While digital files like MP3s and Apples AAC format fantastically convenient, they’re still compressed formats, meaning that in order for them to be made so small, audio information needs to stripped out by an algorithm. The science of psychoacoustics says that we’re not supposed to notice that anything is missing, but there are studies that indicate that our brains know better.
If you want better digital audio, you need to step up to what’s known as a “lossless” format. Perhaps the most popular type is known as FLAC. But what, exactly, is that? CNET explains.
FLAC (Free Lossless Audio Codec) is a musical file format that offers bit-perfect copies of CDs but at half the size. It is compatible with many phones (including the iPhone — with an app), portable music players (PMP) including the and hi-fi components. FLAC files are available for roughly the same price as the equivalent MP3 in online stores and sound much better.
To see where FLAC has come from and where it is headed, you only need to look at the history of its “lossy” predecessor. Though MP3.com was one of the first sites to sell MP3s in 1999, dedicated players like the Rio PMP300 were subject to legal action by record companies. Yet when the iPod was released in 2001, it helped to legitimize the format, and today MP3s are now sold by most online music stores.