4 Tools to Play FLAC in iTunes and iOS

While the average iTunes user probably hasn't heard of FLAC (Free Lossless Audio Codec), audiophiles swear by it. That's because FLAC is a lossless format, meaning that FLAC files retain all of the audio information that makes up a song. This is different than AAC and MP3, which are called lossy formats because they remove some parts of songs (usually the highest and lowest end of the range) to compress songs, resulting in smaller files.

Sounds great, right? Unfortunately, FLAC isn't compatible with iTunes. This leaves FLAC-loving audiophiles who prefer iTunes and iOS devices in a bind: Do they sacrifice audio quality or the tools they prefer?

Luckily, the choice isn't quite so dire. Even though iTunes and the iOS don't support FLAC by default, here are six ways you can play FLAC in iTunes and iOS.

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dBpoweramp (Windows and Mac)

Play flac in itunes
image credit: Jasper James/Stone/Getty Images
What We Like
  • Simple interface.

  • Available on Windows and Mac.

  • Also an effective lossless CD ripper.

What We Don't Like
  • More expensive than other options.

While dBpoweramp doesn't exactly allow you to play FLAC files in iTunes, it gets about as close as you'll be able to. This tool quickly and easily converts FLAC files to Apple Lossless (ALAC) files. ALAC files should be equivalent to the original versions and have the added benefit of being compatible with iTunes.

The conversion process is as simple as right-clicking (or batch selecting) the file you want to convert and setting it to be automatically added to iTunes.

dBpoweramp requires Windows XP SP3, Vista, 7, 8 or 10, or Mac OS X 10.8. There is a free evaluation download. Purchasing the full version, which includes many features beyond file conversion, costs $39.

Visit dBpoweramp

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Golden Ear (iOS)

Golden ear app
golden ear copyright Chaoji Li
What We Like
  • File and folder control within the app.

  • Supports AirPlay.

What We Don't Like
  • macOS version is far more limited than the iOS version.

  • Doesn't have an equalizer.

A number of apps allow iOS users to listen to FLAC files without converting. Golden Ear, which also supports WAV, AIFF, ALAC, and other file types, is one such app. Think of it as a replacement for the built-in Music app devoted exclusively to lossless files. Golden Ear syncs files to your iOS device via file sharing in iTunes and can import files via FTP or ZIP file. It includes visual themes for playback and supports AirPlay. This $7.99 app provides the best performance on an iPhone 4 or newer but may work on earlier models.

Download Golden Ear

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FLAC Player (iOS)

FLAC Player
FLAC Player copyright Dan Leehr
What We Like
  • Has an equalizer.

  • Song bookmarks.

  • AirPlay support.

What We Don't Like
  • May be abandoned by developer—last update was over two years ago.

  • Crash issues and other bugs.

The name says it all: FLAC Player lets you play your FLAC files on iOS devices. You can sync FLAC files to your iOS device via the filesharing interface in iTunes or download them via any system running SFTP or SSH. FLAC files are then accessed via the app (not the Music app) where, like other audio apps, they can be played in the background while you do other things or streamed to compatible devices via AirPlay. FLAC Player also supports gapless playback, equalizer presets, playlist creation, and more. This $9.99 app requires a device running iOS 8.0 or higher.

Download FLAC Player

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Fluke (Mac)

Fluke flac player
What We Like
  • Free.

  • Play unmodified FLAC files in iTunes.

What We Don't Like
  • Last update in 2009.

  • Doesn't work with latest versions of macOS or iTunes.

Unlike dBpoweramp or other Mac and Windows programs that convert your files to work with iTunes, Fluke actually lets you play unmodified FLAC files in iTunes. It does this by running at the same time as iTunes and working hand in hand with it. Just drag the FLAC files you want to add to iTunes onto the Fluke icon, and they'll be ready to play in iTunes in no time. Even better, it's free.

While Fluke will play your FLAC files in iTunes, it isn't able to make them work on iOS or Apple TV, or over AirPlay (it uses a code library that's available only on MacOS). 

Fluke is Mac-only and appears not to have been updated recently, so it might not work with the latest versions of MacOS. 

Download Fluke

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