Most digital music nowadays sounds slightly worse than it does on CD, thanks to audio compression. This is great for quickly downloading music, but not best for audio quality. If you want to listen to music on your iOS device without that pesky compression, and are willing to give up some additional storage space to do so, we have just the guide to do so.
The easiest way to listen to lossless audio on your iOS device is to use the Apple Lossless Audio Codec. ALAC files can be played by the built-in Music app, providing the best support, and the format can be handled by iTunes.
Now, FLAC exists as another alternative. It’s the most popular lossless music distribution format on the internet largely thanks to its open source nature, though ALAC is now open source as well. Bandcamp artists frequently offer music in FLAC format, though ALAC is also an option.
Converters exist for going from FLAC to ALAC – as both codecs are lossless, there’s no degradation in quality in converting, but for using FLAC, a third-party app with iTunes file transfer must be used. The only real difference between the two is at a technical level. I’ll let the audiophile super-nerds fight this one out, but for iOS users’ convenience, ALAC is the better choice here.
Now, you’re going to want to start with your music in a lossless format. This means ripping from a CD, or finding FLAC/ALAC files. Converting from a compressed format to lossless is just pointless.
If you already have ALAC files, then just drop them in iTunes, and put them on your device. ALAC is natively supported.
If you have a CD (they still make those) that you want to make into ALAC files, just load the CD onto your computer and open it up in iTunes. Go to Preferences, and Import Settings on that first page. Set the Import Using dropdown to Apple Lossless Encoder. Now import the CD. It will be added to your library, which you can then add to your iOS device the same way that any other lossless audio file can be added.
If you have FLAC files that you want converted to ALAC, there are plenty of conversion software titles out there. Consider XLD for Mac, which has a drag-and-drop interface, and the cross-platform fre:ac.
If you just want to play the FLAC files on your device directly (such as if you have a large collection you don’t want to convert), then there are plenty of apps that will play FLAC files. Some free options: FLAC Player+, TuneShell, and MoliPlayer.
You should now be on your way to enjoying your music exactly how the creators intended it to be heard!