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FLAC on Android, Is it worth the trouble to listen to FLAC on a android phone?
bsiffredi
post Nov 7 2011, 16:24
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Hello, everyone

I'm new here, so I'd like to first congratulate everyone that participates in these discussions, because I think it's important stuff.

So, here's the topic:

I have bought my first smartphone recently, it's a Samsung Galaxy Ace running Android 2.3.4 (I guess they call it Gingerbread). I want to use it as a music player, so I'm trying out different players available, like WinAmp and PowerAmp. Until now, I was able to play FLAC files only using PowerAmp.

My question is:

Is Android capable of playing FLAC with real sound accuracy and quality, or is the accuracy and quality in some way reduced through the process of playing it? Have there been any tests to assert this?
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Heliologue
post Nov 7 2011, 16:46
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Not to be snarky, but your stated question and your topic title are not equivalent.

1. Is Android capable of playing FLAC? If you're running a ROM that includes support for it, yes; the official Google release doesn't support native FLAC playing until ICS (4.0). So if you want to play FLAC on your Galaxy Ace, you'll need a program that provides its own playback libraries, such as andless.

2. "Real sound accuracy and quality". The files are still lossless whether they're played on your computer or your phone. Lossless is lossless. Is there any chance you'd be able to ABX a FLAC file compared to a well-encoded mp3 file on your phone? Not really.

3. "Is it worth the trouble?" I can't tell you what your time/energy is worth. I don't personally see a benefit to it (disclosure: I'm a FLAC fanboy), but that doesn't mean you should listen to me.
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Kohlrabi
post Nov 7 2011, 16:54
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Audio quality not so much depends on the OS (Android) as it depends on the components of your phone and the software player itself. I found one review about the Galaxy Ace where frequency response and noise among other things are investigated. I didn't find any more exhaustive review or comparison, sadly.

The question I would ask is whether you really need FLAC on your mobile phone. In my experience I hardly am in situations where I would spot artifacts due to lossy compression (MP3/Vorbis) when I'm listening to music on my phone, e.g. while being on the bus/train and so on. Also FLACs would take up a lot more of the few gigabytes I have on my Galaxy I9000. I also experienced that more often than not for mobile devices the output quality of the device and/or headphones are far more dominant for the perceived audio quality than the compression method used.

I'd suggest you to conduct a blind test of your favourite lossy codec vs. your lossless files on PC-grade hardware and headphones. You might be surprised how well lossy encodings can stand against lossless encodings in an objective test. If you then find a encoder setting which is transparent for your files, the lossy version might very well be good enough for playback on your phone, and you save some space.


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bubbleguuum
post Nov 7 2011, 19:15
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Is it worth it to play lossless on a phone ?

It depends on the usage :

- for listening with crappy earbuds on the move, not so much
- for listening in good conditions at home with good headphones or plugged to a quality stereo, yes it is absolutely worth it if you care about that kind o things (as a FLAC enthusiast, I do).

For playing FLAC on Android there's 2 possiblities

- the codec has been bundled by the manufactuerer in the system and it is available in any audio player app. That's a rare case. Most recent Samsung phones have it,
at least in the Galaxy S line and beyond. Since Android 3.1 (Honeycomb) the system FLAC decoder is always available on all devices.

- Otherwise, a separate audio player app with FLAC support must be used, bundling its own decoder. Poweramp and Deadbeef can do it but there are others.
The FLAC decoder most of the time is provided by ffmpeg.

Now for sound quality (a hairy topic), some phones have a very good Wolson DAC but that is somewhat not used
to its best potential due to not that great drivers of questionable choices from the manufacturer. For the supported phones, there's the Voodoo Control app that can make things better.

This post has been edited by bubbleguuum: Nov 7 2011, 19:17
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bsiffredi
post Nov 8 2011, 13:42
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Actually, you're answers have help a lot. Thanks.

I have already been able to play FLAC on it with PoweAMP, even though this version of Android does not play FLAC natively. The trick is to copy paste the music files into the media folder in the phone and than use PowerAMP to scan that folder. It will identify the files and you'll be able to play it.

Since I have no info on what kind of sound specs this phone has, I'm actually gonna try to put in a FLAC and a MP3 and see if I identify any difference (AKA blind test).

That Voodo app sounds interesting, but my phone doesn't support it.

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spile
post Nov 9 2011, 18:59
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I play FLAC on my Android device (HTC Desire) because I cannot be bothered to transcode to MP3.
My current players (both free are:
Player
andLess
Haven't made my mind on which I prefer.
Any other recommended free FLAC players for Android?
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Nick.C
post Nov 9 2011, 19:46
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Deadbeef is pretty good.


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lossyWAV -q X -a 4 --feedback 4| FLAC -8 ~= 320kbps
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mox00023
post Dec 14 2011, 17:00
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Well, I would recommend you to update to Ice Cream Sandwich. I am sure there are many apps which support it for you to play FLAC files.
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slks
post Dec 18 2011, 11:16
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Lossless is great to have to listen to at home, or for archival purposes. But for putting on a portable player, lossy makes more sense. I don't know what situations you use your portable music player in, but typically it's things like commuting, which isn't the best listening environment (highest quality isn't necessary). And with high-bitrate / transparent lossy (~200 kb/s), you probably can't hear a difference from FLAC in any situation / with any equipment.

I mean, there isn't really any downsides to FLAC besides how much space it takes up. If you've got "space to burn" on your phone, and there's no possibility you'll ever fill it up, FLAC could still be an option. Otherwise I'd go with a lossy codec... you typically just don't need FLAC on a cell phone.


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critofur
post Jan 22 2012, 20:32
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A lot of people wonder: "is it worth the trouble" or say: "I wouldn't bother using lossless on my portable devices"...

Well, until I hear about some new widely adopted standard to replace flac (still lossless, perhaps better compression?) by default all my music is going to be flac (typically ripped from CD using EAC on my PC) and I don't really want to bother with converting to MP3 and storing those files too.

With 8 and 16 GB MicroSD cards under $10 / $20 respectively, I can store as many flac songs as I want on my portable phone/Android tablet, whatever...

My biggest gripe is that Android doesn't seem to have an easy way to "file type association" for file types it doesn't already "know"?

I hope it won't be much longer before foobar2000 gets ported to Android biggrin.gif andless looks cool, I'll try that.

QUOTE (bubbleguuum @ Nov 7 2011, 10:15) *
...For the supported phones, there's the Voodoo Control app that can make things better.

Oh cool! Thanks for that info.

This post has been edited by critofur: Jan 22 2012, 20:40
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LANjackal
post Jan 23 2012, 01:03
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Considering Android 4.0+ supports FLAC natively, I daresay the "trouble" part of the OP is no longer valid.


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EAC>1)fb2k>LAME3.99 -V 0 --vbr-new>WMP12 2)MAC-Extra High
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Porcus
post Jan 27 2012, 19:42
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Apart from the OP's question:

I can't see why owners of a (fanless and silent) tablet wouldn't want to use that one as a playback tool in their home.

Of course it can be used as such without actually supporting any audio format, by remote controlling a computer that does the actual playback (and of course, Android does not have fb2k ...), but just because a device is 'portable' it does not mean you cannot use it inside your own castle wink.gif

This post has been edited by Porcus: Jan 27 2012, 19:44


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spile
post Jan 29 2012, 17:48
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QUOTE (mox00023 @ Dec 14 2011, 17:00) *
Well, I would recommend you to update to Ice Cream Sandwich. I am sure there are many apps which support it for you to play FLAC files.

Not available for my phone - HTC Desire
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Roseval
post Jan 29 2012, 19:53
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QUOTE (Porcus @ Jan 27 2012, 19:42) *
I can't see why owners of a (fanless and silent) tablet wouldn't want to use that one as a playback tool in their home.


Would be great to connect the phone to a USB DAC but as far as I know there is no support for USB audio in Android.


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saratoga
post Jan 29 2012, 20:17
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QUOTE (Roseval @ Jan 29 2012, 13:53) *
QUOTE (Porcus @ Jan 27 2012, 19:42) *
I can't see why owners of a (fanless and silent) tablet wouldn't want to use that one as a playback tool in their home.


Would be great to connect the phone to a USB DAC but as far as I know there is no support for USB audio in Android.


Its possible, but usually not with a stock kernel. I think most devices don't come with it enabled, so you have to build your own. Check google, various people have done Android > USBOTG > Fiio DACs.

QUOTE (spile @ Jan 29 2012, 11:48) *
QUOTE (mox00023 @ Dec 14 2011, 17:00) *
Well, I would recommend you to update to Ice Cream Sandwich. I am sure there are many apps which support it for you to play FLAC files.

Not available for my phone - HTC Desire


4.0 comes with FLAC support officially, but you don't actually need 4.0 to get FLAC support. Cyanogenmod already includes built in FLAC support in 2.3, and the upcoming 4.0 release for your phone will also include it.
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kritip
post Jan 29 2012, 22:43
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I have just installed a mod of Ice Cream Sandwhich on my Desire HD. Reading the help for the default music player, it states that it DOES support FLAC, AAC and OGG Vorbis, however these are transcoded to 320Kbps MP3 before playback. Seems odd, but it was an official google document.
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saratoga
post Jan 29 2012, 22:56
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QUOTE (kritip @ Jan 29 2012, 16:43) *
I have just installed a mod of Ice Cream Sandwhich on my Desire HD. Reading the help for the default music player, it states that it DOES support FLAC, AAC and OGG Vorbis, however these are transcoded to 320Kbps MP3 before playback. Seems odd, but it was an official google document.


That's for cloud based playback. Transcoding files on the phones sd card wouldn't make sense or really be possible give the CPU speed available.
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saratoga
post Feb 1 2012, 03:35
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Someone started a ticket about enabling USB audio class devices in the stock Android 4.x kernel:

http://code.google.com/p/android/issues/detail?id=24614

Hopefully Google will notice and correct this issue.
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xuser48
post Mar 23 2012, 21:17
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QUOTE (Porcus @ Jan 27 2012, 19:42) *
Apart from the OP's question:

I can't see why owners of a (fanless and silent) tablet wouldn't want to use that one as a playback tool in their home.


Maybe because of the lack of sound quality in the hardware device?

I don't get it here. You're all talking about FLAC and poor audio hardware at the same time. A proper audio design that would justify the use of FLAC as an input format would take up the space of a Sony Ericsson Xperia Mini - just for audio and nothing else. No phone, no GPS, no Wifi, no smart-anything. Just audio.

No chain is stronger than it's weakest link and the audio hardware in a mobile device is very weak. There is no room for proper audio design within the cramped space of a mobile device.

Hey, take a look at Asus Xonar Essence or Audiotrak Prodigy HiFi. The use of EMI shielding in the design of the analog circuitry makes alot of a difference when it comes to listening to proper sources like FLAC-files. In mobile phones or tablets there are no proper EMI shielding in the analog audio circuitry. So using FLAC on these devices would be overkill. The hardware does not support the quality of the source medium.

Using FLAC as a source on onboard audio in a PC is overkill too. Too noisy environment.
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tpijag
post Mar 23 2012, 21:22
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QUOTE
Using FLAC as a source on onboard audio in a PC is overkill too. Too noisy environment.


Your source, please
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Brand
post Mar 23 2012, 23:41
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xuser48: TOS #8 police is coming, better hide fast.. cool.gif

No, but really. You're generalizing a bit too much there.

This post has been edited by Brand: Mar 23 2012, 23:43
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Porcus
post Mar 24 2012, 01:48
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QUOTE (xuser48 @ Mar 23 2012, 21:17) *
QUOTE (Porcus @ Jan 27 2012, 19:42) *
Apart from the OP's question:

I can't see why owners of a (fanless and silent) tablet wouldn't want to use that one as a playback tool in their home.


Maybe because of the lack of sound quality in the hardware device?

I don't get it here. You're all talking about FLAC and poor audio hardware at the same time. A proper audio design that would justify the use of FLAC as an input format would take up the space of a Sony Ericsson Xperia Mini - just for audio and nothing else.


All I need is the size of this:


This post has been edited by Porcus: Mar 24 2012, 01:50


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spile
post Mar 26 2012, 22:08
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Update...
Have upgraded ROM on my desire to Cyanogen 7 (Honeycomb) and this has FLAC support though still have andless player installed.
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stephan_g
post Apr 5 2012, 17:35
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It would be interesting to know whether there is any hit in battery life to be observed or whether that's swamped by other variations on these relatively fancy devices.

On a basic player with a small power budget like a rockboxed Clip+, FLAC playback seems to be dragging down battery life from about 12 hours with a µSD card inserted to about 7..8 hours, apparently due to more frequent storage access only (decoding itself has been shown to be extremely easy on the processor, faster than any lossy codec).
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Bad Monkey
post Apr 23 2012, 12:40
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QUOTE (saratoga @ Feb 1 2012, 15:35) *
Someone started a ticket about enabling USB audio class devices in the stock Android 4.x kernel:

http://code.google.com/p/android/issues/detail?id=24614

Hopefully Google will notice and correct this issue.


Some tablets and even phones have HDMI outs.

Using an Android tablet connected via ethernet to a HDD for storage seems to me an obvious solution that can replace the PC in the home theater or hifi set-up.
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