Digital audio enthusiasts from across the globe have witnessed the dynamic rise and fall of sound quality and media over the last thirty years. The introduction of digital storage media, like CDs, led to the emergence of mass-market access to digital audio.
Music lovers in the 90s witnessed the MP3 revolution, which became extremely popular because of the convenience of faster download times. However, the MP3 compression led to compromises in sound quality, which did not exactly blow audiophiles away. In the current Age of Streaming however, there is renewed hope, with high quality and high convenience becoming available in a new generation of audio formats.
Now FLAC brings lossless CD-quality music in a compact package
Low-quality streaming formats and low bitrate MP3’s are now thankfully in the past with the widening adoption of the FLAC (Free Lossless Audio Codec) format by industry players. CD-quality or WAV music files encoded using older “lossy” formats tend to lose a considerable amount of the information when compressed, thus compromising their quality.
FLAC is the most popular from a new generation of “lossless” audio file formats, which allows the streaming of absolute CD-quality audio with extremely efficient use of bandwidth. Owing to the ‘lossless’ nature of this codec, it allows us to enjoy WAV quality music even as the file sizes are reduced considerably (not as compact as MP3 though). Industry experts describe the open-source FLAC format as both similar and different than streaming.
Our ears are so used to listening to lossy compressed audio that the discovery of high-fidelity lossless digital audio experience can leave us dumbfounded. The moment we play a FLAC media file, we experience audio that feels warmer, sounds which have more definition, fine details start reappearing and the music becomes more pleasurable to listen to.
Here are some benefits that come with choosing the high-resolution FLAC audio format:
- You will experience much improved audio detail with high-resolution music when compared to existing music formats and MP3s, with WAV quality sound being delivered at half the file size. Playback of these files on a portable or hi-fi system that supports these formats offers an enhanced listening experience.
- FLAC also provides a great open-source format for archival of your CD-based music, as it preserves its quality while considerably reducing the drive space required. It tends to be much better than MP3 files which feature significantly lower audio resolution. While the FLAC files are larger than MP3 files, they are considerably smaller than formats like WAV.
Coming soon — FLAC via streaming
Even as the impact of FLAC on our listening experience is expanding, its influence looks primed to get even wider in the near future. Lossless streaming is coming soon to popular streaming music providers like Tidal and Amazon Music, which have begun to offer higher-level plans with access to high-resolution, lossless music.
Several of these use FLAC and upgrading your plan (when available) will give you access to them on your smartphone or other smart music playback devices. Amazon Music HD is one such example and offers HD and Ultra-HD levels of quality in its music library - which offers high bit-rate music ranging from 850 kbps to 3,730 kbps.
How can I enjoy the best FLAC experience?
Support for high-resolution audio is getting increasingly popular with a wide range of audio devices offering support for playback of FLAC files. This includes PCs, portable devices like smartphones and portable music players as well as several hi-fi receivers. Most of these devices now feature the Hi-Res Audio logo, but checking the specific file formats supported is always a good idea.
Several flagship Android smartphones now support lossless audio and phones which do not can be “upgraded” with an external DAC (digital-analog-converter). A portable better solution, however, may be to get a portable hi-res music player which has its own dedicated storage and better audio components too. Be sure to choose a music app that also supports the FLAC format.
At home, a Hi-Res Audio compatible receiver or streaming device offers a close to the perfect solution for audiophiles who need bit-perfect musical reproduction to really enjoy their music.