Ask AudioStream & An Apology

Preamble
In the film The Days of Wine And Roses, Jack Lemmon and Lee Remick are a couple (and a couple of alcoholics but that's another story) who live in a roach-infested apartment. At some point Joe Clay (Jack Lemmon) is fed up so he sprays the roaches in his apartment and his neighbors are not happy. They explain that all he's done is move the roaches from his apartment to theirs and there's an unwritten apartment-dweller's law that you should just leave roaches alone, "You get them all stirred up, and what's the good? You made a mess. You've gotta think about other people, you know." And finally, "You've undermined the whole base of metabolism of the building."

Ask AudioStream
I received this email from "Joe":

I see from your article that db poweramp now can rip uncompressed flac. This is great.

In a recent absolute sound article, it rated j river as best software to use for ripping, even better than db.

Does j river also have an option to rip uncompressed flac?

Second question is whether I can use windows 7 and j river on a computer and send flac files to Onkyo 809 avr (current model), using the avr as a DAC.

Thanks so much.

Make a great day,
Joe

Here's the relevant part of my response:
Hey Joe,

Thanks!

I have not read the most recent TAS article so I'm curious to see how they explain hearing a sonic difference between bit perfect rips. dBpoweramp using AccurateRip (http://www.accuraterip.com/) is by all accounts - "100% free from errors". So I'd be inclined to suggest sticking with dBpoweramp for ripping and rip to uncompressed FLAC.

An Apology
And I thought to myself some ideas, like hearing a difference between bit-perfect rips and yes I admit hearing a difference between uncompressed and compressed files are like roaches. We spray them out, they proliferate and end up infesting someone else's virtual apartment.

So let me take this opportunity to apologize to all of the people who've had to answer the question, "Do compressed FLAC files really sound different from WAV files during playback and if so, why?". And I do so because there's no way it is physically possible for me (or anyone else) to test each and every combination of hardware, software, music files and hi-fi's to determine if the differences I perceived are in fact 100% portable. Further, since I've got no good explanation for why I perceived a difference, I really could have just left out my little listening comparison and suggested ripping to uncompressed formats simply as a matter of course.

The same holds for subjective evaluations of bit-identical rips.

I have since read the TAS article Joe refers to and it actually rates dBpoweramp highest for Ripping and J River Media Center (JRMC) highest for Burning [how did we end up with such violent and destructive terms when talking about music?]. The associated Listening Observations for dBpoweramp read, "Best rhythm and pace and overall sound quality of WAV files". Since we are in fact talking about bit-identical rips, one has to wonder where this perceived PRaT is hiding?

Although JRMC reported an accurate rip for all reading speeds, and are bit-for-bit identical at all reading speeds, we are still able to detect sonic differences in the resulting files. We know these results drive engineers crazy. We would love it if someone could come up with a definitive explanation that could provide input to software developers.
I would suggest that while listening for difference between bit-for-bit identical files may be an interesting experience for the participants, just as listening for difference between compressed v uncompressed file playback was for me, the results are not translatable into objective criteria. They are at best a single point of reference, perhaps food for thought, and an invitation to try something for yourself. Planting the seed of doubt that perhaps your bit-perfect rip may not sound as good as some other bit-perfect rip should come with a proviso—"Then again it may not since we have no idea how to explain the differences we heard so we have no way to know if they will remain consistent for any and every possible scenario."

Here's another test I would suggest trying—listen to the same track on Monday, Wednesday and Friday and see you hear any difference. Then, repeat over the course of a few years. If you never perceive any difference you may not be human.

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