Playing high-resolution music on your iPhone takes great equipment, the right kind of files, and of course, you’ll need an application that can read your lossless audio files.
The 11 best FLAC audio players for iPhone include:
- Vox Media Player
- Onkyo HF Player
- TEAC HR Audio Player
- FLAC Player+
- VLC for Mobile
These play FLAC files without any loss in sound quality and offer helpful user interfaces to give you full control over your listening experience.
This article will discuss the best FLAC audio players for iPhone in more detail, and make sure that you know the best way to get great sound out of your FLAC files. Read on to learn everything you need to know to create the ultimate audiophile experience on your iPhone.
Best Ways To Play FLAC Audio on an iPhone
Free Lossless Audio Codec (FLAC) audio files contain high-resolution audio, designed to capture every detail of the original sound. They are known as lossless files, and can only be played by certain compatible FLAC players.
Lossy files, like MP3s, are smaller files and take up less storage space, but also contain fewer sound data and offer a less granular representation of the original sound.
Unfortunately, iPhone’s native music apps do not support FLAC file types. If you’re going to listen to FLAC audio files on an iPhone, you’ll need a special app meant to play FLAC files, along with an external digital-to-analog converter and a high-quality set of headphones.
Without the external equipment, you’ll lose out on sound quality in the transmission process even with a great player.
We talk more about what kind of equipment is needed and recommend products at the end of this article.
Audio quality can also be lost in the process of transmitting audio over Bluetooth, so having wired headphones is important for listening on an iPhone.
What Makes a Good FLAC Audio Player
A good FLAC audio player has an easy-to-use interface and has equalization settings for personalized listening. A special key feature is the conservation of original file quality.
Some audio players downsample high-resolution audio to CD quality, which is not ideal. The best FLAC audio players also have metadata support.
Top FLAC Audio Players for iPhone
Most audio players for the iPhone don’t support FLAC file formats, so the audio quality is typically limited on a smartphone.
However, there are many apps available that allow you to play FLAC audio files, and some are particularly easy to use and of high quality.
Vox Media Player
Vox Media Player is easy-to-use, with a minimalistic design and the ability to play both lossless and lossy files. This means that you can use Vox for your entire music selection, instead of using separate apps for your FLAC files and your MP3s.
Vox also has equalization features, so that you can fine-tune your music as you listen to it. It also offers cloud file storage, so you don’t need to worry about your lossless files taking up too much room on your phone.
Because it uses a cloud service for storage, it also syncs your music between your Mac and your iPhone.
Vox also allows you to stream music, and pairs with Spotify and SoundCloud so that you can access all your saved playlists. Additionally, this app gives you access to over 30,000 radio stations.
Onkyo HF Player
Onkyo HF Player allows you to play FLAC files with an attractive user interface and high-definition, 16,384 band equalization. It also allows you to create equalization presets and save them by genre, artist, or for different headphones and pieces of equipment.
The Onkyo HF Player also has an upsampling function for improved audio quality.
The equalizer in this app is touchscreen-compatible, allowing you to manipulate the frequency response with a touch of your finger. You can tweak any bass, mid-bass, midrange, or treble frequency exactly how you want to to a subtle and precise level.
It also comes with presets created by a team of musicians, meant to bring out the best in different genres and equipment.
The HF Player’s digital filter is engineered to read the digital-to-analog converter and other hardware of the host device and fine-tune the sampling frequency and sound quality accordingly. This removes any noise or coloration that might come from the device.
The audio player uses rapid multi-core processing and an energy-efficient process for exceptional playback that won’t run down your battery life.
It is free to use, with an optional paid version that has additional features. You can easily load your audio files into the Onkyo HF Player by dragging and dropping them into the Apps pane within iTunes.
TEAC HR Audio Player
The TEAC HR Audio Player offers a simple user interface for playing digital music, including lossless FLAC and WAV audio files. You can drag and drop your files into the application, then sit back and enjoy.
It also allows you to listen to MP3 audio files, which means that you can keep all of your audio in one place rather than separating your hi-res music from the rest.
The simple user interface of the TEAC HR Audio Player decreases the data processing load of the player, reducing the load on the device, which makes the TEAC HR Audio Player an especially efficient choice of music player.
Flacbox allows you to access playlists and albums from a cloud service, and download files for offline playback. It has an attractive and easy-to-use user interface, including file metadata and an easy file management system.
Flacbox offers playback at a 24-bit depth, the best that there is in high-resolution audio. You can download songs through the app without needing to process audio files through iTunes, which reduces the opportunity for data loss.
It supports a wide range of audio file formats, from FLAC and AAC to MP3 and OGG, which means that you can store all of your music in one place, both lossless and lossy. You also have the option of syncing all of your music, sharing one library between your iPhone, iPad, and iPod.
Musicloud allows you to search for and stream high-resolution music for free. It offers an easy-to-use user interface with a fast and immersive experience and allows you to download music if you opt for a Pro subscription.
Musicloud also allows you to store your music, both FLAC files and MP3.
FLAC Player+ allows you to listen to lossless music on your iPhone or iPod and comes with a 10-band equalizer for optimized and personalized listening. It also supports 24-bit listening, the standard for high-resolution audio.
The FLAC Player+ supports five different color themes: white, dark, blue, green, and purple, and it supports iTunes file sharing and file transfers over Wi-Fi or iCloud.
VLC for Mobile
VLC for mobile allows you to play not just high-resolution audio, but also high-definition video. You can transfer files to VLC for Mobile through iTunes and a direct connection to a computer, or you can transfer files over Wi-Fi.
The interface is clear and easy to use, and the controls are intuitive. The playback quality is excellent.
VLC is open-source software, which means that it’s been made by countless engineers contributing their best efforts to the app for free.
VLC is known for handling any file type and is a popular app for the iPhone, and it’s free to use.
Tidal Masters is a high-resolution audio streaming service that offers 96 kHz/24bit sound, the highest possible resolution for smartphone audio.
It was created through a partnership with MQA and contains Master Quality Authenticated tracks, albums, and playlists.
Altogether, there are millions of tracks available through Tidal Masters, across all genres.
Tidal Masters is best used with an external digital-to-analog converter to unlock the full potential of the streaming service. An example is the iFi Portable Headphone Amplifier available on Amazon.com.
This app is free to use for thirty days and then requires you to buy a membership for continued use.
Golden Ear is a highly rated application at a cheap price point that plays lossless audio files, including FLAC, directly on an iOS device.
It also automatically decompresses ZIP and RAR audio folders and allows you to apply tags and album art to your music.
This app adds small gaps between tracks, which is a pro for some and a con for others.
Capriccio is a music player that supports FLAC files, as well as others, and offers surround sound effects as well as online sharing options. You can manage your music on Capriccio through WiFi transfer, iTunes file sharing, or cloud storage, as well as FTP connections.
Capriccio allows you to create and edit playlists, and organize your library by folders, and you can manage your library by albums, artists, and genres.
With Capriccio, you can also use study mode features like A-B repeat, pitch control, and speed control, as well as prevent the screen from locking when the app is in use if you choose.
Foobar offers support for a wide range of file formats, from FLAC and other lossless file types to MP3 and other lossy file types, which means that you can listen to all of your music in one place.
The app offers a simple music library feature that allows for optimum organization and allows you to sync your library or add music manually.
Foobar also has an 18-band equalizer, and the ability to downmix channels to mono or stereo. It’s completely free and flexible, and can also be used on an iPad.
Can You Use Native iPhone Apps To Play FLAC files?
There is a way to play lossless files with your native music app on an iPhone, but only Apple Lossless Audio Files (ALAC) is supported, not FLAC. This requires you to convert your files, but the file formats are nearly identical and offer the same audio quality.
You can convert FLAC files to ALAC with a number of different file conversion apps, as discussed below.
DBPowerAmp can perform many kinds of file conversions, including conversions on batches of files at a time. It also allows for the addition of effects, like volume level and normalization.
The software can be tried for free for three weeks, and then is a bit pricey.
But, it will allow you to convert your FLAC files to lossless files supported by the native iPhone music app.
MediaHuman Audio Converter
MediaHuman Audio Converter is completely free to use and allows you to convert FLAC files to ALAC without any loss in audio quality. Just make sure that you use the custom settings to set your files to hi-res, which is not the default setting.
After converting, these files can be moved to iTunes, but again, watch your settings to make sure you don’t lose audio quality in the transfer.
Why You Need an External DAC To Play Hi-Res Music on an iPhone
A digital-to-analog converter (DAC) converts a digital audio signal to one that can be played over a pair of headphones or speakers, and plays a big role in the sound quality you hear. DAC chips are located in your iPhone or other music-playing devices, but also exist as standalone external devices.
A bad DAC can introduce noise to the audio playback, or poorly regulate the supply of power. You may notice distortion when listening to music on your iPhone, even if you have a FLAC player and FLAC files to play.
A good DAC, however, can make all the difference to your sound quality. Let’s take a look at some of the better converters.
AudioQuest DragonFly USB DAC/Amp
The DragonFly-series from AudioQuest is our favorite DACs for portable use. They are fantastic!
The AudioQuest Dragonfly is very compact and portable, making it perfect to use with a phone or a laptop. It comes with a 3.5 mm (0.14 in) jack and a micro USB connector.
The red version of DragonFly is usually the best option for beginners not knowing what they need. It has a 2.1v output and is therefore capable of driving almost any headphones, even the more power-hungry, low-efficiency models.
But there is a cheaper model, the Black, that is very affordable but also less powerful. It works great for more easily driven headphones though.
This DAC has LEDs that light up in different colors according to the size of the files being played: green for 44.1kHz, blue for 48kHz, amber for 88.2kHz, and magenta for 96kHz.
To use this DAC with an iPhone, you will have to use an adaptor. The best option is to buy Apples Lightning to USB Camera adapter to be able to connect the DragonFly to your iPhone.
That will not have any negative impact on the audio quality or the function of the DAC. It will make the setup a little less portable but it is usually fine.
Chord Mojo Headphone Amplifier
Chord Mojo Headphone Amplifier offers an impressive upsampling rate limit of 768 kHz, using the latest and most powerful processors. It comes with three ball-like buttons that control volume and power, and the power button lights up in different colors depending on the sampling rate of the music (red for 44.1kHz, green for 96kHz, and white for DSD).
The Chord Mojo comes with a USB port and a 3.5 mm (0.14 in) jack, with a second USB connection just for charging. With an output of 35 megawatts at 600 ohms and up to 720 megawatts at 8 ohms, it is enough to power a solid level of volume from a range of headphones.
This DAC is made of aircraft-grade aluminum and comes only in black. It needs a minimum of 10 hours of charging and can hold a charge for about 8 hours total. While it runs hot while charging, that doesn’t interfere with the function.
Watch the video below for more information on the Chord Mojo:
The Cyrus soundKey DAC is a compact, portable DAC that offers great quality for the price. It weighs 18 g (0.63 oz) and is 8 mm (0.31 in) deep, and made of a lightweight aluminum casing.
It comes in red, purple, black and turquoise, and has a 3.5 mm (0.14 in) socket for plugging in headphones or a sound system.
Just like most other DAC/Amp combos, The Cyrus soundKey, requires a dongle adapter to connect to an iPhone. The small size makes it portable enough anyways and the quality is worth it.
It can handle a wide range of file types, including FLAC, and conserves resolutions up to 24-bit/96kHz.
Conserving FLAC Audio Quality on an iPhone With High-Quality Headphones or Speakers
Once you have your FLAC player and high-resolution music to listen to, you need to make sure that every other piece of your audio system in place maintains the same standard of audio quality.
The weak link in your chain of audio equipment will always deteriorate the sound to its maximum quality level, which is something to be aware of before you make any investments.
Open-backed headphones are an excellent choice for those listening to high-resolution audio at home in a quiet environment. It offers open acoustics and usually a better soundstage.
An example of a great pair of headphones with an open design is the HIFIMAN HE400SE, built for hi-res listening.
Closed-back headphones can also be great, though, especially on the go. Check out these, for example!
You can also find hi-res earbuds, like the FiiO Hi-Res Earbuds available on Amazon.com, which provide a more isolated sound and are better if you’re looking to listen in a noisy or crowded area.
If you’re looking for a hi-res-compatible active speaker, make sure you find one that offers a balanced sound at different frequencies, like the KEF LSX. These popular high-end wireless speakers offer a four-inch driver and Wi-Fi connectivity for minimal data loss.
The 11 best FLAC audio players for iPhone include Vox Media Player, Onkyo HF Player, and TEAC HR Audio Player. All of these and more support FLAC file types, and have a user interface that gives you easy, full control over your music.
For the highest possible resolution, make sure that you’re also using high-quality headphones or speakers, and a solid DAC.