A-101 answers all your questions on the AAC file format.Read More
Your Intro to all things audio.
Welcome to Audiophile 101 your continuing introduction into all things audio brought to you by Pocket Rock It Radio! A-101’s mission is to help give you some audio knowledge by answering any audio related questions you may have in simplistic and easy to understand terms.
We want to help enable you to become a better informed connoisseur of music, no matter how far down the sound wave rabbit hole you want to go.
In this chapter we will take a look at the FLAC audio file in an effort to answer the question, what is FLAC?
FLAC is a audio file type known as lossless compression. It is called lossless compression because when the original audio file is compressed to create the FLAC audio file all of the original audio files information is retained. This allows for making the FLAC audio fidelity better than its lossy compressed counterparts [MP3 / AAC].
FLAC stands for ‘Free Lossless Audio Codec’.
Yes. The FLAC audio format is one of lossless compression, where MP3 is lossy compression. This means that when the original audio file is compressed to create an MP3 audio file information is deleted from the audio file to make it digitally smaller. Where as with the FLAC audio file format all of the information is retained, and since no information is deleted during compression to FLAC it allows for more better audio fidelity [clarity] and a better overall listening experience.
Nourishment for your noodle!
FLAC audio files are compressed by rewriting the existing audio files digital information in a more economical way that originally recorded. This rewriting of data reduces the overall file size while still making it possible to retain all of the original information. In some instances the silence from an audio track is deleted to minimize the file size further. (Yes, even recorded audio silence takes up space).
For more on how a FLAC is made check out : A-101 Chapter 2 – Lossy vs. Lossless
Yes. While the information has been coded differently during the creation of the FLAC audio file unlike it’s lossy compressed counterpart all of the audio files original information is retained so you are able to revert to the files original lossless audio file type.
FLAC is a lossless audio file type, due to this the FLAC has higher bit rate capabilities resulting in a greater dynamic range that is available for the artist, audio engineers to work with. The additional digital information also means there is more information to be consumed by your ears resulting a better listening experience over lossy formats. In lay-mans terms the higher bit rate means more space for instruments, sounds, etc, thus resulting a deeper – fuller listening experience.
For more on bit-rate see A-101 : Chapter 3 – What is bit rate?
In theory the FLAC audio file should sound as good as a WAV file. Technically the FLAC contains all of the information contained in the original WAV file so the two should sound identical.
It should be noted that it is hypothesized that because FLAC needs to be decompressed in real time by a audio codec [computer software], that the extra computing caused by this real time decompression can result in some VERY minor audio degradation.
NOTE: That in order to notice this phenomenon you’d need to have a good enough equipment set up to actually reveal these slight audio blemishes in the playback, and should not be considered a hinderance to standard listening.
In most situations FLAC [lossless compression] will sound great, and work just fine however if you have the best and are attempting to get the best listening to a truly lossless audio format such as WAV or AIFF may be the way you want to go.
Using the WAV uncompressed audio format for all listening purposes would be great in a perfect world. It’s just the file size of a WAV means your audio files would take up a lot of space, FLAC audio files allows you to maintain the audio quality of uncompressed audio while using half the storage. With the added benefit of if there ever came a day where you’d want to turn the file back into a WAV audio file you are able to. Utilizing a lossless compression audio file format really gives you the best of both worlds.
There you have the basics of FLAC. The lossless audio format that has allowed for a high quality listening experience while saving devices on storage space, and streaming services on data usage like some sort of digital audio superhero.
Sure if you have a very high end Hi-Fi sound setup FLAC may come with a very minor draw back. For the majority of listeners when comparing FLAC to its totally uncompressed counterparts the differences will go unnoticed. Sothat’s not going to stop our enjoying of it, and shouldn’t slow you down either.
Until next time, happy listening.