Does VLC Play FLAC?
By Seamus Islwyn
Updated September 22, 2017
The Free Lossless Audio Codec, or FLAC, is a high-quality digital audio compression standard that provides CD-quality audio in a compact file format. FLAC has several specific advantages, including open-source code and convertibility, over other audio file formats. The open-source VLC media player can play this audio format without any additional plugins or add-ons.
An audio encoder compresses raw audio information -- from a CD, for example -- into a smaller digital audio file. Unlike other audio encoders like MP3 and AAC, FLAC uses lossless compression, meaning that FLAC files contain all the information that was present in the original audio. Because of this, a FLAC file is extremely high-fidelity, and is indistinguishable, or nearly so, from a CD containing the same audio, but it is able to compress the audio to approximately half its original size.
Playing FLAC in VLC
The VLC media player includes a built-in audio decoder that supports playing FLAC files. To play a FLAC file in VLC, click VLC's "Media" menu, select "Open File" and navigate to the FLAC file you want to play. Double-click the FLAC to load it into VLC. You can load multiple FLACs by holding the "Ctrl" key, clicking each FLAC you want to play, and then clicking the "Open" button. You can also drag and drop FLAC files from a Windows Explorer window into the VLC media player.
Advantages of FLAC
Besides the fact that FLAC encoding produces high-quality audio, the FLAC format has several advantages over other compression standards. Because a FLAC file contains all the data from the original audio waveform, you can re-encode a FLAC file into any desired format without losing audio quality. If you archive your music collection as FLACs, then you'll be able to convert it into whatever audio file format becomes popular in the future. The FLAC standard is open-source, meaning that users can use and modify it in any ways they desire. FLAC files can play on all common operating systems, including Windows, Mac and Linux.
Although VLC can play FLAC files, it cannot rip audio CDs into the FLAC format. If you want to archive your CD collection as FLACs that you can play in VLC, you'll need to use another program. The Exact Audio Copy CD ripping program and the Winamp media player can both convert CD audio to FLAC without any add-ons. Set the encoder to "FLAC" in the program's preferences. The dBpoweramp audio converter can also encode FLACs; however, you'll need to add a specially designed codec before you can do so.
Seamus Islwyn has been writing for radio, print and online publications since 2003, covering subjects from independent Canadian music to automobile smuggling in the Balkans. His work has appeared in the "Tirana Times" in Albania, and he also composes and produces electronic music. Islwyn holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from McGill University and a certificate in radio broadcasting from Humber College.