Want to listen to FLAC audio files on a Mac? Maybe someone sent you an audio file in .flac format and you can’t figure out how to play it? There are several options for playing FLAC in Mac OS, but iTunes is not one of them.
Fortunately there are a variety of other choices available to play FLAC files in Mac OS, but for our purposes here we’ll focus on a simple and free solution that you might even already have on your computer.
What is FLAC audio?
For those who are unfamiliar with FLAC, here’s a brief explanation: FLAC stands for Free Lossless Audio Codec, and it’s a lossless audio compression format, which basically means that the FLAC file is an exact replica of the original uncompressed high quality audio file, whether it’s from a CD, line-in recording, or some other audio source. Because it’s compressed, the file size takes up less storage space, but because it’s lossless, the audio quality is very high.
Typically FLAC files are used by music enthusiasts, audiophiles, music producers, sound editors, and audio engineers, but there are other uses for them as well, almost always associated with either recording, editing, or listening to the absolute highest quality audio version of a song or audio track.
Curiously, iTunes does not play FLAC files on the Mac, which is why if you’re a Mac user looking for a FLAC music player you will have to look elsewhere than iTunes.
How to Play FLAC Audio Files on Mac with VLC
There are a variety of FLAC audio players for Mac, but one of the simplest to use that also happens to be free is VLC. Yes, VLC the widely popular, multi-talented, and diverse video player, also plays FLAC audio files! The other great thing about VLC is that while it works on Mac, it also works on Windows, Linux, iOS, and Android, so you can use the same app in virtually any OS environment for playing your FLAC files (or movies, for that matter).
- Click here to go the VLC developer website and then choose to download VLC
- Install VLC onto the Mac and launch the application
- Locate the FLAC audio file(s) on the Mac and drag and drop them into the VLC window, or VLC Dock icon
- Click the play button to start listening to your FLAC format audio files in Mac OS
You can make and save large playlists in VLC as well, so if you drag and drop a large number of .flac FLAC audio files into VLC they will be playable in the same sort of playlist you’d expect in an app like iTunes.
VLC is usually thought of as a video player, which it is too and that is certainly it’s primary usage, but it’s really sort of like a media playing swiss army knife with the capability to play a huge variety of video and audio formats, including FLAC and beyond. If you’re curious, you can see more VLC tips here.
Oh and I know what you’re thinking… how can you play FLAC audio files in iTunes? Well, since iTunes does not support FLAC audio playback, you can’t without converting the FLAC files to another format. For example, you can convert FLAC to mp3 and play those in iTunes, though mp3 audio is lossy and the audio quality will be reduced by doing so. You can also choose to convert FLAC to a lossless audio format that is compatible with iTunes, like Apple Lossless, but that’s a topic for another article altogether. You could however rip a CD into iTunes and change the audio import settings of iTunes to be Apple Lossless Encoder to get a similar effect. Perhaps we’ll cover this very topic in a another article.
Do you know of a great FLAC audio player for Mac? Do you like using VLC for playing FLAC files? Share your thoughts and experiences in the comments below!