Society of Sound file format update

On the 20th of April we implemented our decision to change all future Society of Sound album releases to AIFF file format, replacing the previously supplied FLAC and ALAC.

We decided to change formats because our listening shows that the absolute best sound is gained with no compression at all. We have however listened to your feedback and the next Society of Sound release on the 15th June, and all future albums, will be available in the below file formats:

AIFF 24-bit – Uncompressed audio with no compromise; studio master quality.

FLAC 24-bit – Slight compression makes file smaller yet still high quality.

ALAC 16-bit – Smaller files compatible with portable Apple devices.

 

18 Comments

  • Matthias A says:

    It is a pity to see the move to Apple-centric formats because Apple serves only so small a fraction of the audio world.

    The article above tries to create the false illusion that AIFF 24-bit (“absolute best sound is gained with no compression at all”) were higher sound quality than FLAC 24-bit (“file smaller yet still high quality”).
    This is outrageous. Technically, AIFF and FLAC 24-bit are both lossless formats, true to the bit, there is absolutely zero difference in sound quality, only that AIFF wastes space, which FLAC does not.

    I do not mind that 24-bit audio is presented in two formats, but I do object to changing the 16-bit audio (which suffices for “on the go” music for me) to ALAC only, and ask that you please continue providing FLAC 16-bit.

    The move to AIFF wastes disk and more importantly expensive flash memory space on the mobile devices (be that the USB stick for my car audio, or my Android device), and also wastes download bandwidth because ZIP is not optimized to compress audio signals, so a zip -9 compressed AIFF will be bigger than a lump of flac –best compressed files.

    Personally, I can convert from AIFF or ALAC to FLAC, so for me it is merely an additional step that I did not have to make in the past, but not everyone is as skilled with computers as I am, so the bottom line is that the change to provide 16-bit only in ALAC poses a new problem of accessibility.

    Finally, FLAC is well established with all the lossless-streaming devices across vendors, I therefore strongly propose to continue providing FLAC 16-bit, FLAC 24-bit, which are the formats 90% of the world care about, and B&W feel free to additionally provide formats that are accessible to the Apple users.

    Please keep FLAC both in 24 and 16 bit masterings, and make sure that the 16-bit mastering is not just truncated from 24-bit, but properly re-mastered (at least with proper dithering and resampling before the re-quantization).

    Thank you for your kind consideration of my proposals.

  • Christian says:

    Thank You! With FLAC the SoS will become useful again.

  • James Osborne says:

    Many thanks for taking on board the feedback – much appreciated.

  • Ben says:

    Thanks for making FLAC24 available again, although your description implies it is no longer “Studio Master Quality”. For anyone confused by that, don’t be. FLAC uses lossless file compression (like a ZIP file) rather than lossy audio compression (like MP3). FLAC will sound as good as an AIFF as long as the player has enough processing power to decompress on the fly. If my phone can manage it then I’m pretty sure your audio system can too!
    Sorry to be pedantic, but these things matter.

  • oskar says:

    thank you very much for listening to our feedback!

  • Peter Chapman says:

    Thank you for re-instating FLAC. I am now able to install on my Seagate media server, which does not recognize AIFF as media files.

  • Mario says:

    I too use Apple Lossless and am so glad SoS is making it available once again but I recently downloaded the latest album on AIFF (4608 kpbs) and must say I can truly tell the difference. Both are great options and sound amazing!

  • Stuart Paterson says:

    Thank you for listening to your customers. FLAC 24 forever!

  • pete s. says:

    Thank you for reinstating FLAC!!!!

  • Klaus says:

    Thank you for offering FLAC again.
    This will be (for me) more useful.

  • Federico says:

    Thank you for FLAC!!!

  • InPlainEnglish says:

    Thank you for listening to your customers. I was pleasantly surprised when I saw your email announcing the change in course!

  • Papa Jay says:

    Thanks for bringen FLAC24 back again :)

  • John Mejía says:

    As a user B&W installer and passionate about audio and member of the Society of Sound thanks for his efforts in how to perceive the sound of music in the real world I have enjoyed since his beginnings the sound FLAC 24 bit However the recent change that incorporated by AIFF mentioning the slight loss by decompression process and other factors in some respects can be experienced however I was surprised that I just downloaded one of his albums AIFF 24-bit and I could enjoy it from my imac making use of itunes via airplay on my receiver Marantz SR-6006 and Bowers and Wilkins dm601 S3

  • Tim Turner says:

    Oh I get it now. Yes I agree with this decision to include an uncompressed format. I’d prefer WAV, but AIFF is also good.

  • Robert Follis says:

    Thanks for adding AIFF. Having been involved in DAC and Amp design and testing, it is quite incontrovertible that the totally uncompressed formats AIFF (&WAV) sound better than FLAC or Apple Lossless. Great decision.Cheers Robert

  • Frederick says:

    Personally, I prefer the sound of AIFF (it seems that the CPU not having to decompress on the fly like FLAC generates less noise), and storage is cheap, so I prefer that format being available.

  • Joe Lubow says:

    I am not sure I buy that AIFF-24 sounds different than FLAC-24 or ALAC-24. And I’m quite sure that in any of those formats 24-bit sounds superior to 16-bit. The compression used in ALAC and FLAC is lossless, and the players decompress them on the fly to retrieve all the original data. I have been unable to hear a difference, and I can almost pick out differences between files of different bit-depths, bit rates, and sample rates.

    If you only want to offer one ALAC file, that file should certainly be ALAC-24 48k, since those are the highest resolution files that can be played on an iPhone. It would be preferable if in every format you offered the highest bit-depth and sampling rate, as well as another option for “i-Phone-Ready” files in ALAC-24 48k.

    While only a small number of people use Macs, a very large number use iPhones. All of us who joined this club for hi-res files and want to put them on our iPhones have to download them as 24-bit FLAC, convert them to 24-bit ALAC, and then downsample them to 48k. I am totally uninterested in 16-bit files; so while I need ALAC files for my iPhone, I’ll make them myself if that’s the only way to get hi-res (which is the point of this membership).

    Ideally you’d offer 24-bit ALAC files in both their highest resolution and 48k. I would download both – highest resolution for playing in my living room and 48k for playing in my car from my phone. Downloading files in the formats most readily usable is preferable to downloading and converting – and many people probably don’t know how to convert them. When the FLAC and AIFF files are sampled above 48k (normally wonderful), those poor folks are stuck with 16-bit files, because those are the only files you offer that will play on their phones without conversion.

    In the ideal world you’d have three drop down menus:

    Format:
    AIFF
    WAV (to make the windows folks happy)
    FLAC
    ALAC

    Bit Depth:
    24
    16

    Sampling Rate:
    192
    176
    96
    48
    44.1

    You’d explain that all of the formats sound the same (or maybe some folks think AIFF and WAV sound better), but that 24-bit sounds better than 16 bit (often a more accurate and richer bass), that many people think higher sampling rates sound better as well, and that for iPhones people should select AIFF or ALAC at no more than 48k in either 16 or 24-bit. For other devices people can choose the format that’s most convenient for them, and the bit depth and sampling rate that represents their choice between file size and sound quality.

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