When I decided to have Riptopia rip my entire CD collection, I had to decide which audio file format to use. I talked this over with Kurt Beyer, the former CEO of Riptopia, who wrote this excellent article on 7 Facts Audiophiles Need to Know About Digital Music. It’s a couple of years old, but still very useful for getting an overview of different audio formats. I had two distinct goals for my digital music:
1) A CD quality backup of my entire CD collection
2) A format I could use on an iPod or other portable music player
After much deliberation I decided to use FLAC (Free Lossless Audio Codec) for my CD quality backup and 320 Kbps MP3 for my mobile music. For the backup copy the other obvious choices were WMA Lossless (Windows Media Audio Lossless) or ALAC (Apple Lossless Audio Codec). I decided to go with FLAC since it was an open standard not tied to any particular company. 22 years after buying my first CD, I am still buying CDs and in many cases listening to my original CDs. If I had chosen an audio format in the 80s that was only supported by one company I have sincere doubts that I would still be able to play my music as easily today as I am with my CDs. I have little doubt that Apple and Microsoft will still be around 22 years from now and probably still promoting their own high quality audio formats. Nonetheless, I decided to bet on FLAC as an open losssless standard that would still be around. I’d welcome comments on this posting on what lossless formats you think will be around over the next couple of decades?
Since the iPod is capable of playing MP3s, I chose 320 Kbps MP3 as the standard for my mobile music collection. Of course, I could have gone with AAC, which is the Apple standard preferred by iTunes, but once again I didn’t want my music collection tied to one company’s hardware. 320 kbps is the highest possible bitrate for MP3s. It’s said to be difficult to tell the difference between a 320 kbps MP3 and a CD, even when played through a high end sound system. On my stereo, playing the same song on CD and 320 Kbps MP3, I can immediately tell which is which and this is even when connecting my iPod through my Yamaha YDS-11 dock playing through the “Compressed Music Enhancer” setting on my Yamaha RX-V2700.
I purchased the goregous cherry red Simpletech 320 GB, Pininfarina portable hard drive to store all my digital music. I wasn’t previously familiar with Pininfarina, but it turns out they’ve done a lot of design for Ferrari over the years.