Pin Me

Audio File Formats Explained

written by: Kristina Dems•edited by: Amy Carson•updated: 2/25/2011

There are dozens of audio file formats in existence but most people are only aware of a few of them. This is mainly because popularity is dictated by file size to sound quality ratio and compatibility across the most popular operating systems.

  • slide 1 of 7


    Audio There are a number of audio file formats out there, most of which you probably have not even heard of before. Some of them are proprietary while others are not. Some of the most popular audio file formats are those that offer good audio quality and a small file size. Here are some of the most widely used formats.

  • slide 2 of 7

    WAV and AIFF

    These formats are two of the most common audio file formats around. This is because they are both lossless and uncompressed formats preferred by users who want the best audio quality possible. Files of these types are huge compared to more popular compressed formats. The WAV format was developed for the PC while the AIFF was developed for the Mac OS X. They are compatible with the two operating systems, but they are usually preferred to be used on their origin operating system.

  • slide 3 of 7


    This is a compressed audio file format, but it doesn't mean it contains low audio quality. This format manages to preserve good audio quality while having a files size that is smaller than most of the other audio file formats. This is why it is the most popular format among people who download mp3 songs from music download service and for those who keep a lot of audio files in their computers. Even if it is not the best format for voice recordings, it is considered the best in music playback and storage.

  • slide 4 of 7


    AAC was developed to be the replacement for the MP3 file format, which is why it is also a compressed file format that maintains good audio quality. It is the default audio file format in Apple devices but it can also be played on other devices with different operating systems. Side by side with the MP3 format, AAC has virtually the same audio quality. However, in terms of the ratio between audio quality and file size, it has proven to be the better file format.

  • slide 5 of 7


    This file format is a container, which means it can support different types of codecs. Vorbis is the most popular audio format that is contained within OGG file. In terms of audio quality, OGG offers roughly the same quality as MP3, usually using smaller file sizes. Most of the popular media players do not have native support for this file format, but it is still quite a popular one mainly because it is open source, which makes it the favorite audio file format of software developers.

  • slide 6 of 7


    FLAC, much like MP3 and AAC, is a compression format, but it is lossless. It offers roughly the same quality as MP3 and AAC for casual listeners. For trained ears, though, the audio quality is noticeably higher in FLAC than in lossy formats. The difference between those file formats and FLAC is that this one preserves the quality of the original uncompressed audio file when it is restored. This means that if you want to compress an audio file without losing the chance to restore it to its original quality, you should use FLAC. However, it should be noted that because of this preservation of quality inside the FLAC format, it usually has a larger file size than the lossy compression audio file formats.

  • slide 7 of 7


    Photo Courtesy of / Supplied by Suphakit73 -