Around the boxes

I think I should mention the idea behind the blue bars and the orange boxes. Let’s take the last ones first. They have no meaning. There; I said it. They are there simply to give a quick overview of a small selection of key features.

The blue ones are slightly more meaningful but that does not mean that you should go out and buy the ones that have a blue box on the right and ignore the ones with a box on the left. They do not signify quality! In my vocabulary quality is a measure of the extent to which one’s expectations are met – and that is exactly what they are – expectations.

Let us take an example. If you go to the store and grab a Linn Klimax and put it in your kitchen to have music while you cook, you are pretty likely to be disappointed and have very little table space to chop onions. If, however, you get yourself a Freecom MusicPal, you will propably find it somewhat easier to fit with your knife rack. The first one is a far right and the latter a far left.

Flac in less words than you can [safely] swing a cat at

I do prefer Flac over other compressed audio formats. Over any audio format , in fact. A standard audio CD is encoded in PCM which is, if you like, a raw stream of digital information. MP3 and Ogg-Vorbis compress this stream by transforming the stream into something perceivably the same as the original but not quite. The higher the compression the further away from the original we get. It is actually possible to perform a surprisingly radical compression with little loss in sound quality. The problem, of course, is that someone has to decide what is perceivably the same – for most ears are different when it all comes down to it and what is worse – once you notice the difference, your perception has been forever altered. This is where the lossless compressions come to play their part. Instead of removing or altering information, the stream is compressed pretty much like a Zip file, only optimized for audio and more importantly; inherently so.

Flac supports samples resolutions of up to 32 bit. For more trivia, please visit the Flac homepage.

For those who have never tried this little experiment, this is what you should do… find a good CD in your collection, preferably one that does not have a compressed sound tapestry quality to it – you know; Phil Spector. Rip the CD to MP3 and then listen to a song in either format, one after another. If you can’t tell the difference, there is no need shopping for Flac capable equipment unless it offers you some other needful feature. If, on the other hand, you do hear a difference, you will be forever addicted to lossless encoding [*]. It should be noted, that not many people can tell the difference if you rip at a bitrate of 320Kbps and most that I know of rip at 192Kbps– so don’t be disheartened if you don’t feel the revelation just yet. But one day you will.

*I am relatively certain that you cannot sue.

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