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Naim's Hi Definition Download Store offers all shapes and sizes of music download. The music industry is experiencing a lot of changes in the digital world and appealing to as many users needs as possible is very important to us. Below you will find a small introduction to the file types we currently offer. If you have any further quandaries, please try our FAQ, or contact us.


WAV (Waveform Audio Format)

Waveform Audio Format files are compatible with Windows and Macintosh operating systems. A WAV file can hold compressed audio but we deliver the most common WAV format which is uncompressed audio in the linear pulse code modulation (LPCM) format. The standard audio file format for a production CD is LPCM-encoded, containing two channels of 44,100 samples per second and 16bits per sample. Since LPCM uses an uncompressed, lossless storage method, which keeps all the samples of an audio track, professional users or audio experts may use the WAV format for maximum audio quality. WAV audio can also be edited and manipulated with relative ease using relevant software. We offer both 16bit and 24bit WAVs. The 24bit files offer greater fidelity but are considerably bigger than the 16 bit files. The 16bit files we offer are the same resolution as is used on our standard audio CD releases.

These files are linear uncompressed audio files. If you want to build an audio CD type collection with little fuss and have no interest in learning how to convert audio file formats then the 16bit variants may be best for you. The 24bit variants offer greater fidelity through higher bit rate and depth. These files can be played back directly on most media players but need down-converted to 16bit 44.1Khz format for use as standard audio CD quality files. As these files are linear it is arguable that the relatively low processor overhead required to play them back ensures greatest sound quality possible. The downside is that Tags are not supported so adding track artist information is done after music is imported into your media player. In most media players, individual files will import easily enough but the track title will inherit the individual filename. You will then have to manually edit these tags in order to clean up the music in your chosen media player's library.

Our WAV file downloads are accompanied by external metadata. These are tiny text and database files (also includes a thumbnail of the album cover art).

This metadata has been created by AMG (All Media Guide) who house one of the world's largest music databases.
When streaming the download over a Naim Audio network enabled device such as Naim Audio HDX or a Naim Net Server, the playback engine will automatically enumerate the extended metadata.

However, it is important to maintain a music library that equates to the following file structure in order for the extended metadata to function: User Library > Artist Folder > Album Folder > Track.wav

Incidentally, both iTunes and Windows Media Player libraries follow this file structure. In each individual Album Folder, the supplied AMG tags, consisting of the amginfo.xml, AMGreport.log, cddbinfo.txt and folder.jpg (artwork thumbnail), should sit. Please also ensure that only one of each of these files sits at Album Folder. Please note that downloading different tracks from the same album at different times could potentially duplicate the external AMG tag files. In this event, duplicate metadata will have to be manually deleted.

FLAC (Free Lossless Audio Codec)

Free Lossless Audio Codec is a file format for lossless but compressed audio data. During compression, FLAC does not lose quality from the audio stream, as lossy compression formats such as MP3, AAC, and Vorbis do. FLAC is a bit like ZIP in that the file can be reconstructed to exactly match the original file with absolutely no loss of data.

FLAC reduces bandwidth and storage requirements without sacrificing the integrity of the audio source material. A digital audio recording (such as a CD track) encoded to FLAC can be decompressed into an identical copy of the original audio data. Audio sources encoded to FLAC are typically reduced in size to around 50% of the original file size. There are a few different lossless systems but given that they are, by definition, lossless we selected FLAC as it offers the broadest compatibility with most computer operating systems. WMA (Windows Media Audio) lossless, in general, only works with PCs and Apple Lossless only works with Macs and has no commercial encoder available. FLAC is more open in that it is widely supported and there are ways to ensure that the files can be played/converted to work on most computer operating systems.

FLAC is suitable for everyday audio playback and archival, with support for tagging and cover art. FLACs free and open source royalty-free nature makes it well-supported by many software applications. The biggest disadvantage is that FLAC playback support in portable audio devices and dedicated audio systems is limited at this time. This is why we also offer MP3. Tags are supported so track and artist information can be displayed automatically when music is imported into your media player.

ALAC (Apple Lossless Audio Codec)

Similar to FLAC, ALAC is a lossless format based on linear prediction, not to be confused with its lossy cousin, the AAC format. Apple Inc introduced the format, widely-referred to as Apple Lossless, in 2004 but the codec has only recently become open-source. Like FLAC, the Apple Lossless codec is designed to store metadata within the file (including cover art) and reduce file sizes, to between 50 to 70% of the fully uncompressed WAV file. Audio data is technically stored within an mp4 container, thus giving the files an .m4a file extension.

We recommend Apple Lossless for downloaders who value instant playability with iTunes and/or Apple desktop OS and functional metadata (iTunes and other supporting media players, are automatically populated with cover art, album and artist information). Most desktop music library/playback applications for Windows/OS X now support the Apple Lossless format.

We've updated our Naim Label Download Manager to support an automatic move/copy to iTunes folder function (a new tick box has been added to the Settings page), so that next time you open the iTunes desktop application, any ALAC files will automatically appear in your iTunes library. Please update your Naim Label Download Manager here.

*Please note that the UPnP streaming and USB playback functions on Naim Audio Streamers (Uniti, ND and NAC-N series products) do not support native playback of ALAC files of  bit depths / sample rates above (bot not including) 24bit 96kHz. Naim Audio Music Servers (UnitiServe, HDX and NS0x) allow the playback of ALAC files of up to 24 bit 192kHz via their local audio outputs. If you wish to display cover art through Naim Audio devices, please use the external metadata file provided (including folder.jpg at album folder level).

**Please also note that Apple iOS (iPad/iPhone) does not currently allow Safari (or other browser) based customers to purchase and download music from a third party website and import to iTunes using just the iOS device itself.

MP3 (Moving Picture Experts Layer 3)

The name MP3 is shortened from the official Moving Picture Experts Group-1 Audio Layer 3. You can probably understand why MP3 is used as shorthand! Back in the days of dial up Internet this format was exploited to the extreme, as it was a great way of making small files, which could be downloaded over a telephone modem. These super compressed files are what has given MP3 such a bad reputation as a quality audio compression system. MP3 is, however, capable of delivering reasonably good audio performance as long as you don't totally mangle the original files. We use the highest bit rate possible for MP3, which is 320 kbit/s. In comparison a regular audio CD is 1,411.2 kbit/s so our files are around a quarter of the size of a regular CD. Most other music download sites use 128 or 256 kbit/s so our files are larger (which means they sound better) but not too large should you have a relatively slow Internet connection.

These files are great if you want good sound quality with simple playback options on portable devices without having to learn too much about data rate conversions. Tags are supported so track and artist information can be added automatically when music is imported into your media player. Additionally, most media players are able to convert MP3 files into a format suitable for burning a standard audio CD.

© MJD Tech Ltd 2009, changes by Naim Audio Ltd 2012.

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