The 10 Most Common Audio Formats: Which One Should You Use?

MakeUseOf | 2/26/2019 | Joel Lee
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Audio files come in all types and sizes. And while we may all be familiar with MP3, what about AAC, FLAC, OGG, or WMA? Why do so many audio standards exist? Which ones are important and which ones can you ignore?

It’s actually quite simple once you realize that all audio formats fall into three major categories. Once you know what the categories mean, you can just pick a format within the category that best suits your needs.

Consists - Sound - Waves - Format - Processing

Uncompressed audio consists of real sound waves that have been captured and converted to digital format without any further processing. As a result, uncompressed audio files tend to be the most accurate but take up a LOT of disk space—about 34 MB per minute for 24-bit 96KHz stereo.

PCM stands for Pulse-Code Modulation, a digital representation of raw analog audio signals. Analog sounds exist as waveforms, and in order to convert a waveform into digital bits, the sound must be sampled and recorded at certain intervals (or pulses).

Audio - Format - Rate - Sample - Bit

This digital audio format has a “sampling rate” (how often a sample is made) and a “bit depth” (how many bits are used to represent each sample). There is no compression involved. The digital recording is a close-to-exact representation of analog sound.

PCM is the most common audio format used in CDs and DVDs. There is a subtype of PCM called Linear Pulse-Code Modulation, where samples are taken at linear intervals. LPCM is the most common form of PCM, which is why the two terms are almost interchangeable at this point.

WAV - Waveform - Audio - File - Format

WAV stands for Waveform Audio File Format (also called Audio for Windows at some point but not anymore). It’s a standard that was developed by Microsoft and IBM back in 1991.

A lot of people assume that all WAV files are uncompressed audio files, but that’s not exactly true. WAV...
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