MP3 or FLAC lossless

I want to buy the Decemberists album from their site. I have to choose between 320 kbps MP3 and FLAC lossless.
What’s the difference? Which is better?

In terms of quality - FLAC, of course, because it, well, is ‘losless’ in terms of range. Most people probably won’t notice the difference between FLAC and MP3 @ 320kbit though. FLAC files are, unsurprisingly, bigger. If storage is no problem for you, you could simply go for FLAC, and later convert it to some other format of your liking. (Many MP3 players don’t support it.)

Wow. No answers yet? Okay.

[Edit: Curse this verbosity of mine]

FLAC - Stands for Free Lossless Audio Codec. It’s basically a zipped up WAV file that can unzip in real time. This is the highest quality audio version that you’ll be able to get. It won’t see native support on about half of MP3 players, but for long-term storage and cataloging, I would go with this, no question, and then downsample for portable devices. If you’re using MediaMonkey this is theoretically pretty easy to do.

MP3 - MP3 is a lossy compression format - the parts of the song that “you don’t hear” get removed in order to make a much smaller file. Whereas FLAC will probably be about 1/3 to 1/5 the size of a straight rip to WAV of a CD, MP3 gives you more like 1/50 the size. I find it kind of tough to believe that it’s 320 fixed (more likely VBR with 320 ceiling), but if it is, you MIGHT not notice the difference between the two.

My take - if you’re using some kind of media manager, you should always get the least lossy format you can to store your stuff. You can always downsample the FLACs to whatever size of MP3 with only one step of data loss, but if you get the MP3 you’ll go through a double-lossy conversion to shrink it any further. I’m kind of a geek, though.


Well, I got the FLAC files and now wish I hadn’t. There’s something wrong with them. The songs end abruptly, and the player can’t play them continuously. I sent them a ticket so I’ll see how this goes.

Whoa, that’s odd. Did you try multiple players?

By most you mean 99% of people right?
Because unless you are rocking amazing speakers or headphones, it won’t make a difference. Especially from FLAC to 320 mp3.

Dude, just convert the files to Mp3. It is most likely your player doesn’t like the FLAC.

This test is pretty cool:

OK, problem solved. Apparently I am a total music noob (and hysteric).
The songs don’t abruptly end, they are supposed to be listened to without pause. Problem was that Winamp won’t play them that way for some reason (to the uninstall room!).
Something called Songbird plays it most excellently.
The album itself is also great. Haven’t enjoyed music that much in a long time.

Get FLAC and transcode to MP3 with LAME. Same audio quality, far better compatability and lower file size.

What’s the best (free) way to burn a CD out of it?

“Best” is subjective. You could decompress to WAV using the FLAC frontend or any of the free conversion tools you can find on SourceForge and then burn with almost anything that burns. Alternately, you could grab MediaMonkey and use it. I like MediaMonkey as a media manager anyway, so that’s how I’d go.

Yeah, but he should’ve at least single-blinded the results: randomly sort each combination of pairs of bit-rates for the same song and simply say which one he thought sounded better. Then compile those into an ordering to determine at which point he was unable to determine a difference.

If you’re going to do a rigorous test with $3,500 audio equipment, at least pretend that you know something about designing a sound experiment.

But (Free) is not.

You could get foobar2000 and convert all of your individual flac files into one big flac file. I listen to a lot of ambient music (robert rich, enigma, etc.), and it’s much easier to listen to albums this way rather than mucking about with playlists for individual CDs.

Does the free version of Mediamonkey burn CDs? It certainly understands flacs. Though again, I don’t know about the gapless playback part.

I don’t know if it is the best, but it is free, and it takes flac files…

I looked at that article a while ago and thought it was rather idiotic. They make no mention of how they ripped the mp3s. There are great sites like Hydrogenaudio that have a lot of information. Instead of the different bitrates he used, why didn’t he just use VBR and be done with it.

The problem I have found with FLAC is that itunes doesn’t support it. What do you all consider the best way to convert FLAC files into a format supported by itunes. Itunes, obviously, necessary so that I can listen to them on my iphone.

foobar2000, again, allows for easy conversion between formats. I use VLC as my player & foobar as my converter.