flac – Audio Codec of Choice

By | 2011/08/07

Similar to MP3 (but lossless), flac is an audio codec for your music. Instead of ripping to MP3, consider ripping to flac!

flac stands for free lossless audio codec

Why choose flac?

flac is awesome for various reasons:

  • Entire original source file is retained (excellent for CD archiving _with_ metatags!)
  • Zero quality loss (lossless)
  • Can play back on Mac/Windows/Linux
  • Can burn CDs directly from .flac
  • Can go from .flac to any various lossy codecs (ex. flac to mp3, or flac to aac)
  • Is open source / open specs. Your flac-encoded multi-TB collection of audio is in good hands for the future.
  • Easy to use! Simple without the over complexity of options in other audio encoding formats.
  • flac can do 24bit audio for the uber audio geeks out there.

Any downsides?

  • flac is not as universal as .mp3, nor logically as small as the .mp3 format.
    MP3 encoding removes portions of the audio to get down in size. Since flac retains all audio information, files are larger than an mp3.
    Size-wise you will probably get down to about half of the original .wav file size. (One ~650MB CD comes to ~325MB in flac)
    A three minute track is typically around 3MB in MP3 but would be about 15MB in flac.

  • flac may not be playable on your Android device or iPhone. Recent Android roms (such as CM7) have written in flac playback. (yay!) Otherwise, stock Android 3.1 and up reportedly has flac playback native.

To encode a .wav file to flac, simply issue the following command:

$ flac myfile.wav

This create file myfile.flac; myfile.wav is not deleted or altered.

To encode all .wav files in your current working directory use wildcards:

$ flac *.wav 

I use and suggest using tack tack best for the highest compression available:

$ flac --best myfile.wav

To decode, simply use tack d:

$ flac -d myfile.flac

This decodes to myfile.wav. The original myfile.flac is not deleted or altered.

To automate ripping from CD to flac or buring from flac to a CD, there are several good options!

On Linux, use Brasero or K3B to burn flac to CD. K3B or grip are excellent for ripping to flac from CD.

On Windows, the mega-audio ripper of choice is dbpoweramp which is $38. If you are going to be doing serious archieving of your audio to flac and are a Windows user, dbpoweramp is probably worth it. There are other free Windows flac ripping apps such as EAC.

On OS X, a free app Max allows easy flac ripping. Or use MacPorts to install flac and have flac at your command line fingertips. If you don’t already, you should install the xiph.org plugins which allow native Mac applications (iTunes, Quicktime) to playback flac and other formats.

Of course VLC can playback flac without a hitch on Mac Windows and Linux as well.