Zanth .... is right... you have to choose a file type, player and of course, Just what OS are you going to have to operate with?
That which OS bit alone might make up your mind.
I like Fubar, J River latest ver. iTunes though, less and less. Winamp (for net radio), if you've no web radio subscription already in place.
All these though have caveats as to their own unique setup plans with my own hardware, etc.
I have found there is some sort of synergy in software and the file formats being played thru the various media players, and some media players do indeed sound better than others. Setting them up is as key as is setting up the hardware you own.
You should be shooting for Bit true or bit perfect ripping & playback as one goal, with another option for High res file playback getting in the mix along the way somewhere. As well . That is if your seeking the best sound from the files your now ripping or plan on downloading later on.
Some Media players like certain file tuypes more so than others meaning some file types sound best when replayed via this player or that. Oftehn itÂs a marginal thing sometimes it isnÂt.
Sticking to lossless files (ALAC; FLAC; WAV; AIF)securely ripped with a well setup ripper like EAC, or power amp, and a good ROM drive, , the diffs in playback will be more the marginal variety, between those file formats. I tend to like WAV or WAVE. Windows lossless format. But itÂs restrictive in the file info you can attach to it, and it will maintain.
More compressed files wonÂt show up with as much or as many diffs MP3, WMA, Aac.
between these two formats, compressed & lossless is where one might find significant audible dispairity.
just pick which platform you wanna use MAC or PC, and then which player, Winamp, Fubar; iTunes; Media Player; J River media center; and tons more are out there, and then which file type best suits your needs. AIF & FLAC are the more widespread choices. Normally. Fubar media center, and I think now, Windows media player too can play Aif, as does itunes .
BUT itunes has no support for FLAC. I DOUBT THEY WILL ANYTIME SOON EITHER.
WAV or WAVE, some will say still, sounds best. the issue with WAV/WAVE is that file format is often a temporary file container. It wonÂt capture and retain meta data info & tag, if transferred from one machine to some other. To be safe then, choose those which will FLAC, AIF, Apple lossless (ALAC), WMA lossless, WAV Pack, and I think thatÂs about it.
Realizing more noteable diffs in sonics will come from the hardware you select, though if the rig is up to demonstrating minute changes with minor setup alterations, youÂll have a better window to see them as they arise.
One set of examples I have seen myself are these on Windows boxes, XP, XP Pro, I like Fubar and FLAC, WITH A Kernel Streaming or an ASIO mode, playback device. JR MC 15 supports XP & KS.
With Vista or Win 7, I feel the resultant audio improves if the Windows Audio Session protocol is used. ÂWASAPIÂ, as the pathway to avoid the windows audio mixer inherent in the Windows OSÂs. KS & ASIO are 2 more which achieve the same ends.
I do like the WASAPI best overall, despite the file type or output/playback device.
KS imho, COMES IN SECOND.... and ASIO holds down last place. Albeit, all 3 of these help greatly if Windows OS is in place.
The systems abilities to resolve the end product/music will determine much for you.