In your digital media journey you’ve probably encountered music files called FLAC, Ogg Vorbis or Shorten. Getting them to play on your Mac is pretty easy but playing them on an iPod or other MP3 player isn’t an easy task for the average person.
Instead of doing things the hard way – messing around with unsupported and warranty breaking alternate firmware, go the easy way and convert your FLACs, Oggs, and Shortens to MP3 and get on with your life.
Why the other formats?
Its reasonable to wonder why all these formats are around when the MP3 has been standard for well over 10 years. It boils down to two reasons:
1. Patent / Licensing issues.
2. Superior quality.
To convert audio into MP3 format, its technically not free. The patent (or patents) actual owners are a bit hazy and many claim ownership. What this means to you is that if you want to create a MP3, the program you use must license the technology from the patent holder. Luckily, Apple did this with iTunes, allowing us to create MP3s for free.
However, some people take offense to this and want to see a patent free codec without the licensing issues. Thus, we now have Ogg Vorbis.
I think we all know what a really bad MP3 sounds like. Since MP3 is a lossy compression scheme, once you create an MP3 the original data is lost. Depending on how high or low quality you set, the quality can be really bad or just barely noticeable.
CD Quality files (WAV / AIFF) are exact reproductions of your CD. They sound and are exactly the same as playing the disc. However, the file sizes are huge.
To shrink down these file sizes, yet give us exact reproductions, we need a lossless audio format. These are FLAC and Shorten files.
Converting Ogg Vorbis to MP3:
First off, because Ogg files are lossy, changing them to MP3 (another lossy format) is going to affect the quality. Think of it like creating a JPG from a JPG image. I don’t recommend doing this but if you have to, make sure everything is set at the highest available quality.
Note: I tested this conversion myself for this article and the 192kbps MP3 file I created sounded fine for my purposes. However, I am really not much of an audio snob and the Ogg file I used was also encoded at high quality.
To easily do this, just use iTunes –
1. If you can’t play Ogg Vorbis files with iTunes, download the Xiph Quicktime Components.
2. Click “iTunes” from the Menu Bar and choose “Preferences”.
3. Under the General tab, click “Import Settings”.
4. Select “Import Using: MP3 Encoder”.
5. Set your quality settings for Highest.
6. Click OK.
7. Select your Ogg Files in iTunes.
8. Click “Advanced” on the Menu Bar and choose “Create MP3 Version”.
Converting FLAC and Shorten to MP3:
Even though I have the necessary codecs installed to play a FLAC file with Quicktime, I can’t get iTunes to read them. So we can’t use the iTunes trick for converting a FLAC or Shorten into MP3. We’ll use another great application called xACT.
1. Download and install xACT.
2. In xACT, click on the “decode” tab.
3. Select your output format – WAV or AIFF.
4. Click “add” to select your FLAC / Shorten files.
– You an also drag and drop them if you prefer.
5. Click the blue “Decode” button and watch the magic.
6. Import your newly created WAV or AIFF into iTunes.
7. Click “iTunes” from the Menu Bar and choose “Preferences”.
8. Under the General tab, click “Import Settings”.
9. Select “Import Using: MP3 Encoder”.
10. Set your quality settings for Highest.
11. Click OK.
12. Select the WAV / AIFF file.
13. Click “Advanced” on the Menu Bar and choose “Create MP3 Version”.
Don’t want to convert? (Advanced Users Only):
Ok, so you don’t want to convert and just want your MP3 player to play the Ogg Vorbis or FLAC files. If you feel up to the task, here are your options: