AAC or AppleLossless

I am beginning to import all my CD's to my Apple laptop and want to know which is the best format to use for highest possible sound quality. I have heard recommendations for both AppleLossless and AAC. Anyone know from experience if one is better than the other? Thank you,
Apple Loseless will cut file size by 50%, AAC can perform greater size reduction. Loseless sounds better. Unless you have a very small music collection I would strongly recommend that you obtain an external HD and store the music files on it. Depending on the size and/or number of external drives you use you could store your music in the AIFF uncompressed format.
I have imported most of my files in AppleLossless with the remainder in MP3. For my purposes, the AppleLossless format does not provide any significant benefit over MP3. I listen primarily with earbuds, and sometimes through my reference 2 channel system. The iPod doesn't sound like a reference source component in my two channel rig while playing AppleLossless files, and the battery lasts a woeful 2 1/2 hours when used as a portable playing AppleLossless files, so I'm beginning to think the added battery life and storage achieved by using MP3 files is worth any small degradation in sound quality.
If you assume that you will (at some time) be porting the data off your HD into a very good DAC via a USB connection, you should definitively use a lossless scheme. I'm not sure it matters what format you choose. I know that testing has shown Apple Lossless converts back to the original format with bit-for-bit accuracy (use error correction when ripping just to make sure). I wouldn't be surprised if the same is true for other lossless formats. The downside of Apple Lossless is that it only works on Apple Itunes and Ipod, whereas other formats may also work with other music engines. There are programs out there to convert apple lossless into other lossless formats (in bulk), but not the other way around (licensing???). Personally, I ripped everything in Apple Lossless. Now that I get to know itunes, I'm not as impressed as I'd hoped though!
I do plan to store all the music I import to a 500GB hardrive, and then pump it out through USB Waveterminal 24, and in the future, maybe a DAC. It sounds like the Apple lossless is not all its cracked up to be? There was an article a few weeks back on AudioRevolution.com about using a Music Server (Apple/iTunes) and the author suggested using AAC. When you use AAC you can adjust the khz and sampling rate. When I have some time I am going to try to import the same disc in both formats and see how it sounds piped through my stereo. That may be the only way to know for sure.
For serious listening Apple Lossless ONLY!

Also see J. Atkinson in Stereophile on that matter.
Aida_w, in my opinion, the iPod does not lend itself well as a reference source suitable for serious listening. It works great as a background/party music jukebox. For this purpose MP3 works just fine.
Tvad, the post is about using a computer as a music server, nobody has mentioned anything about using an iPod.

Pardales, the only advantage of the AAC format is that it can compress down to smaller files sizes. Compared to non-compressed or Apple Loseless there is a penalty in sound quality. It's a value judgement whether that trade-off is acceptable, but if you're using a 500Gb HD where you can store approximately 700 (non-compressed) to 1,400 (Apple Loseless) CDs. Is your music collection so large that it cannot fit on one or two 500Gb drives?
Not at all. My entire collection will easily fit on this 500Gb drive with no problem. So, I am not asking about this because of space issues. I am really only interested in the best quality. Apple Lossless it sounds like?
Pardales, all 54 gigs of my iPod hard drive are songs in Apple Lossless. For what it's worth, that's about 2500 tunes...some are a minute long, some are classical or jazz pieces that last 17 minutes. Most are average, about 3-5 minutes in length.

With the standard earphones, I had trouble discerning Lossless from AAC. But as soon as I got my Shure e5c earphones, it was obvious (to my ears) how much better Lossless really was.

I even did it double-blind, by burning versions of the same song in both formats and having a friend select between them. I correctly identified and preferred the Lossless every time.

Hope this helps,
You're right, Onhwy61. Sorry.

If I had a reference quality PC based server, I'd use AppleLossless...
My system is set-up now and I am beginnning to import music to iTunes using AppleLossless. The sound quality through the Waveterminal U24 has far exceeded my expectations. It sounds great!
there are other issues with lossless

I have started a few threads on high quality files which you can check out

Anybody who thinks MP3 is acceptable shouldnt bother with this forum in my opinion.

And I also don't get the widespread obsession with storing 80 billion songs -- isn't disc space very cheap and getting cheaper by the day?

It also seems to me that these applications are particularly useful for portable audio, travel, working out etc where, say, 30 CDs or so should probably get you through your morning jog or commute?

So my vote would be genuinely lossless, bit for bit WAV files, subject to solving the problems mentioned in my other threads.

I guess I still don't get it.

If you want maximum quality - that is to say to use a hard drive as a source for a reference quality redbook system, you need to rip in Apple Lossless, .wav or .aiff.

Let me try to give you some insights into the pros and cons

Because it is not a proprietary format, .wav is the most "portable" in that you can do the most with it. That is to say, it is happy in the PC world and there are a lot of third party utilities that work with it

However .wav and .aiff are both about twice as big as Apple Lossless files with no apparent - or should I say audible difference.

When you have 200Gb of material like I do - about 750 cds, nearly 10,000 songs!!! the cost of the first drive isn't an issue - but then there is the second one to back it up to think about too. Trust me when you see how long it takes to rip that much music, you will want to back it up...

I am now keeping the master library on a 400Gb Seagate and splitting the backup across two 250Gb Hitachis which I had. You may not know that you should not use the last 20% of your drive capacity... The good news is that the bandwidth requirments are so small that you can use slower drives if need be - you will however notice a difference on the time it takes to do a backup so do it while you sleep =)

I chose Apple Lossless because I am a hardcore Mac guy, always have been, always will be - yes even with Intel inside - and so I didn't mind the fact that I was locked into a proprietary format. BTW when I burn a CD via iTunes it automatically makes .aiff files out of the Apple Lossless. Point being that there are a number of ways to convert should you want to in the future

One thing is for sure - once you get this sorted out you will really enjoy the music =)
As I understand it, the startup disc is the HD you should leave 20% free for VM, paging, etc. That overhead HD use is fluid, and you want to make sure it's available if it's called upon. A second HD isn't used in this way and should be safe. But it's true, hard drive space is so cheap these days, easily less than $1/GB, that it just makes sense to buy lots of storage.
Question for all you PC and iTunes users:

Do you have bit perfect playback? Or are you listening through kmixer, which upsamples everything to 48 kHz, then usually back down to 44.1 kHz again in the output device.

I have a fairly hi res 2 channel rig (Benchmark DAC-1/MC 2200/MC2102/Vienna Acoustics Beethovens) and can definitely hear kmixer. It is NOT subtle. It is bad.

I understand iTunes is soley a DirectSound/Waveout device, meaning (I think) that ASIO and KS output options are not possible with iTunes. Which means kmixer, baby. I have heard that some soundcards/USB adapotors {RME/M-Audio Transit} work, but no one has verified.

Anybody have a DEFINITIVE answer?

To test, you should be able to play a DTS encoded .wav file via iTunes to an HT Pre/Pro and have it decode properly. If it decodes, it is bit perfect. HDCD would be another way.

I have been unable to do this.

Which means that Apple Lossless, and iTunes are, for me, a non-starter. Big problem as I have multiple iPods, use iTunes, and would like to use apple lossless to rip my collection.


Anybody have a workaround?
(Buying a MAC is not an option!)


I have 1,500 CD's ripped with Apple Lossless. They are stored on three external firewire drives hooked up to an Apple iBook, which runs over USB to an M-Audio Audiophile USB and then an Audio Research DAC5 w/jitter correction. I have an Airport Express for the bedroom system upstairs, and through iTunes sharing I'm also able to play them on any of the other three computers in our home. Digital bliss :)

Before transferring all my files, I did a lot of listening tests with friends over to try and tell the difference between wav, aiff, direct from cd, Apple Lossless, and other various jitter correcting and upconverting DAC's. Apple Lossless was a no-brainer storage format as none of us could hear a difference between any of these bit-accurate formats. Jitter correction seemed to have a massive effect on "pace, rhythm and timing", and the upsampling affected the soundstage and imaging.

W9tr, why should ASIO matter to you? There's going to be no additional sound quality vs. DirectSound and you're only doing two-channel (not multichannel) so what's the big deal?
The big deal is that with a PC based platform running XP, I can't get decent quality out of iTunes because, as a directsound/waveout device, it goes through kmixer.

ASIO matters only because it is one way to bypass kmixer. So there is a sound quality difference with ASIO.

Since you are running an Apple iBook, you don't have the problem.
The Chaintech 710 with the Evvy 24 chip is a good source for bit perfect output on a PC. Price is about 25.00. I am using this with Via's latest drivers to my Tri Vista 21 DAC. I am using foobar2k with kernel streaming. Kmixer has been bypassed with this setup. Cmedia also outputs 44.1khz on the 8738 based card. I think another important aspect is the last device to output the clock signal to the DAC. If it introduces jitter and you cannot control it, the sound is crap.
Understand, there are multiple ways of getting bit perfect from a PC, but iTunes is problematic.

As iTunes/QuickTime is a Directsound/Waveout device only, (so far as I can tell), kernel streaming and ASIO are not an option.

Do you know of a way to use either ASIO or Kernel Streaming with iTunes? That is the problem I'm trying to solve.

If you could test this I would be eternally grateful.


I've streamed DTS multi-channel files via iTunes to my Airport Express unit, and than from there into my reciever via the toslink output and the reciever has been able to decode and reproduce the sorround sound fine.

Perhaps and Airport Express unit?
Google is such a great thing... I just searched for
"kmixer bypass" and "kmixer bypass itunes" and got a lot of results...

I have not used Itunes, so I cannot comment further on the possibilities. I use foobar2k for the Database which supports these options. I could test as most others do when I get a few extra hours.

Chris - Thanks for the tip! Are you using a PC or a MAC? If it's a PC, then problem solved. If not, it's still worth trying out. I'm sure I can borrow an Airport for a day.

Mark - thanks for your kind offer to test sometime. Since the card is only $25, I'll get one to try. I'm currently using an M-Audio 410 and have another home for it. If I can't get an Airport to work, I'm defaulting to a setup like yours, and will re-rip my collection as .wav or with an openly available lossless codec.

Thanks again,