Encyclopedia > Audio file format

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Audio file format

An audio file format is a file format for storing audio data on a computer system. There are many file formats for storing audio files.

It's important to distinguish file format and codec, even though most audio file formats support only one audio codec.

As of 2002, one of the most popular audio file formats was MP3, which uses the MPEG audio layer 3 codec to provide acceptable lossy compression for music files.

There are many newer audio formats and codecs, like Ogg Vorbis and Microsoft's Windows Media Audio which claim to achieve improved compression and quality vs. MP3. While some improvements are unquestionable, format/codec advocates often exaggerate them.

Lossless compression of sound is not nearly as widely used outside of professional applications, as lossy compression can provide a much greater data compression ratio, with nearly the same apparent quality.

There are many uncompressed data formats, most popular of them being WAV, which is a flexible file format designed to store multiple types of audio data. It is a good file format for storing and archiving the original recording. A similar approach can be found in the AIFF format.

See also: audio compression, audio codecs

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