AN INTRODUCTION TO AUDIO CODECS
If you want to know specifically the best Audio formats and using the codecs listed below check out our list of the best audio Formats. This article only discusses specific types of codecs.
There is no one clear answer to what is the best codec for music playback. Quality mastering of sound will also makes a big impact on fidelity but there are a many formats that audiophiles tend to use more than others.
Flac and Mp3 (over 320kbps) are the most commonly used in the audiophile community and what I use personally use myself. One disadvantage of Flac and 320kbps is that the file size is rather large due to the payback being of near lossless sound quality. If space on your memory card is not at a premium then we suggest the above codecs, however, if you have a smaller drive, or a lot of music, feel free to look at a more compressed music file option.
Lossless music files vs Compressed
There are a number of formats that are beginning to gain popularity in recent years thanks main to advances in DAC and Amplifier units being able to handle these more complicated uncompressed music files. Another barrier that caused people to use compressed music files was storage space. Lossless files can take up GB’s of data for just one album and even 5 years ago prices of SD cards to use with your audiophile DAP’s were extortionate in comparison with today.
If you are wanting unrivalled and indisputable fidelity then having a good master track can remove all hints of doubt that you are getting the best sound quality but we have listed many compressed methods that offer virtually indistinguishable variances in fidelity but take up much less space whilst still being capable of playback on the majority of devices.
Types of Audio Codecs
The most common of the digital music formats. Mp3 can come in various levels of compression and ones that are commonly accepted in audiophile circles are 320kbps or higher. More compressed files can still produce excellent sound quality but this is a hotly contested topic amongst the audio community.
Another very common file format although less so in the past few years – WMA has a lossless format when selected and one particular benefit is that a tracks information (Metadata) can be contained within the file.
A very large file format that is usually associated with lossless music.
This is Apples offering to the audio format world and the file type you would expect when downloading from the apples store. For some time there was issues with playback on certain devices although this is becoming less common.
Open source music format that has the ability to retain high levels of detail even down to 192kbps. Mos audiophile grade players should now support OGG playback.
The daddy of file formats toted by audiophiles. Has a rather large file format especially in high bitrates but is generally accepted to have one of the best sound quality retentions of all file formats. Commonly supported amongst most high-grade players.
ALAC is the Apples lossless format that was designed to be used with apple devices. This is a less common format as we move toward digital streaming services and there are better devices for listening to music that apples current generation of music players
DSD – Direct Stream Digital
DSD it the codec that has been getting a lot of attention lately as more and more DAP’s are capable of using this completely uncompressed audio codec. Needless to say the sound quality is fantastic and the higher bitrates make for a true high end experience. The files though are extremely large so you will need to have a lot of storage to be able to keep a full library of music in DSD format.