Audacity opens a large .m4a audio file into multiple channels

Upon opening the file, audacity spits it into multiple channels, and playing all at once doesn’t sound as good as if played in another program such as VLC. Is there a way to open the file in audacity without it being split up?

That will be because the .m4a file is a multi-channel audio file.
Audacity supports importing / exporting multi-channel files, but only supports playing mono or stereo. If you have multi-channel hardware, you will need to use a different player (such as VLC or foobar2000) to play each channel through different speakers.

Some multi-channel files sound correct on stereo playback systems if you play only the first 2 channels. To test this, click the Solo button on the first (stereo) track of the imported audio. If you’re happy with how that sounds, you can just delete the other tracks (click the in the top left corner of the tracks).

If the first two channels sound “thin” or there is obviously some of the sound “missing”, then you will need to pan and mix the tracks.