How to play lossless audio on your iPhone or iPad (FLAC, etc.)

How to play lossless audio on your iPhone or iPad (FLAC, etc.)
Since you're reading these lines, chances are you consider yourself an audiophile – you are passionate about music and you demand it to be reproduced at the best quality possible. If that's the case, then you surely know that achieving audiophile-grade audio quality is a tricky business. That's because audio fidelity is affected by many factors. With digital audio sources, in particular, one of them is the format of the file being played.

In general, digital audio formats can be split into two categories. AAC and MP3, for example, are of the so-called lossy formats – when a CD-quality track is encoded in either of them, some audio information is lost in the process. But the file produced is drastically smaller than the original. That's why most of the music distributed over the internet comes as either an AAC or an MP3 file. The so-called lossless formats, on the other hand, preserve all of the source's audio information. Size-wise, they occupy more storage space than their lossy counterparts, but they're still much smaller than an uncompressed CD-quality track. FLAC (Free Lossless Audio Codec) and ALAC (Apple Lossless Audio Codec) belong to the group of lossless audio formats and are probably the most popular among them.

Can iPhones and iPads play lossless audio? Sure they can! There's a catch, however – iDevices are made to work with Apple's own ALAC audio format, while FLAC isn't supported out of the box. And that's not cool since a huge chunk of lossless audio distributed online comes in FLAC format. Fortunately, there are several ways to get around this limitation.

Method 1: Using Flac Player+


Flac Player+ is a free audio player which can play back the FLAC format. It is far from the prettiest audio player out there, but it gets the job done and comes free of charge. Ads are displayed in some screens within the app, but they're not too obtrusive. Here's how you get it to work:

  1. To use Flac Player+, simply download it from the App Store on your iPhone or iPad. (Download link)
  2. Now comes the tricky part – transferring songs from a computer to your device. You do that either wirelessly, over Wi-Fi, or using your Lightning cable. The wireless method is, well, wireless, but slower and a bit inconvenient. That's why we'd recommend using your data cable instead, as described in step 5. Proceed to step 3 if you wish to use Wi-Fi anyway.
  3. To transfer music wirelessly, both your computer and iOS device have to be on the same network. Open Flac Player+ and tap on "Wi-Fi transfer". The next screen will display an address which you have to enter into your computer's web browser. It should be something like "192.168.1.112:8080", although your particular address will most likely differ from this example.
  4. The address will take you to a page where you can pick songs to upload. You can only transfer one song at a time and you have to wait for a transfer to finish before you can pick another track.
  5. If you'd rather transfer your music using a cable, hook up your iPhone or iPad to a computer and launch iTunes. If somehow you don't have iTunes yet, you can get it for free from Apple's web site. (Download link)
  6. Open your device's page in iTunes, go to Apps, and choose Flac Player+ from the File Sharing section.
  7. Choose "Add File..." and select the songs you wish to transfer. You can mark multiple items. Songs will start appearing within seconds.


Method 2: Converting FLAC to ALAC


Let's say that you really like iOS's stock music player and you don't want to use third-party music apps to enjoy your lossless audio. In that case, converting your FLAC files to ALAC is an option. You simply use a file converter and transfer the converted files using iTunes. Here's how you do that:

  1. Download fre:ac on your computer. It is a free app that can convert audio files from one format into another – FLAC into WAV, in our case. WAV is an uncompressed file format, which we're about to convert to ALAC in a few moments. (Download link)
  2. Open fre:ac and add your FLAC tracks to the queue. The output directory where the converted files will be saved is stated at the bottom. Hit "Browse..." if you wish to change it.
  3. The 9th button from the top menu initiates the conversion process. Make sure you pick Windows Wave File Output from the drop-down menu.
  4. When the process is complete, import the WAV files into your iTunes library. You do that by hitting the button in the upper left corner and choosing "Add file to library" option. Then select the songs in WAV format. Or you can use drag & drop instead.
  5. From the same menu, open your iTunes Preferences. Go to General>Import Settings and make sure that Apple Lossless is selected.
  6. Now right-click on the songs in WAV format and pick "Create Apple Lossless Version". This will create ALAC copies of the WAV files.
  7. If you convert a whole album and iTunes fails to list it under a single album tab, you have to add the album information manually. Highlight all songs from an album, right-click and pick Get Info. Then add the artist and album name manually. Now iTunes can get the artwork for your ALAC files. They can be transferred onto your iPhone or iPad after this point. Feel free to delete the WAV files you created earlier and remove them from your iTunes library.

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20 Comments

1. geusan

Posts: 137; Member since: Oct 19, 2014

apple produce great device, and advertise them well.

2. jove39

Posts: 2145; Member since: Oct 18, 2011

2 methods with 7 steps each to play flac files on iPhone? Yet people say iPhone/iOS are very easy to use. I could just copy flac files on my OnePlus One over usb or download from internet and play them right away in Play Music app.

5. cnour

Posts: 2305; Member since: Sep 11, 2014

And phone lags and you need to restart it to gain some RAM!!!!!

10. buccob

Posts: 2963; Member since: Jun 19, 2012

jealous much?

3. Nathillien unregistered

Imagine if every company makes their own audio format like Apple. How anal would that be? Proprietary this, propriatery that ... which is why I'm avoiding Apple products in general.

4. AlikMalix unregistered

Imagine if iOS played mp3's. Oh wait. It does.

6. sherkhan

Posts: 34; Member since: Oct 02, 2014

Already have it on my Xperia Z3.... High Res Audio 24bit/96KHz But Want to try it on my i6 too...

7. Wiencon

Posts: 2278; Member since: Aug 06, 2014

And still playing ALAC or even AAC 320kbps on my iPhone 4S results in much better clarity than on crappy Z3 audio. I own Z3C so don't call be biased, but it's surprising that Sony makes (still?) Walkmans which offer very good SQ but audio performance on their smartphones is something to be really ashamed for. Sony is the worst from "important" OEMs in this department.

9. sherkhan

Posts: 34; Member since: Oct 02, 2014

u wont notice the sound quality unless you download the official Hi Res Audio Like the MJ This is it, and a high end Hi-Res Headphone But it is true that iphone has one of the best output in headphones specially the bass with my Bose QC-1

8. pM.014

Posts: 5; Member since: Oct 17, 2014

Not being capable to play a FLAC file on an iphone out of the box is just patetic. I'm very happy with my Note 3 and my Sennheiser IE80 in ear phones. The quality of the sound when playing FLAC music is absolutely astonishing. And it doesn't lag !!

11. Dastrix unregistered

You can convert it to ALAC.

12. pM.014

Posts: 5; Member since: Oct 17, 2014

Yeah... but is a pain in the a$$... I have tons of FLAC music because I am a heavy listner and for me this is a deal braker. I supose that a Apple user has to keep in his PC both files: the original FLAC file and the AFLAC and this is wasting alot of hdd space .

13. TechieXP1969

Posts: 14967; Member since: Sep 25, 2013

All those steps? Way to much work. Here is my steps. Take Android phone and use cable to PC. Pick folder and copy FLAC files. DONE. Open music app and play. I thought the iPhone is so easy to use yet it requires 7 steps for something so lame. This is what happens when popularity is chosen over common sense; which most iPhone buyers lack anyways.

14. beaminghappy

Posts: 2; Member since: Jun 11, 2015

One method is to use iDealshare VideoGo to convert FLAC to Apple Lossless ALAC for your iPhone, iPod, iPad

15. newyear2016happy

Posts: 1; Member since: Feb 24, 2016

I just try your recommend iDealshare VideoGo, i find it really good in converting FLAC or WMA, AVI, FLV, MKV, OGG etc files to Apple Lossless ALAC, MP4, MOV. But it need buy to get the full version.

16. pengyout

Posts: 2; Member since: Mar 16, 2016

Avdshare Audio Converter is just the perfect FLAC to iPod converter you need.I can Convert FLAC to iPod (iPod Touch, iPod Shuffle, iPod Nano, iPod Classic, iPod Mini) supported MP3, WAV, AAC,M4A, AIFF etc with highest possible rendering speed.

17. DigitalDong

Posts: 1; Member since: Feb 19, 2017

Getting back to this wonderful FLAC player. This app has come a long way since this article posted. Now (2017), we have iCloud! Simply upload your FLAC files to your iCloud drive on your PC or Mac, and voila! Done! Probably the fastest file transfer I've ever seen! No need to set anything else up! Now it's ONE STEP! Thanks to developer Khoa Tran Anh and the Apple people! I admit, Apple has never been a pioneer in audio, lets face it. They just discovered Stereo! (jk) - but really I don't mind getting an app for this. That's the free market of apps! Also if Apple didn't want us to have FLAC capability, we wouldn't have it. Let the good men and women in Cupertino concentrate on all the other things that make these devices so extraordinary, for everything else there's entrepreneurs! (aka app developers) I'm a Blackberry man at heart but one bite of an Apple and it's hard to go back to Waterloo! Thanks! - Sound is excellent!

18. daveclark966

Posts: 2; Member since: Sep 25, 2018

i use Avdshare Audio Converter to convert any unsupported FLAC to iPhone natively supported Apple Lossless ALAC M4A, AAC, MP3, etc.

20. czaree

Posts: 2; Member since: Jan 17, 2019

I don’t know guys I used a simple method. I just bought a dac amp for my headphone. I use it with my home system more. I was thinking how could I improve the sound further? I read about Flac files. Initially I converted my CD to wav but then it was too big. So tentatively I tried to convert them to flac and somehow did it. I also convert some mp3 files to Flac. It’s easy really. I used my windows lap top to create flac files then I use SHAREit app to transfer the files to my iPad Pro. I use the SHAREit app in my iPad Pro to play the transferred files. You can create playlists too in the app. Nothing else is involved, no itune no nothing. You can play the files straight away and the sound is good. All files have .Flac so it’s definitely flac.

21. czaree

Posts: 2; Member since: Jan 17, 2019

Further to the above. I used Spotify mostly in the past with my iPad connected to my home system. It sounded good but it’s not lossless I read. So I bought FiiO Q1 mk2 dac amp and it definitely improved the sound but Spotify even premium is not high resolution. That’s why I tried Flac files. I can play the files without the FiiO connected before you say it’s the FiiO doing the job. I now mostly play my music with the flac files as it sounds better than Spotify definitely. With the FiiO attached mostly as it sounds sweeter. Without the FiiO it still sounds great though. All the while using the SHAREit app.

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