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For the audiophile, FLAC, short for Free Lossless Audio Codec, is an absolute gift. Since the codec is open source, software that will convert your CDs into this widely supported format is free and easy to find.
Many popular music players, save a few large exceptions, such as iTunes, support FLAC natively. Since FLACs are lossless, you can be sure that you are getting all the sound that the original artist intended.
Or can you? How can you be sure that all the FLACs you have are truly lossless conversions from CDs and not just, say, reconverted MP3s, which as we all know are lossy?
Traditionally, the only way to do this was to run a spectrum graph while the song was playing and see which channels peaked. From there, you would be able to tell if the file had been converted to a lossy file at some point.
For a beginner, this method is completely ineffective. Unless you really know what you’re looking for, you really have no idea what’s going on in the spectrum graph. So how can you really be sure?
Luckily, there is an easy to use, lightweight software that checks the origins of music sound files to decipher their origins.
Audiochecker, which you can download here, is a quick download that is simple to use. You should download the beta version located under “New beta available!” on the downloads page. I find the beta has more features and is stable as far as I can tell.
The software doesn’t need an install, just extract the ZIP and click “apigui.exe” to run the program. You should see the following.
It may look a little complex, but there are only a few things you really have to worry about to uncover the origins of music you have on your PC. If you want to select an entire directory, hit “Directory” under “Select source.” If you want to select files individually, hit “File(s).”
Depending on what you select, a prompt with a a navigation window should pop up.
After you select some files, they should appear in the Queue like below.
Then hit “Start” and the process should start and you should see some text in the Event Log and a status bar.
It may take a little bit, let it do its thing and you should see a result in the Results Summary section.
Here we see that the FLAC I tested returned as a CDDA, meaning it came from a CD rip, so it is in fact lossless. The percentage next to the type is the software’s guess about how accurate its analysis was. As you can see, the software is 100% sure of the veracity of the file. Sometimes that number dips a little bit, but I find that it’s usually pretty accurate.
You may be thinking, well, that’s all well and good, but how do I know whether its analysis is all that accurate? I had the same sentiments the first time I used the software. That is why I decided to test the software with some controlled files. First, I reconverted an MP3 into a FLAC and ripped a FLAC from a CD.
Since I knew the origins of each music file, I would be able to see how accurate the software was in determining the original format of each file.
First, the reconverted MP3. I took an MP3 in my collection and converted it to a FLAC. After it did its magic, it returned the following.
As you can see, the software was able to determine that the FLAC was originally an MPEG, or MP3. Clearly this is good news. Now we know that if a FLAC is actually a reconverted MP3, Audiochecker will be able to tell.
Just for posterity’s sake though, let’s check what the software returns if I use a FLAC that I recently ripped myself.
Audiochecker correctly determined that the file was a CDDA and thus in fact a FLAC ripped from a CD.
Audiochecker is useful if you are suspect of the origins of many of your audio files. It is quick, efficient, and easy to use.
Do you know any other good uses for Audiochecker or other software that help confirm the quality of your music? Let us know in the comments below.