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?
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
—THIS IS WHAT AUDIOPHILES ACTUALLY BELIEVE
—Well, he's certainly right about being an arrogant, elitist, analog snob, everything else is bullshit.
The Problem with FLAC
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.Dead 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 WinampDead 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!
For easy trolling of FLAC users, follow this simple guide:
- Take some unpopular album from your music library. Ensure it isn't easily available in P2P networks.
- Make MP3 256kbps files from it and upload to rapidshare, mediafire, megaupload, bittorrent, etc.
- Audiophiles will start to ask for FLAC version. Make it:
- Make very low quality mp3s out of MP3-256s (encode in something like 32 kbps with constant bitrate (CBR))
- Re-encode those low-bitrate mp3s as .flac files and upload 'em (make sure to mark them as FLAC)
- Publish link to your "lossless" version as response to audiophiles' complaints.
- Pseudoaudiophiles will be very satisfied with sound quality improvement.
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)
FLAC is part of a series on
FLAC is part of a series on
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|Featured article January 8, 2010|
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