Hi Folks,

I am currently investigating a new home system and some of the questions I have are with respect to digital audio. My questions are:

1. All other components remaining equal (speakers, amps, preamp, etc.) is there any loss of audio quality in playing a FLAC file vs the track from a CD?

2. If there is a noticeable loss then what CD player would you recommend for a $1000 budget.

3. If there is no noticeable loss and I were to convert all my CD library to FLAC files and store them on a network accessible media server what source component would I use to stream this through my system - again keeping the budget to $1000?

4. Are there quality sounding CD players (first and foremost for CDs) that would allow the FLAC files to be processed through it and output to the preamp?

The system I am looking at would be comprised of the following:

Odyssey Stratos HT-3 Extreme
Odyssey Khartago 2-channel Basic
Odyssey Lorelei front speakers
Outlaw 975 AV Processor

If you require any additional information to respond then please let me know.

Thanks for your assistance!
Most of my music library now in FLAC and AAC. Hear no losses or any signs of lack of resolution.
FLAC is a lossless format, the digital track on your CD is also a lossless format. FLAC can be compressed, but similar to the Apple Lossless format, the track uncompresses at playback time.
The difference in audio quality is in the head unit that plays the track. There are crappy CD players and there are crappy computer-based audio solutions.
I have a laptop->USB converter->DAC front end that prices around $1400, including all the software, and I have never compared it to a similarly priced CD player in my system/room, but the convenience of accessing my entire music library from my iPad trounces any thought of going back to a disc spinner. It is a lot more up-front work tho, that's for sure; you have to be a tinkerer, and that can be frustrating for some people.
Remedy - I have done extensive comparisons between flac & wav formats and the wav format has won hands down.

Something to think about.

(You look back at my prior threads & find the one where we've discussed it pretty in depth, if you're interested).

I would recommend you look into getting an Oppo BDP-105. This gives you a superb CD/DVD/Bluray player, the ability to connect a USB drive and playback FLACs as well as many other formats, in addition to network streaming capability AND a top-notch DAC. This one-box solution would seem to suit you quite well...

depends on your cd player or transport/dac combo imho. i have noticed very slight differences between FLAC/CD using PSA's pwt/pwd vs the pwd/bridge (pwt sounds a tiny bit better to my ears using I2S). these "differences" (improvements) are only noticeable during critical listening.

have auditioned several other cd players in my set-up (sony, oppo and rotel) and could not tell a difference (Flac sounded the same as CD). thinking a higher end CD player would resolve the difference better but am yet to have an opportunity to try.

a $1000-ish msrp cd player compared to FLAC will sound the same imho.
Flac and wav files are all I do now. Sounds awesome to me. Cd's are only good for ripping to flac/wav IMO
I was going to be getting the Oppo BDP-103 as my dedicated Blu Ray/DVD player. What about the Audiolab 8200CD? I hear that its an excellent CD player and DAC.
If you are planning on USB from a computer and you actually have a highly resolving system, FLAC will not sound as good as .wav. Even AIFF files dont sound as good as FLAC. The differences are mostly in the imaging soundstage and compression. FLAC loses a lot of the airiness and high frequency echo cues from the venue.

Steve N.
Empirical Audio
yep...wav sounds slightly better to me as well, but didn't want to comment since the op never mentioned wav. that being said...i've had way more meta data issues using wav. flac seems to do better in that regard.

Steve N....your statement rings true even when not using usb. i stream via the psa pwd/bridge
With the affordability of storage (e.g.: external hard drives) converting CDs to WAV is a much more attractive solution these days...Then you need not second-guess.

A question for Steve N: If I convert my FLAC files to WAV will there be any audible difference between said files (the FLAC files that have been converted to WAV) and original WAV files?


This is nearly impossible to answer, as it depends so much on the DAC. I used a Leema Antilla CD player and now an Ayre QB9 with Mac Mini. I think both AIFF and Apple lossless are slightly better than CD, but that, I am sure, is because of the better DAC.
It is a question that is extremely easy to answer for yourself. Given a quality DAC, load up Foobar on a PC, get the ABX compare plug-in and test yourself. If you can't score better than random (50%) there is no point in using WAV.

I have done it and can hear no differences on my system. I will try again once I have a better resolving DAC and Jplay installed. I do think preloading to RAM could make a difference. I'm not sure what Jplay does functionally but the optimal path would be would be FLAC - > RAM decompression -> playback of decompressed WAV file from RAM.

The point is decompressed FLACs are bit-perfect. If you hear a difference, it is a result of the playback system, and that is possible, but unlikely. See this post on Computer Audiophile as well, and this is an objective test you could also repeat yourself:
Binkleyc - I have done extensive listening comparisons between the two formats on my system, and have found the wav format to be better, usually by a significant margin.

It seems the computeraudiophile article is saying if it can't be measured, it can't be; and I couldn't DISagree with him more. I trust my ears more than I trust ANY measuring equipment.

Maybe his problem is that he's using a Windows based system . . . (that's just a joke (kinda)).
Just replace your active preamps with a good transformer passive linestage (TVC), and you will probably hear the difference. Most active preamps add so much noise, distortion and compression that all of these differences are masked. I used to use a ML38 with extensive mods, including about 30 feet of point-to-point pure silver wiring. It thought it was really transparent. Not bad, but not even remotely close to a good TVC.

Steve N.
Empirical Audio
Like someone said, hard drives are dirt cheap. Just leave them wav if you hear a difference