It’s not surprising that many people spend just as much time researching what a FLAC file is as they do trying to find ways to convert the lossless audio format into something universally accepted. Though arguably the most popular format of its kind, it’s more often stumbled upon than deliberately sought out, reserved more so for the audiophile with an ear than the general consumer just looking to throw the latest Lorde track on their iPhone before they head out the door.
A FLAC file, short for Free Lossless Audio Codec, is a compressed audio file that maintains the same quality as the original source despite often being less than 50 percent of the original file size. The files are free and distributed to users under an open-source license, hence the “Free” and “Lossless” terminology, but typically surpass common audio formats like AAC and MP3 when it comes to sheer audio fidelity. Simply put, they sound better and require less space.
However, whereas nearly all audio devices and multimedia players support MP3 playback, only a handful of them currently support FLAC files. Here’s our guide on how to convert a FLAC to MP3, so format incompatibility is a thing of the past. It may not sound as nice, but at least you can play it.
In our day and age, we like to praise products and software that can do it all. However, some of the best applications available are the ones that do little more than they need to. PolySoft’s Free FLAC to MP3 Convert is one such example, a stripped-down alternative capable of converting your FLAC files to MP3 without a swath of unnecessary bells and whistles. The lightweight software doesn’t offer much functionality beyond converting — other than the option to save a location for the resulting MP3 file — but it does offer quick conversion speeds within an ad-free environment. Plus, as the name implies, the Windows exclusive is available free of charge.
Step 2: Add the file you wish to convert. Click the Add button with the green addition sign in the top-right corner of the application window and select the FLAC file you wish to convert from it’s respective save location. Then, continue adding files in the same manner and check the Other bubble at the bottom if you wish to save the resulting MP3 files in a location other than that of the original FLAC file. Alternatively, drag the files you wish to convert into the application window.
Step 3: Convert. Once you’re satisfied with your selection, click the gray Convert to MP3 button in the bottom-right corner to begin the conversion process. A pop-up window will appear housing two gray progress bars indicating the current and total conversion progress. When finished, your new file(s) will appear in the same location as the original FLAC files, unless otherwise specified.
All2MP3 (Mac OS X)
There’s something to be said about an audio converter that requires little more than a simple, drag-and-drop maneuver and a single click to convert a file. All2MP3 is just that, a plugin-free piece of software that uses AppleScript to convert a variety of audio files, from FLAC to MOV, directly to MP3. The barebones software features quick conversion speeds and a light footprint, but offers no intensive quality preferences or an output option other than MP3. However, the lack of bells and whistles only adds to the software’s innate appeal. All2MP3 is capable program that works as intended on Mac OS X.
Step 1: Download and launch All2MP3. Head to developer Tresrr’s homepage and click the gray Download button on the right side of the application window before specifying your desired save location for the resulting zip file. Once downloaded, use a basic archive utility such as WinRAR or 7-Zip to open and launch the program from its save location.
Step 2: Add the file you wish to convert. Click the gray Add button with the addition sign at the bottom and choose the FLAC file you wish to convert from the resulting pop-up window. Afterward, click the Choose button in the bottom right-hand corner and continue adding files in the same manner until you’re satisfied with your selection. Alternatively, you can manually drag one or more files directly into the program window.
Step 3: Choose your audio quality. Once the file you wish to convert is uploaded, use the slider in the bottom left-hand corner of the window to alter the quality of the resulting MP3. The default bitrate is 128Kbs and choices are severely limited – you can only choose less, middle, good, and super – so shy away from the lower-quality options unless saving space is of the utmost importance.
Step 4: Convert. Click the gray Convert button in the bottom right-hand corner to convert the chosen FLAC file(s). A pop-up window will appear housing two gray progress bars indicating the current and total conversion progress. When finished, your new file(s) will appear in the same location as the original FLAC files, unless otherwise specified, and the application will automatically revert to the main startup window you began with.
The industriousness of freemium utilities has changed considerably since our previous recommendation, Zamzar, was our go-to avenue for converting FLAC files on the Web. Cloud Convert now rests atop the list, gracing nearly all of our conversions guides given the utility supports more than 200 different file formats and produces quality audio within seconds. Moreover, the straightforward website is entirely devoid of ads and allows you to convert files up to 100MB in size at no extra charge — whether you’re converting FLAC, AAC, M4A, WMA, or nearly any other audio format you can throw at it.
Step 1: Navigate to the main Cloud Convert webpage: Since the program works directly within your Web browser, simply launch your favorite browser and head to the Cloud Convert website to access the software.
Step 2: Select your FLAC files and format: Click the Select files button in the top-left corner and choose the FLAC file you wish to convert from its respective save location. Afterward, click the Open button in the bottom-right corner to add the file to the conversion queue.
Step 3: Choose the resulting format and output settings: Click the select format button directly right of the FLAC file you wish to convert within the queue and select mp3 from the list of available options. Then, click the wrench icon beside the drop-down box if you wish to change various output settings. Although Cloud Convert is fairly limited when it comes to output options — it is free, after all — it still provides options for tweaking the bitrate, frequency, and available audio channels. Click the blue Okay button when finished.
Step 4: Select your save location and convert: Unlike most desktop and Web-based applications, Cloud Convert gives you the option to save the resulting file in either your Google Drive or Dropbox account, in addition to your email. Simply check the box corresponding to your desired save location and click the red Start Conversion button on the right-hand side to begin the process. Alternatively, don’t check a box if you prefer to download the resulting file directly from the Cloud Convert page.
Step 5: Wait and download: A yellow progress bar will appear to the right of your FLAC file once you start the conversion process. Wait for the conversion process to complete, and afterward, retrieve your newly-minted MP3 from its specified save location. Then, launch the file in your favorite media player or sync the file as you would normally.
This article was original published on July 28, 2013, and updated on October 3, 2014, to reflect recent software changes.