Guide on verifying quality of lossless files

Lossless formats such as WAV, FLAC and Apple Lossless are becoming more and more popular each day. With the amount of disk space and internet bandwidth and speed, there is little use for compressed formats such as MP3. With the downfall of the physical CD, audiophiles are forced to turn to digital downloads, but don't want to lose the quality they had on CDs. Sadly, most of the major retailers only offer lossy formats. Stores I would recommend for lossless are Qobuz, Junodownload and Beatport. Unfortunately, some of these are difficult to use, and can be pricey.

So how do I check?

There are many softwares around that are used to automatically check the quality of lossless files. The most popular is Audiochecker, which detects most types of compression, especially lower quality. Audiochecker is neat, and I think it's very impressive that someone coded software that does a decent job of this. The downside is that it misses some higher quality MP3's and M4A's, and sometimes think older dithered CD pressings are mp3s when they're not. However, there is no better way than to open the Frequency Analysis and see for yourself. We want to be sure of our results!

What's the best software to do this?

What's key to detecting the more subtle compression is that we can get a graph that "dances" along to the music. This allows us to see very sutble hints. The only software I know of that does this really old versions of Cool Edit Pro (I use version 1.0). I cannot provide a download link to this program, but there may be some at Oldversion dot com. Alt+Z should open the Frequency analysis and you need an FFT Size of 1024 or less. I find this easiest at 1024. If it's all working, you should get a graph that looks like this:

So let's get started!

First let's take the uncompressed WAV file shown above and see the effects of various types of compression on the graph. Click here to go to the next page.