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MPEG-4 Audio Lossless Coding (MPEG-4 ALS) is a lossless audio format, extending the MPEG-4 Part 3 audio standard to allow lossless audio compression. First released in 2006, it is standardized as ISO/IEC 14496-3. A reference encoder is available as source code compilable for Windows/Linux/Mac, and a with an executable for Windows. Its primary developer was Tilman Liebchen, then at the Technische Universität Berlin.

The codec has not gained significant popularity and the reference encoder appears to be unmaintained since 2009.

Features and performance

The format supports both integer and 32-bit floating-point PCM, arbitrary sample rates and multi-channel (up to 65536). The reference encoder can enforce an MPEG-4 audio profile, but also provides for several parameters and two encoding modes. It can output the encoded stream in an MP4 container, or as .als files.

In Martijn van Beurden's comparison test, the reference encoder (at default setting) did perform like other popular codecs (fairly close comparable to WavPack's -hx setting). The higher compression settings encode very slowly. According to the README file, the "ALS reference software is not optimized, particularly not in terms of encoder speed."

Software support

The Windows executable can be integrated in e.g. Exact Audio Copy (instructions on the codec's website) or foobar2000.

ffmpeg can decode MPEG-4 ALS files in the default encoding mode (currently not the -z mode).

There are currently no known hardware players supporting it.

Predecessors: LPAC and LTAC

MPEG-4 ALS was based on Liebchen's earlier Lossless Predictive Audio Compression (LPAC) codec, which in turn succeeded his LTAC codec. Thus, LPAC development was frozen in 2003 in favour of MPEG-5 ALS development.

LPAC was at some point relatively popular among lossless formats, as an encoder/decoder was available free of charge (for noncommercial purposes, and closed-source) for Windows, Linux and Solaris, along with a library that made integration of LPAC encoding and decoding into other applications relatively easy. Also for LPAC, the website offered instructions for Exact Audio Copy integration. Furthermore, LPAC was also much more efficient and featureful than the major lossless audio format of the 1990s, Shorten.

Addtional Reading