Is FLAC Worth the Effort if I Already Have mp3 Files?

Is FLAC Worth the Effort if I Already Have mp3 Files?

I have seen a few posts here about the excellent quality of FLAC files vs. mp3. I have a large collection of old mp3 files that I ripped from CDs. I was planning on loading them onto a flash drive for use in the MS with the USB ports.

I was wondering if it is worth ripping them all over again to FLAC. I do not have the upgraded sound system (my only regret with the car), so would I be able to tell the difference? I don't consider myself a pure audiophile, but I do appreciate a good sound.

AzHP | 26 gennaio 2016

don't regret not upgrading sound; the upgrade mainly improves bass due to a larger subwoofer (I did research and read audiophile reviews), and I've never had complaints about the bass in my Tesla.

As far as FLAC over MP3, honestly what you don't know won't hurt you. If you're happy with the sound through an mp3 and you're not an audiophile, just enjoy the music as it is. It's a LOT of work to re-rip every CD you own and takes a lot of storage space to store FLAC so I would say don't bother unless you really care.

Tâm | 26 gennaio 2016



mp3 is bad quality.

It doesn't matter if you convert it to FLAC, FLAC will genuinely broadcasts that it's mp3 bad quality.

Thus, if you don't have a high quality source (CD, WAV...) to convert to FLAC, then do not do.

Just listen directly from that poor quality mp3.

Tâm | 26 gennaio 2016


Ok! I think you are not asking to convert from mp3 to FLAC which yields no advantage.

I think you are asking to convert your CD to FLAC, then sure it is worth it if you are an audiophile. You might notice the treble is clearer in your standard car sound without a subwoofer.

However, as @seansplee mentioned, it's a lot of work and you might not train your ears to hear a difference between mp3 and CD, so my recommendation is to use existing mp3 and convert future CDs to FLAC.

Haggy | 26 gennaio 2016

It doesn't have to be an all or nothing task. Rip one CD. Compare it to the MP3 version. Have somebody else select the source for you and not tell you. Put each one in a different folder, tell the other person to pick a random one, play it for you, and that person doesn't need to know what you are listening for. Then you decide if you liked choice one or choice two better, and then ask which was which. If you aren't sure which you preferred, don't bother asking. If one stood out at you, then you have your answer.

Keep in mind that with car audio you have to contend with other things such as road noise and a less than optimal seating position, both of which will degrade your sound more than the difference between MP3 and FLAC might.

FLAC is only as good as the CD, which won't be top quality in the first place.

Tâm | 26 gennaio 2016

Just additional comment for future pick of a sound system since @Haggy mentioned about road noise.

Lots of people think just because an environment is noisy (busy packed nightclub, or engine, road, wind noise...), you don't need a better sound system.

I am the opposite! That IS why you need a best system especially in those environment.

With a better system, you can hear the crystally clear cymbals jumping through the noise and you can FEEL the bass so you know exactly which beat your are at even if you are drowned in road and wind noise.

SbMD | 26 gennaio 2016

Good advice above. I'll add a bit below and incorporate some of the above.

I also recommend ripping some of your favorite tracks to FLAC and doing an A/B compare to see if you notice a difference. Do it when you are parked and when you are driving, to get a sense of how things sound in different environments. If you don't notice a difference, or the difference is inconsequential, no need to go through the effort.

If you do notice a difference, then rip away whatever you would like. That's the simple answer. For more depth, keep reading.

FLAC is a method of lossless coding. MP3 and other formats are "lossy", and contain compressed data, hence sound quality is lower. For different reasons, the music may or may not sound different on your system or to your ear, but generally one would notice a difference.

Note that CDs are recorded at 44.1 kHz/16-bit rate and essentially captures sound encompassing the limit of the human ear. This sampling rate is not the only part of the equation. The quality as well as quantity of sampling is important and can make a difference in recording quality. Think of it as the difference between a faithful reproduction of a recording's "Master tape" versus a lower quality reproduction.

The point is that the amount of data captured and reproduced can make a difference in sound quality, but it will have a couple of potential limitations: your sound system and your ear. There is a point at which higher quality sampling will make little to no difference to you, or when played through your particular sound system.

The same applies to higher resolution sampled recordings in a lossless format such as FLAC, where the sound is essentially that of an uncompressed master tape but may not sound significantly different to your ear or through your sound system. These cost more, and may or may not be worth the extra money to you.

Kevin M | 26 gennaio 2016

I did a sample comparison of a Hendrix song with FLAC and Slacker, and to be honest, I couldn't hear the difference. But Hendrix is pretty distorted already, so maybe differences would be more noticeable with cleaner sound. I do have the premium sound system.

I went ahead and re-ripped all of my CDs to FLAC anyway, since I figured I might as well have the best quality available, and this way I can archive my CDs on a disk drive (actually two, in case one drive fails), and probably never have to touch them again. Unless you have an ulterior motive such as this, I'd go with the recommendation to rip a few songs to FLAC, and see if you notice any difference.

So I have one USB stick that is all FLAC, and another that is mostly mp3. The mp3 stick has a lot more on it, since it also has lots of songs downloaded over the years, but also has most of the songs that are on the FLAC stick. Will be interested to see if I notice any differences as I listen more.

Also, I had ripped a bunch of CDs to WMA in the past. I just converted all of those to mp3, since I was hearing lots of dropouts, and I think I read that this was an issue with wma format. Now will be listening for any dropouts in the MP3s.


AoneOne | 26 gennaio 2016

One more thing: MP3 isn't an absolute indicator of quality. MP3 can be more or less compressed, with the least compressed (highest quality) taking about 384kbits/second, but it can be compressed another three-fold (or even more) to save more space at the expense of sound quality.

Also it supports both constant and variable bit rate recording, with VBR sounding better for a given bit rate.

Here's an experiment suggesting that 128 kb/s CBR is clearly worse, but 192 CBR, 320 CBR, uncompressed CD, and 160 VBR were essentially indistinguishable.

Also, when making the comparison, make sure the two recordings are identical in volume, and use an assistant (or your computer) to randomize the order of the tracks so you won't know which sample is which until the test is done. It's too easy to fool yourself otherwise.

In the experiment above, the files were decompressed to original size uncompressed audio so you couldn't compare the file sizes. Still, the article noted that recompressing into FLAC clearly shows the difference in quality.

artC | 26 gennaio 2016

What about iTunes AAC format? How does that compare to the FLAC format?

SbMD | 26 gennaio 2016

@artC - it is another "lossy" format. It is better than MP3, but not as good as FLAC in terms of sound quality.

Tâm | 26 gennaio 2016


In addition to what @SbMD answered, Apple is unwilling to make life easy for its competitors.

Tesla gives away patents but Apple wouldn't.

If you stay with Apple music, then you can listen to the music fine but if you transfer out of Apple and want to listen to the same AAC format to another device, you might have to jump a lot of hoops to be able to listen that music that you bought from Apple.

sentabo | 26 gennaio 2016

Great idea for the "blind" test; will certainly do that.

Good advice all; thanks so much for the input.

david.baird | 26 gennaio 2016

Indeed you need to test for yourself to see if YOU can tell the difference. Personally I have everything in Apple Lossless at home, transcoded to FLAC in the Model S and transcoded to 256 AAC on lmy iPhone - I have Bluetooth headophones that decode AAC, so in this case, AAC will sound better than ALAC.

From my opinion, the Telsa upgraded sound system sounds absolutely superb with FLAC - really nice sound, of course make sure you also adapt the EQ, boost the +6.6, 0, +2.5 - seems to be the sweet-spot.

SbMD | 27 gennaio 2016

Good additional points from @Tam and @Lycanthrope. @Bob.Calvo made another interesting suggestion in a separate thread to try to shift the fader rearward and volume higher which, to my ear, can also give an illusion of further soundstage depth. May not be great for rear passengers, be warned :)

zybane | 27 gennaio 2016

FLAC has to be made from a good source like a master or super audio CD to sound good.

Lossless or MP3 can both sound bad if the source is bad.

Red Sage ca us | 27 gennaio 2016

I have a Friend who used to be in the music industry. She was in her bedroom doing something or other, when I played a FLAC file of The Red Hot Chili Peppers on the system in the living room. She dropped everything and came back into the living room because she thought Anthony Kiedis had come over...

So, yes... FLAC is worth it. When it comes to music that you know well, especially. More so if you have only listened to it by MP3 for years.

"Sometimes I feel like I don't have a partner..."

DonS | 27 gennaio 2016

Unless you are only going to listen to music while parked in your garage, don't bother. Road noise and external noise completely bury the slight nuances gained by FLAC.

Red Sage ca us | 27 gennaio 2016

DonS: At least, until crank it up to 11... Or put on headphones. Oh, wait...


Tâm | 27 gennaio 2016


I agree with @Red Sage ca us and disagree that FLAC makes no difference in road noise or noisy environment.

With a powerful system, you can crank up the volume from the FLAC and you can hear the treble and feel the bass perfectly despite of wind and road noises.

If you do so with MP3, they are distorted, clipped, terrible!

SbMD | 27 gennaio 2016

+1 @RedSage and @Tam

At higher volumes in quality systems (I haven't pushed the Tesla this way), if you are below the clipping point of the amplifier/speakers and have good signal-to-noise ratio, good quality FLAC recordings will not only have better projection at higher volumes but also better quality at higher volumes compared to lower volumes. You can also pick out some of the less noticeable sounds that make up the character of certain recordings (e.g. subtle variations in voices, instruments)

But this is not what everyone wants or needs for their drive... TETO ("To Each Their Own")

tesla | 28 gennaio 2016

@Tâm -- 'MP3 is bad quality'

BUT -- in a double blind, even trained listeners cannot ABX properly encoded 320 MP3 from CD source on audiophile equipment.

Tâm | 28 gennaio 2016


OK! Sounds fair enough.

"bad" is a subjective term. I should use the term "lossy."

"lossy" is more objective because not every one can detect the difference.

It's the same way when people compare coil vs air suspension and many people just cannot see any difference. So you mean Tesla charges more for no difference?

Some people can't feel any difference between the acceleration of 3.1 seconds vs. Ludicrous 2.8 seconds. So if I feel no difference does that mean those 2 numbers are the same?

Some wouldn't want to pay for sound upgrade and ask "What subwoofer? I don't hear any difference!"

Some says: 128kbps MP3 sounds the same as 320kbps MP3 does

And also:

320kbps MP3 sounds the same as CD does.

Just because people cannot hear any difference, does that mean CD quaility is equal to 128kbps MP3?

These are subjective reports of what people perceive because we are not robots.

However, objectively, these features are really different.

If you can afford to pay for the difference even if you can't see any difference currently, do it!

Rocky_H | 28 gennaio 2016

I concur that you need to compare for yourself. Also, +1 to @AOneOne for first pointing out the various levels of compression an mp3 can be. Back when I was in college, I had some mp3s at 96kbps, because disk space was tight back then. Also, that was back when it took about a half hour to rip and encode a single song. Oh how times have changed.

I know I am not an audiophile, so several years ago, I did want to find out my detectable quality threshold. I checked a song at some various levels of compression and found that I still could hear it sounding pretty thin and bad at 128k, but at 192k and above, they sounded good to me, so that's what I've been going with. Depends on what you can perceive.

So to address the original question, you might check what quality your mp3s are. If they are 128k or 192k, there's probably room to improve it, but if it's at 320k already, I predict you probably won't be able to notice much improvement and can save the effort.

tesla | 28 gennaio 2016

@Tâm - My comment was constrained specifically to comparing mp3 at 320 to CD source...

Human beings have objective (not subjective) limits to what we can hear. These are both functional limits of our auditory system, and psycho-acoustical limits of our auditory processing systems. CD encoding exploits these limits by eliminating frequencies we cannot hear (above 20khz), and not recording data outside of our dynamic range (120db). MP3 encoding takes this one step further, and exploits properties of our psycho-acoustical audio processing. This is why it is called psycho-acoustical compression.

This is already true of UNCOMPRESSED audio as well. Instruments can produce sounds outside of human hearing (20hz-20khz) and they can produce compression quanta that are more precise than we can detect. The very act of recording these instruments already eliminates this information. As you said, just because the information wasn't recorded, doesn't mean it isn't there. Of course it is there, but we cannot process even if it was recorded.

This isn't an issue of what "some people" can detect, these are things no human can detect based on the limits of our 'hardware' -- This is why audio engineers purposefully eliminate information from the audio stream.

If someone wants to use FLAC or WAV instead of a properly encoded mp3, I have no dog in that fight -- people should be free to use whatever encoding scheme they want. They just wouldn't be able to discern the difference in a double-blind test. That is the only point I was making -- if people are only concerned with what they can hear, they might as well save the storage space. | 28 gennaio 2016

Actually FLAC has very good compression while maintaining lossless audio, and in many cases it may be smaller than 320 kbps compressed lossy MP3 for a given song. There are a lot of variables, so it's hard to say which will take less disk space.

Since disk space is so cheap, I don't know why anyone would go with a lossy formats anymore, other than to live with something you already converted to MP3 in the past. If you're going to the trouble of ripping CDs today, go with FLAC. You can always downgrade FLAC to a MP3 lossy format, but there is no value going the other way.

If you ever need to get a lower quality high-compressed file (i.e. less disk space), you never want to start from a lossy file as it will add further unpredictable distortions.

tesla | 28 gennaio 2016

Well now that is an entirely different argument all-together :)

-Yes you CAN have FLACs that are smaller, but in general, they are about twice as big as 320 mp3. (320 mp3 is constant based on song length, FLAC can vary)

-Of course if you already have lossless files you should not get rid of them even if you do convert to mp3 - "once you go lossy, you don't go back"

-Yes you should always rip CDs into a lossless format, and keep the lossless copy. The question is what format should they be produced in for Player X??

-Justin Bieber CDs should not be ripped in any format, but rather they should be destroyed.

-80s CDs should be ripped in lossless, but should be kept for nostalgia.

SbMD | 28 gennaio 2016

@Jeff - good points above.

I'll add that not all hearing "hardware" is equal and people do not respond along a flat curve. Even audiograms (hearing tests) that show flat responses across frequencies have differences between the frequencies. The hearing curve shifts for people based on a number of variable i.e. Not everyone hears the same.

When taking into account the listener there are some people who have hearing and discrimination better than the typical population. Also, under certain physical circumstances (eg underwater) one can pick up frequencies not generally detected in air because of transmission that circumvents the three ear bones (i.e. Ossicular chain).
(Parenthetically, we exploit this surgically in some people with certain types of deafness).

So, yes there are limits to the hardware but not as fixed as one would think in people or certain auditory circumstances. Then there are vibratory cues that can be detected which gets deeper into psychoacoustics.

tesla | 28 gennaio 2016


Yes I agree completely. Certainly a small % people will be able to hear 19 kHz, for example, and they are more likely be among the young in the population. However, I would doubt anyone could hear above the CD nyquist cutoff frequency of 22khz, outside of specific scenarios like the one you indicated. (Underwater)

I guess my point was, while the abilities of each individual human vary within a range, the range itself (for all intents and purposes) is fixed. So while a large % of the population probably can't hear anything above 16khz, no one can hear above 30khz. (In air, and without the aid of technology)

An analogy would be marathon times: There is massive variation in human marathon times, but no one can run a 90 minute marathon, and likely won't ever given our current genome and without the aid of technology. Or if you're like me -- you would be dead before you hit the finish line ;)

SbMD | 28 gennaio 2016

@jeff - Agreed! Although, if you had a enough inspirational Justin Bieber music, you might be able to break that 90 minute barrier :)

sbeggs | 28 gennaio 2016

I need to FLAC all of my salsa CDs to prepare for the coming zombie apocalypse. I'm way behind the power curve on getting this done.

SbMD | 28 gennaio 2016

@sbeggs - Zombies can't salsa nor can they tell the difference between MP3s and FLAC. Spend your time stockpiling twinkles and ding-dongs as simultaneous food sources and building materials.

sbeggs | 28 gennaio 2016

Good point. Twinkles have too much sugar. I think I'll concentrate on packing small brown eggs in layers of salt to preserve them. While listening to my old cassettes from the seventies on my boom box.

SbMD | 28 gennaio 2016

@sbeggs - well played... I yield to your rapier wit :-)

sentabo | 28 gennaio 2016

@Rocky_H - Many of my ripped mp3s were at 128 kbs. I did follow the sound (heh heh) advice from several here and ripped a few songs in FLAC for comparison. It will definitely be worth my while to hunker down and re-rip my music to FLAC files. My ride just keeps getting better.

tesla | 29 gennaio 2016


If you still have your CDs and your mp3s are only 128, I would say it is well worth your time to re-rip to FLAC.

Rocky_H | 29 gennaio 2016

@sentabo, Ah ha! Yeah, I think you will probably appreciate that. I think in the earlier years of iTunes and some other music buying services, the tracks they were selling were 128k rate, too, because that was several years ago when mp3 player storage was less.

SbMD | 29 gennaio 2016

+1 @Jeff and @Rocky

sentabo | 29 gennaio 2016

I'm in the process of "FLACing" as I type. Thanks for the advice, this is a great forum.

Rocky_H | 29 gennaio 2016

FLACing A, man.

Annie_Yazbeck | 22 gennaio 2019

Compared to MP3 audio format, FLAC could better, as it could encode in lossless audio files and use compression technology. It needs less space to store audio files. So you can get more space to store your audio files.
Besides, you can listen to more higher audio quality.
As for converting MP3 to FLAC, you can have a try of AudFree Audio Converter from that can convert MP3 and any other audio files to FLAC and other audio format with ease. For more detailed tutorail, you can visit AudFree website by yourself.

hafidortega | 22 gennaio 2019

Not to high jack this thread, but wasn’t there some guy a few years back offering an upgrade to the already upgraded sound systems in Tesla’s. I think the person would fly out to people homes, and for something like $5k, would install incredible speakers and make the sound system that much better? Anyone have that system? | 22 gennaio 2019

@hafidortega - I wrote up an article on various hardware audio modifications here:

I think you may be thinking of Reus Audio, who have done a number of high-end enhancements. I've heard his systems and they do sound nice, but I don't have it installed in my car.

martinfg2 | 22 gennaio 2019

@Annie19900615 - If you do a little reading on either or, you can find some ABX listening test results to answer in a reasonably scientific way the question of whether you are likely to notice music artifacts from ripping to mp3 versus flac. Here's one link:

Basically, if you have MP3s at ~192kbps bitrate or better, you aren't really going to hear a difference between that and FLAC, and certainly not inside a car. I do own a late 2016 Tesla MS with premium sound, and the bulk of my CDs are ripped to a USB stick as MP3s at >=192kbps bitrate (specifically, lame 3.9x or 3.100 using vbr).

However, keeping a FLAC "golden master" copy of prized music makes sense to me, for conversion to some future music-player format.

calleserra | 28 gennaio 2019

I have 320kbps mp3 and flacs of the same songs for comparison. I also have the premium audio in my S. There is a slight difference in sound when the flac/mp3 music are compared apples to apples. The flac is of course better. But not like how superior the SACD is over regular CD. Or, say blu-ray over dvd. In my opinion, not worth it to redo my music to flac. Flac conversion is also a whole lot tedious than just ripping to mp3. I use a free flac conversion shareware).

bruntonma | 21 agosto 2019

I can hear a distinct difference between flac files and the same songs compressed and streamed through the "radio" player. | 21 agosto 2019

@caddiesytgvwo is bot Spam, please flag. No need to reduce the quality of FLAC by going to MP3.

TeslaKU | 22 agosto 2019

Since this thread is from 2016, can we now debate DVD versus Blu-Ray versus UHD 4K.

Wish people would look at the date of the post before responding to a zombie thread.

EVRider | 22 agosto 2019

@TeslaKU: You mean responding like you did? :-)

Just kidding, you’re right. It’s rare that a new reply to an old thread isn’t spam.

nickivieru1991 | 19 settembre 2019

I'm working on an art project that will require using the mp3 format creatively. I want the file to sound as good as possible, but even on 8kbps it's fine . As well as multiple passes, I also try sourcing some of the earliest mp3 encoding programs but the best and easy way personally for me is just access and dowload every song from youtube in very good quality. 320Kpbs is the standard vibe of all songs so it's enough for me to get pleasure from music

TeslaKU | 20 settembre 2019

LOL. I guess we are going to do it.

@nickivieru1991 - If you are using your phone and ear buds, you won't notice a difference. Put a WAV or FLAC on a professional line array that is properly tunes and there will be a BIG difference on most songs.

Also, you are advocating piracy which is a federal crime. Stealing music from the artists on YouTube is not legal. (The YouTube files are using highly compressed audio, so it is no where near the original quality.)