ALAC vs. FLAC – What’s the Difference and where to download?

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December 6, 2023

Both FLAC and ALAC serve as compressed versions of studio records, enabling more convenient storage and transmission compared to their original sizes, which can range from 100-200 MB. The primary purpose of compression is to reduce file sizes, making it feasible to store and carry them on portable devices. The beauty of lossless compression lies in its ability to achieve smaller file sizes without compromising audio quality. It retains all the audio data, hence the name “lossless.” After compressed, a three minute song will be approximately 36MB in FLAC or ALAC.

What’s the Difference Between FLAC vs. ALAC digital formats? 

Despite the fact that the human ear generally cannot discern the difference between lossless formats, there exists an ongoing debate between FLAC and ALAC. The reason for this debate can be succinctly explained by considering the origins of ALAC as an alternative to FLAC, created specifically by Apple. Apple developed ALAC to have its proprietary lossless format, one that could be distributed as a lossless format compatible with iTunes.

This FLAC vs. ALAC battle essentially stems from the fact that each format has its own set of advantages and considerations, often tied to compatibility and ecosystem preferences. While both formats provide similar audio quality, the choice between FLAC and ALAC might depend on factors such as the devices you use, the software you prefer, and the ecosystem you are already invested in. Ultimately, it boils down to personal preference and the specific requirements of the user or the ecosystem in which they operate.

Note that iTunes/Music app can’t play FLAC songs. If you prefer FLAC songs, you can use VLC Media Player, QuickTime Player or VOX for Mac, iPhone, and iPod.

There are many websites and services where you can purchase and download high-quality FLAC (Free Lossless Audio Codec) songs legally, such as HDtracks, Bandcamp, and the Bleep store. Some streaming services, such as Tidal and Qobuz, also offer FLAC-quality streams. Apple Music is making its entire catalog of more than 100 million songs available in lossless ALAC audio at different resolutions. 

The compression difference is really minimal between FLAC and ALAC. If you have Apple devices, ALAC is your best bet.

Where to buy FLAC music?

There are several online platforms where you can purchase FLAC music. Here are some popular options:

  1. Bandcamp: Bandcamp is a platform that allows independent artists and labels to sell their music directly to fans. Many artists on Bandcamp offer their music in lossless formats, including FLAC. You can browse various genres and discover new music while directly supporting artists.
  2. HDtracks( HDtracks is an online store specializing in high-resolution audio downloads. They offer a wide selection of music in various lossless formats, including FLAC. HDtracks focuses on delivering high-quality music files for audiophiles and music enthusiasts.
  3. Qobuz: Qobuz is a music streaming and download service that provides a comprehensive library of high-quality music, including FLAC files. They offer a range of genres and have a strong emphasis on high-resolution audio. Qobuz operates in several countries and provides a subscription-based service.
  4. 7digital: 7digital is a music platform that offers a diverse catalog of music in different formats, including FLAC. They have partnerships with major record labels as well as independent artists, providing a wide range of genres and options for purchasing lossless music.
  5. Bleep: Bleep is an online music store focused on electronic and independent music. They offer a selection of FLAC downloads from a variety of artists and labels. Bleep is known for its curated content and often features exclusive releases.

It’s worth noting that some online music stores, such as Amazon Music, also offer FLAC files in their catalogs. Additionally, streaming services like Tidal, Apple Music and Deezer HiFi provide high-quality, lossless streaming options for subscribers.

Remember to check the format specifications when purchasing music to ensure that FLAC files are available for the specific albums or tracks you’re interested in.

Tidal and FLAC

Tidal uses FLAC to stream CD-quality lossless files in its standard ‘HiFi’ tier but Tidal HiFi Plus supports Tidal Masters through MQA technology. In a recent AMA (ask me anything) session over on Reddit with Tidal’s CEO, Jesse Dorogusker a number of questions were asked relating to MQA and hi-res audio. In response he said, “we will be introducing hi-res FLAC for our HiFi Plus subscribers soon. It’s lossless and an open standard. It’s a big file, but we’ll give you controls to dial this up and down based on what’s going on.”

Good Sound Quality (160 Kbps)
Standard quality keeps data use to a minimum while offering good sound fidelity. Great for on-the-go listening, or for devices with less memory or available storage.
HiFi Sound Quality (1411 Kbps)
Allows you to stream audio using the lossless format FLAC, creating a crisp and robust music streaming experience.
Master Sound Quality (2304-9216 Kbps)
Master quality is a flawless experience that gives you the highest sound resolution available. Guaranteed and verified as the artist’s original master recording.

Apple Music and ALAC

Apple has developed its own lossless audio compression technology called Apple Lossless Audio Codec (ALAC). In addition to AAC, the entire Apple Music catalog is now also encoded using ALAC in resolutions ranging from 16-bit/44.1 kHz (CD Quality) up to 24-bit/192 kHz.

  • High Quality (AAC 256 kbps)
  • Lossless (ALAC up to 24-bit/48 kHz)
  • Hi-Res Lossless (ALAC up to 24-bit/192 kHz)


How to download Tidal music to FLAC?

Although Tidal music streams in FLAC format, you can’t download the songs in FLAC format as local songs. Song downloaded can only be played within Tidal app.

To download FLAC songs from Tidal, you can use Pazu Tidal Converter, which is designed to download any Tidal songs, albums and playlists to M4A/MP3/AAC/FLAC/WAV/AIFF on your Mac and Windows and save to your library.

Pazu Tidal Converter

  • Download Tidal music to M4A/MP3/AAC/FLAC/WAV/AIFF.
  • Download Tidal music on Mac/Windows.
  • Keep Hi-Fi Audio Quality and ID3 tags.
  • Fast conversion speed.

1. Run Pazu Tidal Converter

Download, install and run Pazu Tidal Converter on your Windows, which features a built-in Tidal web player.

If you have purchased a license, click the key icon to register the converter. If not, continue using the trial version.

2. Log in your Tidal account

Follow the onscreen instructions to log in yout Tidal account.

3. Choose output format

The default output format is M4A. Pazu Tidal Music Converter also supports MP3, AAC, FLAC, WAV, AIFF. Click the Gear icon on the top right corner to change output format or output folder if you need.

You can also customize output song name with any combination of Title, Artist, Album, Track Number, Playlist Index.

4. Add TIDAL songs

Click any playlist you want to download.

Then click the red icon to load songs. All songs in the playlist will be added by default. You can uncheck the songs you don’t want to get.

5. Start to download TIDAL to FLAC

Click Convert button to start downloading Tidal music to the format you choose and add them to your Apple Music library.

After conversion, click the folder icon to quickly locate the downloaded Tidal songs in the format you choose. You can then transfer and play it anywhere.

How to download Apple Music to FLAC?

Pazu Apple Music Converter lets you convert Apple Music songs, albums and playlists to FLAC without any loss in quality. One of the distinguishing features of Pazu Apple Music Converter is that it can download and convert Apple Music at a really fast speed — almost 10 times faster than any other similar software. It is integrated with the Apple Music web player, so you can batch convert any Apple Music playlist or album to the format you choose without iTunes app. The following tutorial will show you how to download Apple Music to MP3 and get Apple Music for free. 

In addition, Pazu Apple Music Converter can recognize and identify tracks as it downloads, and automatically tag the files with the relevant artist name, track title, album tags as it goes. The downloaded songs are fully searchable by artist, title or album, creating your entire music library simply and quickly.

Step 1 Launch Pazu Apple Music Converter

Download, install and run Pazu Apple Music Converter on your Mac or Windows.

Apple Music Converter

Step 2 Choose output format

Click the gear icon on the top right corner and choose FLAC as output format.

Apple Music Converter settings

Step 3 Choose a playlist, artist or album you want to download

Follow the on-screen instructions to choose a playlist, artist, or album that you want to download.

add Apple Music songs

Step 4 Start to download Apple Music songs

Click “Convert” button to start downloading Apple Music songs, albums and playlists to FLAC, so you can play them anywhere you want, even after cancelling Apple Music subscription.

convert Apple Music to MP3