Convert FLAC to MP3

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Revision as of 21:35, 1 June 2009 by Duki (talk | contribs) (Step 02 - Encoding with iTunes)
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This article shows how to turn Free Lossless Audio Codec (FLAC) files into MP3 files. The benefits to this are obvious, the files are smaller and have better support among software and hardware players (also use less power when playing on supporting MP3 players). The drawbacks also exist too; MP3 is a lossy format. FLAC is lossless, which means it loses no audio information from it's original source, it is just compressed and can be returned to its original state at any time.

How to convert using Windows


LAME MP3 Encoder (alternate link) ---> You need this software for the conversion to MP3. 

Foobar 2000 ---> A popular audio player with a wide range of support for playing audio files
and converting them to other formats.

Converting from FLAC to MP3 should not take too long and won't take up too much hard drive space.

Step 01 - Installation

Run the Foobar 2000 installation. The steps involved are self explanatory and don't need to be explained in detail here. The installation should be very quick and you will have the option to run Foobar 2000 for the first time at the end of the process.

You must also install the LAME MP3 encoder software onto the computer, which is not so straight forward but still easy. If it comes in the form of a .exe file, just install it like any other application. If it is in .zip form, extract it to a folder.

Now in foobar, go to "File --> Preferences", then find "Converter" under the Tools menu.

Step 02 - Adding files

Open FLAC files in Foobar 2000, either use the Open Files option in the file menu or simply drag and drop FLAC music files onto the program window. The files will be displayed in the playlist panel. You can play the file now if you wish as FLAC is natively supported by Foobar 2000.

Step 03 - Converting

Select a FLAC file (if you want to select many then just hold down the CTRL or SHIFT key and click them) and right click on it. Move the mouse down to the Convert sub-menu as shown in the picture above. Now click Convert to... and Foobar 2000's conversion options will pop-up on the screen.

Converter Setup

The Converter Setup program allows you to select different audio formats to convert source audio files to. Foobar 2000 is a very powerful application on its own, but for some of the conversions it will need outside software (might even need a plug-in simply to support the source audio, APE for instance). From the Encoding Preset drop-down menu, select MP3 (LAME).

Now click the button labelled "..." beside the Output format drop-down box. This will allow you to select a bitrate and determine the output quality of the resulting MP3 file(s).

Bitrate Settings

This is obviously easy to understand, simply move the slidebar to the left for lower quality but smaller files and to the right for higher quality and larger files. The default is 190kbps. This is a variable bitrate option which means it will be of higher quality (generally) than CBR MP3 audio [citation needed]. Make your bitrate selection and click OK.

  • Note: As MP3 is a lossy audio format, there will be audio information discarded in the FLAC --> MP3 conversion. This discarded information will not be automagically re-added back to the file if you convert it back from MP3 to FLAC. So you should never convert an MP3 file to a FLAC file just to make it seem like a higher-quality file.

You will now be back at the Converter Setup. Click OK and Foobar 2000 should now attempt to locate the LAME.EXE file.

Conversion Process

In most cases, this conversion will happen very quickly. If you selected multiple files then it will go through them one by one. Please remember to always check the output MP3 files before you delete the FLAC files.

Hopefully you will have successfully converted FLAC audio to MP3 audio for your personal use. If you need to repeat this process again, you won't need to point out LAME.EXE anymore to Foobar 2000, just right click and select Convert to.

Without locating the lame.exe file, Foobar 2000 won't be able to convert the FLAC audio to MP3. Navigate to the folder where the LAME encoder files were extracted/installed to, select lame.exe and click Open.

How to convert using OS X


xACT ---> X Audio Compression Toolkit. 
iTunes ---> A popular audio player with a wide range of support for playing audio files
and converting them to other formats.

There are two steps in converting your FLAC files to MP3. The first is to decode the FLAC’s into WAV files. After that’s done, you’ll encode the WAV files into MP3’s.

Step 01 - Decoding with xACT

  1. Launch xACT and select the decode tab
  2. Click the add button
  3. Navigate to the .flac files you want to decode, select them all, and then click Add files
  4. Now you’ll need to select the output - I use and suggest .wav. Click Decode when you’re ready
  5. You’ll be prompted to choose a location to save the output files. Select the same folder where the .flac files are located and then click Choose
  6. The decoding process only takes a few minutes. When it’s completed you’ll be back at the decode screen but there won’t be any files in the decode list. Feel free to close xACT now.

Step 02 - Encoding with iTunes

  1. Open up iTunes and select iTunes from the top menu, and then Preferences... from the drop-down list
  2. Select the Advanced tab from the top menu, and then Importing from the lower menu
  3. From the Import Using: list, select MP3 Encoder
  4. From the Setting: list, select your quality preference. I opt for Higher Quality (192 kbps)
  5. It also annoys me to have songs playing while they’re importing, so I disable that feature by removing the check from the box labeled Play songs while importing. This is entirely optional. Click OK to return to iTunes.
  6. Now select File from the top menu, and then Add to Library... from the drop-down list
  7. Navigate to the folder where you saved all of the .wav files from xACT, select that folder, and then click Choose
  8. iTunes will now import all of the .wav’s into iTunes. Find all of the newly added files (usually at the bottom of your iTunes list, but it depends on how you sort your music) and select them all. Once they’re all highlighted, right-click (ctrl-click for you one-button folks) on any of the selected songs and choose Convert Selection to MP3 from the pop-up menu.
  9. While iTunes is encoding your MP3s, a status indicator will appear in the left window. Depending on how “fast” your mac is (processor speed, memory etc) and how many files you’re encoding, this step can take anywhere from a few minutes to an hour.
  10. Once all of the files have been encoded, iTunes will probably beep to get your attention. Before you start listening to your music, now’s a good time to get rid of the .wav files, since they’re no longer needed.