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What's the point to all these lossless formats?, Split from: "Native FLAC support in Windows 10?" (107402)
apastuszak
post Nov 4 2014, 21:53
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I fail to see the point to all these lossless formats. They all do the same thing, compress a music file down to about half the size of the original with loss of any data. Since, in theory, the end product of all these compression formats is exactly the same sonicly, why does everyone try to keep re-inventing the wheel?
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lvqcl
post Nov 4 2014, 22:26
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QUOTE (apastuszak @ Nov 4 2014, 23:53) *
why does everyone try to keep re-inventing the wheel?

http://multimedia.cx/eggs/why-so-many/

(but seriously, there are only several popular lossless audiocodecs)

This post has been edited by lvqcl: Nov 4 2014, 22:54
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[JAZ]
post Nov 4 2014, 22:54
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@lvqcl: While the link you posted is partially true, precisely in lossless there is at least three groups of codecs:

Those that target maximum compression (LA, optimfrog)
Those that target maximum efficiency ( TAK, Wavpack, Monkey audio back then, not so sure right now )
Those that target royalty free solutions/openness ( FLAC ).

If any, WMA Lossless and ALAC are the ones that could be considered "their own flavour".
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lvqcl
post Nov 4 2014, 23:00
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There is the 4th group: "dead formats" wink.gif ph34r.gif
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Elbart
post Nov 5 2014, 08:27
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QUOTE (lvqcl @ Nov 4 2014, 22:26) *
QUOTE (apastuszak @ Nov 4 2014, 23:53) *
why does everyone try to keep re-inventing the wheel?

http://multimedia.cx/eggs/why-so-many/

Ah, a nice alternative to the obligatory Book of xkcd, Verse 927: https://xkcd.com/927/ laugh.gif

This post has been edited by Elbart: Nov 5 2014, 08:28
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lithopsian
post Nov 5 2014, 14:57
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QUOTE ([JAZ] @ Nov 4 2014, 22:54) *

@lvqcl: While the link you posted is partially true, precisely in lossless there is at least three groups of codecs:

Those that target maximum compression (LA, optimfrog)
Those that target maximum efficiency ( TAK, Wavpack, Monkey audio back then, not so sure right now )
Those that target royalty free solutions/openness ( FLAC ).

If any, WMA Lossless and ALAC are the ones that could be considered "their own flavour".

Yes, but the differences in compression and efficiency are pretty small however much people bang on about them. Encoding is the only area where there are big speed differences, and I've yet to find an instance when I care.
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ChronoSphere
post Nov 5 2014, 15:48
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There are people who care though, and to me saving about 15GB of space vs. FLAC was worth moving to TAK.
Mainly because it made my music library still fit onto a 250GB HDD and I couldn't afford getting a bigger one at that time.
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yourlord
post Nov 5 2014, 16:03
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I just use FLAC. The difference in compression levels are small enough to not matter to me. It has one of the best encode/decode speeds, is by far the most widely supported format, is as cross platform as it gets, and has the added benefit of being royalty free and open source. I don't see the logic in using any other format for any reason other than wanting to be different, which is a perfectly fine reason with lossless. The exception to that is ALAC for those who choose to otherwise subjugate themselves to Apple.

This post has been edited by yourlord: Nov 5 2014, 16:04
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ktf
post Nov 5 2014, 16:30
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Keep in mind that most of those codecs were created around the same time.
  • Shorten: 1993
  • OptimFROG: 1996
  • Wavpack: 1998
  • TTA: 1999
  • FLAC: 2000
  • Monkey's Audio: 2000
  • LA: 2002
  • WMA Lossless: 2003 (according to Wikipedia)
  • Apple Lossless: 2004 (according to Wikipedia)
  • TAK: 2007

So, the time window in which all but two of these were released is shorter than the time since the last one from now. At the point any of these (except TAK perhaps) was created, there was no clear 'winner'.

QUOTE ([JAZ] @ Nov 4 2014, 22:54) *

Those that target royalty free solutions/openness ( FLAC ).

Beside being completely patent-free, and open-source (the library under BSD terms, doesn't get much more open than that), there were a few other things. See xiph.org/flac/developers.html

I can't remember where I read it, but the most important reason for Josh Coalson to start the FLAC project is that there was simply no other codecs that suited his goals. FLAC is largely based on Shorten, and Shorten has a troubled past with seeking. So, FLAC was designed as a codec that is very easy and very fast to decode (like shorten), but with better compression (by adding linear predictors to the fixed predictors Shorten had) and a better format that allowed seeking.


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lvqcl
post Nov 5 2014, 16:47
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QUOTE (ktf @ Nov 5 2014, 18:30) *
FLAC is largely based on Shorten, and Shorten has a troubled past with seeking. So, FLAC was designed as a codec that is very easy and very fast to decode (like shorten), but with better compression (by adding linear predictors to the fixed predictors Shorten had) and a better format that allowed seeking.

It's interesting that according to http://codecs.multimedia.cx/?p=313,

"The only bad thing about [FLAC] is that itís too hard to seek properly in it since thereís no proper frame header and you can just hope that that combination of bits and CRC are not false positive."
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tuffy
post Nov 5 2014, 18:27
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QUOTE (lvqcl @ Nov 5 2014, 09:47) *
It's interesting that according to http://codecs.multimedia.cx/?p=313,

"The only bad thing about [FLAC] is that itís too hard to seek properly in it since thereís no proper frame header and you can just hope that that combination of bits and CRC are not false positive."

At least FLAC has the decency to start its frames on byte boundaries so supporting SEEKTABLE metadata blocks isn't a big hassle (assuming someone hasn't omitted that block - WavPack and TrueAudio have an advantage there).

Not much of anything in Shorten is byte-aligned and its optional seek table carries a bunch of implementation-specific state, so seeking in it is a big mess by comparison.
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ktf
post Nov 5 2014, 19:05
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QUOTE (lvqcl @ Nov 5 2014, 16:47) *
It's interesting that according to http://codecs.multimedia.cx/?p=313,

So, it says there one 'rather good' codec, a bunch of average codecs and a few very bad ones. Well, that's one way to look at it for sure.

When a FLAC file has a seektable, seeking is easy: you look up the nearest seekpoint, get to the right frame from there and decode it. Frames are recognized fairly easily, and while it is possible to get a false positive, sticking to a fixed bitdepth, samplerate and number of channels (I don't know of any encoders/decoders that can do a varying number of channels for example) reduces this risk to really, really low levels. Checking for the right framenumber can provide even more security.

When a seektable is not available (FLAC encoded to a pipe for example) or using it is impractical (ffmpeg's decoder structure doesn't work with seektables if I'm correct) seeking still works, but it is less quick. Still, ffmpeg does a pretty good job while not using a seektable, and seeking can still be sample-accurate.

edit: Probably the poster doesn't like the fact that the frameheader hasn't got the frame size embedded.

This post has been edited by ktf: Nov 5 2014, 19:22


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blse59
post Nov 5 2014, 19:13
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It's not one organization coming out with all of these formats. It's different individuals creating their own, and like a girl at a dance, each is hoping to be 'the one'.

I think there are really three main ones - wav, flac, and Apple's format. Wav is universally supported and apple's exist only because their devices don't accept flac or else no one would use it. I think flac will emerge the winner. It's to audio what .zip is to data. Unless apple comes out with something revolutionary. But it's likely to be proprietary so maybe not.
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greynol
post Nov 5 2014, 20:16
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QUOTE (blse59 @ Nov 5 2014, 10:13) *
Apple's format

Apple has two formats.


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saratoga
post Nov 5 2014, 20:43
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There are only two formats with real relevance for music: flac and alac.

The rest are dead formats and niche experimental codecs.
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audiophool
post Nov 5 2014, 22:24
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QUOTE (saratoga @ Nov 5 2014, 20:43) *
There are only two formats with real relevance for music: flac and alac.

The rest are dead formats and niche experimental codecs.

I'd love to see stats supporting this. I would consider ALAC a niche product.
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yourlord
post Nov 5 2014, 22:37
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QUOTE (audiophool @ Nov 5 2014, 17:24) *
QUOTE (saratoga @ Nov 5 2014, 20:43) *
There are only two formats with real relevance for music: flac and alac.

The rest are dead formats and niche experimental codecs.

I'd love to see stats supporting this. I would consider ALAC a niche product.


I'd love to see them as well, but I'm quite confident the existing base of FLAC, then ALAC files occupies a staggering majority of the lossless compressed audio for personal use. The merits and faults of all other formats not-withstanding, I believe the volume of audio stored in them is likely in the sub 1% range.

I would really like to see hard numbers to see if my impressions hold true.
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saratoga
post Nov 5 2014, 23:19
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QUOTE (audiophool @ Nov 5 2014, 17:24) *
QUOTE (saratoga @ Nov 5 2014, 20:43) *
There are only two formats with real relevance for music: flac and alac.

The rest are dead formats and niche experimental codecs.

I'd love to see stats supporting this. I would consider ALAC a niche product.


I wouldn't be surprised if its the most widely used lossless format. Certainly more dedicated mp3 player have shipped supporting it than any other format. For a long time it was one of the only options for lossless compression in mobile, although now thats changing thanks to Android.
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ktf
post Nov 5 2014, 23:51
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QUOTE (audiophool @ Nov 5 2014, 22:24) *
I'd love to see stats supporting this. I would consider ALAC a niche product.

I have no statistics, but I've been responsible for updating this list http://xiph.org/flac/links.html#music

Quite a few of those stores listed offers audio in FLAC and ALAC, some do WAVE, some AIFF. Only maybe once WMA Lossless. I haven't seen any other format. On that metric, I'd say saratoga is right about that. As I've been looking specifically for stores that sell music in the FLAC format, I can't be sure, but I'd say there are more labels using FLAC than labels using ALAC. However, no WavPack, no Monkey's Audio, and WMA Lossless only once or twice, and only for streaming, not for download.


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audiophool
post Nov 6 2014, 10:10
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QUOTE (saratoga @ Nov 5 2014, 23:19) *
I wouldn't be surprised if its the most widely used lossless format. Certainly more dedicated mp3 player have shipped supporting it than any other format. For a long time it was one of the only options for lossless compression in mobile, although now thats changing thanks to Android.

Actually, I would be surprised if ALAC is popular as a lossless codec.

My thinking: if we only consider "computer audio" (by that, I mean everything but the old-school optical media), lossless is a niche. It has big market shares in certain small segments (music producers, audiophiles, perhaps DJs, HA nerds and other people interested in the science of digital audio, etc).

Among those using lossless, many actually go for WAV or AIFF and not for lossless codecs. They may use WAV or AIFF for compatibility reasons (e.g., the industry standard hardware among DJs doesn't support any lossless codecs; many NI producer tools only have partial support for lossless codecs). Or they simply don't know how to convert to lossless codecs.

That leaves a pretty small market segment for lossless codecs. Audiophiles, nerds, and perhaps a few more. My take is that folks in those areas overwhelmingly prefer FLAC. Look at illegal download sites and the needledrop sites, it's all FLAC. Look at legal download stores. It seems to me very few shops support ALAC (Bandcamp being a notable exception), but quite a few offer FLAC.

Look at the latest poll on HA. FLAC has 67% usage, ALAC only 6%. Look at gear targeting audiophiles. FLAC support is a must-have feature in network players, portable audio players, and AVRs for those guys. On the other hand, much less gear supports ALAC.

Basically, all ALAC has got is the huge number of compatible Apple devices. The problem is, though, that the vast majority of Apple users is either not interested in using it, not technologically savvy enough to use it, or too lazy to transcode (and, again, on the web, FLAC is much easier to find than ALAC).
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Kohlrabi
post Nov 6 2014, 10:41
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QUOTE (audiophool @ Nov 6 2014, 10:10) *
Look at the latest poll on HA. FLAC has 67% usage, ALAC only 6%. Look at gear targeting audiophiles. FLAC support is a must-have feature in network players, portable audio players, and AVRs for those guys. On the other hand, much less gear supports ALAC.
HA is not a good sample of the real world, especially w.r.t. audio technology usage patterns.


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soundping
post Nov 6 2014, 10:46
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I know on torrent sites FLAC is very popular.
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saratoga
post Nov 6 2014, 17:12
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QUOTE (audiophool @ Nov 6 2014, 05:10) *
Look at the latest poll on HA. FLAC has 67% usage, ALAC only 6%. Look at gear targeting audiophiles. FLAC support is a must-have feature in network players, portable audio players, and AVRs for those guys. On the other hand, much less gear supports ALAC.


Looking at HA to determine what formats are popular is a terrible idea.
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Brand
post Nov 6 2014, 17:14
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QUOTE (ktf @ Nov 5 2014, 23:51) *
QUOTE (audiophool @ Nov 5 2014, 22:24) *
I'd love to see stats supporting this. I would consider ALAC a niche product.

I have no statistics, but I've been responsible for updating this list http://xiph.org/flac/links.html#music

Here's another one for the list: https://indietorrent.org/.
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Porcus
post Nov 6 2014, 18:33
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Here's a thread on the same topic: http://www.hydrogenaud.io/forums/index.php?showtopic=95670
I don't remember which, but Bryant did in some thread here offer a few thoughts on the choices he made that likely gave WavPack the lower hand.

As for "niche" products ... what would you say about Meridian Lossless? What percentage of BluRay releases use MLP? (And is that a niche? HD DVD and DVD-A are, I'd say.)
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