February 5, 2008


by Chris Randall

Question of the day:

Is FLAC...

(a) Just stupid by itself?

(b) An example of how people that don't understand audio should stay away from making programs for converting formats?

(c) An example of how FOSS software almost always blows?

(d) All of the above?

I'll take what's behind door number four, Monty. I'm preparing to spend the day in format conversion hell, because of a stupid-ass console program that makes a redundant format that, for some bizarre reason, about 10 extremely vocal consumers prefer. In that light, FLAC and AU are disturbingly similar. I will do this, of course, but don't expect me to be happy about it. (In that light, FLAC and AU are exactly alike.)



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Feb.05.2008 @ 12:46 PM
Flacs decent. MP3 is shit.

Wonder if it's possible we'll ever see some Michael Barnsley fractal compression techniques.

They've been using em' on satellites forever.


Feb.05.2008 @ 12:49 PM
Chris Randall
FLAC = almost exactly the same thing as a broadcast WAV in a zip file. It is redundant.

MP3 is fine if it isn't a 128 straight comp. VBR centered at 160 is almost indistinguishable from The Real Thing. Jack that center up to the high 200s, and I absolutely defy anyone on the planet to tell the difference. If you say you can, you're lying, just like you were when you told your friends you went cow tipping.



Feb.05.2008 @ 1:03 PM
Try listening to Quaristice as an MP3.

Entire swaths of the songs go missing.

Not cutting it for me. Even 44.1khz is holding back music. The dynamic range is shit. Anything approaching 18k devolves to aliasing.


Feb.05.2008 @ 1:06 PM
i don't get it, what lossless format should consumers use then? Apple Lossless?

2 more years and the difference in bandwidth and storage space between 2:1 and 10:1 audio compression is negligible anyway, right? but if you want to keep a nice tagged archive of a bunch of audio isn't FLAC the only option right now?

and i bet i could a/b VBR mp3 vs. lossless.


Feb.05.2008 @ 1:08 PM
I did some recent test with a bunch of different compression methods (flac, ape, zip, 7zip, rar), Monkey's Audio (.ape files) offered the best compression I could find (based on a balance of speed of compression and reduction size).

Can't say why FLAC is more popular, other than it was the one Autechre had heard of when they took it to Bleep. I always convert FLACs back to WAV any way, so the utility of all the tagging info is lost on me.

Good MP3s are fine by me. LAME is such a fantastic tool, I think it negates c).

I like the idea of being able to get lossless files upon request post-purchase. Since you're likely to get less than 100 people in a year asking for lossless, might as well offer the service but spare yourself the pain of mass encoding.


Feb.05.2008 @ 1:10 PM
Subliminal Fusion
There are 2 big advantages to FLAC over a zipped WAV.

1) Tagging
2) The ability to play the files directly

#2 is even more important when you consider the software and hardware support.

As for the sound quality, for casual listening, MP3 is a fine format (when the bitrate is sufficiently high). It's also not going to get in the way of most critical listening for most people. The big issue is that it prevents you from moving to a different lossy codec in the future without throwing away even more data.


Feb.05.2008 @ 1:11 PM
Chris Randall
It's not so much that FLAC is better or worse as a format. It's just the implementation that is fucking stupid. The front end that comes with the program is the gayest waste of bits I've come across in a long time, and I'm not going to go in to reasoning, because that, in and of itself, would be gay.

It's like this: AAC is transparent and consumer-friendly because (a) it is a homogenous format, and (b) it was made by probably 2 guys that were paid to sit at a desk and hash it out, rather than 500 Red Bull-amped teenagers that wouldn't know software usability standards from Medal Of Honor 4.



Feb.05.2008 @ 1:26 PM
Maybe using something like foobar2000 to convert would make it less painful?

Feb.05.2008 @ 1:27 PM
AAC is MPEG4 with optional DRM. It was developed mostly by Dolby for Dolby Digital encoding (AC3) as I recall. AAC at 256kbps sounds amazing even for classical. I'm listening to Vaughn Williams' Pastoral Symphony in this format at the moment and it's blissful perfection. And it plays on my iPod, unlike FLAC. Who would want a delivery format that doesn't play on the vast majority of players?

Feb.05.2008 @ 1:29 PM
Chris Randall
Amen. Jeff is absolutely on the money with that. In order to play FLAC on the most ubiquitous player on the planet, you need to convert it to AIFF or WAV first. Then, you might as well just make an AAC. And there is no FLAC to AAC transcoding, period.

In an ideal world, the Zune and Creative's shit would play AACs, and we'd all be happy.



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