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Is AIFF still around? Has it been replaced by ALAC?

What is the best format to use to hold fidelity on a home system fidelity on a stereo system, when down the road I can't make CDs?

An analog, (non) digital stereo system that is dance club quality?

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2 Answers 2

I prefer ripping to FLAC for backup.
Convert to required target format for the playback hardware,
that is usually MP3 CBR 320Kbps -- which is the best quality most hardware plays.

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If you don't want to lose any quality at all, you'll need to store in a lossless format. AIFF/WAV are possible, but most people would prefer to use some sort of compression to reduce the space requirements, and to allow for easier tagging. ALAC, FLAC, TAK, and WavPack are major players in this space. Yes, it's technically possible to tag a WAV file, but in practice very little software supports it.

If you don't have the storage available to keep your entire collection in a lossless format, you'll have to use some kind of lossy compression to reduce storage. MP3 is the most popular and most compatible, and modern encoders have output that's most people will be unable to differentiate from the original CD. You don't need to use 320 kb/s CBR, most VBR encodings that average >200 kb/s are indistinguishable from the original.

You'll also want ripping software that can ensure that your rips are correct and pop/click/glitch free. Without getting into a technical explanation about the hows and whys, audio CDs store much less error correction and synchronization information than data CDs do, so it's not easy to ensure that the data read from an audio CD is correct -- even if the CD is flawless. Your best bet is to look for software that will verify your rips via AccurateRip -- if your CDs match others in AccurateRip's online database, then chances are very good that your rip is OK. Titles to look for are Exact Audio Copy, dbPowerAmp, and CueTools. There may be others, but these are the programs I'm familiar with.

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