Source: radiox.co.uk

Best Audio File Formats for Music

Listening to music is great. It can relax you and it can make your whole day better. However, we’ve all been in a situation when we finally found our favorite song, played it and realized that the quality is bad.

Source: illusion2k.com

When you are connected to the internet all the time, it’s great, you can listen to your favorite songs online and chances are, they will sound amazing. The problem occurs when you want to download a song or convert one file to another. So, we come to the question of which audio file format is best for listening to music at home or in your car.

Many people struggle with this, so we decided to do research and find the appropriate answer. Here we are going to talk more about what’s available on the market and how to choose from every file format that’s available now.

Choosing the right format

Source: digitaldjtips.com

This is a relatively simple thing. It all depends on what you plan on using the audio for. Many people make the mistake of choosing high-quality audio file formats, but if you don’t really need it, you should not choose it. These files are hard to share, move, manage and convert. Remember that you need something that achieves the quality of the audio that you need. And you should not ask for anything more. Let’s see a few situations that will help you make the right choice.

For professionals

Source: audio-edit-pro-audio-editor.en.softonic.com

If you need to edit the audio and if you are in this type of business, then you need to use an uncompressed format. They are great for podcasts.

When you use the uncompressed option you will maintain the quality of the audio every time you save and edit the file. When you are done with all the changes and the edits, it is smart to export the file in a compressed format. The uncompressed ones include WAV, AIFF, and PCM.

For audiophiles

Source: reck.dk

If you are the type of person that just enjoys the music and wants to relax to the known sounds, then you need to choose a format that uses lossless audio compression. Why you need that? Well, because you cannot keep everything you have in one place, and we know that changing external disks or USBs can be boring.

You need something that won’t use as much storage as the uncompressed versions, but you definitely need something that will keep the quality of the original recording. Because of this, the lossless formats are the best for you. They include M4A, WMA, and FLAC.

Home Use

Source: funender.com

If you want to share your files, or if you want to save some disk space, then there is a solution for you! This is especially important for people who are not that concerned with the perfect audio quality and don’t really put that much thought into it. These files are easy to share, move from one place to another and put on the web. They don’t require a lot of space, and you can easily change or move them. For home use and easy transfer, you will need an audio file format that uses lossy audio compression.

The good thing about this is that in the last few years, this type of compression has become so good that most people cannot really find a difference between lossless and lossy compression. Some of them include AAC, OGA, and MP3.

One thing you should know about the audio file formats and the quality is that it also depends on the sample rate. As suggested by Saramonic UK, there are a lot of elements that can influence the sound, the format and how it is distributed to the end-users. Make sure that the sample rate of the audio file you are looking for is in high-quality if you want to receive the best sound.

Audio File Formats

Source: audiofilesresearchproject.weebly.com

As we mentioned before, there are several ways that the audio is or isn’t compressed. Let’s see what options you have and how they impact the quality of the song.

Lossy

Source: dsp.stackexchange.com

As the name suggests, these formats lose some data in the transmission. You cannot really decompress them in the original file size, and they are not good for professionals or people who are in the music business. The end result is that the files will be smaller and some of the sound waves will be lost.

Engineers and artists who edit audio files and send them back and forth don’t prefer to use these audio files. They degrade every time they are exported and with that, they lose on the quality. However, these are great for people who need to share files on social media or via email. With the latest updates, people who are not professionals cannot really notice the difference.

Some of the lossy conversion types include:

  • MP3 (MPEG-1 Audio Layer III) – the most popular and the most used option. It can work on most devices and the files are really small.
  • AAC (Advanced Audio Coding) – also known as MPEG-4 AAC. The files are small and they are great for streaming.
  • Ogg Vorbis – this is the open-source audio codec that Spotify uses. Another format that’s great for streaming.

Lossless

Source: sound.stackexchange.com

These files can be decompressed back to the original size and when that’s done, the sound quality will be kept intact. Most of the audio professionals want to use all of the original sound waves every time they edit a track, so they prefer lossless.

However, these files are really big and they can be several times larger than the MP3s. The bitrates depend on the density and the volume of the music and they don’t really rely that much on the quality of the audio.

Some of them include:

  • ALAC (Apple’s Lossless Audio Codec) – great for lossless compression, but it only works on Apple devices
  • FLAC (Free Lossless Audio Codec) – it is open-source and free. It also offers lossless compression

Uncompressed formats

Source: techpp.com

These files will remain the same size and quality from the origin to the end destination. They include:

  • AIFF (Audio Interchange File Format) – retain the original sound and are larger than MP3s
  • DSD (Direct Stream Digital) – high-resolution audio files that are very large
  • WAV (Waveform Audio File) – commonly used by sound engineers, it retains all the original data.
  • PCM (Pulse-Code Modulation) – commonly used for CDs and DVDs

What is your preferred audio file format? Before choosing the one for you, make sure you understand the difference between all of them and why you should pick one instead of the other. If you are a professional, you need to opt for uncompressed or lossless files. If you are just enjoying music while you are doing things at home, then you can pick small files and choose the lossy formats.


Peter is a freelance writer with more than eight years of experience covering topics in politics. He was one of the guys that were here when the foreignpolicyi.org started.

Latest from Music