What do the "format wars" mean to you in 2020?

Before there’s any eye-rolling, my question is NOT another endless “vinyl vs cd”, “cd vs hi-res”, or “physical media vs streaming” audiophile forum discussion, at least I hope not. So much of that seems simple personal preference anyway. I’d hope that this is a more nuanced discussion, based on something I’ve recently been pondering. Personally, I’ve pretty much decided to go all-in on CD-quality redbook files of my music, with a Qobuz streaming subscription mainly for new music discovery. And that’s worked fine. But recently, I’ve had this “thing” about considering purchasing CDs again when several long-forgotten albums I was interested in listening to simply weren’t available on Qobuz, and I had to turn to Discog to buy a physical copy. Fine enough, we all likely do that, but then I went to a record store and was tickled to hold several vinyl super deluxe editions in my hand, impressed with the simple SIZE of the package, the pictures, booklet, etc. It came across as more impressive than the similar CD package. I’ve also been curious just enough to purchase from Qobuz a couple of “hi-rez” albums in 24/192, mainly to see if I could hear a difference, etc (still working through that, but I’m not losing sleep about it either way).

Anyway, the point being, as a child of the 80’s who grew up on cassette tapes and CDs, moved on easily enough without any belly-aching to digital files with the rise of the iTunes era, and thought I’d be fine with ripped CD redbook for my personal library happy to call it a day… I’m more “format curious” in 2020 than I’d ever thought I would be! I’m curious if others have put this topic to bed satisfactorily for themselves and are all in one format, or find that they are still actively using/buying multiple formats. I’m assuming that there may indeed be many here that purchase the same music in multiple formats, and despite the cost may even do it happily so, but I’d love to understand that, and generally what the mindset is amongst audiophiles in 2020.


I grew up with vinyl and reel to reel, 8 track ( age 67 here) . I have thousands of LP’s and thousands of CD’s, about 45 SACD’s and a few downloads as I can just rip my on cd’s to FLAC via * dbPowerAmp* ( with AccurateRip technology) and store them on a NAS. I Still play my vinyl on a TT. I enjoy streaming via Qobuz and Tidal on my streamers as a way to identify new music or to just listen. I use my CD players today as transports and feed the signal to my DACS via S/PDIF or AES unless its a SACD. I think this format war stuff is pretty much related to what you are comfortable with, as in music enjoyment, its what you like. I see it as just a personal choice, like the choice of music genres. Streaming opens up a lot of music choices and Qobuz has the ability, if you like it and you are paying for the download option, download the file. HD tracks also has a lot of files for download $ and you can have a choice of formats. .


I’m a relative noob in audiophilia, but the only thing I have learned thus far for myself is that I can in fact tell the difference between 320kbps mp3 song and say a 16 bit 1000kbps FLAC song which meant I got to repurchase much of my personal collection on CD and rip it myself which was mildy satisfying and means I now have physical backups. I grew up on CD’s and to this day have not listened Dark side of the moon on vinyl through vintage anything so, maybe I’m missing out some key experiences, but when it comes to technical performance a wav file is pretty amazing and was basically my endgame from the begining.

I tend to lean on the if it ain’t broke don’t fix mentality though, most of my friends couldn’t tell the difference between 92kbps mp3’s and a 24 bit FLAC of Yo-Yo Ma and they are the classically trained musicians ( unlike me) so I just let everyone do what they want, I tell em they can get better headphones or nice inexpensive speakers to make their movies better, but without audiophile friends I didn’t even think there was a format war, other than Vinyl vs. whatever this week XD.


Oh, I’m all over Roon. Lifetime subscriber when the price was right and the getting was good! :sunglasses:


See, you address something I’ve been wondering about: you have multiple formats, and find a reason to regularly USE and enjoy all of them!

I had Prince’s 1999 Super Deluxe set in hi-Rez from Qobuz…but found I wanted the pretty pictures and CD booklet after going to the store and holding it. Felt a little silly spending funds and having it in two formats (reason I brought up this topic), but hey, what can I say.


That’s the main reason I still enjoy my LP’s, CD’s, They (most) have the "album art, song list, credits, and sometimes some info about the recording. Ya get to hold it ( I know old school) but that’s what I enjoy. I’m not a ROON user but I think it does or can add some of the album info.,


Whatever you like you like. I’m all digital myself. Have considered vinyl but don’t have the time to be able do it justice so I’ve abstained from pursuing it. My cds I just rip or listen to streaming versions. I sometimes feel I should have more physical media on tap, especially of the digital albums I truly enjoy.

Another type of “format war” is 2 channel vs headphones.


I have converted my old CDs to FLAC files. I use Bandcamp to find new music that I like, then I just buy it and download the FLAC files and add them to my F2K library. For mobile listening I stream from Bandcamp to my phone and BT headphones (DSR7BT). I have started buying vinyl as my physical format of choice, but only a few records every now and then.


I started deeply listening to music right around when CDs were introduced, so I’ve been almost 100% digital since the start. I don’t see much reason to invest the time or money into vinyl now, but I do appreciate that the vinyl experience is different and respect the opinion of those that prefer it.

As an IT professional I adopted MP3 technology earlier than most and subsequently bought the first iPod. The ability to bring my entire music collection with me wherever I go is important to me. I found the iTunes Store to be a revelation as it vastly increased the variety of music in my library due to being able to preview and buy individual tracks that interest me. While the collector side of me likes owning, the all-you-can-eat feature of Apple Music won out a few years ago.

Just within the last year I decided to get rid of all of my physical media. The CDs were in a closet, long ago ripped into 256 kbps AAC. My movie collection was the hardest to give up, but the disc movie experience is now so sub-par to me compared to streaming that I finally boxed them all up too. Everything is heading out to a media store soon.

I would say quality mid-priced hi-fi audio equipment is nothing new to me, but truly high end headphones are. On certain music I can easily pick the 128 kpbs MP3 in blind testing, but so far 256kbps AAC is indistinguishable from uncompressed.

I’ve tried Tidal but can’t readily hear any improvement so the cost and inconvenience are not worth it - yet. Similarly Roon is tempting but cost prohibitive to me right now. I’m probably in the minority here but that’s where I am today. As my equipment improves I will continue to evaluate with an open mind.

I guess I strayed a bit from your intended topic. While 99% of my music is 256 kbps AAC I am still keeping a few CDs that are rare or have special packaging and my 5.1 surround mix music Blu-rays.


I started a project of digitizing the my remaining cd’s that have managed to survive many moves. Since I’m not crunched for storage at the moment I decided it’s easier to play the cd than rip/organize/maintain digitial copies. In the end I will probably rip those that are not available to stream.

I like the streaming because of the no cost browsing and sampling. I have no desire to bring back the days of buying a cd and then finding it got one listen and back on the shelf.

If I feel like I can go out in the world again I’ll figure out how to have a nice supply of offline music but for now streaming is so convenient.

A Bluetooth receiver lets me do errands around the house with any wired headphone, streaming from iPad (no pile of gear to organize).

If I want to listen to the dac and amp I can do that too, sitting in the recliner.

Really is a great time to have music pretty much anywhere and simple gear can provide a satisfying experience.


For me, it’s not so much about format beyond the question of is it lossless or not. Lossless being preferred. Uncompressed WAV being preferred amongst those.

The real issue that concerns me is: Am I being served up a remastered version, and how badly did that screw up the sound?

There are so many remastered tracks and albums available via Tidal, Qobuz, Amazon, Spotify, etc, that even if I were to ignore the change of loudness, they still sound inferior to the original CD ripped to uncompressed WAV on my NAS. In some cases I don’t have a ripped copy on my NAS and that’s where ignorance is bliss, but it still itches my brain knowing the CD is likely better.


I started with Vinyl & Cassettes in the late 70’s, even though I ended up as an IT Professional thanks to circumstances I was not in the market for any audio for much of the 80’s, 90’s & 00’s. When I got started again I still had my Vinyl collection & the Cassettes I’d created from those along with a meager collection of CD’s.

I’ve never been dedicated to a single format, I play Records Old & New, Record & Play Cassettes and I’ve been fortunate to be able to acquire all the CD’s I could want for little money. I don’t really stream that much, but I have a nice library of ripped CD’s in MP3, Wave & Flac.

Right now I’m enjoying Music more than I ever have, whatever format it comes in.

Mark Gosdin


This is a really interesting issue I’ve wondered about, but it seems to be too much of a rabbit hole, and I’m not entirely sure how to easily figure out the “best” of multiple remastered editions. Is there one? I’m sure I’m going to show my ignorance here, but I know about the loudness wars on CD, but assumed that that was just a particular era during the 80s-90s when engineers were trying to figure out how to properly master CDs, and the differences from mastering vinyl. Leading me to (naively) believe that remastered albums in the 21st century have learned from these mistakes for the better. You response leads me to believe that’s simply not the case, but then how do folks figure out the “best” version? Simple (and potentially expensive) trial and error?


Be careful of the “best” trap.

If you believe there is a best but you might not have it then you are in a perpetual state of “less than”, driven to search for better, longer and farther.


True that. “Best” is a understandably loaded word, and I should know better than to use it in this environment. Appreciate the catch.

But staying on point to my original context, there DOES seem to be a thing with folks feeling a certain mastering is “more commonly preferred”. Ultimately, I’m just curious if there’s any methodologies besides potentially expensive trial and error to find the one that they would turn to for their preferred listening, is what I was trying to ask about.

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'BEST", there are 7.594 billion people on this earth and each of them have some choice of BEST.


I’m really not trying to get hung up on this “best” thing. Yes, people have opinions. I get that.

I’m trying to ask more experienced folks if there’s a way they navigate through multiple remastering, is all. If there’s no commentary available on that particular point I get it, but I assumed there was, is all.


Here’s one way:

I’m by no means saying it is the answer, but it is at least some data - as far as the Loudness Wars go. Look around and you’ll see references to software that makes the measurements. If you have several versions of the music, you can analyse it yourself.


Apologies. Reading that comment back, it sounded more frosty than I intended. Sorry about that. Just wanted to clarify that I wasn’t’ thinking about “best” in the problematic way it sounded, and is commonly voiced throughout these forums.


Never heard of this. Thanks!

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