What are the Differences Between M4A vs. FLAC

This post aims at finding out the in-depth differences between M4A Vs. FLAC and the suitability of each format. Likewise, you can also learn how to choose the best audio file format for different purposes.

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Melissa Lee

Updated on Nov 10, 2023

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As a developer who has to handle audio and video content, several audio file formats are at your service. In most cases, an audio file format with excellent sound quality carries the day. In addition to the audio quality, it is vital to consider a lossless format that occupies minimal space and is highly compatible with various platforms.

Both FLAC and M4A are excellent choices, but sometimes, you need to make a choice between those two, and your selection will depend on what the audio is used for. Perhaps you are looking for an audio container for storing audio in great quality or using it on websites. For storing lossless audio files, FLAC is the format that will be suitable for you, while M4A can be an excellent format for use on websites because it can be highly compressed.

What is an M4A File

M4A (MPEG-4 Part 14) is an Apple-based file format encoded using the Advanced Audio Coding (AAC) mechanism. These files feature lossless compression without losing the audio quality. M4A was the initial audio format in the iTunes Store but is used across other platforms besides Apple devices. This file format makes headway when it comes to sound quality and size. You can easily reset the M4A file format to M4R as a ringtone on your iPhone device. M4A is also DRM-free, enabling flexible editing and transfer of the files. 

m4a on itunes

What is a FLAC File

FLAC (Free Lossless Audio Codec) is a lossless audio format compressed to occupy limited space. The size of a FLAC file can go up to half of its original size, with no lost sound quality during the compression process. The FLAC format is compatible with many devices, including portable music players and Hi-Fi components.

FLAC files are free to use, and the source code can be accessed as an open-source license. And even though they are not DRM-protected, you can still encrypt your FLAC file in a different container format. FLAC files are error-resistant, and a mistake that occurs in one frame won't necessarily affect other format streams. Those features make this file format the best option for editing applications.

flac on pc

The Comparison of M4A VS. FLAC

The characteristics of M4A and FLAC will be compared one by one in this part. Through the comparison, you will better know the differences between those two audio formats and then choose the best one that fits your needs.

M4A and flac

1. Sound Quality

The FLAC format is lossless, while M4A is lossy. Therefore, FLAC produces a paramount and clear sound quality compared with M4A. 

2. Lossless Compression

File compression makes them smaller than their original file size. FLAC format employs lossless audio compression, sounding precisely like the uncompressed source audio file. Meanwhile, M4A is lossy, giving much smaller file sizes at the expense of quality. 

3. Digital Rights Management Protection

FLAC vs. M4A in DRM protection: FLAC is DRM-protected, while M4A is DRM-free. Therefore, you can easily edit and transfer M4A files, but it's a challenging task if you are using FLAC files. Nonetheless, you can go ahead to encrypt your FLAC files and patent them. 

4. Compatibility

When it comes to compatibility, you can play M4A on various audio players, and it also supports operating systems like macOS, Windows, Linux, iOS, and Android. However, FLAC, being a free source format, beats the M4A format for the multitude of compatible devices, players, and operating systems. 

5. Free Source

FLAC is an open-source file container and can easily be modified. It is distributed with its source code, becoming available for any use. M4A isn't open source and is not distributed with its original rights. 

All in all, FLAC gives an upper hand regarding operability from different aspects. FLAC files are error resistant, will provide you with lossless sound compression, and support a tone of devices and players compared with M4A format. 

M4A VS. FLAC: Which One is Better

The choice between M4A and FLAC depends on your priorities.

  • M4A is a more widely compatible format, especially in the Apple ecosystem. It supports both lossy and lossless compression, offering a good balance between file size and audio quality. It's suitable for those who prioritize compatibility and smaller file sizes.
  • FLAC is a lossless compression format that preserves the original audio quality, making it ideal for audiophiles or those who prioritize the highest fidelity. However, FLAC files are larger compared to M4A.

In summary, choose M4A for broader compatibility and smaller files, and choose FLAC for the best audio quality but larger file sizes.

Bonus: Best Way to Convert M4A to FLAC/FLAC to M4A

Depending on your project, you may need to convert your audio files to other formats, such as converting M4A to FLAC and vice versa. The best method of converting audio files while keeping the audio quality is using the recommended software: EaseUS VideoKit

This tool works on Windows and Mac devices and supports more than 1000 video and audio formats like MOV, MPEG, AVI, MP4, AAC, FLAC, M4A, and so on. It supports batch conversion, making it a quick haven for converting any file type at high speed.

Moreover, EaseUS VideoKit lets you customize your files' parameters, such as the resolution, bitrate, and frame rate, to your taste. Several built-in tools are also available, such as the audio extractor that helps you rip a soundtrack from a video and the file merger that allows you to merge multiple video/audio files into one.

EaseUS VideoKit

  • Best free audio converter
  • Convert FLAC to M4A and vice versa with simple steps
  • Transcode your output file
  • Work 30 times faster because of the GPU acceleration


The two formats, M4A vs. FLAC, are distinct from each other. Well, you can opt for lossy or lossless quality, compressed file size, and many other aspects. If you are not satisfied with the audio file you get, the best option is to convert your file type to a more suitable format.

EaseUS VideoKit is at your service for a fast conversion process. Operate it with simple steps to optimize your video for playback on a specific device. As this software supports more than 1000 video and audio formats, you can get the best multimedia files you want.

FAQs about M4A VS. FLAC

1. Does converting M4A to FLAC lose quality?

Converting M4A to FLAC generally doesn't result in quality loss, provided the original M4A file is encoded with a lossless codec. If it's a lossy compression (e.g., AAC), the FLAC file won't improve quality but will maintain lossless characteristics. Always start with the highest quality source file for optimal results.

2. Is M4A high quality?

The quality of M4A files varies. If encoded with a lossless codec, it can be high quality, retaining the original audio. However, using a lossy codec like AAC may result in some compression and potential quality loss, especially at lower bit rates.

3. Should I convert FLAC to M4A?

Whether to convert FLAC to M4A depends on your priorities. M4A offers broader compatibility, smaller file sizes, and convenience, especially in the Apple ecosystem. However, if preserving the highest audio quality is crucial, keeping files in FLAC, a lossless format, might be preferable. Consider your specific needs and devices when making this decision.

EaseUS VideoKit

All-in-one Video and Auido Tool

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