Digital audio comes in various formats. For most of us, the kind of format doesn’t really matter to us, as long as they are readable on our media player. However, if you are an audiophile, the format of your digital music is a pretty big deal. This is because you notice differences that most people never could in different formats. If you have ever found yourself wondering, what the best audio format for your music is, then, this article is for you.
MP3 vs FLAC
In this article, we will look at the features of two of the most popular file formats available namely FLAC and MP3. What do you need to know about each? What distinguishes the two? Which one outshines the other? to help you decide which one is ideal for you.
So MP3 format is often described as ‘’lossy’’, meaning that you lose some data in MP3 files during compression which is not lost with FLAC which is described as ‘’lossless’’.
In short, creators of MP3 files choose to remove some of the information and/or sounds that cannot be heard by most people and in the process make the files smaller. This ultimately impacts the quality negatively. On the flip side, no information is lost with FLAC during compression so you maintain the original quality.
When you compare these two formats in terms of quality, FLAC always wins.
Lossless files whether encoded or compressed still retain their quality.
Compressed lossless files have a reduced file size, which makes them easier to store and distribute.
On playback, they can be decoded to the original uncompressed state, with no degradation of the signal.
When encoding or compressing Lossy files, psychoacoustic analysis is used. Algorithms detect inaudible masked content which isn’t heard because of other sounds and discards this information.
This ultimately means that you can never restore these lossy files to their original form and quality.
Now that you know that FLAC has better quality, the next natural question you would ask yourself is, does better quality equal better sound? This answer is not so black and white. That is why a lot of people often purport that they do not notice any difference between the two.
The difference you hear totally depends on the kind of the subwoofers and sound system you are using. Cheap, low-quality subwoofers and an inferior sound system ultimately lead to FLAC files sounding similar to MP3.
This can cause you to pick MP3 over FLAC, after all, MP3 files are smaller and if they sound just the same as FLAC, why would anyone want to pick FLAC over MP3? So yes, the sound difference is very clear and better when listening to FLAC files over MP3 files, but you have to use quality devices.
Believe it or not, size also does matter. The size is dependent on you as an individual as well as on the type of devices you intend to use.
Let’s say you are just looking to listen to your favorite sounds on your laptop or phone, would it make sense to buy lossless files?
No, it doesn’t. The lossy MP3 kind would do just fine. However, ensure you do not select the smallest files available because the smaller the files, the lower the quality of your music will be.
If you can afford to invest in good headphones and a great quality sound system, it is advisable that you always go for the lossless formats for the best listening experience.
As we already established in earlier paragraphs, MP3 files are lossy, which means that they are missing some data from the very start and so in case you ever need to convert them to any other format, you stand to lose even more data.
You do not have this problem with FLAC files. You can convert these lossless files into any other format such as WMA lossless, lossy MP3, etc, and still retain their original quality, no matter how many times you copy or convert the file. This means that they last you longer.
MP3 files can be played on just about every single listening gadget in the world because their compact size enhances fast distribution on the internet.
On the other hand, the playability of FLAC files is not the same. While FLAC is gaining popularity by the day, it still hasn’t made it to the list of default formats on a lot of devices, even those that have the ability to play FLAC files. It will take a while for FLAC to gain as much popularity as MP3 but in the meantime, why not play all your lossless-format sounds on any of the other countless media and music players available such as VOX music player for iPhone and Mac?!
In a nutshell, the main advantage of MP3 is the compact file size, compatibility with digital media players, and good sound quality, as long as you encode at 320kbps while Flac stands out for its ability to retain its original quality even after compression or encoding and its great sound quality which ensures you hear everything you are meant to.
As you can see from this article, there are advantages and disadvantages to both FLAC and MP3. In a nutshell, I would suggest that you listen to both before you make up your mind about which one works best for you. You might even find that you like both formats equally and hey! Ain’t nothing wrong with that!