Back in 1995, the research organization called The Fraunhofer Society introduced the world to what might be the most popular audio format to date. Yes! We're talking about the good old MP3. The launch of MP3 brought a massive revolution to the world of audio and audio players. Even though it is still one of the popular audio formats, consumers now have more options under their belt.
If you're somewhat of an audiophile, then you already know what we'll be talking about. We're looking at the Lossless Audio Formats. Today, we're going to deep dive into the world of audio formats that bring forth a whole new experience to the table.
We can't just go ahead and talk about Lossless Audio Formats without explaining what actually is the Lossless Audio. To explain this effect, we're going to use our imaginative powers. Image a "condensed" version of a book. After reading this book, you still understand the story, characters, and other aspects. You might end up missing out on a few details, but that's okay. That "condensed book" is an MP3 audio format. You still enjoy listening to music, but you end up missing out on some details.
On the other hand, there is a detailed version of that book, and it contains a few extra details that you might not want to miss. That's a Lossless Audio Format. Unless you have excellent sounding equipment and a good ear, you will not be able to differentiate between them. With that said, some people like to read the whole book (or in our case, that few missed out details). If you want to know more about the latter, then you are in the right place.
Now you understand what Lossless Audio is and how it's different from the popular MP3. It's now time to talk about the Lossless Audio Formats. The Lossless Audio Formats follow a type of compression that allows them not to lose any information. In such formats, the original uncompressed data can be recreated. Of course, the whole compression and uncompression are very elegant and complicated.
For those who're unaware, uncompressed audio formats encode both sound and silence with the same number of bits per unit of time. There are a plethora of Lossless Audio Formats out there, and out of them, FLAC is the most popular one. In fact, some even consider FLAC as the best lossless audio format.
As mentioned earlier, there are many lossless audio formats out there, such as FLAC, ALAC, DSD, MQA, and much more. Out of so many lossless audio formats, how come FLAC is the most popular one? Well, we'll try to answer that in this section.
FLAC (short for Free Lossless Audio Codec) is a lossless compression format supporting hi-res sample rates. The fact that it is compressed and still offers hi-res audio output makes it the most popular choice of users. FLAC files generally don't take up that much space compared to other formats such as WAV or AIFF. Just like MP3, it can also store metadata, which is a plus point for many users.
You might have already guessed the other best part about the FLAC audio format. It's the fact that it is royalty-free. It's completely free and open-sourced, and this might be the principal reason for the sheer popularity of this format experience.
When it comes to other lossless audio formats, the story is a bit different. While some of them are not free but compressed, some of them are not compressed but free. In such a scenario, FLAC ends up being at the sweet middle spot pleasing both casual music listeners as well as a little more technical listener.
If you're someone who owns music CDs and wants to explore the world of FLAC, then you don't need to sweat yourself. You can easily rip your music CDs to FLAC lossless audio format. In this section, we're going to show you how to rip CD to FLAC?
Note: We don't promote ripping CDs, and depending on your location, it might even be illegal to do so. This is just for an educational purpose.
● For Windows, the best CD to FLAC converter is Extract Audio Copy. The software is entirely free, as well.
● For Mac, you can go for XLD (short for X Lossless Decoder). This one as well is free to use.
● For Linux, the closest alternative to EAC is the Rubyripper. Of course, this one is free as well.
In this guide, we'll be going ahead with the Extract Audio Copy on Windows. With that said, the steps will be, more or less, the same for other OS as well.
Note: While installing EAC on Windows, make sure to uncheck the GD3 Metadata Plugin. Otherwise, you will have to shell out $8 for the feature.
● Install the software on your Windows PC, and during the first run, it will walk you through the setup wizard. Don't skip it at all. The walkthrough will configure your CD drives and other settings.
● Also, make sure to tick the 'I prefer to have accurate results' options when asked. This will pop-up while configuring your CD drive. After a few more next buttons, you will come across selection for a lossless audio format. Choose FLAC on the Encoder Selection screen.
● You will be asked to enter the email address for the freedb DC database. Make sure to fill that in as well.
● Once the installation is complete, you will be asked to run the AccurateRip test. Make sure to allow that as well.
Once all the pre-config is done, you will see the software's homepage, where we will commence with our ripping process.
● Insert your music CD into your Optical Drive and then look for CD in the FreeDB database. This will allow the conversion to fetch the music metadata, automatically saving you from a lot of hassle.
● To do that, head over to Database>>Get CD Information From>>Remote Metadata Provider.
● Now, click on the CMP option located on the left-hand side. This will begin the copy of tracks to compressed FLAC lossless audio format.
● You will now be asked to select the destination folder. Choose the desired one.
After waiting for a couple of minutes, you will be able to enjoy your favorite music in the lossless FLAC audio format. It's that easy!
If you're not old-school and don't have music CDs, you can make use of the accessible entertainment source - YouTube. Unlike ripping CDs to FLAC, we need to do some extra steps in this case since you can't just go ahead and convert the video to FLAC on the go. We need first to convert YouTube to MP3 and then convert the MP3 to FLAC format. Thankfully, there is a website that handles both.
● Head over to Ontiva and paste the YouTube link to download audio from the video.
● Select the MP3 format and download the 320kbps one since it will be of higher-bitrate, meaning higher quality.
● Once downloaded, head over to the Audio section on the same Ontiva page and select MP3 to FLAC conversion. This will redirect you to Ontiva's other website that handles such conversion.
● Now, select the MP3 file and then hit the Convert button. You will now get the converted FLAC lossless audio format.
Using Ontiva makes the entire process quite easy, and this is our go-to tool to do the same.
DVDFab Video Converter is the best tool to convert YouTube to FLAC converter with its convenient downloader, fast conversion speed, rich profile library, advanced customization tools and intuitive interface. It can download and convert YouTube videos to formats like MP4, AVI, MKV, FLV, MP3, FLAC, AAC in an easy and quick way. You can use this tool on Windows and Mac.
Now, you already know more than enough about FLAC audio format and how you can even rip your CDs or convert YouTube videos. As mentioned earlier, there are numerous other lossless audio formats apart from the mighty FLAC. In this section, we'll talk about other popular ones briefly.
Unlike Windows and Linux, Apple's ecosystem, be it iOS or Mac, doesn't support FLAC audio format. It's because Apple has its own iteration of FLAC lossless audio format, and it calls it ALAC. As expected, ALAC is not royalty-free and open-source. It comes close to the FLAC but still lags behind in some aspects. For instance, the compression is not that impressive, resulting in a slightly larger file as compared to FLAC.
WAV (Waveform Audio File)
WAV is yet another popular lossless audio format developed by IBM and Microsoft. The audio format offers excellent quality but is quite heavy in terms of file size. It's because WAV is uncompressed. Sadly, it has poor metadata support, which is a deal-breaker for many users out there. With that said, WAV has lost its popularity nowadays, mainly because it can contain lossy and lossless audio files.
Windows Media Audio might be one of the most popular and oldest audio formats out there. In early 2003, Microsoft introduced a new lossless version of the WMA audio format for those who prefer lossless audio quality. Sadly, WMA Lossless is no longer well-supported on today's devices like smartphones, tablets, or computers.
Apart from ALAC, AIFF is yet another Apple's very own lossless audio format. This one was designed to take over the WAV, so you can already guess that it's not that popular nowadays. ALAC has much better metadata support and is uncompressed, so expect huge file sizes.
APE is yet another lossless audio format with the most compression resulting in a much lesser amount of space consumption. Coming to the quality, it's quite similar to that of ALAC or FLAC. Sadly, not every other device supports APE audio format, which is why it is not that popular. If you have compatible devices, then you should give this audio format a try.
MQA is yet another lossless audio compression format that offers hi-res files to the user. It's primarily used for audio streaming over the internet. The popular streaming service that uses this audio codec or format is the Tidal Masters. The service is known for offering excellent sound quality, which is possible thanks to the MQA file format.
With that, you have now graduated the beginner's class of lossless audio formats. With the right equipment, you can now start to enjoy the hi-res audios and experience those minor details that you used to miss earlier. It is worth noting that you also need to have an excellent ear to notice the difference, and like every other skill, you can eventually develop it. We hope that you learned a lot about the lossless audios from our comprehensive guide for beginners.
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