Apple Lossless Encoder - Audiophile Quality?

Is Apple Lossless Encoder the best format to use to import music into iTunes?

My goal is to get the highest quality music regardless of cost.

I want to get the best that I can get of a CD so that I won't have to re-import my music from the same CDs in 5-years.

I am using a Mac based system, but I don't think that should make any difference.
Apple lossless is a bit for bit encoding process that many claim is indistinguishable from the original file. That said, why use data compression at all? Use AIFF.
Rip it both ways and see what you hear. I can't tell the difference myself, and haven't talked to anyone who has been able to, plus it will save you about 30% hard drive space.

The only difference with using a Mac based system is it won't crash and you won't loose everything one day :)
I've been using Apple lossless for some time now and am very satisfied with it. It does do bit for bit reconstruction. This seems to be confirmed by my DAC--when it receives tracks that are from HDCD CDs, the indicator lights up, which to me is pretty strong evidence.
I use Applelossless - it works as far as I can tell.
It's the standard if you are using a Macintosh. Numerous threads will confirm that it can be converted back to WAV or AIFF with exactly the same number of bits.

As for why not use AIFF. AIFF and WAV are old standards. They were never designed to work with metadata - what is called tagging - meaning all the information that iTunes will automatically go get for you everytime you rip a CD.

Apple Lossless handles this information perfectly affording exactly the kind of flexibility that you are looking for. WAV and AIFF do not. Again a million threads on the subject.
FWIW, at a seminar at The Home Entertainment Show in NY last year, I believe John Atkinson, Stereophile's editor, said Apple lossless is the way to go.
I'm with the lossless crowd. I just re-ripped from AAC to lossless with hope of never having to do it again.

Believe what the experts say about it being true lossless compression. Those who say not to compress are really coming from the "better safe than sorry" school.

The power and flexibility of itunes is hard to beat, even in a pc environment.
AIFF supports metadata.
Rdc2000: Please, if you haven't already make sure you back it all up. I learned the hard way after burning 450 CD's.
I'm with the lossless crowd. I just re-ripped from AAC to lossless with hope of never having to do it again.

Couldn't you have simply used a conversion program such a Max? Why re-rip everything?
Disk is cheap. Why compress 50%? Many of my customers have told me that AL and even FLAC changes the sound. Besides, you have a "true master" if it .wav and you can convert to anything you want later.

Steve N.
Empirical Audio
Sammie: AAC is a lossy compression format. If you rip to this format (or a similar one, like MP3) you are not creating a bit-perfect copy of the data on the original CD. If you want to create a digital music file that is guaranteed to sound the same as your CD, you are going to need to create a file with a lossless format.

Lossless compression is the way to go. An Apple-specific format is probably a mistake unless you are certain you will only use Apple hardware/software from now until the end of time. However, you can always convert from one lossless format to another without harming the data.

There is no reason to go with an uncompressed lossless format like AIFF or WAV, and anybody who says these formats somehow sound better than losslessly compressed audio is just plain ignorant (sorry, but there is no other way to say it...its kind of like saying three is not same numeric value as 3).
The only reason to go with any of the lossless compressed formats is hard disk space considerations. With the cost of large hard drives ever plummeting is that really a compelling reason to go that route?
Wdrazek- I haven't backed up yet. Procrastinating as usual. My drive is less than two months old so that's probably driving my complacency. I have to re-format my old drive to back up the files- hence the laziness...

Scrith- thanks for taking that. I couldn't have worded it as well. I'm not sure I agree that you will be tied to Apple hardware/software until the end of time if you go Apple lossless. I run itunes in xp to rip and sonos reads the files. Slim Devices and others also support Apple lossless.

Yes, you have to beware of proprietary formats, but Apple's are becoming so dominant mfr's will be making compatible gear for a long, long time if they want to stay in business. The added perk that you CAN play it in itunes and sync to your ipod and easily share with all the other Apple users out there is not a small deal...
Programmers say quite definitively that AL is the EXACT same file when uncompressed as the "true master". If it sounds different to some, it is either in their head or in the way the gear is decoding the file.

And disk space still isn't cheap enough for me!
I don't understand the paranoia around lossless formats sounding different / worse either. And, yes, drive space is cheap, but it's not free, backups take time, all disk activity takes time, and there is no cost to using a lossless format. With WAV not supporting tag info, there is both a real cost and a logical cost to going with the uncompressed format. I don't get it.
I totally agree with Rdc2000 and Kthomas

iTunes is one of the crown jewels of the Apple empire. It is tightly coupled to their revenue model. There are some 125 million copies of iTunes out there.

In plain english this means that Apple has a world class team of developers and programmers supporting iTunes. There is no other format that can even begin to dream about that.

It sounds great, integrates all the functions associated with hard drive based music and its free...
If you follow Ckorody's logic you could just as easily conclude that you should use Apple's uncompressed format, AIFF (which does support tag info).

Regarding the cost of hard drives -- TB sized drives can be had for less than $350. In the audiophile world where $80,000 speakers are called bargains and people routinely tout $1k power cords I would think the cost of HDs wouldn't be too much of a factor. I could be wrong.

AIFF vs. Apple loseless -- if you're using a wireless system, then by all means go with data compression. Your wireless is going to convert and compress anyway. If you're not using wireless, then what compelling reason is there to compress? As an audiophile I can obsess about whether an original generation tape is used in mastering a recording, but I'm paranoid if I don't think it wise to digitally alter my entire music collection? All my computer training tells me that you have to keep a virgin copy of data (and yes I keep stored all my CDs). My legal training tells me that a copy is not the original. It's a copy and whether the copy is indistinguishable from the original is always in question. Why take a risk, even if very slight, with your music collection if you don't have to?
Scrith: Duh. Thanks for the clarification. I got AAC confused with AIFF, which is what about half of my collection is ripped to. The other half is encoded to apple lossless.

Anyway, it's nice to know I can go back and forth using the Max encoder. --although both formats sound really good from my experience, and I have a very revealing system.
"In the audiophile world where $80,000 speakers are called bargains and people routinely tout $1k power cords I would think the cost of HDs wouldn't be too much of a factor."

Of course there is a lot of truth in that. Those with unlimited budgets can and will spend a lot more than $350 on an HDD. Mid-fiers like me who look for the best sound/quality at the best price always will look at it more critically. I'd rather spend $350 on the best quality drive out there that has enough space to hold my collection for x number of years than a bigger drive that might sound like a rusty wagon wheel within a year..

To me, pc audio is more about bringing true high fidelity sound to the masses than absolute reference quality to the wealthiest audiophiles.

"My legal training tells me that a copy is not the original. It's a copy and whether the copy is indistinguishable from the original is always in question."

Legally, a copy is a copy is a copy whether compressed or not. To me, keeping a virgin copy of the data is keeping the actual cd! And I know most of us are doing that..

I know what you mean about paranoia messing with your head though. When I converted all my files from AAC to AL, itunes asked me each time- "Are you sure you want to replace the old file" I checked yes, watched it convert and then ended up with files 5 times the size. But even though I can easily hear the difference now between these files and MP3 and AAC files on my system, there's that tiny bit of paranoia that they were converted as itunes said they were...
Onhwy61 - the data is not compressed in a wireless transmission - its just data and there is not much of it at that. What makes this all work is the small size of the files and the pipe required.

Just for the record - since I didn't know I took a tour around Wikipedia. Seems that AIFF was developed by Apple in 1988 (20 years ago).It is uncompressed PCM. With the advent of Mac OS X Apple created a new AIFF format called AIFF-C/sowt which is what iTunes is now encoding in. The audio quality is said to be identical.

Now with Mac 10.4.9 (and by extension Leopard and the other kitties to come) different applications are exporting AIFF differently. Though not an issue with iTunes at present, this change presents potential compatibility issues between systems which use only AIFF, and files written in OS 10.4.9 as AIFF-C.

This is a good example of why I advocate Apple Lossless - I'd rather listen to music then worry about compatibility in the future.

Also it is unclear to me that AIFF of either flavor has room for all the metadata types we now use...
Rdc2000, when you indicate you converted your AAC files to ALAC, did you rerip your CDs? Or did you literally convert the AACs to ALAC? If you did the latter, you don't have lossless, you have blowup lossy files in a lossless format.

Hopefully, when you indicated convert you meant convert your entire library a la reripping to the lossless format.
Yes- I physically re-ripped every single cd.