Lossless comparison

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The lossless comparison page aims to gather information about lossless codecs available so users can make an informed decision as to what lossless codec to choose for their needs.

Contents

[edit] Introduction

Given the enormous amount of lossless audio compressor choices available, it is a very difficult task to choose the one most suited for each person's needs. Some people only take into consideration compression performance when choosing a codec, but as the following table and article shows, there are several other features worth taking into consideration when making a choice.

For example, users wanting good multiplatform compatibility and robustness (e.g., people sharing live recordings) would favour WavPack or FLAC. Another user, looking for the very highest compression available, would go with OptimFROG. Someone wanting portable support would use FLAC or ALAC, and so on. En fin, this is not a matter worth getting too worked up about. If you later find out the codec you chose isn't the best for your needs, you can just transcompress to another format, without risk of losing quality.

Note: for latest comparison of lossless compression, scroll down to the Links section of this page.

[edit] Comparison Table

Features FLAC WavPack TAK ALAC Monkey's WMA OptimFROG
Encoding speed[A] very fast very fast very fast fast fast fast slow
Decoding speed[A] very fast fast very fast fast slow average very slow
Compression[A] 57.0% 57.1% 56.0% 57.8% 55.1% 58.4% 54.6%
Flexibility[B] very good very good very good bad very good bad very good
 
Error handling[C] yes yes yes no no yes yes
Seeking yes yes yes yes yes yes yes
Tagging Vorbis tags ID3/APEv2 APEv2 iTunes APEv2 ASF ID3/APEv2
Hardware support very good limited no good limited limited no
Software support very good good average good good good average
Hybrid/lossy LossyWAV yes LossyWAV no no LossyWAV yes
ReplayGain yes yes yes propriet. no no yes
RIFF chunks yes yes  ?  ? yes no yes
Streaming yes yes yes yes no yes yes
Pipe support yes yes yes yes yes yes yes
Open source yes yes no yes yes no no
Multichannel yes yes yes yes no yes no
High resolution yes yes yes yes yes yes yes
OS support All All Win/Linux Wine All All Win/Mac Win/Mac/Linux
A The Compression ratio is calculated with the division of compressed size by uncompressed size * 100. So, lower is better. Encoding speed, Decoding speed and Compression ratio are based on each encoder's default settings and are taken from the most recent lossless codec comparison mentioned at the links section of this page. Encoding speed is very fast if > 150x, fast if >75x, average if >40x, slow if >20x, very slow if <20x. Decoding speed is similar but thresholds are doubled, i.e., very fast if >300x, fast if >150x etc. Thresholds for compression are at 56% and 58%
B Flexibility refers to the amount of encoding choices offered to the users (Fast/low compression, Slow/high compression and everything inbetween)
C Error handling means that a codec can detect a corruption in a file and warn the user about it, but still decode most of the file, only leaving a small gap of silence where the error was detected. Corruption in this sense means bits that are flipped, not removed


[edit] Codecs

These are the most popular lossless codecs, in alphabetical order:

[edit] Apple Lossless Audio Codec (ALAC)

http://www.apple.com/itunes/import.html

ALAC is a codec developed by Apple for usage in iPod and AirPort Express.

ALAC pros

ALAC cons

  • Limited software support
  • No error detection/robustness
  • No hybrid/lossy mode
  • Not very efficient

ALAC Other features

  • Fits in the MP4 container

[edit] Free Lossless Audio Codec (FLAC)

https://xiph.org/flac/

FLAC is a lossless codec developed by Josh Coalson. It's part of the Xiph multimedia portfolio, along with Ogg, Vorbis, Speex and Theora.

FLAC pros

FLAC cons

  • No hybrid/lossy mode

FLAC Other features

  • Supports embedded CUE sheets (with limitations)
  • Includes MD5 hashes for quick integrity checking as standard
  • Fits the Ogg and Matroska containers

[edit] Monkey's Audio (APE)

http://www.monkeysaudio.com/

Monkey's Audio is a very efficient lossless compressor developed by Matt Ashland.

APE pros

  • High compression
  • Fast encoding
  • Good software support
  • Simple and user friendly. Official GUI provided.
  • Java version (multiplatform)
  • Tagging support (ID3v1, APE tags)
  • High resolution audio support
  • Supports RIFF chunks (only in the GUI encoder)
  • Pipe support (only in a special version)

APE cons

  • Problematic license (source provided, no modification or redistribution rights)
  • Slow decoding
  • No multichannel support
  • No error robustness
  • No hybrid/lossy mode
  • Limited hardware support (Rockbox, some Cowon players); poor battery life due to complicated decoding (see MP3 player benchmarks)
  • Higher compression levels are extremely CPU intensive
  • Doesn't support ReplayGain

APE Other features

  • Includes MD5 hashes for quick integrity checking
  • Supports APL image link files (similar to CUE sheets)

[edit] OptimFROG (OFR)

http://www.losslessaudio.org/

OptimFROG is a lossless format developed by Florin Ghido to become the champion in audio compression.

OFR pros

OFR cons

  • Closed source
  • No multichannel audio support
  • No hardware support
  • Very slow decoding
  • Slow encoding
  • No updates since 2011 (last non-Windows release in 2006)
  • More than one tagging method allowed (ambiguity possible)

OFR Other features

  • Supports 32bit float streams
  • Includes MD5 hashes for quick integrity checking

[edit] Tom's verlustfreier Audiokompressor (TAK)

http://www.thbeck.de/Tak/Tak.html

TAK is a lossless codec developed by TBeck.

TAK pros

  • Very fast decoding
  • Very fast encoding
  • Very high efficiency
  • Error robust
  • Supports multichannel audio and high resolutions
  • Tagging support
  • ReplayGain compatible
  • Supports RIFF chunks
  • Pipe support
  • Streamable

TAK cons

  • Closed source
  • No hybrid/lossy mode
  • No hardware support
  • Average software support
  • Doesn't support Unicode (yet)

TAK Other features

  • Optional MD5 checksum

[edit] WavPack (WV)

http://www.wavpack.com/

WavPack is a fast and featureful lossless codec developed by David Bryant.

WV pros

WV cons

  • Limited hardware player support
  • More than one tagging method allowed (ambiguity possible)

WV Other features

  • Supports 32bit float streams
  • Supports embedded CUE sheets
  • Includes MD5 hashes for quick integrity checking
  • Can encode in both symmetrical and asymmetrical modes.
  • Fits the Matroska container

[edit] Windows Media Audio Lossless (WMAL)

http://www.microsoft.com/windows/windowsmedia/9series/codecs/audio.aspx

WMA Lossless is the lossless codec developed by Microsoft to be featured in their Windows Media codec portfolio.

WMAL pros

WMAL cons

  • Rather low efficiency
  • Closed source
  • No hybrid/lossy mode
  • Doesn't support RIFF chunks
  • Doesn't support ReplayGain

WMAL Other features

  • Fits the ASF container

[edit] Other Formats

Aside from the formats mentioned above, there are in fact quite a lot of other lossless formats. To keep the table and list brief and readable, a few formats have not been mentioned.

[edit] DTS-HD Master Audio

Similar to the MPEG-4 SLS format, this format has a core track in an older, more widely supported format, DTS. This core lossy track is made lossless by a secondary track with correction data. It is an optional codec in Blu-ray implementations. Its main use is surround sound encoding, and as is the case with MLP, the price of the encoder ensures it is only used in mastering of Blu-ray discs.

[edit] LA

LA features an extremely high compression (on par with OptimFrog highest modes, but a bit faster), but it hasn't been updated for more than 10 years. Furthermore, backward compatibility is not guaranteed, so using it for archiving might pose a few problems. It isn't able to cope with file corruption either, software support is very limited and isn't open source.

[edit] MLP/Dolby TrueHD

The MLP codec (of which the mathematical basis was used in Dolby TrueHD) it the codec used for DVD-Audio. It was mandatory in any HD-DVD implementation and optional for Blu-Ray in it's Dolby TrueHD form. It is known to support the 'wasted bits' scheme used in LossyWAV. As encoders are very expensive, it's use outside DVD/Blu-ray mastering environments is non-existent. Its main use is encoding surround sound data.

[edit] MPEG-4 ALS

MPEG-4 ALS is the successor to LPAC, which it was based on. It has been as a ISO standard and there is a reference encoder/decoder, but like TTA, it does not have features that make it stand out from other codecs, nor backing by a large organisation, so it hasn't much software and no hardware support.

[edit] MPEG-4 SLS

MPEG-4 SLS is a special codec, having a AAC core track and a 'correction track'. Also known as HD-AAC, SLS stands for Scalable to Lossless. However, there is to date still no affordable software to play, encode or decode (the lossless part of) SLS files.

[edit] Shorten

Shorten was one of the first widely-used lossless formats, and it still occasionally found on the internet, especially in archives, for example etree.org. It is quite fast in both encoding and decoding, but doesn't compress very much. Furthermore, seeking has a troubled past as well as tagging. It is considered obsolete.

[edit] Real Lossless

Part of the Real codec suite, Real Lossless too hasn't any very special features that make it stand out. Just like WMA Lossless and Apple Lossless, it was created to fit in a codec suite, but unlike WMA Lossless and Apple Lossless, there is no hardware support and software support is limited. Compression is on par with most other codecs, but it is rather slow to encode.

[edit] TTA

TTA is a lossless codec which has been developed by a team of russian programmers. While it's compression and speed is on par with WavPack and FLAC, there are no features that make it stand out from other codecs, which is probably the reason for it being largely ignored these days.

[edit] Oddball formats

There are a few archaic formats of which encoders and decoders are hard to get by. Most of those would have disappeared by now, but some of them are being preserved for posterity at rjamorim's

  • Advanced Digital Audio (ADA)
  • Bonk
  • Marian's a-Pac
  • AudioZip
  • Dakx WAV
  • Entis Lab MIO
  • LiteWave
  • LPAC
  • Pegasus SPS
  • RK Audio (RKAU)
  • Ogg Squish
  • Sonarc
  • VocPack
  • WavArc
  • WaveZip/MUSICompress

[edit] See also

[edit] External links

Other lossless compressions comparisons Sorted based on last update date.

  • Martijn van Beurden's comparison - tries to compare all codecs and settings with a balanced pool of music (last updated 2013-08-10)
  • Synthetic Soul's comparison (last update 2007-07-28)
  • Johan De Bock's speed oriented comparison - best choices speedwise are indicated in green, mostly electronic music (last updated 2006-07-22)
  • Hans Heijden's -- used as reference to build the table (last updated 2006-07-07)
  • Josef Pohm's comparison, hosted by Synthetic Soul (last update 2006-05-29)
  • Bobulous' lossless audio comparison — a look at six lossless formats in terms of speed and file size (last updated 2006-05-22)
  • Jhan De Bock's size oriented comparison - aimed only at the maximum compression setting for each codec (based on a somewhat limited set of samples, however) (last updated 2006-05-19)
  • Gruboolez' -- comparing only classical music (last updated 2005-02-27)
  • Speek's (last updated 2005-02-07)

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