What is an ALAC file & how do I open an ALAC file (Apple Lossless Audio Codec File)?

.ALAC (Apple Lossless Audio Codec File) - File Extension

Developer: Apple

What is an ALAC file?

An ALAC file, or Apple Lossless Audio Codec file, is an audio file format developed by Apple Inc. It is designed to compress audio data without any loss in quality, hence the term “lossless.”

ALAC files are primarily associated with Apple’s ecosystem, including iTunes and Apple Music. They use the file extension .M4A, which is more commonly recognized.

In essence, ALAC files allow you to enjoy high-quality audio while keeping file sizes manageable.

How to Open an ALAC File

Opening ALAC files is a straightforward process, given Apple’s wide adoption of this format. Here’s how to do it:

  1. iTunes or Apple Music: These Apple-owned applications are the most natural choices for opening ALAC files. Both are capable of playing ALAC files seamlessly. Simply double-click the file, and it should open in the respective application.
  2. Third-Party Media Players: Many third-party media players also support ALAC files. Popular options like VLC Media Player, Foobar2000, and Winamp can play ALAC files without any issues. Download and install the player of your choice, then open the file within the application.
  3. Convert to Other Formats: If you want to convert ALAC files to other formats, you can use software like iTunes, dBpoweramp, or fre:ac. These tools allow you to change the file format while preserving the audio quality.

How to Convert an ALAC File

Converting ALAC files to other formats or vice versa is often necessary to ensure compatibility with various devices and software. Here’s how you can do it:

  1. Using iTunes: Open iTunes and go to “Edit” > “Preferences” (Windows) or “iTunes” > “Preferences” (Mac). In the “General” tab, click on “Import Settings.” Choose the desired format (e.g., MP3 or AAC) under “Import Using” and adjust the quality settings. Then, right-click the ALAC file in your library and select “Create [format] Version.”
  2. Third-Party Converters: Various third-party audio conversion software is available, such as dBpoweramp, XLD (X Lossless Decoder), and fre:ac. Install one of these programs, import your ALAC file, and choose the output format and quality settings. Click “Convert” to start the process.
  3. Online Converters: There are also online converters that can handle ALAC files. Websites like Online-Convert.com and CloudConvert allow you to upload your ALAC file and convert it to the desired format. However, be cautious about the security and privacy of your audio files when using online tools.

Quality and Data Loss Considerations: When converting ALAC files, it’s essential to choose the appropriate settings to avoid any loss in audio quality. Higher bitrates and lossless formats like FLAC will preserve the original audio fidelity better than lower-quality options like MP3.

Security Considerations: Are “.ALAC” Files Safe?

ALAC files themselves are not inherently unsafe. They are a legitimate audio format developed by Apple for high-quality audio playback.

However, like any file format, ALAC files can potentially be used for malicious purposes. For example, cybercriminals may attempt to disguise malware as ALAC files to deceive users into downloading and running harmful software.

To stay safe when dealing with ALAC files:

  • Only download ALAC files from trusted sources.
  • Ensure your antivirus software is up-to-date to detect and prevent any potential threats.
  • Be cautious when downloading ALAC files from unverified websites or sources.

In general, as long as you obtain ALAC files from reputable sources and exercise standard cybersecurity precautions, you should not encounter security issues related to this file format.

Format Details for ALAC Files

ALAC files are known for their lossless compression, which allows for high-quality audio playback without the large file sizes typically associated with uncompressed audio formats. Here are some key format details:

  • Compression: ALAC uses a compression algorithm that reduces the file size while retaining all the audio data. This makes it an excellent choice for audiophiles who demand top-notch sound quality without sacrificing storage space.
  • File Extension: ALAC files are often recognized by the .M4A file extension, which is also used for AAC (Advanced Audio Coding) files. This can sometimes lead to confusion, but the content of the file is what determines whether it’s an ALAC or AAC file.
  • Bitrate: ALAC files can be encoded at various bitrates, allowing users to balance audio quality and file size. Higher bitrates offer superior quality but result in larger files.
  • Metadata: Like other audio file formats, ALAC files can store metadata such as song title, artist, album, and cover art. This information enhances the user experience when playing and organizing music.

Uses and Applications of ALAC Files

ALAC files are primarily used for storing and playing high-quality audio in the Apple ecosystem. Their applications include:

  • Music Playback: ALAC files are compatible with iTunes and Apple Music, making them ideal for users who want to enjoy lossless audio on their Mac, iPhone, iPad, or other Apple devices.
  • Audiophile Listening: Audiophiles and music enthusiasts who demand the best audio quality often prefer ALAC files for their lossless compression.
  • Archiving and Backup: Some users use ALAC for archiving their music libraries. Since ALAC retains full audio quality, it’s a reliable choice for long-term storage.
  • Audio Editing: ALAC files are suitable for audio professionals who require lossless files for editing and mastering purposes.

Associated Software Programs

Several software programs are commonly used to open and create ALAC files:

  • iTunes: The default media player for Apple devices, iTunes, can open, play, and create ALAC files. Users can convert their music collection to ALAC format through iTunes as well.
  • Apple Music: Apple Music, the subscription-based streaming service, supports ALAC files for streaming and offline listening on Apple devices.
  • Third-Party Media Players: Various third-party media players, such as VLC Media Player, support ALAC files for playback. These players provide cross-platform compatibility.
  • Audio Editing Software: Professional audio editing software like Adobe Audition, Logic Pro, and GarageBand can work with ALAC files for editing and mixing purposes.

Advantages and Disadvantages of ALAC Files

Understanding the strengths and weaknesses of ALAC files can help users make informed decisions when dealing with audio formats.


  • Lossless Quality: ALAC files offer uncompromised audio quality, making them ideal for audiophiles and professional audio editing.
  • Apple Ecosystem Integration: ALAC files seamlessly integrate with Apple devices and software, providing a smooth user experience for Apple enthusiasts.
  • Metadata Support: ALAC files support extensive metadata, allowing users to organize their music collections effectively.


  • File Size: ALAC files can be significantly larger than compressed audio formats like MP3 or AAC. This can consume more storage space on devices and may not be ideal for users with limited storage.
  • Compatibility: While ALAC files work seamlessly within the Apple ecosystem, they may require conversion for playback on non-Apple devices and software.

Comparison: ALAC vs. Similar File Extensions

To better understand where ALAC stands among audio file formats, let’s compare it to some similar extensions:

ALAC vs. FLAC (Free Lossless Audio Codec):

  • ALAC is the Apple equivalent of FLAC in terms of lossless audio compression.
  • Both formats offer similar audio quality and are widely used by audiophiles.
  • FLAC has broader compatibility across platforms, while ALAC is more tightly integrated into the Apple ecosystem.

ALAC vs. AAC (Advanced Audio Coding):

  • ALAC is lossless, preserving all audio data, while AAC is lossy and sacrifices some quality for smaller file sizes.
  • AAC is the default format for iTunes and is used for streaming on Apple Music.
  • ALAC is preferred for users who prioritize audio quality and have sufficient storage.

Troubleshooting ALAC Files

Encountering issues with ALAC files is relatively rare, but here are some solutions to common problems:

  1. File Won’t Play: If an ALAC file won’t play, ensure that you have a compatible media player installed. Try a different player or convert the file to a more universally supported format like MP3 or WAV.
  2. Metadata Missing: If metadata is missing from your ALAC files, you can manually add it using media player software or specialized metadata editors.
  3. Conversion Errors: When converting ALAC files to other formats, ensure that you have selected the correct settings for bitrate and format. Verify that your conversion software is up-to-date.

History of the ALAC File Extension

The ALAC file format was introduced by Apple Inc. in 2004 as part of its efforts to provide high-quality audio playback for its users. At that time, the iTunes ecosystem was rapidly expanding, and Apple wanted to offer a lossless audio codec to cater to audiophiles and those who demanded the utmost audio fidelity.

ALAC was developed as a response to competing lossless audio codecs like FLAC and Windows Media Audio Lossless (WMA Lossless). Apple’s goal was to create a format that seamlessly integrated with iTunes and other Apple software, providing a lossless option for users who wanted to archive or listen to their music collections without compromising quality.

Over the years, ALAC has evolved with improvements in encoding and decoding algorithms to enhance compression efficiency. It has become a staple for Apple users who value high-quality audio playback.

Tips and Tricks for ALAC Files

To make the most of your ALAC files, consider these tips and tricks:

  1. Backup Your ALAC Library: Since ALAC files are often used for archiving music collections, it’s essential to maintain regular backups to prevent data loss.
  2. Use High-Quality Playback Devices: To fully appreciate the lossless quality of ALAC files, invest in high-quality headphones or speakers and a digital-to-analog converter (DAC) for optimal audio output.
  3. Convert for Cross-Platform Playback: If you need to use your ALAC files on non-Apple devices, convert them to formats like FLAC or WAV, which have better cross-platform compatibility.
  4. Organize Your Metadata: Take advantage of ALAC’s metadata support to organize your music library effectively. Add artist names, album covers, and track titles for a better user experience.

More information

Here are some additional insights and considerations regarding ALAC files:

Streaming Services: While ALAC is primarily used for local audio playback within the Apple ecosystem, streaming services like Apple Music often use ALAC as their underlying format for delivering high-quality audio. This ensures that subscribers can enjoy lossless audio streaming when their internet connection and devices support it.

Hardware Support: Many modern audio devices, including high-end headphones, digital audio players (DAPs), and home audio systems, support ALAC playback. This compatibility allows users to enjoy lossless audio on a wide range of hardware.

Archiving Vinyl and Analog Recordings: ALAC files are a popular choice for audiophiles and music collectors who want to digitize their vinyl records or analog recordings. The lossless compression ensures that the digitized versions retain the original analog audio quality.

Metadata and Album Art: ALAC files store extensive metadata, including information about the artist, album, track title, and more. This metadata enhances the user experience and helps with cataloging and organizing music collections. Additionally, ALAC files can embed album art, making your music library visually appealing.

Batch Conversion: If you have a large collection of audio files in various formats and wish to standardize them to ALAC, consider using batch conversion software. This allows you to convert multiple files simultaneously, saving time and effort.

Backing Up CDs: ALAC is a popular choice for archiving CDs. When you rip audio CDs using software like iTunes, you can choose to convert the tracks to ALAC format. This creates digital backups of your physical music collection while preserving the original audio quality.

Software Updates: Keep your ALAC-compatible software, such as iTunes or third-party media players, up-to-date to ensure compatibility with the latest ALAC encoding and decoding enhancements.

Lossless vs. Lossy: While ALAC is known for its lossless quality, it’s important to understand that lossy formats like MP3 and AAC remain more popular for everyday music consumption due to their smaller file sizes. Consider your storage and playback needs when deciding which format to use.

Cross-Platform Playback: If you have ALAC files and wish to play them on non-Apple devices, you can convert them to more widely supported lossless formats like FLAC or WAV. This ensures compatibility across various platforms and media players.

Metadata Editing: To make sure your ALAC files contain accurate metadata, you can use dedicated metadata editors or media library management software. This is particularly useful for organizing large music libraries.


In summary, ALAC files, or Apple Lossless Audio Codec files, offer a fantastic solution for audiophiles and music enthusiasts who prioritize high-quality audio without the drawbacks of massive file sizes.

Whether you’re using iTunes, Apple Music, or third-party media players, ALAC files provide an exceptional listening experience within the Apple ecosystem. While they may not be as universally compatible as some other formats, ALAC remains a reliable choice for those who demand the best in audio quality.

Software Compatible With The ALAC File Type
Apple Lossless Audio Codec File

In this section you will find a list of the best programs compatible with the ALAC file type. We've selected the best software for Windows, Mac, Android and Linux to open, edit, convert and view the contents of ALAC files.