Do Android phones support lossless audio?

Lossless audio refers to audio file compression methods that allow the original uncompressed audio to be perfectly reconstructed from the compressed audio file. In lossless compression, no data or quality is lost in the compression process. This allows the uncompressed audio and compressed audio to be identical when compared side-by-side.

Lossless audio is important for listeners who want the highest audio quality possible. Lossless files preserve all of the data from the original uncompressed audio file, including the sampling rate, bit depth, and other quality parameters. This results in audio that is bit-for-bit identical to the source audio before compression. Lossless audio is essential for audiophiles and audio engineers who demand pristine audio quality.

History of Audio Quality on Smartphones

Early smartphones often had very poor audio quality for calls and music playback. According to DXOMARK, the first mobile phones in the 1980s and 1990s only supported simple ringtones and alerts using low-quality mono speakers. Call quality was notoriously bad with heavy background noise, distortion, echo, and low bitrates.

It wasn’t until the early 2000s that phones started supporting actual music playback beyond ringtones. However, the audio quality was still very limited. According to DXOMARK, early music phones could only play MIDI format files or low bitrate MP3s. The speakers were still mono and the overall quality was distorted and noisy.

Over the years, steady improvements were made in hardware like more advanced DACs (digital-to-analog converters), better amplifiers, and stereo speakers. Storage space increased allowing higher bitrate audio formats. By the mid to late 2000s, most smartphones could play reasonably good quality stereo music and offer decent call clarity.

Today’s smartphones now provide very high-quality audio playback supporting advanced codecs like AAC, aptX, and LDAC over Bluetooth 5.0. Dual stereo speakers, 3.5mm jacks, and wired/wireless high-res headsets are now common. However, call quality can still suffer depending on phone model, carrier networks, and environmental factors.

Lossless Audio Codecs

Lossless audio codecs compress audio data without losing any information. This allows the exact original audio to be reconstructed from the compressed file. Some popular lossless audio codecs include:

FLAC (Free Lossless Audio Codec) – FLAC is one of the most widely supported lossless audio codecs. It is open source and commonly used for digital audio archiving and playback on media players and smartphones.

ALAC (Apple Lossless Audio Codec) – Developed by Apple, ALAC is designed to compress audio files with no loss in quality. It is natively supported by Apple devices and apps like iTunes and Apple Music.

APE (Monkey’s Audio) – APE offers very high compression ratios while preserving audio fidelity. It is available as both lossless and lossy codecs.

These lossless codecs use algorithms to compress the original raw audio without discarding data. The compression shrinks file sizes for more efficient storage and streaming while allowing the exact audio representation to be recreated upon playback.

Android Audio Architecture

Android employs a layered audio architecture that handles audio functionality and directs interactions between various audio components (source). At the bottom layer are the device drivers and codecs that handle low-level audio input/output. On top of this sits the audio HAL (Hardware Abstraction Layer) which provides interfaces for higher level audio services to interact with the lower level audio driver frameworks.

The Android audio framework then manages audio policy across the system, routing audio streams to appropriate outputs and encoding/decoding streams using available codecs and sample rates. Popular codecs supported include AAC, MP3, FLAC, etc. Audio is sampled at rates up to 192kHz depending on hardware capabilities (source).

At the application layer, apps can leverage audio APIs to record and playback audio while the system handles underlying management through the audio architecture layers. Overall, Android provides a robust and flexible audio system capable of high quality playback given capable hardware.

Lossless Audio Support on Android

Android’s support for lossless audio has gradually improved over the years as the operating system and hardware has evolved. In the early days of Android, lossless audio support was quite limited.

The initial releases of Android did not have native support for lossless formats like FLAC, ALAC, etc. You needed to download third-party apps to play lossless files. There were also challenges around audio outputs and DACs (digital-to-analog converters) in smartphones at the time, which made it hard to take full advantage of lossless audio (

Later versions of Android added FLAC support, but issues still remained with getting bit-perfect output. The audio architecture on Android introduced resampling and conversion steps that compromised lossless quality.

Recently, Android has taken major steps to improve lossless audio playback. Android 8.0 Oreo introduced support for high-resolution lossless output over USB. More OEMs have also adopted high-quality DACs and discrete headphone amps in their devices.

Most new Android phones can now properly decode and play back lossless files like FLAC, ALAC, etc. However, factors like the DAC, amp, and audio software optimizations still impact lossless sound quality on different devices.

Testing Lossless Audio on Android

One way to test if you are truly getting lossless audio playback on an Android device is to use a metadata viewer app to inspect the files. Apps like MediaScan can display details about audio files like the bitrate, sample rate, codec, etc. Comparing this to the original lossless source file can confirm if the quality has been preserved.

Another method is to do an ABX blind test comparing the Android playback to the original lossless file. Apps like ABX Comparator make this easy by allowing quick switching between two sources. If there is an audible difference, the lossless quality has not been maintained.

Testing with high quality, well-recorded lossless tracks can help reveal the subtle differences. Areas to listen for include spatial imaging, instrument separation, and overall clarity. Lossy compression causes distortion, so listening closely can detect if elements sound less defined or blended together.

Devices with higher quality DACs and amplifiers will more accurately reproduce the lossless file. Testing on phones known for good audio quality playback, like LG or Sony flagships, gives the best sense of the platform’s capabilities.

Lossless Streaming

Lossless audio files are much larger than compressed formats like MP3, so streaming lossless audio requires fast internet speeds and generous data plans. While some music services like Apple Music, Amazon Music HD, Tidal, and Qobuz now offer lossless streaming, support on Android has been limited until recently.

In May 2021, Apple Music rolled out lossless streaming to Android in a beta version of their app, providing lossless playback at up to 24-bit/48kHz resolution (1). However, native Android music apps like YouTube Music still do not support lossless. Third party Android apps like UAPP and Neutron can stream lossless audio from Tidal, but require an additional purchase and configuration.

Overall, lossless music streaming on Android is still quite limited compared to iOS. While some apps provide lossless streaming, system-wide support is not there yet. Android 12 does bring 24-bit audio output, but most streaming services have not enabled lossless streaming on their Android apps. Significant improvements in lossless streaming support will likely come in future Android OS and app updates.

Alternatives to True Lossless

While true lossless audio provides the highest fidelity, there are some high quality alternatives in the form of high bitrate lossy codecs. As highlighted on the forums, the difference between lossless and high bitrate lossy is similar to the difference between high bitrate lossy and lower bitrate lossy [1]. In many cases, high bitrate lossy codecs like AAC 256kbps or Opus 160kbps can sound indistinguishable from lossless to most listeners, while taking up less storage space.

There has been much debate on audiophile forums about whether high bitrate lossy can stand up to lossless in blind testing. As one Reddit user pointed out, while lossless did provide an advantage in their tests, high bitrate lossy vs lossless can be challenging to distinguish, especially on certain songs [2]. So for many listeners, high bitrate lossy may provide audio quality that is “good enough”, while requiring less bandwidth and storage.

The Best Android Phones for Audio

When it comes to the best Android phones for audio quality, a few key models stand out. According to reviews on SoundGuys and What HiFi, some of the top choices include:

The Sony Xperia 1 V is an excellent Android smartphone for audio with balanced stereo speakers, a headphone jack, and support for Hi-Res audio. It provides detailed, spacious sound quality. The Sony Xperia 10 V is another great option with front-facing speakers and Hi-Res Audio certification.

For those on a budget, the Google Pixel 6a provides surprisingly good audio quality with balanced tuning and full-bodied sound. The OnePlus Nord N300 is also a good budget choice with a headphone jack, loud mono speaker, and Dolby Atmos support.

Overall, Sony and LG smartphones consistently rate among the best for audio quality and features. Key things to look for are Hi-Res audio support, powerful stereo speakers, high dynamic range, and headphone jacks. While no Android phone yet matches the quality of top Apple iPhones, models from Sony, LG, and others come quite close for an immersive audio experience.


After reviewing the capabilities of Android devices, we can conclude that most modern Android phones do in fact support lossless audio playback. While Android’s stock audio architecture uses lossy codecs by default, OEMs like Samsung and LG have added native support for lossless codecs like FLAC, ALAC, and APE on their flagship devices. Additionally, there are many third party music player apps on the Play Store that can play back lossless files.

High-end Android devices nowadays ship with top-tier DACs and amplifiers, making them great choices for discerning listeners. Phones like the LG V60, Asus ROG Phone 5, and Sony Xperia 1 II offer excellent wired audio performance on par with dedicated hi-fi players. For those interested in lossless streaming, Tidal, Amazon Music HD, Spotify, and Qobuz all have apps available on Android.

In summary, Android and its variety of OEM devices are very capable when it comes to lossless audio support. Audiophiles have many great options to choose from thanks to the differentiated offerings from phone manufacturers and the thriving Android ecosystem.

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