Choosing a Music Format

I’m in the midst of figuring out how to get music from my computer to my house and my car. There are so many formats, codecs, and DRM systems that it has been difficult for me to pick the best format. I started with 128kbps fixed bit rate mp3, then went to ~220kbps Variable Bit Rate mp3, and then tried DRM-protected WMA files downloaded from MusicMatch, and finally WMA Lossless. Of these, the VBR mp3 seems to be the most universal and offers great sound, though it is a lossy format.

Looking at the devices I will probably be using, FLAC (free lossless audio codec) seems to be the next — and hopefully final — format I use. This page at HydrogenAudio gives a great overview of the lossless codecs. FLAC and WavPack have the highest overall scores in the tables and FLAC is supported by the PhatNoise car player and by the Sonos, Roku, and SlimDevices home players. WMA DRM support was important to me, but I’ve just grown too frustrated with it. I’m still going to buy the music, so long as there are no protections. Here are my plans:

  • Primary Music Format: FLAC
  • Songs that will be re-encoded: all existing 128k mp3, WMA DRM
  • Songs that will be transcoded: WMA Lossless to FLAC using db Music Converter
  • Online Music Store: AllofMP3.com
  • Online Music Streaming / Rental: undecided, Real.com for now but probably Yahoo Music engine in the future (once it supports Sonos Zone Players).
  • CD Ripping: Exact Audio Copy with accurate Rip
  • ReplayGain volume compensation applied using Foobar 2000
  • Tagging / Retagging: still have not found one I can recommend
  • Automotive Playback: PhatNoise PhatBox (hopefully there will be a new version with WiFi auto-sync)
  • Home Playback: Sonos Zone Player
Written by in: Home Theater | Last updated on: 2014-May-27 |

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