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Mark Sealey Level 2 Level 2 (320 points)

I have a collection of 24-bit FLAC files.


Am I best to try and convert them to play in iTunes as Apple Lossless? Would I lose some quality?




to use a standalone player? If so, which is the more robust and likely to give the best quality - also using AirFoil:


  1. Songbird
  2. Play
  3. VLC
  4. …something else?


It's maintaining the quality of the original that's most important to me. Neither the features of an eventual player; nor whether it's free or not :-)



iMac, Mac OS X (10.7.3), Clean machine... no haxies; no Microsoft etc
  • Limnos Level 8 Level 8 (45,430 points)

    Any lossless codec should be equivalent to the other in terms of quality.  That's the whole point -- there is no loss so no change in quality.


    If you want to use iTunes I think the best solution long term is to go with ALE.  There's supposed to be some plugins to enable FLAC on iTunes but I haven't seen absolutely glowing reports.


    [Xiph QuickTime Components (XiphQT)|]


    [How to play .flac files in iTunes for Mac|] - link broken


    [ unes-library.ars] - link to Fluke in article broken.



    Play .wma, Ogg, and FLAC files in iTunes.  - []


    The links above for Fluke are broken but you can still find it at:

  • Mark Sealey Level 2 Level 2 (320 points)



    Thanks for your quick and helpful reply :-)


    So, really, converting from FLAC to ALE I lose nothing? NO-THING??


    In that case, I should do that and use iTunes, shouldn't I?


    Unless iTunes plays at a lower quality than the dedicated players? Does it?


    And if I want to batch convert .flac to .ale (I'd rather do that than have plug-ins: once converted, they stay converted)?


    I've been using Switch, which only supports m4a.

  • Limnos Level 8 Level 8 (45,430 points)

    I can't swear on it since I have not tested a FLAC vs an ALE file, but the whole point is that nothing is lost (nor presumably gained).  I remember once taking an AIFF file, opening it in an audio converter, converting to FLAC, opening the FLAC, reversing the phase, adding one from the other, and getting a flat line.  I guess you could do the same to test the two codecs.


    I don't use ALE since I don't have room for lossless formats.  XLD lets you do batch conversion and appears to have both FLAC and Apple Lossless.  It's slightly confusing until you realize that most of the configuration is done through preferences.


    I don't know about iTunes playback.  I haven't bothered updating in years, and I run an older machine.  I remember years ago there was fuss about iTunes not handling 48k, 24bit, blah, blah, blah.  that was several years ago and I don't see a lot of talk about it these days.  Maybe some audiophile will respond here who knows.  I think itunes probably does as well as anything with lossless.  Do keep in mind that its a mass consumer product, not your high-end stereo.

  • Mark Sealey Level 2 Level 2 (320 points)



    Thanks. Two remaining questions, if I may, please:


    1. Which is the extension for Apple Lossless, m4a or ALE?

    2. Given that iTunes is a 'mass consumer product' best at organising MP3s, maybe I would be better using a dedicated player? It really is high-end (I want to output to a decent stereo system) that matters to me.


  • Limnos Level 8 Level 8 (45,430 points)

    .m4a -


    Given that you are playing back lossless files I would think the limitations will be on your hardware and not iTunes itself unless it is doing something such as downsampling your audio.  I don't know iTunes to that detail but I am sure there is discussion about it on the web (jut note the date on any such discussions as they may refer to a 5 year old iTunes).  Limitation on iTunes might be your preferences for equalizers, etc.

  • Mark Sealey Level 2 Level 2 (320 points)



    Thanks. Actually I am planning to stream output from iTunes (and VLC etc) to an Airport Express and into a high-end stereo system via a dedicated DAC.

  • Martin Hand1 Level 1 Level 1 (95 points)

    Mark, Went through the exact same thing myself and opted to convert everything to apple lossless. I'd suggest you have a look at Max to do your conversion



    It can batch convert all your flac's to apple lossless, tag them (well, copy the existing tags ...) and add them to iTunes for you all in one go. And it's freeware.


    As far as sound qualiy is concerned, I stream via airport express out to my cd player which handles all the dac. These files have been ripped from CD to flac, then converted from flac to apple lossless, and seriously, there's no difference between apple losless and an actual CD - as said earlier, that's the point of lossless I guess!

  • Mark Sealey Level 2 Level 2 (320 points)

    Thanks, Martin!


    But does iTunes play 24-bit?

  • kanyfilm Level 1 Level 1 (0 points)

    i have been asking the same question... i converted some FLAC 24 bit files using XLD to apple lossless and then got info in itunes and it said it was 24bit and 96khz, so beyond that, not really sure what else could be lost quality-wise?  they also won't play on ipad or iphone, so i imagine they are the same?  would love to confirm bc i am playing them in VLC which is not as good as itunes...


    but one thing i know FOR SURE is that airport express AND ATV2 cannot handle 24bit. they downsample to 44kz so if you have one of those devices in your chain you are losing quality.  that has been written about a lot around here...

  • Mark Sealey Level 2 Level 2 (320 points)





    In the end I did avoid conversion. Especially since iTunes can't handle 24-bit.


    Am sending raw FLAC 24-bit files fromVLC using AirFoil to my stereo, Yes via Airport Express because I was actually told exactly the opposite - that Airport Express does not downsample!



  • kanyfilm Level 1 Level 1 (0 points)

    how are you connected from the AE to your stereo?  just curious... 


    and how do you know itunes can't handle 24 bit?  it seems to play them fine as long as they are apple lossless and not flac... 


    so confusing this whole issue...

  • Mark Sealey Level 2 Level 2 (320 points)



    I agree it's confusing; and also that I may be wrong on any count!


    AE to stereo for the moment is 3.5mm jack to Y-split RCAs. As soon as ParaSound (maker of my stereo) releases their DAC, I'll use that - I suppose with a didgital cable?


    I understand that AirPlay downsamples, but not (necessarily) AE as such…?


    I've read, I'm sure, that iTunes doesn't decode 24-bit FLAC.


    But you're right: no one source seems to have all the necessary knowledge on all aspects of this!

  • kanyfilm Level 1 Level 1 (0 points)

    yeah, i think you are losing quality through the minijack...  i am going from my MBP through TOSlink cable (the lineout of the MBP) to optical audio IN on my receiver


    and correct, itunes does not decode 24 bit FLAC, that is true.  but if you convert 24 bit FLAC to apple lossless, it's still 24 bit and itunes can play that.  i'm wondering what the difference is between apple lossless 24/96 adn FLAC 24/96?

  • Mark Sealey Level 2 Level 2 (320 points)



    Those are really helpful points, thanks :-)


    Apart from preferring iTunes to VLC, what are the advantages of converting (FLAC to ALE)?


    I like VLC (e.g. it plays ZIPped files on the fly). If iTunes represented an advance for the AE side of things, I'd also consider it.

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