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As an iPhone user, you definitely aren’t stuck inside Apple’s eco-system as the general media wants you to believe. Far from it!
If audiophile playback capabilities are what you’re after, whether that is getting a digital SP/DIF signal from the Lighting connector of your iPhone or just because you’re a mobile audiophile carrying your entire music collection with you all the time, the first step is usually acomplished by simply picking another app.
Although Apple should be commended for its native iOS music player app, it lacks a few key features audiophiles like me are craving for. For instance, you cannot play FLAC files. This shouldn’t matter if you basically keep your music treasures in Apple’s lossless ALAC format. But it can be a pain if you’ve invested a lot of time in ripping CD’s in FLAC. Switching from Windows to a Mac computer is a typical scenario.
Here’s where FLAC Player+ comes to the rescue. Being essentially free on the app store, there’s no reason not to try it.
Another popular great app is Golden Ear. If you don’t mind spending a few euros (it currently sells for $7.99 on the app store – if you live in the U.S., for us europeans pricing may be different), this is where I would look. In additon to high-res 24bit / 96kHz playback, Golden Ear supports AirPlay, FTP file transfers. You can even rename files on the go and/or change tagging infos.
Unfortunately, FLAC files tend to be rather large. With an entire album consuming a whopping 300-400 megabytes, even a 128GB iPhone will start choking sooner or later.
For this particular reason, I’ve switched to Qobuz for music streaming. Qobuz is a true native FLAC streaming service like Tidal. That means you essentially pay a monthly subscription fee for virtrually unlimited music enjoyment. And it doesn’t take a lot of space on your iPhone too. I use this with a measly 8GB iPhone 5C and it works without a hitch. On top of that, the app itself is completely free. If you’re concerned about cellular data transfers, you can cache entire albums for offline listening while you’re in a WIFI area. Even an iPod Touch or an iPad are great for Qobuz.