Audio files come in many, many formats like MP3, WAV, FLAC. What file format your choose for your audio file is determined by more than just the audio player. For instance, there is a difference that has to be considered on whether to use lossless of lossy compressed audio files.
Lossless compressed audio
Lossless compressed audio is considered the audio form closest to the original sounds. When an audio file of your favourite band is created, you might think it consists of the sound of the vocalist, the guitarist, the bassist and the drummer, but there is more to it. Lossless means that every sound from the original take is still in the file, while still compressing the audio to a smaller file size.. The tracks on a music album, in their original form, take around 50MB of memory. A lossless compressed file contains more bits of audio data and clocks around 30MB per track. Compare that to the 4MB audio files that you know of regular audio files and you know exactly what the big difference between lossless and lossy compressed audio is.
Lossy compressed audio
This brings us to the other type of audio: lossy compressed audio. As the name indicates, these file are compressed in comparison to lossless audio files. When lossy compressed audio file are created, a process is used to discard sounds. The sounds that are left out are sounds a machine thinks the human ear cannot hear. This greatly reduces the amount of memory a track needs in order to store all its information in an audio file.
As a consequence, many people consider these audio file to be of lower quality because there are bits of the original audio missing. This is reflected by the bit rate. The more information that has been discarded from the track, the lower the bit rate. The lower the bit rare, the lower the audio quality.
The best sounding audio format
By now you have learned that for the highest quality, you will need lossless compressed audio files. Some of the best known lossless file formats are FLAC, WAV and AIFF. But which of the lossless formats delivers the best sound quality? The tracks on a music album are commonly PCM (Pulse-Coded Modulation) files. However, as been said above, these files tend to be quite large. So the music world has been looking for an answer, to make them easier to transfer.
When you ask the audiophiles, most of them will tell you that FLAC or WAV is a must. Flac retains the high quality sounds, but it still compresses the audio file by over 50%. Another advantage of the FLAC format is that it’s open source. This makes it compatible with a lot of devices and applications. WAV, like AIFF, is a wrapper for a PCM file. Wrapping PCM files make them more usable and enable you to play them on devices like Windows pc’s. WAV do not compress the files and leave the sound in tact.