How to Play FLAC Files on the iPhone

If your phone can't play FLAC files, you have two options


Lifewire / Mike Wren

iPhone FLAC file support was introduced in iOS 11. If you're not running that version of iOS or newer, you can still play FLAC files on your iPhone by converting the file to a supported format or by using a FLAC player app.

Prior to iOS 11, Apple supported only its own Apple Lossless Audio Codec (ALAC) format. It does the same job as FLAC but the operating system won't recognize the format, so if you have music in the FLAC format and want to play it on iOS 10 or earlier, you have to do a little extra than just open the FLAC file on the iPhone.

These iPhone FLAC playback directions are really only relevant for iOS 10 and earlier iOS versions, for reasons just stated. However, you can still utilize these steps for newer iOS editions, too.

Use a FLAC Player

One straightforward solution to playing a FLAC file on an iPhone is to use a music player app that supports the playback of the format.

Using a FLAC player means that you don't have to worry about the formats that iOS understands. As long as the app itself can understand the format, then it doesn't matter what the iOS music playback limitations are; the music will just play normally.

The only downfall to this is figuring out how to get your music collection into the media player. It's for this reason that a FLAC player is really only useful if a few of your songs are FLAC-based.

For example, while you can download any of several tools to get your iPhone to play FLAC files — such as VOX or FLAC Player+ — you still need to provide the FLAC files to those apps. This is usually done by uploading the FLAC files to a cloud storage service you use on your phone and then importing those audio files into the media player.

Here's an example of this process involving Google Drive and VOX. Find the FLAC file in Google Drive, tap Open in, then Copy to VOX. The file will open in the VOX app and start to play.

Three iOS screens showing Open in, Copy to VOX and VOX player

Convert the FLAC File to the ALAC Format

The other option is to abandon the FLAC format completely so that the audio plays in the format iOS supports. You can do this by converting FLAC to ALAC, a process that will save the FLAC file to a file with the M4A file extension.

If you have loads of music that need to be in the ALAC format, your best option is to convert them in bulk. Plus, iTunes is compatible with ALAC, so it syncs these files straight to your iPhone.

However, going the conversion route takes longer than keeping the files as they are since there's an entire conversion process that has to take place, and then you have to move the files from your computer back to your phone.

There's nothing wrong with converting from one lossless format to another. You won't lose audio quality as you do when converting to a lossy format.

One way to accomplish this task is with an audio file converter. Load the FLAC file(s) into the program or web service and pick ALAC as the output format. MediaHuman Audio Converter is one example of a program for Windows, Mac, and Linux that supports the FLAC to ALAC conversion.

ALAC option in MediaHuman Audio Converter

An online audio converter tool is handy but inconvenient if you plan to convert more than just a handful of files. An offline tool like MediaHuman's software is better suited for converting a large collection of files.

You can also convert .FLAC to .M4A with iTunes, which is ideal if your audio files are already on your computer:

  1. Open iTunes and go to Edit > Preferences (Windows) or iTunes > Preferences (Mac).

    iTunes Preferences menu item
  2. From the General tab, select Import Settings.

    Import Settings in iTunes Preferences
  3. Next to Import Using, select the drop-down menu and choose Apple Lossless Encoder.

    Apple Lossless Encoder option in Import Settings for iTunes
  4. Select OK to exit the import options, and then OK again to close the General Preferences window and return to iTunes.

    OK button in iTunes' General Preferences window
  5. Open your music library by choosing Music at the top of iTunes, and then Library, and finally Songs from the left panel.

    Songs in iTunes
  6. Select the file(s) you want iTunes to convert to ALAC.

    Can't find the files? They're probably not loaded in iTunes yet. Import the music into iTunes so that they appear in your music library.

  7. Go to File > Convert > Create Apple Lossless Version.

    Create Apple Lossless Version menu item in iTunes
  8. After a few seconds or longer, depending on the number of files you're converting, the ALAC-formatted M4A files will appear next to their originals in your iTunes library.

    iTunes music conversion process in Windows 8
  9. Now that the FLAC files exist in a compatible format with your device, sync your iPhone with iTunes to copy the ALAC songs to your phone.