Geek Stuff

FLAC vs MP3, Which is Better and Can You Hear the Difference?

FLAC stands for Free Lossless Audio Codec and is an open-source file format which offers CD quality audio sound at half the size. It is an increasingly popular music format for audiophiles that’s compatible with many PCs, phones, AV receivers, blu-ray players, streaming devices like Roku or Fire TV and even cars like Ford’s SYNC infotainment system. Because the codec is lossless, there is no loss in audio quality.

MP3, which is a lossy MPEG-1 or 2 Audio Layer III format, is still the most popular music and audio listening codec that pretty much compatible with every device on the planet. The benefit of MP3s is file size. Depending on the bitrate used in the compression process, the same song in MP3 file format can be 6 times smaller than a FLAC file. Because it’s compressed, you lose audio information and certain information are thrown away during the coding process and lost forever.

With a FLAC file, you can recode it into any other audio format without worrying about losing information. However with a lossy format like MP3, each time you convert it into another audio format, you’ll continue to lose audio information.

So then the question of which one is better andcCan you really hear the difference between FLAC and MP3 (encoded at a high quality bitrate of 320 kbps)? Well, it depends.

One, do you care? For those who doesn’t really listen to music quality and are satisfied with radio quality music, then it probably doesn’t matter to you.

Two, do you have hi-fi sound system or headphones? If you don’t have the audio equipment and speakers to take advantage of full audio information like CDs and FLAC files, then it probably doesn’t matter as well. If you are listening on bluetooth speakers or in your car with stock speakers, then MP3 320 is probably perfectly fine. But for those who have awesome home theater or audio sound system, then you can definitely hear the difference. Music encoded with FLAC provide wider soundstage and sounds fuller, much like a CD would. Instruments are clear from vocals. Give it a try with a pair of hifi headphones and you’ll surprised how much better a FLAC file sounds. Yes, size matters! More bits means more information stored.