What’s the difference between MP3s and FLAC?

Outside of the discs that come with box sets and the occasional impulse purchase, I’m pretty much done buying CDs.

I’ll continue to use MP3 rips and Apple’s AAC files, of course, because they’re just too convenient–and because I have nearly 100,000 songs on my computer.

But for the purposes of my personal music library–the music I reserve for serious listening–my digital allegiances have switched to High-Resolution Audio, uncompressed files purchased from sites like HDTracks and ProStudioMasters. Once you hear the clarity of these recordings (thanks to their higher sample rates), it’s really hard to go back to anything less. (Hey, Apple! When will iTunes and iPhones be able to handle Hi-Res Audio?)

Plunging into this world is not for the faint-hearted. Special audio gear needs to be purchased. Speakers and headphones must be chosen with care. And chances are you’re going to want to buy your favourite albums AGAIN in the new format.

But if you truly want to immerse yourself in music, it’s worth it. I have a killer version of Lou Reed’s Transformer album that reveals new details and nuances every time I listen to it. Same thing with The Doors’ LA Woman; listening to “Riders on the Storm” in High-Res MQA is to hear the song for the first time.

If you’re looking to make the leap, you need to read up on a few things first. For example, you should familiarize yourself as to why is FLAC better than MP3? Read this from Digital Trends.

Keep reading.

Here are five other High-Res Audio albums I can recommend without hesitation.

  1. Legend, Bob Marley and the Wailers: Even though you’ve heard these songs a billion times each, you’ll notice bass notes that weren’t there before. Outstanding.
  2. Who’s Next, The Who: Did you know that there’s an acoustic guitar all the way through “Won’t Get Fooled Again?” A High-Res version brings it out beautifully.
  3. Brothers in Arms, Dire Straits: Perhaps the most exquisitely recorded album of the CD era.
  4. Graceland, Paul Simon: The more you listen, the more you hear.
  5. Ten, Pearl Jam: The mix for songs like “Alive” is far, far more complex that you might realize.


Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

Alan Cross has 38413 posts and counting. See all posts by Alan Cross

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