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Why We Should Buy Music In FLAC 550

soodoo writes "We have plenty of HDD space and broadband internet. Why don't we demand full CD quality audio in an accessible format from online music stores? The advantage of lossless compression is not only the small audio quality improvement, but better future-proofing and converting capabilities. FLAC is a good, free and open format, well suited for this job."
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Why We Should Buy Music In FLAC

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  • Seriously, I'm not sure what's so complicated about this. It's not like CDs are that much more expensive than buying stuff electronically. Plus, you have a backup copy that's going to outlast whatever media you rip it onto anyway as long as you keep it physically safe. Plus you have the booklet that goes with it.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by stardaemon ( 834177 )
      Even if you only want one song from the entire CD?
      • In the unlikelyhood that you really want only one song on a CD that isn't offered as a CD single at some point over the active promotion life of that CD, because that one track is really that good, and your musical tastes never change, and you'll never appreciate the fact that you have all those other tracks... then I guess you're screwed. Darn. Yes, I know that in North America, the CD single doesn't seem to have been a hugely popular concept. I have several CD singles from artists I like that originate in
        • We Australians pay way too much for cds. $30~ for a new cd? Fuck that for a joke!

          Plus for those of us who prefer the ease of having our audio in a digital format (the only thing I own that plays audio cds now is my car) buying a cd for cd quality audio really isn't conveint.

          Maybe buying CD singles and albums appeals to you, but for me I much prefer my stuff in digital. Plus if it's DRM free FLAC it'll last a lot longer than a cd.

          • CDs definitely aren't that expensive in Canada... well, they can be... but yes, they are more expensive I suppose than fully digital. Yes I prefer to pay that premium for a relatively indestructable copy of my music I can immediately convert to FLAC. If there's any premium applied to an upgrade to FLAC quality, I'm already paying $15 including tax for most of my CDs direct from the artists... I'm even not sure buying a digital copy that I still have to back up somehow is going to beat that if it's a premium
            • by somersault ( 912633 ) on Sunday March 13, 2011 @08:31AM (#35470406) Homepage Journal

              You think a CD is more "indestructable" than having a backup or two of your music collection, which you will be migrating from storage device to storage device over the years? Also, storing masses of CDs/DVDs is just a royal PITA. Especially when it comes to finding stuff later. Or having to rip everything again later rather than just having a lossless digital copy.

              I have no qualms about downloading FLACs of any MP3s that I've already purchased, when I decide I have enough space to waste on such things. I think I'd have to have a portable media player with terabyte storage to be able to hold all my music in FLAC format..

        • Do you buy your shirts separate from your pants? How about your ties? What if every time there was an article of clothing you liked, you were forced to purchase an entire outfit?

          Like those shoes? Just buy the suit that goes with them.

      • That is what "Now that's what I call music 45434" is for.
    • by loufoque ( 1400831 ) on Sunday March 13, 2011 @06:05AM (#35469822)

      But then you have to physically move the CD from some place to your place, which requires a distribution network and takes time. It's also costly to produce CDs.
      By simply requiring CDs, you restrict yourself to artists that have strong deals with distributors and enough money to produce them.

      Also, what the hell are you going to do with a CD once you have it but rip it? I don't even have a CD reader anymore. I don't have the room to store thousands of CDs either, and it wouldn't be a practical way to manage my music library.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by beelsebob ( 529313 )

      More so, but yet another format switch is utterly pointless, especially when high-bit-rate AAC is generally inaudibly different from CD quality, and in fact, the 96kHz ones apple has started selling for some artists surpass CD quality, despite the compression.

      Basically, there's no reason to use FLAC – "lossily" compressed audio is plenty good enough.

      • by jovius ( 974690 ) on Sunday March 13, 2011 @06:46AM (#35470014)
        Having lossly compressed audio at hand might be plenty good enough, but it's not future proof. The data has had to be compressed because of unavailable media. It's a physical fact that those high end AAC's can't surpass CD quality (Because they are lossy). CD itself is getting old too, so the reference point is not really correct anymore.

        Formats that rely on removing inaudible frequencies or such psychoacoustics work perfectly in anechoic rooms or in headphone listening. When listened through speakers the frequencies take multiple routes to the ears at slightly different times, which makes the inaudible frequencies actually audible. So something is definitely missing from the fabric.

        I have refrained from bying music online because of the inferior quality. I'd like to hear music that sounds better along with the technological advances.
      • by paimin ( 656338 ) on Sunday March 13, 2011 @06:51AM (#35470040)
        Why doesn't TFA at least mention that Apple supports an open format that's also lossless, and also supported widely? Its a shame they don't sell it, but they do support it. Implying that they simply don't support lossless audio compression doesn't help sell FLAC as an option, it just makes you look like a liar.
    • You can find your CD's?

      I can't find a single one of my CDs these days. The only stuff I can find is on my hard drive. Nicely categorized. Backed up. Taking a small amount of room.

      Do your CDs out last your hard drives? What brands are you buying, because that shit sounds fucking terrible. Else, why are you spending so much time and effort keeping track of your CDs?

      I'm not abdicating getting rid of CDs, but FLAC is a perfectly good format, which could be easily supported.

      So thank you for diverting the convers

      • My pressed CDs absolutely outlast my hard drives. I have CDs that still play bit-perfectly from the 1980s without a single scratch on them - CDs that I got when I was 3 and my family first got a CD player. I don't have many hard drives that have lasted 25 years. And yes I can find my CDs. They're on a shelf in my music room (well, several shelves), organized by artist alphabetically, and then by order of release... I can also find all of the FLAC files I generated from those CDs on my hard disk, well orga
      • by Phurge ( 1112105 )

        "So thank you for diverting the conversation."

        You must be new here.

    • CDs are more costly, and they won't last longer than say, flash memory, except for special circumstances. For example, some CDs will degrade in as little as 18 months in humid conditions, or there's a fungus [] that will colonize and eat your discs. Flash memory is practically unaffected by storage conditions, as long as you don't throw it into the oven and switch it on: it can take basically any value for humidity, even a straight-up dump into water, survive freezing and tropical heat, fungi, etc.

      So really, i

      • by Hadlock ( 143607 )

        I've never, ever heard of commercial CDs going bad (except from scratches). All my CDs from 5th grade forward (nearly 20 years old at this point) work just fine. I found them while moving, all played fine. I borrowed a friend's CD-R and some cheap media to back up my computer in 1998, THOSE still work as well. This is after being stored in the attic of our house which regularly sees 150 degrees during the day (Dallas), and a huge range of humidity levels. I'm sure if you left them shiny side up on the windo

        • Oh yeah, I forgot about scratches: drop the flash chip and co. in a cheap aluminium/steel cassette (think CF cards), and it'll be nearly indestructible by domestic means, while still usable easily. You can't do that with a CD.

          I have, however, had trouble with disc degradation, even though I kept them in a mostly-constant temperature room (~21C ±4C), and had a few go bad and unreadable after about ten years, without scratches. They did make nice light shows in the microwave afterwards, though...

    • by rawler ( 1005089 )

      Simple. Physical media cannot give me the "instant gratification" of buying downloaded songs. Especially, it puts the burden of actually ripping it onto me, as well as incurr extra costs in manufacturing, shipping etc. Besides, the longevity of CD-formats vary greatly depending on the quality of plastic that is put it. (For example, my father recently discovered some of his 15-years-old CD:s doesn't play back today.) Ripping it losslessly, and backing it up to some cloud-storage is probably both more reliab

    • But why should I be limited to 'CD Quality'? Linn Records have it right, I think. You can get the same recording at various quality levels, and for certain kinds of recordings I am more than happy to part with 20 quid for an album which is what they charge for 24bit 192kHz FLAC. ... plus I don't want to consume space in my home to store my music collection.

      I think the key point here is that choice is good. The music industry needs to start responding to market demand.

  • That's rather a good point. Personally i've always just used spotify free to stream my music but this has the fairly major disadvantage of only being 160kbps vorbis. I only own one album in FLAC form and have to admit you can hear the difference between it and some of my higher quality mp3 albums. The fact that it's an open format will help it be future proof as well. Win Win situation.
  • Portable players (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Xtense ( 1075847 ) <{xtense} {at} {}> on Sunday March 13, 2011 @06:00AM (#35469796) Homepage

    I'm a proud owner of a Rockboxed Sansa e250. However, if I kept the music I listen to regularly in FLAC, both the internal storage (2GB) and external microSD fall short. No, hotswapping isn't a good idea, especially if you're treating yourself to music going long distance. That's why I decided to settle for Ogg Vorbis - quality good enough that I don't hear a difference between the source and the compressed file (as proven by several long blind hearing tests), and file sizes that make my collection that much more managable.

    • by Tubal-Cain ( 1289912 ) on Sunday March 13, 2011 @06:10AM (#35469840) Journal
      FLAC wouldn't be for your Sansa; it'd be for your media library. You keep it on your PC and your backup media, and transcode that to Vorbis or MP3 or whatever for your portable device.
      Which is why they'd probably never go for it. A business model that is incompatible with DRM? Are you mad!?!?!?
      • While this would be the ideal setup most of us simply don't care enough about a (to most people) imperceptible difference in quality to go through all this hassle. Also if your typical MP3 collection was in FLAC it would be impractical to backup online. Online/cloud backup and syncing is what the consumer world is moving very rapidly towards.

      • by Kijori ( 897770 )

        Isn't the bigger problem with that that it makes life much more difficult for the user (longer download time, time spent transcoding everything they want to put on their MP3 player instead of just copying) for a marginal benefit that only occurs in an already rare scenario? It's a lot of hassle to go to in order to enjoy very slightly increased quality if you ever either buy an incredibly high-quality sound system or migrate to an MP3 player that can't play your MP3s, neither of which are ever likely to hap

      • by mccalli ( 323026 )
        "Which is why they'd probably never go for it. A business model that is incompatible with DRM? Are you mad!?!?!?

        There's this tinsy little online place does it somewhere. Err...ah yes, iTunes Music Store. That's the one. DRM free and iTunes has an option to transcode to a lower bit rate when transferring to an iPod.

  • by aarggh ( 806617 ) on Sunday March 13, 2011 @06:02AM (#35469812)
    Isn't the fact that it's "good, free, and open" the exact reasons the publishers wouldn't use it? It kinda flies in the face of them being tyrannical mongrels controlling the media distribution if customers can actually meaningfully use it.
    • by Required Snark ( 1702878 ) on Sunday March 13, 2011 @06:22AM (#35469892)
      Online sources want to sell the same info to you as many times as they can. Obsolescence is part of their business plan.

      For example, Harper-Collens has put a limit on how many times a library can use a copy of an ebook [] The book can only be circulated 26 times before the DRM license runs out.

      This is outrageous and stupid. If possible, boycott all their products.

    • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

      I was about to post the same thing. How can they sell you the same shit over and over again if they give it to you in the best format to start with?

      Best thing to do is buy the MP3s and then download the FLAC files off BitTorrent. Probably violates the license agreement or something but morally you are in the clear.

  • Everyone I know (in the EU) has switched to Spotify [].

    (This isn't a sales pitch, just a statement of fact :-P)

    • ... considering only 7 countries are supported, not everyone I know in the EU has the option (including myself).
      • by Kifoth ( 980005 )

        Thought it was bigger than that! Insensitive clod is insensitive :)

        Ah well... My point is still that, based on the speed at which Spotify is growing (where available), the future is streaming.

  • Most of the time I listen to music using a mobile device (phone, PMP) and earbuds. So for my purposes large lossless files wouldn't make much of a difference anyway.

    But in the end it all depends on whether there's a large enough demand on the market.

  • by ZankerH ( 1401751 ) on Sunday March 13, 2011 @06:22AM (#35469896)
    I tried converting my entire mp3 library to FLAC and couldn't hear any difference. It's just audiophiles circlejerking. I bet you all use golden audio cables and $500 cable stands, too.
  • You know... FLAC doesn't actually compress down from WAV all that much. Given current storage sizes, why not simply just sell fully uncompressed audio files? You can use FLAC or whatever as the transmission medium and/or storage server-side to be less of a bandwidth burden, but the user should just see an incoming WAV file, etc. that he can do whatever he wants with...

    Personally, I rip all my CDs to --preset-extreme MP3 to listen, since I can just pull out my CD if I really needed a bit-perfect copy (e.g.

    • by cbope ( 130292 )

      I don't know about you, but ~60% of original size when using FLAC sounds to me like compression is useful. While nowhere near the 10x or more compression of popular lossy codecs, it's still useful to save space. It also helps when you need to make backups.

  • I could demand FLAC, but not many people use the format or know what it is. A quick experience I had. After a system crash I decided to upgrade from WinXP to Win7 (I very rarely use Windows, and it's only there for testing). There is no default support for FLAC in Windows, in fact, the only lossless format I did find support for is WAV (PCM).

    If Windows does not provide support out of the box for FLAC, and to add it to Windows Media Player needs hacking of the registry, you can see why not many people would

    • Ran into this myself at an event we were running. I had asked a friend to bring a laptop (he runs window) for people to listen to songs with so they could select one to be used at the next station (on my linux machine). It wasn't until after copying the library over and him trying a few songs that we discovered there was NO flac support what-so-ever on his machine. Turns out the *only* way to play flac on a windows machine is with FooBar (audio program) or VLC. PITA!
  • .. that would impair their ability to charge the same person several times for the same content in different formats.

  • Same reason. There are not enough consumers who care in order to put any kind of pressure on the music cartels.

  • We may have a lot more hard drive space these days, but really? There are many formats that produce great quality and don't need to be ~25 megs per song. To anyone but real audiophiles, I think this would be a waste of space.

  • On Windows, Exact Audio Copy seems to be the gold standard with more bells and whistles than I could wish for.

    I don't use Windows though.

    What is the "best" way to rip audio CDs to FLAC with CUE sheets on Linux? Ideally, I'd like:

    * automagic grabbing of meta-data off the Internet
    * automagic comparison of my ripped results to an online database. I.e. I want to know if my rip is bit-perfect.
    * a guesstimate of how good/bad a rip's quality is, depending on the read data of the disk drive
    * optionally a log file o

  • 3 reasons why this will never happen on any large scale. 1. Portable devices don't do FLAC. No FLAC on the iPod/iPhone/iPad means you just eliminated >90% of the portable device market. 2. Convenience - several folks cited how ripping CDs is inconvenient. So is converting FLAC to something usable by your devices. 3. Lack of knowledge/commitment - be honest. Think about how many people you know would be willing to learn how to do the conversions or commit to doing them. Until those 3 are solved, yo
  • Proper Perspective (Score:4, Insightful)

    by BlueStrat ( 756137 ) on Sunday March 13, 2011 @08:03AM (#35470276)

    From TFS:

    ...better future-proofing and converting capabilities. FLAC is a good, free and open format...

    We see here yet another case of mistakenly assuming a commonality of perception where history strongly suggests the opposite. The things listed above as features are actually perceived as bugs by the media distribution cartels.


  • I do it today. I buy CD's and rip them to FLAC (simultaneously applying ReplayGain) and then they go to my media jukebox. The CD then goes on the shelf and is my master backup should all else fail. I can easily transcode the FLAC to anything else I need without generational loss in quality. My media jukebox is a commercial NAS with RAID 5 and hot spare, so backups are less of a concern. No matter what happens in the future with audio formats, FLAC is about as future-proof as you can get while preserving ori

  • by bmo ( 77928 ) on Sunday March 13, 2011 @08:31AM (#35470404)

    I have a PhD in Digital Music Conservation from the University of Florida. I have to stress that the phenomenon known as "digital dust" is the real problem regarding conservation of music, and any other type of digital file. Digital files are stored in digital filing cabinets called "directories" which are prone to "digital dust" - slight bit alterations that happen now or then. Now, admittedly, in its ideal, pristine condition, a piece of musical work encoded in FLAC format contains more information than the same piece encoded in MP3, however, as the FLAC file is bigger, it accumulates, in fact, MORE digital dust than the MP3 file. Now you might say that the density of dust is the same. That would be a naive view. Since MP3 files are smaller, they can be much more easily stacked together and held in "drawers" called archive files (Zip, Rar, Lha, etc.) ; in such a configuration, their surface-to-volume ratio is minimized. Thus, they accumulate LESS digital dust and thus decay at a much slower rate than FLACs. All this is well-known in academia, alas the ignorant hordes just think that because it's bigger, it must be better.


  • by Chris Tucker ( 302549 ) on Sunday March 13, 2011 @01:06PM (#35472320) Homepage

    That's exactly what I do.

    I buy a CD. A USED CD.

    Often for less than a few tracks off iTunes.

    Rip 'em to iTunes. Gracenote adds the fiddling small details.

    Google Images or Amazon provides album art for CoverFlow.

    I rip to MP3. My 'stereo' is my old dual processor G5 Mac, with a pair of Cambridge Soundworks speakers.

    Good enough for these old ears of mine.

    As always, YMMV.

  • by kheldan ( 1460303 ) on Sunday March 13, 2011 @02:14PM (#35472928) Journal
    The recording industry still doesn't want you downloading anything, even if you pay for it; they want you to buy a CD. Therefore while they grudgingly allow paid downloads, they don't want you to have full fidelity from those downloads. Note that I think it's utterly rediculous, too, and the recording industry is run by dinosaurs, but I do understand it, I think.
  • by DCheesi ( 150068 ) on Sunday March 13, 2011 @03:51PM (#35473690) Homepage

    One reason I'd like to see lossless files available is so that I could put everything in my preferred lossy format on my devices. Can't fit your whole library in 320kbps? Just re-encode for a lower bitrate. Too snobby for 128kbps? Re-encode for a higher bitrate. That's something you can't do with MP3 source files without enduring multi-generational loss issues.

    In my case, I'd prefer to have this capability for a rather unusual reason. Amazon's MP3s are done in a VBR MP3 encoding; for some inexplicable reason, most VBR encoded MP3s give me a slight headache?! This is true even when I'm not aware of the encoding beforehand. I'd much rather have CBR encoded files just to avoid this strange effect, even if I had to use a lower bitrate.

  • by enoz ( 1181117 ) on Sunday March 13, 2011 @06:38PM (#35474824)

    I recently bought a vinyl album released by Asthmatic Kitty Records [], it included a download of the entire album in FLAC and MP3 already tagged for your convenience. I don't even own a turntable, I bought it for the included artwork and to support the artist.

    Some labels are doing it right.

Houston, Tranquillity Base here. The Eagle has landed. -- Neil Armstrong