How to Play .aac Files on my Android

If you have a collection of audio files in the .aac format that you want to listen to on your Android device, you may have discovered that Android does not natively support playback of this format.

Although newer versions of Android have added more support for .aac, many devices still cannot play these files out of the box. Fortunately, with the right apps and conversion tools, you can get your .aac audio files playing perfectly on any Android phone or tablet.

What is the AAC Audio Format?

AAC stands for Advanced Audio Coding, and is an audio compression format standardized by the ISO and IEC. It was designed to be the successor to the popular MP3 format, providing better sound quality at similar bitrates.

Some key facts about AAC:

  • AAC was designed to provide better compression efficiency than MP3.
  • It can produce better audio quality than MP3 at similar bitrates.
  • AAC is the default audio format for iTunes music, YouTube videos, and Nintendo Switch games.
  • Popular devices like iPhones support AAC out of the box.

The AAC format encompasses several audio coding profiles designed for different use cases:

  • AAC-LC: The Low Complexity profile is the most widely used and supported.
  • HE-AAC: A more efficient profile good for streaming audio at low bitrates.
  • AAC-LD: Optimized for voice communications like FaceTime.

The files you’ll typically encounter are in the AAC-LC format stored in the .aac or .m4a container. These provide great audio quality comparable to mp3, which is why AAC has become a popular format.

Android’s Native AAC Support

When it comes to playing AAC files, support on Android devices is hit or miss. Unlike the iPhone which includes the AAC codec by default, Android’s native media frameworks have lagged behind in supporting this format.

Here’s a quick overview of how AAC support has evolved in Android:

  • Android 2.3: No native AAC support.
  • Android 3.1: Basic AAC support added, but no audio in videos.
  • Android 4.1: Full AAC decode support in videos, but still not for audio files.
  • Android 5.0: Native AAC codec added for .aac audio file playback.

As you can see, Android only gained full native support for playing .aac audio files starting with Android 5.0 Lollipop. Many older and budget devices still ship with older Android versions that lack AAC codec support.

Thankfully, just because your Android device doesn’t support AAC out of the box doesn’t mean you can’t listen to these audio files. You have a couple options:

  1. Use a third party Android media app that includes its own AAC decoder.
  2. Convert your .aac files to the more compatible mp3 format.

In the next sections, we’ll explore both of these options so you can get your .aac files playing no matter which Android OS version or device you have.

Best Android Apps for Playing AAC Files

If your Android device lacks native AAC playback support, your best bet is to use a third party media app with its own built-in AAC codec. Here are some of the top options:

1. VLC Media Player

VLC is one of the most popular and powerful media player apps for Android. It is completely free with no ads, and supports virtually every video and audio format.

AAC playback works perfectly in VLC without any additional plugins or configuration. Just download your .aac files to your Android device, then open them in VLC to start listening.

Beyond AAC support, VLC provides many other useful features including:

  • Background audio playback so you can listen while using other apps.
  • Playlists, equalizer, and playback speed control.
  • Network file streaming from PCs and NAS devices.
  • Pop-up video floating window for multitasking.

VLC is available for free from the Google Play store on phones, tablets and Android TV devices. It’s the top choice for playing just about any media format you can throw at it.

2. JetAudio

JetAudio is another excellent media player for Android that supports AAC files. It provides slick playback controls, DSP effects like custom equalizers, and support for lossless formats.

The free version of JetAudio works great for AAC playback, and the paid Plus version unlocks additional features like:

  • 20-band graphic equalizer
  • Additional DSP effects
  • Tag editing
  • Themes & skins

JetAudio offers reliable AAC playback and improved audio quality to bring out the best in your music files. If you want more advanced controls, give the Plus version a try.

3. Rocket Player

Rocket Player is a longtime favorite Android music app praised for its excellent audio engine, UI design, and extensive format support. This includes native playback of AAC and M4A files.

Beyond playing your .aac collection, Rocket Player provides:

  • Attractive themes and visualizations
  • Customizable equalizers and audio effects
  • Gracenote music tagging
  • scrobbling integration
  • Homescreen widgets

Rocket Player offers a free trial version, with the full unlocked app available for a few dollars. For .aac playback plus customizable audio options, it’s worth checking out.

4. Poweramp

Poweramp has earned its reputation as one of the top Android music players thanks to its excellent sound quality and extensive format support. It can play all common formats including .aac without issues.

Poweramp provides a polished UI, music visualizers, playback widgets, tag editing, and integrated folder browsing. The paid version unlocks additional features:

  • Expanded themes and customization
  • Gapless playback
  • Advanced equalizers and audio effects

If you want robust music management capabilities on top of .aac playback, Poweramp is a wise choice. The free trial lets you test it out before buying.

5. Neutron Music Player

Neutron Music Player lives up to its name by offering high-fidelity playback of your .aac library. It has an advanced audio engine with a 64-bit codec and customizable impulse response reverb profiles.

Beyond sound quality, Neutron provides:

  • EQ with parametric bands
  • Audio upscaling
  • Automatic metadata lookup
  • Chromecast support

If you have high-end headphones or speakers, tap into the full audio potential of your .aac files with Neutron. The free trial version lets you test drive its capabilities.

Converting AAC to MP3 on Desktop

In addition to playing .aac files directly on your Android device, you can also convert them to the more compatible mp3 format on your computer before transferring them over.

Converting to mp3 has several advantages:

  • Works on any Android device even without AAC codec
  • Smaller file sizes
  • More compatibility with other apps and hardware

Let’s look at some of the best audio converter tools for different desktop platforms:

Windows AAC to MP3 Converters

1. Freemake Audio Converter

Freemake offers an intuitive audio conversion app for Windows. It can batch convert .aac files to .mp3 while maintaining ID3 tags and album art.

Freemake supports input from files, CDs, YouTube, and other sources. Conversions are very fast leveraging GPU acceleration. And it’s completely free with no ads or registration required.

2. Switch Audio Converter

Switch provides fast AAC to MP3 conversion in a streamlined interface. It can watch folders to auto-convert any new .aac files that are added.

Switch lets you customize MP3 settings like bitrate, quality, channels and more. Paid versions add batch processing, playlists, and parallel conversions utilizing multiple CPU cores.

3. dbPoweramp Music Converter

dbPoweramp lives up to its name by converting audio files quickly while maintaining quality. It lets you finetune MP3 optimization settings.

Beyond format conversion, dbPoweramp can also rip CDs, tag and organize music collections, and integrate with other apps. It offers user-friendly workflows that make mass AAC to MP3 conversion a breeze.

Mac AAC to MP3 Converters

1. XLD

X Lossless Decoder (XLD) is a popular free audio conversion app for Mac OS. It can decode and convert between all key formats including AAC, MP3, FLAC, Apple Lossless and more.

XLD has an intuitive Mac-style interface, and automatically detects album info and imports cover art. It provides fine control over MP3 settings for customizing your conversions.

2. Max

Max is an elegantly designed converter focused on simplicity. Just drag and drop .aac files into Max, choose MP3 for output format, and it will rapidly convert them.

Max automatically imports artist, album and track details from .aac files. Paid Pro version unlocks batch processing and parallel exporting to multiple formats at once.

3. iSkysoft iMedia Converter

As an all-in-one converter solution, iSkysoft can tackle any media conversion needs. It provides lightning fast AAC to MP3 conversion leveraging multi-core CPUs and GPU acceleration.

Beyond audio, iSkysoft can also convert video, DVD, and even ISO/Blu-ray images between 1000+ file formats. Advanced customization options help optimize your conversions.

Linux AAC to MP3 Converters

1. FFmpeg

FFmpeg is a powerhouse command-line tool for Linux audio conversion and manipulation. To convert AAC to MP3, use: ffmpeg -i input.aac -b:a 192k output.mp3

FFmpeg supports customizing output bitrates, channels, sampling rates, metadata and more. It powers many GUI conversion tools’ underlying engines.

2. Fre:ac

If you prefer a graphical app, Fre:ac makes audio conversion simple on Linux. It provides an intuitive interface for converting multiple .aac files to .mp3.

Fre:ac automatically imports metadata like song titles and artwork. You can configure output quality and directory organization. Batch processing modes accelerate large conversions.

3. SoundConverter

As a lightweight GTK-based audio converter for Linux, SoundConverter focuses on simplicity. Just add .aac files, choose MP3 output, and it will efficiently convert them in bulk.

SoundConverter supports playback while converting. Install the optional ffmpeg plugin to expand input format support including .m4a AAC files.

Converting AAC to MP3 on Android

You don’t necessarily need a desktop computer to convert .aac to .mp3 – there are apps that can perform this conversion directly on your Android device.

Here are some top choices for Android AAC to MP3 converters:

1. Media Converter

Simply named but highly capable, Media Converter lives up to its purpose for Android audio format conversion. It can convert your .aac files into .mp3 quickly.

Media Converter supports AAC files in .aac, .m4a and .mp4 containers. Set the target bitrate then batch convert multiple files at once. It automatically tags converted files.

2. aac2mp3

As you might guess from the name, aac2mp3 is purpose-built to convert AAC audio to MP3 on Android. It provides fast single and batch conversions.

Beyond MP3, aac2mp3 can also convert AAC files into M4A, FLAC, WAV, AIFF, and other formats. Useful for converting audio into the ideal format for different uses.

3. GJ AAC To MP3 Converter

Part of the GangJie (GJ) Android productivity suite, this app makes it easy to convert .aac files into .mp3. It automatically tags the new files based on metadata.

GJ AAC to MP3 Converter can monitor folders so any new .aac files added are auto-converted. Paid version removes ads and enables background conversion.

4. GN AAC MP3 Converter

From developer GetNow Apps, this AAC to MP3 converter is fast and intuitive for Android. It provides options to customize bitrate, channels, sampling rate, and other encoding settings.

GN AAC MP3 Converter can directly play AAC files even before conversion. Batch conversions are supported to rapidly process multiple files.

5. Mp3 converter & Ringtone maker

Despite the vague name, this converter app actually supports many input formats beyond just MP3, including AAC to MP3 conversions.

It provides tools to edit audio clips and ringtones. The converter preserves ID3 tags and album art through the conversion process.

With free and paid versions available, this app can meet both basic and advanced audio conversion needs on Android.

Retaining Playback Position in Long AAC Files

A common challenge when playing long audio files like recordings of lectures or audiobooks is that some music apps don’t properly retain your playback position. So if you exit the app or pause playback, it may start back at the beginning of the file next time instead of your stopping point.

Fortunately, many of the top Android media players actually do support proper bookmarking within .aac files:

  • VLC, JetAudio, Poweramp – These all remember playback position in files, even after app exit.
  • Rocket Player – Enable “smart bookmarks” in settings to restore position.
  • Neutron – Resume playback works, but may require manually saving bookmarks.

So while the stock Android music app may not support it, choosing a capable third party player will ensure you can pick up right where you left off in long lectures and audio books encoded in .aac or .mp3 format.

Automating AAC to MP3 Conversion

Manually converting every AAC file into MP3 format can become tedious. But various methods exist to automate the conversion process. Here are some ways to streamline bulk AAC to MP3 conversion:

Folder Monitoring

Many audio converter apps support folder monitoring to watch for new files to appear, and auto-convert them. For example:

  • Switch Audio Converter can watch folders and auto-convert new .aac files to .mp3.
  • GJ AAC to MP3 Converter for Android can monitor folders to auto-convert .aac files added.

Set your audio converter to monitor your AAC download folder. Any .aac files downloaded or added there will be automatically converted to the MP3 format.

Server-Side Scripts

For large music collections, server-side scripts can be employed to batch process AAC to MP3 conversion:

  • On Windows, use PowerShell scripts calling ffmpeg to recursively convert .aac files in a folder tree.
  • On Linux, write a Bash script leveraging ffmpeg to bulk convert .aac files.
  • On Mac, automate iTunes to encode .aac files added to the library into AAC or MP3.

Server-side scripts give you maximum control to convert all your AAC audio to MP3 in bulk unattended.

Cloud Encoding Services

For encoding at scale, cloud conversion services make it easy to convert thousands of audio files:

  • Zamzar – Upload .aac files to convert using their REST API or web interface.
  • CloudConvert – Their JSON API powers automated AAC to MP3 conversions.
  • FFmpeg Shark – Their cloud API supports all major audio formats including AAC encode to MP3.

With ample processing power, cloud encoding services can convert your entire .aac library to .mp3 in no time.

AAC vs MP3 File Size Comparison

Due to its more advanced compression algorithms, AAC can deliver the same quality as MP3 at around 2/3 the file size. For example:

BitrateAAC File SizeMP3 File Size
128 kbps~1MB/min~1.5MB/min
192 kbps~1.5MB/min~2.25MB/min
256 kbps~2MB/min~3MB/min
320 kbps~2.5MB/min~3.75MB/min

Exact file sizes vary based on the complexity of the encoded audio, but AAC maintains a size advantage at comparable quality levels.

Other Audio Codecs Compared to AAC

Beyond just MP3, how does AAC stack up against other popular audio codecs?

AAC vs Ogg Vorbis

Ogg Vorbis offers open source audio compression, but is less widely adopted than AAC and MP3. At low bitrates Ogg Vorbis has better quality than AAC. But at 128 kbps and above, it is comparable to AAC/MP3.

AAC vs WMA (Windows Media Audio)

WMA was Microsoft’s proprietary audio format but has fallen out of favor vs AAC/MP3. WMA Pro supports higher bit depths and lossless compression. But for portable use, AAC generally provides better quality and portability.

AAC vs FLAC (Free Lossless Audio Codec)

FLAC offers lossless compression for archival audio storage without quality loss. File sizes are much larger than AAC/MP3. For listening on phones or tablets, AAC provides a good balance of quality and size.

AAC vs ALAC (Apple Lossless Audio Codec)

ALAC is Apple’s equivalent of FLAC – an open source lossless codec. Like FLAC, file sizes are larger than AAC/MP3. But ALAC integrates well with Apple’s ecosystem if you need a lossless format.

AAC vs aptX, LDAC (Bluetooth Codecs)

These advanced Bluetooth audio codecs provide higher quality wireless streaming to supported devices like headphones. They build on top of AAC/MP3 rather than replacing them.

Overall, AAC offers a great combination of quality, compression efficiency and widespread device support. For many applications it hits the sweet spot between more specialized formats.

The Bottom Line

While Android’s AAC support has been improving, many devices still require extra steps to play these audio files. Thankfully, solutions exist to get .aac and .m4a files playing on any Android OS version and device combination.

A high-quality third party media player app like VLC or Poweramp with integrated AAC decoding is recommended. For older Android versions, converting .aac files to the more compatible .mp3 format with desktop or mobile tools is the most reliable method.

With the right converter and player apps, you can listen to iTunes AAC files, M4A podcasts, and any other AAC format audio on Android. Just be sure to use optimal encoding settings when converting to MP3 to retain audio fidelity.

Hopefully this guide has provided all the tips you need to play your AAC music collection on Android. Let us know if you have any other questions in the comments!

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