The ALAC, aka Apple Lossless Audio Codec, and AIFF, aka the Audio Interchange File Format, are two popular audio file converters manufactured by Apple Inc. The main difference between alac vs aiff is their audio converting method.
Also, ALAC is suitable for iOS devices, and AIFF aims to cover PCs and other electronic devices. Many users do not know the difference between ALAC and AIFF thus comes the write-up to help you learn all the information regarding them so you can select the one that suits your device’s needs.
In addition, every audio and video requires a specific file format before exporting to support various devices. The size and quality of the audio and video totally depend on its format. If we talk about audio, only there are various types of audio codecs or formats available.
The most popular audio formats are MP3, Ogg Vorbis, AAC, ALAC, AIFF, FLAC, WAV, and DSD. Though the mp3 format is widely used as most devices, support the format, in some specific situations, ALAC and AIFF even do better as a codec or format. So in this article, we will know about these two formats and try to compare both to see which one will be better for you among ALAC and AIFF.
What is ALAC (Apple Lossless)?
Apple Lossless Audio Codec popularly goes by the name ALAC aka Apple Lossless Audio Code. To ensure a lossless data conversion experience, Apple Inc has developed this audio encoding file.
You can also play ALAC-encoded files on any iOS device, as the DRM scheme does not protect the ALAC-compressed music files. Hence, the music is free, and you do not need to spend a pretty penny to listen to your favorite music on your iOS device.
Besides, Apple Lossless Audio codec is an audio coding format developed by Apple Inc., also known as ALAC. However, Apple only refers to the codec as an Apple Lossless or Apple Lossless Encoder. Though the inception of this audio format was created in 2004, Apple made it widely available royalty-free and open-source codec in 2011.
And from then, the codec is going popular day by day. The audio codec implementation is much preferable among the new generation because of its lossless data compression ability of digital music, where you will get superior audio quality without losing any bit of the actual audio.
In general, Apple Lossless consumes around 5MB file size for one-minute audio, whereas an mp3 audio file consumes only 1.2 to 2 MB for one-minute audio. But still, ALAC can be much preferable among the people who want every inch of the actual audio quality. Though the ALAC codec requires more storage space than the other audio codec, according to Apple, the compressed audio file will be half of an uncompressed file size with the exact same audio quality.
In our testing, we find that the compressed files consume about 40% to 60% file size of the original uncompressed file, which is very convincing to use. At the 16, 20, 24, and 32-bit depths, the ALAC supports up to 8 channels of audio with the highest possible sample rate of 384 kHz. In general, Apple’s Lossless codec data is often stored in the MP4 container with the .m4a filename extension. And another less common file-type container is.CAF for this audio codec.
On the other hand, ALAC requires four times CPU power than the other audio codec to generate or compress an audio file, but the result will definitely make you simile while listening to the output. Many people think of ALAC as a variant of ACC codec, but you should know ACC is a lossy format, and ALAC uses linear prediction for lossless data compression like other lossless codecs.
However, the Apple Lossless consume less power while playback of the audio codec, which is why it is mostly recommended for older iPod devices as they come with smaller battery capacity.
What is AIFF?
The Audio Interchange File Format goes by the short name of AIFF. This converter encodes sound data for personal computers and other electronic devices. Apple Inc is the developer of AIFF, and thus it is primarily used on the Apple Macintosh computer system. As the AIFF is an uncompressed format for audio, the audio information stored in the AIFF converter format is also lossless and takes less time for the audio player to read.
However, the audio interchange file format file may also be saved as “.AIF” files when it is uncompressed, and there is a compressed version of this AIFF, too, which is known as an AIFF-C or AIFC. The AIFF was developed in 1988 by Apple Inc. and is usually used on Apple Macintosh computer systems.
The audio data of the AIFF format files is uncompressed pulse-code modulation in short PCM, which require much more disk space in comparison to other lossy file formats like MP3, WMA, Ogg, and others. In general, if you use an mp3 format for a one-minute audio file, it will consume more or less 1.5 MB, whereas the AIFF file will consume about 10 MB for one-minute audio.
As the audio is uncompressed and interchangeable, you will get almost the same audio as the studio recording it. So the file size can be considerable if you justify its sound quality. The AIFF audio file format uses 44.1 kHz of sample rate with 16 bits of bit rate, which also help it to produce the exact same sounding audio as the actual one.
On the other hand, the data of the AIFF format can include the musical note of a sample and loop point data for use by musical applications and hardware samplers.
As the audio format is widely available now, most common and modern audio players support this AIFF files to play, including Apple QuickTime Player, Apple Music, Apple iTunes (for older Apple devices), Microsoft Windows Media Player, Nullsoft Winamp, Roxio Toast 20, Roxio Creator NXT Pro 9, Audacity, VideoLAN VLC media player and lots of other third party media players.
So you don’t need to worry about playing it over any device or any platform. To convert and produce AIFF audio, you can use a digital audio workstation (DAW) like Audacity (cross-platform) or Adobe Audition (Windows, Mac). So it is not an issue which OS-based PC you have; you can still produce or generate the AIFF file format
ALAC vs AIFF: Which is Better? Is AIFF Better than Apple Lossless?
Apple Inc manufactures ALAC and AIFF with the same approach to no-loss formatting of encoding audio files, but they also share some working style differences. This section will discuss the similarities and dissimilarities between ALLAC and AIFF.
1. Compression Method
As the ALAC and AIFF work to convert and store audio information in your device, they have their method to complete the task. Nowadays, people want their music to sound precise regardless of the device they are listening to. So, when a file compresses audio to format, often a significant portion of audio gets lost in the process.
The ALAC and AFIF equally work to solve the audio loss issue and provide the audience with a lossless audio formation experience. But the compression style is different between ALAC and AIFF. The ALAC compresses the audio file with the help of algorithms to format it, whereas the AIFF uses an uncompressed formation of audio information.
2. File Formation Size
The compression method used by ALAC and AIFF draws the most prominent difference line. Now, we all look for files that will eat up less of the memory of our devices. Also, older models seem to have less memory space for the users. The files must be compressed to get smaller to fix the memory scarcity problem.
The ALAC audio file conversion algorithm compressed the information, meaning the file became smaller than its original size. On the contrary, the AIFF format style does not compress the audio information, so the file size remains the same even after formation. So, the ALAC files seem to appear smaller than AIFF files.
3. Smooth Playback
Understandably, when we initiate to play a compressed file, the audio player must decompress the information first. The decompression process might take some time, depending on the device and the model you are using. Besides, in the older version of audio players, many may lack the feature of audio decompression.
Furthermore, the ALAC audio files are compressed, so they might take some time or have difficulty playing instantly on many audio players. In contrast, the AIFF audio files are formatted in an uncompressed method. They do not require any pre-decompression work for the music player and can be played instantly, regardless of the device type.
If we compared these two, it would be hard to tell which one is better among Apple Lossless and AIFF. If we consider the sound quality, both of them are neck to neck. In terms of sound quality in some specific conditions, AIFF should be better sounding as it contains uncompressed and interchangeable audio data.
But in some conditions, ALAC makes even better sounds, especially on old audio tracks where the actual audio file is not in its best condition. However, if we talk about disk space consumption, ALAC or Apple Lossless is a clear winner; as I mentioned, it only consumes around 5 MB for a one-minute audio file, while AIFF consumes around 10 MB.
So, if you are much concerned about file size, it will be wise to prefer ALAC over AIFF, but if you are someone who doesn’t know what to compromise with the sound quality, then you can go for AIFF. On the other hand, you will get a variable sample rate and bit depth choosing option which is fixed on the Aiff format. This is the basic difference between these audio file formats, which may not be noticeable in real-world experiences.
Why does Apple use ALAC?
Apple Inc has manufactured Apple Lossless Audio Codec, especially for iOS mobile users. As memory space is a more significant concern in mobiles and often storing too many music files can let you compromise a good portion of your memory, ALAC comes to your rescue with a compressed audio conversion technique. Besides, as there is no royalty claim in the ALAC converter, you can enjoy your music hassle-free.
Also, Apple mainly introduces ALAC for smaller gadgets like mobile phones, iPods, etc. Such devices do not have a vast memory expansion possibility. In such cases, if the user uses an ALAC converter for the music files, he can store more music within the limited space without worrying about running out of storage space. Lastly, the ALAC converter is handy for iOS mobiles and their music player format.
Is ALAC better than AIFF?
A distinct verdict regarding which one as an audio converter is better between Apple Lossless vs AIFF is debatable. Apple Inc manufactures both to provide users with a premium audio listening experience. It is entirely on the user’s side to pick the best or the most convenient convert that suits their need.
There are, though, some vital facts to evaluate before you make the final call to decide which converter you want your device to use. The Apple Lossless converter compresses the audio file and squeezes it to get smaller in size; though the audio does not get lost or damaged, many music players often lag while playing them.
Besides, if you want your music to be prompt, crispy, and exactly studio-like, then you may opt for the AIFF converter, as the method it follows to convert the audio file is compression-free. The sound quality in the ALAC converter is similar to the audio quality we get while playing CDs.
On the other hand, if you are a mobile user with memory use in your device and cannot compromise your audio file number in the gallery, then you can select ALAC audio converter. The ALAC converter at the same time starts instantly regardless of the music player’s time, so it is fast and smooth.
But if you are a computer user, then memory should not be an issue for you, and the music player on a PC is usually more advanced in terms of features than the ones available on mobile phones. So, in such cases, you can use an AIFF converter where the audio file size is uncompressed and do not lag the audio player.
So, we can say ALAC slightly gets the upper hand in flexibility and feasibility. Still, AIFF is not very far behind to consider the best as it assures accurate audio impact. Although the sound quality production is top-notch in both cases, you cannot differentiate between them. Depending on your device type, you can go for the suitable one.
In simple words, the only difference that the ALAC and AIFF have is their style of audio conversion method. The ALAC takes a compressed audio format, whereas the AIFF converts the audio without compressing it.
Because of the compression difference between Apple Lossless vs AIFF, the audio output gets affected in terms of file size, playback speed, and the audio player’s time to play the audio. As both have the lossless audio style, depending on your device and model, you can use either of them that suits your need the most.