As my forthcoming iOS Multimedia bible will also cover playing back audio files not natively supported by iOS, I've made some serious tests to find out:
- whether special, high-quality (24 vs. 16 bits, lossless vs. lossy, 5.1 vs. stereo) WMA and FLAC audio files (these two audio formats are immensely popular among audiophiles) are played back by the universal (meaning also video-capable) multimedia apps I compare
- what the CPU usage (measurement methology HERE) is during playback in both foreground and background mode (if the latter is applicable – many basically video-centric multimedia apps aren't capable of this)
- whether you can reposition during playback (some players can't do these with FLAC / WMA files either).
Long story short, the results are as follows:
For either 24 bit or lossless WMA playback, there currently isn't a video player (again, as my current focus is on combined audio-video players, I have NOT tested audio-only players; will test them some time and post an updated version of this article). It's only traditional non-lossless 16bit 44kHz WMA(2) files that are played back by AcePlayer, ProPlayer, Gplayer, BUZZ Player HD (and, presumably, its recently-released “little bother”, BUZZ Viewer), AVPlayerHD, GoodPlayer and AnyPlayerHD. (I haven't listed titles that are buggy and chew through the battery while playing back WMA.) Generally, all titles consumed about the same power, except for GoodPlayer, which consumed about 20% more. All players are capable of playing audio while backgrounded by the Home button.
Special FLAC support is far more widespread on iOS than that of special WMA files. Each one (and, in addition, OPlayer HD by olimsoft) of the above players is capable to play back all kinds of FLAC files, even 24 bit, 5.1 and lossless ones. GoodPlayer and BUZZ Player HD, however, both have some problems: the former can't play 24bit 192kHz Lossless FLAC's without distortion (and, as with WMA, its power consumption is also slightly higher than the competing players) and the latter doesn't allow repositioning inside a FLAC file.
All in all,
if you want to get a combined audio + video players capable of WMA and/or FLAC playback, select one from the above list. To make your selection easier, I'll keep posting on the various aspects of video playback too so that you can also base your decision on also the video playback capabilities of the player.
The players you should avoid
Some, otherwise, in cases, very decent players have proved to be in no way recommended audio players. For example, the, for video playback, absolutely excellent XBMC has proved to be quickly chewing through the battery. RushPlayer (which I quickly reviewed today) has proved out to be even worse. It's Playing by Addition, Lda, yxplayer by mobilesoft.kr and eXPlayer HD by Zhigang Chen haven't delivered stellar results either. (Read: don't even think of using them for WMA or FLAC playback.)
As usual, the detailed information on all these can be found in the work-in-progress chart of the forthcoming iOS Multimedia bible. Look for the row containing “Audio format support” - it's there that the WMA- and FLAC-specific section starts. Note that the first column also contains the URL of the test WMA and FLAC files I used for testing, should you want to check out them yourself.
Again, it's still a work-in-progress chart and, therefore, pretty much disorganized and messed-up. Nevertheless, this info is already there.
UPDATE (05/01/2012): Part II is HERE. As is explained in the article, current CPU usage measurement tools don't sample Cydia (that is, fully jailbroken) apps reliably. WMA 24bit/lossless playback is absolutely safe with XBMC, contrary to what I've stated in the first version of the current article.