FLAC files converted from 16/44 WAV files are smaller than MP3s

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dalethorn

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Note: This is going to be a little complicated, so I will try to cover every factor in this problem I've had.
 
I purchased some DSD (352 khz) files of solo piano music that's fairly dynamic and detailed, with loads of gorgeous harmonics.  I prefer to play my music in 24/88 or 24/96 format, and also be able to convert to 16/44 WAV to play on my 256 gb Apple devices.
 
So I purchased a well-respected converter (Mac version) to make the 24/88 FLAC and WAV files, and carefully followed the instructions given by the music critic who promoted the album, as well as the detailed instructions given by the converter gurus.  Those 24/88 conversions not only wouldn't play on my PC in Foobar2000, they corrupted Foobar so badly that I had to reinstall it.  That process of conversion from DSD to 24/88 and attempts to play on Foobar followed by reinstallation was repeated many times, with input from the persons noted above, with no success.
 
Note that I have over a thousand high-res (24/88 to 24/192) WAV and FLAC files from HDTracks and several other such sites, and I've never had a single problem playing those on my Foobar2000 player.  And I tested a number of those again during this process.
 
So I finally decided to convert the DSDs to 16/44 WAV files, and those played just fine on Foobar2000.  But when I converted those WAV files to FLAC, the FLAC files (Level 5 FLAC) were smaller than MP3s, i.e. about 23 percent of the 16/44 WAV size.  Using that same Foobar2000 and both FLAC converters I have (ca. 2007 and 2014), I've converted several thousand CD/WAV rips to FLAC over the years, and none of those FLACs were less than 60 percent of the WAV file size.
 
I even went a step further to see how my trusty FLAC converter could make files smaller than the corresponding MP3s - I converted a few MP3s (320 kbps, 4 minutes and 10 mb each) to 16/44 WAV tracks (44 mb each), and then I restarted Foobar and converted those WAVs to FLAC.  Those FLACs, which originated from the MP3 files, were now 24 MB each, and Foobar showed a bitrate around 760 kbps when playing.  The "23 percent" FLACs noted above showed a bitrate playing in Foobar of 290 kbps.
 
So my question is, given that I cannot make a FLAC that's 23 percent of a WAV file size from any of the thousands of WAV files that I've ripped or purchased, or even from up-rez'd MP3s, what could possibly be in the WAV files I got from the well-regarded Mac converter that I purchased, that would trick my FLAC converter into making FLACs smaller than MP3s?  The converter software gurus say that the DSD recordings have "extremely low complexity", which makes no sense, and doesn't fit with all of the other experience I've described.

jimangie1973

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Have you listened closely to the flacs?  They're either mono, have the highs chopped off, or have some of the 16 bits per sample zeroed out.  Flac encoders are smart.

dalethorn

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Have you listened closely to the flacs?  They're either mono, have the highs chopped off, or have some of the 16 bits per sample zeroed out.  Flac encoders are smart.

I compared the sound of the DSD file on the Vox player on my Macbook to the sound of the 16/44 WAV file on Foobar2000, as well as the FLAC I made from the WAV file on the PC.  The DSD file sounds richer, especially with some of the deeper piano chords, but it's not enormously different like you'd hear if there were some obvious defect in the conversion.  And I hear no significant difference between the WAV and the FLAC.

Again, this is the first time in several thousand conversions that I've seen a FLAC below 55-60 percent of a WAV size, so it's not just that the FLAC codec "knows" to compress the WAV that much, since the FLAC I make from an MP3 (via the intermediate WAV file) is 60 percent of the WAV size.  There's something very, very different about that WAV file from the JRiver conversion, that's making my FLAC converter do something it's never done before.

aldcoll

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I think it is the level 5 compression.  Try  level 5 vs no compression and I think the no comp. And wave are darned near the same size.

The compression is more about disk space.

Alan

dalethorn

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I think it is the level 5 compression.  Try  level 5 vs no compression and I think the no comp. And wave are darned near the same size. The compression is more about disk space. Alan

We left no stone unturned in the discussions I had with the Stereophile guy and the gurus at JRiver.  Converting JRiver's 16/44 WAV to FLAC made no more than 2 percent difference from Level 0 to 8.

Edit: And note that any MP3 that I convert to WAV and then back to FLAC is several times larger than the MP3.  This problem isn't about compression, it's about "What the heck is in that JRiver WAV file that's causing my FLAC converter to do something it isn't supposed to do, has never done before, and still cannot do with any other file I have, including the lowest resolution files?"

jimangie1973

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Load one of the wav files into Audacity and see what some sample values are.  You'll have to zoom way in to see.  On the other hand, it really doesn't matter what exactly the conversion is doing.  You know it's screwing up the output.  Hope you can fix the conversion.

dalethorn

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Load one of the wav files into Audacity and see what some sample values are.  You'll have to zoom way in to see.  On the other hand, it really doesn't matter what exactly the conversion is doing.  You know it's screwing up the output.  Hope you can fix the conversion.

Well, after wasting 3 whole days on JRiver, and now on another forum 12 users are scrambling to post all sorts of denials (about what FLAC does or doesn't do), I'm running out of time.

The good news is, someone suggested a CD that they say compressed to 36 percent of WAV size in FLAC, which I've never seen before.  So that should be a great test when the CD arrives.