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Difference Between AIFF and Apple Lossless

AIFF vs Apple Lossless

If you want to get the best audio quality from your music files, you should opt for a non-lossy audio encoding format. AIFF and Apple Lossless are two non-lossy formats. They both keep the audio information intact and no data is lost no matter how many times you convert between non-lossy formats. The primary difference between the two is the use of encryption. Although there is a version of AIFF that uses compression, it is basically an uncompressed format. On the other hand, Apple lossless uses compression.

Compression does just what it says, it compresses the data with the use of algorithms in order to minimize the disk space that it occupies. The better the compression, the smaller the file size; without sacrificing any bit of audio information. Because of compression, Apple Lossless files are smaller compared to AIFF files by about half. The differences of these two are of little importance when you are using a computer which has a lot of drive space and processing power; unless you are short in both areas. But the differences become very relevant on portable music players.

When using AIFF, the large file sizes means that your player needs to read more data from the hard drive, causing it to consume more power. The effects of caching is also quite minimized with AIFF due to the large size and the limitations of the cache. Frequent hard drive access results in greater battery consumption and could quickly rundown your battery.

Because Apple Lossless files are compressed, the player needs to decompress it before it can be played back. The decompression adds extra load to the processor of the player. In most of the newer music players, this should not be a problem but for older players with weaker processors, it can result in a bit of lag before the song starts playing. This problem is not present with AIFF since no decompression is needed and the data is readily available.

AIFF is very old and a lot of other alternatives exist that are better. Apple Lossless is one alternative and it is significantly better than


AIFF does not employ compression while Apple Lossless does

AIFF files are much larger compared to Apple Lossless files

AIFF files can drain your batter quicker compared to Apple Lossless

AIFF requires lesser processing power compared to Apple Lossless

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  1. Great article – thanks for that technical info, its described in a wonderfully lay way to easer users into the topic.

  2. I’m 68 & not brightest with computer I got ipod classic 160gb so whats better aiff or lossless when it comes to sound I want the best. I have lot of cds & I use my laptop to download my favorite songs from my cds to hard drive. then from drive to ipod. but I am 1 of those guys that got to have good sound. is 1 better then the other,or about same? thanks

    • Sound quality: Both formats are the same
      Performance and battery consumption: Apple Loseless
      For your laptop any of those formats is ok.


    • This article is misleading, as is the name “apple lossless”. The difference between the two formats isn’t just the file size. Apple “lossless” is a compressed file format. It doesn’t matter how good the algorithm is at compressing, a compressed file loses some of the quality of the original. Meaning, that technically apple lossless isn’t lossless. As for which is better, that depends on your preference. AIFF has superior quality at the cost of storage, while apple “lossless” saves on storage space and has above average quality.

      • James, your “clarifying” comment only muddies the water!

        Not all compression is lossy (some kinds of compression are lossless).

        If a codec is “lossless” it does *not* degrade audio quality: it compresses sound data but when sound data is decompressed on playback nothing has been lost: it is exactly as it was before compression.

  3. To author:
    In the article you said “The primary difference between the two is encryption.” You go on to discuss compression at length but never again mention encryption. I assume you meant compression where the article said encryption. If not, I would have expected you to further discuss encryption.

    I don’t know if articles like this rate follow up editing or correction, but there it is. Do with it what you will.

    Thank you for the article.

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