WAV vs. AIFF


Is there any benefits/disadvantages of one of these over the other? I have read the one advantage of AIFF is that it carries meta tags, but are there any other differences? WAV is said to be an exact match of the original, what makes AIFF different that Apple felt the need to create it?
brianmgrarcom
Between WAV and AIFF I think it's more a matter of which platform you wish to use - WAV for Windows or AIFF for MacOS. When I had a media server I built for Windows, I used WAV. Now that I use a Mac I'm using AIFF. Both support lossless compression, so that's all I worry about really.

The alternative to not being tied down to a specific computer platform is to go with FLAC, but I have not used that format.

For digital audio formats some things to consider is compression (bad, very bad for good sound) vs file size and sound quality. A format that supports lossless compression will give you the best balance between these 3 variables.

When it comes to tagging and meta data, I really don't pay attention to these things, so I can't give you more info there.
Thanks James. I have always done everything in Apple Lossless but have read the arguements of uncompressed formats, like WAV and AIFF vs. Lossless, a battle that probably will not end.

At this point, storage is not an issue, I have plenty, so I was considering using an uncompressed format and never thinking about it again.

I use iTunes and copy the music to a 160g iPod.
FWIW as storage is so cheap, I would go with AIFF if you use Apple (as I do too!)

You can always compress them into Apple Lossless ro whatever you wish later on.
Just an aside. After I read your post I Googled "WAV vs. AIFF". Several posts on other forums said that AIFF was developed by Apple prior to Windows developing WAV. Interesting eh?

As far as one format verses another is concerned, computing horsepower and storage is cheap enough these days for most folks to experiment and make up their own minds.

If I ever get far enough along in EAC that I can actually rip to WAV and then convert to various formats, I will make up my own mind. But once again I am frustrated with EACs steep learning curve. Right now I feel like Luke Skywalker when he disregarded the wise Yoda and quit Jedi training. I just want to pickup my Light Saber (Apple Itunes) and start slashing away.
I know how you feel Jpod! That is interesting about AIFF.

FWIW, I have copied the same song to my iPod 3 times the following ways:

AIFF with Error Correction on
Apple LossLess with EC on
WAV (no EC because it was already on my iPod that way)

I will try and do as you say, come to my own conclusions.
I was quite impressed with the Exemplar cdserver at both the RMAF and CES. It uses Windows XP so I had no choice but to use WAV with maximum avoidance of error correction. It goes to my Exemplar dac by way of a Lynx AES/EBU output. Thus far this is the best reproduction of digital I have heard. I have four Macs including the one that I use as a remote desktop to run the server. I have heard Macs used driving a dac through the USB2 port, but it is not really close. I do wish it were possible to get Mac processors for use in the server but think it is impossible.
How do file sizes differ WAV vs AIFF vs Apple Lossless vs FLAC?

Does iPod play FLAC? iTunes?
(I don't see where iTunes will rip cds into FLAC)

Thanks,
Art
tbg, why maximum avoidance of error correction with WAV?
Too get the best read???
So in your experience not using error correction when ripping CDs to a HD or server results in a better read? My reason for asking is that I'm about to rip some CDs to my MAC. I was planning on using AIFF with error correction. Your post has me rethinking that or perhaps trying it both ways.
Clio09, although I have much experience with Window ripping, I have always been a Mac user. But my Exemplar Music Server uses Windows. As weird as ripping to a hard-drive is, I can only suggest that you try it both ways.
I have done extensive listening tests on rippers, ripping specs and options and playback software comparing WAV vs. AIFF vs. FLAC......hours of testing....hours upon hours as I was convinced WAV or AIFF has to sound better since it has no compression. (techincally, they should ALL sound identical since they are bit perfect at the output, but I wanted to test it to make sure)

Reality: FLAC sounds no different than either WAV or AIFF. WAV is a pain in the a** to deal with as it does not hold tags, sounds no different and takes more space than FLAC. AIFF is like WAV but it can hold tags. Reality is there is no reason to use WAV or AIFF....if you Must use WAV or AIFF, use AIFF....it holds tags. But you should really just use FLAC.
Acurus, since I have found WAVs done without a disc mat take nearly twice as long to rip as those with a mat and sound nowhere near as good, I am not inclined to believe your assertion. When I demonstrated this at the RMAF all I heard was an audience of "why do this nonsense" and "bits are bits." Then I heard "This is impossible!" followed by quiet when many left to go buy the Millennium cd mat.
Tbg, please don't believe my assertion as it is not one, but more so my actual results. There is nothing to disbelieve other than an honest guy who actually A/B'd this and is sharing the outcome hoping to save others the headache of what I went through. Yeah we can start the age old argument of do transports make a difference, 'they are just bits.' But you would be preaching to the choir as I know things are not just 'bits'.....I am a long time believer in and owner of many different high end transports.

But please try comparing different file formats yourself and report back the outcome. Let's not worry about a mat for ripping and focus on the file type. Try comparing FLAC to WAV to AIFF and let us all know what you find. I am sure your mat has an affect, now just try your mat with a different file format. I wanted to rip everything in WAV and fully intended to until I did extensive A/B testing ripping in EAC, dbpoweramp and everything else under the sun. Disc space is a non-issue for me, so I had no reason to rip to FLAC unless it sounded the same. If you can hear a difference between WAV and FLAC, by all means rip away in WAV.

Not to extend the thread into a different area but the RME sound cards are every bit as good as the Lynx.....I A/Bd those as well.
Acurus, I have a Exemplar Music Server and at this moment cannot get my remote desk top HP to connect with it. John Tucker is trying to figure out why as my HP worked fine with his personal Music Server. Once I get over this problem, I will try to compare WAV, FLAC and AIFF rips. XP based Music Server sounded better.

I may be moving to using a Mac Mini with remote hard drives running through the new Lindemann digital to digital device into my S/PDIF input on my dac. But I don't want to use my new Mac Imac 24 for this. For one it is too big.

I am sorry about my over the top reaction. The "bit are bits" response drives me crazy.
It "may" be bits are bits, but what goes along with them bits gets screwed up. :)
Don't use wav. It does not hold tags and will bite you later. Wait till you have 20,000 songs (I have 26,000 in apple lossless) and want to put them on a new computer/server. Use AIFF if it gives you a warm fuzzy feeling.... Lossless sounds the same to me (mac mini, Dac1).

PS. IPhones make a great remote for iTunes!!!
I have been using my mac mini for about 2 years as my main musical source (all transports GONE :) I did very heavy comparisons of AAC/WAV/AIFF and m4a(Apple lossless) my findings are that while Apple Lossless is very very good, you lose some air and overall dimensionality of the music seems to suffer. I do not use Apple Lossless for my home system, but it is what I use on my iPod touch and on my portable HDD for the car...etc. I keep redundant copies of my music (an A.L. and AIFF version) because HDD space is very very cheap these days.

Now WAV is very good, but after a lot of testing I found that WAV files generated by iTunes (this was iTunes 8.x, not 9 (can't remember the exact version)) do not seem to sound as good as AIFF. I then used a program called MAX which is very very good for doing all kinds of musical file conversions and found that the WAV files and AIFF were virtually indistinguishable.

Currently as stated above I use AIFF, primarily because iTunes tags everything for me. I would say they are about equal but I would NOT use iTunes to create my WAV files. I use a Meitner Bidat for DA duties and the sound is ... :)

I have been told that Apple Lossless sounds just like uncompressed files (even one of the so-called golden stereophile guys claimed this a few years back). I believe the people making the claim believe that, it may be the limitation of their system or their ears, but I can definitely hear the difference. Now in the car...I don't care, I am just passively listening to the music as I also listen to engine when down shifting into 3rd but I digress! Happy Listening!!!
I have been told that Apple Lossless sounds just like uncompressed files (even one of the so-called golden stereophile guys claimed this a few years back). I believe the people making the claim believe that, it may be the limitation of their system or their ears, but I can definitely hear the difference.
I certainly don't claim to be an expert and have no problem being corrected, but Apple Lossless isn't a compressed file, from what I understand. The music is simply stored another way that takes less space. If this being so, the only reason I could see a difference in sound, if there is, is the way one's gear converts it vs. other formats because all the same info is there.
It absolutely is compressed (think about it, if it were not, it would be the same size as the original) BUT..every bit which is removed is replaced when it is played back unlike lossy compression inwhich files never return to the original state and are forever molested. So why might there be a difference in sound? The most obvious reason would be the increased processing which needs to be performed on the file in order to restore it to the original uncompressed format.

It is subtle but it comes across as a reduction in the relaxed nature of the musical presentation. As I stated earlier, when ;istening the car, I am not privy to the effect, but in either of my 2 home systems, I can (on most songs) readily identify the lossless file. I have some songs which I was absolutely unable to hear a difference, but not many. I suggest you perform a head to head test and determine for yourself. It is interesting, one thing is certain, Apple did a really good job with their compression algorithm, but for ultimate fidelity...uncompressed all the way.
It absolutely is compressed (think about it, if it were not, it would be the same size as the original) BUT..every bit which is removed is replaced when it is played back unlike lossy compression inwhich files never return to the original state and are forever molested.
Agreed. My bad in not stating myself better. There is compression where data is stripped and gone forever, which I believe is most peoples view of compression, and then there is "compression" whereby the data is stored in a manner that takes less space to store yet all the information is still fully there, such as Apple Lossless.

So why might there be a difference in sound? The most obvious reason would be the increased processing which needs to be performed on the file in order to restore it to the original uncompressed format.

It is subtle but...

This is where I believe some "may" get differing results from another and all the debates. Where not every system performs this processing the same, some gear may process the Apple Lossless back better than others. (This is purely speculation on my part.)

I suggest you perform a head to head test and determine for yourself.
I have and heard no difference. This is what causes all the debates. Those that hear a difference speculate that those who don't have a system that can't resolve it and those that don't hear any differnce specualte why others believe they do.

There is a lot to digital and after all these years there are still things being learned.

Here is something I took from the B&W site:

What is lossless?
Lossless audio files have not been subject to data compression such as mp3, which reduces file sizes by omitting significant quantities of information about the recorded sound. As such the sound quality is identical to that of a commercial CD.

What is Apple Lossless Compression?
Apple Lossless Compression (ALC) reduces the file size of music without skipping any sound information. When the audio is played back from ALC format it is re-encoded to WAV, which is the file format that CDs store music as.
Right in so many ways, when the concomitant digital picture is put back together from a lossless compress, it looks just like the original file...but in my experience there is something ineffable which is lost during the 'rebuild' process. B&W making that statement brings to mind Sony's famous "Perfect Sound Forever" and we all know how that panned out LOL!!! I do agree that it would be dependent on the machine rebuilding the file. As I say, A.L. sounds great, just not as good as no compression :) And yes you are absolutely correct that we are still learning quite a bit about digital. I am convinced and have been for about 10 years now that we can hear things which we have not yet quantified, therefor no construct exists to model or measure these properties.
I am convinced and have been for about 10 years now that we can hear things which we have not yet quantified, therefor no construct exists to model or measure these properties.
Whether right or wrong, I have always felt the same way on that.
...when the concomitant digital picture is put back together from a lossless compress, it looks just like the original file...but in my experience there is something ineffable which is lost during the 'rebuild' process.
Here we "may" see it slightly different. I do believe all the 1's and 0's can be brought back with absolutely no difference. What exactly could be different, if anything, I simply do not know. Again, as we both agree, if there is a difference it could be of different levels depending on the gear used. In other words, in some setups there is absolutely no difference in others there may be, hence the difference in opinions. (Again, just speculation.) It would be interesting to experiment with some different setups in your system and see if you could still tell a difference.
"Brianmgrarcom Wrote":
"Here we "may" see it slightly different. I do believe all the 1's and 0's can be brought back with absolutely no difference."
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Remember that although all the bits are replaced this is being done on the fly, hence processing is taking place. It is not reconstructing the signal and then playing it back all at once. Now I have experimented by taking a m4a file and converting it to a AIFF file and I have to say that does sound better than playing it directly as a m4a file. This is what led me to the belief that it is the processing that may be affecting the final outcome.
In my experience, FLAC is the one that sounds just like Wav/AIFF. Apple Lossless has "a sound" that I can detect. I think FLAC is the best lossless format but, of course, iTunes doesn't recognize it. AIFF is the best overall choice because it has tags for metadata.
This Post is starting to make me laugh....

Everyone should have someone help them do a true double blind test. It should be a real eye opener.
WAV and AIFF are just raw data files and should perform the same. WAV can hold tags but there is no agreed standard. AIFF has got a standard for storing tags.

Audiofun is right. The argument that FLAC and ALAC are bit perfect is like saying I am a great pianist because I can play all the notes on the keyboard - it isn't enough. The bits need to be delivered with very low levels of distortion of the waveform that represents those bits to avoid jitter problems, and one of the ways to improve that with computer audio is to reduce the number of tasks being performed concurrently by the PC - like unpacking files. The difference in sound between AIFF and ALAC does however differ depending on the Mac used and how it is set up.
Why don't you just let us all know when you have done on James63?
I think this was a good discussion and hopefully some of us acquired some useful information :) Love my hobby!!!
Well I had some one help me with a double blind test....

Before the test I "knew" that AIFF was the best... But I failed the test at about 50%. It was very very hard to tell any difference between lossless and AIFF. Many times I would say one sounded better than the other only to have been comparing the same track.

I used a mac min-toslink-DAC1-sennhize 650 headphones for most of the testing.

These days I don't really care if I ripp to lossless or AIFF. I have a big collection of about 26,000 songs and drive space is still not an issue. If you use and iPhone ( typing on now) or iPod lossless works out much better. If it were for home use only and AIFF give you a warm fuzzy feeling go for it.

i've compared .wav and .flac and couldn't tell the difference. the biggest issue with .wav or any file that you store on a computer is data corruption. .wav files have absolutely no built in error correction so the data can theoretically become minutely corrupted though still play and you might never know. .flac has built in error correction, if it's corrupted at all, it won't play. the pianist analogy is specious at best. any modern and well-maintained computer would have no issue decoding the data from .flac or .alac files.
Hi Kgturner, so my assertion that timing/jitter is an issue is specious, at best, huh? Perhaps the point was too subtle for you. Perhaps you just aren't good with analogies. Perhaps I explained it badly. My point is that I hear many people make statements as if the issue is getting bit perfect transmission. That is a very limited pursuit. The more difficult pursuit is to preserve the clock information.

You seem also to be a bit confused about error correction. The flac file is tolerant to errors as you point out, but that is so it can play through errors - not what you just said. The wav file is not tolerant of errors and so those errors become audible and will result in periods of noise during playback or for the file not to be playable beyond the error.
The more difficult pursuit is to preserve the clock information.
This is an interesting (and excellent) statement and also something one of the magazines touched on awhile back, I think Stereophile, who did a great article on this, I wish I could remember the issue.

Tell me if I am right, any clock data that isn't right, is what has been labeled "jitter"?

Also, I still go back to what I was trying to stress before and that is these subjective differences can be system dependant, hence why one hears a difference and another doesn't.
Some DACs are more tolerant of jitter than others, some systems might smooth over the aggressive highs created by jitter, or not have the bass performance to expose the woolly bass caused by jitter. Also, the jitter you get with Windows is different from the jitter you get with an Intel Mac. With Windows you lose tightness and resolution, so the sound is hazy. With an Intel Mac the sound is tighter and more resolving but tends towards a bit of glare and aggression. Both can be improved by various means to reduce these issues.

Reduced jitter will sound like a smoother yet tighter and more resolving presentation that is also less fatiguing. These attributes are often thought of as as trade off, but less jitter gives you an improvement in everything.

The differences between flac and WAV or ALAC and AIFF are very system dependent. A powerful PC or Mac will be less affected than a less powerful one. The only problem with flac and ALAC are that it means the computer must unpack the files as well as stream them. Reducing what the computer does while it is streaming is a good thing. You may not hear the difference through eliminating a task, such as unpacking compressed files, but the process of optimising a computer for digital audio duties includes eliminating as many unnecessary processes as possible, and when you do that the cumulative effect is a very significant improvement in sound, in my opinion.