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?

561 Comments

  • Malin (Tokyo) says:

    I have two (fronts) B&W 803D, one (center) B&W HTM2D and two (rears) B&W N803 hooked up to a Denon AVP-A1HD and Denon POA-A1HD. I want to play 24/96Khz multichannel FLAC on my Windows 7 ultimate through video card GTX 460s HDMI interface.

    I have tried fobar, VLC and Media Player Classic and I can play multichannel PCM, but my receiver only gets 48Khz PCM?

    I am not very technical but I have good speakers and amps so its a pity that I cannot listen to 96Khz FLACs to get most out of my stuff.

    Please help

    Regards,

  • Rob Kendrick says:

    @Malin (Tokyo) Many graphics cards only support 48kHz sampling via their HDMI. It’s best to use your computer’s SPDIF or TOSlink, if it has them. (You’ll also probably get better quality sound this way, as HDMI can induce jitter due to it sending audio in the blanking period of the video.) If you’re OK with only stereo 24 bit/96kHz audio, then there are many USB-attached digital interfaces out there. Otherwise, it’s time to buy a PCI sound card.

  • Michael Werzowa says:

    I am using a MacBook Pro, which includes a optical digital out. The signal goes to a Meridian G92, in this case serving as a digital hub, and then to two Meridian DSP5200, which are active speakers (high endish, somehow ;-).
    About bitdepths and samplerates I found some “misconceptions”, esp. which rates are supported with which files, which leads to some questions:
    Converting FLAC 24 with different tools I saw that there IS a 24bit ALC with 48kHz, as well as a WAV or AIFF with 24/48. (… will not be redbook, so only streamed or from DVD). And: the Peter Gabriel – Scratch My Back ALC provided by B&W is 24bit/48kHz, or? – - iTunes says so, download not.
    The converter I love most for Mac is XLD, which works and allows for a lot of options and seems somehow more production quality than other tools.
    Besides, I love B&W Society of Sound, and it would be great if it would extend to include, for instance, all Peter Gabriel records as well as Brian Eno, Talking Heads, to name a few. What about all WOMAD? High endish classical recordings would be nice, as well, the main stream recordings often are too much “adapted” to bad equipment.

  • BernardL says:

    I convert them to Apple lossless using Max on OSX, then play them using Pure Music/iTunes.

    - As of now through Airfoil to an airport express connected to my Devialet D-Premier,
    - In about a week or so through a Weiss Int202 still connected to the D-Premier using a high end Wireworld AES/EBU cable. The source is a mac mini with 8GB Ram (OWC sourced), all songs are stored in an external direct attached USB 2.0 2TB Lacie disk.

    I feel that Flac is a good archival format as it is platform independent, and the original flacs are stored on a Raid5 unit and backup to BlueRay disks. For everyday use in an OSX environment, you cannot beat the convenience of Apple lossless.

    I would of course love Apple to support Flac natively in the next generation of iTunes, but that stupid company will probably keep stitcking to their proprietary format.

    Cheers,
    Bernard

  • Waleed Hanafi says:

    I download the FLAC files to my main PC, clean up the tagging with MP3Tag, then copy the files to my NAS. The files are then pushed to a Vortexbox music server (http://www.vortexbox.org) which runs Squeezebox Server. The players are a Slim Devices Transporter and a Logitech Touch. I have the Transporter set up to switch between an analogue connection to the preamp, and a digital connection to a Bryston DAC, then to the preamp .

    When on the road, I carry my collection on a 1TB Samsung USB disk and use MediaMonkey on my Windows 7 laptop.

  • Pat Chamberlain says:

    I burn my flacc files to DVD audio discs using DVD audio Studio and play them on My denon DVD Audio player. Works great. However I do not have a good audio card so it is hard to A/B to determine if it is an optimal process and result. If anyone has A/B’d in the past please let me know…

  • Steve says:

    I have a Denon DVD 2930 which plays SACD and has a 24 Bit/192khz DAC. If i burn FLAC 24Bit/96 or 192 to a DVD-Audio disk will it play or will it need converting to a different formaf ?.

    When correct format is finalised will it be best to output via SPIDF coaxial or optical or analogue RCA. I am connecting to a TAG Mclaren AV32R SP Pre-amp/Processor, as this is the single processor model i think the maximum it can do is 96khz in the digital demain so mightd be best on analogue RCA input ?, unfortunatley the TAG does not have analogue bypass option fitted.

    Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated, unfortunatly not yet up to speed on FLAC high res files, so any pointers on how to burn to DVD-Audio and with what software for best res results would be greatly appreciated.

  • Jesse Milleer says:

    I play them on an Onkyo TX-NR708 receiver through a front mounted USB port. The songs are on a 500gig portable hard drive. Full 24bit/48khz through the receiver.

  • Frank says:

    I would like download FLAC files to my PC and play on my hifi (Parasound Amp & Preamp), I can hardwire my PC to my preamp.

    Question-1: Does the output on my PC come from the soundcard? If yes, any recommendations on brans/model, or what quality soundcard? If no, from where does it output on the PC

    Question-2: Where is the best place for higest sound quality to imput? To my external inputs, digital input, or ?

    Question-3: Should I use iTunes as a mixer on my PC for organization and playlists, or ?

  • Chris Sonnex says:

    Hi guy’s great post but I have to turn the question back on you and ask how B&W play theirs as I am sure everyone would like to know!
    Best regards
    Chris Sonnex

  • Gerald says:

    I copy the downloaded FLAC tracks to a NAS. The NAS (Twonky Server) streams them via my home network to a Linn Akurate DS player which is directly connected to the network via ethernet. Magnificant results!

  • Darius Michelbach says:

    Try to keep the originals when converting to e.g. Apple Lossless, because if you convert high resolution (e.g. 192KHz/24bit) flacs to other formats such as Apple lossless you are downsampling to 44.1 or 48kHz! There’s much happening at the moment and there’ll be certainly more systems that support playback of high res flacs in the future.

    I am using the M2tech Young DA Converter from my PC and MacBook Pro via USB. This DAC support asynchronous USB, so you will have playback of up to 384KHz and no jitter. However, I also tried playback of 96KHz / 24bit files via optical (Toslink and Coax using a Squeezebox Touch) and I do not hear any difference to USB. However, I can here a difference to 44.1 or 48 khz 16bit iTunes ALC versions. The stage seems to become a little smaller, and especially dynamic trumpet or sax solos seem to sound more dull.

    On my Mac I have some problems with the drivers of the Young DAC and you need to install some special add ons for player on Windows like Foobar or Winamp. For users who don’t want to experiment and try risking the stability of their system I’d personally recommend to buy a network player instead of a PC/DAC combination for now.

  • Roger Attwood says:

    Congratulations to you all as I dont even know where to start to select the kit/software nor configure it.
    I am a 66yr old retiree wanting to get into music streaming and I am searching for a simple answer
    I have 200CDs, a HP computer with DVD/CD RW drive – running Windows XP, a Musical Fidelity CD player and amp.
    Firstly how do I rip cds to a FLAC file – Microsoft says it is not supported?
    How to add artist/track etc data
    I think I know I need a DAC to input to my amp but its the software selection and file management that leaves me bemused.
    Why then have I chosen FLAC you may ask – I read a super article on line by Sterophile magazine this morning

    Help

  • JACK says:

    I am very impressed with the quality of 24bit FLAC files, i use VLC media player for playback through my i-mac and the sound quality is superb, its just a shame i can’t put these files on my i-pod to play them through my zeppelin without first converting them to mp3′s and losing the quality.

  • NWB says:

    XLD on the Mac (free) is brilliant at transcoding the FLAC 24 bit files to Apple Lossless 24 bit (yes it is supported by iTunes). It would be nice to see the Apple lossless files offered as 24bit instead of only 16bit.

    I stream the files wirelessly via an Airport Express into my Naim / B&W P5s or if I have the time, I wire them in via the DAC to the Naim or Adam studio monitors

  • NWB says:

    @Jack convert to Apple Lossless via XLD, use the original sample rate, and these files can then be played by iTunes / your iPod.

    On iPods, beware the headphone output – the quality is not so good (cost cutting on headphone pre-amp), if you are using the dock, direct to the Zeppelin, there are no issues and the audio is pristine!

  • Lee Nixon says:

    Wow, I think I have the simplest set-up here – but only because I can’t afford most of the stuff mentioned!

    I play my 24-bit FLAC files via VLC – a pretty basic media player, but it does what I need it to do. My desktop is hooked up to a Zeppelin Mini for a great quality sound. I use XLD to convert to 24-bit Apple Lossless, so I can both stream the music using AirPlay and so I can listen to them on my iPhone.

    I heard somewhere that Apple were looking to support 24-bit FLAC files (so they’re compatible with iTunes), but I’m not convinced. Let’s face it, they could’ve done that for 16-bit FLAC but chose to come up with their own format instead. Considering iTunes will play 24-bit Apple Lossless, I’m not expecting to see FLAC compatiblity anytime soon.

  • Jason Lee says:

    I play 24/96 downloads on Hi-Fi-Man 801, a remarkable and innovative affordable piece of technology that allows mobile playback, or just sit at your desk or in a chair playback. With B&W headphones or IEMs–watch out! I was as blown away by the quality boost of the sound as I have ever been before. Google HiFiMan!

  • Krell says:

    I play them on my PC with Foobar2000 – http://www.foobar2000.org/

  • J Mills says:

    I would love to have the Sonos system support 24 bit FLAC, in order to play them through my stereo. Otherwise I listen to them on my computer. What a waste.

  • Bob says:

    I copy them to my nas Drive then play them through my Naim Unitiserve. I find that this is the best solution for me and provides outstanding sound quality. My amps are 152xs, 155xs pre/power. Speakers are B&W 685 which I find work extremely well in my room.

  • Paul says:

    I never knew that my Macbook Pro had optical out until I read it here. And I happened to have one of cables lying around. Beforehand, I converted from flac to alac via quicktime using fluke, but now i use vlc and play flacs directly from the Macbook Pro using the optical out. Rest of the gear is Rotel RSP-976/RMB-1066 with B&W DM602 s3. Also, I didn’t know that there was a 24-bit ALAC – using XLD to convert from flac would make it easier to stream in my system.

  • Michael Maloney says:

    Really want to starting building a collection of 24 bit FLACS but currently don’t have a way of playing them through my hi-fi without downsampling somewhere along the chain.

    Currently playing them using Amarra Mini through Airfoil streaming to either my Zeppelin Air or Apple TV/HDMI out to my home theater receiver (Anthem MRX500).

    I thought Airplay/Airfoil supported 24/96 streaming but can’t find any proof to this. Most posts I’ve read say that it can’t (downsamples to 16/48). Any plans of future support of airplay supporting 24/96… The Zeppelin Air uses a 24/96 DAC I believe?

  • Frank Christensen says:

    Hi all.
    I play the *.flac (24bit), from my CAMBRIDGE NP30 form a USB disc.
    Yours Frank

  • Charles van der Zijden says:

    I write mostly 24 bit /192 KHz and some 96 KHz FLAC files on DVD Audio with DiscWelder Chrome. Unfortunately DiscWelder doesn’t accept FLAC so have to convert to 24 bit /192 KHz WAV files with GoldWave first. All pretty basic. I then put DVD-Audio disc in my Oppo bluray player, and my B&W 800 speakers, Accuphase poweramp and especially me are soooooo happy. ;-)
    No tinny sound anymore, nice soundpicture in space, open, warm, clear, demonstration stuff!

  • Owen Clements says:

    I convert to Apple Lossless (via Max), stick them on my NAS then play through Itunes to my Zep Air, stonking stuff

  • Soren Jensen says:

    I play the FLAC files on PC using Winamp. It gives the full flexibility for searching and sorting search results. CDs can even be shown with CD cover in search results. For all files it is necessary to do a little work on the metadata (tags). B&W has not done a very good job on the metadata, but when ripping CDs it is also necessary to edit metadata. Winamp is also very effective for this job. I have over 1000 CDs, so structured metadata is essential.

    I have tried different media players like Transporter, but only the search options and overview on computer screen is good enough for quick and convenient playback. The computer is a laptop with low noise from fan and harddrive.

    The music is tranferred via USB to my Benchmark DAC1 HDR converter, then via analog cables to the poweramp. The sound is fabulous. Most of my other high quality audio files are FLAC 24bit/96 kHz. The increase in sound quality is not clear, and the file size doubles when increasing frequency from 48kHz to 96 kHz.

    Many thanks to B&W for the Society of Sound initiative. The idea of abonnement is very good.

  • Jon Donald says:

    I’ve been happily playing 96Khz/24bit flac files via my Squeezebox Touch.
    Recently I purchased some 192Khz/24bit music off HDTracks.com, but Squeezebox won’t handle that.
    How do I convert it on a WINDOWS7 platform? (Most of the thread refers to MAC/Apple)

  • steven says:

    Problems with 192/24 flac? I just drop them in my sooloos system and enjoy :)

  • Byoung says:

    Check out the following link which gives a bird’s eye view on how to play 24 bit / 192kHz flac files:
    http://www.ayre.com/usb-192.htm

    Have fun

  • remd says:

    The Squeezebox will play 192khz files, but will downsample them to 96khz/24b..

  • remd says:

    Ataylor, The Squeezebox Touch plays 96/24 natively. Other Squeezeboxes will downsample to 48/24.. (still better than cd quality :)

  • Arnaud says:

    My “sound chain” involves a Mac, an AppleTV and a DAC.

    I first decode FLAC into WAV files from the Finder, then import them into iTunes. There, I edit manually all the metadata including artworks and then encode the tracks into ALAC.

    The Apple TV (rev. 2 but it worked the same way with the HD-based rev. 1) is connected to an Atoll Electronique DAC 100 through a TOSLINK optical fiber cable.

    It’s a real pleasure to navigate the entire music collection on the TV screen without (too much) compromise!

  • Tony says:

    Apple TV gen1 running XBMC

  • Matthew Harris says:

    I’ve been following this thread, but I still have some questions. I have an old Fisher 800C tube amp and some pretty good shelf speakers. Normally I play vinyl records on this system. However, I’ve been slowly building up a nice FLAC collection of my old CDs. I need to know that best way to play these on my old tube amp. Right now, I’m running them through the headphone jack into the RCAs on the back of the amp. I’m assuming that the sound quality is getting crunched by my laptops sound card. Is that correct? Is there an external sound card I can use with my laptop and/or a stand alone digital player that I can put the FLAC files on? I’m not really interested in wireless stuff. Just want to play the FLACs on my old tube amp without degrading the sound quality.

    Thanks,

    Matt

  • Baris says:

    I am using songbird to play FLAC 24bit files. I am MAC user and iTunes not play 24-bit FLAC files but there is 16-bit ALP that say can play in iTunes but it is CD quality. Anyone can tell me if i convert FLC files in Mp3 sound quality will reduce? or from songbird player can I transfer to FLC files in iPod and it can play ?
    thank you
    Baris

  • Jesus Gonzalez says:

    Hi Baris, I am using Songbird on Mac as well and I am playing 24 bit FLAC’s, how? I found this small application that works very well, and in my opinion even sound better than iTunes. I learned that every player applications process the sound in a different way, if that is true, some players play better than others.
    http://www.rogueamoeba.com/airfoil/

  • Mark says:

    I’m trying to start running 24/192. I run a great deal of 24/96 from a Mac Book Pro, iTunes with BitPerfect running in the back, which is essential for any iTunes user in order to get the sampling just exactly perfect, through a Mapleshade modded M2Tech Hi-Face, Mapleshade digital IC into a Mapleshade modded Cambridge DAC Magic, Mapleshade RCA ICs into a NAD T754. I can’t seem to get 192s to play on iTunes, and suppose it would be smart to check out the FLAC players. I’ve always converted my FLACs for the sake of eventual MP3 320 kbps for the iPod (and for the sake of the HD given my obsession for Grateful Dead, Phish, and any other type of trade-friendly field recordings circulating, some of which have been superbly transferred and mastered, in addition to seeking out the seemingly few choices of 24 bit vendors.).

    @Matt Haris–the Hifiman 801 is a good choice for playing back hi-res files. it supports flac. it also serves as a DAC from a cd player or other digital source if need be.

    @Baris–if you convert flacs, i’d use xAct 7.1 from Scott Brown. nice program that tapers use when seeding a show. iTunes will play 24 bit, but needs a background app to make sure it samples correctly. they have several at the App Store for cheap. if you must go MP3 instead of a lossless format, go into preferences and set the sample rate at 320 kbps. that’s the highest you can go, but consider your get 1411 out of 16 bit wavs. iPods play wavs…

  • Spalding says:

    I am currently using the Logitech Squeezebox Touch to play my hi-res 24/192 FLAC Files. It is an exceptional little media center that has outstanding playback quality. If you can’t hook it directly into a router or a power line adapter via ethernet cable it has built in wi-fi. In order to stream the FLAC files from your computer you need to download the squeezebox server and import your music files, then you’re ready to rock. It is particularly nice because it gives you the option of using the internal 24/192 DAC’s and running analog out to your amp of choice, as well as being able to use a toslink or digital coax cable for those lucky few with receivers that have built in FLAC DAC’s (e.g. new Pioneer Elite’s). Better yet, there is a Control App for smart phones and tablets that is free and easy to use. You don’t have to use unreliable plug-ins for iTunes, which are shaky at best, and you don’t have use seventeen different conversion steps to get true hi-res audio files to your Hi-Fi system. All in all it is a very good buy and well worth the investment.

    -= Spalding =-

  • David says:

    Interesting. I disagree with you about ‘best quality sound’. I have both FLAC 16/44 and Wav 16/44 and after months of listening trials, blind testinhg etc am convinced that Wav files sound far better. Searching mang various forums I see I am not alone in this. If I download a 24/96 Flac file and convert to Wav 24/96 or even 16/44 both Wav files sound better than the Flac. Yes, Flac files are difficult to handle, so why bother when a native Wav file is not a problem. As for AAC, forget it, not even close to Wav. Flac I think is more beneficial for the ‘supplyer’ not the consumer. As is a lot of metadata contained in Flac which can also cause problems. I think that if you were honest about sound quality then you would agree that Wav offers the best sound possible at this time for the domestic consumer.

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