When people wonder about audio formats, the majority of them think of MP3. However, there are many other types of audio formats out there, not just MP3. Audio file formats such as FLAC, WMA, AAC, OGG, OPUS and WMA are just some of the many others available. Still, with such a long list, which one is right for you? Which one should you choose or ignore altogether? This article goes over the top audio formats and which one may be your best choice.
Before you decide or start to consider an audio format file, the following needs to be taken into consideration. For one, audio formats are separated by 3 major categories. Understanding which category is best for you, will make it a lot easier to pick one. Narrowing down a particular category of audio formats, can also point you in which one is better suited for your particular needs.
The Lossless Audio Formats
In audio files, there are two types of audio qualities to remember. One is lossless and the other one is lossy. Lossy music files are compressed in order to save space. However, they tend to have a slightly less quality variation than others. Lossless on the other hand, will keep all of the music audio quality intact coming from the original source such as CD’s. The list of lossless audio file formats include FLAC, ALAC, WAV and AIFF.
One of the drawbacks from choosing lossless over lossy is size. In most cases, lossless files can be about 2 times to almost 5 times bigger than lossy. For people who have thousands of audio files and limited space, that can make a difference in the long run.
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Uncompressed Audio File Formats
The uncompressed audio file formats are able to capture and convert real sound waves to digital format. There is no other processing action needed. The end result of using this format is that they offer the most precise and dead-on renditions. However, they do end up taking a bigger amount of space when compared to other formats. They range in about 34 MB per minute for a simple 24-bit 96 KHZ stereo audio file.
In this category of audio file formats, there is PCM, WAV and AIFF. The first, PCM, is considered to be the most common in audio formats used as it pertains to DVD’s and CD’s. WAV formats were developed by Microsoft and are a Windows container for audio formats. Still, Mac systems can still open WAV files without any problems as well. AIFF was developed by Apple for its Mac systems around 1988. Just like WAV files, AIFF can also be opened by Windows systems without any issues too.
The Lossy Compressed Audio Formats
If there was ever an audio file format which changed the way music is shared all over the world, it is the lossy compressed audio formats. Users will sacrifice a bit of audio quality when choosing these types of formats though. However, the truth is that in most cases, the differences are often not even discernible or that noticeable. The list of lossy audio file formats include the widely used MP3, MP4, AAC, OGG and WMA.
Before the lossy formats came along, users had a real hard time saving and sharing audio files. The size of a song taken from a CD, used to be too large to be able to uploaded, sent and shared on the web. Luckily, file compression allowed for audio files to be saved and shared more easily, smaller and faster. There are some drawbacks which can result from compressing a file too many times though. This includes hearing artifacts in the background as well as other discrepancies becoming more noticeable. Nonetheless, that only happens when the same file continues to be compressed over and over again.
Which Audio Format Is For You?
Now that you know all about the most common audio file formats, the only question is which one is right for you. Deciding which format you should use can depend on what it is you want to do with the files. It also depends on what you are planning to use the files for and how much space you have available.
For those looking to save space, then the lossy formats are a great choice. The people who fall in this category are those who don’t mind music quality as much. If you are okay with less than perfect, then lossy can work for you. The reality is that most people are not really able to tell the difference between lossless and lossy compressed files in most cases. This is also a great choice for those looking to send and share files with others easier and quicker.
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People who want to capture and edit audio in raw form, using an uncompressed format is the best choice for them. This form of audio format allows them to work with the purest audio quality available. Once they are finished, they can then export their files to a compressed format.
If you want a choice between the two latter mentioned above, then you can go with FLAC audio formats. These tend to offer a better alternative than MP3 files. While it is still a lossless audio compression, the sound quality can be much better. You should keep in mind that these audio formats do require more storage space though.
No matter which format you end up choosing, keep in mind that you can convert any of them at Online Convert for free. For those that have a certain kind of audio file and want to change it to another format, then use our free conversion tool. It is simple to use, fast and free.