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Free Lossless Audio Codec or FLAC is an open-source, compressed audio format that retains the full fidelity of the original recording. FLAC files are about 50-60% smaller than their uncompressed cousins, WAVE and PCM files, yet they do not compromise quality to reach their smaller size. This is in contrast to lossy formats such as MP3 and AAC. The latter files sacrifice data to achieve an even smaller footprint, which is still sufficient for portable digital players with limited storage capacity. For this reason some people choose to convert FLAC to MP3 files.
If you are willing to pay for software, plenty of FLAC to MP3 converters are available for about $30 US Dollars (USD) or less. These programs can be found with any search engine, providing many conversion options such as output quality and editing of id3 tags, or the title, artist and so on.
For thrifty music lovers who prefer using free tools and are fine with 128-bit output quality, the Eufony Free FLAC MP3 Converter© by HongLiang Tang will allow you to import one or more FLAC files, and with the touch of a button, convert them automatically to 128-bit MP3 files. This free version is adware-free, unlike many other "free" converters. The paid version of this program includes options to create 192-bit, 256-bit and 320-bit MP3 files, plus the ability to convert into additional audio formats.
For audiophiles and geeks, there is one MP3 encoder that is considered the best and it is not only cross-platform, but free. The catch is, it is a command line program, and so is typically used with a graphic user interface (GUI) or "front-end" program to make it point-and-click friendly. Alternately, it is used as a plug-in inside another program. This encoder is called LAME. When LAME is downloaded and extracted to a folder, other programs or GUIs can be installed that will use LAME to convert FLAC to MP3 files.
Perhaps one of the most versatile programs that utilizes LAME to convert FLAC to MP3 files is the open-source, free editing studio, Audacity©. The advantage of Audacity© is that it is a full-fledged audio editor and recorder that can be used for everything from transferring cassette tapes to your hard disk, to creating ringtones for your phone. Like LAME, it is also cross-platform, working with Windows®, Mac® and Linux®.
After installing Audacity©, LAME should be installed. Instructions exist on the Audacity© website for those who require them. Once it is set up, open a FLAC file inside Audacity® then choose File, Export, and "MP3" for the saved file type. Click the Options button to choose output quality and bitrate mode. Then click Save. You will also have an opportunity to edit id3 tags. The conversion process from FLAC to MP3 goes very fast.
If uninterested in an audio studio, you might find Foobar2000© more to your liking. This free, popular Windows® player also uses LAME to convert FLAC to MP3 files, and there are several other programs and GUIs.
For those who would like to rip CDs to FLAC rather than to WAVE or PCM, you can download and install the FLAC codec by visiting flac.sourceforge.net and clicking on the download link. FLAC is an excellent format to archive original music because it takes up less space then WAVE or PCM. Many software players recognize FLAC including the free, open-source, cross-platform media player, VLC©.