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If you often download music from the internet (and come on, who doesn’t?), then you may occasionally notice a bizarre occurrence with your audio files. Prepped and excited to listen to whatever shitty album you've just downloaded, you notice that the size is a bit off. You would usually expect a download size of anywhere from 50-100 megabytes, but this particular download just happens to be 3.5 gigabytes in size. Curious and confused, you examine the contents of the folder to find nothing out of the ordinary; all 12 songs are there along with a small .jpg for the album art. You play the files, and to your surprise, nothing sounds different. But you then notice that the songs are encoded in some strange format called FLAC.

At this point, you either delete the folder and search for something of a more reasonable size or you begrudgingly keep the files. But one lingering question still leaves you puzzled: what's the deal with this FLAC bullshit?

What is FLAC?

These are the kind of people that use FLAC.

It's like a compressed Wav file. Since the dawn of modern sound recording with the invention of the phonograph, there have always been individuals that strive to attain the maximum possible sound quality for the best possible listening experience. These individuals then go to great lengths to tell everyone else how much better their audio equipment is and how they cannot possibly imagine how us filthy peasants can enjoy music of such poor quality. These people are known as audiophiles, and they are amongst the most pathetic creatures to ever inhabit the Earth.

In modern day, with digital audio formats being so popular, it is quite easy for one to be an elitist prick when it comes to music. Audiophiles today take great pride in owning physical copies of all of their music and will frequently bitch and whine about how terrible digital audio sounds compared to CDs or vinyl records. However, buying music can be pretty damn expensive, so Jew audiophiles needed a way to act like elitist cunts without also breaking the bank. And thus, Free Lossless Audio Codec, or FLAC, was born.

Lossless audio formats have been around for a few years, and people did a good job of ignoring them for a while. However, they are sadly becoming more popular and pissing off more people by appearing in their music downloads. There are a few different kinds of lossless formats, such as Apple's ALAC and Microsoft's WMA Lossless, but FLAC is still far and away the most popular. The one thing all of these lossless formats have in common is that they are made entirely by and for raging douchebags.

So, you may be wondering what's so special about "lossless" audio. Well, you see, when digital audio files are ripped from CDs in traditional formats (mp3, m4a, aac, wma, ogg, etc.), there is a certain amount of data that is lost during the process. Lossless audio formats eliminate these losses, and are essentially exact copies of the source material. The drawback to lossless audio is that it's not compressed anywhere near as much as standard digital audio files, and thus takes up roughly 85-90 times as much hard drive space as identical sounding "lossy" files.

These tiny bits of lost sound data that your dog wouldn't even be able to hear are inconsequential when listening to the music, as any high quality mp3 rip from a modern encoder is going to be nigh impossible to differentiate from the actual CD. However, one purpose of recovering that lost sound in a digital format is to give snobby music listeners a false sense of superiority. Thus, it can be said that FLAC is pure, unadulterated elitism, in audio form. Basically, it's .wav but can only be played by shitty vlc.

Supporters of this XBOX-HUGE format will often jump into audiophile technical bullshit mode when confronted with the truth, rambling on about how with FLAC, the highs are higher and the lows are lower and the bass is bassier and the midrange is more middly, even though most FLAC supporters only listen to lo-fi indie garbage, anyway. When engaged in such an argument, your best course of action is to simply close your browser window, since these people will never listen to reason. If you're unfortunate enough to be having this debate IRL, it is strongly advised that you punch the opposing party in the face and walk away.

Uses for FLAC

  • Master copies (only legit use.)WAV - more portable, nobody gives up portability for 20% disk space.
  • Making idiots feel special on the internet when they brag about how they can hear tiny differences between FLAC and high quality mp3s, despite the fact that auditory experts can't even do this
  • Letting assholes brag about how large their music collections are, even though this is only due to their use of such a bloated format and that a normal person could have ten times as much music and still take up less space
  • Allowing techno-geeks to fill their needlessly large 50-terabyte hard drive setups with something other than vast quantities of anime and porn
  • Helping hardware companies sell more portable audio players by making older models obsolete, since most players don't support lossless audio
  • Giving audiophiles validation for owning that $8,000 pair of headphones, so that they can pretend to be able to hear the inaudible frequencies that they "lost" with mp3s
  • Quick, efficient e-penis enhancement

FLAC Copypasta

Hearing the difference now isn't the reason to encode to FLAC. FLAC uses lossless compression, while MP3 is 'lossy'. What this means is that for each year the MP3 sits on your hard drive, it will lose roughly 12kbps, assuming you have SATA - it's about 15kbps on IDE, but only 7kbps on SCSI, due to rotational velocidensity. You don't want to know how much worse it is on CD-ROM or other optical media.

I started collecting MP3s in about 2001, and if I try to play any of the tracks I downloaded back then, even the stuff I grabbed at 320kbps, they just sound like crap. The bass is terrible, the midrange...well don't get me started. Some of those albums have degraded down to 32 or even 16kbps. FLAC rips from the same period still sound great, even if they weren't stored correctly, in a cool, dry place. Seriously, stick to FLAC, you may not be able to hear the difference now, but in a year or two, you'll be glad you did.




actually, the man knows what he's talking about, albeit, petty or nonsense to most people. when i've gone back to some really old mp3's from way back 'in-the-day' (90's, Napster, 56k modem) most of my mp3 library sounds like crap, mostly due to the technologies available at the time. i notice an unusually large amount of "pops" in a lot of songs and a 128k rip sounds more flat than a new 128k rip (both sound terrible regardless). anybody who knows how data is written to a disc would know that bits do get lost over time.

i'm an arrogant, elitist, analog snob with 2 vintage hifi systems (1 solid state/1 tube based) that can expose every imperfection in an mp3 file. it absolutely cracks me up when people think their crappy OEM soundcard, crappy best buy cables, and crappy desktop speakers are suitable benchmarks for judging sound quality.

it's pathetic how nowadays people have allowed themselves to compromise quality over convenience and cost. i'm only 34 but just as bitter and scornful as someone twice my age. just wait until i get my FLAC vinyl rip blog up and running!


Well, he's certainly right about being an arrogant, elitist, analog snob, everything else is bullshit.


Aphrodite, it is indeed possible for a human being to tell the difference between the two formats. It's a matter of who's the listener. For instance, should you give 50 average people (randomly picked up on the street) to listen to the the [sic] same music file (without telling them the purpose and the difference), how many of them will say that file number 1 is better, how many will say that number 2 is better, and how many will say that there's no difference? The average consumer won't even care which file he listens to, what he wants is to listen to that lousy ****called rap they dare call music at minimal cost of expenses and size. Then there's my kind. I, like few that can be found today, am an audiophile as well as a musician with a perfect hearing. Thus, I require the highest quality. Coincidentally, I own a X5 media player (Cowon, IAudio -- 20GB bought it for 1800NIS, approx. 450$ at the time, 2 years ago -- dully note that its cost was approx. 200$ in the states at the time), and recently (4 months ago) bought Shure's E2C (For 550NIS, roughly 150$ dully note that this is more than twice its cost in the states. Even though I wanted the SE500 -- but couldn't afford it. I'm underage, can't work without being exploited.), the X5 surprisingly supported FLAC after I installed Rockbox (a year and a half ago), and since then only been using it). I listen only to FLAC unless the music I want to listen to just so happens to be unavailable to me in such a lovely format, so am compelled to use MP3, and am saddened by this but can't complain. Unlike the average person I therefore notice those little details so many fail to. And the major difference is: I appreciate those little sounds. And for the past few months I've been dying to get A3! (Imagine a bazillion emphasis marks) I've considered taking drastic measures and becoming a menace to society just to get it. It's like, I can feel in my hands! I just don't have the money!) -- Same goes for the SE500. (I've actually been waiting for Shure's latest product for a long time now.) The A3 here costs 1900NIS (approx. 540$ -- costs 200-400$ in the states). The SE500 costs 2000NIS (approx. 570$ -- actual cost in the states is 500$ from the official website. I guess I can't complain about this.) Usually people upload Mp3s which sucks. I firstly look for FLAC, followed by APE, WMA (etc.), and when I lose all hope I turn to MP3. Luckily though, lately FLAC has been gaining incredible popularity.


FLAC fanboy being TL;DR and an elitist asshole as usual.

The Problem with FLAC

Scientists were recently able convert FLAC to a drug form. The results were predictable.

You may now be thinking,

"Well, this FLAC shit sure sounds useless, but it doesn't seem to be much of a problem. People who use it may be pretentious faggots, but that's their choice, so it shouldn't matter to me, right? I mean, people still use Linux, and they're mostly harmless."

You would be correct if not for the fact that lossless audio formats are rapidly becoming more popular, and thus accounting for more of your potential downloads. With The Man making life for the modern-day pirate harder every day, online file-sharing can be an inefficient means to get your greedy hands on the things you want.

Most mainstream or popular music can be found easily in various forms, but many older or more obscure works are often harder to find and have only a few viable sources from which to download. Because of this, many albums are commonly available only in FLAC (or some other lossless crap). This problem can be even worse if you're looking for something more obscure like a video game or anime OST. Of course, there are ways to fix this, but it would be nice to not have to go through a pain-in-the-ass decoding/encoding process every goddamn time you wanna download some music.

Okay, so how do I get rid of this shit?

As previously stated, it is possible to correct the terrible mistake that is lossless audio. All you need to do is re-encode the files in a format that doesn't suck. To do this, you need some sort of decoding/encoding software, plenty of which is readily accessible through the power of Google. If you can't be assed to look yourself, allow ED to recommend some stuff for you:

  • FLAC Frontend FLAC themselves offer a program that will easily encode or decode FLAC. Isn't that nice of them?
  • RazorLame - Front-end for LAME (An MP3 encoder) so you don't have to fuck with command lines or source code. You still need LAME, so get it here.
  • Winamp/iTunes - If you already have both Winamp and iTunes, you can pull this off quite easily. Download this FLAC plugin for Winamp if you don't already have it, and use it to decode the FLAC files to .wav files. Then use the encoder that comes with iTunes to encode the .wav files to whatever format you want.
  • Nero AAC Codec Won a bunch of awards that are only important to audiophiles. Or maybe it didn't. Who gives a fuck? No front-end, but the command-line is fairly straight-forward. It works for Windows and Linux. Apple fanbois need not apply.
  • OggDropXPd Drag and drop FLAC files, and it will automatically convert them to OGG. Also supports other annoying lossless formats like APE, WAVpack and LPAC!

Combating FLACfags

For easy trolling of FLAC users, follow this simple guide:

  1. Take some unpopular album from your music library. Ensure it isn't easily available in P2P networks.
  2. Make MP3 256kbps files from it and upload to rapidshare, mediafire, megaupload, bittorrent, etc.
  3. Audiophiles will start to ask for FLAC version. Make it:
  4. Make very low quality mp3s out of MP3-256s (encode in something like 32 kbps with constant bitrate (CBR))
  5. Re-encode those low-bitrate mp3s as .flac files and upload 'em (make sure to mark them as FLAC)
  6. Publish link to your "lossless" version as response to audiophiles' complaints.
  7. Pseudoaudiophiles will be very satisfied with sound quality improvement.
  8. ????
  9. PROFIT!

Bonus points if you intentionally mislabel the song titles.

To sum it all up

FLAC is pure, unadulterated fucking garbage. The only people who claim to acknowledge the difference between properly encoded 320 bitrate "lossy" mp3s and "lossless" FLAC audio are pretentious, hipster trash who think they are better than you because you "totally don't dig" the new Vampire Weekend album. It's a waste of hard drive space and so is .WAV (5 minute song = 55 megabytes, seriously). If you don't want to be a faggot, stick to mp3s. On the other hand though, mp3 is not ideal too. A lot of music on the 'nets are not ripped at 320 kbps CBR but is usually around 128-160 CBR, which do actually sound like crap on good quality headphones. Also, encoding with mp3 is not sample-accurate and does not technically allow gapless playback, hence hindering listening experience of, for example, Pink Floyd's "The Wall" by introducing clicks between tracks. This can be somewhat cured by crossfading, but one will not be able to record a CD with gapless playback out of mp3 sources.

tl;dr, Use OGG, faggot.

If you can actually tell or care about the difference, plz kill yourself

(not to mention Jewtube converts all audio and video to a standard format when you submit)


See Also

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Featured article January 8, 2010
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