What Is FLAC?


FLAC, which stands for Free Lossless Audio Codec, is a compressed audio format similar to the MP3 but without the loss in audio quality. The format is popular among audiophiles because it provides CD-quality sound while taking up much less storage space.


  • The FLAC format was initially developed by John Coalson in 2000. Unlike the MP3, Coalson developed the FLAC as an open-source platform. As a result, other parties, most notably, the Xiph.org Foundation, have had a hand in the development and proliferation of the audio format.


  • FLAC files possess significantly higher sound quality than MP3, AAC, WMA and other lossy formats. For example, if a FLAC were created from a WAV file, the fidelity would remain CD-quality but 50 to 60 percent smaller in size. This is great for archiving CDs and other WAV files.


  • Although FLAC is clearly superior to its lossy rivals when it comes to sound quality, ripping a CD to FLAC instead of MP3 means the audio file will be roughly 10 times larger.

Playing FLAC Audio on Your Computer

  • Finding audio software to play back FLAC files is a little tricky because popular players, such as iTunes and RealPlayer, can't support the format without third-party plug-ins. However, a number of media players can read FLAC files, including Songbird, Winamp and MacAmp.

FLAC In the Media

  • The loss of sound quality inherent in MP3s is a major issue for many artists. As a result, a few artists are beginning to release their albums in FLAC format. Radiohead released its pay-what-you-like album, "In Rainbows," in a number of formats, including FLAC. "Electric Arguments," an album by Paul McCartney and released under the pseudonym "The Fireman," was also made available in FLAC.

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