How to listen to high-res audio on your iPhone

“Just as video standards have gone from SD to HD to 4K, audio has also been improving the quality on offer,” Martyn Casserly writes for Macworld UK. “Now high-res audio is the order of the day for those who want the very best listening experience while on the move.”

“iPhones don’t arrive with this as an immediate option, but with an app or two… you can make it a reality,” Casserly writes. “If you listen to songs you’ve purchased from iTunes, chances are you’re not hearing the full sonic landscape as the artist intended. There are good reasons for this. In order to make tracks with manageable file sizes, they are usually compressed (made smaller) by removing various data that is deemed superfluous. That’s why you can fit so many on your iPhone.”

“For a lot of people this is fine and the songs sound good enough,” Casserly writes. “But if you want richer tunes then you’ll need versions that retain all the information.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Note: Of course, you’ll need headphones with an integrated DAC, too.


  1. The article talks about importing as Apple Lossless. Why not just go straight to AIFF? I’ve been using that for all my imports since 2006. Then I can make it anything I want based on the highest quality original file? Am I missing something?

      1. Sure, but why import as ALAC into iTunes? Do you really have space issues with your parent iTunes library in mid-2017? Import as AIFF and then use iTunes to convert to whatever lossy file you prefer.

    1. Nothing wrong with AIFF or ALAC or FLAC. Each work equally well for the critical listener.

      The advantage of AIFF is that it is not manipulated when you rip your music from CD, so faster import. FLAC and ALAC take up less space but for some unknown reason Apple doesn’t sell music in these formats and doesn’t seem interested in touting higher quality of download instead of the ultra compressed crap files that streaming services including Aplle music offer. Another missed opportunity.

  2. If only our aging ears could even tell the difference. Anyone that says they can is a liar. Show me verifiable tested proof of the range of your hearing, I might believe you. We lose audible range capacity in our ears just as part of aging. The high end goes first. If you are over 50, very doubtful you can hear anything above 15,000 Hz.

    1. I am 55 and can tell the difference between lossy files, compressed audio (dynamic range commonly used for broadcast) and the real deal.

      The aging process does tend to reduce the ear’s sensitivity to certain frequency ranges, but it is not universal in progress or scope. If you are listening to streaming Apple Music you are already listening to a low quality, lossy file type.

      Most, not all, of my iTunes files are Apple Lossless Audio Codec (ALAC) and play through either a nice set of Focals or Bowers & Wilkins headphones- a long way from shitty Beats or other throwaway Bullshit. On either you can easily discern the difference in audio file types.

      Wheat teaching people to play a critical concept is that the spaces between notes is as important as the notes themselves. The same is true of recorded sound- delicate spatial information, harmonics and such are critical to getting the original sound. Lossy files strip that out from the source file. Most lossy file types also impose some level of compression which drastically reduces the dynamic range of audio and castrates the sound. The snap of a snare is not as sharp nor is the sibilance of a cymbal or the decay of a trailing note.

      Now if your listening runs to EDM, 40 year old pop or almost any Hip-Hop this really does not count as much, but if you listen to live performance of acoustic instruments of live vocal performance it does very much. A bright 12 string guitar on a lossy file played through shitty speakers or headphones misses the whole point.

      Apple is looking for new revenue streams. I would love to see them offer an upgrade program for the iTunes Audio files they sell to ALAC similar to the iTunes Plus upgrade program a couple of years back. For a small fee you could double the rate of the files which improved the sound.

      1. I do not believe it is true that most lossy encoding formats reduce dynamic range. It is certainly not true of MP3 or AAC. Lossy formats will certainly have a deleterious effect on the quality of higher frequency tones. But any lose to dynamic range would be negligible.

        As an aside, I actually know people who like, even prefer, the compressed sound of radio. Go figure.

        And for all you audiophiles out there who love your vinyl so much … you do know that the music is compressed … don’t you? 😁

    2. But audio compression does not only impact the high frequencies. Even if a person cannot hear 20 kHz, they may still be able to perceive a difference. Training also comes into play – a true audiophile with high-end equipment may be more attended to differences in sound.

      For most people, though, it probably doesn’t make much of a difference. 256 kbps AAC is good enough for most.

    3. That’s what people said about Retina screen resolution when Apple tried to push it — who needs high resolution when i can read text and see details well enough with an old display?

      Well, the answer is the same for both sets of sensors on your head. You can grow accustomed to poor visual or sound resolution if you set your standards low. Higher resolution offers advantages that don’t necessarily knock you over but which are significant. With increased clarity, your ears and eyes fatigue less. You can make out nuances even at low volume levels (saving your hearing for a few more years). In some instances I have proven to people that they were incorrect in their lyric interpretation because they had never before heard music in high fidelity on truly great speakers (Wilson Audio, don’t ask the price). Sadly sound fidelity offered to the masses actually regressed with the advent of mp3 and streaming. You would think a high end company like Apple would use its ability to serve high end audiophiles.

  3. Thankfully, Apple is going to be supporting FLAC as of High Sierra. (About bloody time Apple). FLAC and Apple Lossless (ALAC) are in competition as the best lossless audio file format. Apple made Apple Lossless open source a couple years back in hopes that it becomes as universal as FLAC.

    Meanwhile, here is an article dated 2013, also from MacWorld, with a remarkably similar title.:

    High fidelity: How to get lossless and high-res audio on iOS devices

    While we wait for native FLAC support in iOS, you can still play FLAC on iOS via the VLC app for iOS.

    As for ALAC on iOS, Apple has been supporting it for a decade. Hello! Rip to ALAC in iTunes, sync it to your iOS device. Done. You’re high-res.

    And, despite all the inevitable backlash whenever I say it: If you can obtain source 96 Kbps audio or better and you have great hearing, you WILL hear the improvement in audio quality (particularly at the high end) over mere CD quality audio. Losslessly compress the files to ALAC (or FLAC in the near future) and you’re cookin’.

    1. If you’re using EarPods or some $20 dollar headphones, you won’t hear any difference.
      Most people don’t care about sound quality, they care about convenience.

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