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This article shows how to turn Free Lossless Audio Codec (FLAC) files into MP3 files. The benefits to this are obvious, the files are smaller and have better support among software and hardware players (also use less power when playing on supporting MP3 players). The drawbacks also exist too; MP3 is a lossy format. FLAC is lossless, which means it loses no audio information from it's original source, it is just compressed and can be returned to its original state at any time.
Introduction & Requirements
WinRAR ---> WinRAR is required to extract LAME MP3 Encoder, a download vital to the process (other ZIP extraction software is fine too).
LAME MP3 Encoder ---> You need this software for the conversion to MP3.
Foobar 2000 ---> A popular audio player with a wide range of support for playing audio files and converting them to other formats. You need this.
Converting from FLAC to MP3 should not take too long and won't take up too much hard drive space.
Install Foobar 2000 and Lame MP3
Run the Foobar 2000 installation. The steps involved are self explanatory and don't need to be explained in detail here. The installation should be very quick and you will have the option to run Foobar 2000 for the first time at the end of the process. You must also install the LAME MP3 encoder software onto the computer, which is not so straight forward but still easy.
Open the LAME MP3 download with WinRAR. If you have Windows XP or newer, then you can open the download in a folder which is also fine. The ZIP file contains several files and no folders. These must be placed into a folder on your Hard Drive. Create a folder called LAME somewhere.
If using WinRAR, simply select all the files in the ZIP file when you open it (hold CTRL + A to select all files) and drag then across into the folder with your mouse (left click and hold your finger down, move the files on top of the new LAME folder and release). WinRAR will now extract all the files as seen above.
If using ZIP folders (opened ZIP file in Windows XP/Vista) then select all the files with your mouse (or select one of them and then press CTRL + A together). Copy the selected files by pressing CTRL + C together. Now open the newly created LAME folder and hold CTRL + V together to paste the files into the new folder. When you are done, run Foobar 2000.
Open FLAC files in Foobar 2000
To open FLAC files in Foobar 2000, either use the Open Files option in the file menu or simply drag and drop FLAC music files onto the program itself while it is running. It will display the file in its playlist like seen above. You can play the file now if you wish as FLAC is natively supported by Foobar 2000.
So let's go ahead now and convert our FLAC audio to the more familiar and smaller MP3 lossy compression format.
Select a FLAC file (if you want to select many then just hold down the CTRL key and click them) and right click on it. Move the mouse down to the Convert sub-menu as shown in the picture above. Now click Convert to... and Foobar 2000's conversion options will pop-up on the screen.
The Converter Setup program allows you to select different audio formats to convert source audio files to. Foobar 2000 is a very powerful application on its own, but for some of the conversions it will need outside software (might even need a plug-in simply to support the source audio, APE for instance). From the Encoding Preset drop-down menu, select MP3 (LAME).
Now click the button beside the drop-down box with the three dots in it. This will allow you to select a bitrate and determine the output quality of the resulting MP3 file(s).
This is obviously easy to understand, simply move the slidebar to the left for lower quality but smaller files and to the right for higher quality and larger files. The default is 190kbps. This is a variable bitrate option which means it will be of higher quality (generally) than CBR MP3 audio. You will still suffer inevitable quality loss from the FLAC --> MP3 conversion; about the same as the quality loss when ripping CD-Audio to MP3. Make your bitrate selection and click OK.
You will now be back at the Converter Setup. Click OK and Foobar 2000 should now attempt to locate the LAME.EXE file.
Please locate "lame.exe"
Remember where you put the LAME MP3 Encoder files from earlier? I hope you do because now you must use the file explorer window that pops-up to locate the lame.exe file in that folder. Without locating the lame.exe file, Foobar 2000 won't be able to convert the FLAC audio to MP3. Navigate to the folder, select lame.exe and click Open.
Once you successfully locate the lame.exe file and click Open, the encoding process will begin. When asked where to save the file or files, select a folder of your choosing.
In most cases, this conversion will happen very quickly. If you selected multiple files then it will go through them one by one. Please remember to always check the output MP3 files before you delete the FLAC files.
Hopefully you will have successfully converted FLAC audio to MP3 audio for your personal use. If you need to repeat this process again, you won't need to point out LAME.EXE anymore to Foobar 2000, just right click and select Convert to. If you have any problems with this method, please visit our Discussion Forums and ask for help.
v2.0 -- August 31st 2008 by Dela - Much simpler process than previous Winamp / iTunes method. Whole new article.
v1.0 -- August 6th 2007 by Davedough - First version published to site.
Written by: Dave "Davedough" Horvath
Last updated: 30 September 2008
Last updated: 30 September 2008