), I have choose between Quality 0 (with estimated bitrate of 30 kbps) until Quality 127 (with estimated bitrate of 320 kbps). In other words, can you say to a Newbie, which of the 2 choices in this setting (Quality, VBR) or Bit Rate, CBR) delivers the better results? I hope my question is clear.

    Regarding Apple iTunes Match, this is exactly the point. iTunes match works only with what you have in your iTunes library. But if I go for the lossless format of FLAC, I have the problem, that iTunes cannot read Flac and thus, iTunes match cannot make a copy into the Apple cloud. If I would go for Apple lossless formats like AIFF or ALAC, then iTunes works and also iTunes match, but I thought, the best and most common standard for a lossless version, that works also in a non-Apple world is FLAC. This brings me back to my idea of multi-Encoder...ah, a nightmare!

  9. #9
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    Re: FLAC or ALAC or both?

    Quote Originally Posted by Apple-Fan View Post
    Thanks again, as always.

    Can you explain to me the difference between VBR or CBR? in the Settings, by default Bit Rate is ticked, and then I can adjust the Bit Rates from 8 to 512 kbps. When ticking VBR (as you prefer), I have choose between Quality 0 (with estimated bitrate of 30 kbps) until Quality 127 (with estimated bitrate of 320 kbps). In other words, can you say to a Newbie, which of the 2 choices in this setting (Quality, VBR) or Bit Rate, CBR) delivers the better results? I hope my question is clear.

    Regarding Apple iTunes Match, this is exactly the point. iTunes match works only with what you have in your iTunes library. But if I go for the lossless format of FLAC, I have the problem, that iTunes cannot read Flac and thus, iTunes match cannot make a copy into the Apple cloud. If I would go for Apple lossless formats like AIFF or ALAC, then iTunes works and also iTunes match, but I thought, the best and most common standard for a lossless version, that works also in a non-Apple world is FLAC. This brings me back to my idea of multi-Encoder...ah, a nightmare!
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Variable_bitrate

    You can spend the next 100 years reading internet discussions of "which is best for sound quality". And most of the stuff you'll find is complete nonsense wrapped in fancy psuedoscience discussion.

    What I'd tell my music loving friends that care about sound quality and want flexibility: I'd suggest VBR and choose whatever quality gives you estimated bitrate of 256kbps. This is more than enough potential quality and probably overkill. But 320kbps is major overkill. And keep in mind that for the *potential* best quality, you have the FLAC lossless files. That said, the odds of being able to tell the difference between the FLAC verison and a 256kbps version is essentially zero. But it's nice to have the LOSSLESS version (like FLAC) as a permanent archive (as you can then create any sort of lossy versions later if you choose to; say some super duper new lossy CODEC gets invented that can save 1000 files in the space of 10, while maintaining good sound quality. In this case, you have the FLAC files and with a few mouse clicks can create an archive using the new codec, with no re-ripping needed.

    And since you have the FLAC archive version, why not use that at home in your Roon or Sonos setup. Then you don't even have to question "best bit rate".for stuff you're using at home. Stuff you're using on the move, is coming from Apple and more than good enough for listening on portable devices.

    p.s. I used to be a major iTunes user and I understand where you are coming from trying to maintain this. I tried for several years. But the best thing I ever did was give up iTunes all together. I now don't have to worry about maintaining an iTunes version of things. I only need my FLAC files. These work in my Roon setup, my LMS setup, on my office computer running foobar2000. And I use TuneFusion to send files to my iphone and ipad for use on my portable devices WITHOUT THE NEED FOR MAINTAINING A LOSSY (MP3 OR AAC) LIBRARY.

  10. #10
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    Re: FLAC or ALAC or both?

    And again regarding Apple Match: I'm not sure you're understanding my point. Yes, Apple Match only matches what is in your iTunes library. And obviously, FLAC files can't be imported into your iTunes Library. So you need some format that will import into iTunes. BUT ONCE IN YOUR ITUNES LIBRARY, APPLE MATCH PROVIDES A VERSION OF THAT TRACK IN THE CLOUD THAT IS *NOT* IDENTICAL TO YOUR ITUNES VERSION. IT IS WHATEVER APPLE HAS, CREATED USING APPLE'S OWN ENCODER AND AT WHATEVER BIT RATE APPLE USES. Whether you have a 320kbps file or 64kbps file in your iTunes library, Apple Match may still give you a 256kbps version in the cloud. (again, I'm not an apple match user, but this is what I've read in the past).

  11. #11
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    Re: FLAC or ALAC or both?

    Another approach you might take if you are committed to iTunes and apple match.

    1. Rip to ALAC with dbpa. This will give you a lossless version of all the rips and you can use these in iTunes (Apple Match), Roon, Sonos, LMS, and every other modern server/player I'm aware of.
    2. Keep a backup or two of your ALAC LIbrary on separate USB drives, not kept plugged in, and preferably at 2 separate locations (think fire, flood, theft).

    Most people can simply stop right there. If you really want to be ready for a future problem, add *3 below.

    3. Create a FLAC copy of your library. Use dbpa music converter to create a FLAC version from your ALAC files. The main benefit of the FLAC files is the embedded checksums which I mentioned earlier. But this is only important if you are trying to check for file corruption, etc. at some future date. For current use, your ALAC files do everything you want.

  12. #12

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    Re: FLAC or ALAC or both?

    Quote Originally Posted by garym View Post
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Variable_bitrate

    You can spend the next 100 years reading internet discussions of "which is best for sound quality". And most of the stuff you'll find is complete nonsense wrapped in fancy psuedoscience discussion.

    What I'd tell my music loving friends that care about sound quality and want flexibility: I'd suggest VBR and choose whatever quality gives you estimated bitrate of 256kbps. This is more than enough potential quality and probably overkill. But 320kbps is major overkill. And keep in mind that for the *potential* best quality, you have the FLAC lossless files. That said, the odds of being able to tell the difference between the FLAC verison and a 256kbps version is essentially zero. But it's nice to have the LOSSLESS version (like FLAC) as a permanent archive (as you can then create any sort of lossy versions later if you choose to; say some super duper new lossy CODEC gets invented that can save 1000 files in the space of 10, while maintaining good sound quality. In this case, you have the FLAC files and with a few mouse clicks can create an archive using the new codec, with no re-ripping needed.

    And since you have the FLAC archive version, why not use that at home in your Roon or Sonos setup. Then you don't even have to question "best bit rate".for stuff you're using at home. Stuff you're using on the move, is coming from Apple and more than good enough for listening on portable devices.

    p.s. I used to be a major iTunes user and I understand where you are coming from trying to maintain this. I tried for several years. But the best thing I ever did was give up iTunes all together. I now don't have to worry about maintaining an iTunes version of things. I only need my FLAC files. These work in my Roon setup, my LMS setup, on my office computer running foobar2000. And I use TuneFusion to send files to my iphone and ipad for use on my portable devices WITHOUT THE NEED FOR MAINTAINING A LOSSY (MP3 OR AAC) LIBRARY.
    Well said, thanks for this summmary!

  13. #13

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    Re: FLAC or ALAC or both?

    ha, very good approach!

    Regarding Point 3: If I rip to ALAC, as you mentioned, and I would like to make this third step with a FLAC copy. Will I also get this checksum by using the dbpa music converter? I am asking, because I thought, ALAC doesn't have it, so I am wondering, how it can be there in the FLAC copy when the ripped source will be a ALAC version...? I hope you understand my point here...

  14. #14

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    Re: FLAC or ALAC or both?

    Quote Originally Posted by garym View Post
    And again regarding Apple Match: I'm not sure you're understanding my point. Yes, Apple Match only matches what is in your iTunes library. And obviously, FLAC files can't be imported into your iTunes Library. So you need some format that will import into iTunes. BUT ONCE IN YOUR ITUNES LIBRARY, APPLE MATCH PROVIDES A VERSION OF THAT TRACK IN THE CLOUD THAT IS *NOT* IDENTICAL TO YOUR ITUNES VERSION. IT IS WHATEVER APPLE HAS, CREATED USING APPLE'S OWN ENCODER AND AT WHATEVER BIT RATE APPLE USES. Whether you have a 320kbps file or 64kbps file in your iTunes library, Apple Match may still give you a 256kbps version in the cloud. (again, I'm not an apple match user, but this is what I've read in the past).
    Yes, this is correct. My point here was, that if I go the extra mile of having a second library only for iTunes devices, then I could also rip into an Apple format with higher quality (even when I know, that from iTunes Match I get 256 kbps as maximum back). This is why i am struggling to find the best compromise for me, but maybe your idea with using ALAC as the main format for everything and a Flac copy is a good approach (see your last post.)
    Last edited by Apple-Fan; 01-10-2021 at 12:20 PM.

  15. #15
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    Re: FLAC or ALAC or both?

    Quote Originally Posted by Apple-Fan View Post
    ha, very good approach!

    Regarding Point 3: If I rip to ALAC, as you mentioned, and I would like to make this third step with a FLAC copy. Will I also get this checksum by using the dbpa music converter? I am asking, because I thought, ALAC doesn't have it, so I am wondering, how it can be there in the FLAC copy when the ripped source will be a ALAC version...? I hope you understand my point here...
    The FLAC files, when created with dbpa music converter, will have embedded checksums upon creation of the FLAC files by the converter. A created FLAC file from any source has an embedded "md5 hash for the raw audio data" (i.e., the checksum) by default.

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