Which Audio File Format Should I Use?

Best Audio Format
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When you’ve been out and about, collecting music from the web, or digitizing your music collection, you have surely found out that there are way more audio formats out there than just MP3 – or Apple iTunes’ AIFF. Usually, it doesn’t matter much in which format you download or save a song or piece of music. But especially when iTunes or Windows Media Player aren’t able to open those files, a fast solution is needed.

Furthermore, with so many file formats for audio files alone out there, which one should you choose when digitizing your collection? Sure, MP3 is the most popular one, but which one is the best for your individual preferences and purpose?

Lossy vs. Lossless Audio Files

In earlier blog articles, we have talked about lossless and lossy audio file types already. In sum, both lossless and lossy describe the quality in which you can save your music files.

Lossless files keep the original audio quality of the medium it was ripped from intact, whether it was a CD or an audio recorder.

Lossless formats include:

WAV, AIFF, FLAC, Apple Lossless ALAC, or APE

 Lossy files compress the audio files to reduce the file size and thus save space on your hard drive. Thus, they are far more common to the casual music listener and collector. Depending on the bitrate, you may not even here a difference between them and a lossless audio file.

The most common lossy file formats include:

MP3, AAC, Ogg Vorbis, and WMA

 Which One To Use?

Putting aside that you have any special needs regarding the file, which file format should you use for either downloading or ripping music from a CD? The most secure way to go is with either MP3 or AAC. Why? Because these formats are the most common, widely spread, and supported by a big variety of media and music players. If you rip your music using a high bitrate for either MP3 or AAC, it will be almost impossible to notice any difference to the source when it comes to audio quality.

However, this is a very easy answer, and every easy answer has it’s tricky part.

The problem with lossy formats like WMA is that, if you want to convert said file later one, e.g. to MP3, the quality of the music will be noticeably reduced. To prevent that, you can either choose a high bitrate before converting your audio file and thus reduce the quality loss, or you use a lossless format! Converting between lossless formats will result in no quality loss at all. Thus, if you plan on archiving your music collection for future usage that may involve converting or professionally using the files, you should go for a lossless format like FLAC or ALAC.

In the end, every format that is widely compatible with a variety of players and devices is the best choice. As long as you do not convert between lossy formats without setting the bitrate, you can enjoy your music in the best quality.

Make Transcribing Easier!

Transcription
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In our daily life as well as in our work life, we have to handle a lot of different file types and formats day after day. Depending on how versatile and computer-savvy you are, you will have to deal with audio, video, spreadsheet, and presentations files more frequently than others. And if you have a job that requires you to work with online or other technical issues, you will find yourself face-to-face with unknown and diverse file formats even more. For example: when you do transcriptions!

Transcribing as a Business

Simply put, transcription services offer the conversion of speech into written text. They are quite often used and necessary when  you held a speech, broadcast, or have any other recorded audio of a conversation or presentation, that you need in text form. Especially in the field of medicine, politics, in court, or for other business purposes, professional transcribers are often required. They are either sitting at a court meeting or event, or receive a recorded audio of the speech/consultation in question.

Transcription is a growing field for either professionally trained transcribers, or people that like to earn some extra money in their free time or after retirement. There are companies specialized in transcription, but many general assistance and administration companies also provide this service among others.

Before the introduction of tape and cassettes, the transcriber had to be present at the time of speaking, writing down what she or he heard, also using skills like abbreviating and shorthand. But since tapes, cassettes, CDs, VHS, DVDs, and – in recent years – audio files can be send to anyone around the globe, the job became a lot easier, and the time spend on transcribing a lot more flexible.

Transcribing Software vs. Manual Transcription

Of course, there are transcribing software and online solutions (via API) available. These programs may be quicker, easier accessible, and – depending on the pricing – cheaper than hiring someone for the transcription, but these programs are by no means error proof.

Having one or even more people do, check, and double-check a transcription made for you can be a bit more time-consuming and a tad more expensive, however you will get a result that is done thoroughly and tested multiple times, best by different ears. A software that always uses the same algorithm can not provide this double security.

Convert for easier Transcription

There are a few problems that can occur whether you are using a transcription program, or transcribe yourself or have someone do it for you.

Obscure Audio File Format

As mentioned above, nowadays it’s way more common to not send CDs or cassettes, but audio files via mail or cloud storage. However, if you only needed a CD player in the past, you now have a vast diversity of audio files that could be send to you – and it may happen that you are unable to open some of them.

Using an online audio converter can help you to receive a format that Windows Media Player, Quicktime, or any other audio player on your computer can open the file. Convert it to MP3, AAC, WAV, AIFF, or another format you know.

Distorted Audio Files

What’s also possible is that the file you receive can be distorted, contain a lot background noise, or that the speaker or speakers are generally hard to understand. Adjusting volume may not be enough in such cases, but some files can still be rescued – or at least be enhanced.

Twitter

@cyberspaceayuda is one of our users that brought to our attention how versatile an online converter can be to simplify working with transcriptions as it is one of the many services they offer at Virtuadmin. By changing bitrate, sampling rate, or normalizing the audio stream, it is possible to enhance an audio file to an extend that makes the transcription easier.

Audio Converter

How to create an iPhone Ringtone

iPhone Ringtones
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Sure, those ringtones inherited by your iPhone or available on iTunes are nice, but don’t you want a more personal one? A part of your favorite song, or simply one that gets you up and going in the morning? To achieve that, you do not have to purchase a ringtone from the iTunes store! We can show you how it can be done very easily using the fitting cost-free resources and your iTunes library!

1. Grab the Song

First things first. Do you know which part of the song you want as your ringtone? You need to remember the exact part with the start and ending time to the second. Best, you write it down somewhere real quick.

Now, you can basically choose any free audio converter to trim the song, however, using this M4A converter can save you a later step already. Go to the converter and upload the song you want to trim. Under “Trim Audio” you can enter the start and ending time. After hitting “Convert File”, the song will be cut and the part you wanted will be converted to M4A. Using iTunes or the Apple Quick Time Player, you can now listen to the part of your song again, making sure it’s the one you want. The best thing about this: your original song will remain untouched, contrary to clipping and converting it using iTunes.

Once you have the desired part, you can move on to step 2.

2. Get the Ringtone File

Having an M4A file to begin with is nice, however it’s not the one suitable for iPhone ringtones. To get the appropriate file, you have to locate your downloaded and converted file first. Either, it will be stored in the folder specified in your browser’s download history, or you can select it from there directly and choose “Show in folder” or something similar after right-clicking on the file. You will be lead to the download destination right away.

To change the file, you will have to rename it. However, not the name of the file itself, but the name of the file extension. If you’re lucky, you can simply right-click on the image and choose “Properties” or “File Info”. There, you can rename the file extension as well as the name of the file. In case the file extension is not visible, you have to switch it on. There are different tutorials about that on the internet, depending on which version of Windows or iOS you have; for example this one for OS X Mountain Lion.

Once you are ready, all you have to do is change the file extension of your file to “M4R”. For example, your file had had the name “Rhianna-Umbrella.m4a” and now you renamed it to “Rhianna-Umbrella.m4r”. Once you tried to apply this change, your computer will send a warning and ask you, whether you really want to change the file extension. Confirm.

3. Add your Ringtone to iTunes and your iPhone

Once you renamed your file, you can drag and drop it into your iTunes library. It will show up under “Tones”.

To get the ringtone to your phone, you will have to sync your iPhone to your computer. In your iPhone menu on iTunes, you have to go to Tones and select “Sync Tones”. Hit “Sync” and “Apply” and wait. Once the sync is completed, you can use your new ringtone! Simply go to “Settings > Sounds > Ringtone” and choose it as your currently used one.

Extract Music from Video Files – Tutorial

From Video to Audio
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In one of our earliest posts, we have already talked about the possibility to extract music from video clips. By now, you know that the answer on how to get that movie score, song, or piece of background music from a video or movie scene is to convert your video into an audio format.

However, this time we want to provide a better and more extensive tutorial on how to get the sound track ripped from a video.

All you need is the video you want the sound track to be extracted from – either downloaded from vimeo, dailymotion, YouTube, or elsewhere; or recorded by yourself – and one of the audio converters from online-convert.com. No download or installation of any software is needed.

1. Choose an Output Format

Depending on what kind of audio file you need, you have to choose the output format first. Pick the format you need from the big list of audio converters – for example iTunes’ AIFF, or MP3 – and click on the link.

video-to-audio001
Click for full size

2. Upload your Video

Now that you know what kind of audio file you want, it’s time to choose the video you want to extract the music or sound effects from. If it’s a short video that only contains the part you want to rip, you can directly upload it to the converter by using the “Choose Files” button, entering an URL, or choosing a file from your cloud storage.

video-to-audio002

If you only want a part of your video clip to be converted into an audio file, however, you have the option to select the correct time frame from which you want to extract the music. You find this option underneath the other settings you can apply to your desired audio file.

video-to-audio003

Once you have specified all your settings, you can hit the “Convert File” button.

3. Receiving your Audio File

On the next page, the progress of your conversion is shown. As soon as the conversion is completed, the file will automatically download to your computer.

Of course, you can also send the download link to yourself or someone else via email, or save your file onto a cloud storage.

Et voilà, now you have the sound track extracted from your YouTube, DailyMotion, Vimeo, or otherwise downloaded and recorded video clip!

Average File Sizes

Size
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There is one thing about files that everyone can’t help to notice as soon as they want to download, upload, or send it via the internet, or when the computer announces that there isn’t enough storage left: File sizes.

No matter if you store music on your iPhone, want to send a picture via email, or upload a funny video to Facebook, file sizes – when too big – can and will cause problems, especially when you are on mobile or stuck with a slow internet connection.

There are natural limitations, no matter if they are set by your email provider for attachments, or by different pages when you want to upload a video or profile picture. Keeping the kilobytes and megabytes in mind prevents you from encountering unnecessary problems.

Why’s File Size important?

As stated above, there are a number of reasons why you would want to keep the size of your files in mind. One we encounter almost daily is the limitation set by many email providers when it comes to attachments. Consider this for example:

An attachment for an email sent via gmail can not exceed 25 MB, while emails sent via Microsoft Outlook allow for individual files (not the whole bundle) to not be bigger than 20 MB.

This may not seem to be a problem at first when you want to send a picture or PDF document, but as soon as you want to send multiple files or even a video, matters become more pressing. Thankfully, most email programs let you know when you exceed the file size limit.

Another factor are upload and download times. Sure, for many users, the download of a file takes about 15 seconds, but households that still have a dial-up or other slow connection can take up to one hour for a file with a size of 10 MB. Thus, when uploading documents or other media to share on the internet, you should also keep in mind people that aren’t blessed with highspeed internet connections.

Same goes for uploading an entire album of photos to Facebook, for example, or a video to YouTube. While users of a fast internet connection can easily wait through the uploading process and even browse the net meanwhile, some people still have no chance of doing anything on the internet while the upload is in process. Especially people with a slow connection who want to upload their videos, music, or images would have to keep a close eye on the file size of their media.

Especially nowadays, mobile internet is the number one way for people to connect with the world. Yet, even if many mobile phone providers have internet flat rates in their contracts, the download speed is limited in most cases. Thus, browsing pictures or watching videos can be very annoying considering the long loading or buffering times when you are stuck with mobile internet.

Bits and Bytes

Which units are there even, and how big are they? Refer to this short list:

  • 1 B = 1 byte
  • 1 kB = 1.000 bytes
  • 1 MB = 1.000 kB or 1.000.000 bytes
  • 1 GB = 1.000 MB, 1.000.000 kB, or 1.000.000.000 bytes

Average File Sizes

But, what are the average file sizes of media we use daily? After browsing the net and producing some examples ourselves, we found out the following:

Images

  • PNG ~ 2 – 4 kB
  • GIF ~ 6 – 8 kB
  • JPG ~ 9 – 12 kB
  • TIFF ~ 900 – 1.000 kB
  • BMP ~ 900 – 1.000 kB

Documents

  • DOCX ~4 – 8 kB
  • PDF ~ 18 – 20 kB
  • ODT ~ 80 – 90 kB

Media Files

  • eBook ~ 1 – 5 MB
  • MP3 song ~ 3 – 4 MB
  • DVD Movie ~ 4 GB
  • HD Movie ~ 5 – 8 GB
  • Blu-Ray Movie ~ 20 – 25 GB

Reducing File Sizes

Reducing the size of individual files can be achieved in different ways.

Image files can easily be cropped using different photo editing software or online editors. Photographs for displaying on the web or in Facebook do not have to be big in dimension. Buttons, lines, clipart, and the like can even be stored as formats that are smaller in size because they don’t contain much color or style information, like PNG or GIF. However, uploading RAW camera images (like CR2 or NEF) are 2 to 6 times bigger than JPG files and can’t be displayed correctly anyway. TIFF and BMP files should be converted to JPG or the like as well since they are bigger in size than the compressed JPG files.

Document files that should be displayed online or provided as a download can be slimmed down as well by getting rid of unnecessary pictures and formatting. In most cases though, saving as or converting your file to PDF correlates with a reduced file size as well.

Video files can be treated similar to image files, yet getting and mastering a video editing program is much harder and takes longer than achieving the same with photo editing software. However, changing the screen size by using a video converter is be a fast and easy to use alternative.

Last but not least, bigger audio files can be converted to MP3. This goes hand in hand with loss of quality to some degree, yet for your listening pleasure this should be marginal.

How to Open Unknown Files

Unknown Files
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Did it ever happen to you that you downloaded a song or video clip, or someone sent you a file via email and once you want to open and view it, it doesn’t work? Of course you wonder why, and after checking the file you see that you may have never heard of this kind of file before. Don’t panic. The next time you encounter such an unknown file, you will be well prepared!

In this article, we will tell you how to easily handle unknown file formats, and what you can do to use them on your computer without installing any additional software.

What’s the File Extension?

The first thing to do when you find a file that you can’t open is to find out what file extension it has. Because once you have the extension’s name, you can find out what kind of file it is and how you can open it.

Find the file in question and click on it with your right mouse button. Depending on what OS you use (Windows or Apple) a list of options will pop up. One of them should be “Properties” or something similar (also depending on the language of your computer). Once you clicked on it, a pop up window will open which lists all the properties of your file. When using Windows, you will have a point that says “File Type:”. There you will find the necessary information about your file type, e.g. PDF-File (.pdf)

The file extension are the letters following the dot in the brackets. In this case, the file extension would be PDF.

What kind of File is it?

Now that you know what kind of file extension you’re dealing with, it’s time to find out what kind of file it is. A document, an image, or maybe a music file? Or something else entirely?

The easiest and most informative way to do so is by referring to a list of file formats where you can easily search for the one in question. Such lists not only give you information about the developers and all kinds of technical data about the file type, but also about the programs with which you can open them!

For example, you found an AIF file on your computer. Searching the list linked above, you find a listing under “Audio Files.” Now you know that this file was developed by Apple, contains audio data, and can be opened by the Quicktime or Windows Media Player.

How to open/view this File?

In the best case, you can now choose the program you prefer to open the file, may it be a document file or a spreadsheet. But what if you don’t have any program from the list presented installed on your computer? Instead of having to install yet another video player or Office suit program, you can easily convert your file into a format that the most popular programs can open.

Unfortunately, especially when it comes to video files, there can still be problems when you want to play a video that contains codecs that are not installed on your computer. T find more about these cases, you can read our article about video codecs and containers.

Files supported by Android

There are a few ongoing battles in the world of (digital) media.

Android
image by Rob Bulmahn
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In the gaming world, there had been Sega vs. Nintendo, and now it’s PlayStation vs XBox. Which is better? Which features the better games, the better graphics? Which is more user friendly? Which has the better price? And so on, and so on… Both sides always come up with striking arguments why to buy the PlayStation 4 or the XBox One, and at the same time, both sides provide even better arguments why to NOT by the opposition’s product.

The very same happens in the world of computers and smartphones, but with respect to either hardware or operating systems. In an earlier blog post, we have talked about native file formats for Apple computers. This time, we dive deeper into the topic of mobile operating systems. Precisely, we’ll check out which file formats are supported by your phone if you have an Android based device!

Audio Files

Depending on the codecs used, Android phones can support and play several audio file types. It may be that a music file won’t play on your phone even though the file type is supported though. This is due to the codecs used to compress the audio file in question. If your phone doesn’t play a specific file, you may want to convert it into another audio file format that is more likely to be supported.

The most commonly used codecs supported by Android devices include AAC, AMR, FLAC, MIDI, MP3, PCM/WAVE, and Vorbis. The following audio file types using the codecs mentioned can thus be played on your Android phone:

  • 3GP
  • ACC (raw data)
  • FLAC
  • OGG
  • M4A
  • MID
  • MP3
  • XMF
  • WAV

 

Video Files

The very same that has been true for audio files applies to video files in terms of codecs. Depending on the codec used to compress the video container format, it may still not play on your Android phone even though it generally is supported. To watch your videos still, you can convert the video into another format or choose an Android compatible conversion right away.

The codecs supported by Android phones are H.263, H.264, MPEG-4, and V8. This leads to the following video container formats to be supported by Android devices:

  • 3GP
  • MKV
  • MP4
  • TS
  • WEBM

 

Image Files

Contrary to video and audio files, image files can not be generated using different codecs. This means that if a format is supported by an Android phone, it will be able to open all files with this extension (unless they are corrupt). The following rater image files are supported:

  • BMP
  • GIF
  • JPG
  • PNG
  • WEBP

 

Acknowledgement

This article has been written on the basis of knowledge at the time Android 5.0 Lollipop was the newest version available.

Native Apple (Mac) Files

Native Apple (Mac) Files
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Users of Apple devices like Mac desktop computers, MacBooks, iPhones, or iPads are already familiar with them: the native Apple Inc. file formats. Users of other platforms and operating systems like Windows and Linux however can face difficulties with those formats because they, sometimes, have never heard of them.

This could become a problem for Apple users as well when they try to send assignments, essays or other documents, videos, or audio files from their device to someone working with a Windows computer or an Android phone.

Knowing about this problem is the first step to the solution. Either users of Apple devices or the recipients of those Apple native files can convert their files into a format supported by the operating system and device in question. Yet, before you can attempt a conversion, you will have to know which file formats are exclusive or native for Apple devices.

Thus, we listed some of the most common native Apple file formats for you.

Document Files

KEY

Keynote Presentation File – Files with the KEY extension are created with Apple’s Keynote Presentation program. Keynote can create playback presentations containing images, slide animations, set time frames, videos, etc. KEY files can be compared to Microsoft’s PowerPoint presentation files.

PAGES

Pages Document File – When using Apple’s word processing program Pages, your files – including pictures, formatting, layout and the like – will be saved with a PAGES extension. They work like Microsoft Word files like DOC or OpenOffice Writer text files.

Audio Files

AIF/AIFF

Audio Interchage File Format – AIF or AIFF files are lossless and uncompressed audio files developed by Apple. These files are popular among professional musicians since they can store their music with very high quality using these file types. Converting your files to AIFF can thus be important if you wish to work with your audio files on a more professional level. The compressed versions of the AIF/AIFF files feature an AIFC extension.

CAF

Apple Core Audio Format – One advantage of CAF files is that these containers can hold several types of audio and additional metadata. With these new features, it quickly replaced the AIF format since it doesn’t have the same limitations. It can also hold audio data that exceeds the size of 4 GB.

M4A

MPEG-4 Audio File – M4A is the common file format used on Apple iTunes. In addition to audio track, M4A files also store additional data like images. What sets these files apart from other audio files is that lossless compression is available for M4A files as well. There’s also the possibility to convert your audio files to M4A.

M4P

MPEG-4 iTunes Music Store Audio File – Similar to M4A files, M4P files can be found on Apple iTunes. In addition to the features of the M4A files, M4P files are protected using Apple’s DRM copy protection.

M4R

MPEG-4 iPhone Ringtone File – M4R audio files are part of Apple iTunes as well. They are not meant to be “real” music tracks though, but serve the purpose of being ringtones for the iPhone. They have undergone lossy compression.

Video Files

M4V

MPEG-4 iTunes Video File – M4V files are very similar to the well known MP4 format. When downloading a video from iTunes, it usually comes in the M4V format and can – but doesn’t necessarily have to – be protected with Apple’s DRM copy protection.

MOV

QuickTime Movie File – Nowadays, MOV files are not exclusively usable on Apple devises anymore, but can be opened on Windows operating systems as well. It’s a video file format originally developed for the Apple QuickTime Player, and converting your videos to MOV can be a useful feature.

Other Files

DMG

MAC OS X Disk Image File – DMG files usually serve the purpose of installing programs on a Mac computer, contain encrypted and compressed data. Mac computers treat DMG files like hard copy disks.

IPA

iOS Application File – Files with an IPA extension are essential for anything downloaded from iTunes, may it be games, programs, or utilities. They contain information necessary for the iOS device to open and/or run the programs they are linked to.

PICT

Apple QuickDraw Picture File – PICT files are created when using the Apple QuickDraw program. They can contain vector graphics as well as bitmap images with a big variety of colors. Yet, PICT images are raster images, which means that they are not scalable without loss in quality.