Just like canned beer, MP3s are cheap, convenient, and sold just about everywhere, but the quality doesn't hold up well under scrutiny. If you want to hear every detail in your music -- every breath, every strum, every rattle -- then a lossless format such as FLAC is the way to go.
The Free Lossless Audio Codec (FLAC) is capable of reducing the size of uncompressed audio sources by 40 percent to 50 percent without any degradation in sound quality. You can find free programs for Mac, Windows, and Linux that will play and rip FLAC files, but finding a FLAC-compatible MP3 player isn't quite so easy.
It's possible that you already own a FLAC-compatible audio player and don't realize it -- check your manufacturer's support page for firmware updates that could enable FLAC and provide other improvements. If you own an older iPod, the open-source Rockbox firmware offers FLAC audio playback, custom EQ, games, and tons of little surprises. Meanwhile if you own an iPod Touch or an iPhone, there are several apps available from the App Store that will let you play and upload FLAC files. Read our FLAC FAQ here.
Compare these audio players head-to-head.