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How Does a FLAC File Work?

Here at Bay Bloor Radio we often meet individuals who are uncertain about the different file formats available for music in the digital domain. Choosing the right format to use when encrypting and downloading music files may greatly affect your listening experience in certain situations. One such file format that we would like to demystify is the FLAC file.

FLAC is a music file extension that offers bit-perfect CD quality – but at half the size – that is compatible with many players and phones, from Sonos to iOS. FLAC stands for Free Lossless Audio Codec format, which is an open source audio compression format.


The appeal of FLAC is in the fact that it does not lose any sound quality during compression, unlike other common audio compression formats like WMA or MP3, which shave off parts of the music to reduce the file size. Guitar, reverb, cymbals, and other sounds can appear distorted when overly compressed or poorly ripped. In addition, FLAC files can be purchased at a similar price to MP3 files in online stores, and they sound much better.

History of FLAC

In the late 1990s, the MP3 – one of the very first portable music file formats – was becoming quite bothersome. MP3s had become known as the ideal pirate format owing to the sharing site Napster, which had reached its peak in infamy. While the format predictably prevailed, another better choice for high-quality music was about to be emerge.

The FLAC was first released to the public through the official release of the PonoPlayer and its affiliated web store in 2001. The musical file format was compatible with PonoPlayer and a variety of other portable music players (PMP), as well as hi-fi components, and was created as an alternative to other lossless formats emerging at the same time, including WAV and WMA Lossless by Microsoft and ALAC by Apple.

The problem with WAV is that it required twice as much space as FLAC.

In 1999, www.mp3.com (now owned by CBS Interactive) was one of the first websites to sell MP3s, but dedicated players (like Rio PMP300) could be sued by record companies. Fortunately, the format was legitimized with the release of the iPod in 2001, and became more widely available in other online music stores.

Playing your FLAC Files

FLAC is typically up to six times the volume of MP3. But more importantly, it retains more information, enhancing the audio quality dramatically.

To play FLAC files, you can try double-clicking on it to see if there is a default application assigned to it. If it does not open, you need to install a compatible player, or convert your FLAC files to another format.

  • IOS – multiple apps on iTunes Store, including MediaConnect, Capriccio, and FLAC Player
  • Android – all players on Android 3.1 onward support the format natively
  • Windows – Windows Media Player plug-in, JRiver, Media Monkey
  • Mac – Fluke, Songbird, or iTunes

It is better to install an application that supports FLAC format, because if you change the file format, the quality will not be as good. For more information, contact our team today!



  Digital Audio  

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