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MP3 and FLAC format

MP3

MPEG-1 or MPEG-2 Audio Layer III, more commonly referred to as MP3, is a patented encoding format for digital audio which uses a form of lossy data compression. It is a common audio format for consumer audio streaming or storage, as well as a de facto standard of digital audio compression for the transfer and playback of music on most digital audio players.

MP3 is an audio-specific format that was designed by the Moving Picture Experts Group (MPEG) as part of its MPEG-1 standard and later extended in MPEG-2 standard. The first MPEG subgroup – Audio group was formed by several teams of engineers at Fraunhofer IIS, University of Hannover, AT&T-Bell Labs, Thomson-Brandt, CCETT, and others. MPEG-1 Audio (MPEG-1 Part 3), which included MPEG-1 Audio Layer I, II and III was approved as a committee draft of ISO/IEC standard in 1991, finalised in 1992 and published in 1993 (ISO/IEC 11172-3:1993). Backwards compatible MPEG-2 Audio (MPEG-2 Part 3) with additional bit rates and sample rates was published in 1995 (ISO/IEC 13818-3:1995).

The use in MP3 of a lossy compression algorithm is designed to greatly reduce the amount of data required to represent the audio recording and still sound like a faithful reproduction of the original uncompressed audio for most listeners. An MP3 file that is created using the setting of 128 kbit/s will result in a file that is about 1/11 the size of the CD file created from the original audio source. An MP3 file can also be constructed at higher or lower bit rates, with higher or lower resulting quality.

The compression works by reducing accuracy of certain parts of sound that are considered to be beyond the auditory resolution ability of most people. This method is commonly referred to as perceptual coding. It uses psychoacoustic models to discard or reduce precision of components less audible to human hearing, and then records the remaining information in an efficient manner.

FLAC

FLAC (/ˈflæk/; Free Lossless Audio Codec) is a codec (compressor-decompressor or coder-decoder) which allows digital audio to be losslessly compressed such that file size is reduced without any information being lost. Digital audio compressed by FLAC's algorithm can typically be reduced to 50–60% of its original size, and decompressed into an identical copy of the original audio data.

FLAC is an open format with royalty-free licensing and a reference implementation which is free software. FLAC has support for metadata tagging, album cover art, and fast seeking.

Though FLAC cannot store floating-point data, and playback support in portable audio devices and dedicated audio systems is limited compared to lossy formats like MP3 or uncompressed PCM, FLAC is supported by more hardware devices than competing lossless compressed formats like WavPack.

 

What's the difference?

As you can see above, the difference between MP3 and FLAC format is simple. MP3 is a lossy compression audio format and FLAC is a lossless compression audio format. Generally speaking, MP3 sacrifices some frequencies in order to reduce the file size of the audio. Choosing the MP3 version results in a smaller download size, more compatibilty among music devices but slightly weaker sound quality. FLAC version is also at a higher resolution than a CD by means of 24bit audio. In conclusion, MP3 format is reccommended for ordinary listeners who want to listen on their portable devices with no high priority to the sound quality. FLAC format is reccommended for the listeners who want the highest sound quality possible with perhaps a more expensive audio gear (i.e. audiophiles). However, both versions should bring more or less, very comparable listening experience.

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