Apple Lossless Confusion

There’s a lot of confusion about audio encoding, and how to get the best out of your digital music. Obviously we at B&W are keen to promote the benefits of lossless encoding, especially with our Society of Sound music downloads and Zeppelin iPod speaker system.

However, confusion abounds about how to get lossless versions of your music onto your iPod, as is clear from this thread on the What Hi-Fi? Sound and Vision forums.

Unfortunately for people who have already ripped their record collection at a lower bit rate – even say 320kbps – you’ll need to re-rip your CD collection if you are looking to upgrade the sound. Just reformatting your music in Apple Lossless won’t make any difference.

The good news is that the effort will be well worth it: it will sound a lot better and with the cost of hard drive space dropping by the day it will only cost you time to do it!

3 Comments

  • Mohsin says:

    I’ve tested Apple Lossless files with my CDs and compared it with WAV/Aiff.

    I’ve also compared your downloads in FLAC/Apple Lossless.

    I know ‘lossless is lossless’ but in all cases Apple Lossless sounds duller and a bit lifeless.

    On my iPod which I connect to my hifi I am now only loading Aiffs (I decode your FLACs to WAVs and use iTunes to convert to Aiff).

    Compare your own Spiro album – I guarantee you’ll find the FLAC sounds better.

  • Chris Adair says:

    I recently came across an article written by a man who designs “lossless” encoding and he mentioned that the lossless encoding became lossy at times to preserve bandwidth limitations. This lead me to compare Apple Lossless to WAVs. to my amazement the difference was HUGE whether using a propriety DAC (Bryston) or just stereo out from a MAC mini. Suprisingly I tested on 3 customers, all are discerning , and all said STRAIGHT awaay that the WAV was hugely superior, chalk and cheese. Listening carefully the final sustain on notes was lost on the apple lossless version and the character of the sounds were less “real”. on a revealing system the piano sounds like a recording of “a” piano with the Apple lossless, yet the WAV preserves the characher and feels like a recording of the artists piano (more life like an real) but most importantly the WAV file held my attention and captivated me to the performance and the apple lossless didn’t. No doubt apple lossless is way better than MP3 , but is apple lossless lossy or is something else going on ? very disappointing as WAvs are such a pain to use.
    Anyone analised the “bits” coming out from decomprssion ?

  • JPF says:

    Dear Chris Adair:

    I will not try to decode if whether you would detect the effect of this “double blind.” Instead, I would use the programmer in me to decide if the CPU would be able to decode the compressed Apple Lossless file with CPU cycles to spare in advance of the rate of playback.

    In other words, maintain the tempo of the playback… .which would mean that a operating system (OS) would need to be designed for playback of music. So that the first priority would be the creation of the audio output in synch with the designated audio rate (clock). An interesting proposition…

    We need to output at a certain frequency at a certain time to maintain musicality. Or, we can have a buffer, and never exceed a certain processing fraction of CPU time.

    In the past we would designate this a RTOS (Real Time Operating System), and think of Silicon Graphics (SGI) hardware, or similar UNIX-based.

    What is the current SOTA (state of the art)?

    We’ll have to assume if your listening impressions are accurate (double-blind) then, the OS-X (Apple OS…) is definately -not- a “RTOS,” or “…inclined for music….”

    I have read about a “music OS” and now see the reason for it. Preemptive multitasking is the aged technical term, where the pre-emptvive past is clocked-based SPDIF (or similar) audio ouput.

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