Well all I know is I can tell a difference with WAV that I can with Flac, most Fac files that I have are in the 400MB to 500MB range and the same album or mix in WAV is around 700MB to 750MB so your telling me the extra 200 to 250MB dosen't make a difference. All I know is I've taken CD's that I have and made one Flac and the other WAV and WAV sounds better, Flac sound just a touch better than a 320 MP3 but WAV sound much cleaner and clearer to me. I don't know all the technical jargon that goes into it but I can hear a difference and its not the players or the EQ as I don't EQ, well maybe the bass but that wouldn't change anything.
That is exactly what I'm telling you. :-p lol I really don't mean to sound disrespectful, I'm only trying to help. Let me explain why. Please be patient and read this all if you would. It all comes down to how the files work.
Let's assume you make a word document on the computer and type a resume. You use winzip to compress the resume file and email it to a job contact. They use winzip and "unzip" the resume. Do you think they will see the exact same resume that you made on your computer? The answer is yes. The zip file will make the original resume smaller for email using lossless compression (the same idea as flac), and then the other person decompresses it back to its original size. Don't let the file size fool you. Simply put, it is a mathematical algorithm that reorganizes the bits of information into a file that contains the same information in a more compact form. It relies on the compression software (or music player) to interpret the compressed information based on the original algorithm. Let me explain it this way:
Take our "file", the line of binary here: 110011001100110011001100110011
You can see that it is basically 11 and 00 repeated. Now lets say that each character counts as 1MB of data, just to put a theoretical size to it. this line would equal 30MB (30 characters). This is your original WAV file.
Now, what if I told you I would make an algorithm or a "key" that would make the file smaller? Let's say my key is this:
If I read a 11, I will record it as a single 1. If I read a 00, I will record it as a single 0.
I will give you this key as well (the compression software/music player). So, when you get my file, you can read the file and use my "key" to translate it into its original state.
Therefore, I will send you a compressed version of the file based off of my "key" algorithm. This would be:
You can see now that the file is only 15MB (15 characters) now. That is half the size!!!
But here's the catch... I send you the 15MB file, but before you view it your compression software (music player) looks at the file I sent you and says "ok, let's take this file and apply the "key" I have to it." The software takes the 101010101010101 and says "i see a one... that means I should read it as 11, because the key says so, and I read a 0... so I should read it as 00, because the key says so".
It does this for the entire file, and when it is done you end up with: 110011001100110011001100110011
If you compare the original file number I listed at the beginning and the last file number I listed, you'll see they are identical. Both have the exact same bits: 110011001100110011001100110011.
Now when you make a flac file or any lossless audio file this is how it takes place. You use some flac based audio software and 'convert' the original wav file using the software. That software is using the flac key, as we'll call it. Flac is open source, so any software can use the flac key to allow you to make flac files. Apple lossless is not open source, so you'll notice that only apple has the "key" to make apple lossless files. But it all comes down to the key.
When you convert the file with your flac program, it uses the flac key as in the example I made up, to compress or shrink or compact the audio into a smaller file. Once you open that file in a flac "player" the music player is actually using the key to decompress, unshrink or uncompact the file back to its original bits, and only at that point does it play the audio file back to your ears. So you can see that technically the sound you hear is identical to the original.
The difference with mp3 is that it is a "lossy" format. Instead of making an algorithm to temporarily compress the file, it says "i want to make this smaller, but I can't compress the file any more, so let's just cut out some data completely". So using a different type of algorithm, it literally removes data forever, not allowing it to be brought back later. But by doing this it can substantially decrease the file size.
Anyway, the only way you would hear a difference is if the player that plays back the audio file was somehow different or doing something else to the audio. If you are playing the flac and wav files on the same computer, in the same audio software, with the same speakers, etc. It will sound identical. The only way it might sound slightly different, is if you changed the quality properties of the audio when you compressed the file to flac. In other words,if you have a 24-bit file and you convert it to a 16-bit file when you make it flac. That type of change has nothing to do with flac though, that is something different. You could check your conversion settings for that. But you should be converting a 16-bit wav to a 16-bit flac theoretically if it is from a CD.
The last example I can think of to express it even more simply would be packing your car for camping. You can pack all of the same exact gear into an SUV, or pack it all into a sedan, but when you take all of your camping gear out at the campground, it should all be there. The SUV will have more space and be bigger, the sedan will cram everything into the back and trunk to make it more compact, but ultimately when you are camping, the gear is all there. Same idea with lossless formats...
I hope that was helpful. I'm certain if you are actually hearing a difference there is some other factor, we have just yet to find it. :-)
Here's some more info as well on the technical stuff:
Edited by luisdent - 12/14/12 at 12:27am