FLAC or Free Lossless Audio Codec is a free and open-source lossless audio coding format developed by Xiph.Org Foundation and released in 2001. Note that Xiph.Org Foundation is also behind the development and introduction of the OGG multimedia file container.
The Pros: Advantages of FLAC
A typical FLAC audio file consists of the file format itself, the encoded audio, and metadata. It is a lossless coding format developed to compete against lossless codecs used in file formats such as WAV and AIFF and lossy codecs such as the MP3 audio codec and the AAC standard.
It is also interesting to note that this codec has gained native support in some devices and software. FLAC support is included by default in Windows since Windows 10, Android mobile operating system, BlackBerry 10, and Jolla devices.
Below are the advantages of this audio coding format:
• Lossless Coding Format: This format is designed for lossless coding. This means that it encodes an audio source or an audio file into a specific file format without losing its original audio data unlike lossy formats and standards such as MP3 and AAC.
• Free and Open-Source: Individual and organizational users can use this codec without needing to secure licenses. This provides specific cost advantages to small record producers, device manufacturers, and software developers.
• High Sound Quality: Another advantage of FLAC is that it compresses or encodes audio files with high sound quality similar to file formats such as WAV and AIFF. This comes from the fact that it is a lossless audio codec.
• Relatively Small File Size: The audio file produced by using this audio codec has a relatively small size compared with WAV and AIFF audio files. This makes this codec ideal and convenient for storing and sharing.
• Suitable for Archiving: A major application of FLAC is that it can be used for storing or archiving audio files. It is a practical audio codec because it preserves the original audio data and it produces relatively small file sizes.
• For Music Production: This audio codec is also suitable for music production applications such as music recording, sound engineering, digitizing analog music, music or sound editing and mixing, and audio-video editing.
The Cons: Disadvantages of FLAC
Of course, when compared with lossy audio codecs, the file size produced by using FLAC is still large. Furthermore, compared with more mainstream codecs such as AAC, this audio codec is not as popular and is not a standard used in the industry.
This codec might not be suitable for certain use cases where high-quality sound is not needed or file size is a concern. It is not ideal for high-bandwidth uses such as slow internet connections. Some operating systems and devices do not have native support for this codec.
Below are the disadvantages of this audio coding format:
• Relatively Large File Size: An MP3 audio file is about 90 percent smaller than the file size of an audio file that was encoded using the Free Lossless Audio Codec. The same is true for AAC files which can be even smaller in size than an MP3 file.
• Unideal For Streaming: Another disadvantage of FLAC is that it is not suitable for streaming audio content because it produces large-sized audio files. The OGG container format was developed for on-demand streaming applications.
• Limited Compatibility: Remember that this audio codec is not as popular as more mainstream codecs like MP3 and AAC or formats such as WAV. This means that its encoded audio files can suffer from compatibility issues.