Attention: The forums will be placed on read only mode this Saturday (Oct. 20, 2018)

During this outage (6:30 AM to 8 PM PDT) the forums will be placed on read only mode. We apologize for this inconvenience. Click here to read details

Audio & Video Software forum

General discussion

All these file formats...Which one to use?

by krvach / September 9, 2007 2:47 AM PDT

Hey what's going on folks. I have been searching around trying to find some info on all these different file formats and it's all very very complicated. My goal is to basically make the best quality copy of my CD's that I can! I also have plans to move to the dark/light side and get a Mac so I have to take into consideration that it needs to work with iTunes and also my iPod. This is what I have figured out so far:

ALAC (Apple Lossless) - It's a decent way to go but can't be played on every player out there because of the .m4a

FLAC (Free Lossless) - Also a good way to go, but don't know the options it has. Suppose to make an exact copy of the music without compromising it at all.

MP3 - Lossy. You lose quality after encoding it to mp3 format.

AAC - Lossy as well but smaller file sizes then mp3 and better quality then mp3 at a lower bit rate

Correct me if I am wrong on anything. Thanks all for your help!

Discussion is locked
You are posting a reply to: All these file formats...Which one to use?
The posting of advertisements, profanity, or personal attacks is prohibited. Please refer to our CNET Forums policies for details. All submitted content is subject to our Terms of Use.
Track this discussion and email me when there are updates

If you're asking for technical help, please be sure to include all your system info, including operating system, model number, and any other specifics related to the problem. Also please exercise your best judgment when posting in the forums--revealing personal information such as your e-mail address, telephone number, and address is not recommended.

You are reporting the following post: All these file formats...Which one to use?
This post has been flagged and will be reviewed by our staff. Thank you for helping us maintain CNET's great community.
Sorry, there was a problem flagging this post. Please try again now or at a later time.
If you believe this post is offensive or violates the CNET Forums' Usage policies, you can report it below (this will not automatically remove the post). Once reported, our moderators will be notified and the post will be reviewed.
Collapse -
Try each.
by R. Proffitt Forum moderator / September 9, 2007 3:49 AM PDT

Play each file back and see if you can tell. I know I just go with CDEX and a high bitrate MP3 setting and frankly I can't find what was lost.


Collapse -
File formats
by Wim_Damstra / September 21, 2007 8:27 PM PDT

MP3 of course is by far the most universal. The compression is from 11x (128 kbps) to 44x (32 kpbs) at a frequence of 44.1 KHz so one 700MB CD (80 minutes normal audio) can contain from about 14.5 to 58.5 hours (over 2.5 days non stop!) of sound.
To test your best wished compression you could produce a MP3 CD and record the tiny sound of a triangle as well as that of thundering sounds like that of drums; at the 11x compression I can't imagine you hear any difference and even the 44x compression is often quite acceptable (depending on your demands of course).
Keep in mind that there is a minimum record time from 2 seconds and up (increasing with the compression) and that the player may have a maximum of 999 tracks.
I Hope I could help you a little bit in your decision.

Collapse -
it depends on what you want to do and what music you use
by BlackJack72 / September 21, 2007 9:52 PM PDT

I only use mp3 and I read several studies that showed that only very few people can hear a difference between 256kbps mp3 and an Original CD. So you should be fine with that - and its still only about 20% of the original size!

I usually use 192kbps and can't hear a difference between my original CDs and my mp3s. I often DO hear a difference between 128kps mp3s and an Original.

of course this also depends on the music you convert. if the original production isn't very good (i.e. live music and most music from the 60s or 70s) you usually can't even hear a difference with 128kbps.

I hope this helps in your decision.

Collapse -
by texan_black_sabbath_rockr / September 21, 2007 11:32 PM PDT

I try to use WMA (windows media audio) as much as possible. You can get the same sound quality as an mp3, but wma takes up less space. The main disadvantage is that you can't play this format on and iPod because it is a windows format.

Collapse -
I Use WMA Also
by wexmary / September 24, 2007 11:29 PM PDT
In reply to: WMA

I'd rather loss some quality and get double the CDs in my player. I can live with the most lossy rate in WMA, but it only takes up about 20-30MB per CD. To my ears, a decent set of head/ear phones makes the real difference in sound quality anyhow.

Collapse -
This is what I decided.
by krvach / September 22, 2007 12:46 AM PDT

Hello everyone, thanks for the input. This is what I decided to do. I ripped all my CDs onto my external hard drive in ALAC format (320kbps). This way I have an exact copy of the CD I listened to ALAC, AAC, MP3, and FLAC and ALAC sounded the best to me (it might have just been my imagination, but I went with it). Now what I did was to convert all the CD's into 128 AAC for my iPod so the files aren't so huge. Also it's almost impossible for me to tell the difference between 128 AAC and 320 ALAC on my iPod so I stuck with the 128 AAC.

This might have been a very roundabout way of doing everything, but now I feel comfortable that I have a very good quality rip for my pretty decent home stereo (which I actually heard a difference on) and also iPod compatibility, with a decent file size.

Collapse -
FLAC is lossless
by 3rdalbum / September 22, 2007 4:21 PM PDT

You asked if there were options for controlling the quality; well, there aren't as it is a lossless codec (Free Lossless Audio Codec). You will always get the best possible quality with FLAC.

You can however control the speed vs compression level; check the man page of flac for more details, or have a look at the manual for the GUI frontend you are using. As computers these days are pretty fast, I always use the --best option to get the highest possible compression.

Collapse -
Easy Way
by Jon-FL / December 9, 2007 12:16 AM PST

What I do is import from CD's to iTunes using AAC @ 256K bit rate. This equals iTunes Plus format. You can set this up in your iTunes options(preferences). Should you switch to Mac at some point, your itunes library will import seamlessly into your new Mac. Also, it's a one step process

Collapse -
we think alike :)
by Doug_San Diego / December 28, 2007 12:55 PM PST
In reply to: Easy Way

Easy Way... that is exactly what i do...

rip the files from original CD into iTunes at 256 Kbps AAC format. this saves a file of the song, that will not only "play back" great in portable device, BUT ALSO WILL RECORD TO CD-R VERY FINE AS WELL, if you want to burn CD's from your music library as well.

if you NEVER burn music, and ONLY want music files for portable players.... then i would go with 128 Kbps or 192 Kbps AAC format.

IMO - the AAC format is superior to MP3. iTunes will easily record in AAC format, and AAC will play fine in Itunes & Ipod. no need to ever convert to MP3

Collapse -
addition to above
by Doug_San Diego / December 29, 2007 9:50 AM PST
In reply to: we think alike :)

i actually use REAL Player 11 (free version) to rip my CD's and create AAC files on hard drive. REAL saves these files on hard drive, with the same folder system as iTunes uses (Artist/ Album/ Song). thus, i can easily import the songs to iTunes from my hard drive.

i have previously used both, REAL Player 11, and iTunes Player 7, to rip CD's.

IMO - REAL Player is much better, faster, more features. i could go on and on. but try it yourself.

both of these softwares (REAL & iTunes) can be downloaded and used for free.

PS - whatever software you use to rip your CD's, IF YOU PLAN TO KEEP MUSIC FILES AS PERMANENT DIGITAL LIBRARY.... then always use "error correction" when recording the CD's to digital files. it certainly slows down the record process, but is worth it for PERMANENT files.

Popular Forums

Computer Newbies 10,686 discussions
Computer Help 54,365 discussions
Laptops 21,181 discussions
Networking & Wireless 16,313 discussions
Phones 17,137 discussions
Security 31,287 discussions
TVs & Home Theaters 22,101 discussions
Windows 7 8,164 discussions
Windows 10 2,657 discussions


Your favorite shows are back!

Don’t miss your dramas, sitcoms and reality shows. Find out when and where they’re airing!