Overview of lossless compression formats
Below is brief overview of lossless audio compression formats.
WAV - Wave files
Uncompressed audio format developed by IBM and Microsoft. Became standard audio file used on PCs. WAV don't contain compressed data, so the files have same size as original source.
FLAC - FLAC files
FLAC stands for Free Lossless Audio Codec.
Grossly oversimplified, FLAC is similar to MP3, but lossless, meaning that audio is compressed in FLAC without any loss in quality.
This is similar to how Zip/Rar works, except with FLAC you will get much better compression because it is designed specifically for audio, and you can play back compressed FLAC files in your favorite player just like you would an MP3 file.
It's advantages are: open source, very fast encoding/decoding, very good software/hardware support, error robustness, streaming, multichannel audio, high resolutions, pipe, RIFF chunks support, and it has only one little disadvange - no hybrid/lossy mode.
APE - Monkey's Audio files
Monkey's Audio is a fast and easy way to compress digital music.
Unlike traditional methods such as mp3, ogg, or wma that permanently discard quality to save space, Monkey's Audio only makes perfect, bit-for-bit copies of your music.
That means it always sounds perfect - exactly the same as the original. Even though the sound is perfect, it still saves a lot of space. (think of it as a beefed-up Winzip for your music)
The other great thing is that you can always decompress your Monkey's Audio files back to the exact, original files.
That way, you'll never have to recopy your CD collection to switch formats, and you'll always be able to recreate the original music CD if something ever happens to yours.
It's advantages are: open source, high efficiency, good software support, simple and user friendly, has multiplatform Java version, RIFF chunks, pipe, high resolution audio support, and it has some disadvanges - no hybrid/lossy mode, no multichannel support, no error robustness and it has limited hardware support.
WV - WavPack files
WavPack is a completely open audio compression format providing lossless,high quality lossy, and an unique hybrid compression mode.
In the default lossless mode WavPack acts just like a WinZip compressor for audio files.
However, unlike MP3 or WMA encoding which can affect the sound quality, not a single bit of the original information is lost and so there's no chance of degradation. This makes lossless mode ideal for archiving audio material or any other situation where quality is paramount.
The compression ratio depends on the source material, but generally is between 30% and 70%.
It's advantages are: open source, very fast encoding/decoding, good efficiency, error robustness, good hardware/software suppor, streaming, multichannel audio and high resolutions support, supports hybrid/lossy mode, pipe, RIFF chunks, ability to create self extracting files and has only one disadvantage: limited hardware player support.
ALAC - Apple Lossless files
ALAC is a proprietary lossless audio compression scheme. Apple never released any documents on the format.
Apple claims that audio files compressed with its lossless codec will use up "about half the storage space" that the uncompressed data would require.
It's good for very fast decoding, Apple hardware support (iPod, AirPort Express), integration with iTunes/iPod and streaming support.
But it has limited software support because of it's proprietary original.
WMAL - Windows Media Audio Lossless files
WMA Lossless is the lossless codec developed by Microsoft to be featured in their Windows Media codec portfolio.
This lossless format has closed source, limited hardware support, doesn't support RIFF chunks, replay gain, has no hybrid/lossy mode, but has streaming, pipe, multichannel audio and high resolutions support and very good Microsoft software support