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Apple Lossless vs FLAC: What's the Difference?

By Zoe Clarke

December 26, 2017

Have you ever posted question in forum to figure out the difference between Apple Lossless and FLAC? If yes, then there lists all the points of difference you may want to know. Apple Lossless and FLAC are two different codecs for compressing digital music files. Talking about Apple Lossless vs FLAC, we will start getting to the point by comparing the basics, performance, pros & cons, compatibility of these two formats.


CONTENT


Part 1. The Difference Between Apple Lossless and FLAC

#1 Basics

Apple Lossless, also known as Apple Lossless Audio Codec (ALAC) or Apple Lossless Encoder (ALE), is a type of audio compression created by Apple Inc. Having lossless in the name, obviously means Apple Lossless is a lossless codec, unlike a lossy codec (such as mp3) where audio quality is lost forever in the name of smaller files, lossless stores the original CD track without quality loss, like zip for audio. Apple Lossless files are stored in the MPEG 4 container and have a .m4a extension.


FLAC, developed by a non-profit organization called Xiph.Org Foundation, stands for Free Lossless Audio Codec, an audio format similar to MP3, as the name suggests, the audio is compressed in FLAC without any loss in quality. This is similar to how Zip works, except with FLAC you will get much better compression because it is designed specifically for audio, and you can play compressed FLAC files in your favorite player.


#2 How's the Performance?

Decoding speed of Apple Lossless is its strongest assets and the ALAC files are not hindered by tagging limitations.


FLAC is asymmetric in favor of decode speed. Decoding requires only integer arithmetic, and is much less compute-intensive than for most perceptual codecs. Real-time decode performance is easily achievable on even modest hardware.


#3 What are Pros & Cons of Apple Lossless and FLAC?

1. Apple Lossless

Pros:

• Open source;

• Fast encoding and decoding;

• Streaming support;

• Supports multichannel audio and high resolutions;

• Tagging support (QT tags).


Cons:

• Limited software support;

• No error detection/robustness;

• No hybrid/lossy mode;

• Not very efficient;

• Not supports RIFF chunks.


2. FLAC

Pros:

• Open source;

• Very fast encoding and decoding;

• Error robustness;

• Streaming support;

• Supports multichannel audio and high resolutions;

• Tagging support (FLAC tags);

• Supports RIFF chunks.


Cons:

• No hybrid/lossy mode;

• Does not handle 32-bit float and there is no encoder that can render to 32-bit integer.


#4 Compatibility

Apple Lossless is playable on Apple products including Mac, iPhone, iPad and iPod while FLAC can be played on the devices that installed operating systems like Microsoft Windows, macOS, Linux, android OS, iOS.


Part 2. How to Use Apple Lossless and FLAC

You may wonder how to use Apple Lossless and FLAC. It's hard to say which one is better, but one of them, to some extent, is easier for you to use. In the case of an Apple device, it is easier to get access to Apple Lossless through iTunes. However, with Windows 10 or a new Android device, you are free to play FLAC.


Even though Apple Lossless and FLAC give you the better experience of lossless audio tracks, but iTunes does not support FLAC files, so you can find a way to transfer FLAC to Apple Lossless. Apple Lossless data is frequently stored within an MP4 container with the filename extension .m4a. However, when it comes to Apple Music songs which are in the format of M4P, they are lossy files. So, to convert M4P to M4A, you can get lossless songs. But the method requires downloading specific software to do it.


Figuring out the differences between Apple Lossless and FLAC, we can solve playback problem accurately. If you have more information about Apple Lossless vs FLAC, just comment below to help more people understand.


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