AIFF vs FLAC: 8 Differences Between AIFF and FLAC

Between AIFF vs FLAC, what should you choose? Learn the major differences between these two formats here.

If you are an audiophile, you certainly take your music and music quality very seriously. There are several music file formats out there, and you might be confused about which of the formats to choose. AIFF and FLAC are two of the more common types of formats right now.

In this post, we will consider what these two file formats are and the differences between them. At the end of this AIFF vs FLAC article, you will determine which of the two formats you should choose.

AIFF vs FLAC: Major Differences

These are the major differences between AIFF and FLAC at a glance:

 AIFFFLAC
CompressionUncompressed; CD-like qualityCompressed; smaller file size
CompatibilityLimited compatibility; mostly limited to Mac devicesWide compatibility; works across operating systems
SpaceSimilar to WAV - large file sizeCompression reduces file size
UsabilityLess usable due to large file size and compatibility concernsGreat usability - works across devices and takes up less space
Quality of SoundSuperior quality - like WAV filesGood quality, but AIFF is better
AvailabilityRarely available for downloading onlineEasily available for downloading online
UsersMostly used by enthusiasts, producers and audio engineersUsed by anyone and everyone
SharingMost music sharing platforms don't support AIFFWide support across music sharing platforms

 

Let’s take a look at these differences in more detail:

 

Compression

The AIFF file contains the genuine or original audio data. It is also composed of stereo and mono that can be recorded at 16-bits and sampled at a 44.1 kHz rate. Due to its composition, this file has a similar design in terms of audio configurations as your typical CD. This is why several people refer to it as CD-audio quality audio.

One good way to define the FLAC file format is by using another common format – the ZIP file. Just like a ZIP file, FLAC is compressed. The difference between the ZIP file and the FLAC file is that FLAC files have a better compression process, and unlike ZIP files, is targeted solely at audio files.

FLAC and AIFF are both audio file formats. However, in terms of compression, FLAC is much better than the AIFF file format. It is a compression-based format that will create exact copies of CD files.

On the other hand, AIFF file format is uncompressed. It will store the audio data the same way as it will be in CD format. Therefore, it is much larger.
FLAC is based on a lossless audio codec. AIFF, on the other hand, is based on the interchange file format.

In summary:

  • AIFF is lossless and uncompressed
  • FLAC is compressed

Compatibility

Have you ever tried sending a song from one device to your Apple device or vice-versa, only to discover that it cannot be played? Well, the AIFF is quite guilty of this. In terms of compatibility, the AIFF is less compatible with other media and devices. It will only play on select media and devices.

AIFF is Audio Interchange File Format and is one of the compatible and most used music file formats used by Apple products ranging from iPhones to MacBooks. In some circles, AIIF is known as the Apple version of the waveform audio format.

FLAC files, on the other hand, will play on virtually every device. Whether you are using an Apple, Windows, Android, or another operating system, you can rest assured that it will play the FLAC file format.

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Can you play FLAC files on a MAC? Well, you cannot do this directly. However, as with most technologies, there is a way to go around this hurdle. To play the FLAC file on a MAC, you have to download an external media plugin.

There are several types available for download, and one of the most popular options in the VLC media player. This will give you the support you need to play the FLAC on a MAC. You can even play FLAC on iTunes. However, it should be noted that you cannot play this directly. To play FLAC files on iTunes, you must first convert it to ALAC file format. The good thing about this conversion is that since both formats are lossless, there is no drop in quality.

It is also possible to play FLAC files on an iPhone or similar device. With the release of IOS 11, it is now possible to play FLAC files directly. If you are using an older IOS version, you cannot play it directly but will have to download some other applications from the Store to play this file.

Another advantage of FLAC is that you can play it in a wide variety of medium and media players. Many times, you cannot play the AIFF file on other devices or media that do not use Apple’s operating system.

To sum it up:

  • AIFF is mostly compatible with Apple devices
  • FLAC is platform agnostic and works across devices

 

Space

Wav files and AIFF files have identical sampling rates and sizes. Therefore, their disk space is very similar. Wav files are larger than the regular MP3 file, and that is also the same thing with the AIFF file format. It is up to five times bigger than the regular MP3 file.

From research and the sample that we have come across, AIFF files have an average size of 10 MB. This means that if you are listening to a podcast or a 10 minute long AIFF file, you will use around 100 MB of space or even more than that.

It is a lossless audio format. However, unlike other lossless audio formats, there is no audio data compression which is responsible for the large size.

Image source: Jessica Oliviera on Unsplash

If you have a CD collection and you are looking for a way to back up all your music, the FLAC file format offers you an excellent way of doing this. It will give you all the songs that you want while taking up a relatively little amount of space.

Overall, one major way FLAC differs from AIFF is in terms of storage space. FLAC deals with compressing the audio file as much as it can without any loss of quality in the audio. The AIFF file format, on the other hand, is not about compression. Instead, it is focused on rendering the music as accurately as possible. This doesn’t make it better than FLAC though.

To round up:

  • AIFF files take up a lot of space – nearly 10MB for every minute of audio
  • FLAC files are compressed and take up less space

 

Usability

For many people, FLAC is the HD version of an MP3 file. It is a wonderful format. Although it gives super-clear and defined sound performance compared to an MP3 file, it has the benefit of sizing down the file up to 70%. Therefore, it is smaller without losing any quality of audio performance.

In terms of usability, FLAC trumps AIFF and this is one of the main differences between the two formats. Unlike AIFF, FLAC is smaller in size, which opens up the way to several benefits. For one, since it is a smaller file, it is much quicker to download.

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You can set it up in a jiffy.

Another advantage of this is that it gives you the ability to retain important information about music. For example, this file format will retain stuff like the name of the musician, album, lyrics, and so on.

AIFF, on the other hand, comes in a large format and isn’t actually meant to be sent or downloaded as such. Just like with CDs, AIFF is designed for music storage and audio projects as they appear originally.

Realizing that most people might be put off by the large size, Apple developed the AIFF-C format. This format, as the name implies, is similar to the AIFF file format, but it compresses the audio file. The result is a smaller file size. Therefore, you will find it easier to store and share it with others.

To sum up:

  • Limited compatibility and large size affect AIFF usability
  • FLAC is easily usable thanks to great compatibility

 

Quality of Sound

As an audiophile, this is likely the part that you are most concerned with. Well, although FLAC does a good job of compressing the original music file and tries to stick as closely as possible to the original file format and audio quality, it still loses some of that vibrancy and quality. It loses some quality as it passes through software.

There are several reasons why this file format is so much better than most of the other audio file formats that you will find right now. For one, it is much smaller than several other formats, including the AIFF and the other types of WAV files.

On the other hand, AIFF is not like that. It is a full audio file that works perfectly even when it passes through software editors. You can process it as much as you like without any loss in quality.

That is:

  • AIFF is superior audio quality – something audio engineers work with
  • FLAC is compressed, which affects its quality, though it is still much better than MP3

 

Availability

Since FLAC files are smaller and easier to process, it is no surprise that it is readily available. It should be noted that most of the musical data available on the internet today comes in either FLAC or MP3 format. The FLAC file format was released back in 2001. It is the short form of Free Lossless Audio Codec. FLAC is one of the most popular lossless audio formats right now and is used by more people than the AIFF file format.

The FLAC file is a mimicry of an original music file and is an exact copy. Therefore, you don’t have to worry about losing the quality of your songs. With the FLAC file format, you can lose the CD without getting very worried.

Image source: Jamakassi on Unsplash

Therefore, it is easier for you to download FLAC from different websites. And as we have pointed out earlier, it makes downloading a FLAC file format much easier.

On the other hand, AIFF files are not readily available for download. Instead, they are found as audio recordings and likely studio sessions. They appear uncompressed which makes them heavier in terms of size.

In conclusion:

  • AIFF files are rarely available online for free
  • FLAC files are quickly becoming the default format for audio online
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Users

FLAC file format is readily available to the general public and is used by regular folks. And of course, in terms of the sound quality and compression rate, the FLAC file format is respectively similar and better than the AIFF file format.

AIFF file format is often used by audio engineers. These files impeccably maintain the sound quality of the music, even through several editing loops and mixing.

However, it should be noted that even music producers look for ways to turn their AIFF files into FLAC formats because of the ease of saving and sending to other platforms.

Overall, if you are simply looking to store, share, and stream music, then you should go for the FLAC file format. If you are a music producer or mixer on a music project, then the AIFF file format would be a better choice for you.

On the whole:

  • AIFF is mostly used by engineers and audiophiles
  • FLAC is used by anyone who wants a superior alternative to MP3

 

Music Sharing

If you are a musician looking to release your music to the public, you certainly want it bounced in an uncompressed format. If bounced this way, the master export will be at the highest standard achievable. And according to the Red Book Standard, the best music is listened to on files at 44.1 kHz and 16-bit depth, which is what you get from the AIFF file format.

Therefore, if you want to share your music without any changes in the audio quality, the AIFF file format is just what you should use.

Image source: Averie Woodard on Unsplash

On the other hand, if you aren’t greatly concerned about the listening quality, but with the speed and ease of sharing music, then the FLAC file format is right for you.

This doesn’t mean that the quality would be bad, but since your audience would be people that aren’t really concerned about the quality of sound, you can send the FLAC file format with no worries.

Overall: 

  • Limited compatibility and poor streaming service support makes AIFF difficult to share
  • FLAC is great for sharing since any device can play it

 

AIFF vs FLAC: What Should You Choose?

Now that we have considered these two types of audio file formats, which should you choose. Well, for us, the choice between FLAC and AIFF file format is not really hard depending on the situation on hand. Both file formats actually sound similar except you are an audiophile and are actively looking for differences between the two formats.

There are some similarities between the two. For one, they both sound great and give excellent audio quality. The two options are also lossless audio formats even though AIFF is uncompressed and FLAC is compressed. With these two file formats, you can store and archive your music without losing the originality or quality.

 

Conclusion

As we have considered in this article, there are some differences between FLAC and AIFF file formats. The differences lie in the size, format, use, functionality, and availability.

However, both file formats actually sound similar. You can choose the one that you want based on the format that your media will support.
FLAC uses less storage because of its compression. AIFF files on the other hand are larger in size and are stored in an original state.

We hope that this AIFF vs FLAC post has given you more information about the two formats and their differences.

Header image credit: Nick Karvounis on Unsplash

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