MP3's and the audiophile

I am sure this subject has been discussed abnauseum here. is there ONE single format, whether it is mp3, AIFF, or whatever, that will give me an ACCURATE bit by bit copy of any red book cd? I am planning on loading up my entire collection on my server and later download any album I feel like listening to my ipod which will be plugged to my reference system. I know some will frown at the idea. but I am thinking of something more practical here. something like streaming data from the server via a wireless card into my main stereo. I like the idea of sitting in front of my stereo and being able to control what song i want to hear via the itunes interface or something similar. i've done it before, thing is now I am thinking the next logical step would be to convert every album I own to whatever format gives me the best quality, and I mean by best, exactly how i hear it via CD. I am using CD-DA extractor 9.0 for this task. anyone knows if there's a similar app under OSX that works as well as the CD extractor under winxp?
WMA has a lossless format. There are others, but I wouldn't try to list them - I use WMA. This approach definitely gives you bit-for-bit support, and loading them all up and running them from computer definitely gives you the flexibility you describe. You might get an audiophile demerit, but it certainly is the right way to interact with a music collection for me.

WMA isn't supported by iTunes. Again, there are others that are, but not WMA.
Your best choice in the Mac space is iTunes which offers you a choice of Apple Lossless (compressed), AIFF and WAV. All of these are considered to be ACCURATE bit-by-bit copies so long as certain options are checked. There is an interesting comparison of the formats on Audiogon Tech Talk Forum - search for #1137630045

The sine qua non ripping app is considered to be EAC which is only available on Win. Hard to say how much better it is or isn't - its certainly not as user friendly.

Regardless of how you get your music to the hard drive, there are only four ways to get it off the drive and into your preamp:

1) USB to SPDIF or
2) USB to I2S, or
3) the SLIM Devices Squeezebox which can work in 802.11g (WiFi) or
4) Airport Express (WiFi) which for the moment is quite as pure a format. There are people who are ecstatic with each of these solutions.

The salient point here is that getting away from a traditional opto mechanical transport is where the big step in quality happens. The rest of it, while rich in nuance its all variations on a theme.

Beyond this Forum, you will find a tremendous amount of information on Audio Asylum's PC Forum. You are trodding a well known path...

Check out Max. It is freeware and is IMHO the best ripping software for OSX. It uses cdparanoia to control the ripping process. Max can convert to over 20+ formats including all Apple formats. BTW, there is nothing wrong with iTunes as a player interface. I am exeremely paranoid when it comes to my ripping software.

Ckorody is correct. Use Apple Lossless format for your collection. It will save you space on your HD (about half the space of AIFF or WAV) without losing any quality. It has been said before but, depending upon the size of your collection, be sure to backup your music HD (I would use an external FW for the main music drive and another FW HD, tape or DVD for backup). Nothing is forever but there are precautions you can take so you won't need to rerip your CDs.

Computer to DAC is now. Enjoy your new setup!
Max looks promising - I downloaded it a few weeks back but was unable to get it to work - perhaps a bit more fiddling is in order

Though I have to say that based on how slowly iTunes works through some CDs I am not sure how much better the error checking can be.... But for sure it is more flexible
I read the review on Stereophile recommended components and one quote reads "files ripped on AIFF were indistinguishable from the CD". is this a better option than lossless? or the same thing?
It's not the same file type - though in the ultimate analysis it is the same data.

AIFF and WAV are the the two datatypes that are used for uncompressed files. In fact if you open a standard off the shelf Redbook CD on your desktop you will see that the songs are AIFF files.

Lossless is a form of compression that doesn't lose any data but does save about 50% on the storage requirment. A 600Mb cd in WAV or AIFF becomes a 300Mb lossless file - i.e. you can store twice as much in the same amount of hard drive space. The miracle of lossless is that nothing is lost, and in fact a lossless file can generate a perfect AIFF or WAV. Apple Lossless is one example

The third format is called "lossy" - meaning that a certain amount of data is lost. The amount of compression can usually be adjusted when the copy is made. MP3 is the classic lossy audio format. Internet radio also relies on lossy compression.

As a general rule everyone who is ripping is doing WAV or one of the Lossless formats. One can always make a MP3 from any of these file types. The mantra is rip once, use many so it behooves you to do a high quality initial rip. The general theory here is that ripping is such a pain that you won't want to do it again.

That said there is no reason to do AIFF/WAV. And indeed there are some downsides in terms of how they handle tags (metadata)

All RedBook CDs are encoded in the PCM format (patent owned by Philips). AIFF files (developed by Apple and Electronic Arts) are PCM files that are readable by Motorola CPU computers (Macintosh and (old) Silicon Graphics). WAV files (developed by Microsoft and IBM) are PCM files that are readable by Intel CPU machines. There is no difference in the information contained within the PCM part of the files.

Lossless files (like Apple Lossless) contain all of the information of the original PCM file but are compressed by algorithms designed to compress the bits WITHOUT losing any of the original information. i.e. instead of writing a byte as 00000001, a lossless file might look like 7x01 where the compression algorithm will expand the seven 0's back to the original 00000001 on playback. This saves space on the HD but in no way degrades the "sound" of the file.

IOW, no. the quality of AIFF and Apple Lossless are the same.
Shorten (SHN), Free Lossless Audio Codec (FLAC) and Monkey's Audio (APE) are three lossless codecs you should consider. Of the three, FLAC is my personal favorite, but Shorten also works well. You can also use a hack for the ipod called Rockbox ( to store and play files with these lossless codecs.