PCM vs FLAC

December 9, 2021
 by Paul McGowan

3 comments on “PCM vs FLAC”

  1. 1) Plus: FLAC stores metadata, extremely useful.
    2) Minus: FLAC loses height information.
    Whaaaat?
    A few years back, two researchers in an un-named subjectivist magazine, were absolutely certain that with WAV files the sound image appeared elevated in front of them.

    1. Good afternoon Peter!
      I think you’re on to something here!
      Because when you really stop to think about it, all of the movies that are either on DVD or Blueray discs, all have this audio file that’s better known as DTS True Master Audio.
      But cempally because of the fact that a Blueray disc can store way more data then a DVD can, they burn on to the Blueray disc an object baste surround sound scheme that’s called Dobie Agmas.
      Which puts sound over your head in moldable channels.
      A lot of movy studios figured the FLAC thing out.
      And they decided that, the FLAC thing just didn’t work for them.
      They wanted you to have the same experience you have at a theater, in your home.
      And so, they tossed the FLAC thing out.

  2. Technically, you shouldn’t be able to hear the difference and I’m unable to hear any difference but that may be just expectation bias on my part. 😉

    However, as Paul points out, the devil is in the detail and the extra processing resources required to decode FLAC to PCM may impact the SQ. However, if memory serves, I think Ted Smith once wrote in a comment on one of the PS Audio forum topics that the DirectStream DAC doesn’t use any extra processing resources when decoding FLAC input.

    I agree with Peter Allen’s earlier comment that a big advantage of the FLAC standard is that it uses the popular Vorbis Comment standard for metadata. Not all that surprising I guess, given that the Xiph.org organization owns both standards. However, comparing this capability with that of raw PCM is probably a bit harsh given that we usually ‘play’ PCM from a Redbook CD or a WAV file, both of which use the ID3v2 metadata standard. So it really just depends on what best suits your needs but I wouldn’t factor in a difference in SQ, if any.

    Incidentally, the DSD (.dsf file) format specifies ID3v2 for metadata blocks so we’re already mixing metadata formats but today’s streamers seem to be able cope OK. 😉

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