Why I love .FLACs

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In the article assigned, The 10 Algorithms that Dominate Our World, #8 was MP3 compression. Initially, I thought that the more general category of data compression would be more appropriate as shrinking files of all types – from pdfs to psds – is incredibly important in the dissemination of data among users. We discussed in class the mp3 being described by an author as “promiscuous.” Part of what enabled the popularity of the file structure was its relatively tiny size. This enabled sharing as well as compatibility across a litany of devices. Similarly, services like Netflix and Hulu would be impossible without modern video bit rate reduction techniques. Data compression also allows us to spend relatively little time buffering and more time binging. And while we’re on the topic of video, its own digital proliferation can also be attributed to compression. Videos are everpresent nowadays whether it’s on our phones, laptops, or smart fridges. This is also thanks to techniques that convert these video files into universally readable formats which are also in file sizes previously thought impossible relatively recently.

Also, in thinking about mp3 compression I think we should also take a moment to appreciate uncompressed music formats. I personally love .FLAC. The file size of an .flac is usually about 10 times the size of an mp3. It’s a totally uncompressed audio file format that is often referred to as ‘lossless’ audio. Another popular lossless format you may have heard of is m4a.


I don’t have my entire library in lossless format. 90% of the time and for about 98% of the music in my library, I don’t need to deeply and granularly appreciate the minutae of an artist’s work. But for a few albums, it’s really important for me to be able to sit down and take in everything the artist and producer intended with the recording. This is the type of specialized, intense listening that lossless file formats enable.

Posted from My blog by Will H.