FLAC or AAC? Find out which audio format is best

FLAC or AAC?  Find out which audio format is best

Consumption of music on current devices may involve using files other than MP3, as the creators of the format are abandoning their license program. Among the new types of audio files that have gained space are FLAC and AAC. With different proposals, they serve broader but conflicting usage and consumption profiles: FLAC is for those who demand maximum quality, giving up space, since the files tend to be large. AAC can be seen as a more conventional option: small file sizes, but with better sound quality than the old MP3.

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1 of 2 Audio formats are divided between lossless (of maximum quality) and lossy, compact and of inferior quality – Photo: Luciana Maline / dnetc

Audio formats are divided between lossless (of maximum quality) and lossy, compact and of inferior quality – Photo: Luciana Maline / dnetc

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Understand the points that differentiate FLAC and AAC files to know which of the formats best suits your needs.

Digital audio file formats are divided into two types: lossless (lossless) and lossy (where, on the contrary, there is loss).

A lossless type file, such as WAV or FLAC, has as its main characteristic the fact that the sound stored in the package is true to the original: that is, in the process of converting the CD track, all the sound information related to the song has been preserved fully, without any loss, ensuring high fidelity to the file. The problem with this is that the result is a large file: a WAV track can be over 40 MB.

The lossy format refers to an approach in which the conversion of the original audio to the final file (MP3, AAC and etc.) goes through a compression process in which a variable amount (depending on the chosen bitrate) of information is eliminated to guarantee a smaller file size. In the case of MP3, the ratio is 10 to 1: a 40 MB WAV returns a 4 MB MP3, at 128 kbps.

This information, eliminated in lossy type conversions, is usually defined automatically by the conversion software based on theoretical precepts related to the frequencies that our ears are able to identify. The problem with this approach is that there are ears and ears, there are devices and sound devices, and there are songs and songs: some details of the songs can be eliminated in an MP3 or AAC because the conversion ignores them.

2 of 2 Not all AAC and MP3 are the same: a low bitrate file will be of much lower quality than a version with a higher bitrate – Photo: Tainah Tavares / dnetc

Not all AAC and MP3 are the same: a low bitrate file will be of much lower quality than a version with a higher bitrate – Photo: Tainah Tavares / dnetc

Quite simply, it is the amount of information that runs in a given amount of time when you listen to the music. If the file is 128 Kbps, it means that, every second, 128 kilobits of information are executed. If the file is 320 kbps, it is 320 kilobits per second. The higher the value, the larger the sample and, in general, the higher the sound quality of the file.

FLAC-type sound files are converted from originals using a compression process called lossless. This attests that the compression of the music from a CD, for example, does not represent loss of information: the sound quality faithfully represents the experience of listening to the same track from a medium.

The point is that the FLAC format ends up «charging a high price» for all that quality. First, the files get bigger (a single song can be over 20 MB in size), restricting the amount of tracks you can store on a player and making it difficult for anyone who consumes music from streaming with Tidal: o weight of the file can consume your plan and represent a bad experience, if your connection is slow and it is necessary to interrupt the playback to load the song.

In addition, in general, the user does not have sound reproduction equipment that really takes advantage of the high quality of lossless FLAC. The use of low quality headphones, paired with inferior media players, can eliminate the advantages related to the higher quality of a lossless file, when compared to MP3 or AAC.

AAC is lossy file type, but better than MP3

AAC differs from FLAC in a very noticeable way due to the lossy approach. AAC music uses a compression process that does represent a loss of sound quality from the original material. However, from a technical point of view, the possible sound quality in AAC is superior to that in MP3, since this format is more recent and has conversion processes that are much more refined than those of MP3, developed even in the years 1980.

This feature – of offering compression factors similar to MP3, but with higher quality audio – encouraged Apple to adopt the format in iTunes, an effort that ended up making AAC more popular.

Regarding the discussion about FLAC or AAC, there is no doubt that AAC is an interesting format for those who prefer space more than loyalty. For the vast majority of users, AAC audio files with high bitrates represent more than enough quality.

Which is better, after all?

If you value sound fidelity, have good audio equipment and disk space is not a problem, the lossless format is the best alternative: FLAC, ALAC and APE guarantee maximum audio quality. In this scenario, the discussion about AAC loses its meaning, since the gain will only be in the file size, but with loss of quality.

The AAC, however, is a good option for those who do not have headphones or high quality sound systems. AAC is even an excellent format for users who have accumulated a large library of low-bitrate MP3s, at 128 kbps. In general, for ordinary users and less demanding listeners, AAC is an audio format far superior to MP3 and good enough for those who give up huge files in FLAC or other similar formats for music.