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Old Oct 27, 2009, 08:26 PM   #1
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Default flac files vs. MP3

Is the main reason some people favor flac files strictly because of sound quality? Is it that plus size of the file? Both? Having just started downloading/ripping music from the internet, I am still getting my feet wet and a bit fuzzy as to what the big deal is. The MP3s sound fine to me. All I know is that it is a hassle time-wise to download the flac, convert to wav then convert to MP3 for iTunes/iPod. Any input from anyone??
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Old Oct 27, 2009, 08:38 PM   #2
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FLAC is the best sound quality you can get, just like a WAV file, it's as if you have the original CD itself. FLAC is just a condensed version of a WAV, to make it easier to e-mail or download. At least that's the way I understand it. So if you're trying to get a master recording of something, it's the only way to go.

Downloading a FLAC file does take more time than an MP3, but you can skip one step in your scenario. There are good free software programs out there that will convert directly from FLAC to MP3 in one step.

To me, for computer/iTunes/iPod playback, an MP3 is plenty. I mean, unless you're just insanely particular about audio, a good quality MP3 is fine.
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Old Oct 27, 2009, 08:49 PM   #3
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I wondered about this myself a while ago and actually learned a bit about it in an Educational IT class I took in my teaching program. FLAC files are lossless files, which means all the data from the original source is retained during the conversion process; mp3 files are 'lossy', which means that data is compressed or discarded during the conversion process to make the files smaller (allowing for ease of transportation). This obviously leads to a loss in sound quality, and you're right, the primary reason for choosing FLAC over mp3 is the sound quality. FLAC files are larger by necessity but serious audiophiles do not consider this a major hindrance -- they just buy bigger hard drives with more storage capacity and keep on FLAC-ing

There are a lot of great conversion tools out there that make listening to FLACs easier. Fluke is a program you can download for free that tricks iTunes into playing FLACs without converting them first. I think you can download it for PC as well as Mac. It's really easy to use, but the downside is that you're limited in what you can do with them once they're in iTunes (for example, you can't add album art... I don't know why, but it seems to be a problem a lot of people have and might be fixed in upcoming releases). Max is another free program that converts files easily as well, but it's only available for Macs right now, as far as I know. Those are just two, but I'm sure there are a zillion more you could find that would work for you.

Instead of converting your files to mp3s, why don't you try m4a? Of course you won't hear a sound difference between them if you're converting all your lossless files into lossy formats anyway, but m4a is Apple's lossless audio codec and is a format supported by both iTunes and the iPod.

Hope this helps!
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Old Oct 27, 2009, 09:34 PM   #4
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Thanks for the input, I did some reading this afternoon online and it was pretty much what you guys said. Audio quality is very important to me, however, I know that--being human and all, no matter how perfect the 1's and 0's are put together, I will only be able to process perfection up to a certain point. Then no matter how digitally perfect something is, at a certain level, it will be wasted on my tubes. Same reason I could never justify paying $20,000 for a pair of speakers. Valuable info though, thanks again!
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Old Oct 27, 2009, 09:42 PM   #5
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You're welcome -- one more thing to consider: if sound quality is important, purchasing a good set of around the ear noise-canceling headphones is a great idea, especially if you can't afford a state-of-the-art surround sound home theatre sound system (and really, who can? ). It will go a long way towards making your regular mp3s sound better, and any FLAC files you listen to will sound amazing, too! I got mine for about $100, and they're not the best you can get (I was at Best Buy and their headphones topped out at around $400, but you can probably find more expensive ones still), but they're pretty awesome!
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Old Oct 28, 2009, 05:50 AM   #6
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Thanks again Maggie. You're right--a really good set of 'phones is so key. I have a nice set, and I do prefer the nice big ol' headphones especially for the bass response.
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Old Oct 28, 2009, 10:34 AM   #7
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Totally! I love my headphones -- they're also great for tuning out the hubby when he decides he needs the TV volume on full blast to watch the hockey game or something!
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Old Oct 28, 2009, 10:50 AM   #8
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Ha! Those sports nuts don't know what they're missing, but I suppose hockey is a religion in Canada.
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Old Oct 28, 2009, 11:00 AM   #9
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By the way, the program I use for converting is called xrecode. It's very basic and easy to use, and it converts everything to everything. It used to be free, but I guess now they want a donation. Try searching online for older free versions...
http://www.xrecode.com
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Old Oct 28, 2009, 11:07 AM   #10
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Thanks Jerry. I'll look into it because just getting into it, I downloaded Winamp to convert flac to wav, then import those to iTunes to convert to
MP3, so any way to save some time/hassle is of mucho interest.
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Old Oct 28, 2009, 11:09 AM   #11
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Quote:
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Ha! Those sports nuts don't know what they're missing, but I suppose hockey is a religion in Canada.
Oh boy, you said a mouthful there! My husband is also a Beatles fan, but if he had to choose between them and an Oilers/Flames game, I think he'd go with the game... *sigh* I just don't get it!
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Old Oct 28, 2009, 04:12 PM   #12
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It's okay Ms. Maggie, YOU ROCK!!
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Old Oct 29, 2009, 11:11 PM   #13
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There's a huge difference in quality between a 128/192 kbs and a 320 kbs mp3 though. You can listen to m4a in the Windows Media Player as well by installing a codec package.

Btw, my hubby is Swedish/Canadian and he can't stand hockey, poor guy!
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Old Oct 30, 2009, 06:08 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by hibgal View Post
There's a huge difference in quality between a 128/192 kbs and a 320 kbs mp3 though. You can listen to m4a in the Windows Media Player as well by installing a codec package.

Btw, my hubby is Swedish/Canadian and he can't stand hockey, poor guy!
Not all Canucks are spoon fed hockey from birth... but it helps when in a bar surrounded by other Canadians to at least have a passing knowledge of the sport!

Good point about the mp3s -- there is a huge difference. Most of my mp3s were ripped at 128 kbps and so when I listened to them again in FLAC I heard a major difference. Maybe there's not so much of an audible difference between a 320 kbps mp3 and a FLAC, but it's still going to give you a better quality recording and if you have proper listening devices!
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Old Oct 30, 2009, 08:05 PM   #15
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The Swedes are as bad about hockey as the Canadians, Maggie. If you're both Swedish and Canadian and don't like hockey...

As to the flac, they are usually 2-3 times as large as the best quality mp3 you can have. I don't debate the quality preference for the flac though. Still, each format has its place, pros and cons. If you mostly listen in your ipod/car stereo going places then the sound quality is of less importance than, say, sitting at home immersing yourself in the music.
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Old Oct 31, 2009, 05:36 AM   #16
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I've learned alot from youze guys the past few and again, I really appreciate the info. I don't know if you are into downloading bootlegs, but this is a site that 99.9% of their stuff is flac. And alot to choose from.
http://www.qualitybootz.blogspot.com/
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Old Oct 31, 2009, 01:50 PM   #17
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Quote:
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The Swedes are as bad about hockey as the Canadians, Maggie. If you're both Swedish and Canadian and don't like hockey...
Oh boy, yeah, I guess you got a point there! Who does he cheer for in the Olympics?!

Quote:
Originally Posted by hibgal View Post
As to the flac, they are usually 2-3 times as large as the best quality mp3 you can have. I don't debate the quality preference for the flac though. Still, each format has its place, pros and cons. If you mostly listen in your ipod/car stereo going places then the sound quality is of less importance than, say, sitting at home immersing yourself in the music.
Too true -- I wouldn't bother with the flac unless you have really good headphones, or a really high quality stereo system.

Glad we could help, 834!
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Old Dec 23, 2009, 03:38 PM   #18
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I just download flac files, burn them to CD's and then import the CD into iTunes.
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Old Dec 23, 2009, 05:52 PM   #19
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I'm glad you kind of revived this. I downloaded a few more FLACs this week and still don't get how to enjoy them--what I mean is they have to be broken down into wav, then mp3s anyways for iTunes/pod, so what good does it do me? Unless you just listen to the files and don't want/need to put them into your iPod then you can enjoy the flac files. Don't know.
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Old Dec 27, 2009, 07:17 PM   #20
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One problem with MP3 files is that someone will burn an audio cd from them, another person then rips that to MP3. It doesn't take many conversions until the quality is horrible. While you can convert from flac to wave and back to flac again with zero loss.
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