A lossless audio format is one that uses an algorithm to compress the data so that the file sounds exactly as it would from the original source. This is different to audio formats like MP3 and WMA, as these are lossy audio formats. This means that the audio is compressed using different interpolation techniques, meaning that it’s a digital audio file that doesn’t sound exactly the same as the original.
You’ll generally find that lossless audio files take up more storage space than a lossy format. This is simply because it’s a higher quality file and as such that requires more data. Lossless audio files are great for backing up your music; everything is stored in perfect quality, so even if you lose the original source format (like the CD, for example), then you still have access to the true audio.
There are various different file formats that offer lossless audio, including WAV, AIFF and FLAC. These all offer these same quality of sound (else they wouldn’t truly be lossless!), but factors like compatibility and file size are what you should consider when determining which is best to use for your backups.
Apple Lossless (ALAC) and Windows Waveform Audio Format (WAV) are two popular formats. The former took a rise due to it being offered on iTunes and being instantly compatible with iPod and iPhones. WAV is, obviously, supported by Windows programs, like Media Player, along with iOS devices, but it has the problem that metadata (like artist and album name) aren’t kept in the ifle.
One of the more popular lossless formats is Free Lossless Audio Codec (FLAC). This is an open source format that isn’t tied down to a specific company. When it comes to backing up your files, keeping disk space down is going to be important – especially as your collection continues to grow in size! FLAC uses around half the amount of space as a CDA or WAV file. However, it does still use up to six times the space of an MP3, but this is to be expected due to the lossless quality.
One of the good things about the FLAC format is that it is pretty well supported. The only downside is that anything iOS doesn’t support it natively, meaning things like the iPhone and iTunes will need a bit of tweaking before they play FLAC files. There are apps in the store available for download that will let you play FLAC files. Alternatively, you could switch to a player such as Media Monkey or JRiver on Windows or Songbird for Mac.
Happily, Android users using 3.1 and above will find that their device supports the format natively. Those using older versions of the OS might find that the inbuilt media player has had support for it patched in.
Finally, Windows users can download a Media Player plugin to add support for FLAC, or, again, download an alternative media player.
The bottom line is that every lossless format offers the same quality, but the one you pick will depend on how concerned you are about things such as compatibility and file size. As it is, your best choice is likely the FLAC format.
Best Lossless Audio Format for Backup
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