Digital Audio File Formats
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A digital audio file format is a file format for storing audio data on a computer system.
Why audio compression is important
The main benefit is the saving of storage space and transmission time. If the use of the compressed sound is to in a noisy or poor environment (cheap or decayed hearing devices), then the listener will not notice the sound effects of "Lossy" Compression.
Lossy - Audio data is lost with compression, these formats offer very high compression rates, but the audio is always changed. Quality varies significantly with the compression rate.
Lossless - No audio data is lost with compression, these formats offer much lower compression rates, but the actual audio data never changes.
Lossy File Formats
- MP3 - MPEG-1 Audio Layer 3 Fraunhofer IIS
- Ogg - Ogg Vorbis, an open format developed by the Xiph.Org Foundation
- AIFF - Audio Interchange file format
- WMA - Windows Media Audio, a proprietary format developed by Microsoft
- AAC - Advanced Audio Coding, also know as MPEG4 and used extensively by Apple for their products
- MPC - Musepack, formerly known as MPEGplus, MPEG+ or MP+
Lossless File Formats
- Flac - Free Lossless Audio Codec, an open format developed by the Xiph.Org Foundation
- APE - Also know as Monkey’s Audio
- PCM - Pulse-code modulation
Hybrid Lossless Formats
- WavePack - While providing both lossless and high quality lossy compressions on their own, WavePack also has a hybrid format where a relatively small lossy file is created that can be used on its own as well as an extra file to expand it to full lossless. So users can have a lossless archive on their PC and have a small lossy for portable devices in the one format – WavePack
Other File Formats
- WAV - The Wav or WAVEform audio format is a wrapper around an audio stream. Commonly used for storing PCM audio. Although many other formats, lossy and lossless, can be stored in it.
There are many other audio file formats and audio-compression methods. Some of these are antique and not used. Some are expreimental, or trying to become more popular. These rare and unusual formats are to be used at your own risk.