How do you play your 24-bit FLAC files?

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The 24-bit FLAC files we offer full members of Society of Sound are proving incredibly popular. They are close to being the most popular of the three formats we offer, which is both reassuring, and a little bit surprising. Reassuring because we feel that they offer the best sound quality possible, and we know that like us you care about sound quality. Surprising, because they are a little trickier to handle than the other options – for example, Apple Lossless, which you can just dump them into the massively popular iTunes and listen to them.

So we’d like to ask you a question? How do you play them? On your computer, streamed to your hi-fi, copied to DVD or some other way?

566 Comments

  • David Grant says:

    I convert them to AIFF using XLD and play the in iTunes on a Mac.

  • Erwin says:

    I convert the 24-bit FLAC album folder to AIFF using XLD. XLD is for Mac’s only, free to download and very simple to set-up, even cover-art is embedded fine. Converted items are auto-added to iTunes. I play with Amarra MINI software because this auto-changes to the correct sample-frequency (unlike iTunes) on the fly. Hardware is a Mac mini with 2TB Iomega MiniMax. With a Oyaide d+ FireWire interconnect to a Weiss DAC2 (with manual digital volume control) and then straight with XLR interconnects into a pair of Emotiva XPA-1 monoblocks. Speakers are Jamo R909 (don’t worry, my surround system is B&W CM). I hope to find more Jazz and Rock here instead of Classical! Later… Jools is what I like and I don’t think I am alone!

  • Erwin says:

    info about XLD (for Mac users!)
    http://www.macupdate.com/info.php/id/23430/x-lossless-decoder

    Developer of XLD website:
    http://tmkk.pv.land.to/xld/index_e.html

    There are various tutorials if you Google.
    Keep in mind: if you stream wifi, Mac reduces the spec to ALAC. That’s why I use a dedicated Mac (a mini)

    More? Here:
    http://www.computeraudiophile.com/

  • BrianMW says:

    I play a mixture of FLAC and Apple Lossless using an Apple TV front end with 8TB storage that then connects to a Musical Fidelity DAC and Valve buffer before heading to the Arcam Pre/Power AV Amplification.

    I am a vinyl lover and love relaxing with the LP12 playing through the Ear/Yoshino to my 803′s but, I cant ignore the convenience and fun of playing the digital formats, when it was just MP3′s convenience was the only thing they had to offer but now Quality can be there also then Digital is a serious consideration for even high end AV/HiFi imho.

  • Andy says:

    I use Twisted Flac from Apple on an MacMini to define the flac file folder, Twisted makes the flac file appear as a .wav file, which iTunes will plaback without and conversion,
    I then have Pure Music (www.channld.com) tied to iTunes, this firstly loads the file into RAM before playback, this audibly reduces jitter, the usb signal is then sent to my Belcanto3.5VB DAC.
    Resolution changes on the fly depending on the file resoluiton, the BelCanto confirms the change in resolution on it’s display.
    Then balanced out to an EAR-Yoshini 868 Pre, 890 Power and 2 Pairs of Quad ESL 2905′s connected in series.
    Without doubt the best digital I have ever heard, I had a DCS Puccini before I went this route.
    Have also used Media Monkey on the PC to convert the FLAC to AIFF then transfer, is tidier as it has the tag for the cover preview and stacks the album better in iTunes, te reuslts are basically the same.

  • Andrew Henry says:

    I’m a bit put-off by the whole 24bit thing: Yes, it’s great, I appreciate it, and the effort SoS is putting into this, and I wish it was more mainstream.

    But the hardware and setup required to make the most of 24bit is prohibitively complicated to most beginners.

    I bought a new Denon AVR2310 with my B&W M1s anf thought I was sort of future proof for a while. Turns out the you cannot transfer 24bit files over optical cable ot coax digital becuase there is not enough bandwidth! The files, which play at 24bit 48Khz in the status window of my Pioneer player (I have no 24/96′es), display as playing at 16/44 on the Denon due to this limitation.

    “Ahh, but I’ll buy a NEW disc player”, I thought,” and it’ll have HDMI and the bandwidth shall sufficeth”. No. Because there are digital copy limitations to the quality one is allowed to play over HDMI: thanks RIAA! So you have to get a player that is Denon Link 3rd enabled, and my brand new Denon AVR-2310 has no DenonLink, cause you’ve got to buy their top of the range AVR-4310 for that luxury. DenonLink gets around the copy protection facility of HDMI due to them having licensed the technology probably. So, if you have a DenonLink 3rd (or 4th generation) enabled player, and a DenonLink enabled receiver, then you can connect 1 single HDMI cable and play back digitally at 24/96 to the receiver from a player.

    The alternative, which is what I currently do, is to do the decoding in the Pioneer player using it’s DAC and output music over analogue connectors to my receiver. Many may now gasp in horror at using analogue links, but apparently, the DAC in most DVD/SACD players is on a par if not better than in the receiver, so you lose very little. The noise that may appear due to the analogue link can probably not be discerned by the human ear. It’s just a pain in the butt to have 5.1 analogue wires instead of one neat little HDMI.

    You think playing from a PC is any salvation? Well for starters you’ve *got* to have an external DAC that cleans the signal (most go with DAC Magic II) because the electronic interference can screw things up quite well. But you’re not out of the woods yet! Your sound cards driver is limited to 16/44 in most cases unless you have a professional grade sound card. You can download the ASIO 4 All driver that is a replacement audio driver for Windows XP/Vista etc, and then the audio application you use has to be able to output to that ASIO audio driver (like Foobar2000 with the asio plugin: good luck finding many other applications that have ASIO output!). Then, and only then, with ASIO enabled app >> ASIO driver >> DAC Magic >> receiver, can you play FLAC24s at top 24/48 or 24/96 quality. Personally, I don’t like a PC in the living room setup, and I have not yet been able to find a media streamer that has true 24/96 support, AS WELL AS support for all the other stuff I require: some players have 24/96, but then I have to sacrifice other features I want.

    Tell me playing a 16/44 CD in a disc player is not simpler!

    Rant over. But keep up the great work!

  • Basim says:

    I store and my flac files and othermusic on a qnap network attached storage box running squeezecentre, stream to squeezebox, digital coax output to perpetual technologies p3/p1a DAC, analog signal to musical fidelity x-a2 amp then to b&w 603s3′s. Works beautifully.

  • Eric says:

    I have a SlimDevices Transporter digital player, as well as two of their SlimBox devices. The Slim devices play FLAC natively and I stream them via SPDIF to my receiver or D/A convertors. I have encoded all of my DVD-A and DTS discs to FLAC, as well, and also play them on the Transporter with decoding done up to 96k/24bit and 5.1. It’s a GREAT to listen to all of my music.

    As a side note, I’ve been in the recording biz since 1971 and have always been on the cutting edge of technology because of my job. However, since I’m a Mac user, playback of FLAC files on my computer has always been a challenge. I usually convert FLAC to some other format that is more Mac friendly when I need to.

    Thanks for Bowers & Wilkens for their great site and selection of music to share with their users!!

  • Simes_pep says:

    Squeezebox Classic, through a Pink Triangle Ordinal (which surprisely works with the 24/48k stream), Sim Audio i5 and B&W 805Ns – gives CD through the same DAC, a good run, but still not vinyl!

    I also convert the flac files into ALAC format for an Apple TV, which plays though an Toslink connection to a Tag AV32R (as it more of a Media Server) and then back through the HT input on the i5.

    I let iTunes down-convert them to ACC 128k for the iPod, as this is an old 20GB one and lives in the car. For the iPhone I would only have a selection of my library, so they can be a higher format and selected by playlist.

  • Joé says:

    Linn Majik DS-I

  • Brian (Dublin) says:

    I play them from Songbird via Optical from my Mackbook Pro to my Cyrus Preamp/Dac – stunning sound.

    Why do we not see files with a sample rate much above 48K? Wouldn’t 96k be better?

  • Philippe (Brussels) says:

    I run the FLAC 24/96 files on pc (VISTA) with J River Media Center
    linked to AYRE QB-9 DAC(usb)
    linked to PASS Preamp and Pass monoblocks
    linked to BMW 802D

    Fabulous sound !

    But “ordinary” FLAC files 16/44 on th same system make excellent sound too…

  • sam says:

    can i burn flac files to cd and play it using my cambridge 804 cd player?

  • souren says:

    i play them directly from my pc.
    software – winamp/gom/power dvd.
    speakers – tanashi 5.1 speakers

  • Joao Godinho says:

    I play them with my Denon AVR-4308 through USB and with my WD TV player

  • nella says:

    I’m using wInamp or my PC….. The sound is amazing!

  • Allan says:

    After doing much research, I settled on a WD live hd media player. It will play 96/24, but down samples to 48/24, it wil have to do for now. It still sounds great, and works well until someone comes out with a solution that offers the full resolution.

    I simply copy the files onto a usb notebook harddrive, then plut that into the WD tv usb port. Fast, easy, and it integrates into my system seemlessly.

  • Nicola says:

    I listen to FLAC with VLC,of course (http://videolan.org)

  • François says:

    Mediamonkey (kernel streaming mode) – Sound card M-AUDIO firewire – Spdif to Dacmagic – XLR to NAD 218 THX – JBL 250 TI : very great sound !

  • cinematic says:

    I use XLD to convert FLAC to Apple Lossless. That way, I can play via itunes and sync with my iPod

  • Hugo says:

    Use my laptop with Realtek HD Audio card connected to my Kenwood THX using an optical output. Depending on the file resolutions, it can be on 48khz or 96Khz / 24bit FLAC files. VLC Player.

  • Hernan says:

    For 24 bit Flac I use iMac (chek Audio Midi to 96 kHz 24bits 2 ch) – mini Toslink -True Colours Industries Coral optic cable – Cambridge Magic DAC – Mit Avt Proline balanced – Primare I30 -
    Audioquest Midnigth – Pro Ac Studio 100
    Not very expensive, sound Uhh!!!!!!

  • Dirk Muehlenbein says:

    I play them with foobar2000 (WASAPI-Output) connected to my external Thorens DAC.

  • Rob Kendrick says:

    On a media PC via TOSlink directly into the back of our audio processor. Eventually, through a S5P6410 embedded CPU, doing four-times oversampling and then out via a couple of WM8741 DACs, if I get this circuit finished.

  • Guy Waterbley says:

    Hello,
    Not a comment, but a question:
    Up till now I download in Apple Losless on my mac, I play the music via my ipod connected to my NAD Master pre- amp to my Rotel power amp to my B&W 804′s and it sounds great.
    Can I improve this by downloading in 24 bit Flac, using this configuration?
    If so, how do I do this, as I am a computer geek (almost)
    You can also e mail the answer: gwaterbley@pandora.be
    I would appreciate any help.
    (This site is wonderfull, I shall renew my subscription forever)

    a B&W fanatic

    Guy

  • Jan van Broekhoven says:

    Flac’s to ALAC’s
    Playing in iTunes on a Mac
    Streaming on WIFI to Apple Airport Express
    Optical out to Beresford Caiman DAC
    Audio out to Rotel RA 980-BX
    Audio out to KEF 104/2.

    Mix of modern times and vintage. Good enough for me!

  • Steve says:

    Convert to lossless->stream from MacMini to Benchmark DAC via apple airport-> parasound JC2 -> JC1 MonoBlocks -> Speakers

  • Daniel Genesee says:

    I drop the 24-bit FLAC onto XLD decoder for Mac, which is set to convert it to 24-bit Apple Lossless. After the conversion is complete, the files are automatically added to a playlist in iTunes.

  • mike barrett says:

    This is way off-topic, but I feel I must comment on this excellent post , as I am trying to find out what and how other similar minded folks are doing about listening to music in HD.

    Andrew Henry -congratulations and heartfelt thanks for the most informative and amusing (and constructive) “rant” I have ever read on any site I have visited in over 15 yrs. of lurking!!!

    I am an ancient “hi-fi” geek from the days when vinyl was the ONLY way to replay music and Quad ELS speakers were less than $100 each (£57 actually), so I was completely ignorant of all the little (lol) irritations I may experience in pursuit of “the closest approach to the original sound”.

    Incidentally, B&W even then were in the forefront of speaker manufacture.

  • Alexandre Tsoukalis says:

    All digital experience 24/96 : Squeezbox Touch > TACT M2150 > BW802
    Digital amplifiers prove their virtues loosing nothing from 256 bits more per step (16 to 24 upgrade) and 3rd harmonic of 16KHz (3*16=48 KHz sinus got from 96KHz sampling).
    2L free 24/96 flac string quartet shows what is the path for realistic violin sound.
    It proves in practice how wrong was decision not to give digital output from SACD.
    I strongly suggest to everybody to put all the money on speakers, Lyngdorf is sold at 1800Euros and Touch at 266.

  • victor says:

    hola buenas noches la verdad siempre fui seguidor de la mejor calidad de sonido pero itunes ingreso ala calidad y me di cuenta cuando grave un disco en el imac es sorprendente
    y escucharlo con el con un pre acuphase 303 ,cd x777es , bryston y los DM603s3 exelente hay que

  • will says:

    Stream via DLNA (mediatomb) from my pc, over the network, to my Onkyo TX-NR906. Flat out sick, makes your system sound like you never thought it was capable of.

  • Peter McK says:

    I use a Linn Majik DS, with Majik amp and Majik speakers.

    PMcK

  • carlito says:

    The cheapest cleanest way! Flacs are stored on a Synology DS410j running SBserver and playing through SB touch digital out to my meridian DSP3100!

  • mike says:

    I stream from a Synology DS710+ running Squeezserver (linux) to Slim Devices Transporter. Audiophile Network player supports up to 24bit 192kHz. Beautiful sound through my B&W N802D’s.
    Transporter has native Flac Playback. Recommendation!

  • Beatgear says:

    iMac (using VLC player)==>MOTU ultralite mk3 audio interface==>

    to either:

    (a) Carver PM-350 power amp==>Event 20/20 studio monitors; or

    (b) Pioneer AV receiver==>5.2 speaker arrangement.

    (Output source selected with Mackie “Big Knob” switching system.)

  • William Scott says:

    I download 24-bit FLAC and convert them (using XLD) to 24-bit ALAC. Why do you only offer 16-bit ALAC? You can put 24-bit ALAC onto an iPod, and the software will happily degrade it to the point where it is iPad-compatible on the fly, so there is no need to maintain a 16-bit ALAC file in an iTunes library.

  • Patrick S. says:

    I convert all FLACs to Apple Lossless keeping the original bit rate. As I’m an iTunes user, this makes tagging etc. easier than dealing with FLACs. The files are stored on a local 3TB drive on a Mac. iTunes sends the files wirelessly to an Airport Express which is connected to a Benchmark DAC1 through the optical out. The DAC1 connects to my Krell KAV-500i and B&W 804s. I use a portable and wireless bluetooth keyboard to start/stop and rate my songs. The Mac is also connected to the plasma in the living room where I can see cover art as the music plays. I use the “Jacket” visual plugin or the Lounge screen saver to display the cover art and tag info.

    I have similar setups in each room of the house, all playing from the same computer simultaneously. I am extremely happy with this setup, but will now try Channel D’s Pure Music as mentioned by someone else here. Maybe things can get even better!

  • Alejandro says:

    Read this. For those looking for a simpler solution:
    I plan to get the Denon RCD-N7 network receiver, which supports FLAC 96-kHz/24-bit out of the box, play your FLAC files either from a CD, USB memory stick or hard drive (FAT 16 or 32) or just stream the FLAC from your MAC/PC via Wi-Fi or Ethernet, it has other great features (Pandora, Last.m, Rhapsody), take a look at the pdf down below, this puppy just came out a few weeks ago:

    http://www.audioproducts.com.au/downloadcenter/products/Denon/DN7/Brochures/DN7_E2%20(1).pdf

    http://www.crutchfield.com/S-2WDhB5hbk8T/p_033RCDN7/Denon-RCD-N7.html?tab=detailed_info

    I’m salivating for this thing!

  • MICHAEL says:

    I can’t play FLAC files over wifi to active speakers. Limited to speakers wired to computer.

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