Tell us what format you use when djing, take part in the poll over on the right hand side »
We tried to find all the stores selling electronic music that offered WAV’s, and noted down the price per track including VAT for new releases and back catalogue releases. As you can see the prices on offer vary quite a bit, especially for back catalogue prices where the difference between the cheapest store and the most expensive is over double!
Links to stores, in order of cheapest to most expensive:
No FLAC support?
Right now Serato’s Scratch Live only seems to support raw lossless formats like WAV and AIFF, which is a shame, there are a number of long threads on their forum where people are asking about FLAC support, and according to this one post they are working on it http://serato.com/forum/discussion/579369#6066373:
“At the risk of making people prematurely excited, yes, we have intentions to have at least basic FLAC support.”
So maybe this year we will get some kind of FLAC support?
Apple lossless support?
There is meant to be some kind of Apple Lossless support, but at least with my setup (using Scratch Live 2.3.3) I can manage to import them if i rename the files to use an m4a extension, but unfortunately they don’t seem to be playable. Have to investigate that…
Scratch Live does have support for tagging in WAV and AIFF files, which is nice. We will be doing a proper article about WAV tagging at a later date, so keep posted for that. But it looks like it reads any tags from iTunes, although editing them in Scratch Live doesn’t seem to update them in iTunes, which is a pain.
Even though when people talk about lossless audio formats they usually mean compressed formats like FLAC and ALAC etc, WAV is of course also a lossless format. So why not use WAV, since it’s commonly supported by all kinds of software and devices? Lets have a look at some of the pros and cons of WAV.
So in summary, we would recommend keeping all your tunes archived in a compressed format like FLAC, because that way you can guard against corruption, you can keep them nicely tagged, and you will save a hell of a lot of file space. When taking tunes to a club, you can always extract your playlist to WAV or rip them to CD if you are worried about compatibility.
Trying out our new logo!
Given the results of our experiments with FLAC, Apple Lossless and WavPack (see our previous three posts, links at the bottom), the clear loser is Apple Lossless. This has pretty similar compression ability to FLAC, but is a lot slower decoding and encoding.
The winner based on the experiments alone would have to be WavPack, but only marginally. FLAC is faster decoding, but WavPack is faster encoding and can compress tracks slightly smaller. However, the differences between the two are not huge, so probably for the majority of people FLAC will be your best bet, as it is so well supported out there on all kinds of devices and software packages.
A great resource on lossless audio formats can be found over at http://wiki.hydrogenaudio.org/index.php?title=Lossless_comparison. They compare a whole host of different features, and they also recommend FLAC or WavPack. Based on their table, you can see that although WavPack does slightly better on compression and speed, the hardware and software support isn’t as good.
We recommend that DJ’s use FLAC, as it has pretty decent compression and is very fast, and importantly it is the best supported of all the lossless formats. On top of that the latest stable version hasn’t changed in four years, so you can be pretty sure you won’t encounter compatibility problems with FLACs you receive (i.e someone sends you a file encoded in a newer version than you have). This could be more of a problem with WavPack.
Links to the previous articles:
The final thing we are going to compare in our trial of three lossless audio formats is the time it takes to convert the format back to WAV: otherwise known as decoding.
In our experiments FLAC was the clear winner when it comes to decoding, being ~35% faster on average to decode our test track than WavPack, which only performed a fraction better than Apple Lossless. This is going to be handy when you are converting your tracks back to wav, or to some other format such as MP3, as if you are converting your whole collection this should save you some precious time.
Please note default encoder settings were used when decoding.
Another important factor when choosing a lossless format is the speed at which it converts the WAV file into the compressed file format. If you have a lot of tracks to archive, this is going to make a big difference to you.
As in the previous post, we chose a random D&B track, and timed on a pretty fast macbook pro how long it took to encode the track in each format. This graph shows the average results for each format (we repeated the experiment 5 times for each format and took averages).
The fastest encoder was WavPack, followed closely by FLAC which was just over half a second slower, with Apple Lossless trailing a long way behind at over 2 and a half seconds slower.
So clearly when encoding, WavPack or FLAC are the best choices, Apple Lossless seems to be quite slow.
Please note default setting were used when encoding.