Difference Between MP3 and FLAC


MP3 and FLAC are audio file formats used in computers. Both are portable file formats and uses data compression to reduce the size by a significant factor compared to the original audio files. MP3 is the widely used file format of the two due to the smaller file size, but FLAC is increasingly becoming popular for its higher quality.


MP3 was one of the first portable audio file formats, which was introduced in the MPEG-1 standard of the Audio/Video compression. It stands for MPEG-1 Audio Layer 3 (MP3). It was later extended to MPEG-2 standard too.

MP3 uses a lossy compression algorithm in encoding which allows the file size to be reduced significantly. Depending on the bit rate, the quality of the audio and the file size will change. Compression algorithm reduces the amount of information of the signal by neglecting the parts of the signal that are beyond the auditory resolution of the human ear. This method is commonly known as perceptual coding or perpetual noise shaping. (Similar compression methods are used in JPEG for image files and MP4 for video files)

The low file size of the mp3 file format makes it ideal for transferring audio files over the internet. This became a major issue for the record producers and artists in the early 2000`s when internet websites such as Napster offered free download of songs over the internet. This brought a notorious reputation to the file format as a major piracy tool. Even music players with MP3 compatibility were considered a violation of the copyrights. However, with the release of the iPod in 2001, the competition helped to legitimize the file format.


FLAC stands for Free Lossless Audio codec, which is a portable audio file format developed by the Xiph.Org Foundation. It was developed as an alternative to the lossy file formats released at that time, such as MP3. The compression algorithm used in FLAC codec allows data in the audio file to be compressed approximately to half the size of the original file without data loss.

FLAC is royalty-free in licensing, and free software is available as a reference implementation. FLAC supports metadata tagging, album cover art, and fast seeking.

Since the compression is lossless, no details of the original audio signal is missing when decoding, hence the quality of the audio is much higher compared to the other file formats. However, the file size remains a major drawback, but and file format is starting to become recognized as the storage space becoming a lesser concern. Nevertheless, compared to other lossless media files, FLAC is supported by many hardware devices.


• MP3 and FLAC are audio file types used in computers and hardware devices such as iPods for playing media files.

• MP3 is a part of the MPEG-1 standard developed by the moving Pictures Experts Group for the International Standard Organization. FLAC was initially developed by Josh Coalson in 2000.

• MP3 is a proprietary file format while FLAC is an open source free file format.

• MP3 uses lossy compression methods during encoding while FLAC uses lossless compression.

• MP3 files are smaller in size compared to FLAC files; therefore, MP3 is popular for file transferring over the internet.

• MP3 is supported by a larger number of software, platforms and hardware devices than the FLAC format; but FLAC is becoming popular as the concern for the space is becoming a lesser concern.