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FLAC on Mac OS X


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I recently downloaded the FLAC Studio Master version of the Claire Martin album He Never Mentioned Love from Linn Records. I had to download the 24 bit / 96 KHz FLAC version because it was he highest quality available and there was no way I was going to purchase something less than the best. I used the application called Max (Macintosh Audio for OS X) to convert the FLAC files to AIFF and the album worked and sounded perfect in iTunes. The files are 4608 kbps bit rate and 96 KHz sample rate. These are the cream of the crop in audiophile downloads right now. Anyway, here are the instructions for using FLAC files in iTunes. (If you just want to play FLAC files on your Mac you can use the Cog player http://cogx.org ).

 

 

Step 1: Dowload and unzip the following shareware program called "Max" (Macintosh Audio for OS X)

 

website http://sbooth.org/max

 

Step 2: Open "max for mac"

 

Step 3: Set following preferences - desired output format to AIFF (Linear PCM). This is the apple equivalent of uncompressed raw wav files. Also set the encoder settings to "Linear PCM" 24 Bit. You can also ellect to export a copy of the encoded files straight into iTunes under max's iTunes preferences. (If you convert to wave files they will also play but album art is not supported)

 

Step 4: Download FLAC studio master files from Linn records in 24bit 88-96Hz format. Also download album art png file. Leave all files on desktop.

 

Step 5: Drag all the downloaded files straight into "files to be converted" panel in Max

 

Step 6: Hit the "Convert" button!

 

Step 7: Open iTunes...all your files will be seen in your music library! You can check their 24bit hi-res status by selecting "info"

 

Step 8: Play files! Whilst you are doing this drag the album png art file straight into the album art box of iTunes.

 

 

 

 

Founder of Audiophile Style

Announcing The Audiophile Style Podcast

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  • 2 weeks later...

Thanks for the tips. Got MAX immediately and used it on some files I went and d/l from HDDT. WOW! Easy great sound. I really should make more time to just LISTEN to music for listening's sake..... I love the funky Unix interface of MAX too, though I know others might not appreciate the beautiful simpliciy of UNIX-style app/widget functionality

 

markr

"There are only two kinds of people: Those who understand binary and those who don't"

hear here

 

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  • 2 months later...

I talked with someone at MusicGiant and they said that they are not working on making their downloads compatible with Apple, it is in Apple's court. He did say that you should be able to download FLAC files. Does your previous message imply that an iTune user could import and convert FLAC from MusicGiant?

 

I'm so confused....

 

Audio Research DAC8, Mac mini w/8g ram, SSD, Amarra full version, Audio Research REF 5SE Preamp, Sutherland Phd, Ayre V-5, Vandersteen 5A\'s, Audioquest Wild and Redwood cabling, VPI Classic 3 w/Dynavector XX2MkII

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That's interesting. I've heard for a while now that MG was working on Mac compatibility.

 

Anyway, with the MAX application you can convert FLAC into many iTunes supported file formats. I haven't seen any FLAC files on the MG site yet. But, all the DRM-Free MG content can be converted from wma into many formats. The tracks with DRM can't be converted into anything and won't work on a Mac.

 

Founder of Audiophile Style

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  • 2 years later...

Three comments:

* No reason to convert FLAC to AIF. That will make the file about 30% larger and not improve the quality. Use Xiph.org component and Set OggS.app to enable QuickTime and iTunes to use FLAC files.

 

http://www.simplehelp.net/2008/06/12/how-to-play-flac-files-in-itunes/#longer

http://downloads.xiph.org/releases/xiph-qt/xiph-qt-0.1.9.dmg

http://people.xiph.org/~arek/flac_import/set-OggS-0.1.dmg

Alternate scripted process:

http://code.google.com/p/flukeformac/

 

* Why all the fuss about FLAC? Both WAV and AIF are uncompressed and lossless. If one wants uncompromized quality, go with one of them. On the practical side, if you can't hear any difference between AAC 256k and FLAC, why use FLAC and achieve no better listening experience than one gets from AAC 256kbps? Either you are a no-compromize nut or you are practical, but FLAC fits neither goal. After all, this FLAC thing is incompatible with 85% of all MP3 portable players in use today (iPod). Do we really need two versions of every music file, a FLAC version for the home system and AAC for the iPod? For the folks using some outdated Windows Media Player or whatever that can't play AAC, they can use 320k MP3. Although not as efficient as AAC, it is still a small file compared with FLAC and is compatible with iTunes and iPod.

 

* I thought I would at least be open minded and try out this FLAC phenom, but Max has never worked for me. It always gives the error "The file does not contain an embedded cue sheet". Until people can embed this cue sheet thing in their FLAC files, we in the Mac world are back at square one.

 

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I find that Max works well on a Macbook to convert FLAC to AIFF, except that the process of getting the download into Max is often a little erratic....even with multiple downloads from the same source, sometimes dragging the file from the download box works, sometimes the files have to be transferred to a folder on the desktop, then moved or opened in the Finder...and the "no embedded cue sheet " message often appears....just persist and one of the various ways usually works. Sometimes the album artwork doesnt make it and has to be added later. No doubt someone more systematic or geeky than me could work out why these differences occur but as Shirley Conran ( author of Superwoman ) once said memorably..." life is too short to stuff a mushroom"

 

Roon NUC I3 w 2500 albums, microRendu to Liberty DAC, Pass DIY Amp class amp, Klipsch RP600 or to Schiit Freya + Gumby MB, Sanders ESL amps and speakers, Mjolnir KGST and Stax L700

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If you're suggesting that flac somehow has lower quality than uncompressed formats, that's abject nonsense and misleading to readers. There are no sound quality compromises in using flac. Perhaps you were just saying that that's what a no-compromise nut would believe, but you should have no sympathy with that point of view. These people like to think they're connoisseurs, but they're fools, and they must be educated before they embarrass themselves further.

 

If you're concerned about the need for maintaining multiple file formats for different players, isn't there software which will transcode on the fly? Keep one master copy in full quality which keeps a superset of all meta (yes flac), and if off-line players need different formats, perform the transcode as part of the upload. Then they get all the latest meta too. Keeping multiple versions of the same thing is usually sub-optimal, on that we agree, but your counsel of keeping only the lossy version truly sucks.

 

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"..Dowload and unzip the following shareware program called "Max" .."

 

 

 

I sorry to be pedantic, but if you look on the Max site it says:

 

 

 

Max is free software released under the GNU General Public License (GPL).

 

If you write software the distinction between Free Software and Shareware is a very important because with Free Software you are provided with the source code and are free to change it and make improvements. In contrast, the usual meaning of 'Shareware' is binary executables with are free in the sense of not needing any financial payment, but not 'free' in the sense of having a license encouraging you to share and improve the source code. So to an author of Free Software it is important to acknowledge their contribution to the shared 'software pool' by giving them credit for using a free license.

 

 

 

Thanks for the useful summary of how to convert FLAC files to AIFF. There are some great tools for computer audio on the Mac - I've been using xACT which also works well for converting from B&W Society of Sound FLAC files to AIFF.

 

 

System (i): (Stack Audio Link/MoOde > 2Qute+MCRU psu; Gyrodec/SME V/Ortofon 2M Black/EAT E-Glo Petit/Magnum Dynalab FT101A) > Glow Amp One > Klipsch RP-600M

System (ii): iUSB3.0 Nano/Allo USB Signature/MoOde > Bel Canto uLink+AQVOX psu > Chord Hugo > (Tandy LX5; JBL LSR305 ; Audeze LCD-3)

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"There are no sound quality compromises in using flac. Perhaps you were just saying that that's what a no-compromise nut would believe, but you should have no sympathy with that point of view. These people like to think they're connoisseurs, but they're fools, and they must be educated before they embarrass themselves further."

 

Hi ziggyzack - Have you done any extended listening tests on a very resolving system to conclude this or are you using something else to come up with this opinion.

 

Founder of Audiophile Style

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Surely Shareware is software which is downloaded or distributed for free, but for full usage requires payment. The initial download is either time limited, functionally limited or just you are expected to pay on honor system.

 

Open source software (such as under the GNU GPL) is provided free of charge - though services can be sold around them or GPL can be packaged with proprietory software - along with the source code which can be altered and redistributed under the same GPL.

 

Finally freeware refers generally to sofware provided without charge - either under GPL / Open Source basis (e.g. Linux distributions) or under restricted licence (i.e. downloads from Microsoft such as Messenger).

 

Just to be really pedantic...

 

Eloise

---

...in my opinion / experience...

While I agree "Everything may matter" working out what actually affects the sound is a trickier thing.

And I agree "Trust your ears" but equally don't allow them to fool you - trust them with a bit of skepticism.

keep your mind open... But mind your brain doesn't fall out.

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"..Finally freeware refers generally to sofware provided without charge.."

 

 

 

It is wrong to refer to 'Free Software' (ie licensed under the GPL or similar) as 'freeware' even if you don't pay for it. The word 'free' in english has two meanings; the 'free' in Free Software means 'free as in freedom' and the 'free' in freeware means 'free as in free beer'. Hence, if you talk about 'freeware' in refering to Free Software you are confusing the two meanings.

 

 

 

I prefer the term 'Software Libre' to describe Free Software because in Spanish there is no such ambiguity. There two words 'gratis' and 'libre' where English has only one.

 

 

System (i): (Stack Audio Link/MoOde > 2Qute+MCRU psu; Gyrodec/SME V/Ortofon 2M Black/EAT E-Glo Petit/Magnum Dynalab FT101A) > Glow Amp One > Klipsch RP-600M

System (ii): iUSB3.0 Nano/Allo USB Signature/MoOde > Bel Canto uLink+AQVOX psu > Chord Hugo > (Tandy LX5; JBL LSR305 ; Audeze LCD-3)

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"It is wrong to refer to 'Free Software' (ie licensed under the GPL or similar) as 'freeware' even if you don't pay for it. The word 'free' in english has two meanings; the 'free' in Free Software means 'free as in freedom' and the 'free' in freeware means 'free as in free beer'. Hence, if you talk about 'freeware' in refering to Free Software you are confusing the two meanings."

 

Well depending on your definition of Freeware...

 

To quote from Wikipedia...

 

"Software classified as freeware is normally fully functional for an unlimited time with no cost, monetary or otherwise. Freeware can be proprietary software available at zero price.[3] The author usually restricts one or more rights to copy, distribute, and make derivative works of the software.[4] The software license may impose restrictions on the type of use including personal use, individual use, non-profit use, non-commercial use, academic use, commercial use or any combination of these. For instance, the license may be "free for personal, non-commercial use".

 

Accordingly, freeware may or may not be free and open source software and, in order to distinguish, the Free Software Foundation asks users to avoid calling "freeware" free software.[5] The principal difference being that free software can be used, studied, and modified without restriction; free software embodies the concept of freedom to use, while freeware that of free-of-charge. Freeware is also different from shareware; the latter obliges the user to pay after some trial period or to gain additional functionality.[6]"

 

Open source software is usually freeware (though there maybe distribution costs) but freeware is not FREE (even if there is no cost!).

 

Anyway whatever we say about freeware, MAX is open source and definitely not shareware.

 

Eloise

---

...in my opinion / experience...

While I agree "Everything may matter" working out what actually affects the sound is a trickier thing.

And I agree "Trust your ears" but equally don't allow them to fool you - trust them with a bit of skepticism.

keep your mind open... But mind your brain doesn't fall out.

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To convert FLAC to other formats on a Mac, I recommend XLD (also open source) rather than Max.

 

XLD has a much more straightforward user interface than Max.

 

If you attempt to convert a FLAC file that is corrupt, Max fails to notify you of the corruption. XLD will abort the conversion.

 

The XLD website is confusing because the section "How to Use" only applies to the command-line version. These instructions are irrelevant to the GUI version, which is completely self-explanatory. The Download link is right below this How to Use" section, preceding a voluminous Version History section.

 

You only need to download one file: "GUI Version".

 

http://tmkk.hp.infoseek.co.jp/xld/index_e.html

 

Mac Mini (2012 i7) > HQPlayer > RME ADI-2 v2 > Benchmark AHB-2 > Thiel 3.7

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Stephen Booth also makes other applications besides MAX (a format converter). He also makes "Play". It will play AIFF, ALAC, and FLAC. It's free and it sounds better than iTunes.

 

Of course, you will lose out on all those ads trying to sell you crap from the iTunes Music Store....

 

Charles Hansen

Dumb Analog Hardware Engineer
Former Transducer Designer

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'Have you done any extended listening tests on a very resolving system to conclude this or are you using something else to come up with this opinion.'

 

I'm basing this purely on received wisdom that flac is a lossless codec.

 

I am saying explicitly that files stored as flac will exhibit no quality losses whatsoever compared to files stored in any uncompressed format. This, I hope, is incontrovertible.

 

I am NOT saying that there is no benefit in transcoding flac to an uncompressed format before it's streamed to a dac box, though I think it's highly doubtful - I certainly wouldn't take anyone's word for it.

 

The reason I think it's doubtful is because it appeals to has-been no-compromise nuts, who reluctantly accept that there is no problem with storing music in flacs, but still irrationally don't like the idea. The notion that a DAC box may be sensitive to the flac decoding process cannot be categorically rebuffed in the same way, which leaves open the slim possibility that the uncompressed format may... be... slightly... better than the compressed (albeit losslessly) format - and order is restored.

 

I've heard a couple of arguments why uncompressed playback should be better than losslessly compressed. One is that the dac box is busy with the decode and so can't focus as well on converting to analogue - short shrift is due. The other is that the busier circuitry causes more EMI within the DAC box - well there I truly have no idea, although any good DAC designer will be careful that the analogue output stage is well protected. Given that flac (like all audio codes aiui) is much easier to decode than to encode, the extra work done will be marginal. That's just a hunch, but there are a lot of things going on in a DAC box.

 

Meanwhile, consider that the inward stream is only half as busy for a flac file compared to an uncompressed file. You could say that the electronics were only half as stressed, until the decode is performed very close to the DAC chip. I wonder, if this notion had gained precedence, where one of lossless or uncompressed is preferred, if people would prefer lossless instead.

 

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"...but your counsel of keeping only the lossy version truly sucks."

 

As others have suggested, you have to believe your own ears, not the FLAC promoters. If you can't assure me that you have actually listened to a music CD and an AAC 256k extract of it and found the latter to sound different, you are simply buying into the FLAC lovers dream. It's not reality.

 

Submit to a blind test: put someone else at the controls and switch between a FLAC and an AAC 256k version of a dynamic piece of your favorite music. If you can tell the difference (not one lucky guess, but a statistically significant success), let us know. Don't simply chomp on the words "lossy" and "lossless". You don't listen to these terms. You listen to music.

 

Decades ago "audiophiles" claimed they could hear a difference in music that was missing inaudible content, such as tones above 16,000 Hz. Blind tests proved them wrong again and again. It's the same with FLAC. It's a theoretical advantage, not a really audible one.

 

I'm not suggesting that anyone stick with or ditch iTunes. I'm saying 85% of portable MP3 players can't play FLAC. That's a fact. To cling to FLAC means either you give up the iPod or you use two different files, one for your $30,000 home audio system, and another for your iPod. If you know of a way to make iPod play FLAC, fine, but give the details, don't just assume "it can be done". Even then you are buying into that imaginary difference in audible quality between FLAC and AAC 256k that you can't verify.

 

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Thanks, Bob Stern. XLD is just the ticket (what we used to say for "rules"). The problem was that many of the FLAC files created by others are faulty. They have as much as ten seconds of dead air at the end of the music. I suppose this comes from a full CD conversion followed by editing to get individual songs. I can delete that excess silence with QuickTime Pro, but it doesn't have a FLAC save option except "Share" which is a direct attachment to email. That works, but is not exactly fast or simple. I haven't yet tried to figure out how to edit in XLD, but I can edit in QT Pro, export as AIF, and then convert the AIF in XLD to get an improved FLAC result. Now I can share these FLAC files with the folks who can't bear to think about huge AIF or lossy AAC.

 

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@Charles Hansen:

 

Welcome to the CA forum! Your contributions to the PC Audio Asylum were quite informative, and I was sorry to see you, Gordon Rankin and Steve Nugent chastised by the moderator.

 

I don't see any advertising in iTunes. Try using Preferences > Parental to disable the iTunes Store.

 

Mac Mini (2012 i7) > HQPlayer > RME ADI-2 v2 > Benchmark AHB-2 > Thiel 3.7

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Hi ZiggyZack - I certainly did not know you based your opinion on "received wisdom" and didn't use extended listening tests on a resolving system. I wouldn't have asked the question if I did know. Can you share with everyone what is the source of your "received wisdom?"

 

 

 

"I am saying explicitly that files stored as flac will exhibit no quality losses whatsoever compared to files stored in any uncompressed format. This, I hope, is incontrovertible."

 

Yes, I'm very happy we are in agreement about FLAC as a lossless data storage format.

 

 

 

"I am NOT saying that there is no benefit in transcoding flac to an uncompressed format before it's streamed to a dac box, though I think it's highly doubtful - I certainly wouldn't take anyone's word for it."

 

I think I get what you are saying. However, all audio is unpacked from the audio wrapper (FLAC, AIFF, WAV etc...) before it is sent to the DAC.

 

 

 

"The reason I think it's doubtful is because it appeals to has-been no-compromise nuts, who reluctantly accept that there is no problem with storing music in flacs, but still irrationally don't like the idea."

 

If I have this right, your "received wisdom" tells you something is technically doubtful because of the people who believe in it?

 

 

 

"The notion that a DAC box may be sensitive to the flac decoding process cannot be categorically rebuffed in the same way, which leaves open the slim possibility that the uncompressed format may... be... slightly... better than the compressed (albeit losslessly) format - and order is restored."

 

Again, the DAC itself receives uncompressed PCM data not a wrapped audio format like FLAC, WAV, AIFF, or MP3.

 

 

 

"I've heard a couple of arguments why uncompressed playback should be better than losslessly compressed. One is that the dac box is busy with the decode and so can't focus as well on converting to analogue - short shrift is due. The other is that the busier circuitry causes more EMI within the DAC box - well there I truly have no idea, although any good DAC designer will be careful that the analogue output stage is well protected. Given that flac (like all audio codes aiui) is much easier to decode than to encode, the extra work done will be marginal. That's just a hunch, but there are a lot of things going on in a DAC box."

 

I'm not sure you are speaking from the point of view of someone well learned in DAC design. When you say, "I truly have no idea" and "That's just a hunch" I don't think your statements can really be taken as facts. I am certainly no expert in DAC design and try to check all my opinions and statements with DAC designers. Have you been able to do this? It would be very helpful to the discussion.

 

 

 

"Meanwhile, consider that the inward stream is only half as busy for a flac file compared to an uncompressed file. You could say that the electronics were only half as stressed, until the decode is performed very close to the DAC chip. I wonder, if this notion had gained precedence, where one of lossless or uncompressed is preferred, if people would prefer lossless instead."

 

I really think you are making things up here. What do you mean by an inward stream being half as busy with FLAC? File format decoding takes place before the audio signal exits the computer. This is the reason you see applications that support all kinds of file formats and you don't see a DAC saying it supports any file formats. Again, I am no expert but I know my limits. Can you elaborate on your "received wisdom" or maybe educational or professional background? I hope this will provide some reason for me to take your statements more seriously.

 

 

 

On another note, you done quite a bit of posting that is very detrimental to an open discussion. Starting one post by saying "Holy Baloney" is one example. Computer Audiophile is a laid back site where all respectful discussions are welcomed. I don't agree with some of the things that are said but as long as it's respectful I'm happy. Nothing turns off potentially valuable information exchanges more than personal attacks and people suggesting only their statements are correct. I have no problem with you believing what you believe and posting it on the site. Please be respectful. It also bolsters your comments if you can provide some kind of information as to why you believe what you do. You'll find most people here are thirsty for knowledge that helps them make up their own minds.

 

 

 

Founder of Audiophile Style

Announcing The Audiophile Style Podcast

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"Decades ago "audiophiles" claimed they could hear a difference in music that was missing inaudible content, such as tones above 16,000 Hz. Blind tests proved them wrong again and again. It's the same with FLAC. It's a theoretical advantage, not a really audible one."

 

Hi Lance - Can you provide the source testing information for this statement? It will help strengthen your statement.

 

Founder of Audiophile Style

Announcing The Audiophile Style Podcast

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These are the cream of the crop in audiophile downloads right now. Anyway,

On this particular statement, I cannot agree with you more.

linn downloads are, to me the best of all their recordings are again

to me are also the best sounding

Regards

Winst

 

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who are you kidding? you're moving the goalposts.

 

You started off saying flac was pointless, either go uncompressed or lossy. You suggested flac was a compromise: 'Either you are a no-compromize nut or you are practical, but FLAC fits neither goal.' That's utter nonsense - quite clearly, flac is not a compromise. You agree with that now, I hope. You sound pretty sanguine about these things though - perhaps you meant something else in the first place?

 

I wasn't talking at all about the relative merits of compressed audio, that's another story altogether. But if you keep your audio masters in one lossy format, and need to convert it to another lossy format, the losses will begin to add up - so all in all, it's a dreadful idea. Also that 16KHz limit, you've just made up - CRT TVs still whine very loudly to me at about that level.

 

I don't use itunes or an ipod, but apparently the latest itunes can now transcode alac to aac 128 (they won't let you do another bitrate, which is typical - hence I avoid that manufacturer). Apparently mediamonkey does. Anyway, transcoding is nothing new, if I needed it, I'm sure I'd find it. There's some beginning info here: http://www.hydrogenaudio.org/forums/index.php?showtopic=80044

 

Your whole approach seems to be from the point of view of portable players - well yeah, forget hi-fidelity when you're out and about. But when was this thread ever about portable audio?

 

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