Vinyl Recording Project - WAV vs. FLAC, and Software

Discussion in 'GENERAL AV Discussions' started by mleuba, Jun 23, 2008.

  1. mleuba Enthusiast

    mleuba
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    Hi All!

    So I am getting started to record my vinyl, not a huge amount, maybe 100 albums.

    I have the ION USB turntable, not happy with Audacity s/w (too complicated) or EZVinyl (too basic/unforgiving). I researched last week and decided on Roxio RecordNow Music Lab 10. I'm pretty happy with it, strikes the balance between the two other tools. Cheap! $29 USD. Still some improvement needed in the automatic tagging provided by Gracenotes I think. It will work correctly about 50-70% of the time. That market is still a work in progress, but I digress.

    The RecordNow has a number of formats that it can output to. My plan has been to record to .flac, but I may reconsider, wanted the thoughts of the experienced ones. The alternative I'm thinking of is .wav. It seems to be the same compression based on a small sampling I have taken. Initially my thinking was .flac would be a good greatest-common-denominator, not tied to a particular proprietary market player (like MS or Apple). But then I'm thinking, you know the future surely will include tools to convert from the popular lossless formats, no matter which I pick. (BTW I added a WMP extension to allow it to recognize ("filter") .flac, works like a charm.

    So, what are the points to consider when deciding which lossless format to use as your baseline, assuming that I will need to export to Ipod on occasion, but primarily planning to stream using a future HTPC I hope to build...

    Thanks! Also, I think that a new forum on HTPC subjects may be in order to specialize in this type of thing, not sure where it fits otherwise...

    Appreciate hearing your thoughts and views.

    Mark
  2. krabapple Banned

    krabapple
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    Software tools to convert from lossless to lossy compressed are already readily available. 'Flac to mp3' is easy...just google the phrase. I use foobar2000, which is full-featured music player/converter software

    Archive your LPs to a lossless format -- either compressed (flac, WMA, Apple lossless) or not (wav, aiff), depending on your storage capacities. 100 LPs won't need much. One advantage of compressed is that you can 'tag' the files with built-in artist/album etc information.
    Last edited: Jun 23, 2008
  3. jcPanny Audioholic Ninja

    jcPanny
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    Audio Formats.

    Mleuba,
    I haven't done any vinyl recording but I am familiar with the different audio formats.

    FLAC, Apple Lossless, and WAV are all lossless audio formats. WAV is the native audio format used on CDs so I think you can copy WAV files directly to a CD (without conversion) and play it on your CD player. The advantage of of FLAC or Apple Lossless is that they are still lossless but the information is stored more efficently so the files are roughly half the size of the origional WAV file. Lossy formats like MP3 can achieve 10 to 1 compression but you loose inforamtion during the process and you cannot convert back from MP3 to lossless.

    I would recommend archiving your vinyl in one of the lossless formats. If you plan to use it on your iPod with compression, then try Apple Lossless. I have most of my CDs stored in this format on an 80 GB iPod classic for playback on my system.
  4. MDS Audioholic Spartan

    MDS
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    WAV is the common denominator as it is a raw format - basicallly nothing more than a header followed by PCM samples. It is uncompressed and thus the files are very large - but it will be playable now and forever.

    FLAC is a lossless compression scheme and requires a FLAC decoder to be able to play it. There aren't that many players that support FLAC although the number is growing as it is becoming more popular.

    The distinction is probably irrelevant, but you don't 'record' to FLAC, MP3, WMA, etc. The process of recording results in PCM samples, which more or less means WAV. If you set the output to FLAC, it will simply encode to FLAC when the recording is done and then discard the WAV. FLAC is fine if you want to save a little disk space but somewhat of a burden to play back. If you have the disk space, I'd save the WAV. Then you can transcode the WAV to any format or multiple formats that you like. As long as you have the original you never need to record it again (or rip the CD again if you were talking about CD).
    MDS,
  5. TLS Guy Audioholic Overlord

    TLS Guy
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    I agree with that completely. That is what I do.
  6. fmw Audioholic Samurai

    fmw
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    I agree with it also except that I have done all mine in 320 mp3 since I went through some trouble to determine that I couldn't hear the difference between it and a WAV file.
    fmw,
  7. TLS Guy Audioholic Overlord

    TLS Guy
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    It is comments like that, that astound me. To me all these lossy compressions sound awful. I and others can pick them out easily on my rig. The stereo image and sense of space collapse frequently even at the highest resolution of MP3. It isn't even subtle the difference. I belong to the Steinberg forum also, and I'm not the only one who does a big head scratch with comments like that.
    The advice of the pros is NEVER to archive using a lossy format.

    I did one download of a CD of William Boyce anthems at Christ Church Oxford, from the Chandos site. It was awful, and I had to order the CD.

    Opera DVDs have to have a stereo loss less PCM track as there are too many complaints if they only have lossy codecs, like AC3.

    This is a phenomenon I find hard to understand, that there seem to be people who can't tell when lossy codecs have been used. The explanation on the Steinberg site is usually that people are monitoring with speakers that have way too low a resolution and an inability to throw up a proper sound stage with a realistic perspective. It is the lack of space and perspective that is most obvious with lossy codecs.
  8. fmw Audioholic Samurai

    fmw
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    TLS, that is because you are comparing a download to a CD, not a 320 mp3 to a CD. I don't know where to find it on the internet but some people have posted audio that contains nothing but the bits removed during digital compression. At 320 kbps, it sounds like a barely audible hiss when you crank up the volume very high. That hiss is about 50db below the average signal. At 320 kbps, compression doesn't remove anything audible. Go do some bias controlled listening tests for yourself and then come back and tell me you could tell them apart.

    Music downloaded from the internet is compressed a whole bunch more than 320 kbps and is compressed enough to be audible. That's not what I do. I do 320 kbps.

    Doing a bias controlled test is simple. Just take a track and rip it both as a wav and as a 320 mp3. Then have someone substitute them back and forth in a manner that prevents you from knowing which is which. Tell the scorer which track you are hearing and have the scorer put right or wrong. Do about 20 random iterations and look at the score. The 320 mp3, by the way will be about 1/4 the size of the wav so that shows you how much inaudible data really exists in a CD track.

    If you want to save the trouble just take it from me that not only have I, but all kinds of other people have tested this and 320 kbps compression isn't audible to anyone. Go do the test and see for yourself.

    Comparing lossy to lossless as a generalization is fairly pointless. You need to understand how lossy the lossy is. Generalities aren't meaningful.
    fmw,
  9. TLS Guy Audioholic Overlord

    TLS Guy
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    I have to disagree. Like a lot of technologies, these lossy codecs are pop industry geared.

    In wave lab I can experiment with almost all the codec at varying bit rates.

    I have a selection of torture samples, that make it easy to catch them out.

    I have analyzed them carefully with my youngest son, a highly skilled and professional engineer. we even went to the trouble of recording various instruments played by professional players. We recorded them digitally, and on a Revox A700 at 15 ips wih fresh tape. The microphone was a Neumman SM 69 FET auditorium sound field microphone. This is excellent for preserving the ambiance.

    The problem with these lossy codec, is that they do change the ambient envelope. The more ambient the recording, the more noticeable it is. We came to the conclusion, that all these lossy codecs are fundamentally flawed.

    So the advice of the professionals stands. If you are serious about archiving, do not use a lossy codec to do it.

    In fact we found out that the CD standard is the bare minimum, which the developers knew at the time. Anything below that standard and you a significantly short changed.

    It is very very obvious on opera CDs, where you can compare the AC3 track and the loss less PCM track. I have tried this on a number of music lovers and all have a preference for the PCM, even not knowing which one is selected.

    If this were not so, there would not be this huge push for Dolby True HD. Apparently many members have noted improved sound, as I would expect.

    I will certainly get interested in this format when more opera is released on Blue Ray.
  10. fmw Audioholic Samurai

    fmw
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    If you were here I would be happy to prove it to you. Since you aren't and aren't willing to do the bias controlled tests to prove it to yourself, then I have nor more comments except that you continue to talk about lossy formats without any regard to the AMOUNT of lossiness. I'm not trying to sell you on anything. I'm just telling you that I would bet money you can't tell a 320 mp3 from a wav in a bias controlled listening test.
    fmw,
  11. MDS Audioholic Spartan

    MDS
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    MP3 (and similar lossy compression schemes) are general purpose compression algorithms, so naturally there will be some instances where an audible difference might be heard.

    For most mainstream type music, say rock, pop, dance, disco, country, etc, it is near impossible to tell the difference given a sufficiently high bitrate for encoding. Opera or classical is radically different and may show some differences. 192 kbps is sufficient for most things. 256 kbps or 320 kbps is overkill but retains high frequencies greater than 19 kHz better than 192 kbps.

    However, for the purposes of archiving; ie saving a pristine copy to keep forever just as you might keep a physical format like CD, I always recommend WAV. You can transcode to MP3 or any other format you like for playback.
    MDS,
  12. fmw Audioholic Samurai

    fmw
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    This is frustrating. Everyone keeps talking in generalities. Lossy, mp3 - those are generalities. I'm speaking very specifically. Neither you nor I nor anyone else can tell a 320 kbps mp3 from a wav in a bias controlled listening test. That's true of Classical music as well. 192kbps, on the other hand is audible by anyone with any kind of music. If you think you can tell the difference then come hear with $1000. If you can do it, I'll give you $1000. If you can't, you give it to me. There you go. My money is where my mouth is.
    fmw,
  13. pzaur Audioholic Samurai

    pzaur
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    To get back on topic...

    I am starting to save everything in .flac. It creates a smaller file and is lossless. More and more programs are able to interpret the files.

    I use dbPoweramp to convert my files. It's free and works in batches.

    Personally, I don't like to alter any of my files in any way. Information removed is still information removed. I don't even like the fact that .jpeg files are compressed. I'd greatly prefer to save everything in .tiff from the start, if I could.

    -pat
  14. MDS Audioholic Spartan

    MDS
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    You know fmw, I was with you with the fact that you cannot tell the difference between 320 kbps MP3 and WAV but now you are the one talking in generalities. I can't tell the difference between 192 kbps and 256 kbps or 320 kbps on any of the music I have. FYI, there is practically zero difference between 256 kbps and 320 kbps, other than file size, when you look at the resultant waveform. At 128 kbps, the encoder will discard everything beyond 16 kHz. As you increase the bitrate, obviously there are more bits available per second to encode, thus the encoder becomes less aggressive and will retain more than when using a lower bitrate.

    Music is very complex and no general purpose algorithm can be ideal for all cases. Dolby Digital and DTS are the same principle, but the algorithm is vastly different. If one size fits all, there would be one and only one audio and video format. Just as an aside, why can't you use Zip/Jar/Rar/Tar/etc to create a lossless file of audio data? Because audio data does not compress the same way that text compresses. A 50 MB ascii text file will be teeny tiny after using zip (because there is a lot of redundancy) but a 50 MB WAV file will still be 95% the same size if you were to use zip to compress it. Speech is usually compressed using ADPCM, not MP3 or WMA or any of the music compression formats. They are optimized for different purposes. If 320 kbps MP3 were the be-all end-all then why bother inventing new formats like WMA, OGG, AAC, etc? Why get rid of MPEG2 and move on to MPEG-4 or VC-1?
    MDS,
  15. TLS Guy Audioholic Overlord

    TLS Guy
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    If you play my torture test tracks you will tell the difference in a heart beat. If you take a well recorded 320 kbs mps file or any one you mention, and then look at the ambient field with reverse phase in the metering in WaveLab or any other good scope, the ambient field is grossly changed. This is where there are a lot of bits thrown on the floor especially the tail.

    The differences are very easily audible. This is not a subtle good LP versus CD issue or CD versus SACD. Now I grant you, if you listen to a crooner closed miked, twanging a guitar, with the ambient field knocked out of it by lousy engineering, then you won't odds it. But I can assure you a good deal of the music I listen to sounds downright peculiar, in lossy codecs even at their maximal supported bit rates.

    In my book these codecs like MP3 are only suitable for low to medium fidelity applications, at best. I certainly would never consider using them to archive my master tapes. I and I don't know any good engineer that would archive his masters with them either.
  16. MDS Audioholic Spartan

    MDS
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    That's what I am trying to say. I agree with you that there are scenarios where any bitrate of MP3 will show artifacts and audible differences. Classical and Jazz in particular. For my kind of music, I agree with FMW - you won't be able to tell.

    I'm not an extremist and won't throw the baby out with the bath water and dismiss all lossy compression schemes as totally inadequate, but I understand, at least from a programming perspective, the inherent tradeoffs and the fact that it absolutely cannot be ideal for all circumstances. It's far more difficult to encode Beethoven's Ninth than Kiss - Lick It Up but for me it doesn't matter because I have far more music on the order of Kiss than Beethoven.
    MDS,
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  17. TLS Guy Audioholic Overlord

    TLS Guy
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    That's the exact point I'm making. There is music out there that is highly vulnerable to the artifacts of lossy codecs. These are codecs are geared to the pop industry.

    I was approached a couple of years ago by a small British label, whose entire repertory is an MP3 minefield. They have used the Chandos sites for their downloads, which are 320 kbs. They were getting a lot of complaint. and wanted to know if there was a way to download a perfect CD image from the Internet. I thought about it, and it became a job for my recuperation from my surgery of Jan 07. The CD I used to demo my system can be downloaded here. It is one of my masters, so there are no copyright issues.

    http://www.drmarksays.com/

    Chandos not have loss less downloads, but the cue file does not link a solidly as mine does.

    The point is that people, and I'm thinking especially of Ubiquity's HD digital radio system, that claim these lossy codecs are CD quality. I maintain vehemently that is not true. We do need some benchmark standards, and the CD Red Book is a good starting place. Considering it is a quarter century on, it has served us remarkably well!
  18. MDS Audioholic Spartan

    MDS
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    You and I are in total agreement. Nothing is absolutely ideal in all circumstances. For rock, pop, dance, disco, etc high bitrate MP3 pretty much cannot be distinguished from raw uncompressed formats. After all, the algorithm wasn't created by a bunch of yahoos in their garage. Classical and Jazz...it's not necessarily ideal.

    I understand all that. QuickSort is about the fastest sorting algorithm ever invented...unless the data you start with is nearly sorted to begin with. In that case, it performs about on par with the slowest sort algorithm ever invented, bubble sort. It's always about choosing the best tool for the job.

    For me, I like 192 kps for playback (for my kind of music), but I archive in pure uncompressed WAV because I don't want to lose anything at all - even if under most circumstances I wouldn't hear the subtle difference.
    MDS,
  19. krabapple Banned

    krabapple
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    That's true in 99% of cases, but there will always be 'killer' samples that can confound the encoder. These are what codec developers use to improve the codec generation to generation.

    At least two people have reported possitive ABX results for 320 mp3s on hydrogenaudio. Neither of them said it was easy. It's more correct to say that for people, in most situation, with most music, 320 will be 'transparent' to source in an ABX. (I would be one of those people -- I'ma lready at 'transparent' at 192 VBR).

    That said, mp3 is bad choice for *archiving* because it locks you into a lossy codec. If a BETTER lossy codec comes along, you'd be transcodign from lossy to lossy, which is not recommended.



    Not true.

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