Free Lossless Audio Codec
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|File:Flac logo vector.svg|
|Developer(s)||Xiph.Org Foundation, Josh Coalson|
|Initial release||20 July 2001|
|Stable release||1.2.1 / September 17, 2007|
|Type||Audio codec, Audio file format|
|License||command-line utilites: GNU GPL|
FLAC reduces bandwidth and storage requirements without sacrificing the integrity of the audio source. A digital audio recording (such as a CD track) encoded to FLAC can be decompressed into an identical copy of the audio data. Audio sources encoded to FLAC are typically reduced to 50–60% of their original size. During compression, FLAC does not lose quality from the audio stream, a notable characteristic of lossy compression formats such as MP3, AAC, and Vorbis.
FLAC is suitable for everyday audio playback and archival, with support for tagging, cover art and fast seeking. FLAC's free and open source royalty-free nature makes it well-supported by many software applications. FLAC playback support in portable audio devices and dedicated audio systems is limited at this time compared to lossy formats like MP3, but FLAC is supported out of the box by more hardware devices than competing lossless formats like WavPack.
Development started in 2000 by Josh Coalson. The bitstream format was frozen when FLAC entered beta stage with the release of version 0.5 of the reference implementation on January 15, 2001. Version 1.0 was released on 20 July 2001.
On January 29, 2003, the Xiph.Org Foundation and the FLAC project announced the incorporation of FLAC under the Xiph.org banner. Xiph.org is behind other free compression formats such as Vorbis, Theora, Speex, and others.
The FLAC project consists of:
- The stream formats
- A simple container format for the stream, also called FLAC (or Native FLAC)
- libFLAC, a library of reference encoders and decoders, and a metadata interface
- libFLAC++, an object wrapper around libFLAC
- flac, a command-line program based on libFLAC to encode and decode FLAC streams
- metaflac, a command-line metadata editor for .flac files and for applying Replay Gain
- Input plugins for various music players (Winamp, XMMS, foobar2000, musikCube, and many more)
- With Xiph.org incorporation, the Ogg container format, suitable for streaming (also called Ogg FLAC)
"Free" means that the specification of the stream format can be implemented by anyone without prior permission (Xiph.org reserves the right to set the FLAC specification and certify compliance), and that neither the FLAC format nor any of the implemented encoding/decoding methods are covered by any patent. It also means that the reference implementation is free software. The sources for libFLAC and libFLAC++ are available under Xiph.org's BSD license, and the sources for flac, metaflac, and the plugins are available under the GPL.
In its stated goals, the FLAC project encourages its developers not to implement copy prevention features of any kind.
FLAC is specifically designed for efficient packing of audio data, unlike general purpose lossless algorithms such as DEFLATE which is used in ZIP and gzip. While ZIP may compress a CD-quality audio file by 10–20%, FLAC achieves compression rates of 30–50% for most music, with significantly greater compression for voice recordings. By contrast, lossy codecs can achieve ratios of 80% or more by discarding data from the original stream.
FLAC uses linear prediction to convert the audio samples to a series of small, uncorrelated numbers (known as the residual), which are stored efficiently using Golomb-Rice coding. It also uses run-length encoding for blocks of identical samples, such as silent passages. The technical strengths of FLAC compared to other lossless codecs lie in its ability to be streamed and decoded in a fast time, which is independent of compression level.
As a lossless scheme, FLAC is also a popular archive format for owners of CDs and other media who wish to preserve their audio collections. If the original media is lost, damaged, or worn out, a FLAC copy of the audio tracks ensures that an exact duplicate of the original data can be recovered at any time. An exact restoration from a lossy archive (e.g., MP3) of the same data is impossible. FLAC being lossless means it is highly suitable for transcode e.g. to MP3, without the normally associated transcoding quality loss. A CUE file can optionally be created when ripping a CD. If a CD is read and ripped perfectly to FLAC files, the CUE file allows later burning of an audio CD that is identical in audio data to the original CD, including track order, pregaps, and CD-Text. However, additional data present on some audio CDs such as lyrics and CD+G graphics are beyond the scope of a CUE file and most ripping software, so that data will not be archived.
The European Broadcasting Union (EBU) has adopted the FLAC format for the distribution of high quality audio over its Euroradio network.
FLAC supports only fixed-point samples, not floating-point. This is to remove the imprecision of floating point arithmetic so as to ensure the encoder is fully lossless. It can handle any PCM bit resolution from 4 to 32 bits per sample, any sampling rate from 1 Hz to 655,350 Hz in 1 Hz increments, and any number of channels from 1 to 8. Channels can be grouped in cases like stereo and 5.1 channel surround to take advantage of interchannel correlations to increase compression. FLAC uses CRC checksums for identifying corrupted frames when used in a streaming protocol, and also has a complete MD5 hash of the raw PCM audio stored in its STREAMINFO metadata header. FLAC allows for a Rice parameter between 0–16. FLAC supports Replay Gain.
FLAC is implemented as the libFLAC core encoder & decoder library with the main distributable program flac being the reference program utilizing the libFLAC API. This codec API is also available in C++ as libFLAC++.
The reference implementation of FLAC compiles on many platforms, including most Unix (such as Solaris and Mac OS X) and Unix-like (including Linux, BSD), Windows, BeOS, and OS/2 operating systems. There are build systems for autoconf/automake, MSVC, Watcom C, and Xcode.
libFLAC API is organized into streams, seekable streams, and files (listed in the order of increasing abstraction from the base FLAC bitstream). Most FLAC applications will generally restrict themselves to encoding/decoding using libFLAC at the file level interface.
- Audio Transcoder
- BonkEnc — ‘rip’ directly from CD to FLAC file
- dBpoweramp Music Converter with official codec
- Easy CD-DA Extractor
- Easy Media Creator
- Exact Audio Copy
- foobar2000 (with external encoder)
- GOM Player
- Media Center since version 12.0.3xx
- Nero Burning ROM with optional external filter plug-in
- Samplitude since version 10.2
- Cakewalk SONAR (Producer Edition) version 7 and later
- Sound Forge 9
- Vegas Pro 8
- Yahoo! Music Jukebox
- Mac OS X
- Mac OS X
- Ableton Live
- Adobe Premiere Pro with FLAC plugin
- Billy (music player) since version 1.04i
- DJ Decks
- Media Center since version 12.0.3xx
- iTunes after installing codec from Xiph (Ogg FLAC only)
- Cockos REAPER Multitrack Recorder and Editor
- Renoise supports import and export from version 1.8
- Quintessential Player with FLAC plugin
- The KMPlayer
- TRAKTOR 3
- TRAKTOR Scratch
- TVersity, using ffdshow to transcode stream to WAV
- Windows Media Player and Media Player Classic with third-party plugin
- Yahoo! Music Jukebox
- Palm OS
- Windows Mobile
- Unix-like operating systems
- Mac OS X
- TRAXMOD Open source, open hardware portable MMC/SD player supports 44.1 kHz/16-bit stereo FLAC playback.
- Onkyo TX-NR906 Supports 16 bit/24 bit at 44.1 kHz/48 kHz/96 kHz Mono & Stereo FLAC files through external USB with metatag display support.
- Pioneer SC-05, SC-07, SC-25, SC-27 and SC-09TX support via external USB (network support verified)
- Denon AVP-A1HDCI, AVR-4810, AVR-4310, AVR-3310, AVR-5308, AVR-4308, AVR-3808 AV Receivers
- Yamaha RX-V2065 AV Receiver
- iAudio (Cowon) - A2, A3, 6, 7, F2, M3, M5, X5, U3, U5, D2, D2+, S9, native support with newer firmware.
- Olive (Symphony, Musica, Opus)
- PhatBox Hard Drive based in car Digital Media Player from PhatNoise
- Rio Karma
- SanDisk Sansa Fuze, Clip (with updated firmware), Clip+ 
- Squeezebox and Transporter network music players from Slim Devices. Current products decode natively. Old v1 units transcode to PCM on the server.
- Meizu M6 Mini Player, M3 Music Card
- VEDIA A10, B6
- Pixel Magic Systems' HD Mediabox (with firmware 1.3.4 or higher)
- Embedded Waveplayer- Module with FLAC level 0-2 support, MIDI and serial interface
- Teclast T29, T39, C260, C280, C290
- Trekstor Vibez
- T+A Music Player
- Linn Klimax DS (Digital Stream) - Digital Music Player
- Linn Akurate DS - Digital Music Player
- Linn Majik DS - Digital Music Player
- Linn Sneaky Music DS - Digital Music Player
- iriver E100
- NMT players
- Archos Internet Media Tablets 
- Naim Audio HDX Hard Disk Player
- Samsung YP-U5
- Creative Zen X-Fi 2
- Nintendo Wii when running the Wii homebrew app MPlayerWii or MPlayer CE
- Apple TV, XBMC Media Center or Boxee
- iPod - 1st through 5.5th generation, iPod mini and 1st generation iPod nano (not the shuffle, 2nd/3rd gen nano, classic or touch), using third party Rockbox firmware
- Nearly all Rockbox-compatible DAPs, including the iriver and Gigabeat (Toshiba) range of devices, plus the aforementioned iPods
- Any UPnP A/V / DLNA Device - - e.g. Netgear EVA700, Netgear MP101, Roku Soundbridge or Xbox 360 (when transcoded data is streamed from applications such as TVersity, which uses ffdshow)
- Sound Devices 7-Series Professional Audio Recorders with "badger" firmware update (v.2.24)
- Sony PlayStation Portable when running the homebrew LightMP3 application.
- Samsung YP-P3, YP-Q1, YP-U5
- FLAC playback is possible on Mobile devices or phones based on Windows Mobile, or Symbian OS with either S60, Series 80 or Series 90 UI platforms, can run the free open source media player application OggPlay.. Also LCG Jukebox from Lonely Cat Games is able to play FLAC audio on Symbian S60 and Windows Mobile devices.
- Google Android devices running CM 3.9.6 and later ROMs.
- ↑ Registration being sought as
- ↑ "FLAC - comparison". http://flac.sourceforge.net/comparison.html. Retrieved 2008-01-27.
- ↑ 3.0 3.1 "FLAC Website". Flac.sourceforge.net. http://flac.sourceforge.net/links.html#hardware. Retrieved 2009-03-24.
- ↑ 4.0 4.1 4.2 "FLAC - news". http://flac.sourceforge.net/news.html. Retrieved 2009-08-31.
- ↑ Xiph.Org Foundation (2003-01-29). "FLAC Joins Xiph.org". Xiph.org Foundation. http://www.xiph.org/press/2003/flac/. Retrieved 2009-08-31.
- ↑ Emmett Plant. "FLAC Joins Xiph!". Xiph.org Foundation. http://xiph.org/ogg/flac.html. Retrieved 2009-08-31.
- ↑ "FLAC - faq". http://flac.sourceforge.net/faq.html#general__samples. Retrieved 2009-01-25.
- ↑ "FLAC - format". http://flac.sourceforge.net/format.html#frame_header. Retrieved 2009-11-15.
- ↑ "FLAC - faq". http://flac.sourceforge.net/faq.html#general__tagging. Retrieved 2008-01-27.
- ↑ Audacity development team (2006-10-30). "Audacity 1.3.2 a 1.2.5 released". http://audacity.sourceforge.net/about/news?id=2006-10-30/1.3.2-release&lang=en. Retrieved 2010-01-19.
- ↑ Pid=340 "DENON UK". http://www.denon.co.uk/site/frames_main.php?main=prod&ver=&MID=3&sub=1&action=detail& Pid=340. Retrieved 2008-01-27.
- ↑ "Supported Digital Music Formats & Tagging Requirements" (PDF). Escient. p. 2. http://www.escient.com/support/supportdocuments/DigitalMusicFilesFormats.pdf. Retrieved 2008-01-27.
- ↑ Korean firmware V2.13[dead link]
- ↑ "Olive". http://www.olive.us/products/preloadterms.html?PHPSESSID=23dfebfa0. Retrieved 2008-01-27.
- ↑ "Sansa Fuze updated to support Ogg and FLAC". http://www.engadget.com/2008/10/04/sansa-fuze-updated-to-support-ogg-and-flac/. Retrieved 2008-10-18.
- ↑ "Sansa Clip Firmware 01.01.30 Released". http://www.anythingbutipod.com/archives/2008/10/sansa-clip-firmware-010130-released.php. Retrieved 2008-10-18.
- ↑ anythingbutipod.com: SanDisk Sansa Clip+ Plus Review
- ↑ "T+A E-Series Music-Player". http://www.taelektroakustik.de/eng/ta2/e_system/music_player.htm. Retrieved 2008-01-27.
- ↑ "iRiver E100". http://www.iriver.com.au/iriver/index.cfm?pageID=2&sID=1&prodID=23&#.
- ↑ "Archos 5 and Archos 7 - Firmware Changes". Update.archos.com. http://update.archos.com/6/archos5-7/changes_firmware_archos5-7.html. Retrieved 2009-03-24.
- ↑ "Naim Audio HDX". http://www.naim-audio.com/products/hdx.html.
- ↑ "Samsung". http://www.samsung.com/us/consumer/mobile/mp3-players/mp3-players/YP-U5JQB/XAA/index.idx?pagetype=prd_detail&tab=spec. Retrieved 2009-10-08.
- ↑ "Wiibrew Wiki entry for MPlayerWii". http://wiibrew.org/wiki/MPlayerWii. Retrieved 2009-01-13.
- ↑ "Data Compression and Reduction Options for 7-Series Recorders". http://www.sounddevices.com/notes/recorders/file-formats/compression-reduction/. Retrieved 2008-01-27.
- ↑ "File Details-LightMP3-v1.7.1-(FLAC-bugfix)-PSP-Homebrew-Applications". Dl.qj.net. 2009-03-13. http://dl.qj.net/LightMP3-v1.7.1-(FLAC-bugfix)-PSP-Homebrew-Applications/pg/12/fid/15529/catid/151. Retrieved 2009-03-24.
- ↑ Leif H. Wilden. "Symbian OggPlay". Symbianoggplay.sourceforge.net. http://symbianoggplay.sourceforge.net/. Retrieved 2009-03-24.
- ↑ SourceForge.net - OggPlay
- Official website
- Detailed FLAC format specification
- Comparison of lossless formats in terms of encoding/decoding speed and compression ratio, from the FLAC website
- Comparison of lossless formats by Hans Heiden (somewhat outdated)
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