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How to play FLAC audio

Written by James Delahunty (Google+) @ 21 Mar 2008 10:50 User comments (10)

How to play FLAC audio Due to unprecedented interest in a Convert FLAC to MP3 guide posted on AfterDawn last year that has since grown, we decided to add an article on how to play FLAC (Free Lossless Audio Codec) on your computer. While we usually stick to video playback guides, we noticed that many users may have been converting to MP3 out of a perceived necessity, but since FLAC is lossless we thought we would save those users from reducing their audio quality.
The article covers simple methods to play FLAC including built-in support for VLC & Foobar 2000, but more importantly covered configurations to get FLAC audio playing on DirectShow-based players like Media Player Classic and Windows Media Player, the latter which also shows how to add support for FLAC audio tags in the Media Library.

How to play FLAC files:
http://www.afterdawn.com/guides/archive/how_to_play_flac_files.cfm


It would be a good article for our forum users to show to anybody asking about FLAC, as it is only a few steps to setup your software to be capable of playing FLAC audio just like MP3. We have received an incredible response for the multimedia playback instructions we have offered so far. Thank you very much for the positive and critical feedback over the past months and to the users who have sent readers toward them.

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We are constantly updating our list of instructions on playing multimedia on whatever can play it and we have many more in the works. If you have any ideas we would certainly love to hear them.

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10 user comments

121.3.2008 19:40

Thank you so much for all the hard work it took to put this guide together. Now if someone can answer something for me---I have my movies, and tv shows in HD now whats the music equivelint of that? Is it FLAC or AC3?

222.3.2008 11:32
diabolos
Inactive

AC3 is the same as Dolby Digital which is the standard for DTV/HDTV audio streams.

Ced

324.3.2008 9:33

Originally posted by AlBundy:
Thank you so much for all the hard work it took to put this guide together. Now if someone can answer something for me---I have my movies, and tv shows in HD now whats the music equivelint of that? Is it FLAC or AC3?

That depends on what you consider equivalent. AC-3 uses lossy compression to achieve more channels, but lower quality than uncompressed audio. High resolution audio, which is more or less equivalent to HD video, typically uses 24 bit samples (significantly larger than CD or DVD-Video) and 96,000 or 192,000 samples per second (96kHz or 192kHz) to achieve much higher quality. Although FLAC can be used to encode hi-res audio, no consumer video format supports it. The most common high resolution audio format would probably be uncompressed LPCM, followed by Dolby TrueHD (originally MLP), and way back in the distance would be DTS-HD Master Audio.

430.3.2008 18:29
ClintJCL
Inactive

How can you write an article like this and not address Winamp?
What The H???

531.3.2008 9:35

I am still trying to find someone that can give me an intelligent reason why I should play a FLAC file instead of convert to 320 BR mp3. I have asked this question on many threds discussing FLAC files hear and in other audio forums. I have never gotten a reply let alone a good explaination. Granted the Flac stores 4 times the data but if you can't hear the difference why keep something 4 times bigger, just for grins? I know if you wish to edit and save a lossy format of anything resolution is lost. However, I would never edit a tune even if it had a pop in it due to it was a vinyl capture. I capture as a wave but eventually store as a 320 mp3. I believe they faithfully store up to 20,000 htz tones. This is was a child or a jungle person can hear. Anyone exposed to load noises for long can't hear tones that high. I know I can't. I know I can hear the difference between a 128 BR and a CD. I am not so sure I can tell the difference between a 160 BR and a CD. I figure at 320 BR (twice that rate) I certanly can't tell. The sample rate for a CD exceeds what a human can hear. Flac maintain that sample rate. They are about 1,2000 BR.

631.3.2008 10:15

Originally posted by Mez:
I am still trying to find someone that can give me an intelligent reason why I should play a FLAC file instead of convert to 320 BR mp3. I have asked this question on many threds discussing FLAC files hear and in other audio forums. I have never gotten a reply let alone a good explaination. Granted the Flac stores 4 times the data but if you can't hear the difference why keep something 4 times bigger, just for grins? I know if you wish to edit and save a lossy format of anything resolution is lost. However, I would never edit a tune even if it had a pop in it due to it was a vinyl capture. I capture as a wave but eventually store as a 320 mp3. I believe they faithfully store up to 20,000 htz tones. This is was a child or a jungle person can hear. Anyone exposed to load noises for long can't hear tones that high. I know I can't. I know I can hear the difference between a 128 BR and a CD. I am not so sure I can tell the difference between a 160 BR and a CD. I figure at 320 BR (twice that rate) I certanly can't tell. The sample rate for a CD exceeds what a human can hear. Flac maintain that sample rate. They are about 1,2000 BR.

Just because your ears can't tell the difference doesn't mean no one's can. In fact the human ear is quite capable of distinguishing between not only CD and MP3, but CD and hi-res formats like DVD-Audio.

Obviously it's dependent on both your playback equipment and ears, and I haven't seen anyone suggest you should worry about a difference you can't hear. But that doesn't mean other people shouldn't worry about it just because you can't hear it.

731.3.2008 14:23

First off, thanks for the reply. I will try not to come off as a smart ass. I am actually trying to learn. It is possible I donít know all the facts. I have read a good deal on audio but I donít know everything.

I did state I am not sure I can even tell the difference between 160 and a CD. My question to you is can you hear the difference between a 320 BR and a FLAC.

DVDs are something different. HD DVDs have much more band width than a CD and have more tracks. The DVDs can produce more sound in a hearable range because it plays more tracks. I donít doubt that someone listening intently can hear the difference if the music is fuller even if their ears are shot like mine. You might be able to hear the difference even if you are not listening intently.

I am trying to be specific to the mp3 320 BRs. Not only do the compresses the data but I believe it lowers the sample rate so that tones beyond 20,000 Hz are not reproduced accurately. Fletcher-Munson loudness phenomenon states we really canít even hear the extreme ranges of our hearing well. The sounds tend to mute out gradually instead of just cut off. However, these tones were shown to add richness to music. That is the grey area. This is where the experts tend to disagree.

Dogs can hear much higher frequencies than humans if I was making music for them I would have to do things differently. Human ears are created equally but degrade when broken by damaging noises that are produced at a rock concert. Age also degrades what a human ear can hear. A 320 BR is supposed to keep up to about 20 Khz the end of human hearing. Most of the music data is kept to reproduce the high frequencies. Not only does a 22,000 hz have 1,000 times the data than a 22 hz tone but the sample rate of the music has to be much higher. You have all this data to faithfully reproduce tones that you probably canít hear and even if you can you can barely hear them

Lastly, my playback equipment is plenty good. In fact, it is very extreme. The speakers can faithfully reproduce 4-26,000 hz. While the human ear can only hear 20-20,000 hz. Even though the human ear can not hear tones below 20 hz you can sure feel the sub tones. 4 hz is truly awesome. The power amp is truly a magnificent dinosaur. It can do 440 watts RMS per channel with 1% distortion. Actually, that is what you need to drive the speakers which are ultra-inefficient. No, I would never buy a stereo like that today even if I could afford to.

830.12.2008 1:29

I don't claim to be an audio expert by any means but in answer to your question Mez, this is my take on it, I dont believe there is any differences between mp3 320kbs and flac audio that any normal human being can hear, but as mp3 encoding does lose some of the original audio data it is not considerd to be archival quality.

So if you want to make a digital master copy that you can be sure is the most perfect digital copy of the original possible, but do not want to store huge .wav files you would use lossless compression like flac.
The flac file can then be used as, and considerd to be, your original unaltered digital master for archival and copying purposes.

For general listening purposes when u want your digital audio to be compatable with lots of different devices and applications, with maximim quality, while keeping the file size reasonable (4x smaller than the flac), you should use the high quality mp3 encoded at 320kbs.

To summarize,
Archive = flac
Listening = mp3 320kbs

930.12.2008 2:05

Just something I wanted to add to my previous post.
So to finish answering your original question, there really is no intelligent reason why you should play a flac file instead of a mp3 320kbs file.
That is not to say you shouldnt use flac for general listening if you want to, just that the 4x bigger file size using up space on your device would be your loss for no audible gain, and the lack of compatibilty with other audio devices and applications would also be your loss for no audible gain.
It is probably also worth mentioning there are other good reasons for using flac files such as in scientific applications where audio signals way out of the range of human hearing may be recorded and preserved using lossless compression. These types of sounds would probably be destroyed by the mp3 encoding process which is specificlly designed for audio within the range of human hearing.

1030.12.2008 8:40

zonedout, I agree. I have picked up quite a bit in a year. A 320 CBR mp3 completely captures the limits of a perfect human ear and the sub sonic tones as well. By the age of 21 most persons can only hear below 18 KHz and by 25 all humans lose the ability to hear high end tones (mosquito tones). There are mosquito ring tones used by students in school so teachers/professors canít hear them. They are teenage dispersal devices that drive teenagers from malls but canít be heard by paying customers.

My research did not find any ear phone, ear bug or any other like devices that plays in the ultrasonic range. Possibly because ultra sonic tones can't be heard but are the most damaging of the sound waves. The manufactures may be avoiding law suits. The only devices that produce ultrasonic sounds are extreme speakers.

Lossless files are useful for archiving digitized analog music. It is a pain to digitize analog music. Just because you can't hear it does not mean it is not there. What lossless fiends do not understand is a wave file of 1 hr of silence is the same size as
1 hr of complex music. A file of all 0s is not very valuable.

Persons that listen to lossless on their mp3 players are fooling themselves when they believe they can hear the ultrasonic tones because their ears can't hear the tones and the ear buds can't reproduce the tones. No, they aren't hurting anyone when they do.
as posted by vurbal.

Quote:
Just because your ears can't tell the difference doesn't mean no one's can.
Humans are basicaly built the same we have 2 eyes we can't fly we do not have x-ray eyes and we do not hear ultrasonic tones. vurbal you just have delusions of grandure. You must believe you have superhuman hearing abilities. Can you see through walls?

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