Difference Between FLAC and MP3: Everything You Need to Know

Anyone who likes to listen to music has probably heard of MP3 and FLAC file formats. But do you really know what they do? 

Knowing their work can help you decide which one to choose when you next save your music. So, read on to find out the differences between FLAC and MP3.

What are FLAC and MP3s?

They are file formats, right? 

Well, they are much more than just letters after a dot that you save your song under. These are audio codecs that let you compress or decompress a large audio file. 

Or in other words, they are languages by which your audio file is formatted into smaller sizes. Now, let’s look at how each of them works, in detail. 

MP3: Where Audio is Lost in Compression

Yep, you read that right. MP3, or MPEG-1 Audio Layer 3, is a lossy form of audio compression. But what does that mean?

In any music piece (or in any media, even videos), there are some parts that are just out of the human range of perception.

So, some codecs are designed to eliminate these out-of-the-range pieces from the audio file, thus reducing its size. 

MP3 is one such lossy codec (a codec is an algorithm or a computer program).

This type of compression is termed perceptual coding and is very useful in getting the file to shed its size. 

Thus, there are different MP3 resolutions, like 128kbps, 190 kbps, 320 kbps, etc. The higher the number/bitrate, the higher the resolution, and the more details you can hear in the audio.

Fun Fact: Most music players use MP3s, but many have the option to convert other file formats to play it in MP3.

FLAC: Where Audio is Compressed Without Loss

FLAC works in a different manner. This acronym stands for Free Lossless Audio Codec. That is, in compressing an audio file, FLAC doesn’t eliminate pieces of the music. 

Instead, it compresses the audio file in toto and reduces the file to half the size of the original. In a way, this is both a blessing and a curse. 

You see, MP3s can compress the audio several times smaller than its original size, though with massive bit loss. FLAC, on the other hand, leaves a much larger end result, with no loss to the music at all. 

This millennium has already witnessed a massive technological surge, and storage spaces are no longer an issue for most of us. For that very reason, the larger lossless audio files of FLAC are gaining in popularity. 

This doesn’t mean that MP3 is not still the most popular audio file format. And MP3 gets you a decent seat at the table too in its higher resolutions, like say, from 190 to 320 kbps. 

Fun Fact: Many music streaming apps have HD and Ultra HD music files. They often use the FLAC file format because it gives you a much higher bitrate than the highest resolution MP3s!

Final Verdict- Which One Should You Choose?

You now know all the differences between FLAC and MP3. So which one are you going to choose? 

Most of the music players and headsets support MP3, and we have loved this file format since it was born in the nineties. 

But technology shifts, and sometimes for the better. You do not have to be smack in the middle of a concert now to enjoy the details of the music. 

In fact, lossless audio codecs like FLAC makes it possible to enjoy highly detailed music better than if you were in a live concert. 

So, when you encounter these file formats next, we hope that you would remember what you learned in this post. Have a blast, guys!

Vitaly Fedorov

Vitaly Fedorov is a seasoned audio technician and writer. After spending ten years in a studio team, I have decided to spread my knowledge to people in this domain. On this site, I work for headphone fixing or repair issues, that you’re thinking about fixing. Click on any article on my site and read the complete answer about that issue. I am excited to read your feedback.

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