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Archiving Audio. WavPack; stick or twist?

Over the years I have built up an extensive audio collection comprising several hundred gigabytes of music and dramatizations; they are currently stored in the lossless format WavPack.

More recently I have been thinking of format longevity i.e. will I need to later transcode my WavPack files to something else?, or is there a risk of eventually losing the ability to use them entirely? Presumably FLAC, or perhaps ALAC, would be better codecs for longevity as they are better supported and more popular.

With this in mind I would be very interested on hearing other peoples opinion on this question:

Is it worth transcoding my lossless collection to FLAC, or another codec, to maximize longevity?


Bear in mind this will take a while to do, but I am happy to do this if it means switching to a more future-proof codec. The collection is growing and I do not want to rip my cd's again or keep transcoding between audio formats.

Eldridge (2010, p. 9) suggests that the best lossless format for longevity would be uncompressed PCM and if this is not viable then FLAC; although Eldridge (2010) talks about the availability of suitable software a bigger issue might be if a compressed lossless codec was left behind with developing technology. However, another thing which may be important in archiving audio is error handling; based on my very limited understanding of this both WavPack and FLAC codecs will still decode if part of the file contains an error, which would not necessarily be the case with WAV or AIFF.

The link for Eldridge (2010) is:
https://siarchives.si.edu/sites/default/fil...ation2010_0.pdf


Apologies for my rather long first post. Please bear in mind mind that this post is not about quality (they are all lossless) or even storage space, simply longevity. Thanks in advance for your comments.



[Additional information: I am using Windows. The cds were ripped via EAC. I use Foobar2000 on my PC and convert the lossless files to LAME V0 for my portable device]

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AJS42

Archiving Audio. WavPack; stick or twist?

Reply #1
I would not even consider PCM (wav) if you want any kind of useful tags.

Archiving Audio. WavPack; stick or twist?

Reply #2
Quote
pdq: I would not even consider PCM (wav) if you want any kind of useful tags.


I am not saying that raw PCM is definitely the way to go, but my understanding is you can tag with AIFF.

Archiving Audio. WavPack; stick or twist?

Reply #3
It is important to remember that, as you said, you're talking about lossless, and converting from one to another should not cause troubles (compared with lossy).

Then, in the case that the format (wavpack in this case) was to be abandoned (which, so far, it isn't the case), there are two scenarios to consider:

Would there be transcoding programs that would still easily convert from this format to another?
If there are no programs to ease the conversion, would the wavpack commandline decoder still work?

As for the first one:
Foobar2000 can convert from the codecs it supports to other codecs.
TAudioConverter supports wavpack.
wavpack has an open source library
ffmpeg can be built (and I'd say it is built usually) with wavpack support.

As for the second one:
There exists 32bit and 64bit Windows versions, plus it can be built in Unix/linux from sources.


Taking that in consideration, it doesn't seem that de demise of wavpack is near...



[Edit]

About AIFF...

WAV and AIFF are sort of brothers. They both are based on a file format definition of the 80s named IFF (Interchangeable file format). Both are container formats and can contain data in different formats. The usual format is uncompressed PCM in different combinations of bit depths, sample rates and channels.

Tags in WAV can be added, but there is no standard and that's the reason it is not much recommended to tag them.
AIFFs have a somewhat better tagging standard, but it is mostly because AIFF is mostly an Apple format, so it has less intrusion (programs that deviate from the standard).

Other than that, WAV's are little endian and AIFF used to be big endian. I'm not sure if they still are big endian since Apple has been using intel (little endian) processors for more than a decade now.

I wouldn't bother with any of them for storage/playback.

Archiving Audio. WavPack; stick or twist?

Reply #4
With raw PCM or PCM containers like .wav/.aiff, if some bit gets flipped somewhere, how would you know without some external check?  FLAC has frame header data checksums, frame data checksums, and a whole stream MD5 hash.  WavPack has per-block output checksums and an optional whole stream MD5 hash which should be just as good for file integrity.  I'd prefer either over ALAC which doesn't have any built-in integrity checks at all.

Archiving Audio. WavPack; stick or twist?

Reply #5
Is it worth transcoding my lossless collection to FLAC, or another codec, to maximize longevity?


Both of these formats will still be decodable long after you are dead, so I'd just wait until you have some actual reason to transcode before you do it.


Archiving Audio. WavPack; stick or twist?

Reply #6
Here's my solution. I use a fault tolerant and correcting file system (ZFS) which provides a level of immunity to bit rot or other disk errors. This is backed by an on-site backup, and an off-site backup.

I use FLAC, but any lossless codec for which you have access to the source code, and that code will build with an open source tool chain, is fine. I store an archive of the sources for FLAC, OGG Vorbis, Opus, and all the related libraries and tools on that same fault tolerant storage system.

In reality, if a format is going the way of the floppy disk it won't happen over night and you will have years of warning that the end is nigh. You'll have plenty of time to transcode to the new hotness if needed. If push comes to shove and my immense laziness makes me procrastinate past the point of no return I can always compile my own tool chain from the sources, and transcode using those to whatever the newer format is.

Archiving Audio. WavPack; stick or twist?

Reply #7
I wouldn't fear keeping everything in WavPack. Yes, it's not the number one codec for lossless audio on the web, but software-wise encoders and decoders of this format are everywhere. And it's open source, even if David will give up supporting the format for some reason, the community will eventually fork the code and keep on supporting it, at least to be compilable on new platforms.
WavPack -b4x4hc
Opus --cvbr --bitrate 256 --framesize 5

Archiving Audio. WavPack; stick or twist?

Reply #8
I say keep your collection as WAVpack.  It's a good high quality high bit resolution format. 
Portable media players are more and more becoming like tiny little Linux computers and as computers go, codec support tends to be very manageable.
Since Rockboxed media players can play WAVpack, I think you'll be OK.  Transcoding to FLAC might be losing some quality depending upon the source material. 
But on the other hand, if you did decide to go with FLAC, just know that most portable players can only play the 16-bit FLACs and not the 24-bit FLACs.
Be a false negative of yourself!

Archiving Audio. WavPack; stick or twist?

Reply #9
Transcoding to FLAC might be losing some quality depending upon the source material. 
But on the other hand, if you did decide to go with FLAC, just know that most portable players can only play the 16-bit FLACs and not the 24-bit FLACs.

I doubt the OP has 32bit files. That is the only thing flac can't compress atm or what quality loss you are talking about?
Is troll-adiposity coming from feederism?
With 24bit music you can listen to silence much louder!

Archiving Audio. WavPack; stick or twist?

Reply #10
Transcoding to FLAC might be losing some quality depending upon the source material. 
But on the other hand, if you did decide to go with FLAC, just know that most portable players can only play the 16-bit FLACs and not the 24-bit FLACs.

I doubt the OP has 32bit files. That is the only thing flac can't compress atm or what quality loss you are talking about?




Correct, I do not have 32bit files. The WavPack files have been converted from CD's.

Archiving Audio. WavPack; stick or twist?

Reply #11
Transcoding to FLAC might be losing some quality depending upon the source material. 
But on the other hand, if you did decide to go with FLAC, just know that most portable players can only play the 16-bit FLACs and not the 24-bit FLACs.

I doubt the OP has 32bit files. That is the only thing flac can't compress atm or what quality loss you are talking about?




Correct, I do not have 32bit files. The WavPack files have been converted from CD's.


OH OK.  I thought maybe you had 24-bit or 32-bit source files for your WAVpacks.  The main advantage of lossless WAVpacks is that they can encode 32-bit float for example.  But if your source materials were just CD's then transcoding to FLAC might be a good choice just to get them on something more mainstream... That way you wouldn't have to hunt as much for software and hardware that can play them.  It would just take a while depending on how large your collection is.  But with something like Foobar2000 you could run it overnight and aim a fan at your computer to prevent it from overheating.  Good luck.
Be a false negative of yourself!

Archiving Audio. WavPack; stick or twist?

Reply #12
I doubt the OP has 32bit files. That is the only thing flac can't compress atm or what quality loss you are talking about?


Well FLAC cannot do floating-point. I did recently download some 24-bit floating-point file which the artist shared at Soundcloud. (But that is a different story than CD rips.)
High Voltage socket-nose-avatar

Archiving Audio. WavPack; stick or twist?

Reply #13
Thanks for everyone's comments thus far, they are greatly appreciated. Based on what has been said so far, it seems to me that there is nothing wrong with my WavPack collection with regards to longevity but if I want to maximize compatibility there may be advantages of switching to FLAC at some point. That said, WavPack works fine on my computer with foobar2000. Another thing I have noticed- if I add album art it is applied much quicker (almost instantly) with WavPack than with FLAC, which takes considerably longer.

Archiving Audio. WavPack; stick or twist?

Reply #14
another thing which may be important in archiving audio is error handling; based on my very limited understanding of this both WavPack and FLAC codecs will still decode if part of the file contains an error, which would not necessarily be the case with WAV or AIFF.


It would surprise me if you couldn't reconstruct the "non-faulty" part of a .wav, and generally, you run greater risks of corrupting more of a file if you use compression.

However, FLAC and WavPack are checksummed formats, so errors can be detected reliably. I did experience a file system crash (using NTFS) where files were damaged after Windows overwrote segments with segments from other files. Switching music mid-file yes. ALAC is not checksummed. Had I used that thing, I could not have verified the files except by comparing against the backup (and even then I would have to manually decide which one was faulty!)

The scenario that FLAC/WavPack become unsupported is certainly not any major worry if you use your music files. Because then you will not wake up to a FLAC-/WavPack-less world. It would fail gracefully: your new computer won't support it. I have lots of others with FLAC playback, and plenty of time to transcode should it be abandoned.

High Voltage socket-nose-avatar

Archiving Audio. WavPack; stick or twist?

Reply #15
Another thing I have noticed- if I add album art it is applied much quicker (almost instantly) with WavPack than with FLAC, which takes considerably longer.

This is due to how the different formats store metadata.  WavPack sticks its metadata at the end of the file.  So if you add cover art it's essentially just tacking on more data to your file, which is really fast to do.  FLAC puts metadata at the beginning of the file.  So if there's not enough padding space to fit your cover art at the beginning, the whole file has to be rewritten to fit the image you're adding.

Archiving Audio. WavPack; stick or twist?

Reply #16
Had I used that thing, I could not have verified the files except by comparing against the backup (and even then I would have to manually decide which one was faulty!)


Actually, you could have used CUETools to do that, provided you had full album rips.

On topic, as others said, if you're concerned purely about longevity, there is no reason to switch from one lossless codec to another. Compatibility-wise, FLAC is unbeaten.
Personally, I'm more interested in space efficiency, so I went with TAK. Everything I need to play it, plays it. For everything else I transcode to a lossy format like ogg or opus.

Archiving Audio. WavPack; stick or twist?

Reply #17
Had I used that thing, I could not have verified the files except by comparing against the backup (and even then I would have to manually decide which one was faulty!)

Actually, you could have used CUETools to do that, provided you had full album rips.


Yes, that is of course a tip for those who experience similar issues.  One cannot count on verifying every rip (not even in my case where I have complete rips with AccurateRip identification in tags - evidently some submissions were purged from the database), but one can get the number down.

But to stay reasonably on topic, as you point out: the big issue is not how well FLAC/WavPack is going to stay supported.
Myself I got way worse issues with a 20 years mature file system on the world's most common desktop OS, because of a fishy USB connection and the OS' default of write caching.
High Voltage socket-nose-avatar

Archiving Audio. WavPack; stick or twist?

Reply #18
I would just keep it simple. If it works then theres nothing to be done. Old versions of foobar will run just fine in portable mode decades from now and even if Windows dropped the win32 api (which won't happen) then setting up a little VM with foobar is easy . The decoder is open so most software players  support it.
wavpack 4.8 -b3x6c

Archiving Audio. WavPack; stick or twist?

Reply #19
TAK - the best lossless
FLAC - widely supported

Archiving Audio. WavPack; stick or twist?

Reply #20
TAK - the best lossless
FLAC - widely supported



TAK would not be the best solution for me; it is closed source so this could be a problem for longevity. Moreover, the hardware and software support is not as good as other codecs.

Archiving Audio. WavPack; stick or twist?

Reply #21
TAK - the best lossless

TAK is good but what makes you say it's the best? If you value size, there are codecs that compress better. If you value speed, FLAC is faster to decode. If you value openness, for example FLAC, WavPack and ALAC are open source. The best codec depends on your needs.

Archiving Audio. WavPack; stick or twist?

Reply #22
TAK - the best lossless

TAK is good but what makes you say it's the best? If you value size, there are codecs that compress better. If you value speed, FLAC is faster to decode. If you value openness, for example FLAC, WavPack and ALAC are open source. The best codec depends on your needs.

Balance of size, encoding and decoding speeds is what makes it the best for me. It's closed code nature is a big disadvantage, but I doubt wine stops working even should Microsoft float up belly up. As such, I don't think the encoding part is threatened in the long run. As for decoding, ffmpeg has an open source decoder, so it can be compiled whenever necessary.

I'm currently looking at optimFROG though, if the encoding gets a bit faster in that asynchronous version that is in planning (edit: that, and the deadbeef decoder plugin with tagging support), I might consider switching.

Archiving Audio. WavPack; stick or twist?

Reply #23
TAK - the best lossless

TAK is good but what makes you say it's the best? If you value size, there are codecs that compress better. If you value speed, FLAC is faster to decode. If you value openness, for example FLAC, WavPack and ALAC are open source. The best codec depends on your needs.

Balance of size, encoding and decoding speeds is what makes it the best for me. It's closed code nature is a big disadvantage, but I doubt wine stops working even should Microsoft float up belly up. As such, I don't think the encoding part is threatened in the long run. As for decoding, ffmpeg has an open source decoder, so it can be compiled whenever necessary.

I'm currently looking at optimFROG though, if the encoding gets a bit faster in that asynchronous version that is in planning (edit: that, and the deadbeef decoder plugin with tagging support), I might consider switching.



Interesting. It is important to note that OptimFROG is also closed source and it's hardware and software support is the same as TAK. I may be a little paranoid about longevity but an open source lossless codec is preferable to me as a long term archive solution.

Archiving Audio. WavPack; stick or twist?

Reply #24
True, but according to this, open-source reference implementation is in the works.

 
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