Coverart and macOS

Since I don’t know where to start and I am looking for a bit of help, I’ll start at the beginning:

I am using a MacBook running macOS Big Sur version 11.2.3
I play my music using Elmedia Player version 7.17

Long ago I noticed that many of my music files contained erroneous tags including and most annoying Coverart tags. I would be playing a Guns N’ Roses song displaying an AC/DC front cover. In addition, I have long wished to convert all my .mp3 music files to .flac music files.

So I got busy and using first the application Switch version 9.14 I converted all mp3 to flac. No problems noted.

Then I ran all the flac files through Picard version 2.6.2 in order to fix the tags, particularly the embedded Coverart.

The result seems to now properly display the updated and proper cover in the Elmedia Player application. However, the cover icons in macOS have all been changed to a default music icon where before it displayed the songs front cover.

So I am wondering if there is a fix, or is this just the way macOS treats flac files.

Now I am kind of confused, and I realize that this Picard forum is not a macOS forum, but I just thought perhaps someone would know. I did check with Apple, but there is nothing online that answers this at my current macOS version.


Although OS X 10.13.6 and above can play FLAC files in Quickview (preview in Finder), OS X still can’t (or deliberately won’t) read any of the metadata from FLAC files… No cover art, no artist name, no titles, etc. (And sometimes Quickview somehow even gets the track duration wrong when you play/preview the FLAC.)

Apple has their own lossless format called “ALAC” which they’ve been trying to get everyone to use for a decade or so, and nobody uses it. It’s basically like FLAC, except it only uses integer math, rather than floating point, and uses a M4A container, rather than an Ogg-Vorbis-style container.

Personally, I keep all of my music in FLAC, and only convert to ALAC when I need to import something into iTunes.


Not sure what the purpose of changing mp3 files to FLAC is?

Converting a lossy format to a lossless format does not bring back the missing data and improve the sound quality, it just potentially makes the file several times larger.


Yeah, I was just about to say the same thing. The only possible (maybe) advantage is FLACs superior metadata support. (ID3 tags are so bad.) But, the audio itself will be exactly the decoded MP3 audio, forever… and using more disk space.

Assuming that…

  1. The MP3 to FLAC transcoder did a good job at reconstructing the MP3 into raw PCM…
  2. You’re ok with using lots of extra disk space for storage…
  3. You’re not going forget that these FLACs were sourced from MP3s and convert them back into another lossy format later… or you don’t mind crunchy high-frequency artifacts…

… then you’re probably OK.


Is ID3 really so much worse than FLAC’s metadata support?

Also, I personally use 320kbps mp3 rather than flac as I find it difficult (or impossible) to notice the difference, particularly since I don’t have the worlds best speakers to reproduce every nuance of the flac’s losslessness. And by doing so I save literally 10s of GB of disk space.

I have a vast music library containing both mp3 and flac files, extensively using the features of metadata, and I experience no limitations of mp3 compared to flac at all.
(using id3v2.4 that is, v2.3 would be a little bit different)

Personally I much dislike the idea of converting lossy audio to a lossles format.
When I stumble upon a flac file I expect and trust it to contain lossless audio.
The ‘L’ in FLAC is there for a reason.
Conversions from lossy like these breaks that trust.

Also I don’t understand the reason why the OP ‘long wished’ to use flac instead of mp3?
Doesn’t Apple stuff suck even more at handling flac than at handling mp3?

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In other words, it’s a bad idea for many reasons to convert MP3 to FLAC, and Macs don’t behave well with FLAC files, and in any case you are playing on Mac speakers which will not faithfully reproduce FLAC anyway so you probably wont hear any difference with MP3 @ 320kbps - so why use FLAC at all?

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Wonderful… We have certainly beaten up on lossless versus lossy audio formats.

Unfortunately, nothing stated above will help me solve the initial problem… Some of my mp3 audio files have the wrong front Coverart embedded.

So, based on what I have read above, and based on having learned that Apple chooses to not support the flac format, it would seem that I perhaps have maybe two choices:

  1. Use Picard to correct the embedded tag files while maintaining the lossy mp3 format. Fortunately, I ran everything against a copy directory and I still have the original mp3 files.


  1. Convert my mp3 collection to m4a (which I understand is the same as ALAC) then run the m4a files through Picard.

I’m leaning toward the second choice simply because 1) everything I have is Apple, and 2) I like the idea of having a lossless format.

Further comments are requested and desired.


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That sounds more like a question for the Elmedia forum. Apple and iTunes is a PITA as it has its own database for artwork. Blindly ignoring when a file changes on the system due to external media. You may need to quiz Elmedia on the issue as it will be more common to them.

My personal guess - if it is only the OS showing the wrong icons, then MacOS is probably being dumb and using iTunes to supply artwork for the OS. Try a test. Go into iTunes, find one of the albums you have updated that is now showing generic OS art. I assume iTunes is also showing no artwork. Hit GetInfo on that album and this will manually force an update of the artwork.

Has this now changed what you see in the OS?

I know Mac owners who are using iTunes have a headache of a time with iTunes when artwork or tags are updated by any external application. They have to run a script to force it to re-read the files. (see elsewhere in this form)

Yeah, most of the above keeps saying “iTunes”… but you know what Apple are like for not liking it when other apps are used. I put money on the OS assuming that iTunes is the only source of artwork. This is why Elmedia shows you the correct artwork, but the OS is dumb to the changes.

I am also with the people above. Swapping between MP3 \ FLAC \ M4A will gain you nothing at all apart from confusion. Leave it all as MP3. Instead, when you rip a new album rip that to FLAC from the start and you will hear the difference. One of the confusions you cause yourself by format shifting a collection from MP3 to FLAC is you still have lossy audio but hidden in a lossless jacket meaning it is harder to know which albums you now need to get re-ripped into lossless format.

A decade ago I ripped my CDs to MP3 and they sounded fine to me. Then I replaced the HiFi and heard the difference and restarted ripping everything to FLAC instead. It meant I could replace MP3 albums with FLAC albums CD by CD knowing where I had got to in the process. Ultimately it is all personal needs, so don’t let someone tell you MP3 is bad if it works for your setup.


Although the FLAC container is lossless, transcoding MP3’s into FLAC is not good. You end up with the same lossy music in a (much bigger) lossless container. As others have mentioned, this can be bad because it is misleading (you expect FLAC files to contain lossless music).

General rule for transcoding is:
Lossless format > Lossy format = good
Lossy format > Lossless format = bad

Your option 1. is definitely the better one! And then start downloading/ripping in FLAC going forwards* :slight_smile:

*never hurts to try out another player that is less petty about what formats it handles, like Foobar2000 or Beets. They’ll also make a better job of displaying all of the metadata you’ve spent time adding!

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If you read his post again you’ll see that his player does display the artwork. It is the OS that is stubbornly stupid. I have never heard of Elmedia Player - but the fact it is not iTunes means the OP has these sense to get away from the OS supplied junk. It is the fact the stupid OS can’t work out how to read the embedded artwork and display it in the OS file manager is the issue here.

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Thanx IvanDobsky. I was beginning to think nobody really read my text!

Thanx also to aerozol I like your rule of thumb… it makes sense.

So I think I’ll stick with mp3 since it will take less space.

thanx to all

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Honestly, Mac = iTunes on these forums so often that my brain just removed the Elmedia Player part, my bad!

So OS X itself, the operating system, doesn’t let you read FLAC metadata, regardless of the player? If I’m reading @foxgrrl’s message right? That would be crazy.

Yes aerozol. That is apparently the case. I just read this “The only downside of FLAC, if you are using an Apple product, FLAC is not supported. As ALAC and FLAC are very similar, that’s often a deciding factor, are you a MAC or PC person.” Here: Best Audio File Formats: What They Are And Why They Matter - Headphonesty

Like I said, I am learning…

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I am sorry for sharing my thoughts and providing information on only one aspect of your post.
I thought it was useful information, seems like it wasn’t to you.

Just a quick clarification here: m4a is just the file extension typically given to MP4 files that contain only audio.

And MP4 itself is a container format, that can contain different kind of audio and video formats. For MP4 audio usually either AAC (lossy) or ALAC (lossless) are used, so you need to take care to what you convert some audio depending on what you want.

Regarding your MP3 files I would generally also recommend staying with this, as others have pointed out above. Conversion into another lossy format such as AAC will result in additional quality loss, and conversion to lossless will gain you only larger files.

For the cover art problem with MP3 files I don’t have a definitive answer. But one thing to check for could be the ID3 version being used. If you use Picard you can configure it to either use ID3v2.4 or v2.3. v2.3 still is in many cases the more compatible version, but current macOS is supposed to also work with v2.4. Maybe try switching around and see if it makes a difference with your software.


Ouch, ouch, ouch… Mu bad. Very sorry if I gave a wrong impression. Hiccup, your post was just fine I read it at least three times. And indeed there is a ton of information above, all of which is appreciated.

What I was referring to, however, was just that my basic problem was being addressed as to assisting me make a decision.

Now, however, reading again and yet again, I am firmly set on NOT changing the mp3 format, but instead maintaining that format running my files through Picard in order to correct erroneous tags, particularly embedded Coverart.

Concerning this are there any suggestions as to how I should set Picard’s Coverart settings? I currently have them set to Embed cover images into tags; Embed onla single front cover; Cover Art Providers: Cover Art Archive; CAA Release Group; Deezer; and, Allowed Cover Art URLs; in that order.

Again thanx for ALL the thoughts and information as it was educational even if I thought it wasn’t answering my basic inquiry. I appreciate all of it!



If you want the ‘cleanest’ possible digital picture (for instance, the nicest square cover, even if your specific release is a digipak), you can move ‘CAA Release Group’ above ‘CAA’. Otherwise it’s pretty straight forward, not too much to muck about with for a change.


that you should not convert MP3 to FLAC??

Just in case nobody has mentioned it :joy:


Concerning FLAC… Yeah it has been mentioned and I have decided to not do that.

Concerning Coverart, I have made the change you suggested.

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Sorry, I was making a joke that I guess didn’t land. Everyone really jumped on that one!

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