The Apple Lossless Audio Codec or ALAC is an audio coding format and reference audio codec implementation developed by Apple. It was released in 2004 as part of its overall product strategy and has since become a part of its product ecosystem. This codec is also known as Apple Lossless or Apple Lossless Encoder.
Pros: Advantages of Apple Lossless Audio Codec
Apple developed ALAC as a proprietary audio codec positioned as an alternative to other lossless audio codecs such as FLAC or lossy codecs such as the MP3 codec or the AAC standard. It can be contained within an MP4 container such as an M4A audio file.
It has native support in Apple products including the macOS operating system and the iOS and iPadOS operating systems of iPhones and iPads. The lossless music feature of Apple Music is also based on this audio coding format.
Below are the specific advantages of ALAC:
• Lossless Compression Algorithm: One of the advantages of ALAC is that it is a codec standard for lossless compression of digital audio files. This means that it preserves the original audio data of the source audio.
• High Sound or Audio Quality: The quality of the sound or audio it encodes is similar to other lossless codecs such as FLAC or file formats such as WAV or AIFF. Remember that it can be contained in a file container format such as M4A.
• Open Source and Royalty-Free: Apple made this audio codec open source and free from royalty beginning in late 2011. This means that there is no need to secure a license or permission from Apple to use this codec in projects.
• Wide Support and Compatibility: Remember that it is supported in Apple products to include devices and software applications. Windows has added support for this codec since Windows 10 and the desktop client of Spotify allows its playback.
• Smaller File Size for Archiving: Another advantage of ALAC is that it produces smaller file sizes compared to the file size of WAV or AIFF file formats. This makes it ideal for archiving purposes and even for editing and production projects.
Cons: Disadvantages of Apple Lossless Audio Codec
ALAC is a good codec but it has disadvantages. Furthermore, when compared with other lossless audio codecs and even lossy codecs, it is not as popular. WAV remains more popular because it was introduced earlier and due to the popularity of Windows.
This codec might be beneficial to those whose workflow depends on the Apple ecosystem. Others who are into music production and software development must weigh the pros and cons of this codec before deciding to use it in their respective projects.
Below are the specific disadvantages of ALAC:
• Still Relatively Larger File Size: It might produce smaller-sized files than WAV and AIFF files but it is still larger than loss codecs. An M4A audio file encoded with ALAC is about 4 to 5 times larger than a similar file encoded using AAC.
• Higher Processing Requirement: Another notable disadvantage of ALAC is that it demands more hardware resources. It requires around four times as much central processing power to decode than FLAC does.
• Limited Streaming Support: Remember that Apple Music uses this codec for its lossless audio format. However, when it comes to other streaming services and platforms, it has limited support compared to AAC and even OGG.
• No Native Support for DRM: This codec also does not include built-in support for Digital Rights Management. However, because it is used in container formats, DRM support can be included in a compatible container format such as M4A.
• Requires High-End Hardware: Lossless and high-quality audio files need high-end audio output hardware. The difference between lossy audio and lossless audio is not noticeable when using average-quality speakers or headphones.