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Apple shifts Lossless Audio Codec to open source

Audiophiles pleased at Cupertino’s belated move

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Cupertino has open sourced its Apple Lossless Audio Codec (ALAC), seven years after first introducing it.

The ALAC can reduce the amount of storage needed for audio files by as much as 50 per cent, but without losing any of the fidelity of the original recording. This is unlike lossy formats like MP3 and AAC, which strip out sections of the recording - greatly increasing data compression but a cost in audio quality.

“A decoded ALAC stream is bit-for-bit identical to the original uncompressed audio file,” Apple said, announcing the move.

The code has been released in Mac OS Forge under the Apache license version 2.0 and includes the ALAC encoder and decoder as well as alacconvert, which reads and writes audio data between Core Audio Format (CAF) and WAVE files. Unsurprisingly, ALAC is the preferred format of choice for iOS and iTunes.

Apple introduced ALAC in 2004 with the release of the Mac OS X Core Audio framework and it was reverse-engineered a year later by David Hammerton and Cody Brocious. While media players like VLC media player, Boxee, and MPlayer use this to process Apple files, the move will make it easier for audiophiles to use the ALAC format. ®

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