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The differences between FLAC and MP3, Lossless vs Lossy

post #1 of 46
Thread Starter 
The time has come where you can get a 500GB or 1TB hard drive for pretty cheap. Space is no longer a issue for most people. A lot of people are wondering what music format they should use, and what's the difference in quality between each format is.

Lossy Format
This means when you rip a CD, you lose audio data and quality. The most common lossy file is MP3.

Lossless Format
This means when you rip a CD, it is an exact audio copy and you lose no quality. The most common type of lossless files are FLAC and WMA Lossless. A good comparison of lossless formats can be found here.

Will you be able to hear a difference between lossy and lossless?
Depending on what you use to play your music, what your speakers/headphones are, and how good your ears are, you may or may not notice a difference between them. Some people, however, cannot hear the difference between them even on the highest end of hardware.

Does my player support lossless?
Some portable music players (iPods, Zunes, etc) will not play certain lossless formats. You should check to see if your player can handle it, and what lossless format your player likes best. Foobar and Winamp should be able to play all type of lossless formats, however WMP11 will only play WMA Lossless.

Lossless is more future proof than Lossy
The best thing about the lossless format is that you can convert FLAC to WMA Lossless and back to FLAC as many times as you want without losing any quality. The same goes for any lossless format. With lossy format (MP3) each time you convert you lose quality and cannot get it back.

Picture Comparisons
Here are some pictures to show exactly how much data you lose between formats, and what the typical file sizes of each format is. The highest being the best quality, and the lowest being the worse quality. These pictures are high quality PNG images, so they may take awhile to load.





I hope this will help some of the people that are confused with the different formats and what the differences are between them. The absolute lowest you should go is 192KBPS MP3s or the quality loss will be very noticable to most ears.
Edited by Murlocke - 4/11/10 at 7:39pm
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post #2 of 46
you should put a pic up for a WAVE format, 24bit 96khz ftw
    
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post #3 of 46
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Armadi110 View Post
you should put a pic up for a WAVE format, 24bit 96khz ftw
I would have, but Adobe Audition does not support 24bit/96khz.. atleast when I try to load the file nothing happens. I believe the data would look the same as lossless though.
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post #4 of 46
Great.
post #5 of 46
Which lossless formats do ipods support?

Also, what is a good, free app for ripping my CD's into aforementioned ipod-supported format?
Edited by tehpwnerofn00bs - 5/11/08 at 11:17pm
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post #6 of 46
Quote:
Originally Posted by tehpwnerofn00bs View Post
Which lossless formats do ipods support?
Apple Lossless codec
post #7 of 46
Also, you want to look out for this little bugger here:


Do you see the line going through it? It means that the original source (what the recording was taken from, whether it be master tape, CD etc), was NOT a lossless format, and thus its considered lossy and not very good. Just my $0.02
    
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post #8 of 46
Quote:
Originally Posted by Odyn View Post
Also, you want to look out for this little bugger here:


Do you see the line going through it? It means that the original source (what the recording was taken from, whether it be master tape, CD etc), was NOT a lossless format, and thus its considered lossy and not very good. Just my $0.02
Aka, most likely a vinyl or tape.

*EDIT*

Also I had a little lol at this guide. My friends says that I'm too touchy, supposedly you can't hear a difference between 128 and 192, or 192 and 320.
I can't hear that big a difference between 192 and 320, but it's there. The way of ripping the CD is also an important step of it all. If you rip it too fast, you'll have the ability (lol) to get clicks, pops and ambient noise on your file.
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post #9 of 46
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by tehpwnerofn00bs View Post
Which lossless formats do ipods support?

Also, what is a good, free app for ripping my CD's into aforementioned ipod-supported format?
The best programs would be:
Exact Audo Copy (EAC - Free, and a very confusing application to learn)
Easy CD-DA Extractor (Costs)

I use Easy CD-DA Extractor. It will convert virtually any format to another format as well as rip to any format. Remember to set the highest error checking quality, as well as CRC checking and verify data boxes. It takes alot longer but you'd be surprised how many times a RIP gets bad CRC checks which means something didn't go right.

Remember: Converting lossy to lossless (AKA MP3 to FLAC) will not increase quality and will only use more space on your hard drive, infact if you do this it my be lower quality than the MP3 was to begin with. There is no way to convert lossy to lossless, however you can convert lossless to lossy which is the same thing as ripping from the CD.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Odyn View Post
Do you see the line going through it? It means that the original source (what the recording was taken from, whether it be master tape, CD etc), was NOT a lossless format, and thus its considered lossy and not very good. Just my $0.02
Yea most lossless files (espically ones that come from CDs in the 70s and 60s) will be alot lower, but lossless should never be below the 18500HZ line. If it is, you program just go a transcode (someone converted a MP3 to lossless, so its just a big MP3 quality file)

Quote:
Originally Posted by gonX View Post
Aka, most likely a vinyl or tape.

*EDIT*

Also I had a little lol at this guide. My friends says that I'm too touchy, supposedly you can't hear a difference between 128 and 192, or 192 and 320.
I can't hear that big a difference between 192 and 320, but it's there. The way of ripping the CD is also an important step of it all. If you rip it too fast, you'll have the ability (lol) to get clicks, pops and ambient noise on your file.
It really depends on the persons ears and what setup you have. My HT speakers cost more than most peoples cars, and the difference between 320KBPS and lossless was rather big. My friend who is not a audiophile agreed he could hear a difference between them, but said he didn't care about quality as long as he had music. Some people are like that I guess
Edited by Murlocke - 5/12/08 at 4:51am
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post #10 of 46
Quote:
Originally Posted by Murlocke View Post
99% of human ears should be able to tell the difference between 192KBPS and 320KBPS MP3s on almost any setup.
With respect, I'm a bit dubious about this statement. Do you have any proof to support it? Everything I've read about people being able to tell different MP3 versions apart shows that, actually, the majority can't tell the difference. Certainly, most people can't tell the difference between 320kbps MP3 and lossless, based on what I've read anyway.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Murlocke View Post
Converting a MP3 to lossless will not work and will certainly feel up your hard drive faster with music that is the same or worse quality than it was before you converted.
LOL! Dirty so-and-so, feeling up ma' hard drive .

Seriously, though, I'd love to see some data on people being able to tell 192kbps, 320kbps and lossless apart.

Also, did you include variable bit rate MP3s? They dial down the bit rate for quiet sections of music in a track and dial it up for more complex sections, resulting it a smaller file, with great sound quality throughout.

Nice straightforward analysis otherwise!

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