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So I just recently got into this lossless audio thing and mostly buy my music from beatport, bandcamp, qobuz etc. Most of these stores have the option to download as FLAC file but beatport only offers MP3, WAV and AIFF.

So I downloaded everything in WAV and now want to convert all songs into FLAC. I just made a quick test with compression set to 0 and one with set to 8.

With compression set to 8, I saved 4 MB on this specific track but the bitrate is lower than the bigger file. I know that this does not mean, that the quality is worse. Lossless = Lossless. But why exactly is it lower? What does a bitrate really state when it comes to a lossless file?

Also, since I'm mostly going to listen to my music on my portable player, the smaller the file the better. But a lot of people say that the encoding time will be longer the higher the compression level.

Does that mean I'll only have to wait longer on my PC until the WAV is converted to FLAC? Or will my portable player also have "longer" to decode/play such a file?

Thanks for any tips.

PS: I use foobar2000 for converting the files.

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There is a limit to the amount of compression you can achieve with a "Lossless" compression algorithm - at some point all the recognizable patterns are removed and your file essentially becomes random data. The bitrate you are referring to is simply the number of bits of data that have to pass through the decoder to reproduce a unit second of uncompressed audio. The higher the compression ratio, the lower the bitrate will be. You will only achieve lower bitrates with lossy compression algorithms such as mp3 or AAC. Having said that, you can get pretty good results with the higher bitrates.

With non-lossy compression, the tradeoff with bitrate is always going to be complexity - thus it will take longer to compress a file with a non-lossy compression algorithm to achieve a lower bitrate. the 80/20 rule applies here - you spend 20% effort to get 80% of the result. You will get limited benefit from further compression effort.

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Most likely, the bit rate is just the indicating average number of bits needed to represent a second of sound. So if the original WAV file is, say, 1000kb and stores 100s of audio, the average bitrate is 10kbps. If the resulting encoded FLAC is only, say, 500kb but still stores 100s of audio, the bitrate will be 5kbps.

  • thanks for that explanation. definitely cleared some things up :) – mariu5 Oct 10 '16 at 22:03

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