Audio Formats

Apple Lossless (ALAC / M4A)

My primary audio format of choice is Apple Lossless.

I went with ALAC for a few reasons:

  • I prefer a lossless format for my music so I can convert it as needed and always have “the original.” MP3 format is lossy, and while I’m not an audiophile, if I have a lossless version I can always convert it to a lossy compression. You can’t go the other way.
  • My primary music playing portable device is an iPod.
  • I manage my music in iTunes.
  • Most media servers like Asset UPnP can transcode ALAC to other formats.

The other big format in lossless is FLAC (Free Lossless Audio Codec), and while it’s reasonably popular from a format perspective, pretty much nothing plays it.

Apple Lossless uses an MP4 container just like AAC format.

MPEG Layer III (MP3)

These are the MP3s you know and love.

This is a great format for its compatibility and lack of DRM. I primarily get these at Amazon Digital Music.

Given the choice between an MP3 album and the CD, all things being equal, I’ll take the CD and rip it to ALAC before buying the MP3 album. Again, I can always convert down, but can’t convert back up.

Advanced Audio Coding (AAC / M4A)

When I first started ripping my CDs into digital files, I went with a 256Kbps AAC/MP4 format. AAC has a better sound for the compression than MP3 and I figured this would be a good compromise between size and fidelity.

Then I got my HP Home Server with a ton of space and realized I should have gone with lossless.

AAC uses an MP4 container just like ALAC format.