ALAC vs FLAC: Their similarities, differences, pros and cons, and more

If you’re a passionate composer who’s keen about getting the most excellent format and wanting to push every bit of quality on the project or only a curious individual wanting to get the best audio format for your everyday music, then you’ve come to the right place. Is there a noticeable difference between FLAC and ALAC? Which is the better format of audio to listen to? And should I switch from ALAC to FLAC?

Before we tackle each of these questions, let’s find out more about ALAC and FLAC.

ALAC and FLAC: What Are They?

What is ALAC?

Stands for Apple Lossless Audio Codec, or Apple Lossless Encoder, ALAC is a lossless audio format developed by Apple. In late 2011, Apple made the format available as open-source and royalty-free. Apple used to refer the codec as ‘Apple Lossless, though recently it has been abbreviated to ALAC.

ALAC supports up to 8 channels. It is a lossless file, lossless means it’s reduced in size but not in quality. The lossless file requires about half of the uncompressed version’s required storage space with no loss of information. ALAC has better metadata support since it uses the MPEG4 container.

What is FLAC?

Stands for Free Lossless Audio Codec. It is also a lossless file similar to ALAC. Files that use FLAC’s compression algorithm are usually reduced between 50-70 percent of its original size. FLAC compression is very similar to ZIP but better as it is designed specifically for audio. FLAC has better compression than ALAC, and FLAC pretty much rules the internet for high bitrate download.

FLAC has open patent-free codec, portable open-source (BSD) reference implementation, documented API, multi-platform support, hardware support, multi-channel support, etc. It also supports metadata tagging, fast seeking, and album arts.

ALAC vs FLAC: Comparison Chart

ALAC

FLAC

File Extension

.m4a .caf

.flac

Support and Portability

Open-source, Native support on Apple Products, like iTunes

Open-source, supported by most players

Format

Audio Codec

Digital media container

MIME Type

audio/m4a

audio/flac

Developer

Apple

Xiph.Org Foundation

Algorithm

Apple’s proprietary algorithm

FLAC algorithm

ALAC vs FLAC: FAQ

Is there a difference between ALAC vs FLAC?

No, there is really nothing to choose between ALAC and FLAC. The only significant difference is that ALAC is Apple’s proprietary lossless audio, but quality-wise, there is nothing substantial in there that would make either one a deal-breaker. Although ALAC has some specific features like Apple Airplay streaming support, that’s about it as far as a substantial difference. 

ALAC and FLAC both use a very similar compression to when you compress a file into a RAR file. Both formats audio quality should be indistinguishable upon playback.

Which is the better format of audio to listen to?

As said above, when it comes to audio playback, there’s not much of a difference between the two. ALAC may have Apple-specific features that FLAC lacks, but when it comes to playback, they should be functionally identical. Use whatever works best on your equipment.

Should I convert from FLAC to ALAC?

Unless your main system is a Mac and uses iTunes as a primary player, you can take advantage of ALAC’s extra features. Other than that, there is no real audio difference converting from either format other than possible issues with regard to playback and compatibility.

ALAC vs FLAC Pros and Cons

ALAC Pros and Cons

Pros

Cons

Developed by Apple

Slower decoding than FLAC

Open Source

Not always supported by third party players

Can handle all the way to 32 bits @ 384khz

Compression not as efficient as FLAC (approximately 5% difference)

Better support in the Apple ecosystem

No lossy mode

Better metadata support

Does not detect errors

FLAC Pros and Cons

Pros

Cons

Open Source

Unless converted, cannot be played on Apple iTunes

Can handle all the way to 32 bits @ 384khz

Files are approximately 5 MB per minute

Faster decoding means better battery life on mobile devices

Could not handle 32-bit float

Supported by most players (besides Apple products)

Wide availability and support

How To Convert ALAC to FLAC

Converting from ALAC to FLAC or vice versa will result in absolutely no loss in quality. Whatever the reason for you converting (perhaps support and compatibility issues), we are just glad that we can help you convert ALAC to FLAC vice versa and with practically every file conversion job that you’ll stumble upon.

Here are the three easy steps to do so:

  1. Select and upload the ALAC file to convert. You may upload it from your computer or from a cloud-based drive. The drag and drop function is also at play.
  2. Set the output format to FLAC and click “Convert.”
  3. After a few moments, your converted file is now ready to download.

ALAC vs FLAC: The Bottom Line– Which is Better?

It could not be reiterated enough, but there is really no distinguishable difference from an audio perspective between the two codecs. But if you’re still pondering which one to choose for a project, then I don’t mind nudging you in the right direction.

ALAC is just a lossless alternative to FLAC and was designed by Apple. Most websites like ‘Acoustic Sounds Super Hirez offers you both ALAC and FLAC. Whether you’re an Apple fanboy or not, there is no audible difference between the two.

Probably the primary reason for wanting to convert a FLAC file to ALAC is when you’re trying to use iTunes. Both formats take up small space on your drive, both compresses audio without losing quality, and both can contain high-quality music that works best with high-end speakers or headphones. 

It really comes down to which device you are using to listen. If you’re an Apple fan and uses iTunes for your music, ALAC would be the better choice. But if you’re rocking PC, then go the other direction.

The question, ultimately, is not which one is better since both are excellent codecs. It all boils down to which one is more suitable for you.

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