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Which is the best lossless codec?, Discussion thread
rjamorim
post Nov 26 2004, 05:14
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Given the enormous amount of lossless audio compressor choices available, it is a very difficult task to choose the one most suited for each person's needs.

Several people only take into consideration compression performance when choosing a codec. But as the following table and post shows, there are several other features worth taking into consideration when making that choice.

For example, users wanting good multiplatform compatibility and robustness (E.G, people sharing live recordings) would favour WavPack or FLAC. Another user, looking for the very highest compression available, would go with OptimFrog. Someone wanting portable support would use FLAC or ALAC, and so on.

En fin, this is not a matter worth getting too worked up about. If you later find out the codec you chose isn't the best for your needs, you can just transcompress to another format, without risk of losing quality.



* Encoding speed, Decoding speed and Compression ratio are based on each encoder's default settings.
** Flexibility refers to the amount of encoding choices offered to the users (Fast/low compression, Slow/high compression and everything inbetween)



These are the most popular lossless codecs, in alphabetical order:

ALAC - Apple Lossless Audio Codec

ALAC is a codec developed by Apple for usage in iPod and AirPort Express.

PROS
- Very fast decoding
- Open source (decoding only)
- Hardware support (iPod, AirPort Express)
- Streaming support
- Tagging support (QT tags)
- Excellent hardware-software-lossy format integration with iTunes/iPod.

CONS
- Closed source (encoding)
- Few software support (iTunes)
- Doesn't support multichannel audio and high resolutions
- Compression efficiency not on par with other lossless codecs
- No hybrid/lossy mode

Other features
- Fits in the MP4 container
- Can be used with the AirPort Express gadget


FLAC - Free Lossless Audio Codec

FLAC is a lossless codec developed by Josh Coalson. It's part of the Xiph multimedia portfolio, along with Vorbis and Theora.

PROS
- Open source
- Very fast decoding
- Hardware support (Karma, Phatbox, etc.)
- Very good software support
- Error robustness
- Streaming support
- Supports multichannel audio and high resolutions
- Tagging support (FLAC tags)
- Pipe support

CONS
- Compression efficiency not on par with other lossless codecs
- No hybrid/lossy mode
- Doesn't support RIFF chunks


Other features
- Supports embedded CUE sheets (with limitations)
- Includes MD5 hashes for quick integrity checking
- Fits the OGG and Matroska containers
- ReplayGain compatible


LosslessAudio - LA

LA is a lossless codec developed by Michael Bevin.

PROS
- Very high compression
- Tagging support (ID3v1)
- Supports RIFF chunks
- Pipe support

CONS
- Closed source
- Very slow encoding and decoding
- No hardware support
- No hybrid/lossy mode
- Bad software support

It's important to mention that the LA foobar plugin is buggy and doesn't produce lossless streams!


LPAC

Lossless Predictive Audio Coder (LPAC) is a lossless codec developed by Tilman Liebchen. Development of it has been halted in favour of development of MPEG4 ALS.

PROS
- Reasonable compression ratios
- High resolution audio support
- Supports RIFF chunks

CONS
- Closed source
- No error robustness
- Slow seeking
- No tagging
- No multichannel support
- No hybrid/lossy mode
- No hardware support


Monkey's Audio

Monkey's Audio is a very efficient lossless compressor developed my Matt Ashland.

PROS
- Open source
- High efficiency
- Good software support
- Error robustness
- Java version (multiplatform)
- Tagging support (ID3v1, APE)
- High resolution audio support
- Supports RIFF chunks (only in the GUI encoder)
- Pipe support (only in a special version)

CONS
- No multichannel support
- No hybrid/lossy mode
- No hardware support

Other features
- Supports embedded APL sheets (similar to CUE sheets)


OptimFROG

OptimFROG is a lossless format developed by Florin Ghido to become the champion in audio compression.

PROS
- Very high compression
- Good software support
- Error robustness
- Streaming support
- Supports high resolutions
- Hybrid/lossy mode
- Tagging support (ID3, APE)
- Supports RIFF chunks

CONS
- Closed source
- No multichannel audio support
- No hardware support
- Quite slow decoding

Other features
- Supports 32bit float streams
- Includes MD5 hashes for quick integrity checking
- ReplayGain compatible


RealAudio Lossless

RealAudio lossless is the lossless codec developed by Real Networks for their multimedia portfolio

PROS
- Very fast decoding
- Streaming support

CONS
- Closed source
- No multichannel and high resolution audio support
- Few software support (Real Player)
- No hardware support
- Compression efficiency not on par with other lossless codecs
- No hybrid/lossy mode
- No pipe support


Shorten

Shorten is a very old and featureless lossless codec developed by Tony Robinson at SoftSound.

PROS
- Open source
- Fast decoding
- Very good software support
- Supports RIFF chunks
- Pipe support

CONS
- Quite inefficient
- No multichannel or high resolution audio support
- No hybrid/lossy mode
- No error robustness
- Not streamable
- No hardware support
- No native tagging


True Audio (TTA)

TTA is a new lossless codec developed by a team of russian programmers.

PROS
- Open source
- Good efficiency (not as good as Monkey's or OptimFrog, but not as bad as SHN or ALAC)
- Hardware support (obscure DVD player)
- Supports multichannel audio and high resolutions
- Tagging support (ID3v2)

CONS
- No streaming support
- No hybrid/lossy mode
- Doesn't support RIFF chunks
- No pipe support

Other features
- Fits the Matroska container
- ReplayGain compatible


WavPack

WavPack is a fast and featureful lossless codec developed by David Bryant.

PROS
- Open source
- Very fast decoding
- Good efficiency (not as good as Monkey's or OptimFrog, but not as bad as SHN or ALAC)
- Error robustness
- Streaming support
- Supports multichannel audio and high resolutions
- Hybrid/lossy mode
- Tagging support (ID3v1, APE)
- Supports RIFF chunks
- Hability to create self extracting files for Win32 platform
- Pipe support
- Good software support

CONS
- No hardware support

Other features
- Supports embedded CUE sheets
- Includes MD5 hashes for quick integrity checking
- Can encode in both symmetrical and assymmetrical modes.
- ReplayGain compatible


Windows Media Audio Lossless

WMA Lossless is the lossless codec developed by Microsoft to be featured in their Windows Media codec portfolio.

PROS
- Streaming support
- Very good software support
- Supports multichannel audio and high resolutions.
- Tagging support (proprietary)
- Pipe support

CONS
- Closed source
- No hybrid/lossy mode
- No hardware support (but it's likely to appear sooner or later)
- Doesn't support RIFF chunks

Other features
- Fits the ASF container


Some links to lossless format compression comparisions:
Hans Heijden's
Speek's
Guruboolez's - comparing only classical music.


Big thanks to every forum member that contributed to this comparision with information about codecs, feature comparisions, benchmarks, etc.

I welcome user comments and corrections on the entries.

This post has been edited by rjamorim: Apr 13 2005, 16:28


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kotrtim
post Nov 26 2004, 05:40
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1. LOWER COMPRESSION BUT HIGHER CPU USAGE
2. NO COMPRESSION MODE TO SELECT

EDIT : But compared with Monkey's Audio, WMA still use more power.

WMA = 34.0MB = ~13% CPU Usage
Monkey's Audio - High = 33.7MB = ~7% CPU Usage

This post has been edited by kotrtim: Nov 26 2004, 06:17
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witt
post Dec 10 2004, 00:33
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QUOTE
Monkey's Audio
- No multichannel or high resolution audio support

Monkey's Audio supoports 24bit/192KHz. No multichannel support.

QUOTE
WavPack
- Fits the Matroska container

What app can it mux?
mkvtoolnix (still) doesn't support WavPack.


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kurtnoise
post Dec 10 2004, 03:07
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QUOTE
WavPack
- Fits the Matroska container

Wavpack isn't support by Matroska container yet......but it's on todo list.

I noticed also a mistake for TTA (in the PROS & CONS part) :no streaming support. wink.gif And TTA supports ID3v2 tags system.


Some notes about LPAC : http://www.nue.tu-berlin.de/wer/liebchen/lpac.html

lossless format developped by Tilman Liebchen. LPAC is derived to LTAC format (Lossless Transform Audio Codec). Liebchen has modified the algorithm scheme to increase performances of this one in order to create LPAC. The first versions are released at the end of 90's. Today, the last version available on official web site is dated from 2002. No updates since nowadays because LPAC has been retained as reference for the MPEG-4 ALS by the MPEG Comittee. So, Liebchen has stopped the development now. Once standardization will be operational, he'll create some tools for the conversions (LPAC files to MPEG-4 ALS files).

Features :
- OS supports : Windows, Linux and Solaris.
- mono and/or stereo Wav files compression with 8 to 24 bits depth.
- No limitation for the Sampling Rate.
- 6 different modes for the compression : fastest to most compressible.
- "Random Access" and Joint-Stereo options.
- Ratios Compression seem to be reasonable, but rather high in general.
- Speed Encoding : more slower than WavPack or TTA.
- Speed Decoding : fast.
- For the playback : only plugins for WA and fb2k.
- software support : good
- Tagging : ID3v2
- Replaygain : no
- Hardware support : no
- Error handling : no
- Flexibility : bad
- Seeking : yes but very bad
- Hybrid/Lossy : no
- Streaming : no
- OpenSource : no
- Multichannel : no
- High Resolution : yes



PS : i can translate some parts of my sticky concerning theses different lossless formats if someone it's interested...(yes, it's in french...smile.gif)


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http://www.unite-video.com/phpbb/viewtopic.php?t=5412 :: An overview of all lossless Audio Formats (in french language ;-)
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Posts in this topic
- kotrtim   Which is the best lossless codec?   Nov 26 2004, 05:40
- - rjamorim   Thanks. I added "unefficient" to WMA...   Nov 26 2004, 05:50
- - kotrtim   roberto , i'm so sorry wma compression is a bi...   Nov 26 2004, 06:04
- - sshd   1. inefficient not unefficient 2. Neither FLAC no...   Nov 26 2004, 06:09
|- - guruboolez   QUOTE (sshd @ Nov 26 2004, 06:09 AM)2. Neithe...   Nov 26 2004, 14:40
|- - jcoalson   this table is nice, good to finally have a sticky ...   Nov 28 2004, 11:51
|- - sshd   QUOTE (jcoalson @ Nov 28 2004, 11:51 AM)QUOTE...   Nov 28 2004, 16:16
|- - sehested   QUOTE (jcoalson @ Nov 28 2004, 02:51 AM)for t...   Nov 28 2004, 17:13
- - BoraBora   Another lossless comparison (in french, but the ta...   Nov 26 2004, 09:30
- - rjamorim   QUOTE (kotrtim @ Nov 26 2004, 02:04 AM)I...   Nov 26 2004, 13:12
- - Garf   <zealot> I see no reason to put very fast d...   Nov 26 2004, 13:39
|- - rjamorim   QUOTE (Garf @ Nov 26 2004, 09:39 AM)<zealo...   Nov 26 2004, 13:53
- - kurtnoise   Some notes about RALF : I made some quick tests w...   Nov 26 2004, 14:44
- - guruboolez   I forgot: nice initiative Roberto. Two comments: ...   Nov 26 2004, 14:44
- - kotrtim   according to the player itself (Itunes n Real) App...   Nov 26 2004, 15:28
- - rjamorim   QUOTE (guruboolez @ Nov 26 2004, 10:40 AM)I...   Nov 26 2004, 18:36
|- - HansHeijden   QUOTE (rjamorim @ Nov 26 2004, 06:36 PM)Since...   Nov 26 2004, 20:17
- - guruboolez   Another suggestion: what about "adaptability...   Nov 26 2004, 18:52
|- - rjamorim   QUOTE (guruboolez @ Nov 26 2004, 02:52 PM)Som...   Nov 26 2004, 19:13
- - guruboolez   I would say "none" rather than "bad...   Nov 26 2004, 19:17
- - kotrtim   QUOTE Haha, dude, you said yourself Real is very f...   Nov 27 2004, 04:48
- - rjamorim   QUOTE (HansHeijden @ Nov 26 2004, 04:17 PM)Ed...   Nov 27 2004, 21:33
- - Zurman   How about an overall notation system? 3 points for...   Nov 28 2004, 20:56
|- - guruboolez   QUOTE (Zurman @ Nov 28 2004, 08:56 PM)How abo...   Nov 29 2004, 10:18
- - BoraBora   About OS support: I understand what it means, but ...   Nov 28 2004, 23:50
- - WaldoMonster   Nice work. I'm missing native ReplayGain in t...   Nov 28 2004, 23:52
|- - rjamorim   QUOTE (WaldoMonster @ Nov 28 2004, 07:52 PM)I...   Nov 29 2004, 00:34
- - rjamorim   QUOTE (jcoalson @ Nov 28 2004, 07:51 AM)for t...   Nov 29 2004, 00:26
|- - Zurman   QUOTE (rjamorim @ Nov 28 2004, 03:26 PM)QUOTE...   Nov 29 2004, 01:53
||- - dev0   QUOTE (Zurman @ Nov 29 2004, 01:53 AM)Just to...   Nov 29 2004, 06:33
|- - BoraBora   QUOTE (rjamorim @ Nov 29 2004, 01:26 AM)For l...   Nov 29 2004, 09:20
|- - jcoalson   QUOTE (rjamorim @ Nov 28 2004, 06:26 PM)QUOTE...   Nov 30 2004, 06:20
- - Tang   Hi, Very nice THREAD thanks to Amorim and every co...   Nov 29 2004, 07:20
|- - music_man_mpc   QUOTE (Tang @ Nov 28 2004, 10:20 PM)Recently ...   Nov 29 2004, 08:57
|- - guruboolez   QUOTE (music_man_mpc @ Nov 29 2004, 08:57 AM)...   Nov 29 2004, 10:40
|- - Tang   QUOTE (guruboolez @ Nov 29 2004, 01:40 AM)QUO...   Nov 30 2004, 04:35
- - rjamorim   QUOTE (dev0 @ Nov 29 2004, 02:33 AM)I don...   Nov 29 2004, 13:23
|- - guruboolez   QUOTE (rjamorim @ Nov 29 2004, 01:23 PM)Indee...   Nov 29 2004, 14:22
|- - rjamorim   QUOTE (guruboolez @ Nov 29 2004, 10:22 AM)Is ...   Nov 29 2004, 14:29
- - guruboolez   You're right. I had in might asymetrical with ...   Nov 29 2004, 14:34
- - GeSomeone   RJAmorim, I think it would be a good idea to add v...   Dec 2 2004, 13:42
|- - Faelix   QUOTE (GeSomeone @ Dec 2 2004, 09:42 AM)Anoth...   Dec 2 2004, 14:12
- - rjamorim   QUOTE (GeSomeone @ Dec 2 2004, 09:42 AM)I thi...   Dec 9 2004, 18:43
- - kurtnoise   For TTA : Encoding Speed : fast Decoding Speed : ...   Dec 9 2004, 19:21
|- - rjamorim   Excellent. Thank-you for the info. I just updates ...   Dec 9 2004, 19:45
|- - buzzy   Nice work. As some of the comments here suggest, ...   Dec 9 2004, 20:56
|- - rjamorim   QUOTE (buzzy @ Dec 9 2004, 04:56 PM)As some o...   Dec 10 2004, 21:13
|- - buzzy   Sorry, the comment about hardware support was a re...   Dec 13 2004, 20:33
- - guruboolez   LA has both seeking and tagging functionality. I c...   Dec 9 2004, 21:08
- - Mindaxiz   EDIT: --post deleted-- Looks like TTA has been ...   Dec 9 2004, 22:44
- - Mindaxiz   Rjamorim, you either edited the table super fast o...   Dec 9 2004, 23:52
- - evereux   This spreadsheet is an excellent reference, thanks...   Dec 10 2004, 15:36
- - guruboolez   very slow seeking could be highly irritating. I ne...   Dec 10 2004, 15:48
- - rjamorim   Hello. I just added a new table design, and would ...   Dec 10 2004, 16:14
- - rjamorim   I just edited the main post. Here are some comment...   Dec 10 2004, 16:32
- - rjamorim   Since I was already playing with my test streams, ...   Dec 10 2004, 17:06
- - roweezy   WMAL / WMA Lossless 9.1 DOES support 24bit / 24-b...   Jan 1 2005, 04:23
- - Zurman   I think there's a mistak in the table : Monkey...   Jan 3 2005, 19:37
|- - rjamorim   QUOTE (Zurman @ Jan 3 2005, 03:37 PM)I think ...   Jan 3 2005, 19:48
|- - Zurman   QUOTE (rjamorim @ Jan 3 2005, 10:48 AM)QUOTE ...   Jan 3 2005, 20:08
- - Erich w/ an h   are the percentages in the original post based on ...   Jan 10 2005, 10:22
- - Skymmer   Here is another suggestion and test... As you know...   Jan 22 2005, 04:36
|- - rjamorim   Thanks for that test you did. I am considering add...   Jan 24 2005, 00:05
- - jcoalson   even better would be if a codec could store all AI...   Jan 22 2005, 06:04
- - Skymmer   Quite agree but I'm pretty sure that formats w...   Jan 22 2005, 06:34
|- - jcoalson   QUOTE (Skymmer @ Jan 22 2005, 12:34 AM)Quite ...   Jan 23 2005, 18:56
- - Skymmer   OK. Again 10 seconds brown noise but without any m...   Jan 22 2005, 07:22
- - Skymmer   QUOTE (jcoalson @ Jan 23 2005, 08:56 PM)anywa...   Jan 23 2005, 19:53
|- - jcoalson   QUOTE (Skymmer @ Jan 23 2005, 01:53 PM)QUOTE ...   Jan 24 2005, 01:13
|- - rjamorim   QUOTE (jcoalson @ Jan 23 2005, 10:13 PM)my co...   Jan 24 2005, 01:28
|- - kjoonlee   QUOTE (jcoalson @ Jan 24 2005, 09:13 AM)2. wh...   Jan 24 2005, 03:01
- - Skymmer   QUOTE (rjamorim @ Jan 24 2005, 02:05 AM)Thank...   Jan 24 2005, 02:11
|- - jcoalson   QUOTE (Skymmer @ Jan 23 2005, 08:11 PM)QUOTE ...   Jan 24 2005, 08:57
- - adlai   my take as a dumb end-user. MAC is the best. Best...   Jan 24 2005, 02:35
|- - Skymmer   QUOTE (adlai @ Jan 24 2005, 04:35 AM)MAC is t...   Jan 24 2005, 02:57
|- - buzzy   QUOTE (adlai @ Jan 23 2005, 08:35 PM)MAC is t...   Feb 12 2005, 18:27
|- - johnsonlam   To be short: Everyone who create a free loseless c...   Feb 12 2005, 18:48
- - Synthetic Soul   QUOTE (jcoalson @ Jan 24 2005, 07:57 AM)QUOTE...   Jan 24 2005, 09:38
|- - rjamorim   QUOTE (Synthetic Soul @ Jan 24 2005, 06:38 AM...   Jan 24 2005, 14:52
- - m0rbidini   Is it difficult to guarantee full reconstruction o...   Jan 24 2005, 10:23
- - Synthetic Soul   QUOTE (rjamorim @ Jan 24 2005, 01:52 PM)No fl...   Jan 24 2005, 20:43
- - Mindaxiz   QUOTE (Synthetic Soul @ Jan 24 2005, 02:43 PM...   Jan 24 2005, 21:11
|- - rjamorim   QUOTE (Mindaxiz @ Jan 24 2005, 06:11 PM)I am ...   Jan 24 2005, 23:33
- - rjamorim   QUOTE (Erich w/ an h @ Jan 10 2005, 07:22 AM)...   Feb 2 2005, 04:54
- - guruboolez   I've selected one mono album for my classical ...   Feb 3 2005, 08:19
- - p0wder   I recently converted from FLAC to Wavpack in order...   Feb 3 2005, 10:10
|- - Polar   QUOTE (p0wder @ Feb 3 2005, 09:10 UTC)I'm...   Feb 3 2005, 12:39
- - rjamorim   QUOTE (guruboolez @ Feb 3 2005, 05:19 AM)I...   Feb 3 2005, 15:30
- - rutra80   How about adding to the "Tagging" row th...   Feb 8 2005, 20:35
- - WaldoMonster   Adding "PIPE support" to the table would...   Feb 11 2005, 15:46
- - rjamorim   QUOTE (rutra80 @ Feb 8 2005, 05:35 PM)How abo...   Feb 11 2005, 19:31
|- - WaldoMonster   QUOTE (rjamorim @ Feb 11 2005, 10:31 PM)Well,...   Feb 11 2005, 22:43
- - rjamorim   QUOTE (buzzy @ Feb 12 2005, 03:27 PM)An examp...   Feb 12 2005, 23:17
- - johnsonlam   QUOTE One sentence: competition is good. I agree....   Feb 13 2005, 17:32
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