I have observed (heard and then tested so as to confirm) the following “condition” as it relates to the widely debated issue of FLAC quality. The purpose of this topic is to gather opinions as to whether or not your observations are similar too – and therefore support – my own.

It is widely understood and accepted that a FLAC file while “compressed” is “lossless” as compared to its corresponding WAV file. Let’s assume (i.e. not debate) this is completely true. What I am noticing is that when the FLAC file is “played” via any FLAC player it sounds different from the sound of the “same” (equivalent decompressed FLAC) WAV file when played back via the same player that was used to play the FLAC file. This is specifically noticeable (to me) in the low frequency spectrum. The WAV has considerably more “sonic energy” that manifests itself as appearing to be a bit louder, wider in frequency range and perhaps even dynamic range as compared to the FLAC equivalent.

I’m curious as to your findings when you compare a FLAC file played natively as compared to the WAV equivalent played via the same player (for example, play both the FLAC and WAV via VLC media player) or practical equivalent, such as if the FLAC was burned to CD and you are comparing the FLAC played via VLC and the CD played via a CD player.

I am further assuming that the WAV file is a more accurate representation of the audio than the FLAC. This is to say that should you agree with the aforementioned, it would be preferable to play the WAV file or decompress the FLAC file before using it.

The comparison between using the ERC-3 or the PC as a transport  is, of course, not a good way to make the comparison. It sounds like you also compare the FLAC and WAV both played back from the same computer and using the same equipment. That is a valid comparison. If you are doing that, then you should be able to convert the flac to flac with zero compression as a test. You might also want to try a couple of different players, to verify that it is not some issue with the player.

This issue has been discussed hundreds of times. Some people say they hear a difference, most say they do not. If you near a difference, it is more likely to be an issue with your player or the PC than with just the format. That is one reason I suggested zero compression. It might also be interesting to try different compression levels, like 1,2,3 up to whatever you are currently using.
You just use a conversion program or ripper that outputs a flac file. When you output flac there should be a compression option, with 0 as one of the options. The default is usually level 6. I would use JRiver, the player I use. I am pretty sure dBpoweramp does it also. Whenever you create a flac, you should have a 0 compression option.

Apart from this discussion, it is a nice way to use wav files but maintain the meta data capabilities of flac.
EZ CD Audio Converter has 0-Fastest, 5-Default, and 8-Smallest
dB Poweramp has Lossless Uncompressed, Lossless Level 0-Fast, and 8-Highest. Which one do I use?

IF you have a resolving system (most think they do, but they don’t), you will hear this difference, PROVIDING that you are using a playback software such as Foobar, Jriver or Amarra on a PC or Mac and outputting via USB or S/PDIF.

We can argue this until the cows come home, but its simply true. I don’t know why. I can speculate, but I have no proof.

So, how can this problem be eliminated?

Possibly by using a network server that eliminates the use of the audio stack in the computer or server.

Possibly by purchasing a well-designed server like the Antipodes from New Zealand. I did this comparison at a trade show and it is the ONLY server I have used where the FLAC and WAV files sounded alike.

I am not affiliated with the guys making Antipodes servers.

BTW, I have made this comparison with AIFF, ALAC, FLAC, uncompressed FLAC and they all sound compromised compared to WAV.

Steve N.

Empirical Audio