Apple Lossless vs iTunes Plus


Any audible difference between the two? I only buy/import from CD's in Apple Lossless but I would like to stop buying CD's.
sakahara
Yes. The new iTunes format is 256kbs AAC which is a lossy compression format. The bigger news here is that there are no longer any DRM restrictions (digital rights management) meaning you can copy the files and put them on as many devices as you like. This was not the case with the original iTunes downloads.

Apple Lossless is just that lossless compression comparable to WAV and AIFF. Most people prefer the Apple Lossless. The difference is not subtle.

Easiest thing for you to do would be to buy a few songs that you also have in Apple Lossless and compare them, then decide for yourself.

When comparing these file types, do use something other than the pc sound system.

I have difficulty descerning anything noteable using only the Altec 2.1 pc audio ... I do percieve diffs piping the sound into my main stereo.

I do find still greater diffs using FLAC vs. Apple lossless too... and this might be due to the media player or codec (s) being used. FLAC having simply more resolution and detail which offers greater presence. AIF is quite close though... and actually a near toss up.... again, I'm thinking it's the decoders and encoders being used.

In fact the Lame mp3 encoder I feel is better than the AAC format at the same bit rates. yet again, another encoder/decoder algorithim.
I'm also interested in high def downloads but doesn't it make you a little nervous that you have no hard copy in the attic? I take some comfort knowing I can always reload if something terrible happens to my hard drive.
Jamesw20 - you're right to be paranoid about your hard drive failing, it eventually will, but the best strategy for dealing with that is to have a backup of your hard drive, or two, but CD's or DVD's aren't necessarily the best option.

With drives costing $100 per terabyte right now everyone should have a second drive that mirrors the regular storage drive. If you're really concerned, have a third drive and rotate the backups, keeping one off site at all times. Sounds obsessive but if you back up to another drive once a week and rotate the two backups once a month your chances of losing more than a week's worth of downloads are very low and the $200 you spent on the drives will seem like nothing if you ever really need them. Taking that a step further, you probably ought to replace the drives every two or three years.

It's a fact of digital life that we'll have to keep duplicating all our data over and over as technology advances. We think of CD's and spinning magnetic disks as standards but they'll be obsolete soon enough, just like the analog tape and Syquest and Jaz disks we used to rely on. Fortunately the cost of storage is getting to the point that it's not much of a consideration.
We think of CD's and spinning magnetic disks as standards but they'll be obsolete soon enough, just like the analog tape and Syquest and Jaz disks we used to rely on.

Ummm, maybe YOU think of CD's as spinning magnetic disks, but I think most folks would think of them as spinning optical discs. They do not record information magnetically like analog tape or Syquest or Jaz discs. They DO have a potential to eventually fail, especially cheaply made media like that sold at Office MaxDepotWarehouseMegaoutlet Inc. I've never had one fail yet in over ten years of using them to backup data, but allegedly they will.

I agree with the redundant backup strategy you mention. Have two drives that either mirror each other in a RAID configurations (there are plenty of very reasonably priced 2-slot RAID solutions out there that are easy to swop drives into), or do a weekly swop of two separate drives that mirror your original.

It is not a question of IF your hard drive will fail, it is simply a matter of when.

My hard drive became too cluttered with my iTunes library so I took my Apple G5 computer to the local shop to see about getting a second hard drive installed.

They noticed that the seagate hard drive that was still under warranty was "sounding a bit too noisy" so they suggested I replace it. Since my Time Machine had been installed for over a year, this replacement was simple and I had my 'old' computer up and running in no time with a second internal hard drive just for my music.

Moral of story: Backing up hard drive is good.
Moral of story: Backing up hard drive is good.

Amen. Another moral you are missing: Store your iTunes library separately on an external hard drive...NOT on your main boot drive, especially if it is a significant size library. You will save wear on your boot drive if you listen frequently, it is more portable if you want to move it from computer to computer. One other thing I learned using my G5 (2.7ghz dual-core) as a server - though it makes for a blazing fast server, it is a terrible power-hog. I plugged a watt-meter into my computer system when we noticed our electric bills had gone way up and determined that if left on as a server it uses as much power as my refrigerator! That's a whole lot of power! I'm looking into swapping over to a MacMini or a laptop since I really don't need the speed of a g5 as a server.
Jax2 - I said "CD's AND spinning magnetic disks," not, "CD's AS spinning magnetic disks." Yes, I understand the difference between optical discs and magnetic disks (notice the difference in spelling between "discs" and "disks"), my point was that either storage medium will eventually fail physically or be supplanted by a newer technology.
Sfar - Sorry, my bad having misread your post. Yes, either storage medium will definitely eventually fail, no doubt. Backup is the word to live by no matter how your store your data.
Jax, I download chunks of the iTunes to my iPhone and play is quite a bit when away from home.

Otherwise the second ( iTunes only) hard drive in my computer works really well.
The best backup is to share your files with your friends!
Sfar

You said:
“With drives costing $100 per terabyte right now everyone should have a second drive that mirrors the regular storage drive.”

Would you mind telling me where I can get a 1TB drive for $100?... internal or external?

I’ve yet to see that much acreage for that little $$$. Definitely not with eSATA drives… I'd sure be interested in it. Thanks much.
For those of you who don't live in a major metro or prefer to shop by mail:

newegg dot come

outpost dot com
Ckorody - it is only in the ads that Agon does not allow hyperlinks. You don't need to fly stealth in the forums:

Newegg
Outpost

Terabyte drives have a reputation of being slow and unreliable and are usually two or more 500gb platters/drives housed in a single box. I work in photography and graphic arts and no one uses those drives as reliable backup because of that reputation. Is your library really that large, or are you backing up other stuff as well? I'd suggest a mirrored RAID solution like this one (about $369 street) where you can swop out the SATA drives very easily and inexpensively. There are other options in that same price bracket as well. My friend has been using this one for about 6 months and is so far very happy with it. I'm still doing a mirrored back up manually with two separate 500gb drives.
Correction; a 1TB Rocraid is currently just under $300 at Amazon They also have a 1.5TB and 2TB version for not much more $.
Blindjim - I got this Lacie drive for $99 when they had a special. The regular price is $119 but this vendor and almost all the other sites are constantly offering daily or weekly specials.

The sites I've found best to deal with are:
http://newegg.com
http://www.buy.com/
but you should also check out
http://frys.com/
http://www.tigerdirect.com/

A good way to find deals is to check these sites when you're in the market for something:
http://www.techbargains.com/
http://dealmac.com/
http://dealnews.com/
Techbargains has pretty good search functionality. Many sites like newegg and buy.com have newsletters that list whatever they're selling cheaply

I wasn't aware of any reliability issues with 1 terabyte drives but either smaller capacity drives or a RAID array are certainly great solutions, as Jax2 recommends.
Apple Lossless vs iTunes Plus
Any audible difference between the two? I only buy/import from CD's in Apple Lossless but I would like to stop buying CD's.
Sakahara

Sakahara, It is very easy to use your CDs to test the iTunes Plus 256 kbps AAC encoding. Just change the Import Setting preference when ripping your CD and when importing choose "Don't Replace"

Whether there is an audible difference will depend on *your* music playback system, and *your* hearing ability. Do try a test with a few different songs. I found with certain songs it is very difficult to tell. Some listeners systems have such high fidelity and acute hearing that they are able to tell the difference like it was comparing wine to water.

cheers, ed
I didn't know what iTunes + was at first (thought it was another garbage compression codec like MP3, only slightly better), and once I found out I realized I could import my CD's with AAC to compare. I was curious to hear others opinions though.

My system is very resolving, hearing too, so I will probably notice a difference.

Regarding storage of iTunes Library on external drive; I thought of this too. Wouldn't there be access issues, even with FW800, compared with the system drive? Maybe use NAS instead? It is more sensible though, especially since mine is larger then my system capacity - 140 GB and counting.
I wonder if these iTunes + lossy files are made from originals? I can only hope.

Is there an obvious audible difference between Apple Lossless, WAV and AIFF? I haven't compared. From what I read Apple Lossless seemed good enough.
sakahara, a great number of users have music stored on external drives. some have over 2000 CDs in ALC or WAV no way to fit that on a system drive in a notebook (yet). Transfer speed of USB 2 is adequate for music files. I use a FW 400 750MB drive with 600+ CDs and have another duplicate drive with backups. BTW my files are AIFF/WAV (no compression) No problem here. My system is linked below.

On the sound difference - since you are looking for opinions. Yes I can hear the difference in different formats. No I cannot hear the difference in formats. It is song dependent for me. Simpler music it is more apparent. complicated electronic music it is less apparent.

cheers, ed

Ckorody……
Big thanks. I’ve been out of the hardware loop for a while it would seem.

Sfar……..
Thanks I’ll definitely use those links.

Sakahara……...
I continue to see diffs from one media player to another… one encoder/decoder, to another, more so than from one lossless file format to another.

I’d suspect any AAC files being sold by iTunes were ripped off a very good disc or even one such as we could go get… seeing as how they are paying the artist/lable for the rights to resell their info. It wouled make good sense for them to provide as good a source disc as possible… Wouldn’t it? I know too that some of these deals are time sensitive and run for predetermined lengths… likely with extensions available or matters of course. I say this as some tracks I’ve bought years ago are now no longer available from the iTunes store.

Re remote drive speed

Both the OS and the attached drive are important… though it does depend on the actual configuration or set up being used.

Wireless 11G has enough thru put to accommodate music very well. Even with lossless files… WAV, AIF, ALAC & FLAC. Usb too has sufficient speed to prevent drop outs or delays. The Vista OS wireless adapter protocol however does have some aspects which need to be configured differently or disabled entirely to avoid problems. For more info on speeding up Vista there are numerous resources online that cover all sorts of items one can do to gain speed. The ‘auto tune’ feature is primarily the obstacle that caused me a lot of trouble. I posted a resolution I found online in another thread here and the steps to overcome it. See this thread:

http://forum.audiogon.com/cgi-bin/fr.pl?icomp&1233137449&openmine&zzBlindjim&4&5#Blindjim

Ether net (wired networks) don’t suffer from the same idiosyncracies wireless ones may. My Vista laptop isn’t as ‘crisp’ feeling as are my desktops, but the result is more than acceptable. Quite good in fact and better in some respects aside from sheer speed. Albeit Vista appears to be as Windows ME (Melinium) edition … just a cash grab… as now there’s another OS just around the corner being readied for distribution.

Vista’s sonics though are superior to XP’s.
Is there an obvious audible difference between Apple Lossless, WAV and AIFF? I haven't compared. From what I read Apple Lossless seemed good enough.

There's plenty of threads on this subject if you do a search. Here's an interesting one I've been involved with lately. Check out my friend, Peter's contribution around midway through the thread.
I'm a MAC. 10+ years of Windows was torture enough. ;-)

I'll have to try moving my iTunes library to an external drive. I've been meaning too.

I would expect the iTunes Plus music to be sourced from either the original or a good 1st gen digital recording. One [audiophile] would expect that and it makes the most sense. But then again, we are talking about an industry who thinks MP3 is fine.

I now recall that I actually did import a CD as ALAC, WAV, and AIFF. It was brief, but I did not hear enough difference to justify more of my drive being consumed . I'll have to do some more comparisons sometime since my system has changed since.
I realized one important detail about storing iTunes on an external drive; it would require another external drive for backup.

As it is now, I need a minimum of two drives; one for SuperDuper! (bootable) backup, and one for Time Machine. I could get one large drive and partition for those two BU plans, and have another one dedicated for iTunes, but again, the need for an iTunes BU drive, and the possibility of losing both the other BU plans if the partitioned drive failed. Without a iTunes BU, you're toast if that drive fails. And right now I have a BU of it. Imagine having to rip 100's of CD's all over again. My 1 TB main drive is fine for now. Plenty of room to spare with Apple Lossless
Found a perfect solution; two LaCie 2big Triple 1TB (2-disk RAID). One for the two BU plans (JBOD) and the other for iTunes/Aperture libraries (RAID1).
Addendum:

The LaCie 2big Triple was a great RAID unit, but too noisy for the desktop, fan runs continuously, 'Auto' switch did nothing (wouldn't sleep), and the one-push-button on the front is 2big and 2bright. It was well built though. Heavy [duty] metal enclosure and drive trays. It's hard finding the perfect solution (4 drives; 2 for RAID 1 / 2 for JBOD separate access).

Looking at CalDigit VR instead. More $$ but more features/expandable/upgradable.
Blindjim,

I do find still greater diffs using FLAC vs. Apple lossless too... and this might be due to the media player or codec (s) being used. FLAC having simply more resolution and detail which offers greater presence. AIF is quite close though... and actually a near toss up.... again, I'm thinking it's the decoders and encoders being used.

I'd like to point out for the sake of clarity that you are experiencing some kind of placebo effect here. It is mathematically impossible that FLAC, Apple Lossless, and AIFF or WAV are producing difference results in sound quality.

They are all going to produce exactly the exact same bits when decoded, and they'll do so repeatedly without error. It's what makes them lossless.

It's precisely the same thing that makes an archive that's been zipped, gzipped, rar'd, or bzip2'd produce exactly the same uncompressed result when it's been expanded/inflated. The compression/decompression mechanism is lossless.
OMG Naschbac...
I'd like to point out for the sake of clarity that you are experiencing some kind of placebo effect here. It is mathematically impossible that....

You've been captured TOO!

This is some scary sh%t going on here! As if it wasn't enough that Placebos had attacked myself, a highly respected engineer/audio electronics manufacturer and an esteemed enthusiast with great ears to convince the three of us that one codec actually sounds better - or at least different - than another codec. Now Placebos have infiltrated and are attacking mathematics!!!

I fear this is worse than the dark day of Bill Murray's "...Run For Your Life! Lobster Attack!!!"

Desperate Urgency,
Robert
RSAD
It is mathematically impossible that FLAC, Apple Lossless, and AIFF or WAV are producing difference results in sound quality.

Yet they most certainly can sound different. It must be that New Math you may have missed at school.
Good thought about the New Math Jax2 but....

To me seems the issue is more likely about Placebos. That's what's really freaking me out. It's really become quite an insidious phenomena.

I watched House three nights ago and it dealt with this very infection. It was inevitably an episode with a rare sad ending for House. Dr. House went through all his usual drama and suspense with the hospital staff and the patient which took up most of the episode. In a climatic end when Dr. House finally got the diagnosis correct - patient infected with a Placebo - it was too late. The patient died from a Placebo infection. HELLO? - I think a message was sent! If House missed this I think that should serve as a wake up call for all of us!

I was talking with an enthusiast out East last week. He's part of a rather large Audio Club out there. In March they had about 30 members gathered for their monthly meet and they each did a 'Paint By Numbers' painting together. Surely if mathematics could solely be used to determine what they hear in their playback systems and that, based on identical numbers, there would be no audible difference, a 'Paint By Numbers' test would illustrate and validate that. That was indeed the assumption most of the guys at the meet had. The result? Even though all the 'Paint By Numbers' sets were identical numerically and in every other respect, there were substantial differences between the finished paintings! Most of the guys were totally and absolutely freaked! What's sad is some still desperately denied the differences.

My conclusion, and I hope others begin to see this too, is that Placebo infections are indeed more rampant and insidious than I or anyone else thought.

Let alone the other areas of our lives, in this hobby, whether we're lowly and uneducated or highly esteemed for our double E degree education, whether we use our ears or whether we use mathematics to determine what we hear, no one is immune to attack. It seems apparent that we're all susceptible to some strain of Placebo infection - especially with Spring just around the corner.

Please take URGENT HEED!

Robert
RSAD
The paint-by-numbers is a great illustration, Robert (pun not intended). Are there any pills I can take, or some kind of shot to boost my immunity to those Placebo Infections that House missed? I don't have TV so don't keep up with such informative programing :-I

Marco
Let me ask you a question, since you're convinced that they can sound different.

Take a folder full of Word documents. ZIP it. Heck, re-ZIP it several times. Extract all the files. Do your Word documents look different? Did the formatting change? What about the letters? Did new words get inserted, or some others deleted?

No?

Lossless media compression works in the same way as lossless file compression does, excepting optimizations for seeking/scrubbing and streaming; things that aren't necessary with whole-file compression. At no point does a lossless compression algorithm discard data as irrelevant (that it can't reconstruct later during the decompression). This is unlike AAC or MP3 where temporal filters are applied and resolution discarded depending on variables like bitrate, profile, etc.

The same is true for PNG image files that is true of FLAC or ALAC audio files. No matter how times you compress or decompress a PNG file, all the original image data stays preserved accurately and faithfully. That's what makes it a lossless format.

By claiming that ALAC vs. FLAC vs. even AIFF or WAV can, or even will, sound different is to claim that the compression format isn't lossless. That is exactly the claim you're making, that ALAC and/or FLAC are losing data. This is very, very easy to test for.

- Take a raw uncompressed WAV or AIFF.
- Encode it as FLAC or ALAC (doesn't matter which, but you can try both).
- Decode it back to an uncompressed WAV or AIFF (which ever you started with).
- Perform a diff on the original compared to the compressed/decompressed file.
- You will note that there are no differences marked.

Why? Because at the binary format level of the file, everything was preserved in the process of compressing and decompressing. Which is precisely what makes it lossless.

Anyway, these tests for binary preservation are very easy to perform, and they don't require golden-ears, esoteric audio equipment, or belief in the wafting hands of some sound-spirit. A very basic computer, a WAV or AIFF file, and a program that can encode/decode FLAC and/or ALAC, and a simple binary diff program (lots of free and opensource ones) will do the trick. Any Mac or modern Linux machine will come with all the necessary tools, and any Windows PC can have the requisite software setup in a few minutes.

Cheers!
Let me ask you a question, since you're convinced that they can sound different.

Take a folder full of Word documents. ZIP it. Heck, re-ZIP it several times. Extract all the files. Do your Word documents look different? Did the formatting change? What about the letters? Did new words get inserted, or some others deleted?

We are not talking about a Word file. It does not have to be converted in the same way to convey timing information as well as content through various electronic devices to an electromechanical device. Regardless of your reasoning, my ears tell me different. I cannot explain it beyond that. I am not an expert in such matters by any stretch of the imagination. My friend did a rip via EAC to WAV and converted that rip to ALAC in iTunes. We compared that to a rip of the same tune directly via iTunes to ALAC. I can tell you with high certainty that on my system I could identify the files blindly 10/10 times. My friend felt the same way on his (very resolving) system. Yet in theory they should be bit-for-bit identical files. I can upload those two files should you care to compare them yourself and see if you agree, or you could try the same experiment if you have EAC and iTunes. On my office system, which is far less resolving, I could not tell the difference at all in the two files. There's plenty of discussions on similar topics on this and other sites. Choose whatever you'd like to believe, and use whatever works for you. I get your reasoning, and on face value it looks good on the page, but in real life, to my ears, it doesn't work that way. Enjoy the music!
Timing information? You pull down the audio from a CD into a WAV, the timing information is encoded as samples in the WAV file. The exact same samples are encoded into the FLAC or ALAC.

Timing information discrepancies are going to come from how your hardware deals with the PCM data, well after the software encode/decode stages. The PCM data itself will be binary-identical.

Can you explain to me how two binary-identical PCM data sets can sound different? Unless your hardware is locking on to one signal at 44.1 khz and the other at something not-44.1 khz (48, 96, etc.) they will sound the same.

You can believe that you can tell the difference 10/10 times. Fundamentals of mathematics and computer science prove unequivocally that you cannot in reality do so, regardless of what you believe. This is evident by lossless video, lossless image, and lossless _insert_filetype_ methods elsewhere that repeatedly and accurately reproduce the source from the compressed format. Audio is not special in this regard. Audiophilia is however.

FLAC and ALAC are either lossless, or they are not. If they are lossless, then they will produce identical results. If they are not, then they will have differences. So, simply test for wether or not they are lossless (as I outlined before). You can perform this test empirically and objectively, quite easily disproving subjective differences as bias.
Naschbac,

What you say makes a lot of sense. As long as the software is "bit transparent" then there should be no difference. There is some info on Headfi discussion forums about this issue under the Benchmark DAC1 threads.
You can believe that you can tell the difference 10/10 times. Fundamentals of mathematics and computer science prove unequivocally that you cannot in reality do so

I believe that in reality I can do so. Mathematics or computer science may have nothing to do why, and perhaps I don't understand it. Yet one file sounds consistently better to me. He actually supplied me with three files initially, and I also had a WAV file I had ripped myself of the same song. I picked out the single file from the four as sounding better, and I had no idea of what he was giving me or why. He just asked that I listen to the three and that I might be surprised by what I heard. The other three files all sounded the same, or too close to make a distinction, but one kept standing out with greater clarity, separation and slightly better bass.

I will give a blind test a try next time I have someone over who's willing to spend the time to conduct it. Heck, I'll give the test to someone who has no clue as to what they're listening to and see what happens. Hey, I could be wrong, but I'm pretty sure I'll be able to pick it out each time. I care as much about mathematics proving me wrong as I would about a tube amp not measuring up well by conventional standards. Ultimately you have to listen to it, and if you like what you are hearing better on one over another, what does it matter? FTR I am not re-ripping my entire library to conform to the convention my friend used. It's actually a royal PITA and I would not consider it. The difference is not that profound, even though I can clearly hear it.

Ping me off the thread if you are interested in the files in question. I can post them later on and give you a link to download, listen and analyze the two files yourself. As I said, my system is pretty resolving and I'm quite sure I cannot tell any difference at all on my office system. So it will not surprise me at all if you cannot hear a difference on a less resolving system. I'd be curious to hear what you come up with. Maybe I need to up my medication!
Mathematics or computer science may have nothing to do why, and perhaps I don't understand it.

It is probably related to software bugs. If the algorithms were bit transparent then it ought to sound the same.
It very well could be, Shadorne. I don't know...I can only tell you what I hear.

I seem recall reading something recently about the newest version of iTunes making some difference in the sound of ripped files of the same types.
It very well could be, Shadorne. I don't know...I can only tell you what I hear.

And I don't doubt you. Here is a manufacturer's explanation for why differences are sometimes apparent when "in theory" there should be NO difference.

It turns out that most software is sadly lacking and sloppily made (but if you use anything made by Bill Gates then you won't be surprised at all -surely you will have noticed obvious deficiencies/glitches on a regular basis, so it should really come as no surprise that bugs often affect PC audio too!).

IMHO, the biggest pitfall of using a PC system and a DAC is the buggy SOFTWARE problems. This is one of the reasons why I still use software to control hardware to read redbook CD's rather than stream stuff from a hard drive using software. I simply don't trust the poor quality of engineering of software engineers (besides most programmers aren't even real engineers)

So iTunes 6 may work fine until you get the latest "upgrade" and then unwittingly you are suddenly listening to inferior reproduction due to a bug. (so even Steve Jobs can't get it right and you, as a poor user, don;t even know that something has gone wrong until you A/B something very carefully and your ears tell you something is badly wrong)

See also this
Shadorne -

Here's a further, long thread on Head-Fi that supports your contention that the software may be responsible. I have not read the whole thread, but suspected as much myself given the difference in the qualities of the two files I have (EAC vs iTunes older version than current). I confess, this stuff is way over my head - I'm just reporting on what I hear and the little I do think I understand.

I participate in the Modwright forums over on Audiocircle because I use a MW Transporter. The folks in the know over there seem to much prefer using dbPoweramp to rip files.
Hey Naschbac.

My personal results and conclusions came from taking several CDs and ripping selected songs first to Apple Lossless and then taking the same CDs and selected songs and ripping to AIFF. Two native files for each song. I would have preferred there to be no audible differences because Apple Lossless definitely takes up less space than AIFF. Still, AIFF sounded better to me in important ways.

System context:
iTunes/Mac Mini w/SSHD
Ultra Fi Musicstream DAC
Slagle Autoformers for line control
Pair of modified Pass Aleph 3 amps
Sason Ltd/Si Loudspeakers
All cabling: RSAD stuff

So, that's that. I'm okay with whatever you choose to think about me or my conclusions but I'm certain I'm not delusional.

Here's what I take exception to: The dogged attitude that parades as god on a stick to tell others what they can or can't hear. As if the universe should revolve around them and their adeptness for (in this case...) interpreting numbers.

Like it or not, here we are in 2009 with all our 'advanced science' and while it's certainly a useful tool that I personally am grateful for, it's still not the be all end all some of us wished it would be.

If for someone numbers and measurements are the end of the road for them and they don't perceives differences in certain or all areas of playback, that's fine really. But don't play savior and proclaim to all anyone else who doesn't want to ride in the same boat has been Placebo'd. Bad form Hook.

Cheers!

Robert
RSAD
Hey Robert - I've done similar comparisons, but with WAV files comparing to ALAC. I've had really mixed results there. Sometimes there's been a clear difference with WAV sounding consistently better, and others (on other rips of different CD's) I cannot tell any difference. This was in versions past of iTunes which seem to get changed as frequently as jockey shorts. If you thought differences while sticking with iTunes options were important, if you haven't tried it I'd suggest trying EAC rips (or dbPoweramp) and comparing those to iTunes. Again, I've heard that the very latest version of iTunes does address some problems they've been having with ripping.
Hey Marco.

Would really like to explore something different than iTunes. I'm not a brainiac with some of this stuff and I've not had time to fully investigate ripping or playback options. Does Apple's latest OS support EAC or dbPoweramp? While I think the Mac Mini w/ latest version of iTunes is very good the one thing I don't like is it seems I'm kinda locked out by Apple to a lot of ripping and/or playback options. Am I correct here?

Cheers Marco!

Robert
RSAD
Hi Robert - I think there are some FLAC conversion software options (MacFlac), but I'm not really familiar with them, nor their effectiveness. If they work like the EAC conversion my friend did, I'd be pretty happy and willing to try them. With the EAC WAV to AL you loose all the metadata (read: very bad...major PITA to manually replace it). Same with EAC, it would have to be converted. Alas, ALAC. Someone with more geek creds will have to help us here, Robert.
Just wanted to jump in and thank the posters here for one of the most intelligently written and thought-provoking digital threads I've seen here.

Unfortunately, I can't conclude much other than to focus on my analog and wait out some more progress before taking any big steps toward looking at computer-based audio and/or ripping all my CDs(in the ultimately wrong format--that being whichever one I choose!).

As a former software programmer, I am officially on record as saying I'd trust Marco's ears over somebody's code...theories are theories, the devil's in the details. Cheers,
Spencer
Hey Spencer - thanks for the vote of confidence. I'm sure there must be scientific reasons for what I'm hearing and likely they're buried in the ripping software.

My friend, whose system I've enjoyed over many years now, and where I've done lots of interesting comparisons, has a really nice analog rig (Teres/Shelter/Origin/Einstein). Just recently I brought my MW Transporter over there and we listened over a weekend, mostly comparing preamps and digital front ends (all very nice stuff too including the MW TP and Empirical PaceCar and Electrocompaniet player), throwing in his vinyl rig every now and then. I have to say that I still prefer vinyl - BUT that the margins are becoming narrower and narrower every time I've had the opportunity to make such comparisons. This, in spite of all the file ripping foibles mentioned here, given that all the PC files we were listening to had been ripped in iTunes to either AL or WAV or AIFF. I'm not suggesting you give up your analog, and I agree, there's lots to sort out in PC Audio. OTOH There is a whole lot to be desired for having an entire library of music at your fingertips that you can mix and match at will though without hesitations. It's definitely worth a listen to what's out there these days - you may be very pleasantly surprised that the margins of difference can be surprisingly narrow, with plenty to be enjoyed in both arenas.
Some utilities which may be of interest to Mac users:

XLD
A lossless audio format converter. Use the GUI version. IMO the best lossless format converter on mac and its free.
http://tmkk.hp.infoseek.co.jp/xld/index_e.html

Max
The best audio ripper on the Mac. Its like EAC on Windows. Free too. I wouldn't trust iTunes....
http://sbooth.org/Max/
Marco,

Yeah, I got to hear a friends' ModWright Transporter and was very impressed. One of the top digital sources I've heard. That experience was the first time I actually felt a positive reaction to any digital gear that made think, "Perhaps we will get 'There' someday soon". Enjoy,

Spencer
Yeah, I got to hear a friends' ModWright Transporter and was very impressed. One of the top digital sources I've heard. That experience was the first time I actually felt a positive reaction to any digital gear that made think, "Perhaps we will get 'There' someday soon".

Spender - Yes, it really is a damn fine digital front end (certainly the best I've heard), and in our comparisons that weekend we both picked it out consistently in blind comparisons to the other digital sources we had (Empirical, Northstar, Electrocompaniet) as our preference without any exception. Your friend will probably tell you that rolling the tubes (1 rectifier and 2 output tubes) in the MW TP can have a tremendous impact on the presentation (I think because they are closer to the source - well, they are at the source). I've never heard swapping a rectifier tube make such a large difference in any amp I've owned, but in the TP the difference can be profound. There's a tube-rolling thread for the MWTP on Audiocircle that is currently running at 56 pages of posts, to give you some idea of what I'm talking about. If your friend hasn't checked that out they should as it may open up a whole new level of performance to them. To save them the long read - The almost universally favored combination with occasional variations, is the EML 5U4G Mesh combined with either 6CG7 cleartops, or 6SN7 Tungsol Rounds with octal adapters (the TP has 9-pin output sockets). There's also some discussion on other threads where some report a marginal preference of running the network into the TP via a wired ethernet connection. The TP also has a word-clock input, which I've wanted to try with my friend's PaceCar (not sure how that would work out).
Sorry to dig up this old thread, but I was looking for information about how iTunes Plus compares with lossless audio. Unfortunately no one really addressed the original poster's question.

I realize that mathematically, if you have 3 apples on a table and eat 1, there will be 2 left. Lots of people swearing there are still 3 apples on the table, regardless what science and mathematics are saying. It's really that simple. I'm with ya Naschbac.

But we should be comparing a specific lossy algorithm (iTunes Plus) to lossless compression. There is a technical difference in the sound, but double-blind tests need to be performed to determine if that difference is detectable by human ears.

A similar experiment has already been conducted to compare CD with SACD; the results are interesting. I would like to see the same done with not only lossy compression, but all other links in the audio chain. Results will show that in some equipment there is absolutely no detectable (or technical) difference in what we hear from one inexpensive piece to the next very expensive piece.

Digital cables for example should all produce identical signals from one end to the other. Contrarily, speaker cables produce different signals, but given the same material and thickness the difference I predict would not be detectable by listening. Other results will show that there is a slightly detectable difference (amplifiers maybe? speakers before/after burn-in?), and still others will show that everyone notices the difference (speakers? Bose vs BrandX?).

See now I am off topic :).

I think it would be great to debunk some of the audio myths out there, but I would also like to know if there is any noticable difference between iTunes Plus and lossless compression.