rip dbpoweramp, playback Jriver media center
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I stuck with EAC for a long time because it is supposed to the 'the best'.
After trying dBPoweramp, I wish I had done it much sooner. Sounds the same to me, and it is much much easier to get the metadata right. It uses several sources and compares information. Worth the $ for the time saved scrutinizing the frequently incorrect freedb info. Puts the cover art in for you too.
Second serious time saver was picking up an old Samsung IDE DVD-ROM to rip with.
I went with a Squeezebox Duet for playback because I preferred the Duet controller over the Sonos and I only have one zone. I havent looked into the Sony or Yamaha systems, or used an Ipod touch to control Squeezebox or Sonos.... There are so many options now it would make for a very long post.
Lcouplin; Use an external drive periodically updated in addition to RAID. If your data gets corrupted your RAID will have two copies of bad data, or no data if a power surge takes out your whole machine. I have RAID and two external drives that are disconnected unless backing up.
To answer your question; the FLAC should be identical with conversion vs. straight rip to FLAC. Do a couple test rips and converts and compare files and how it sounds.
I primarily bought dbPamp to use as a converter to do FLAC to mp3. But have also used it to do WAV to MP3.
If ripped to FLAC up and down conversions, are a breeze with dbA.
And I recently used an add on to take album art from a .jpg file in each FLAC folder to the tag info in each file. This was done in a batch of over 10,000 files - very handy!
I keep my master FLAC files on several HD's, one of which is at a different location. HD's are cheep & re-ripping time is valuable.
WAV to FLAC & even vice versa will be bit perfect. On very highly resolved systems, differences may be heard (I haven't experienced this), but any differences may be attributed to the PC & its resource use to convert on the fly during the playback process, not on the lack of the information being present!
If tagging data is important, rip to FLAC & not WAV's. Most Tag data can't be recreated in the process of converting from WAV to FLAC or any other