Taking the FLAC
I would like to strongly suggest that any device capable of playing audio files (either stored locally or streamed over a network) be judged harshly for any lack of FLAC support (and automatically disqualified from the WHFSV five star rating).
Let's face it, FLAC is the dominant lossless audio file format of the internet, and long may it stay that way. The ability of any audio device to play FLAC files should be an absolute pre-requisite rather than 'nice to have' feature. Further more, FLAC is an open source format, meaning that manufacturers pay no licence free for its inclusion. In short, there's no excuse for its absence.
As for Apple, well, where do I start...? Why on earth would I ever consider converting a huge library of FLAC files only to get tied into a proprietary, commercial, Apple-only lossless format, and in the process subject myself to iTunes...? As much as I appreciate real hi fi brands such as Naim, Arcam, B&W, etc., I would never consider a new media format that tied me into the products of a single organization.
I have an iPhone 3Gs as part of my job. It's a reasonable enough phone (and for owners, the Stanza ebook reading software - NOT written by Apple, is excellent), but I have to say, I certainly don't use it to playback music. Not to mention, I certainly wouldn't tie myself into a nice long £700 contract to own one.
There are better ways to create, encode, catalogue, search and store preserve high quality audio.
By the way, I am aware of the benefits of transcoding, but why should we need to waste clock cycles to achieve something that should be available by default.
Anyway, enough ranting - I see that some of the new Onkyo receivers play FLAC files - Has anyone tried this?