What Is a FLAC File?

How to open, edit, and convert FLAC files

What to Know

  • A FLAC file is an audio file in the Free Lossless Audio Codec format.
  • Open one with VLC media player.
  • Convert to MP3, WAV, AAC, M4R, etc., at Zamzar.com.

This article explains what a FLAC file is, plus how to open one and how to convert one to a different format like MP3, WAV, ALAC, AAC, M4A, etc.

What Is a FLAC File?

A file with the FLAC file extension is a Free Lossless Audio Codec file, an open source audio compression format. It can be used to compress an audio file down to around half of its original size.

Audio compressed via the Free Lossless Audio Codec is lossless, meaning no sound quality is lost during the compression. This is very much unlike other popular audio compression formats that you've probably heard of, like MP3 or WMA.

A FLAC Fingerprint file is a plain text file normally called ffp.txt that's used to store the filename and checksum information that pertains to a specific FLAC file. These are sometimes generated along with a FLAC file.

FLAC files in Windows 10

How to Open a FLAC File

The best FLAC player is probably VLC because it supports not only this format but lots of other common and uncommon audio and video formats that you might run into in the future.

However, nearly all popular media players should be able to play it; they might just require a plugin or extension to be installed. To play FLAC files in Windows Media Player, for example, requires a codec pack such as Xiph's OpenCodec plugin. The free Fluke tool can be used on a Mac to play FLAC files in iTunes.

GoldWave, VUPlayer, aTunes, and JetAudio are some other compatible players.

To listen to FLAC files on an iPhone or Android, install the VLC app from the App Store or for Android via Google Play. Another player for Android is JetAudio.

The Free Lossless Audio Codec community hosts a website dedicated to the format and keeps a well-maintained list of programs that support FLAC, as well as a list of hardware devices that support the FLAC format.

How to Convert a FLAC File

The fastest way to convert just one or two is to use a free file converter that runs in your browser so you don't have to download any software. Zamzar, Online-Convert.com, and Media.io are just a few examples that can convert FLAC to WAV, AC3, M4R, OGG, and other similar formats.

FLAC to MP3 conversion at media.io
FLAC to MP3 conversion at Media.io.

If your file is large and would take too long to upload, or you have several of them that you want to convert in bulk, there are a handful of completely free audio converters you can install to your computer that convert to and from the format.

Free Studio and Switch Sound File Converter are two programs that can convert one to MP3, AAC, WMA, M4A, and other common audio formats. To convert FLAC to ALAC (ALAC Encoded Audio), you can use MediaHuman Audio Converter.

If you need to open a plain text FLAC file, consider using a text editor from our Best Free Text Editors list.

More Information on the FLAC Format

Flac logo
Xiph.Org Foundation

FLAC is said to be the "first truly open and free lossless audio format." It's free not only to use, but even the whole specification is freely available to the public. The encoding and decoding methods don't infringe on any other patents, and the source code is freely available as an open source license.

FLAC isn't intended to be DRM-protected. However, even though the format doesn't have any built-in copy protection, someone can encrypt their own FLAC file in another container format.

The FLAC format supports not only audio data but also cover art, fast seeking, and tagging. Since FLACs can be seekable, they're better than some other formats for editing applications.

The format is also error resistant, so even if an error occurs in one frame, it doesn't destroy the rest of the stream like some audio formats, but instead just that one frame, which might only amount to just a fraction of the whole file.

You can read lots more about the Free Lossless Audio Codec file format on the FLAC website.

Still Can't Open the File?

Some file extensions look like .FLAC but are actually spelled differently, and so most likely can't be opened with the programs mentioned above or converted with the same conversion tools. If you can't open your file, double-check the extension—you might actually be dealing with a totally different file format.

One example is the Adobe Animate Animation file format that ends its files with the .FLA file extension. These types of files open with Adobe Animate.

The same is true for FLIC/FLC (FLIC Animation), FLASH (Frictional Games Flashback) and FLAME (Fractal Flames) files. Those formats aren't the same as FLAC, so other programs are needed to open them.

  • Do FLAC files sound better than MP3 files?

    Yes. MP3 is a lossy compression format, which means that some audio data is lost from the original recording.

  • Are FLAC files better than WAV files?

    It depends on what you use them for. Both are lossless formats, but WAV files are uncompressed, so they are much larger. On the other hand, FLAC isn't as widely supported as WAV, so WAV files are easier to play and edit.

  • Do FLAC files sound better than ALAC files?

    Yes. Apple Lossless Audio Codec (ALAC) files are CD-quality, which sound superior to other digital formats, but FLAC sounds closer to the original recording. FLAC has a higher sampling rate and uses 24-bit encoding while ALAC uses 16-bit encoding.

  • Is there a way to burn FLAC files to a CD that will play on any CD player?

    No. CD players do not support FLAC files, so you must convert your tracks to a supported format like WAV.

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