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I have started a project of ripping my big collection of CDs and storing them on my NAS. Since I care for audio quality I have decided to store them in a lossless format. Right now I have tried to use FLAC. However reading this article makes me having some doubt.

I have considered using Apple lossless (m4a) files. It seems that Apple will support this format for many years to come. However I have not found a way to playback them on my Playstation 3. The m4a format is supported on Mac (of course) and on Windows FLAC on the other hand is supported on all major platforms. The m4a format has the advantage of being able to import to iTunes. Today I mount my NAS and use VLC for playback (on my Mac computer).

We have a Synology NAS, a Mac Book Pro, a Sony PS3 and some Windows computers in my family. Thus I want to be able to playback the audio on all these platforms. The Synology server has the ability to transcode some formats, such as FLAC.

What lossless format do you recommend me to use for storage of my audio files on my NAS? It should be format that is playable on most platforms. It should be future-proof, but I realize that this is hard to predict what will last for many years to come.

One solution would be to keep my FLAC files. I would be able to use them as long as the FLAC format is supported. When another fantastic lossless format arrives, I will have to convert them. As long as it is a lossless format, the audio quality is preserved.

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I suspect the NAS to not properly transcode FLAC files on the fly to the PS3. As far as I know, the PS3 doesn't support FLAC playback so the NAS has to transcode it, but I think at some point in the transcoding process the NAS is doing something wrong. Do you have the error message on the PS3? What are the transcoding settings on the NAS? –  m-p-3 Feb 15 '12 at 14:14
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2 Answers

up vote 3 down vote accepted

My most direct recommendation for your library of lossless audio is to stick with Flac. It is the premier open standard for lossless audio.

A lot of players do not support flac because there isn't too much demand for lossless digital audio. :-( It still has more general support than any of the proprietary lossless formats.

Something that you should remember when future proofing your collection, is that the lossless digital copy of a CD is still only going to have at most the sound quality of the CD. Which itself is a slightly lossy compression of the raw studio recording, which itself is a slightly noisy copy of the live studio performance. The cumulative effect of all that noise adds up to a net loss of sound quality comparable to the loss of fidelity from Flac to Ogg, Acc, or some of the other more advanced lossy compressions. So, a future lossy compression derived from the original studio recordings may be higher audio quality than your flac of the CD.

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Don't jump too far down the "lossy" rabbit hole. CDs can capture frequencies beyond the limits of human hearing, and have enough dynamic range for all but the most demanding of listening environments, when properly mastered. So while a high quality lossy export from a digital remastering may sound better than current lossless rips, its not going to be from not being written to audio CD first. –  afrazier Feb 22 '12 at 0:09
    
I understand that CD can capture more than we can listen to. But since storage capacity is not a big issue for me, I can still store it in lossless format. FLAC still compresses rather good, but without loosing quality. But the lossless vs not lossless is a rather big discussion with a lot of people having different opinions. I have made my choice, even though I may be wrong ;-) –  Johan Karlsson Jan 14 '13 at 13:04
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I have a similar setup to yours:

  • MacBook Air and MacBook Pro
  • Synology NAS Xbox
  • 360s (two of them), no PS3, but for the purposes of this solution, they are the same.
  • Apple TV (1st Gen).

I store my music as ALAC files. These would either be the rips of my CDs, or high res downloads from Linn Music. All metadata about the music is available inside the file.

Storing in ALAC (ALAC - Apple Lossless Audio Codec, .m4a file extension) allows me to play the lossless music off my Apple TV and off the Mac.

Sometimes I get music in FLAC format e.g. from HDTracks. Converting them to ALAC is very simple and fast (approx 1 min for a 5 minute song using an application like Max).

The entire library is stored on my Synology NAS and streams around the house to my laptops.

Why did I chose ALAC over FLAC? For the hardware players that I have, ALAC has better support than FLAC. While there are many software players for FLAC if you're playing it on a computer, there aren't many hardware devices which support FLAC playback. The Xbox360s do not support lossless audio from either of these formats (neither does the PS3).

Secondly, the choice of a lossless format is easily changed - there is no loss when converting FLAC to ALAC or ALAC back to FLAC. Therefore in the future if I were to decide to change all my music to FLAC, I would set a batch job before dinner and it would all get converted by the time I finish clearing the table and loading the dishwasher.

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