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Best Audio Format for Archiving Music Long-Term?, Is FLAC really my best choice?
yourlord
post Dec 14 2012, 18:19
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QUOTE (andrewfg @ Dec 14 2012, 10:42) *
and to give you a concrete example: the Squeezebox Radio (for example) is not able to decode flac at 192kbps, 24bit, 2ch


I would suspect this is more a limitation of their firmware decoder than a problem with the processing overhead..

It can decode mp3, Vorbis, and AAC, all of which require a LOT more computational power to decode than FLAC, even at absurdly high resolution and sample rates.


Also, as far as support.. A great number of mid-to-high end A/V receiver brands support FLAC natively including Pioneer, Denon, Onkyo, etc.

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polemon
post Dec 14 2012, 18:33
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I realize I'm chiming in pretty late into this conversation, so you might ignore this post completely.

FLAC has somewhat found it's place in the plethora of codecs available. From my perspective, it is the most common, almost a de-facto industry standard, maybe. The only other lossless codec I'm quite accustomed to, is ALAC. Now personally, I think ALAC is just a waste of time bothering with, since it's virtually equal to FLAC, but I digress...

I'd advice to use FLAC with the highest compression ("--best"), and then simply archive them. Even if the codec becomes old and something new (better?) pops up, you can easily convert from FLAC, since it's lossless, so you won't lose any quality. For casual listening at home, where you might want to stream the audio to different destinations, or putting it on another portable media, for listening in your car or putting it on a mobile device, you could easily make lossy versions from the lossless files.

I strongly advice on making the FLACs from the original sources, even if it takes time. That being said, you don' /really/ need to make those files, if you can just use the original source to make a lossy copy when needed. If it's about making those copies in case the original source breaks, it's still FLACs I'd advice.


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saratoga
post Dec 14 2012, 19:05
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QUOTE (andrewfg @ Dec 14 2012, 11:42) *
1) note that I prefaced my post with the words "and for audio purists" -- there are many of those out there who still believe they can hear the difference...


What? Are you trying to say that FLAC isn't lossless? It is . . .

QUOTE (andrewfg @ Dec 14 2012, 11:42) *
2) and to give you a concrete example: the Squeezebox Radio (for example) is not able to decode flac at 192kbps, 24bit, 2ch


Example of what? Lots of devices don't support all possible sample rates in FLAC. I added 192 khz (which I assume is what you mean) to rockbox relatively recently.
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polemon
post Dec 25 2012, 23:59
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QUOTE (saratoga @ Dec 14 2012, 19:05) *
Lots of devices don't support all possible sample rates in FLAC.
[...]

Hmm, I don't see the point in using higher sampling rates, than the hardware can provide (for most people that tops at 48kHz). Professional audio equipment is a different story. With that in mind, It's nice if audio equipment can decode those high sampling rates, but I don't think it's an requirement. I think those DJ controller things, that also work as external sound device, can go up to 96kHz.

Just sayin', I think support for >96kHz is really not a requirement.

FLAC supports up to 655.35kHz and up to eight channels. Supporting the whole spectrum, 1Hz - 655.35kHz, doesn't seem reasonable, but all eight channels and all sample widths (8, 16, 20, 24, 32), makes sense.

I mean, some codecs got really carried away with one or two settings. True Audio supports 0Hz - 4GHz, and 655350 channels. It kinda reminds me of sampling rates of very expensive oscilloscopes, I don't think it has much usage in multimedia, other than proof of concept.

What I'm saying is, just because the full spectrum of a codec is not supported, it doesn't mean something has been forgotten or overlooked. Leaving the extreme ends of the spectrum out, makes perfect sense in multimedia.


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Porcus
post Dec 26 2012, 03:42
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Recording has exceeded eight channels for decades, and already in 2005 there was a movie in the 10.2 format ... which hasn't really caught on, though.

Still no object for my two-channel recordings.

This post has been edited by Porcus: Dec 26 2012, 03:43


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EddievV
post Dec 26 2012, 16:11
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QUOTE (saratoga @ Dec 14 2012, 12:05) *
What? Are you trying to say that FLAC isn't lossless? It is . . .


Hello all,

I cannot check wether or not FLAC is lossless, but I recently downloaded a hi-rez demo. It was a 24 bit, 96 kHz recording, coded as FLAC. It was an orchestral piece and the violins were recorded at close to maximum level. When I played the FLAC with a Squeezebox Touch and an Audiolab MDAC the violins sounded really terrible, there was substatial distortion. Just for the test I downloaded a converter and made a WAV from this demo. When I played back the WAV there was no distortion in the sound of the violins!

My conclusion: on-line conversion of FLAC is not lossless! Further I see no need for compression with present-day, terabyte harddisks. Storage of one CD (costing 10-15 Euro) costs about 6 cents when you do it as WAV and 3 cents when you do it as FLAC, in both cases a negligible amount, I would say.


Kind regards,
Eddie
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maikmerten
post Dec 26 2012, 16:37
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QUOTE (EddievV @ Dec 26 2012, 16:11) *
I cannot check wether or not FLAC is lossless, but I recently downloaded a hi-rez demo. It was a 24 bit, 96 kHz recording, coded as FLAC. It was an orchestral piece and the violins were recorded at close to maximum level. When I played the FLAC with a Squeezebox Touch and an Audiolab MDAC the violins sounded really terrible, there was substatial distortion. Just for the test I downloaded a converter and made a WAV from this demo. When I played back the WAV there was no distortion in the sound of the violins!

My conclusion: on-line conversion of FLAC is not lossless!


There is no algorithmic difference between "on-line" FLAC decompression and offline FLAC decompression. Whatever caused the problems you experienced must have been in your setup, e.g., a firmware bug in the Squeezebox.
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garym
post Dec 26 2012, 17:06
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QUOTE (maikmerten @ Dec 26 2012, 09:37) *
QUOTE (EddievV @ Dec 26 2012, 16:11) *
I cannot check wether or not FLAC is lossless, but I recently downloaded a hi-rez demo. It was a 24 bit, 96 kHz recording, coded as FLAC. It was an orchestral piece and the violins were recorded at close to maximum level. When I played the FLAC with a Squeezebox Touch and an Audiolab MDAC the violins sounded really terrible, there was substatial distortion. Just for the test I downloaded a converter and made a WAV from this demo. When I played back the WAV there was no distortion in the sound of the violins!

My conclusion: on-line conversion of FLAC is not lossless!


There is no algorithmic difference between "on-line" FLAC decompression and offline FLAC decompression. Whatever caused the problems you experienced must have been in your setup, e.g., a firmware bug in the Squeezebox.


Not a widespread bug in squeezebox as I have several without this issue. And many use for 24/96 flac playback. Does sound like something is broken however in either the SB or the DAC or in LMS feeding SB.

This post has been edited by garym: Dec 26 2012, 17:09
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pawelq
post Dec 26 2012, 19:54
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QUOTE (saratoga @ Dec 10 2012, 20:14) *
Careful. WAV and AIFF are widely supported. And they can be tagged. But tagging them is not widely supported. Worse, I've seen decoders that play untagged files fine, but give non-lossless output if fed tagged files. From a compatibility standpoint, tagged PCM formats are probably much less compatible then FLAC, ALAC, or even WMA Lossless simply because metadata is not as well standardized and you have to carefully check that your decoder is able to handle tags written by your encoder without altering the data.

The advantage of WAV/AIFF is that audio is stored there in the most direct form - simple PCM. Which means that even if in the future you have no "codec"/input filter to open these files, you can still open them as raw PCM, and after fiddling a bit with guessing parameters (sampling frequency, bit depth, endianness, channel order) you will have your audio. Headers and tags will be read as bursts of noise, likely in he beginning and/or in the end of the audio. Which you can just cut off. A few years ago I was able to salvage audio from files written by an obscure audio program in their native format whose structure was unknown to me. If you try to do this with any compressed fromat, you out of luck.


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saratoga
post Dec 26 2012, 20:09
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All modern lossless formats are supported by ffmpeg so you will never have to worry about that.
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pawelq
post Dec 26 2012, 20:27
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QUOTE (saratoga @ Dec 26 2012, 15:09) *
All modern lossless formats are supported by ffmpeg so you will never have to worry about that.


Only if you are sure that ffmpeg will be around forever, and will never drop support of "obsolete" formats.


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saratoga
post Dec 26 2012, 20:42
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QUOTE (pawelq @ Dec 26 2012, 14:27) *
QUOTE (saratoga @ Dec 26 2012, 15:09) *
All modern lossless formats are supported by ffmpeg so you will never have to worry about that.


Only if you are sure that ffmpeg will be around forever, and will never drop support of "obsolete" formats.


You're planning to be around "forever"? Doubtful.

Lossless decoders are simple programs written in a few hundred lines of a language that is already 40 years old. They'l still exist in twice again as many years. You'll die long before you can't find a decoder.
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pawelq
post Dec 26 2012, 21:43
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QUOTE (saratoga @ Dec 26 2012, 14:42) *
QUOTE (pawelq @ Dec 26 2012, 14:27) *
QUOTE (saratoga @ Dec 26 2012, 15:09) *
All modern lossless formats are supported by ffmpeg so you will never have to worry about that.


Only if you are sure that ffmpeg will be around forever, and will never drop support of "obsolete" formats.


You're planning to be around "forever"? Doubtful.

Lossless decoders are simple programs written in a few hundred lines of a language that is already 40 years old. They'l still exist in twice again as many years. You'll die long before you can't find a decoder.


OK. I just had this experience which I described above. If that obsolete program used proprietary lossless compression, I would never get to the audio. With proprietary PCM format it was quite easy. But you are probably right that decoders of formats that exceeded certain threshold of popularity will be probably available for a long time.


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yourlord
post Dec 26 2012, 22:07
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And again one of my main reasons for using FLAC. It's free and open source. The reference software to encode and decode is available in source form under an acceptable free software license.

You can download the source code for it from:
http://sourceforge.net/projects/flac/files/flac-src/

I have a copy of the source code stored locally on my machine. Even if the internet ended tomorrow I'd be able to decode my files as long as I live and my brain works. When YOU have the source code you never have to worry about your format becoming obsolete. You have the power over your media. You're not subject to the whims of some proprietary group with their own agenda. Even if everyone drops support for FLAC (not going to happen anytime soon AFAIK) I can still losslessly recover my music and transcode to whatever newfangled codec that comes down the pipe.. I have the code!
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Porcus
post Dec 27 2012, 02:39
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QUOTE (pawelq @ Dec 26 2012, 19:54) *
A few years ago I was able to salvage audio from files written by an obscure audio program in their native format whose structure was unknown to me. If you try to do this with any compressed fromat, you out of luck.


Well ... depends on who this 'you' will be. The ffmpeg team just reverse-engineered TAK, for example.

Now before you go 'will you want to do that job?': no - and somebody has done it. And released source code. It isn't fool-proof (... not even character sets can be expected to work universally!), but it is as close as you get.


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Mach-X
post Dec 27 2012, 10:23
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As long as rockbox exists NO format will die! Thanks to gracious open source coders your format of choice will always have support no matter how obscure. But to echo others stick with FLAC. Native android (and sansa and cowon) support of this and Vorbis have made those my codecs of choice.
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EddievV
post Dec 27 2012, 16:48
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QUOTE (garym @ Dec 26 2012, 11:06) *
QUOTE (maikmerten @ Dec 26 2012, 09:37) *
QUOTE (EddievV @ Dec 26 2012, 16:11) *
.... My conclusion: on-line conversion of FLAC is not lossless!


There is no algorithmic difference between "on-line" FLAC decompression and offline FLAC decompression. Whatever caused the problems you experienced must have been in your setup, e.g., a firmware bug in the Squeezebox.


Not a widespread bug in squeezebox as I have several without this issue. And many use for 24/96 flac playback. Does sound like something is broken however in either the SB or the DAC or in LMS feeding SB.

I find it difficult to believe that something is wrong with my SB or MDAC. I am not going to waste time in trying to find out since I never use FLAC and I estimate the chance that I will find the cause zero.

I downloaded a FLAC a few times to compare a 44/16 recording with a 96/24. Up to now I have not heard a significant difference. There could be two reasons: I think that these demos were not very suitable (dull orchestral pieces) and my ears detect nothing anymore beyond 14 kHz. This is, however, still good enough to hear big differences between the best equipment I ever heard and a good acoustic live concert.

So WAV remains the only format for me and I am very happy with it.
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Wombat
post Dec 27 2012, 17:01
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QUOTE (EddievV @ Dec 27 2012, 17:48) *
I find it difficult to believe that something is wrong with my SB or MDAC. I am not going to waste time in trying to find out since I never use FLAC and I estimate the chance that I will find the cause zero.

I find it much more difficult to believe that FLAC does not decode lossless on the Logitech Touch/Mediaserver. Since you did that claim here please try to dig deeper.
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[JAZ]
post Dec 27 2012, 17:52
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QUOTE (EddievV @ Dec 27 2012, 16:48) *
So WAV remains the only format for me and I am very happy with it.


Just to put it clear:

- You are allowed to have any oppinion and preference that you want.
- You are not allowed to say that your preference is caused by something that goes against the knowledge of this forum, without a clear proof that our knowledge is wrong.

You were given a few reasons why your experience might be wrong. You don't need to change your preference, but are not allowed to maintain your point in this forum without further evidence.

So, please, respecte the forum rules.
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julf
post Dec 27 2012, 17:54
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QUOTE (EddievV @ Dec 26 2012, 16:11) *
My conclusion: on-line conversion of FLAC is not lossless!


Somewhat unlikely. More likely either LMS settings for FLAC are wrong, or the SB Touch + MDAC combo has some issue with FLAC. How is your MDAC connected to your SB Touch?
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Porcus
post Dec 27 2012, 23:42
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QUOTE (Wombat @ Dec 27 2012, 17:01) *
QUOTE (EddievV @ Dec 27 2012, 17:48) *
I find it difficult to believe that something is wrong with my SB or MDAC. I am not going to waste time in trying to find out since I never use FLAC and I estimate the chance that I will find the cause zero.

I find it much more difficult to believe that FLAC does not decode lossless on the Logitech Touch/Mediaserver. Since you did that claim here please try to dig deeper.


There have been lots of issues reported with certain Squeezebox devices. First and best hit: http://forums.logitech.com/t5/Squeezebox-P...-85/td-p/543966



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Wombat
post Dec 28 2012, 00:04
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QUOTE (Porcus @ Dec 28 2012, 00:42) *
There have been lots of issues reported with certain Squeezebox devices. First and best hit: http://forums.logitech.com/t5/Squeezebox-P...-85/td-p/543966

So we change this thread to solve the problem of a member that doesnŽt even want to find a solution himself but does some strange reasoning? For playback issues with Squeezedevices youŽll also find tons of problem threads related to playing wav instead of flac after some people trying to adopt audiophile recommendations.
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Porcus
post Dec 28 2012, 01:02
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Not sure if I get your point, but I am not sure if I solve the poster's problem by merely pointing out that it is likely not the format per se.


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saratoga
post Dec 28 2012, 01:42
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QUOTE (pawelq @ Dec 26 2012, 15:43) *
OK. I just had this experience which I described above.


I'm not saying you did not have that experience, just that the conclusions you are drawing from it cannot be generalized to the situation in this thread for the reasons I stated above. Being uncompressed is not an advantage over a documented format with decoder source available.

QUOTE (pawelq @ Dec 26 2012, 15:43) *
If that obsolete program used proprietary lossless compression, I would never get to the audio. With proprietary PCM format it was quite easy. But you are probably right that decoders of formats that exceeded certain threshold of popularity will be probably available for a long time.


Lots of proprietary lossless formats are supported by ffmpeg. Did you check to see if yours was? And I don't think popularity really has much to do with this. Countless obscure 1980s audio formats are well supported in modern decoder libraries. Once source code is available it is seldom forgotten, particularly for simple things like lossless decoders.
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pawelq
post Dec 28 2012, 04:20
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QUOTE (saratoga @ Dec 27 2012, 19:42) *
Did you check to see if yours was?


No I did not, It was 7 years ago and I wasn't aware that anything like ffmpeg existed. It was proprietary format used by early (DOS - yes!!!) versions of this software http://www.engdes.com/sigwin/products/sigwin/sig5.html. Haha, it looks like they still list us as users even though we dropped this program years ago.


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