ALAC Audio Format: Is It Better To Use Than AAC?


What is ALAC Audio Format?

The ALAC (Apple Lossless Audio Codec) format is a lossless audio compression format developed by Apple Inc. It was introduced in 2004 as a proprietary format but later made open-source in 2011. ALAC is designed to provide high-quality audio while reducing the file size without any loss of data. This means that when you convert an audio file to ALAC, you can enjoy the same sound quality as the original uncompressed file.

ALAC uses a compression algorithm that reduces the file size by removing redundant and unnecessary data, but it does not sacrifice the audio quality. Unlike lossy audio formats, such as MP3 or AAC, which discard some audio data to achieve smaller file sizes, ALAC retains all the audio data during compression and decompression, resulting in bit-for-bit accuracy.

The ALAC codec is primarily used in Apple devices and software, including iTunes, iPods, iPhones, and iPads. It is the native audio format for Apple’s music streaming service, Apple Music. However, since ALAC became an open-source format, it can now be used on other platforms and devices as well.

To play ALAC files, you can use various media players that support this format, such as Apple Music, VLC media player, Foobar2000, and JRiver Media Center. Additionally, ALAC files can be easily converted to other lossless formats like FLAC (Free Lossless Audio Codec) without any loss in quality, providing compatibility across different platforms and devices.

Overall, ALAC offers a convenient and efficient way to store and listen to high-quality audio on Apple devices and other compatible platforms. Its lossless nature ensures that you can enjoy your music with the utmost fidelity and without compromising on sound quality.

Now that we understand what ALAC is, let’s take a look at its counterpart, AAC, and compare the two formats in terms of audio quality and compatibility.

What is AAC Audio Format?

AAC (Advanced Audio Coding) is a popular audio compression format that was developed as the successor to MP3 (MPEG-1 Audio Layer 3). It is widely used for encoding high-quality audio files and is known for its ability to provide excellent sound quality at lower bit rates.

AAC is a lossy audio format, which means that it achieves smaller file sizes by discarding some audio data that is considered less important or less noticeable to the human ear. This compression technique allows for more efficient storage and streaming of audio files, making it a preferred choice for many applications.

AAC files can be encoded with different profiles and bit rates, allowing users to choose the balance between file size and audio quality that best fits their needs. The most common AAC profiles include High-Efficiency AAC (HE-AAC), which is optimized for low bit rates and streaming applications, and AAC-LC (Low-Complexity), which strikes a balance between quality and file size.

One of the key features of AAC is its ability to deliver better audio quality than MP3 at the same bit rate. This is due to advanced encoding techniques and improvements in audio compression algorithms. AAC is capable of reproducing high-frequency details and subtle nuances in music, resulting in a more accurate and enjoyable listening experience.

AAC is widely supported by a variety of devices and platforms, including smartphones, tablets, computers, and portable media players. It is the default audio format for many popular platforms and services, such as iTunes, YouTube, Spotify, and Google Play Music.

Additionally, AAC is the preferred audio format for streaming services like Apple Music and Spotify, as it offers a good compromise between audio quality and bandwidth requirements. It allows streaming platforms to deliver high-quality audio while minimizing data usage and ensuring smooth playback.

In summary, AAC is a versatile audio format that provides excellent sound quality and efficient compression. Its widespread compatibility and support make it a popular choice for both personal and professional audio applications.

Now that we have covered the basics of both ALAC and AAC, let’s compare the two formats in terms of audio quality and compatibility to determine which one may be a better choice for your specific needs.

How do ALAC and AAC Compare in terms of Audio Quality?

When it comes to audio quality, both ALAC and AAC offer impressive performance, but there are some differences to consider.

ALAC is a lossless audio format, meaning that it retains all the original audio data during compression and decompression. As a result, the sound quality is identical to the original uncompressed file. ALAC provides a bit-for-bit accurate representation of the original audio, which is ideal for audiophiles and those who want the highest level of audio fidelity.

On the other hand, AAC is a lossy audio format that achieves smaller file sizes by discarding some audio data that is considered less critical. While this does result in a slight reduction in audio quality compared to the original uncompressed file, AAC is designed to minimize the loss and provide excellent sound reproduction. In many cases, the difference in audio quality between AAC and the original file is not easily discernible, especially when using higher bit rates or more advanced encoding profiles.

The choice between ALAC and AAC ultimately depends on your specific requirements and preferences. If you prioritize maintaining the utmost audio quality and have ample storage space, ALAC may be the better option for you. However, if you are looking for a balance between audio quality and file size, AAC can deliver impressive sound while conserving storage space.

It is important to note that the perceived audio quality also depends on other factors such as the playback device, headphones or speakers, and the listener’s individual hearing capabilities. In most cases, the average listener may not notice a significant difference between ALAC and AAC, especially when using high-quality audio equipment.

Additionally, the bit rate and encoding parameters used during the conversion process can impact the audio quality of both ALAC and AAC files. Choosing higher bit rates and more advanced encoding profiles can improve the sound quality and reduce the difference between the compressed file and the original uncompressed audio.

Which Devices and Platforms Support ALAC and AAC?

The support for ALAC and AAC formats varies across different devices and platforms. Let’s take a look at their compatibility:


  • Apple Devices: ALAC is natively supported on Apple devices, including iPhones, iPads, iPods, and Mac computers. It is the default format for the iTunes media library and Apple Music.
  • Third-Party Media Players: Many popular media players, such as VLC media player, Foobar2000, and JRiver Media Center, support ALAC playback.
  • Streaming Services: ALAC is supported by some streaming services, including Apple Music, for streaming high-quality audio on compatible devices.
  • Third-Party Software: Third-party audio editing and conversion software, like Audacity and dBpoweramp, have capabilities to work with ALAC files.


  • Apple Devices: AAC is widely supported on Apple devices, just like ALAC. iPhones, iPads, iPods, and Mac computers can handle AAC files without any additional software.
  • Streaming Services: Leading music streaming platforms, such as Apple Music, Spotify, and Google Play Music, use AAC as the default format for audio streaming.
  • Third-Party Media Players: Many media players developed for various platforms, including Windows, Android, and Linux, support AAC playback. Some examples include Windows Media Player, VLC media player, and Foobar2000.
  • Portable Music Players: MP3 players and portable media devices often have native support for AAC, allowing you to enjoy high-quality audio on the go.

It’s important to note that both ALAC and AAC formats can be converted to other audio formats using audio conversion software or online conversion tools. This allows for broader compatibility with devices and platforms that may not natively support ALAC or AAC.

When choosing between ALAC and AAC, consider the devices and platforms you use regularly. If you primarily use Apple devices or prefer streaming music services like Apple Music or Spotify, both formats will be well-supported. However, if you require compatibility with a wide range of devices or software, AAC may have a slight edge due to its broader adoption across various platforms.

Now that we have explored the devices and platforms that support ALAC and AAC, let’s move on to the next section to compare the two formats and help you make an informed decision.

ALAC vs AAC: Which Format Should You Choose?

Choosing between ALAC and AAC depends on your specific needs and preferences. Here are some factors to consider when deciding which format to use:

Audio Quality:

ALAC is a lossless audio format, ensuring bit-for-bit accuracy and preserving the highest possible audio quality. If you have a discerning ear or value the utmost fidelity, ALAC is the ideal choice. However, AAC offers impressive sound quality, especially at higher bit rates, making it a suitable option for most listeners, where the difference may not be easily noticeable.

File Size:

If you have limited storage space or bandwidth constraints, AAC’s lossy compression can significantly reduce file sizes compared to ALAC. This enables you to store more music on your device or stream audio more efficiently. However, if storage space is not a concern, ALAC’s larger file sizes will ensure maximum audio quality without any compromise.

Device and Platform Compatibility:

Both ALAC and AAC have broad support, particularly on Apple devices and software. If you primarily use Apple products or services like iTunes or Apple Music, both formats are well-integrated and fully compatible. However, AAC’s widespread adoption extends beyond Apple devices, making it more versatile when it comes to playback on various devices and platforms.

Personal Preferences:

Consider your own listening habits and preferences. If you are an avid audiophile looking for the highest audio fidelity, ALAC is the format of choice. However, if you value a balance between sound quality, file size, and compatibility, AAC provides an excellent compromise.

Ultimately, the choice between ALAC and AAC depends on finding the balance that best meets your specific requirements. If you prioritize audio quality above all else and have ample storage space, ALAC is the preferred option. On the other hand, if you value efficient file sizes, widespread compatibility, and a slightly smaller difference in audio quality, AAC is a strong contender.

You can also consider converting between the two formats if needed. ALAC files can be transcoded to AAC for compatibility purposes, while AAC files can be converted to ALAC if you desire lossless audio quality. Conversion tools and software make this process straightforward.

Consider your priorities, devices, and usage scenarios to determine which format aligns best with your needs. Regardless of your choice, both ALAC and AAC offer impressive audio quality and enjoyable listening experiences.