Apple Lists FLAC Audio Playback Support for 4K Apple TV, iPhone 7, iPhone 8, iPhone X

Apple has quietly included support for playback of FLAC audio files on the 4K Apple TV, iPhone 8, and iPhone X, with compatibility also added retroactively to the iPhone 7 when iOS 11 gets its public release.

Support for the lossless compression codec now appears in the technical specifications on Apple's website for all of the above devices. However, as it stands, Apple's Music app does not currently support the format, so device owners who want to listen to the higher quality audio files will have to use the native Files app or a third-party app specifically made for FLAC playback, such as VLC or Plex.


Apple's support for the FLAC codec doesn't officially extend to the iPhone 6s or iPhone SE, which may be because an A10 processor is a minimum requirement for hardware decoding and Apple is not satisfied with the power consumption tradeoffs of FLAC software decoding.

That said, Apple's latest iPad Pro range should also be capable of FLAC playback thanks to their high performance A10X Fusion chips, yet Apple hasn't updated its iPad Pro tech specs to indicate they will also support the standard.

It's possible that Apple is still testing FLAC support for its range of mobile devices, and may even have plans to offer the lossless compression standard as a download option in iTunes and playback in the Music app further down the line. However, it's worth noting that mobile users would only get the full benefits of FLAC by listening using Lightning-connected wired headphones, since a Bluetooth audio connection doesn't offer enough bandwidth to make the experience worthwhile.

Related Roundups: Apple TV, tvOS 12, iPhone 7, iPhone 8
Buyer's Guide: Apple TV (Caution)


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15 months ago
Apple make it available on iTunes!!
Rating: 17 Votes
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15 months ago

You can play HD Audio over Bluetooth. And it sounds great.

HD FLAC files sound brilliant. I'm considering the Note 8 as it has 1-bit audio playback as well. Have a bunch of DSD audio files. Does it make a difference? Certainly a hell of a lot better than AAC or MP3.

I have these BT headphones for my S7 edge that playback 24bit 96khz audio over Bluetooth, so it can be done. Just needs a proprietary codec (Samsung UHD over Bluetooth) or Qualcomm AptX HD

Peerless UHQ Sound
Enjoy superb UHQ audio with the Samsung Level On Wireless Pro – even better sound than CD quality audio. Using UHQ-BT codec technology, the Level On Wireless Pro allows you to enjoy a richer and more balanced audio experience with authentic-sounding, UHQ sound.

Alas, over Bluetooth, an iPhone, which doesn't have Apt-X compatibility, will re-compress anything that's not AAC to SBC, which sounds like absolute crap. For instance, Spotify - even in "Extreme" 320kbps Ogg Vorbis, sounds vastly inferior to Apple Music @256kbps AAC, because the iPhone sends raw AAC over bluetooth to compatible headphones, whilst it recompresses the OGG on Spotify into SBC.

The only solution I've found to use my Spotify subscription over Bluetooth in a decent quality is to use a cheap Android phone with Apt-X...

By the way, all those Bluetooth 5 bells and whistles will change nothing.
Rating: 11 Votes
Avatar
15 months ago

http://www.digitalaudioreview.net/2016/09/assume-bluetooth-piped-aac-apple-makes-an-ass-out-of-you-and-me/
we must assume that Bluetooth audio is still sent from iPhone 7 to Airpods, or any other Bluetooth headphone, using AAC – Apple’s ‘own’ lossy codec of choice. In theory and reality this diminishes the listening experience when directly compared to an aptX-piped Bluetooth pairing.


iOS only uses AAC over Bluetooth for content that is already encoded in AAC: Apple Music and songs bought on iTunes. Any other codec (Spotify's OGG, Deezer or Amazon's MP3, Anghami's Dolby Pulse, Qobuz's ALAC, Tidal's MQA...) is re-compressed using the inferior SBC codec, which is more battery-efficient but more lossy. As a result, you get double the compression artifacts and the soundstage is reduced to nothing.
Rating: 9 Votes
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15 months ago
Lack of FLAC support has never been much of a big deal for me because both FLAC and ALAC are lossless and you can convert between them.

Any FLAC content I acquire gets transcoded to ALAC and I delete the FLAC files. Should I want FLAC in the future I can just transcode it back. That's what's great about lossless formats.

Just convert FLAC to ALAC, folks. It works natively on iTunes, plays back on hardware ranging all the way back to the first iPods, and the compression ratio is very similar. There's also plenty of free tools to do it, including ones that'll parallelize the conversion of many files to do it quickly on multi-core CPUs.
Rating: 6 Votes
Avatar
15 months ago

Alas, over Bluetooth, an iPhone, which doesn't have Apt-X compatibility, will re-compress anything that's not AAC to SBC, which sounds like absolute crap. For instance, Spotify - even in "Extreme" 320kbps Ogg Vorbis, sounds vastly inferior to Apple Music @256kbps AAC, because the iPhone sends raw AAC over bluetooth to compatible headphones, whilst it recompresses the OGG on Spotify into SBC.

The only solution I've found to use my Spotify subscription over Bluetooth in a decent quality is to use a cheap Android phone with Apt-X...

By the way, all those Bluetooth 5 bells and whistles will change nothing.


http://www.digitalaudioreview.net/2016/09/assume-bluetooth-piped-aac-apple-makes-an-ass-out-of-you-and-me/

Audiophiles know only too well where the devil resides. Missing entirely from Apple’s September 7th keynote was mention of the iPhone 7’s support for Qualcomm’s aptX codec.

Filling that void we must assume that Bluetooth audio is still sent from iPhone 7 to Airpods, or any other Bluetooth headphone, using AAC – Apple’s ‘own’ lossy codec of choice. In theory and reality this diminishes the listening experience when directly compared to an aptX-piped Bluetooth pairing.

AAC isn't as good even as AptX...
Rating: 5 Votes
Avatar
15 months ago
FLAC! But where are DTS, DTSHD, TrueHD, Atmos - for that matter where is bitstreamed anything on the Apple TV 4K? They support DD+ but won't even bitstream it, it has to be converted to LPCM. I was going to pre-order today, but changed my mind at the last minute due to the limited audio options.

I think more people care about HD audio formats for their movies than care about FLAC.
Rating: 5 Votes
Avatar
15 months ago

This is bizarre, are you serious?! Isn't there an optical out?

FLAC! But where are DTS, DTSHD, TrueHD, Atmos - for that matter where is bitstreamed anything on the Apple TV 4K? They support DD+ but won't even bitstream it, it has to be converted to LPCM. I was going to pre-order today, but changed my mind at the last minute due to the limited audio options.

I think more people care about HD audio formats for their movies than care about FLAC.

Crazy, isn't it?
I also wonder when Apple will bother to include higher than AAC formats into the HLS specification (apart from the antiquated AC3 pass-thru that's reserved for the Apple TV) - Apple's format for streaming over HTTP. It's a headache for streaming services who want to offer ALAC/FLAC streaming that HLS doesn't have any kind of lossless /HD audio support. They have to cobble together proprietary implementations loosely based on MPEG-DASH or even worse, HDS/RTMP (Flash!).
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http://www.digitalaudioreview.net/2016/09/assume-bluetooth-piped-aac-apple-makes-an-ass-out-of-you-and-me/

AAC isn't as good even as AptX...

I know! But to me, Apple Music in AAC sent straight to my Bluetooth headphones on an iPhone sounds about the same as Spotify in OGG re-compressed to Apt-X and sent to my Bluetooth headphones on my Xperia XA.

The worst is, the iPhone doesn't even recompress Spotify's OGG into AAC, it uses the inferior and older SBC codec, which frankly stinks. It does the same with Tidal Hi-fi or Qobuz Hi-Fi.
Rating: 5 Votes
Avatar
15 months ago
Slightly off topic but it’s inexcusable that AirPlay can’t even stream 48 KHz which is the standard frequency for TV/Cinema. It sends 44.1 kHz instead, the standard for audio CDs and music. Some will argue there’s no way you can tell the slight reduction but I argue there’s no reason they can’t send it in its native encoding quality! It’s a pretty minor increase in bit rate and still well within spec, even for slow Wi-Fi!

Can anyone confirm this is still the case with AirPlay 2?
Rating: 5 Votes
Avatar
15 months ago

I re-ripped all my music to Apple Lossless years ago but would have preferred FLAC as my understanding is that's it's an open standard compared to AL. So is this going to be an option in iTunes from here forward (rip in FLAC) or have I misread/misunderstood?

ALC is open-source as well, although it has less support in the open-source community.
Rating: 5 Votes
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15 months ago



AAC isn't as good even as AptX...


Not really comparing apples (excuse the pun) and oranges there - one is a codec the other is a streaming technology.

Regardless, despite what audiophiles might spout out, no one in the world has yet to reliably spot the difference between a 256kbps AAC or 320mp3 vs its Wav/AIFF/Flac/ALAC original.

Try for yourself - when faced with the blind test no one gets more than 50% guess rate, even on the best gear in the world in a full sound treated world class studio (which no one apart from audio engineers have) http://abx.digitalfeed.net

Most of the audiophile thing is simply placebo affect.
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It is, but I find the total lack of any coherent standard for today's "hi-res" infuriating. There is no set standard at all. It's the wild west. We have the following formats all claiming to be "hi-res":

1) 24/44.1
2) 24/48
3) 24/88.2
4) 24/96
5) 24/176.4
6) 24/192

Albums are being released in all of those different formats. More and more the trend is to go to 24/44.1 which is of very little (if any) value over 16/44.1. That is just frigging sad. It's an absolute mess. Should have gone for 24/60 or stuck to 24/48 (there's a nice symmetry there).


None of this formats will make any different to the end user - it's just to a way to sell over priced stuff to audiophile fools who'll pay for it.

Everything is recorded at 24bit in the studio these days - it helps with recording as it gives you more headroom and a lower noise floor - it has nothing to do with "sounding better".

Higher sample rates help "a little bit" with multiple tracks in that you can render software plugins with lower aliasing.

All this stuff only helps tiny bits in a multi-track recording with plugins that might benefit and even then it's just a case of using your ears. Once you've got a mastered 2 track file it's not going to make a blind bit of difference to the human ear and no one on this planet will be able to spot the difference no matter how much they claim they can, they will ALWAYS ALWAYS fail in a blind test on any equipment and songs they want to use (check every scientific test ever taken, the results are always the same - the end users are only ever guessing)
Rating: 4 Votes
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