Do your eyes cross when you see all the audio format options to choose from in the Bandcamp download menu? The good news is that you can DJ with all of them, but each file type offers different audio resolution, file size, and software compatibility. Here’s a straightforward breakdown of audio file types specifically for DJs, including how much more you can expect to pay if you want to step up from MP3s.
Discussions on audio file types can get very academic, very subjective, and honestly quite tiresome when what we really care about is slaying a tight mix and rocking a lit party. So this audio file format breakdown will focus on some bottom-line considerations:
- Which formats sound better than others?
- How much drive space do they require?
- How much do they cost?
- Will they work with your DJ software?
What (Common) Formats Can DJs Buy Music In?
Introducing the players in this game, the most commonly bought, sold, and spun audio formats.
Compressed, lossy formats:
- MP3 – coded at 192kbps, 320kbps, and variable bit rate (VBR).
- AAC – aka .m4a files. These lossy files share the .m4a extension with lossless ALAC files, but AAC refers to the lossy files that are sold for example at iTunes.
- Ogg Vorbis – free and open-source audio coding format
Compressed, lossless formats:
- FLAC – Free Lossless Audio Codec
- ALAC – Apple Lossless Audio Codec
Audio Quality Matchups
On DJTT and internet forums around the world, there are huge debates about noticeable quality differences when comparing file formats and bit rates. Here’s our take on the most common questions:
192k vs. 320k MP3: Is There a Difference?
Yes. A/B testing shows a noticeable difference in audio quality between these two bit rates. If you’re going to DJ with MP3s, it’s worth going with the highest bit rate.
Juno Download lets you choose between 192k MP3s at an average price of $1.49 per track, or 320k MP3s at an average price of $1.89 per track. The 192k MP3 will also save you about 1MB of disk space per minute of audio. All of these choices are subjective, but I vote to invest in the higher-quality audio.
VBR MP3 vs. CBR 320k MP3: Is There a Difference?
Bandcamp lets you choose between constant bit rate (CBR) 320k MP3s and “V0” MP3s, which are variable bit rate (VBR) MP3s that may reach 320k for parts of a track, but be reduced for other parts. The main point for V0 MP3s is to save disk space by lowering the bit rate for less complex portions of a track.
Side by side, there’s very little, if any, difference between the audio of these 320k and V0 MP3s. However, there’s always a possibility that you’ll lose some audio fidelity in a V0 MP3, so it’s matter of assured fidelity vs. saving some disk space. With solid state drives, thumb drives, external drives, etc. being what they are today, my guess is that you can afford the slightly larger file size of CBR 320k MP3s, but it’s not a huge deal.
MP3 vs. lossy AAC / lossy Ogg Vorbis: Is There a Difference?
AAC and Ogg Vorbis files do sound slightly but noticeably better than MP3s
In my own personal listening tests, corroborated by many others’ opinion, when music is encoded at the same bit rate to MP3, AAC, and Ogg Vorbis formats, the AAC and Ogg Vorbis files do sound slightly but noticeably better than the MP3s. There’s a difference in the fullness of the sound and the bass in the AAC and Ogg Vorbis files.
ALAC vs. FLAC lossless files: Is There a Difference?
unfortunately iTunes still doesn’t support FLAC, and may never do so
More digital shops sell FLAC, but if you use iTunes to manage your library, you’re out of luck; unfortunately iTunes still doesn’t support FLAC, and may never do so. Most software, naturally including iTunes, supports ALAC, especially since Apple made ALAC open source and royalty free (like FLAC has always been) in 2011.
Uncompressed formats vs. lossless formats: Is There a Difference?
The comparison between WAV and AIFF uncompressed audio and FLAC and ALAC lossless compressed audio feels similar to the comparison of CBR 320k MP3s with VBR and 192k MP3s. Some will tell you they hear a difference, while many others say they don’t. However, just because a file is “lossless,” don’t forget the bit rate. If you convert a 24-bit/96kHz WAV to a 16-bit/44.1kHz FLAC, you will definitely hear the difference. If you absolutely need to have the highest quality audio, which you can always down convert later, go with uncompressed WAV or AIFF.
Compatibility also comes into play somewhat. While most DJ software shows love for lossless formats, AIFF and WAV files are nearly universally accepted in commercial applications and professional music software.
On the other hand, unlike the different MP3 and other lossy formats, compressed lossless formats actually do save you a lot of disc space compared to uncompressed formats (see chart below). Since they sound nearly indistinguishable from WAV and AIFF, lossless audio presents a strong argument for ending up in your virtual crates.
WAV vs. AIFF: Is There a Difference?
The two giants of uncompressed audio harken back to the Mac vs. PC debate. Microsoft and IBM developed the Waveform Audio File Format (WAV), and Apple developed the Audio Interchange File Format (AIFF) way, way back in the day. This used to present compatibility problems between Mac and PC software, but those concerns are generally long gone. WAV probably still has an edge in universal acceptance, but that won’t affect you as a DJ.
What may affect you, however, is that WAV does not support embedded album artwork and metadata, while AIFF does. Other than that, I have never heard a difference between a WAV and an AIFF file, nor have I heard from anyone who did. File size is also identical.
Audio Format File Sizes
To compare audio format file sizes, I first recorded one minute of music to a stereo 24-bit/96kHz WAV using Magix Sound Forge Pro 3 software. I then used Magix Convrt to batch convert the file to all the other formats. The WAV and AIFF files turned out to be the exact same size.
|File Format||Resolution||Size per 1 minute of audio|
|AAC (m4a)||320kbps /44.1kHz||2.6 MB|
|ALAC (m4a)||16-bit/44.1kHz||5.8 MB|
|Ogg Vorbis||192kbps /44.1kHz||1.5 MB|
*This was the original 1-minute stereo music file used to convert to all the other formats.
Audio Format Pricing on DJ Stores
When deciding which audio file format is right for you, keep in mind that (most of the time), buying music in higher quality than MP3 will cost you extra. Sometimes this can be upwards of 75 cents extra per track.
Looking at nine popular digital download sites for DJ music, three of them—Amazon, iTunes, and Google Play—only sold one kind of lossy audio. Bandcamp however, sells all seven formats here, often in more than one resolution per format. You don’t have to pay extra to download any higher-resolution audio file, because Bandcamp’s business model lets each artist set their own prices. They upload a mastered track at the highest resolution possible, and Bandcamp converts that to all the other formats for customers to choose for themselves.
The remaining retailers—7Digital, Beatport, Juno Download, Tidal, and Traxsource all offer different audio formats and all charge more for higher-resolution formats. Traxsource and Beatport share a similar pricing structure. 320k MP3s cost a base price (typically $1.49-2.49 on Beatport and $1.99-2.99 on Traxsource). 16-bit/44.1kHz WAV or AIFF files cost another $0.75 on top of the base price.
Juno Download adds lossless formats to the mix and has a less rigid pricing structure. Each label or distributor uploading to Juno determines the formats available and prices, but the typical Juno Download pricing breaks down as such:
- 192k MP3: $1.49 per track
- 320k MP3: $1.89 per track
- WAV, AIFF, FLAC, ALAC: $2.75 per track
Tidal is perhaps the least DJ-friendly, because its store sells albums only, rather than single songs. It does, however, offer albums as 320k MP3 or 16-bit/44.1kHz FLAC. Most of the current popular albums cost $10.99 for MP3 and $19.79 for FLAC.
The dark horse option, 7Digital, doesn’t specialize in DJ music per se, but it does have a very large selection of albums and singles of all genres, including electronic, dance, and techno. It sells most of its music with a FLAC option up to 24-bit/96kHz quality, and its prices for lossless audio compare well to the others. Its albums cost less than Tidal, and you can buy single tracks for these typical prices:
- 320k MP3: $1.09 per track
- 16/44 FLAC: $1.29 per track
- 24/44 FLAC: $1.39 per track
- 24/96 FLAC: $1.49 per track
Who offers what?
|AAC (m4a)||AIFF||ALAC||FLAC||MP3||Ogg Vorbis||WAV|
|7Digital||320k||16/44, 24/44, 24/96||320k|
|Amazon||CBR 256-320k, VBR 256-320k|
|Apple iTunes||VBR 256k|
|Bandcamp||Various||Up to 24/96||Various||Various||CBR 320k, VBR||Various||Up to 24/96|
|Juno Download||Various*||16/44*||16/44*||16/44*||192k, 320k||16/44*|
*The available formats and audio resolutions are determined by the record label or digital distributor. Not all tracks on Juno Download are available in all these formats.
Happily, audio file compatibility with DJ software has become less of a concern in recent years, although there are still some things to watch out for. Of the 11 software titles I looked over—9 deck-style DJ programs plus Ableton Live and iTunes—7 of them supported all the main audio formats.
Those who manage their music library with iTunes still can’t use Ogg Vorbis or FLAC in that software; ditto for Algoriddim Djay. Pioneer Rekordbox did not list support for Ogg either.
|AAC (m4a)||AIFF||ALAC (m4a)||FLAC||MP3||Ogg Vorbis||WAV|
|Mixvibes Cross DJ||X||X||X||X||X||X||X|
|Traktor Pro 2||X**||X||X**||X||X||X||X|
* With Windows systems, these formats require Apple Quicktime to work with Live, which is only available as a 32-bit application. On Mac systems, these formats work with Live as if they were natively supported.
**Support is for non-DRM files only. Latest versions of Traktor Pro on Windows require Windows 10 to play ALAC.
We’re All Ears
File formats can be a controversial subject! Share with us below any strong feelings about specific audio formats for DJing or audio fidelity for DJing in general. Do you insist on lossless audio ? Do you live dangerously and DJ with 192k or lower MP3s?
Personally, I love the quality and manageable size of FLACs. I’m glad to see more retailers selling them, with Bandcamp and 7Digital pushing their prices a little lower. I’d like to see Apple grow up and support FLAC in iTunes, but I’ve all but given up hope on iTunes ever getting better. At least Amazon could start selling FLACs. After all, they have all the server space in the world.
[…] What Format Should DJs Buy Music In? – detailed guide on DJ Digital Tech Tips. […]
Maybe someone can help me.
I buy .WAV files and then I always convert them to .mp3 for casual djing. After reading this I was considering using AAC files. I wanted to convert a .WAV to .m4a in Adobe Audition 2017 but bitrate goes from 192 to 576 kbps and I don’t really know why. Bit depth is on 16 44.1 as 32 is not allowed. Any help?
This is a great article. When I switched my dj rig up to a Mac, I decided to just adopt the ALAC format for my lossless tracks and converted all of my FLACs to lossless ALAC. It seemed odd but I did a ton of research that said that, basically, transcoding between lossless formats doesn’t hurt sound quality. I’ve never heard a difference myself and I pretty much have “golden ears”. A benefit to using ALAC is that all my lossless tracks work on my Mac, PC, and iOS devices.
I buy lossless and convert to ALAC for my library, which I manage in iTunes on a portable 1TB harddrive. For me, ALAC is a good storage format and I can use ALAC files in Traktor directly, but the trade-off is a bit of conversion work if I have to play off a memory key. I make temporary AIFF copies and then delete them later. I don’t have CDJs at home, but it’s nice to be able to show up with memory keys when needed.
My workflow for prepping memory keys has a few steps, but it’s not too bad. I make a playlist in iTunes, copy the playlist tracks to the desktop and use a format conversion tool (XLD) on those temp copies to create the AIFFs so that I can do all the prep outside the iTunes library. I use a simple file-renamer application to chop the track number off the beginning of the filenames. The prepared tracks go in a folder representing the playlist, which goes in a parent folder that I sync with one or more memory keys using Carbon Copy Cloner. Managing the key contents on the desktop means I only have to plug the key in when I’m ready to sync, and it’s easy to make a duplicate memory key. Since they’re all temporary copies, I just delete the AIFFs or folders when I don’t need them anymore. I retain all the playlists in iTunes and can generate new playlists from them, or go back and re-prep an older playlist.
I think a big advantage of choosing a lossless format as your preservation or ‘archive’ format is that you can create temporary copies in any format like this whenever you need and you won’t be reencoding lossy formats with more lossy compression.
One warning that I can pass along is that, while iTunes is sufficient for everyday format conversion, you have to be careful if you are converting higher bit depth files. Basically, iTunes can only encode WAV/AIFF at 8-bit or 16-bit, but for whatever reason, it can encode ALAC at 24-bit. So if you start with a 24-bit WAV and convert it to ALAC for your library, you’ve still got a 24-bit file. But if you want to roundtrip it back to WAV, it will encode a 16-bit file. I believe 32-bit formats will always be reduced in conversions.
So, if you’re bouncing those higher bit depth files back and forth between formats, you’ll want to use an external converter like XLD to make sure you retain the maximum data.
use a decent soundcard, than
first – train your ears on a good sound system at home
second – listen to the sound that adresses the public (dancefloor)
(and set the monitors in dj booth to exact the same sound as it is heard on the dancefloor)
third – use gain + tone controls on your mixer individually on every song to get best results
and still you will hear the difference of a good quality file and a cheap-sounding 128-youtube rip
same as the dancers will hear. and feel.
but the sound on this evening is much better than with dj’s they dont care about it.
You crazee? Mp3 sounding alike WAV/AIFF? Where’s your ears at. Try a real PA once!
I buy AIFF from Beatport because they contain the metadata (wav does not) and they don’t offer FLAC.
Then I convert them in batch using Goldwave to FLAC but that looses the metadata because AIFF doesn’t really support tagging as it should. It’s an added on metablock at the end of the file which makes it slower to load in the info. That kind of block also exist for WAV btw. The thing is that not all softwares support it.
After converting I use MP3tag to copy the metainfo from the AIFF to the FLAC file.
This works reasonably fast, just order the files by name and pay a bit attention when you copy the metadata. Sometimes the AIFF/FLAC files get in reversed order amoungst the others.
I prefer FLAC because it a well established standard supported by many programs and natively supported by Windows 10.
So unless you’re a mac use, FLAC is the way to go, it gives you an disk savings of 10 to 15% to AIFF.
If you want lossless ofcourse.
btw, I use the same Goldwave batch conversion to convert to MP3 for use in Rekordbox.
MusicLuv to ALL eyes that see read and hear this. Unless you are trying to educate the public on files they purchase, then only a DJ should determine what’s best for his or her needs and playback pleasure. In today’s music industry where home recording is just as good and in some cases better than some of the cram down the public ear canal music that’s being sold, Who really cares other than the DJ’s?
What is the deal with .caf files?
When choosing the formats, one should not only look at the DJ hard- and software. I guess most of us listen to their (new) music also elsewhere (portable, car steeo, home stereo …). So it would be wise to check, which formats are supported there. Unfortunatley the smallest common denominator is MP3 in most cases.
It’s worth to mention that Apple has added FLAC support to macOS 10.13 High Sierra, so you can e.g. prelisten with the space-key. Unfortunately the format is not supported on iTunes yet, but that gives me at least some hope that it might follow.
Same here: Having no rating and very limited meta-data handling in SDJ is a main obstacle for me not to switch, since I really like their pitch’n’time and flip features.
Lack of multi-value capability and custom labels is one of the downturns on Traktor.
The custom tags that RB has introduced are a nice one.
I ripped my vinyl collection in 48 KHz, 24bit flac. (phono out went directly to my E-Mu 1820M soundcard’s phono input)
Than I exported them to 320 mp3 on some electronic music from the early 2000’s I can’t tell the difference between the two.
Strangely I found some of the same tracks on youtube, but ripped from a new vinyl (no clicks and pops, no dirt and so on) and I liked the ‘bad’ version much better than my flac on my Beyerdynamic 1350 headphones
Ah, and I’m a sound engineer in a theatre.
Thanks Markkus! Can you (or anyone) comment (preferably with evidence) on the ability of different formats to handle simultaneous tempo and pitch manipulation (such as that which occurs when using Master Tempo on CDJs or pitch(key) control in DJ software?
I tune some systems for the executives of the Los Angleles and Orange Country Audio society , the world’s largest audio society. We constantly compare formats and bit rates.
Here’s my take YMMV.
Nothing beats a premium analog reel to reel tape master or a direct to disc transfer.
Well produced 45rpm vinyl
Well produced 33rpm vinyl
The lowly 45rpm single played back with a linear tracking arm to reduce inner groove distortion
For digital … an (unedited in PCM )4times DSD file is best
Then 2x DSD in edited in PCM
Then 4x DSD edited in PCM
Then 2x DSD
Then software decided MQA files at 24/96 fro Tidal Hifi. ( I don’t care for the full 24/192 hardware unpacking because I don’t personally like the Meridian voicing of the converters by Bob Stuart , he loves them though,
Then a 24/96 PCM file that was recorded in. 24/192 and down sampled to 24/96
Then a raw 24/192 ( the reason hear is cascading noise from ultra high frequencies
Now personally I like 24/88.2 better than 24/96. I like it because it is an integer multiple of red book where people have spent many man hours to make red book sound good.
Why not uosample everything as high as you can go and roll it off with a gentle slope? I think upsampling adds high frequency noise, a couple of Db for every multiple of up sample at some point the benefits of a gentler low pass filter are outweighed by noise and jitter
Then 24/44.1 upsampled to 24/88.2
Then 24/48 uosampled to 24/96
People will think I am nuts, but Ferrchrome cassette tape or Metal tape on a Tandberg 3014 cassette deck….. it can sound great , and even the best Nakamichi decks are a long way off in sound quality than the Tandberg 3014a and a few professional variant machines. Somehow much of the musicality survives using this deck , and even lower quality tape can sound very good, no one cares about cassette…and really all other cassette decks are inferior to great digital. No one cares or should care unless they have a huge archive of tapes made on this machine.
Now for the bulk of your digital…
THIS IS WHAT MOST SHOULD DO FOR THE REDBOOK FILES THEY HAVE NOW OR DOWNLOAD IN THE FUTURE.
Then Redbook 16/44.1 upsampled by your MAC to 88.2 ( I think this is the one everyone should do with their CDs. A single integer upsampling doesn’t add much noise and the benefits of the more mild filter are very audible, also not much ultra high frequency noise above 44.1 kHz is generated which is not hard on the electronics or the ear.
EVEN SNOW LEOPARD does integer upsampling. Use a high quality DAC and listen to each codec of Audirvana to get the best out of the majority of your files I use version 188.8.131.52 but have not auditioned the versions from the last year.
Use a quality R2R ladder DAC that uses those older Burr Brown 1704 chips and a great analog output stage into a high quality Tube preamp with lots of dynamic headroom . Other good DACs are the PS audio Direct Stream digital, Wadia 860 and Wadia 860x ( pcm only up to 24/96) that Aqua La Voce and La Scalia II , MSB Analog DAC (fullstack)
When mixing…Don’t clip…ever. Leave a couple of db of headroom because your effects might not show clipping but some high frequency effects can saturate early.
And that’s as low as I care to listen with the exception of purely electronic music whose pure synthesized tones seem suffer less than real instruments, but with storage so cheap, why bother with it.
If anyone cares to disagree, your option will be disregarded because your opinion as an amateur or even as a industry professional has little significance by comparison to mine as I dial in some of the best playback systems . If you are Bernie Grundman, Al Schmidt I’m all ears.
Note. I will not respond to trolls who want to flaunt their ignorance to the world. Redbook is not perfection,
Just a brief tip for MAC users. I use XLD ( = X Lossless Decoder) for conversion of basically ALL audio formats and you can get it here: https://sourceforge.net/projects/xld/ or here: http://download.cnet.com/X-Lossless-Decoder/3000-2140_4-189505.html. Very handy, I find it quite easy to use.
Hello everyone, this is a great topic, I actually have a few questions. I have to say that I definitely agree about the quality of MP threes and the sound differences. The higher the bit rate, the better quality this sound. I’ve tried to explain this to several people, but they seem to not care. Most of them don’t pay for their music, however, when I pay for them. I wanna get the best quality that I can. I’ve been using virtual DJ for a few years now and have recently incorporated Traktor Scratch Pro 2. Problem I’m having is that traktor won’t play MP3’s that I ripped from CDS. It will only play MP3 that I’ve purchased or downloaded from a legit site. I’ve contacted traktor and I submitted a screenshot of what was happening (music plays and cuts out every couple of seconds and the waveform flatlines during that time) they told me to try a different software to rip my CDS well. The first problem is that I have over 500 CDS and for me to have to rip them again would be pretty time consuming. Second of all. All of my MP3’s seem to play fine in virtual DJ without a problem. Can you guys recommend some type of software that I can use to rip my CDS to a compatible MP3’s or other music format that will work in Tractor. Pro 2. Also is there a service that will convert my compact discs to MP threes at a reasonable cost. Any help would be great, thanks.
I would analyze WHY your previous cd rips don’t play… I would guess it’s one of the rip settings of whatever program you are using.
If you want to go down the route of re-ripping
has a pretty good feature set & reliability, if you’re willing to learn it and set it up to your needs – although it does a fairly decent job out of the box too…
Thanks for the response and ideas. I have used windows media player to rip my cd’s to mp3’s. It’s just weird that it works with virtual dj, dj redmobile2, and deckadance. I’m gonna start with a fresh external drive and give exact audio copy a shot. If you are interested in looking at the video screen shot I sent Native Instruments, let me know. Thanks again for the help
The most important thing overlooked in this article is source quality for recording mixes. Mixes recorded from lossless formats like AIFF & WAV (and CDs) will be far cleaner than mixed mp3 tracks. Lossy data doesn’t re-record and edit well — mastering muddy music can only help so much.
If you want to release an “official” mix, it’s best to use lossless versions of those tracks.
Thank you Markkus for all the great work and research you put into this article. Well done!
All Pioneer players search functionality is slower when using VBR encoded MP3’s. Also, they can’t play copyright protected files from iTunes.
I purchase music in FLAC format as it saves space over AIFF, then convert to AIFF so I can manage my library in iTunes. This way my files/playlists are available in Traktor, Serato, and Rekordbox. Also, using AIFF means my USB sticks will work with any Pioneer player.
Your informations about the AAC (m4a) Codec are incorrect!
The most common bitrate for AAC are 256 kbps and not 320 kbps. The 256 kbps AAC have still a better audio quality than 320 kbps MP3. With this fact, AAC (m4a) have a better audio Quality with lower file size and same compatibility, than MP3!
Please inquire in more detail, if you such information given!
You have to revise the information for AAC (m4a), soon as possible!
I’m totally with you on this one, Chris. Your bullet points would make a huge difference in DJ software usability. I wonder also whether those features have been deliberately suppressed, or if they’re not pursued because the developers don’t think it will be worth their effort with their customers. Even seemingly little things can make a huge difference. Every time I think I’m going to switch to Serato DJ for good, like lack of Ratings annoys me to no end. It seems like it would be so minor, but it does play an important role in my track selection.
Aye, I think so too… this would be a game changer, and for me this will be the deciding factor which DVS solution I will go with as the center point of my setup as I have decoupled myself from all of them after too many frustrations with RB, SDJ & Traktor alike, and I now run a purely metadata based system, managed through Foobar & Musicbee, plus a iTunes.xml export from the later, which is capable of writing a itunes library WITH flac files, plus I am able to transfer 100s of playlists (of archival static playlists of past sets/radio-shows as well as a few dozen self-maintaining smart-playlists genrated in MusicBee from multivalue & custom tags) through that I can feed the same into SDJ & RB (traktor unfortunately does not like those itunes xmls and errors on the flac files in the xml, and NI/Traktor support confirmed this is a long standing issue that they do not cleanly read the itunes xml file paths, but have hard coded assumptions in their back end code, which leads to the flac files not being readable in Traktors’ itunes node unfortunately…) and have access to most I need…
Unfortunately, there’s very few users making noise about this, or even showing +1 support… so in that regard I can’t blame the respective developers/management much (minus Pioneer/RB who consciously are choosing a walled garden approach to lock the users into their ‘My Tags’ system… which hopefully Damien’s Rekordbuddy will find/have a way to hack/inject with file-metadata…).
But, as an upside… as soon as 1 of them implements custom/multi-value metadata support, the others will have to follow… so hopefully it’s just a matter of time… but then again, I was thinking the same 2 years ago, and still no change.
So my hopes really are on SDJ 2.0 & Traktor 3… if/when they will come out to support this finally….
All I can do in the meantime is yap on about this and hope more people start seeing value in having custom as well as multi-value metadata in their DJ apps… after all, this is where it would pay off to quickly find the stuff you are after in time critical situations… 😀
Oh, the above approach also gives me access to ratings in SDJ btw… although in a roundabout way.
i.e. when exporting iTunes.xml from MusicBee, you have some control over the sorting for smart playlists that arrive in the iTunes xml via a trick I described on the MB forum somewhere.
Essentially giving you auto-updating rating-sorted genre-crates (derived from multi-value metadata) in SDJ…
Sing out if you want to try that and I’ll dig it out (it does require jumping through a few hoops though… but no programming/scripting at least :D).
Well my Humble opinion is that we talk about files Format and Quality but the priority #1 would be to set up a Soundsystem on which this difference is audible.
over 90% of the Locations don’t give a sh*t on the Sound Quality and do not Chose the soundsystem related to the Quality or to the Location itself but related to the Price.
Only 1 time in 18 years in Business I was lucky to Play on a Function One Soundsystem that has been designed specially for a Location and then I had a brandnew Audible Experience.
I heard Sounds coming from Cd-Tracks that I had never heard in years before and believe me it is quite disturbing when the tracks that you know since Ages suddenly sounds differently.
Great point. This could be a whole different series of articles. For this one I had to approach it as if the soundsystem you’re using is going to show the difference. There’s definitely a chronic problem with venues not caring or knowing enough about their soundsystems, but usually a FLAC still sounds a lot better than an MP3 even on a crappy system.
And another Add to the Topic:
A DJ who knows his Equipment and what High, Mid and Lows are, also can get lot out of a bad Quality of MP3.
More than 50% of us DJs think that pumping up the Volume & the Bass to the Maximum is a sign of Quality, but sometimes it’s the mix of the 3 that makes the differences, sometimes less Bass but more Mids are making a huge difference.
As not every Bass in every track is produced the same way you cannot Play everything with same Settings…Listen to tracks of Martin Solveig for example…he’s recording his Basses playing them on a Drumset…those will definitively not Sound same as Basses taken out of a Sample Library.
How many times I see Young DJs mixing all nicht Long not touching once their Prots, they never learned how to put more Volume am Deeps into their Mixes.
Amazing right? Since 1978 I’ve been using audiophile grade electronics with modified audiophile crossovers on AlNiCo drivers with fantastic results ! Not a night goes by where I don’t get at least 10 compliments on the clarity and sound quality.
People tell me it’s like they heard ” the best version of their favorite songs ever” and they are thrilled to dance.
I do not pretend the difference is not audible but what I say is that in a high 2digit percentage of the Clubs & Bars, you should work on the Quality of the PA before starting talking about Audio Format of the played tracks.
And how many percent of the People you’re playing to are complimenting you about the Sound Quality of your tracks??? I would say a low 1 Digit percentage of attendees get the difference. So the question is legit to ask yourself as a Dj if investing in higher track Quality is worthy if only a few will realise the difference.
And please do not pretend you’ve always played on High-End PAs since 1978 simply impossible for sure not back then.
The other question is: Do I really have the same Sound Quality expectations when I get out Partying with friends in a Club/Bar than when I get to the Philarmonics???
Is Partying not about something else?
I get compliments every night as well, not about the Sound Quality (even If I set high Levels for myself) but for my Track Selection and the Party athmosphere.
The Bozak mixers were pretty good back then.
Contrary to what most might thing some of the gear of the 1960s and 1970s was voiced very well. Particularly the Tube gear.
I had two DJ companies out of high school . Atomic audio for louder parties, and “Caterd Sound” which used audiophile speaker drivers and was targeted at Westchester country clubs and Corporate events for Wall Street and Defense contractors.
We began advertising in New York Magazine starting in 1981. For front end We used modified Apt Holman Preamps and Bryston 4bs and all Levinson cables, high quality cartridges not meant for DJ use and good turntables. Like the Mitsubishi LT-30 linear tracker. We often used expensive cartridges like the Dynavector and Monster Cable Alpha 2 (OEM BY ZYX).
The speakers were a custom made set of JBLs with custom crossovers which used to serve in the Bottom Line Jazz club in NYC. The head sound guy Mr. Schulman sold them to me. They had better sound than the old JBL Paragon’s and had (4 )15″s , the Tweeter was a high output bullet Tweeter with a modified diaphragm , a 45 lb compression mid, and a 12″ lower mid. We augmented these with K151s that had been professional balanced twin loaded in twin scoop bins that had been puttyed and sculpted smoother inside to reduce resonance .
We would also do smaller parties using audiophile speakers. Later we moved to Levinson gear. Now I use an E.A.R. 912 Preamp , custom Monoblock Odyssey audio Kismet Amplifiers with double symphonic line capacitors and double toroidal power supplies.
For a DAC I have a Great Northern Sound Corporation modified Wadia 860x, for the road and in my car I use a PS audio direct stream DAC Senior with the bridge which can stream 24/192 tracks off of Tidal over Verizon LTE …IT ALSO DOUBLE DOUBLE RATE DSD.
Last night I dialed in a new DAC for a client, marvelous sound quality, a DENAFRIPS TERMINATOR DAC . At some point, I’d like to make the systems for top DJs sound so much better. Thought I doubt they would ever understand since so many have severe hearing damage.
Here is the odd thing about better sound quality, if you were to ask women with their favorite songs were most of them couldn’t name them, the name a few artists ….maybe…all they really know is if they enjoyed the music or not. And if the music sounds better, Richer , more lively, dynamic, and enthralling …sadly even if your playlist isn’t as good they will prefer that music over cooler mixes on a shitty system.
We did a test one weekend, same sound levels, just swapped in a UREI FOR THE SHITTY HOUSE MIXER. Same playlist , same guest list. The 2nd night we got tons of co oliments on “the music” and the first night we got not a single compliment.
Try this, clip the shit out of your front end but don’t clip,your amps run 20% distortion and then see how the crowd reacts.
Measured distortion doesn’t tell The whole picture. Most people aren’t so objectionable to even order distortion.
(A)udio (I)nterchange (F)ile (F)ormat all the way for me please. AIFF is the ultimate audio file format IMHO, and a partially corrupted AIFF/WAV file will still be somewhat useful whereas a partially corrupted FLAC is useless, with playback jumping all over the place.
Another great point, jm2c. A partially corrupted FLAC usually means you have to do over the conversion.
To spot fake encoded mp3’s or FLAC etc. we used to manually analyze with Spek.cc
Nowadays there’s Fakin’ The Funk? that does it on auto-pilot for you! https://fakinthefunk.net
Nice tip, Bas. Thanks.
Still use Spek here, a really nice visualisation of the frequencies tells you everything you need to know about the file
Will check out fakinthefunk, however
My entire library is Lossless. Mostly FLAC.
While I use .wav files personally, lossless is a way to go. With the cheap prices of HDD these days, going compressed is almost silly – a Terabyte can hold 750 hours of uncompressed 16/44.1 audio.
> If you convert a 24-bit/96kHz WAV to a 16-bit/44.1kHz FLAC, you will definitely hear the difference.
This is not true. Using more than 16 bit 44.1 kHz files for DJing just wastes storage space. https://xiph.org/~xiphmont/demo/neil-young.html
And lossless is lossless. FLAC and ALAC are not “nearly indistinguishable” from WAV and AIFF, they sound literally identical. There is nothing subjective about that.
..unless media players f up handling the decoding the lossless files! Has happened before..
I’m not going to disagree, but if if there’s no difference, why would anyone sell FLAC at the different resolutions of 16/44, 24/44 and 24/96? Is 7Digital doing that just as a ruse? I guess that could be true, but it doesn’t seem worth the administrative effort to me when their business is already so challenging.
Because people who don’t understand what the numbers mean think that more numbers are better, so there is a market for it. When there is a market for it, it will be sold.
There is always something that I could call “law of decreasing benefits”. While going 8bits up in bit depth, from 8 to 16b/s gives huge difference, unfortunately going another 8bits up, to 24b/s gives in most cases (like rock, pop, club music) little to no benefits – it may be noticeable in classical music. But going another bits up, to 32b/s would be ONLY waste of space. Similar thing applies to sampling rates. You should read Richard G. Lyons’ “Understanding Digital Signal Processing” – he described it nicely when talking about FFT and increasing window size. Up to certain values it makes sense to use wider window, after that – it only increases computational complexity while giving no real advantages. Here window size is analogical to sampling rate and bit depth and computational complexity is analogical to waste of space for bigger files. It’s all digital…
It’s the law of diminishing returns. ???
Thanks, as a non-native English speaker sometimes I miss correct form of such phrases 🙂 . I will try to remember it for good now 🙂
Stores can charge more for 24/44, 24/96, 24/192 so they do. To the best of my knowledge no one has ever been able to show an ability to hear a difference in a properly designed ABX test. “Hi-res” music is widely sold to audophiles with zero evidence of better sound quality.
The only examples I’ve seen of someone passing an ABX test of hires v. cd-quality was due to intermodulation distortion. If you read the xiph article linked above you will learn that sample rates higher than 48kHz can only serve to degrade sound quality (due to intermodulation distortion) and bit depths greater than 16-bit offer no benefits for playback (although they do not degrade sound quality). 24-bit just takes up un-necessary space.
Not so. I can easily demonstrate a difference where a 16 bit 44.1 file sounds inferior to a 16 bit 88.2 file. But your system has to have a certain level of fidelity to hear this, certainly you won’t hear a difference on an. Pair of crap QSC class d powered monitors.
I agree with you here. I can totally hear the difference but I anything over 16 and 44.1 for strictly DJing just seems to swamp my DJ software. Also, I record all my mixes and there’s no way to post them in such high resolution so I don’t bother.
You nailed it. If 2 (or more) formats can produce raw PCM stream (directly or after decode) with just the same MD5 checksum, then they are exactly the same – no option, that anyone will “look long enough, (…) to find some FLACs that blow away an ALAC, and vice versa”. And if any of them will produce different stream (different checksum) then it is simply not lossless. Technical side of this article makes me laugh 🙂
In his defense, I can hear a difference in the way my desktop music auditioning and tagging software (Media Monkey) plays the different lossless formats back when compared to WAV. The rest of the lossless formats sound indistinguishable from each other to me but WAV sticks out as quieter. Also, I stopped DJing with WAV files because my DJ program would add a loud clipping noise at the end of some WAV songs. Once I converted everything to a different lossless format, that never happened again. I attributed it to WAV being an ancient format but never really understood what was happening there.
Sounds like software bugs and/or misunderstanding how software handles gain normalization.
Lossless all the way.
I start with FLAC and transcode to ALAC and WMA to meet all my use cases.
Still not looked at 24-bit, but then I’ve no equipment that could take advantage.
I’ve adopted ALAC due to its ubiquity on macOS. If I can’t buy ALAC directly, I’ll just buy WAV and convert it using Finder’s own conversion tool, which is very handy.
Do you ever miss the lack of cover art and metadata of the WAV format?
prob why he converts to alac
WAV’s lack of cover art and metadata is not much a problem for me. After I’ve converted the WAV to ALAC, I’ll just add the cover art metadata manually and analyze the files with Mixed In Key. It’s not much of a chore to do for few files at a time, but would get quite tedious if one had to process dozens of tracks on a daily basis.
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Vinyl = unlimited bitrate
You do realise, that 99.99% of music is produced and recorded digitally and sent to the vinyl press as a digital master? Pressing a digital master on vinyl doesn’t magically just add audio information out of thin air.
I think the rub here is, as an analog medium, it has no bitrate.
Yes I know. Vinyl-purists have repeated this meme about vinyl’s supposedly infinite fidelity range for decades as an argument for vinyl’s superiority. While this is not technically completely inaccurate, my point is that the circumstances for it to happen are near-impossible.
The only scenario where it could be happen is that *every* single component used to produce, record and transfer the audio is analogue – which almost never happens these days. And even so, the added signal-to-noise distortion ratio would exceed the information loss compared to, say, 24bit 96khz recording.
That is right but the more important thing is the mastering. Digital files or CDs are still too loud and compressed most of the time. Vinyl is limited in that regard so it has to be mastered separately, that often results in higher dynamic and less loudness = better sound.
I know what you mean…I have few vinyls in my collection that clearly have *not* been separately mastered for vinyl rather than using that same master file as digital/CD. Heavy bass and beat that makes the needle skip from the groove unless one is using tons of needle weight.
After even only a few plays, a record’s effective frequency range is reduced to what resembles the quality of an mp3.
Could you elaborate on that? Do you have any sources that present measurements of the frequency content of vinyl after repeated playback?
Take it or leave it, Mastering Engineer Jonathan Wyner says it here, in a couple places: https://www.izotope.com/en/community/blog/artist-stories/2017/01/the-new-audio-podcast-episode-9-lo-fi-vs-hi-fi.html
Yupp, sadly.. This is the fact that many vinil purists gladly ignore/like to be in denial about. 1200s and DJing TTs in general wear out records way faster than HIFI vinil decks with 1.5 gram needle weights etc
Just get isolation for your turntables or mount a solid box frame made with fat LAG bolts and lag that to a load bearing wall, now you’ll have ZERO skipping or feedback and set your anti skate so it stays in the groove. Then you can use the manufacturer recommended stylus weight and not worry about record wear. SOME STYLUS profiles offer less wear and switching profiles can breathe a never life into your vinyl by hitting a non worn out part of the groove.
It is absolutely not true. At least – not for the carrier (vinyl itself). Maybe if you buy cheap stylus (with round tip) then the stylus itself will deteriorate giving you lower sound quality. It is said, that round tip, cheap styluses start to audibly deteriorate after ca 30-50 hours of listening, while expensive ones, using different shapes (Shibata, MicroLine and others) can withstand with no audible deterioration up to 300 hours. Also the means of operation of your cartridge may affect the sound (piezoelectric sounds rather horribly, while all others offer high fidelity, with additional enhancements caused by specific cartridge construction). Proper knowledge about analog sound carriers doesn’t hurt…
What causes serious damage to the vinyl is not just the stylus, but the dirt in grooves (especially dust from soil/sand – you can have it in your home if you don’t clean your corridor too frequently or if you like to walk your room without changing shoes when going back from outdoor, or if you leave in a dusty area and you keep your windows open all the time). The golden rule is to rinse your vinyls (with Knosti Disco AntiStat for example) after buying them (even brand new and sealed!) and putting them into antistatic PE sleeves. THEN applying few drops of cleaning liquid and a dedicated brush before each listening. You will remove all the dust that has fallen onto disc last time you were listening to it and remove all residual electrostatic charges. That will greatly enhance your listening experience. With little to no wear to the carrier at all.
Mastering Engineer Jonathan Wyner says it here, in a couple places: https://www.izotope.com/en/community/blog/artist-stories/2017/01/the-new-audio-podcast-episode-9-lo-fi-vs-hi-fi.html
If it were Bernie Grundman, or Al Schmidt saying this or even R.I.P Doug Sax ( who loved Stanton carts) I would believe it, but Wyner opinion just does carry the same weight.
I’ve found time to listen to this podcast. That’s just a single phrase with absolutely no scientific backup and with no further explanations how deep exactly is that process. By listening to this single phrase you can have impression, that vinyl is a single usage carrier, that misses half of the frequency output after 2 listenings… Show me article where someone makes official research and shows how much frequency is lost after how many plays and where there was enough vinyls AND cartriges / styluses tested to make this research factual. Without this – these are just unjustified statements. I haven’t noticed any “roll-off’ on my vinyls after many plays. But I clean them and I clean the stylus. Dirty stylus, apart from severe damage to the vinyl, definitely produced very very limited frequency output (like quarter of normal output). I experienced it with poorly cleaned vinyls (cleaned myself, before I acquired Knosti Disco Antistat). Also using Hi-Fi cartridges with low tracking force ensures that vinyl doesn’t wear quickly. In opposite, heavy DJ cartridges, designed to not skip when high vibrations occur, damage vinyl quicker, due their high tracking force. Having so many different options to play vinyl (dirty/clean, with Hi-Fi/DJ cart, with round/MicroLine/other stylus) causes such general statement about frequency response degradation on vinyl completely unjustified.
Use a vacuum extraction type clearer . The combo ultrasonic vacuum ones are best.
what arualcandy.net said and all those masters for vinyl have the bottom and top end rolled off much more than a digital file has to be or needs to be.
Actually, there are differences in vinyl qualities that are very similar to bit rates. One or two tracks per side pressed for 45 rpm will sound far better than 33 rpm pressings with 4 or more tracks on a side (i.e. albums, compilations).
Absolutely accurate statement 100% and quality can vary …for instance too late in the vinyl stamper, or even aghast …too early if the vinyl isn’t heated and flowing perfectly. But great vinyl is the best medium for sound.
Asumming, the best phono preamps are used, and even so so phono preamps beat the cheap DACs used by DJs. Realistically the entire chain should be good. Even the cables, it is easy to buy a quality DAC like a DENAFRIPS Terminator, Aqua La Voce, Aqua La Scala, MSB Analog DAC, PS AUDIO direct bitstream senior, and get excellent sound from digital that comes closer to the emotional conveyance of vinyl. For digital produced songs made today a top quality DAC PLAYING DSD 128, DSD 256 or anything above 16 but 44.1 ( even just integer twice
Upsampled) will be superior to many vinyl copies. But for analog produced recordings on vinyl , vinyl will win.
I’m sorry but this article comes across as quite uninformed. Yes the listening experience is a subjective thing when comparing mp3’s At different rates, 24 vs 16 bit, other lossless formats etc. But comparing wav/aiff/flac/alac is completely pointless (unless at different bit rates). The clue is in the title, lossless. There is NO difference… this can be completely proven by comparing the data before it even gets to the speaker – they are all IDENTICAL!! It doesn’t matter how it ‘feels’ or what ‘some people hear’, it’s imagination!! Lossless all the way!!! I prefer flac for the metadata. And fart in the general direction of MP3’s.
Joshua, don’t be sorry, that was about 3.5% of the article. The concern is with the vagaries of the conversion to lossless formats. If the conversion happens perfectly, yes, there is no difference.
LOOOL. “The concern is with the vagaries of the conversion to lossless formats.
If the conversion happens perfectly, yes, there is no difference.” If there are any “vagaries” during the conversion, then codec is improperly written and it is DEFINITELY NOT lossless – no matter if on encode or on decode side. As far as I know all popular lossless codecs (Monkey, FLAC, ALAC, Shorten, TTA, WavPack in NON hybrid mode) are truly lossless, with no “vagaries” in their pipelines. Maybe you refer to some experimental, non-popular codes, that someones codes in his home at the moment, but please keep such vague considerations away from widely approved lossless formats. This only produces food for an audiophile trolls.
Plus – even if it was just 3,5% of the article – then I must point out, that this 3,5% of text was 100% inaccurate in its contents.
I’m sorry but this article comes across as quite uninformed. Yes the listening experience is a subjective thing when comparing mp3’s At different rates, 24 vs 16 bit, other lossless formats etc. But comparing wav/aiff/flac/Alan is completely pointless (unless at different bit rates). The clue is in the title, lossless. There is NO difference… this can be completely proven by comparing the data before it even gets to the speaker – they are all IDENTICAL!! It doesn’t matter how it ‘feels’ or what ‘some people hear’, it’s imagination!! Lossless all the way!!! I prefer flac for the metadata.
The more signal you can provide the speakers and PA system, the better. It’s the difference between people hearing your music, and feeling your music. Went to a concert once, and I know for certain that the guy was playing 128kb YouTube rips, and it sounded terrible. FLAC all the way. This is also coming from an audiophile, so I may just be weird.
Good point about feeling it, rather than just hearing it. Playing 128k just seems insane to me.
Exactly the way I try to explain it to others
Yeah, I dropped a YouTube rip of a Madeon remix in a live set. Was fine at home on my computer, but sounded like a cassette copy when it played on a big system.
You have to keep in mind that the audio-compression that Youtube uses is tailored to sound good the tiny speakers of computers, tablets and smartphones.
Personally .flac is by for the most convenient for me. The perfect balance between quality, file size, availability and metadata integration. They are readily available from the DL stores I use, at not much more that the mp3. All the software I use (including tagging, Ableton, Traktor, Vox, XLD, TagR, Kid3, Mixed In Key) supports the format. The only two in the chart that don’t, I would never use anyway. And with the cost of storage coming down almost daily, the no need for lossy formats anymore. I am currently in the middle of the long and laborious task of converting my vast CD collection to .flac!
I’m curious about how big your CD collection will be once converted to FLAC. What will you do to store it and/or back it up? Cloud, external drive, something else or all of the above?
I can tell you about mine collection. About 300 releases (some multi disc – like 2 or 3) fits on ca 210 GB of disk space – all in FLAC format (compression level 8 – highest). The only concern was time used for ripping it using EAC in Secure Mode to avoid CD reading errors. That took some substantial amount of time, like 3-4 weeks (of course I wasn’t only ripping music during this time – I had to go to job 🙂 . I hold it on simple, internal desktop harddrive (WD Green), together with another ca 50 GB of FLACs and mp3/aac downloaded from various shops (iTunes, Juno, Beatport, Bandcamp, artists web pages). .
My personal CD collection is currently sitting at about 6-700gb. Bare in mind that I have been buying music for the best part of 25 years. Unfortunately when I began converting I converted to wav because I hadn’t heard of flac at the time. But XLD can still find the tag info from the wav file name so it’s really not much different than ripping the original CD again. I got many, many more CD’s by borrowing them from libraries or buying them from charity shops and car boot sales. So to answer your question, conversion to flac will only slightly reduce the file size, plus a few kbs for the tags and artwork. So I expect it will more or less remain around 6-700gb. However added to the flacs I already have since ditching CD’s plus all the 320mp3’s I have. I estimate at least two tb worth of music, once I’ve removed any duplicates. I’ve just bought a new 3tb seagate hd to house my collection, plus a 3tb I already have for mirror backup. With that in mind I really don’t fancy the thought of uploading 200+tb of music to a cloud.
I backup weekly (disk images using Acronis) and synchronise (realtime using Synology Cloud Sync) it al to a Synology nas at my homeoffice which has 12TB.
That home Office NAS is backupped daily to my Office NAS.
My DJ music collection is almost 1TB right now. I ripped all my cd’s a long time (15 years?) ago in WMA lossless and converted them to FLAC Almost 2 years ago when I noticed Win10 support FLAC Natively. I already knew Trakort supported it.
I don’t backup to the cloud, to expensive, to slow to recuperate.
AIFF. It’s lossless and supports album artwork/info tags. By far the best.
Even ALAC files are larger than their FLAC counterparts.
alac and flac are very close to each other. always within a 5-10% of each other.
too big in the sense that i do have a terabyte drive in my laptop, i use it for production too and a 1 terabyte really isnt that much. My music on itunes accounts for most of it, and if it was in aiff(mainly mp3 about 20% alac) it would be over 2 TB probably 3TB tbh
Too big for what? cmon a terabyte HDD costs less than an entry level controller these days
too big in the sense that i do have a terabyte drive in my laptop, i use it for production too and a 1 terabyte really isnt that much. My music on itunes accounts for most of it, and if it was in aiff(mainly mp3 about 20% alac) it would be over 2 TB probably 3TB tbh
A 4 TB USB hard drive costs less than a cheap controller nowadays.