When we say 'lossless' we mean that the files you hear have not been altered from the original recording. If we use a CD as an example, a standard album can contain approximately 600mb of recorded data which makes up the audio you hear. If you then rip this CD to a ‘lossy’ format (mp3, aac) you are compressing the original data into a much smaller file. This process results in the loss of some of the originally recorded data, and in theory, a loss in quality. Your 600mb CD may now be as little as 100mb. Lossy formats such as mp3 are very popular due to the considerably smaller file size and compatibility with portable media player such as smartphones.
Common Lossless file formats include FLAC, WAV and SHN.
Common Lossy file formats include, MP3, AAC, WMA etc.
This can come down to personal preference and the equipment you use. In technical terms 'lossless' should be better because it retains all of the originally recorded data but in real terms you may not notice any difference between lossless and lossy if you are not using high end audio equipment. For eg if you listen to your bootlegs on your phone via basic headphones then any difference between the two formats may be negligible. However, if you listen to your music via high end audio equipment then lossless formats may sound better. Many people prefer to have the best possible quality while others prefer the convenience of smaller files if they have slow internet or limited storage space. The choice is yours.
Most of the bootlegs you hear on U2start have kindly been recorded by a taper who has attended the venue with a lot of equipment (often against venue rules), located a good recording spot and often has had to stand still during the show in order to get a good recording of the show. When tapers share their recordings, they will often do so in a lossless format to ensure that what is shared is of the highest possible quality. Very often a taper will request that their recording is not shared in a lossy format because this reduces the quality of their recording. Although a lot of us may not hear any difference between lossless and lossy, we at U2start feel it is important to respect the wishes of tapers as not doing so may mean that tapers may be put off from sharing future recordings which is of no benefit to the whole community.
Where a show is only available in lossless, you can download it and convert it to your desired format. See below for an easy two-step guide on doing so.
We are happy to refer you to this great guides to help you play lossless files on the device of your choice:
How to Play FLAC Files (wikihow)
How to play FLAC Files on the iPhone
How to play FLAC Files on an Android device
The tool we recommend to use is MediaHuman's Audio Converter which is completely freeware and available for both PC and Mac. Simply drag & drop (or add) your lossless files, select MP3 as the desired output format and click the button to start the conversion.
You can find an easy step-by-step guide on Wikihow: Convert FLAC to MP3.