Waveform Audio File Format (WAV) and Audio Interchange File Format (AIFF) are the two most common codecs for storing linear pulse-code modulation (LPCM) data. They are the standards for use in professional audio and video, and encode audio signals as lossless uncompressed data.
Increases in processing power have allowed for audio playback from lossless compressed audio codecs that contain all of the original data in considerably less space. Apple Lossless (ALAC) and Free Lossless Audio Codec (FLAC) formats reduce file sizes by 40% – 50% on average, all while containing the same data. For large archives, this can reduce data storage substantially without losing a single bit of data in the process.
Other compressed lossless audio formats include Monkey’s Audio (APE), OptimFROG, Windows Media Audio Lossless (WMA), and others, with FLAC and Apple Lossless being the most popular. Some professional applications include native support for lossless compressed audio, like Cockos Reaper’s support for FLAC, and Apple Logic’s support for Apple Lossless. Aside from being popular and having native support in some common DAWs, FLAC and Apple Lossless have the advantage of being open source and royalty free. As such, files encoded in using these two codecs make great options for archival storage and have the potential to be playable for decades into the future.
At the time of writing, some popular DAWs and video editing applications like Apple Final Cut Pro X, Adobe Premiere Pro, and Avid Pro Tools don’t natively support some lossless compressed audio codecs. Adobe Premiere Pro and Apple Cut Pro X can accept Apple Lossless files on import without first converting to another codec, but cannot export using this codec. Others require a require a conversion stage to and from a lossless codec back to LPCM. Compressed audio playback also requires slightly more processing power than uncompressed LPCM, although disk I/O may decrease from lower data throughput. That said, Apple Logic and Cockos Reaper comfortably run small to medium-sized multitrack audio sessions using Apple Lossless and FLAC files, respectively.
Encode to Apple Lossless using the MacOS Finder
Here are the steps to encode WAV and AIFF files quickly and easily using the Finder in MacOS.
Right-click your WAV or AIFF audio file(s) and click “Encode Selected Audio Files”
In the “Encoder” drop down box, select “Apple Lossless”. This will encode the audio file into the Apple Lossless codec into an mp4 container.
Configure file location settings or click “Continue”
Lossless codecs allow users to store the same data in much less space, making them a preferable option to LPCM in many cases. We predict increasing support for lossless compressed audio file formats in the coming years, especially with Apple Lossless on Final Cut Pro X. Today’s processors are already powerful enough to handle compressed lossless multichannel audio in real-time, and open-source codecs like Apple Lossless and FLAC have few downsides. MacOS has native support for encoding LPCM audio files to Apple Lossless, making it easy save space in a few clicks.
Would you consider using lossless compressed codecs for the majority of your audio recording and production? Let us know in the comments below.