16 bit PCM vs 32 bit float for ripped from CD

I am ripping my CD’s to .wav files using iTunes latest version. When I process the files with Audacity, I save as 32 bit float. The file size for the 32 bit float is 2x that of the original wav file. Is it really worth the extra disk space to have the processed files as 32 bit float?
Is iTunes ripper as good as any other, or should I be using a dedicated ripper?

Thanks for your help.


There is no point “ripping to 32-bit” because the CD data is 16-bit, so all you would be doing in effect, is padding the data with zeros.

During audio production, there is a small benefit in saving back-ups as 32-bit float, simply because the back-up will be identical to the audio in the project. Unless I’m working on something very critical, I just use 16-bit backups.

Audio CDs are produced in 44100, 16-bit, Stereo. The file structure is a little wacky to get as much music on the disk as possible, but the music itself is of that quality. If all you’re doing is “converting” from hardware to files, a simple ripper to 44100, 16-bit, Stereo will give a perfect copy.

When I process the files with Audacity

What does that mean?

If you change the music in any way, then you get into the additional steps needed to prevent unintentional damage and undesirable audio changes. For example, Audacity will try to add a very low level dithering sound to prevent 32-float conversion from creating audible damage. It’s true if you never leave 32-float, you don’t need dithering.

So why are you in Audacity?


I’m not sure I understand what you are saying here. I know what the term “dithering” means, but I do not understand how it applies to conversion to 32 float files. All I am doing in Audacity is changing the audio level of the music so that all songs are more or less the same volume level when I listen to them on my phone (mp3), where of course 32 float is gross overkill. What I am trying to do is preserve the quality of the wav file with the level adjustment so that I can use it in a DJ type mix or export it to mp3 for the phone. I am using the Limiting or Amplify process to change the audio level (Limit is the level is too low, and Amplify (-dB) if the level is too high). For running with my phone and open-air headphones, I want my music loud, but not distorted, and Limiting serves that need most of the time.

It still mystifies me why the level on different tracks of the same CD from the same artist can have such different values, but that is what I am running into. And it’s not just that one song is quiet and another is loud. I have tried using iTunes to adjust the levels, but that feature never worked for me when I listened on an iPod. I now listen on an Android phone using the PowerAmp Pro app, so I only use iTunes for ripping and listening on my PC.


I do not understand how it applies to conversion to 32 float files.

It doesn’t apply going up to 32, it can help with distortion and artifacts coming back down. You are resampling to a lower quality format. And none of this affects you as long as all your applications and processes know and accept 32-floating. Past compatibility problems, I don’t think there is anything wrong with doing everything in 32-floating.


Does your MP3 player support “Replay Gain” ?

Keep a copy of the original, unmodified 16-bit rip.

Audacity is possibly a bit OTT for that. If your MP3 player supports Replay Gain, then you could use Foobar2000 (free) to rip your CD to WAV and convert the WAV to MP3, and add ReplayGain tags.

Good advice; Thanks.
I was going to keep the original un-processed wav rip as well as the limited or amplified wav file, but that might require that I get another hard drive. I’m ok with keeping my processed file as wav, since currently I have no use for the un-processed rip. Of course if I decide that I don’t like or need the louder sound, I might wish I had kept the original rip, but so long as I have the original media (CD), I can always re-rip if necessary. If on the other hand I borrow a CD from a family member or friend and rip it, I would want to keep the original ripped file. OTOH, I am probably going to purchase another large HDD, or an SSD for my OS and main files, so I can move the ripped wav files to an unused HDD.
Perhaps though, I should take your advice and keep both the original rip, and the processed wav. After all, HDD space is so cheap.

I’m going to look into replay-gain. I’m not sure if my app (PowerAmp Pro on Android) supports it or not. If not, I can always get a different player. For the PC, I may just end up using iTunes as my player, but if I can get a better one for free, I might go with that.


If you’re on Windows, Foobar2000 is an excellent audio player. It doesn’t look very pretty, but it does what it’s designed to do (play and convert audio files) supremely well.
iTunes use “Sound Check” rather than “Replay Gain”, which is the same general idea, but of course not compatible.

Installed Fubar on my PC and Android phone. I’ll see how it works.

Unfortunately, Foobar is Fubar on my Android moto e 1st gen. First, I could not figure the interface. I searched for and selected one artist from my library, which I had set up earlier, played the songs, and then could not get to any other songs/artists in the library.
I went back to using PowerAmp Pro, and for some reason or other it quit playing after a couple hours, and would not play anymore. I think that Foobar might have changed some settings which caused PowerAmp to mess up. I finally un-installed Foobar from the phone and my PC, then did a factory reset and cache partition wipe on the Android phone.
the issue with the phone is most likely not Foobar’s fault, as I have been having problems of that sort with the phone for some time. But I did not find its GUI intuitive at all - unlike PowerAmp’s.

PowerAmp does support Replay Gain, but I prefer to continue using Audacity to adjust the levels of all my music permanently.


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