A new version of flac
A new version of the FLAC codec has been released! When ripping CDs I encourage the use of FLAC because it means a lossless copy of the CD's audio is taken, making for a higher quality, more flexible music collection. The new version of FLAC adds a whole host of new features... although it's arguable whether the mainstream listener will notice much difference.
Back to basics: a codec is a piece of software capable of transforming 'raw' audio to and from a defined file format (it's more generic than that: the bytes don't need to be stored in a file, but this is the most common use case). In FLAC's case it's the software that creates the FLAC file and converts a FLAC file to raw audio for your speakers to output.
There are a number of different codecs, but I normally encourage the use of FLAC files over other lossy music file formats such as MP3 and MP4, so the release of a new version of the codec should be big news, right?
Well, codecs aren't really like software and hardware. Well, they are a form of software, but they don't have user interfaces. They just convert music stored in their given format to raw audio (thus rendering the audio playable), or convert raw audio back into its format for storage in
.flac files. So, changes to the codec mean changes to the way the codec converts to and from the file format, and potentially new features such as the ability to store different metadata in the files.
As FLAC is a stable codec, existing FLAC files won't be affected if you upgrade. What are the key new features for upgraders?
The first is a boon for audiophiles. FLAC now supports volume normalisation for files sampled at 56kHz to 192kHz. This covers the recent fashion for 24-bit audio as used in DVD-Audio.
I also spy a handy change whereby the default compression value for new FLAC files is now '5', meaning more compression by default for FLACs. I think this is sensible; the computing power required is relatively small and you get a long term gain of lowered storage costs.
Getting the new version of FLAC
So, if you're interested in the new release, how do you get it? That depends on how you use FLAC.
It's probably easiest to wait for your music player of choice to support the new version. This means the developers/creators of your music player must incorporate the new version into their software/hardware.
If you can't wait, you can download the latest version of FLAC and install it on your computer. Then, you will have to edit your CD rippers and music players to point them toward the new version of the codec that you have installed. I've documented how to configure the FLAC codec for EAC here and this won't change much for other CD rippers; it'll be a matter of specifying the location of the flac.exe file.