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FLAC vs ALAC: What’s the difference?

There are several different type of file formats that allow you to listen to music in high quality audio. FLAC and ALAC are two such file formats.

They both sound rather similar to the laymen and you’d be forgiven for thinking that they cover the same ground. Well, actually, they do.

But there are differences between them that ultimately may make one or the other more suitable for your purposes. Here is explanation of what they are, and a few differences between FLAC and ALAC.

What is FLAC?

FLAC is acronym and it stands for Free Lossless Audio Coding. Since its developed in early 2000s, it’s become one of the most common and popular digital audio lossless formats; and it is open format, it can be used by anyone and is compatibke with a huge range of devices.

FLAC logo

The aim with FLAC is to compress files without losing any quality of the original file. Ripping files in FLAC can lead to smaller file sizes (depending on what type of compression you choose to use), as FLAC gets rid of bits of data that aren’t needed but when the file is unzipped, restores those bits of data.

What is ALAC?

ALAC stands for Apple Lossless Audio Codec and was developed by Apple in the eary 2000s.

Apple lossless-audio-alac
credit: Apple

It supports up to 8 channels of audio at 16-, 20-, 24- and 32-bit depth with a maximum sample rate of 384 kHz. In the similar vein as ALAC it’s open sourced and royalty free and therefore can be used by anyone.

ALAC was created for iOS devices

FLAC and ALAC cover the same ground but differ in a couple of ways. The biggest is that ALAC was created for Apple devices such as iTunes (or Apple Music) and devices compatible with the iOS platform.

iPhone 15 Pro Max back angled
Image Credit (Trusted Reviews)

That doesn’t mean that you can’t listen to ALAC on a Windows PC, for example. But you’d to make sure you have a program that’s compatible with it, or if that’s not possible, consider converting the ALAC files into FLAC.

You could play FLAC files on an iOS devices, but this is currently only possible through Apple’s Files app.

FLAC offers wider compatibility

As ALAC’s focus is on iOS devices, FLAC has a wider scope with its compatibility with a wider range of non-Apple devices. That opens it up to Android devices, Windows platform, and hi-fi kit such as music streamers, DACs or portable music players.

If you’re not in the iOS ecosystem and want to listen to music in lossless audio quality, FLAC offers the most flexibility.

FiiO M15S dock
Image Credit (Trusted Reviews)

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