Letters #002: Decode FLAC into WAV for playback
Xavier says on 15 Oct 2019:
Flac decoding doesn’t sound as good as playing .wav file. On my system, it’s fairly obvious.
Would it possible to have MPD doing this?
Step 1: Decode FLAC as wav file and store that into RAM Disk
Step 2: Play from Ramdisk the .wav file
This would be a great addition to SnakeOil.
As far as I know, no other tool do that.
Response From The Snakeoil Squad
Flac decoding doesn’t sound as good as playing .wav file.
To some this is a ridiculous statement to make. They would argue ‘bits are bits’, and there should be no difference. This is one of the examples where people will pick on passionate audiophiles. That we are a camp of nuts heads.
They are wrong. We are not crazy. These bits can be manipulated. Anybody who believes otherwise only need to perform a simple experiment - compare stock Windows audio to Linux audio. Linux is better. Snakeoil OS builds on top of Linux and provides the perfect platform for passionate audiophiles to fine tune exactly the character they want - the OS that allows audiophiles to play music, their way.
We are listening to music with our heart and soul. We do not analyse and break down the music using tools of Science. Rather, we are appreciating music on a different plane - as works of art.
There is no doubt in my mind your statement is absolutely correct. My personal observations also reflects WAV does indeed sound more natural than FLAC. You have hit the nail on the head with the word ‘decoding’. In other words - implementation details. Implementation differences might be the reason why WAV do not sound quite the same as FLAC. I have no problems using FLAC as an archival tool, but not as a playback medium.
The subtle if not outright differences in playback is the reason why Snakeoil OS included the XMMS player. This is the reference FLAC decoder, and the only Linux player IMHO where FLAC sound OK. If you think FLAC sounds worse in MPD, try it with Logitech Media Server and Squeezelite. The whole premise of Snakeoil OS is to to showcase how different players and OS tweaks can influence the sound - that bits are not just bits.
Back to the discussion. The upside of WAV is better audio quality. Everything else seems to be a liability. Here are the three biggest problems:
- Vulnerable to bit rot as there are not built in error checking
- Big file size
- A waste to store every time as uncompressed PCM when we really only need about 30 minutes to 60 minutes worth every sitting
While #1 can be addressed with a modern file system. #2 and #3 cannot be addressed without getting bigger drives.
My solution is to use a NAS with a modern file system (ZFS). All my PCM music are stored in the WAV format, and I rely on ZFS to maintain data integrity. This solution cost a fair bit of money and technical know how. Just look at the problems I have to deal with to get this solution to really sing.
The tendency to address and attack problems with technical solutions is something that’s difficult for me to shake. Although I try to not forget the human touch when applying technical solutions, it’s not always successful.
Your solution - is far better! It addresses all the problems AT NO ADDITIONAL COST OR COMPLEXITY! Most computers have sufficient amount of RAM to make this work. So all we need is maybe a couple of minutes to decode 30 to 60 minutes worth of music from FLAC to WAV, and then play music at it’s full potential.
Here’s how it’ll work. In the red rectangle, I’ll add a checkbox that says “Decode To Ram". If this option is turned on, any FLAC files will be decompressed to WAV when you click on the “Add To RAM” or “Replace RAM” button.
Not sure when I’ll finish this. But hopefully it’ll come in the next few release.
Comment from: Timothy Arnold Visitor
WOW!!!! Is this for real!!
THis is a game changer, I realize in the grand scheme, it’s not rocket science to make this happen but wow … I’ve been having this argument for years with a buddy of one. Unfortunatly, I’m on the flac side, mostly because I have about 6tb of flac (including my entire CD collection and years of downloading)
here’s some questions:
Is there a difference between WAV files that have been un-compressed from flac and wave files that have always been so. FLAC is lossless so there shouldn’t be, but ?????
What happens the WAV "MZ" after it’s been used, is it cleared out every 24 hrs ?
WOW COOL.. this would be a game-changer