- Learn the difference between vinyl and FLAC
- Find out which offers the best music-listening experience
- Also, check out our post on the best DACs
Vinyl vs. FLAC is an ongoing debate between many audiophiles. They argue about which one offers the best music-listening experience.
We can’t tell you which format you’d love more, as this is absolutely subject to the person’s preference. However, we can technically tell which is better from a sound quality perspective.
Many say vinyl offers a warm sound and demands more attentive listening, which is rare in today’s fast-paced world. Though, from a technical perspective, FLAC is better in almost all quality aspects.
Read on to find out why.
Vinyl vs. FLAC: Overview
Let’s take a quick look at the two different audio formats.
Vinyl: The Tangible Warm Music Experience
Although vinyl is considered an old-fashioned audio format, its sales have recently increased. According to vinyl enthusiasts, the reason is that they feel vinyl’s music experience is warmer and more real than digital audio.
More surprisingly, older generations even prefer the clicks that type of audio contains. They say it’s part of the experience!
Even though vinyl being a tangible music format is considered a drawback, some argue that tangibility is what makes it unique. That’s because it requires more attention and special rituals to listen to.
|The warmth of sound||It takes time and effort to maintain and store|
|Provide a tangible, nostalgic experience||It produces crackling and noise after a bit of usage|
|Its rareness makes it more attractive|
FLAC: The First-Rate Audio Format
Free lossless audio codec, or FLAC for short, is a digital audio format well-known for its top-notch sound quality.
This format plays the audio with no instrument distortion or bothering noise. That said, its storage size is still moderate compared to other high-quality, large formats like WAV.
|Compressed but with high quality||Takes up a lot of storage space compared to MP3 and others|
|Compatible with a lot of players, unlike other lossless formats|
Vinyl vs. FLAC: A Toe-to-Toe Comparison
Although preferring one type of the two audios is a totally subjective matter, technically, we can settle the argument about which is the better format, output-wise.
Here’s an in-depth comparison between these analog and digital formats.
Dynamic Range: Is the Audio Lifelike?
Simply, a dynamic range of audio determines the difference between the audio’s loudest and quietest points.
The wider the range, the more pronounced the differences are, thus the more lifelike and full-of-details the sound is, and vice versa.
For FLAC, you can get up to 120dB dynamic range, providing you with an incredibly wide range. On the other hand, vinyl’s dynamic range can reach a maximum of 70dB, which is much narrower than FLAC.
Winner: FLAC’s wider dynamic range makes it more vivid.
Bitrate: How Accurate Is the Audio?
Bitrate is the amount of data that can be transferred into audio. A higher bitrate indicates more data stored, which results in a more accurate audio output.
As a lossless format, FLAC is rated at 44.1KHz with a bitrate of 16-bit up to 24-bit. On the other hand, Vinyl has a bitrate of 12-bit, which is notably lower than that of FLAC.
Winner: With a higher bitrate, FLAC outweighs the accuracy vinyl can offer.
Vinyl is susceptible to higher noise levels because of the rumbling nature of turntables. In addition, vinyl can distort if scratched.
Conversely, FLAC isn’t prone to damage since it’s digital audio. So, you’ll get the minimum noise possible or even no noise at all.
Winner: FLAC, with its less noise level
Convenience: Portable vs. Indoor
FLAC obviously outweighs vinyl in this aspect. Vinyl can only be used indoors. You won’t pick up your turntable with you wherever you go, after all.
On the contrary, you can play FLAC almost anywhere, as long as you have a supporting player and headphones.
To run vinyl, you need a high-quality turntable. This may cost you from 150 to 250 bucks.
In addition, you may need a preamp if your turntable doesn’t have one. Depending on the type, this can cost you an additional 15 to 30 dollars.
Moreover, the prices of vinyl records are considerably higher than digital music.
To enjoy FLAC, you need headphones that work well with lossless audio or even IEMs. This can cost you between 100 and 200 bucks.
In addition, you’ll need a Tidal subscription or Bandcamp budget to order your favorite songs.
Winner: FLAC, as it costs less to enjoy the digital format.
Do Audiophiles Prefer Vinyl?
Although there has been an enormous comeback for vinyl in recent years, it’s not to say that all audiophiles prefer Vinyl.
Some audiophiles love vinyl because of its tangible gear and noisy sound that create a different feeling from the widespread digital audio everywhere.
However, the vast majority of audiophiles prefer and use digital audio for one reason or another.
Is There Anything Better Than FLAC?
With no limitations on aspects such as bit depth and in terms of bitrate and sound quality, WAV files are considered slightly better than FLAC files. However, they’re very large in size.
Vinyl vs FLAC: which is better? From a technical point of view, all the votes go to FLAC.
Nevertheless, if you’re a millennial or from an older generation, or like rare experiences, you’ll probably feel more warmth with vinyl. In the end, it’s totally up to your musical taste.
What about AIFF or MP3? Check out our explanation on Audio File Formats (Mp3 vs Wav vs AIFF vs FLAC & More)!