OK you spend all that money perfecting your next single release. Its time to get it out to the radio stations or upload to Spotify, but do you really want to send a compressed mp3 to the DJ. Surely it wasn't recorded in a compressed format, is it not best to send high quality wav on cd or FLAC.....
Here we explain the different audio formats and how you could be losing out.....
There are two types of audio quality: lossless and lossy. Lossless music keeps all the audio quality of the original source—in most cases, CD—intact, while lossy music compresses the files for space savings (though at slightly diminished quality). Lossless files include:
WAV and AIFF: Both WAV and AIFF are uncompressed formats, which means they are exact copies of the original source audio. The two formats are essentially the same quality; they just store the data a bit differently. AIFF is made by Apple, so you may see it a bit more often in Apple products, but WAV is pretty much universal. However, since they're uncompressed, they take up a lot of unnecessary space. Unless you're editing the audio, you don't need to store the audio in these formats.
FLAC: The (FLAC) is the most popular lossless format, making it a good choice if you want to store your music in lossless. Unlike WAV and AIFF, it's been compressed, so it takes up a lot less space. However, it's still a lossless format, which means the audio quality is still the same as the original source, so it's much better for listening than WAV and AIFF. It's also free and open source, which is handy if you're into that sort of thing.
Apple Lossless: Also known as ALAC, Apple Lossless is similar to FLAC. It's a compressed lossless file, although it's made by Apple. Its compression isn't quite as efficient as FLAC, so your files may be a bit bigger, but it's fully supported by iTunes and iOS (while FLAC is not). Thus, you'd want to use this if you use iTunes and iOS as your primary music listening software.
APE: APE is a very highly compressed lossless file, meaning you'll get the most space savings. Its audio quality is the same as FLAC, ALAC, and other lossless files, but it isn't compatible with nearly as many players. They also work your processor harder to decode, since they're so highly compressed. Generally, I wouldn't recommend using this unless you're very starved for space and have a player that supports it.
The Lossy Formats: MP3, AAC, OGG, and More
For regular listening, it's more likely that you'll be using a lossy format. They save a ton of space, leaving you with more room for songs on your portable player, and—if they're high enough bitrate—they'll be indistinguishable from the original source. Here are the formats you'll probably run into:
MP3: MPEG Audio Layer III, or MP3 for short, is the most common lossy format around. So much so that it's become synonymous with downloaded music. MP3 isn't the most efficient format of them all, but its definitely the most well-supported, making it our #1 choice for lossy audio. You really can't go wrong with MP3.
Most MP3 encoding software allows the user to select the bit rate when converting files into the MP3 format. The lower the bit rate, the more information the encoder will discard when compressing the file. Bit rates range from 96 to 320 kilobytes per second (Kbps). Using a bit rate of 128 Kbps usually results in a sound quality equivalent to what you'd hear on the radio. Many music sites and blogs urge people to use a bit rate of 160 Kbps or higher if they want the MP3 file to have the same sound quality as a CD.
Some audiophiles -- people who seek out the best ways to experience music -- look down on the MP3 format. They argue that even at the highest bit rate settings, MP3 files are inferior to CDs and vinyl records. But other people argue that it's impossible for the human ear to detect the difference between an uncompressed CD file and an MP3 encoded with a 320 Kbps bit rate.
AAC: Advanced Audio Coding, also known as AAC, is similar to MP3, although it's a bit more efficient. That means that you can have files that take up less space, but with the same sound quality as MP3. And, with Apple's iTunes making AAC so popular, it's almost as widely compatible with MP3. I've only ever had one device that couldn't play AACs properly, and that was a few years ago, so it's pretty hard to go wrong with AAC either.
Ogg Vorbis: The Vorbis format, often known as Ogg Vorbis due to its use of the Ogg container, is a free and open source alternative to MP3 and AAC. Its main draw is that it isn't restricted by patents, but that doesn't affect you as a user—in fact, despite its open nature and similar quality, it's much less popular than MP3 and AAC, meaning fewer players are going to support it. As such, we don't really recommend it unless you feel very strongly about open source.
WMA: Windows Media Audio is Microsoft's own proprietary format, similar to MP3 or AAC. It doesn't really offer any advantages over the other formats, and it's also not as well supported. There's very little reason to rip your CDs into this format.
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