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Rip Your Music Uncompressed

Here is a rundown on prevalent lossless/uncompressed file formats, their respective strengths and weaknesses, and suggestions how you can make your digital music sound better.

Apple Lossless Compression (ALC) This is an OPTION in iTunes that employs “lossless” compression. You have to choose it. The ALC format reduces the stored data to as little as half of the original music file size, but restores it bit-for-bit to the original music file on playback. In spite of ALC being and Apple technology, ALC running on a Windows PC is fully compatible for both recording and playback. Additionally it has full metadata support. The bottom line is ALC offers much better sound than MP3s and is compatible with high-resolution music files.

FLAC (Free Lossless Audio Codec) FLAC is in concept very similar to Apple’s ALC. There are some important differences. FLAC does support high-resolution music files with greater bit-depths and sampling rates. Here is the rub…even though FLAC is an extremely common and accepted format; it is not supported by Apple. This means you can’t record or store FLAC using iTunes. There are programs that can convert it to and Apple friendly file type. To maintain the quality be sure to convert to a lossless or uncompressed format.

WAV (Waveform Audio File Format) The WAV format is capable of storing in the PCM audio format which is the same digital encoding format used for compact disc. WAV is completely uncompressed. That means the music file is identical to the original CD. Uncompressed WAV files can be ripped and played back in iTunes and are very high quality. Since the file is uncompressed it takes more hard drive space or memory to store.

AIFF (Audio Interchange File Format) AIFF is similar to WAV. It is capable of storing uncompressed Linear PCM (pulse code modulation) audio. The nice thing about AIFF is that the format works with iTunes and Apple OSX and Windows with very high quality. Additionally AIFF files support permanent metadata tagging, like album art, song titles, and other convenience features that enhance music library management.

Storing your digital music files in lossless or uncompressed form doesn’t mean you have to reduce the amount of music stored on your iPod or iPhone. iTunes allows user to convert higher data rat music to 128K AAC on the fly as the music is synchronized to the mobile device. There is no need to maintain separate high and low bit rate libraries. So if you are glazed over with all the acronyms, here are our recommendations. While less convenient, the best way is to buy the CD and rip to an uncompressed or lossless format. This way you have the best quality and a back up. A great free resource for CDs, if you live in Orange County, is the library. They have a very wide selection of CDs available for loan. If you must download…. most of the mass market download sites do not offer uncompressed or lossless files. Fortunately there are some download services that do. Try hdtracks.com, livedownloads.com, beatport.com, classicalshop.net.

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