Sunday, February 21, 2010

The Year of the FLAC

“She comes out of the sun in a silk dress running like a watercolour in the rain. Don’t bother asking for explanations, she’ll just tell you that she came, in the year of the cat.” Al Stewart.

What does that have to do with this post? Nothing really, other than I think in lyrics too much and this post is about FLAC and I think of 2010 as the year of the FLAC. FLAC stands for Free Lossless Audio Codec. FLAC is a format for storing music digitally that does not lose any of the quality of the music. FLAC is a mathematically lossless format. Most common formats (like MP3s you buy at Amazon) are such that some of the audio quality of the recording is lost. With MP3s we tradeoff a little music quality for smaller file sizes. Most users of digital music don’t mind the tradeoff or won’t be able to tell, especially if playback devices (like computers speakers or an iPod with so-so headphones) are not that great. But, for others the loss of audio quality is annoying and they may want to store music digitally in a format that is the same quality as the audio CD. FLAC can do this.

The FLAC format naturally requires more storage than the common formats (like MP3 or WMA) but still less than what full CD track would. For example, the track by Klaatu Calling Occupants of Interplanetary Craft stored as WMA (Windows Media Audio) at 128kbs (average quality) takes up 6.9 MB. The same track stored in FLAC format is 49.6 MB or about 8 times bigger. But hey, it’s just storage. The real goal is to have all these FLAC tracks available for our friend Sonos.

So far we are about 500+ CDs into a 3,000 CD chore. We are using dBpoweramp to help. Uh, can we just buy these again? At the current rate it will really take a year and it is rightly so the year of the FLAC.

Update 2010-10-12: the conclusion of the project is discussed here.

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