FLAC vs. AIFF: Any Difference?

Discussion in 'Audio Hardware' started by Audiophile65, Aug 14, 2018.

  1. Audiophile65

    Audiophile65 Well-Known Member Thread Starter

    Location:
    Lexington, KY
    As some of you know, I am a Mac user. For all my PCMs (CD rips and downloads), I create AIFF files as the final product.

    Now I have read that quite a few forum members (both on this forum and in Computer Audiophile forum) and audio reviewers mention the use of their FLAC files when they talk about music that they listen to.

    I just wanted to ask if there is a big difference...or really no big difference....between a FLAC file and an AIFF file.
     
  2. sami

    sami Mono Rules

    Location:
    Down The Shore
    My understanding is that lossless is lossless, period.
     
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  3. Bingo Bongo

    Bingo Bongo Music gives me Eargasms

  4. Audiophile65

    Audiophile65 Well-Known Member Thread Starter

    Location:
    Lexington, KY
    I have heard that axiom, and I think I can feel good about your response.
     
  5. Audiophile65

    Audiophile65 Well-Known Member Thread Starter

    Location:
    Lexington, KY
  6. Gaslight

    Gaslight ⎧⚍⎫⚑

    Location:
    Northeast USA
    FLAC (and ALAC) are lossless containers - think of them as musical ZIP files where the data is compressed but is still intact.

    There should be no difference audibly between a lossless format like FLAC and an uncompressed format like AIFF. Plus you get the benefit of a lower storage requirement, somewhere between 30 and 40% less on avaerage.

    Macs don't natively support FLAC although there are many third-party apps that do. ALAC is Apple's lossless container equivalent.
     
  7. Catfish Stevens

    Catfish Stevens Forum Resident

    Location:
    Anoka, MN
    ALAC is to FLAC as AIFF is to WAV. ALAC and FLAC are lossless, WAV and AIFF are uncompressed. The difference is the size of the files. Lossless files take up half the space of the originals. They all produce identical PCM streams.
     
  8. Audiophile65

    Audiophile65 Well-Known Member Thread Starter

    Location:
    Lexington, KY
    Good to know. Thanks again!
     
  9. joannenugent

    joannenugent Forum Resident

    Location:
    East Coast USA
    As others have mentioned, FLAC, ALAC and AIFF all contain the same information and you can convert between the formats all you want. Nothing is lost, like when you compress to a lossy format like mp3.

    The only difference you might hear is if the software/firmware you use to play the file (either on the computer or in your DAC) handles one format better then the other.....

    But there is no danger in converting your AIFF files to FLAC. If they don't sound as good, you can just convert them back with not data loss! On a Mac I highly recomend XLD for all of your music conversion needs!
     
    Last edited: Aug 14, 2018
  10. Stone Turntable

    Stone Turntable Dedicated Listener

    Location:
    New Mexico USA
    As a Mac/iOS user I stick with Apple Lossless (both Red Book and 24/96) almost exclusively with zero issues and perfect fidelity. AIFF files are huge by comparison.

    I second the XLD recommendation — makes conversions from FLAC etc. insanely fast ‘n’ easy.
     
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  11. jbmcb

    jbmcb Forum Resident

    Location:
    Troy, MI, USA
    I don't know about AIFF, but when I did audio testing for a living, I did a bunch of comparisons between WAV and FLAC. This was over ten years ago, I think FLAC was still in beta, and even then, when captured and analyzed coming out of a S/PDIF stream on an, for the time, old machine:

    1. The datastream was exactly the same
    2. Timing/jitter was exactly the same
    3. All measurable audio characteristics were exactly the same (THD/IMD/spectral histogram, dynamic range, etc...)

    I tested the files, going from WAV->FLAC->WAV for data integrity. I tested dumping the raw PCM to a file through a software loopback driver, and finally through a S/PDIF interface into an Audio Precision audio analyzer. Everything came back exactly the same, bit for bit. This was on an old Dell P3 running Windows XP, using the cheapest USB S/PDIF interface available at the time (M-Audio?) For the hell of it, we tested both RCA and TOSLINK into the Audio Precision - also no difference.

    In short, there is absolutely no difference when playing back the two formats.
     
  12. doppelganger

    doppelganger Forum Resident

    Location:
    Frankfurt
    Sound quality wise, there's no difference and you can freely convert between any of the formats. On the other hand, metadata support is really lacking for AIFF, which is why, for that reason alone (and the space savings), you'll want to choose a container format like MP4 (containing ALAC), or Native FLAC/OGG Flac if you have any interest at all in tagging your files.
     
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  13. uzn007

    uzn007 Pack Rat

    Location:
    Raleigh, N.C.
    We have a winner. :pineapple::goodie::evil::wiggle:
     
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  14. Catfish Stevens

    Catfish Stevens Forum Resident

    Location:
    Anoka, MN
    FLAC are completely taggable including embeding of cover art without an OGG container.
     
  15. doppelganger

    doppelganger Forum Resident

    Location:
    Frankfurt
    Yes. That's why I mentioned native FLAC.

    What is the difference between (native) FLAC and Ogg FLAC?

     
  16. Synthfreek

    Synthfreek Drum machines are not inherently evil.

    Location:
    Austin, TX
    No one has really mentioned yet that iTunes and FLAC don’t really play well together.
     
  17. William Kucharski

    William Kucharski Forum Resident

    Actually, they don't play together at all; iTunes doesn't support FLAC for playback or management, it's like wanting to use iTunes to store your PDFs.

    Ironically since macOS High Sierra, macOS has supported FLAC so you can now select and QuickView a FLAC file to play it back - so the OS supports FLAC, but iTunes does not.
     
  18. Solitaire1

    Solitaire1 Carpenters Fan

    To add to the following, your choice of codec will depend on the equipment you will be using to listen to it. As in the above example, if you want to listen to compressed lossless files on your iPod and in iTunes you basically have to use ALAC.

    One thing to mention about a difference between ALAC and FLAC; From what I understand, a difference between the two is that ALAC uses general compression like ZIP while FLAC uses compression designed around audio. Due to this FLAC compresses better than ALAC but both are lossless and no audio data is lost.
     
  19. punkmusick

    punkmusick Formerly 4011021

    Location:
    Brazil
    Wow, almost 12 hours since the thread was created and still no one claimed to hear differences between lossless and uncompressed files.

    Where are the golden ears?

    This forum used to be better...
     
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  20. BayouTiger

    BayouTiger Forum Resident

    Location:
    New Orleans
    Actually, iTunes used to be able to store PDF files, but that went away when iBooks came out.

    One distinction between FLAC and ALAC is that FLAC can be configured to trade file size vs speed. Very similar to zip files. This could be an issue if a file is compressed at a higher level than your device can decode. I have never encountered an issue as I think nearly all devices have plenty of power to deal with it these days.
     
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  21. timztunz

    timztunz Audioista

    Location:
    Texas
    Storage space is cheap. Why go to the extra steps of compressing and unpacking the lossless files? I stick with AIFF because they are uncompressed and iTunes plays nicely with them AND they can be tagged. Of course and as always, just IMHO.
     
  22. BayouTiger

    BayouTiger Forum Resident

    Location:
    New Orleans
    As an example of how devices can act differently, my TEAC HA-P90 can play back either format, but it behaves differently with them. It works perfectly with FLAC but doesn’t handle the tags in ALAC files well and sorting and indexing goes all FUBAR with ALAC.

    I have tons of storage so I have a directory structure so I keep three copies of everything,

    ALAC for my Apple stuff (AppleTV, iOS devices, iTunes )
    FLAC for other devices
    MP3@320 for my vehicles - they can play AAC but work faster with MP3.

    Point is that just because a device handles a format doesn’t mean it is particularly adept at it. I have a crazy fast computer so converting is very fast and simple. I just drop a folder on XLD and let it fly.
     
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  23. Catfish Stevens

    Catfish Stevens Forum Resident

    Location:
    Anoka, MN
    I've read that kind of stuff before, but it's impossible the way the files work as far as I understand (on a windows laptop with foobar2000 playing the files) there is no difference. Like I stated above, alac, aiff, flac, wav (and ape and shn (shorten) and wv (wavepack) etc.) all get converted to the same pcm stream before leaving foobar2000, buffer times may vary and that is it. Now the difference between lossless and lossy I can hear.
     
    Last edited: Aug 15, 2018
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  24. Solitaire1

    Solitaire1 Carpenters Fan

    Metadata is one of the main reasons I avoid the AAC format (which I think is related when it comes to ALAC). With MP3 the defacto metadata standard is well documented on the Internet. However, when I researched how metadata is stored in AAC files (due to an issue I had with a music management program that would have trouble with the metadata on AAC files so I wanted to find out how AAC metadata is actually stored) all I could find was that the metadata in AAC files is stored in the form of atoms...that's it (this was a few years ago, so that might not be the case now).

    Comparing AAC to MP3, AAC is supposed to have better sound quality than MP3 at the lower bit rates. However, when it comes to the higher bit rates to me if you are using the LAME MP3 Encoder to make your MP3s it is basically a wash between AAC and MP3. With the amount of affordable storage available and with the capacity of current players, I have no problem using MP3 at 320CBR when I need to use a lossy format.

    Another strong reason for using MP3 over AAC is that when I need to use a lossy format I know that the files will be compatible with every player I have whether it is my many portable players (including a number of CD/MP3 players which will play WMA but won't play AAC), the player in my car, or on my computer. That is something that I can't say for AAC.

    I don't maintain multiple libraries of files for different uses since I'd rather just update the metadata one time. Plus, although I have a large amount of available free storage space, I'd rather not have to maintain multiple libraries. Instead, I rip everything to FLAC and then use on-the-fly conversion (to LAME-Encoded MP3 at 320CBR) when needed when loading FLAC files on a device which does not support FLAC. Although it sometimes takes a while to load the files, especially if it is a large number of FLAC files since it has convert each one as it loads, the process is as easy as loading files that don't have to be converted with the advantage that the original in my library is not changed.
     
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  25. punkmusick

    punkmusick Formerly 4011021

    Location:
    Brazil
    Now we're talking!
     
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