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by Rob Follis

15th September, 2017

5406 readers

After Apple’s iPhone X/8 launch a few days ago, a chunk of the mobile audiophile community got very excited. Reason being, someone with an eagle-eye spotted that FLAC has been added to the codec specs on the new iPhones and the 7/7Plus with iOS11.

The two best uncompressed Hi-Res formats, AIFF & WAV have been removed from the written specs, but may still be the covered by "Linear PCM".

Apple’s new spec says the iPhone X/8 and iPhone7 with iOS11 can support the following formats. AAC-LC, HE-AAC, HE-AAC v2, Protected AAC, MP3, Linear PCM, Apple Lossless, FLAC, Dolby Digital (AC-3), Dolby Digital Plus (E-AC-3), and Audible (formats 2, 3, 4, Audible Enhanced Audio, AAX, and AAX+.

FLAC is a very popular ‘lossless’ music format and since this announcement, stories have been running wild around the web, claiming that "Now we can play FLAC on our iPhones”. As usual for these things, the claim is not quite true and we at StereoNET pride ourselves on confirming facts before publishing.

Extensive testing in our Melbourne labs (OK, a trendy Fitzroy café), shows that nothing has really changed so far with FLAC replay. The iOS Music App still does not play FLAC files and neither does iTunes in High Sierra on a Mac.

The only way to play FLAC is to use a 3rd Party app as has been the case for years. What has changed is that FLAC and other format files files can be now easily synced and uploaded to an iPhone using the new FILES app that comes with iOS11.

No one really knows at this point, but it is also possible that with the new iPhones supporting FLAC in hardware, FLAC playback won’t impact battery life as much as doing so in software. 

How to play FLAC music on your iPhone

- works for any iPhone running iOS11 which is due out next week as a free update

Add the FLAC files on your computer to iCloud Drive, Dropbox or OneDrive, the three cloud apps app that are supported by the new FILES app in iOS11

Choose Your Cloud Provider:

We simply created a new folder in iCloud Drive called FLAC Music.

On the iPhone, go to the App Store and buy FLAC Player+,  Lossless Plus or any 3rd party FLAC player app that supports the FILES app.

Open the FLAC Player app and select iCloud Drive as a source.

Here we show two FLAC files ready to download to the player, just select, download and play.

We tried 16 and 24bit FLAC files and all played seamlessly – actual listening tests will follow in an upcoming article.

So that’s it, great sound from FLAC on any iPhone running iOS11, but Apple fans might well stick to Apple Lossless (ALAC) and be able to use the standard Music Player.

StereoNET Discussion Thread

Test Equipment used for this article

  • iPhone 7 running iOS11 Golden Master
  • Sennheiser IE800 high-end in ear monitors
  • FLAC Player+ app on iPhone
  • Mac Mini configured as a music server running GM Candidate High Sierra
  • MacBook Pro running Sierra
  • FLAC and AIFF music - downloads from Qobuz 
  • CD Ripping & Format Transcoding - dBpoweramp

Posted in: Technology & Smart Homes
Tags: apple  flac  ios11 

Rob Follis's avatar

Written by:

Rob Follis

Rob Follis has been writing about tech on and off for over 40 years, is a designer, photographer, information omnivore, gadget-head, Hi-Fi afficionado, owner of far far too many things and sadly an unsuccessful app developer. A born & bred Londoner now happily living in Melbourne. Email Rob.

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