Crank the music: Windows 10 phones, tablets getting FLAC support

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Credit: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Audio lovers will be happy to hear the latest news about Windows 10: the operating system will support lossless audio on phones and tablets. PC World noticed that Microsoft’s Corporate Vice President, Operating Systems Group, Joe Belfiore, took to Twitter to answer a question about music playback capabilities, saying FLAC files would be available in future preview builds of the software for small devices.

The reference to FLAC is the Free Lossless Audio Codec, a file format that retains audio quality but in a smaller size than the pure music stream. FLAC shrinks down an audio file, similar to a ZIP file, but unlike the MP3 format it stores the full, uncompressed audio data. You could, for example, take music files from a CD and reduced the file sizes with FLAC, without losing any sound quality.

For this reason, FLAC is one of the preferred file formats used for high-resolution audio files, which are typically much larger than an MP3 file. Indeed, I use FLAC files on the new Sony Walkman A17 digital audio player I recently purchased because my source music files can be massive by comparison: My high-res digital copy of the song More Than a Feeling on Boston’s first album, for example, is 192MB in size. A comparably sounding FLAC version of it uses 60MB of storage.

Note that iOS supports [company]Apple[/company]’s own take on FLAC files that are called ALAC, or Apple Lossless Audio Codec while Google Android devices natively support FLAC audio files.

2 Comments

Tadd Moore

Wonder whether the DAC in the newer mobile devices will be any good…

SilverSee

Great news. But at the risk of being pedantic, Windows has supported losslessly compressed audio for many, many years via WMA Lossless, the platform-native equivalent of Apple’s ALAC. WMA has always been good technology, but has been rendered irrelevant in recent years by lack of support in Apple devices and iTunes software. Embracing open source codecs and containers such as FLAC and MKV in Windows 10 seems to be Microsoft’s pragmatic way of taking some leverage back from Apple.

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