How do you play your 24-bit FLAC files?

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?


  • 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.

  • Alain says:

    I play my flac files up to 192khz trought my wired network from my computer to my PS3 witch is connect whit HDMI to my processor AV7005. I can also play them from my ethernet connection on the AV7005 processor witch accept 192 khz. The source is always my hard drive on my computer but it could be a NAS on my local network.

  • David says:

    On a 2 terrabyte drive connected via Firewire 800 to a Mac Mini with Pure Music by Channel D to do the actual sound decoding. From there it goes to a Bel Canto DAC1.5, which is, in turn, connected to a Bel Canto amp. The speakers are Usher Mini Dancer 2.

    When I’m working at the computer the sound comes from Media Monkey on Windows 7 and the B&W MM-1 speakers. Initially I was pretty underwhelmed by the MM-1 speakers, but they have broken in quite nicely. Of course, I could say the same thing about the Usher speakers costing 10 times more, I was disappointed with them at first, but now I can’t imagine better sound. Break-in periods are funny things.

  • John433 says:

    Very nice site!

  • Carl De Meyer says:

    24 bit files are loaded into Songbird, installed on Mac. Mac is connected with optical cable into Cambridge DAC and then into Tact (Lyngdorf) amplifier. Speakers are Missions 783 and REL subwoofer. Sounds pretty nice and as good as SACD Mareantz SA 11 S1

  • RIchard F says:

    Streamed from my NAS to a Linn DS. Does the job wonderfully!

  • Andre says:

    Richard F, thanks for your post.
    Wich software are you using for ripping and playback, on wich OS?
    I’m use a MAC with a ReadyNAS Pro and Akurate DS.

  • David says:

    I play mine back via Songbird on an iMac connected via optical to a Musical Fidelity V-DAC II then via some Chorus interconnect to a Graham Slee headphone amp and finally my Grado RS1s! Sounds lovely but must admit that at the moment I still prefer the 16-bit Red Book rendition from my Rega Jupiter – maybe I need a better DAC?

  • Bob says:

    I listen the 24 boy FLAC files on my IMac via VLC

  • Gerry says:

    I use a Mac application called Fidelia to play all my music on a Mac Pro.

    The computer is connected via USB to a KingRex UC192 (a digital to digital converter; USB to AES/EBU) set to the highest resolution the set up can take (192KHz/24bit)…quite simply because I can.

    The UC192 is connected to an Emotiva XDA-1 DAC Pre-Amp (a digital to analogue converter and Pre Amp) via mini XLR to XLR (AES/EBU).

    The converted analogue signal is then connected to powered Adam A7X monitor speakers via balanced XLR cables.


  • Gerry says:

    My portable set up:

    I use an App called Flac Player on my iPhone 4 (converters are now decent…for a phone!) with any of the following depending on the music I am listening to and what mood I’m in.

    Shure SE535 + ACS Custom moulds = Maximum isolation with with detail accross the frequency range and mids that sing to you.
    Ultimate Ears TripleFi 10 Pros’ + Silver Null Audio cable = Crispy with very detailed bass
    Sennheiser HD-25s – very closed-back – An absolute classic
    Bowers & Wilkins P5s – Extremely comfortable for on-ear headphones and they has a remote! = Bright but enjoyable.
    Bowers & Wilkins C5s – secure workout earphones…with a remote!

    Yes, the little money I have all goes on audio equipment. I am what they call an Audiophile/sucker.

    I LOVE IT!

  • Miquel says:

    Streamed from my LaCie NetworkSpace2 NAS to a Marantz NA-7004 + Marantz KI Pearl Lite+ B&W CM8. Sounds excellent!

  • Alan says:

    Playback of FLAC 24bit recordings ond other digital files up to 124/92 is via intel i7 computer. 2x!tb hard discs in Raid array using J River Media Centre 17 software set to play from RAM and in ASIO mode via Lynx AES16 sound card feeding Chord Electronics QBD76. Listening is then either via Stax Omega 11 earspeakers with 007t vavle energiser (preferred method) or via Ben Duncan/Audio Synethis AMP-02 pre-amp, 2xQuad 909 amps ((with uprated caps and ampbus card bypassed) driving Dynaudio Reference LS5?12A speakers.

    Either way the sound of your 24 bit FLAC files is superb. Via the Stax they are awsome.

  • Bobby Walker says:

    I recently installed a 10k audiophile grade audio system in my 2010 Range Rover and I’m trying to get the most out of my system. I have done a lot of research and now know how crappy portable digital players are! (and yes iphone and android devices are included)

    I basically have 2 questions.

    1. Do they make a portable audio device that plays 96/24 bit without resampling it down to a lower bit rate?

    2. How do you properly burn 96/24 or 192/24 from digital format to CD without the software sampling it down?

    Apple device hardware is only capable of 48/16 bit and Android devices are even lower at 44.1/16 bit, so it doesn’t matter if you download an app that plays 96/24, because it simply resamples it down to what the hardware is capable of.

    I’m really hoping someone else has had this same problem and has found a solution :)



  • htpimp says:

    Bobby Walker – Their are only two ways that I know of to reproduce 24 bit 96 khz files in your car. The first is to take the files and rip them as DVD-Audio files onto blank media and purchase a DVD-Audio compatible playback device for your car (there are very few out there). The second is to purchase the HiFiMan MH-801 playback device which looks like a giant Sony Walkman from back in the day. It is expensive and bulky but should work. Cheers!


  • htpimp says:

    correction on part number, HiFiMan HM-801 and it costs $790.

  • Jimmy Wang says:

    I convert the files with Pure Music to Apple Lossless which also supports 192/24, then add the files to iTunes library on my MBP, playback via Pure Music to Wyred 4 Sound DAC-2 through USB connection, then to Burson Audio’s HA-160 headphone amp and Sennheiser HD800.

  • Alex says:

    Full digital HD to speakers!
    Squeezbox Touch media player with WD 1tera HD, digital coaxial out to Tact 2150 class D amplifier down to B&W 802 Nautilus . Only problem 96KHz player’s limit.
    I want to share the experience of real life stage listening! I try to compare live music with home listening just after performance and I prefer home music, professional stage speakers cannot compare if source is excellent!
    Remote from iPad2 or any smart phone, or your PC, through WiFi, having disc cover at hand is an experience.
    If you can understand difference in video between HDMI and components (analog) in audio , this is the best and chipset solution to heaven!

  • gary gowler says:

    I am currently digitizing my LP collection (500 +) onto my Mac HD using AlpineSoft’s Vinyl Studio.
    I want to use an optical cable. I have an Arcam AVP 700 and their 1000 watt power amp (195 x 5).
    Turntable is a Project lll with phono pre amp. Paradigm speakers all around. I’ve been using the regular 3.5 to record and playback but then realized after doing some research that the optical setup should sound better. My question is pretty simple is that true and should I use the optical for recording and playback. BTW the pre amp has a DAC that I assume is far superior to my iMacs sound card.

  • Tugo says:

    can please anyone give me advice, how to burn the best possible CD-R from 24bit FLAC? I love to listen CD/SACDs on my very good sounding DENON DCD2010AE SACD player. Thank’s a lot, Tugo

  • Susanna Grant says:

    Hi Tugo,

    We will be posting an updated version of our Guide to 24-bit FLAC post this month, so keep an eye on this space:

    Bowers & Wilkins

  • Mark W says:

    24-bit FLAC through Media Monkey 4 on Windows PC / B&W MM-1’s… very satisfying.

  • Tim S says:

    I am playing 96kHz/24bit FLAC
    on Win7 with VLC Player
    on a Dell Vostro 3500 Intel i3 laptop
    off the phones plug
    connected by a homemade mini phones jack to cinch cable (Club mkII by sommer cable)
    into a NAD C320BEE
    to Dynaudio Audience 52 SE speakers.

    …sounds better than CD or even my turntable!

  • Bill Hunt says:

    I play my music on a Colorfly C4, upsampled to 24 bit / 192Khz run through a Fiio E7, with one output sent to a Roberts All Terrain radio / speaker (which acts as a superb subwoofer) and the other output through a Fatman iTube amplifier to a pair of B&W CM1s. Very, very pleased with the results!

  • Jonathan says:

    I have been putting flac files on a Verbatim media share 2TB NAS/ DLNA media server and playing through our home network to a Marantz SR7005 AV receiver with inbuilt media player. Output is to Tannoy revolution signature DC6T speakers. Sorry B&W yours were just not as pretty for the same money & sound quality.

    The results: well I reckon 16 bit flac just shades CD quality, possibly because I never had a truly high end CD player and possibly because I run the NAS in another room so there is zero background noise when listening. Just started on 24bit flac and it is another step up in, well, how can I put it, realism I suppose, especially with instrumentals eg strings and brass etc.

    I think it is a case of the home hardware catching up with the professionally recorded resolution of studio master/24 bit music. I can’t help thinking that CD and mp3 was just a big diversion to sell a lot of mediocre kit for 20 years, and now we realise we were basically shortchanged and are demanding quality music again.

  • Rene says:

    I stream to my Linn DS to listen over my stereo, using an iPod as ‘remote control’; ultimate convenience and High Quality! Music is stored on a QNAP NAS with 4 x 1 TB disks in RAID5 and ‘served’ with Twonky. I have ripped my CD collection with DBPowerAmp, which allows you to do different rips (FLAC, AAC, WAV, MP3) to different locations at the same time. I convert downloaded music in a similar way so the rest of the family can use the convenience of iTunes or an MP3 player whilst I have the opportunity to listen to the best quality possible when I have time. For me a big step forward in quality and convenience, with all in the family now exploring more music. Good fun!!

  • Michael says:

    I’m playing my hires flac files on win7 laptop, seated closed lid along with my hifi gear, tastefully under the TV, which is a giant monitor too. (this all-wired setup is how i play my hd movies too, off the same pc). JRiver works great, and the ipad app for it allows me to control my music beautifully from my couch/coffee table without having the tv/monitor on. USB output to Bel Canto DAC 1.5 and Bel Canto REF150 Amp, then to B&W CM8’s. (Right now I’m limited to 24/96 due to my USB on pc, I can fix this with multiple addons but I plan to swap the standard pc for a CAPS Server soon, which will address this absolutely, while vastly improving the environment in many other ways, such as power supply, streamlined win7, and other ways to remove noise and jitter – normal pc is hostile environment to music no matter how much you add on.) (Right now I just plug any hard drive in, since everything is sitting together in the entertainment center, so don’t need NAS, but looking at it, mostly due to storage capacity needed for video.)

  • Michael says:

    Gerry, For sheer portability I also use the FlacPlayer app on my iphone and the Ultimate Ears Triple Fi’s. A huge difference can be made with a $7 line out cable and a matchbook size headphone amp like $20 Fiio E5, bypasses iphone amp and headphone out cheap circutry, with little added stuff in your pocket!
    Bobby Walker, in Gerry’s setup he (and I) still can’t play 24/96 due to iphone hardware limits, plus still using the iphone internal DAC. So For truly hifi listening on the road I use HiFI Man 602, its about size of classic ipod, built ground up for hifi music nothing else, so great DAC inside, great amp, supports flac 24/96. Sounds amazing with the UE buds above, or my Grado RS2 open back phones, or on the plane with Bose noise cancelling. You could rig it to play into your car stereo. Unlimited storage using 32gn sd cards.

  • martin törnsten says:

    24-bit FLAC and WMA Lossless through Media Monkey 4 on Windows 7 computers with Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 or EMU Tracker Pre sound interface as USB DAC.

    Anyone who knows how to play ALAC files on MM4 (use that as lossless format for my iPods)?

    martin törnsten

  • irarados says:

    the Oppo BDP-95 is a good player for the 24 bit 96 and 192 KHz FLAC files

  • Robert says:

    Just curious, what is the best storage solution for FLAC files? I have a 27″ Core i7 iMac with a 1TB drive running fidelia. I have a huge library of iTunes music as well. Do I need a Thunderbolt drive or can i run something over gigabit ethernet?

  • Torsten says:

    My FLAC files are stored on a NAS ( QNAP 219+).
    I play them back via my Home Network with a Yamaha NP-S 2000 Network Player, connected to a Denon AVP A1 / Denon POA A1 Pre Pro.

  • V K Tarun says:

    I use Foobar2000 to play my Flac Files,[Free]
    For making Audio CDS from Flac files, download “Burn” It is free and superb. Burn Audio CDs and play in your favorate CD player.

  • Chip says:

    Home Network:
    100Mb up/down Glass Fiber Ethernet Internet Access by local provider.
    Linksys 1GB Ethernet Router connected to Local Internet Ethernet Access Device.
    Linksys b/g/n Wireless Access Point connected to Linksys 1GB Ethernet Router.

    Home digital music playback on Linksys 1Gb Ethernet Router:
    ReadyNAS with four 1TB disks giving 3TB available (RAID 5) running Twonky 6 natively.
    Win7 PC running Asset UPnP using NAS for data.
    Linn Akurate DS – also connected to preamp for home stereo.

    Digital Control Systems on Linksys Wireless Access Point:
    Win7 Laptop running Kinsky Desktop and Asset Control.
    iPad running Kinsky for iOS.
    iPhone applications were tried and discarded due to the larger screen format of the laptop and iPad.

    Mobile digital music playback:
    Three iPods (Classical, Jazz, and Pop/Rock) and an iPhone (mixed) for playback on the go.
    dBpoweramp is used to transcode files for the mobile devices. Both Apple lossless and lossy formats are used.
    The choice usually depends on the environment where the music will be played (can effect quality) and how much music is needed (longer trips usually mean more music and quality may have to suffer.)
    Usually classical and acoustic is lossless, but not always, and sometimes I just make mistakes.
    All downloads are stored on the NAS as downloaded.
    All CDs are ripped using dBpoweramp to standard CD format (44.1/16) and stored on the NAS.
    Additional tagging is done using MP3Tag for downloads and rips. Updates are always needed.
    Album art is stored in the FLAC files at 600×600 pixels or larger for better viewing on the control points.

  • Wilco says:

    By NAS, wireless connected to logitech Squeezebox touch connected via coax to a music fidelity DAC, amplified with a denon integrated stereo amplifier.

    Works fine up to 96 kHz.

  • Ian says:

    I import the 24 bit FLAC files into my Meridian Sooloos system and play them on that

  • Rastus says:

    My FLACs go from PC –> VLC player –> souncard –> optical –> Beresford gatorized caiman DAC –> PIoneer amp –> B&W DM302s (sweet) OR B&W CCM80s (sweeter)

    Currently listening to Handel’s Messiah – Sir Colin Davis & LSO (24 bit)

    Hairs on the back of the neck bliss !

  • David says:

    I loaded the Flac app for itunes. I was a little confused at first as to how to do it even with the photo instructions. However, after realizing I had to scroll down on the app page to turn on the Flac player I was good to go. I am fussy about clean sound and had just replaced my B&W C5 with the B&W P5 which sounded great. However I was not prepared for the great sound I heard when I first listened to a Peter Gabriel dowload at 24bit. It was sheer heaven to my ears. I NEVER THOUGHT AN Ipod Touch could sound so great. Ihad put the C5 away and written them off as poor sounding earphones. I decided because of the great 24bit sound to give the C5 another chance. Well I was blown completely away as the C5 sounded spectacular. I find them more comfortable for extended listening than the P5 which I love the sound of. It goes to show that like a great TV can look terrible with a poor blu-ray, a great headphone can be wrongly blamed for poorcquality sound when in fact the real culprit is the audio source. Thank you B&W for making not only superb products but providing fantastic audio material to enjoy the products with. I love the 24bit Flac format and find it is worth the extra effort to get the music into Itunes.

  • Michael says:

    For Mac users, just wanted to make a quick plug for Decibel:

    Decibel can handle most audio file types, including Apple Lossless and FLAC. I have used it to play 192/24bit files and lower res flac files from hdtracks. It will automatically adjust the output sample rate to match the playing track, so my receiver gets the full 192/24 file using an optical audio cable (i.e., no downsampling). I have also used it to play 24 bit 5.1 DTS wav or flac files, which it can send to my receiver again using the optical audio cable. Decibel can also load and play files entirely in memory, which helps avoid audio skips and glitching that I sometimes saw using iTunes.

    Go to the developer’s website if you want to download a demo.

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